Thank you for the invitation to take part in the dialogue! For me, a person with no Armenian roots, but who has many friends, colleagues and like-minded people among Armenians, inclusiveness is a very important signal and an attractive feature of the community.
In my opinion, openness and sociability, along with a certain sense of humor, are the first things that catch my eye and make communication pleasant. Moreover, both the humor and other aspects of communication are filled with intellectual content, which gives communication sense and supports interest. Working on television we have never been failed by the rule: the Armenian name of a guest invited to take part in a live program is a kind of a seal of excellence. By the way, I really appreciate any feedback from Armenian audiences. Even the letters of criticism contain respect and politeness as indispensable attributes along with common sense and amiability. We are pleased, of course, to receive the letters of support too. It is however disappointing those viewers from Armenia, with all their interest in global events and processes feel themselves isolated, their pessimism concerning the economic situation and of their personal well-being are obvious.
That is why I understand the essence of the problem and the question. The experience of communicating with representatives of the diaspora in Russia and abroad presents a very different, more optimistic picture.
It so happened that my first contacts with Armenian people were of a business nature and such contacts started at the beginning of the 1990s. At that time, I had no idea about the Diasporas and the role they played but could not ignore the national specificity of business ethics. When dealing in industry with the old Soviet type directors of Armenian origin, I noticed that their business culture was always based on very high ethical standards. Initially I attributed their attitude to the fact that my business partner was also Armenian. Later I realized that it was not only this. Those directors profoundly understood, apparently relying on a long-standing tradition, how business relationships are built: You need to take care of your reputation, you are able to be flexible and to always take pride both in one’s self and as a professional; the process of building relationship also includes a system of priorities and mutual respect. People from the Diaspora in Russia, with whom I dealt, were following such principles. It was a kind of business school where, trusting my intuition, I took my first lessons.
I have read “At the Crossroads” with great interest and was even, I confess, making notes while reading particular passages of this discussion paper. I’ve been interested in history since childhood, but this new perspective I acquired made me look at everything as if for the first time. Some facts had already been well-known to me, but I never considered them to be parts of an integrated structure. That is why the historical context of the discussion made a special, very strong impression on me. In addition, many wonderful chapters of Armenian Diasporas history had been absolutely blank to me.
Now I’ll take a chance and share my thoughts with you on the sense and essence of the issue. Fears regarding the loss of identity are understandable especially against the background of a decrease in the cementing influence of the Armenian Apostolic Church, but still, in my opinion, are greatly exaggerated.
I DO NOT BELIEVE in the ‘loss of the cultural code of the nation’, the nation that Herodotus, ‘the father of history’, referred to with admiration in the fifth century BC.
This does not mean there are no problems; they are identified and analyzed in the discussion paper. The gap between the Diasporas and Armenia exists at the mental level, so the process of rapprochement will not start by itself. Armenia has far fewer opportunities than the Diasporas. Armenia itself is in need of more examples of how a private initiative works successfully on local grounds. If the participants of the process from both sides will be ready to accommodate each other’s views, then everything will go faster, but the question is how to get Diasporas (they have great potential, but with different priorities) interested and how to involve them? It may be that reloading the country’s image, while preserving the cultural code, but targeting the global audience, will serve as a powerful incentive for the Diasporas to pay attention to their historic homeland. I remembered a funny story told by an old friend of mine. Once, he was in India and on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, he decided to drop into a local Irish pub next to the hotel, the pub announced ‘Great All Night party’. In the afternoon there was not a soul at the bar, and there was nothing Irish on the menu! Not even Guinness! Only local drinks.
“Is it an Irish pub?”
“And you have no Irish whiskey?” “No Irish beer?” “Maybe Irish coffee?”
“Excuse me, is anything Irish here at all?”
“Yes, sir! The atmosphere!!!”
Amazingly, the barman turned out to be 100% right. The atmosphere in the pub that night was awesome! Generally speaking, the Irish were able to create a genuinely global phenomenon based on their national identity. Moreover, this is an example of inclusiveness, because the example is scaled up beyond the borders of the “Irish world”. St. Patrick’s Day is an inclusive global event; Irish, a global phenomenon, and Guinness, global brand. It may be that I’m mistaken or have not enough information, but globally scalable projects in various fields would be useful for promoting the Great Culture of small Armenia, since the reasons for which many of the Armenians’ achievements abroad were advertised reluctantly have now receded into history. Maybe now the time has come for business ideas, that would attract many people both within and outside of Armenia, to emerge. I am convinced that Armenia and its people will have a promising, interesting future, for all the necessary prerequisites are in place. I support your desire both to help people in Armenia and make the world as a whole a better place for living.