When Armenia declared independence 95 years ago on May 28, 1918, the Armenian nation was in the throes of Genocide and the population of the newly-independent state was facing poverty and famine.
The imperative—priority—to be independent of centuries of foreign rule and to resist brutal oppressors became the rallying cry for an entire nation, with Armenians from all over the world volunteering to win the battle for independence—and they did.
The victorious battles of Bashabaran, Gharakilise and Sardarabad forever changed the Armenian nation and set it on a trajectory that made the 1991 independence not only possible but feasible.
The leaders of the 1918 Republic had multiple challenges among them establishing Armenia’s legitimacy in the international arena, while on the domestic front ensuring the socio-economic well-being of the population. The leaders of the Republic believed that through unity of ideas and forces the insurmountable obstacles could be tackled and the people’s will to determine their fate could be elevated only with their participation. In short, by first establishing, then strengthening, democratic principles every citizen of Armenia became vested in its future. Every citizen became the guarantor that the blood spilled on the road to independence was not in vain.
The achievements of the 1918 Republic of Armenia, both on foreign and domestic fronts, in the two short years before Armenia was Sovietized are still engrained in the fabric of our modern-day Republic. The critical challenge today, as we mark the 95th anniversary of Armenian Independence, is to harness and build on that legacy thus advancing our nation toward prosperity and freedom.
It is unfortunate to note that during the last 22 years of Armenia’s independence, the values that guided our forefathers who at all costs fought for and attained independence have been trampled upon vanquishing the dream and hope for stability and a true independent state.
The opportunity for a pan-national approach to independence, which presented itself in 1988 with the Karabakh Movement was also not seized—in fact it was dismantled.
In more than two decades, successive regimes in Armenia have squandered our national wealth in the name of practicing free-market economy, have looted our national resources, in the name of advancement and have driven the population out of Armenia. The ironic contrast between now and then is that in 1918 Armenians from all over the world heeded the call of the nation and took part in its viability and perseverance. Today, citizens of Armenia are en-masse leaving the country because those who have usurped power have abandoned the people’s aspirations of living in their homeland.
The present-day poverty and unemployment, the lack of democratic institutions, the stifling of dissenting voices and ideas and the cynical disregard for the Diaspora have converged to shatter the mission and goals set forth by the 1918 Republic of Armenia.
The latest round of elections in Armenia only came to show—and prove—that the power-hungry leadership will stop at nothing to solidify its positions, leaving the people hungry and with one foot out the door.
The national imperative today is for our nation to rally behind those who dared to dissent, especially the young generation of Armenians—the Independence Generation—and by nurturing their aspirations unshackle them from the oppressive leaders that have wreaked havoc on our nation.
May 28, and the 95th anniversary of Armenian Independence, is a good time for all Armenians to recommit to strengthening our nation and advancing the legacy for which many have spilled their blood. This will be possible only if every Armenian—in the homeland and the Disapora—rolls up his/her sleeves and becomes entrenched in the struggle for a Better and Stronger Armenia.
This can be a new beginning for our national dream of A FREE, INDEPENDENT AND UNITED ARMENIA.
Happy Independence Day.