Harutyun Marutyan
Social/cultural anthropologist, Ph.D. in History, Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Foundation, Head Researcher of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia

Great work has been done by the authors, considerable efforts have been made to understand and re-interpret the Armenian past and present. It is appreciated, that a thorough analysis of the millennial path of Armenia and Armenians is being carried out in order to understand our today.

Once, Mr. Vardanyan and his colleagues introduced the project “Armenia 2020.” I listened to its clauses personally, if I am not mistaken at one of the conferences “Armenia – Diaspora”. It would be desirable to look at the previous one when outlining this new analysis, reveal the reasons for its implementation or failure, as well as the lessons learned. To what extent do the solutions proposed in such analyses become a guide, how much are they connected with reality? Yes, on the pages of the discussion paper it’s somewhat spoken about, but there is no answer to the questions mentioned above.

Below, I will try to evaluate only a few ideas and formulations that are most directly related to my profession.

Pg. 56. Not only Armenians, but also many other peoples and countries of the world are in the status of “a pawn in the geopolitical games of the great powers”. It is an objective reality. Its clear understanding, if it exists, should not be presented or introduced as a great tragedy. It is the reality of our times for many people, including Armenians. 

Yes, among Armenians there does exist a perception of being a victim of genocide. But that perception has undergone radical changes over the past century. It is the same for any other peoples: memory is not a static phenomenon; it is constantly changing. The situation is the same for the Jews. In our case those changes are relatively slow, but they exist. The acceleration tools are well-known, there should simply be state comprehension of using them, and steps should be taken in this direction. Moreover, it is necessary to clearly distinguish between the perception levels of the “victim of genocide” and the forms of its manifestation in Armenia and beyond, including in different communities of Diaspora.

I do not share the view that “we have nothing to offer and nothing to share, but our pain.” We have, and it’s quite a lot. And we do offer and share. Not always directed, but the process does exist. We can suggest foreign delegations to visit not only the Genocide Memorial, but also the Sardarapat Memorial or “Mother Armenia” Military Museum (its exhibition, of course, needs a change) and the Victory Park.

I do not agree with the definition that “seeing ourselves as victims, we let our destiny slip through our fingers and allowed others to determine our fate”. Peoples and states that have seen genocide at different times and in different ways try to use that fact to make important political, economic and civilizational decisions for them. And there is only a healthy approach to it. It is the question of how successfully or by what formulations the Armenian proposals are made. There are many questions to discuss in this regard – and concretely with professional circles.

Pg. 58: “(after 1991) for the first time in our history we have started living in a monoethnic country. Armenians were always a part of great empires and, as we have already mentioned, even at the time of Tigran the Great, Armenians accounted for only a fraction of the population of Greater Armenia”.

Here there are some inaccuracies: over the past 2,500 years, for almost 1,200 years the Armenians had state-formations: Yervandunis, Artaxiads, Arshakunis, Bagratunis, Rubenids, Hethumids, First and Third Republics. There were semi-independent governments and territories. I would say the opposite; where and whenever there was a small opportunity, the Armenians created a state or principality. I would say that the Armenians are a state-forming nation. At least, one thing is clear: they haven’t always been “part of great empires.” 

About the ethnic composition. It depends on what we understand under the term of “monoethnicity”. It is one thing if Japan is monoethnic - 99%, it’s another if we understand monoethnicity of 85–90%. I would recommend the authors to examine more closely the “National Atlas of Armenia”. Also, think about the causes of this phenomenon and not just write down the current situation in the different periods. And it seems that today’s European or American states do not consider it a tragedy to be multiethnic.

Yes, in the times of Tigran the Great, the empire was not monoethnic, which is typical of any empire. But the Greater Armenia, as far as we know from the history (according to Strabo), was pretty monoethnic.

Pg. 58: “How do we shed the self-perception of a victim nation? How can post-Soviet Armenians and members of isolated diasporan groups that are being gradually assimilated be brought closer together?”. I have also tried to answer these questions and have offered some solutions in my research papers and articles. In this regard, I do not particularly welcome the fact that the authors do not refer to the works of Armenian authors, which I consider as a big omission. 

Pg. 59: “We have gone through several stages in our perception of the Genocide and in our attitudes toward this tragedy. Now, one hundred years later, we realize that while the memory of the Genocide remains a most important linking element in the Armenian world, we cannot draw the strength and energy from it that will necessarily secure the unification and prosperity of the fragmented nation in the 21st century.”

I absolutely disagree with this opinion. On the contrary, I think that “for any ethnic or national community the memory of a past rich in challenges and adversities is not a burden to be cast aside at will, but rather an asset to be cherished.” (Harutyun Marutyan, “Iconography of Armenian Identity, Volume 1. The Memory of Genocide and Karabakh Movement”, Yerevan, “Gitutyun”, 2009, pg. 1). The Jews, well-known to the authors, think in the same way, or most of them, both in Israel and abroad. You just have to be able to see the vital force, especially the humanistic values in the memory of the Genocide, to raise them, to clean the centenary dust, to polish and to present to the people in a new, fresh form. This requires not a superficial political approach, but specialized research work. I, at least, think in this direction and try to take certain steps within my limits.

The “Evolution of attitudes toward the Genocide” passage, starting at the same page, contains exaggerated information. From the beginning, operation Nemesis was to eliminate at least 41 criminals (there was also a bigger list), but later only 9 were executed (Jemal and Enver’s murders were not the part of Nemesis). 

Pg. 62: “The young want to see themselves not as victims but as a victorious nation with a heroic past.” I agree with it and have suggestions for its implementation that have been published long ago.

Pg. 99: About the role of the Armenian language: I have publications with definite suggestions.

Pages 163-166, about the “Aurora Humanitarian Initiative”: I think there are other factors besides positive emotions, too. I mean the fact that “Aurora Humanitarian Initiative” is directed only to the outside world. When looking from the side, an impression can be made that the poor Armenians have been saved only by the foreigners, that the Armenians were so vulnerable that they did not take any steps to save themselves. However, that’s not the case at all. The Armenians were firstly saved by Armenians. It is necessary to remember and appreciate 100 years later to the Armenian families, Armenian women, Armenian orphans, Armenian benefactors, orphanage staff, Armenian schools and teachers, Genocide researchers, archives, periodicals that covered the Genocide, journalists, photographers, writers, cinematographers, ordinary and volunteer soldiers, self-defenders, and so on. It is this kind of steps that would raise the Armenian dignity, pride, solidarity and confidence in the future. Unfortunately, it was not understood.

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