As we welcome 2018, it is hard to not think of the myriad milestones—anniversaries—that will bring our nation and community together in celebration and remembrance. In marking these anniversaries it is imperative to reflect on the lessons that can be applied for an improved future and the betterment of our nation.
In February, Armenians will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Artsakh Liberation Movement—that singular moment in our nation’s recent history that our national aspirations and our determination to fight for justice and self-determination led to victory with the reassertion of our historic demands that has brought us a step closer to realizing our national dreams.
The Artsakh Liberation Movement began with a simple expression of our national will by the people of Artsakh, whose resolve was quickly challenged when Azerbaijani forces began brutally attacking the civilian population and beginning a war from which the people of Artsakh—and the entire Armenian Nation—emerged victorious. With the declaration of independence and the establishment of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which last year was renamed Artsakh Republic through a national constitutional referendum, we reclaimed what was forcibly and unjustly taken from our nation.
Today, as Artsakh continues to flourish as a state, the liberation struggle is far from over. Despite a cease-fire agreement in place, Azerbaijan continues to threaten Artsakh’s existence. If the 2016 April War was any indication, our collective effort to not only strengthen the Artsakh Republic, but also to ensure that a just resolution to the Karabakh conflict is reached must become a priority.
The 30th anniversary of the heroic Artsakh Liberation Movement must be celebrated with the understanding that any return to the pre-1988 status is unacceptable. We must also stand emboldened and determined to not allow for concessions that would significantly diminish our victories and threaten the security of the people of Artsakh.
The Artsakh Liberation Movement also brought with it a sad chapter in our recent history. The Artsakh people’s expression of their right to self-determination was met with violence of genocidal proportions, when the then Soviet Azerbaijani forces began a systematic killing of Armenians in the city of Sumgait. This orchestrated pogrom served as a blueprint for future such horrendous attack against Armenians in Kirovabad, Baku and later in the Shahumian district of Artsakh proper.
On the diplomatic front, as sides jockey to find a peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict, it seems the barbaric treatment of Armenians in the wake of the 1988 spark that became the Artsakh Liberation Movement seems to have been lost around the negotiating table. Just like the Armenian Genocide, Azerbaijan’s systematic plan to annihilate Armenians has gone unpunished and has encouraged Azerbaijan to continue its barbaric acts toward Armenians despite the ceasefire agreement. One wonders if the Sumgait and subsequent pogroms were properly acknowledged by the international community, would Baku have staged its equally brutal attack on Artsakh Armenians in April of 2016. We, as a nation, must call for justice for those crimes and make sure that Azerbaijan is not allowed to act with impunity.
Perhaps, the most monumental of milestones that we will mark in 2018 will be the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Armenian Independence. The 1918 Republic of Armenia was not handed to Armenians on a silver platter. It was hard won and it involved every Armenian, be they on the battlefront or in the then burgeoning Diaspora. The fact that the Armenian Revolutionary Federation was front and center in the independence movement was no coincidence as the decision by the party to unchain our nation from tyranny and allow our people the freedom to express their will is embedded in the principles on which the party was founded.
Thus, the 100th anniversary of Armenian Independence must not be a mere symbolic celebration, but rather an opportunity to provide the proper historical context to a reality that has served as a foundation for the current Republic of Armenia. We owe it to the new generations to not whitewash our history and allow them to pluck the lessons from that time that can easily be applied to our current existence and reality.
Armenia will have a chance to do just that in April when the final steps toward becoming a parliamentary form of government will present an opportunity to apply some of the tenets of the 1918 Republic—social justice, democracy and the inclusion of every Armenian in the well-being of the state.
Armenia’s leaders must be guided by those principles when they choose a prime minister, who will be the head of our government. We hope that the lessons of 1918 do not fall on deaf ears and we, as a nation, will choose a path toward true change that will guarantee life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Armenians in their homeland.
The same lessons can be applied when addressing what we have here called our “collective national shame.” On December 7 of next year, when we mark the 30th anniversary of the devastating Armenian earthquake, we must eradicate homelessness in the earthquake zone and return that part of Armenia to its former glory so that it can incubate our plans for a prosperous Armenia.
Other anniversaries of note coming in 2018 include the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Armenian Youth Federation, helmed by General Karekin Njdeh and the 100th anniversary of the founding of Homenetmen—the leading Armenian athletic and scouting movement—which has played a key role in educating and preparing generations of Armenians. Closer to home, we, here at Asbarez, will be marking the 110th anniversary of our newspaper with a resolute conviction to advance and continue to be a critical arena in the lives of all Armenians.
As we usher in 2018, let us resolve together that, while we toast and celebrate these critical milestones, we will be guided by their invaluable lessons that can make us better individuals and, as a result, better equipped to advance and achieve our precious aspirations as a Nation.