BY MADELEINE MEZAGOPIAN
On May 27, 1990, different parts of Armenia, the Armenian Soviet Socialist Armenia, witnessed confrontations between the newly established Armenian army (NAA) and the troops of the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). On August 23, 1990, Armenia declared its sovereignty over Soviet laws, a breakaway largely stemmed from Moscow’s intransigence on Artsakh and mishandling of the earthquake relief effort and the shortcoming of the Soviet economy (“Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic”, Wikipedia.org).
On September 21, 1991, Armenia declared its independence and on July 5, 1995, the new constitution of Armenia was adopted.
New memories emerge with the birth of the Second Republic of Armenia. However, there is the painful possibility of having these new memories replace the memories of the past before the events of the past being adequately recognized, acknowledged and reconciled with.
Today, Armenians worldwide remember the end of the Soviet Armenia, one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union which was established in December 1922 when the Soviets ended the First Republic of Armenia and occupied it anew after its occupation by the Russian Empire during 1828 -1917. The collapse of the Russian Empire and of the Soviet Union gave birth respectively to the First Armenian Republic and to the Second Armenian Republic with the former following the First Armenian Genocide and the Turkish-Armenian war and the latter succeeding the Second Armenian Genocide.
Today, the Armenians with great agony remember the assassination of the First Republic of Armenian during September – November 1920 when the Red Soviet Army invaded the First Republic of Armenia and Sovietized it to be followed with the peace treaty of Kars signed on October 13, 1921 between Turkey and the three Transcaucasia Republics including Sovietized Armenia which reaffirmed the treaty of Moscow between Turkey and Soviet Russia, when Ani and Mount Ararat among other Armenian territories were ceded to Turkey to be followed with Stalin granting Nakhchivan and Artsakh to Azerbaijan.
The treaty of Kars replaced the Wilsonian independent and united Armenia that refers to the boundary configuration of the First Republic of Armenia in the Treaty of Sevres of 1920 as drawn by then US President Woodrow Wilson’s Department of State.
Today, the Armenians remember all those who betrayed Armenians’ legitimate rights in their historical lands foremost Winston Churchill’s objecting Armenian territorial claims and United States’ official ending of support of Armenian claims in 1934.
Hitherto, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) condemns the treaty of Kars as a gross violation of international law. ARF argues that because the three Transcaucasia Republics were under the control of Moscow in 1920, their independent consent was questionable. ARF continues its struggle towards independent united Armenia of territories stipulated in the treaty of Sevres.
Today, Armenians do not only remember and mourn over betrayals given Armenians’ sufferings were not limited to territorial losses.
The Great Purge or the Great Terror of Stalin (1937-1938) didn’t spare Armenian lives. Hundreds of thousands of Armenian intellectuals, Bolshevik and later communist statesmen military and religious figures were executed or sent to Siberia to perish including members of the Armenian survivors of the 1915 Genocide who were encouraged by Stalin to return to Motherland Armenia from Middle East states and elsewhere. Stalin’s genocidal persecution of Armenians, in addition to the current Armenian government modest if no attempts to highlight the Armenian Second Genocide are well reflected in the following statement of Edmond Azadian (The Second Genocide, 2015)
In addition to hundreds of thousands of Armenians exiled to Siberia, It is believed that Stalin deliberately chose almost one hundred thousand Armenian soldiers to be used as cannon fodder during the battle of Kerch, in Crimea, during WWII… When Armenia became independent, many executioners their friends or relatives were still alive and they could be questioned as to the whereabouts of the remains of Charents and Bakunts. No government commission was formed to property research and bring to light the facts of that dark period… Armenians are very eager to have Turkey open the Ottoman archives to establish all the facts related to the Genocide, but the KGB archives in Armenia are open for anyone to conduct research, with very few takers… Armenians need to choose a day to commemorate the victims of their second genocide. Yes, indeed, Armenia’s territory is populated by too many monuments, but still there is room for one more, a very significant one for the victims of Stalin’s terror.
Following are further testimonies on Stalin’s atrocities and its modest coverage by the media means and in school textbooks in Armenia.
Armenia’s textbooks contain little information about Salin’s repressions, claims Lusine Kharatyan who adds that “State institutions and media outlets are not very willing to cover this topic or discuss it in various circles” (Mkhtchuan, G & Shishmanyan, N, Chau-Khana-Org, May 4, 2015).
Filmmaker Hovhannes Ishkanian, whose 2015 documentary “Family Album” examines the Stalin-era executions of his great grandfathers, agrees that these brutal crackdowns remain a closed history in Armenia (Ibid).
Human rights defender Artur Sakunts, an outspoken government critic, believes that if state structures and schools refuse to confront such stories head-on, Armenia itself cannot progress.
This [reticence about the Stalin era] negatively affects the research of history and education. This misinterpretation shows that… the science of history is till [held] in the claws of Soviet heritage in Armenia (Ibid).
In the light of the above mentioned, the Armenians did witness their short lived true independence during the first Republic of Armenian getting hijacked and their territories getting usurped and distributed. And yes the Armenians did suffer of the Second Genocide under Stalin and were betrayed by all.
However, the Armenians remain empowered by their rich history and civilization and foremost by their determination to progress though by revisiting, acknowledging and reconciling with all the preceding events and for once breathe and live true independence.
Today, every true Armenian in every corner on this planet bows to the sacrifice of each Armenian individual whose sacrifice preserved Motherland Armenian.
Today Armenians relive the glorious past and commemorate the sacrifices of all Armenians throughout past and near history. The sacrifices that stand as greatest inspiration and motivation for Armenians to renew their past glory and thus adequately reward and glorify all their ancestors’ sacrifices.
Today, Armenians remember the past betrayals including the intra community betrayals during Sovietized Armenia.
Today, Armenians are well aware of their existential threats and the expansionist agenda of the enemy who continues demolishing Armenian heritage in Western Armenia to uproot the historical links and the ownership of territories by its indigenous Armenian people.
Nevertheless, Armenians continue to forgive but never forget especially today when Armenians celebrate the birth of the Second Republic of Armenia while commemorating and honoring their martyrs throughout twentieth century, specially those of the First and Second Armenian Genocides.
Madeleine Mezagopian is an academic researcher, an advisor and analyst for conflict resolution/peace and socioeconomic and political development based in Amman, Jordan.