The publication of this discussion paper will be a significant phenomenon, because the problem raised is super-actual, and the proposed solution is not only interesting and original, but also, more importantly, systemic.
The paper makes one think and contemplate a lot. Those who have already become thoughtful, it stimulates since it justifies that they are engaged in an important business and allows to see many things that they did not pay attention to.
To understand our past, to comprehend the present state of affairs and design the future, we need to answer three questions: Who were we? Who are we? What we want and can be? Interestingly, not only the first two questions determine the answer to the last, but also the answer to the last affects the comprehension of the first.
I am definitely convinced that Armenia and Armenians cannot have a worthy place in the future world without strategic long-term development plans. We have no time for a slow evolutionary development. For a quick breakthrough, it is necessary to mobilize all the forces of the Armenians and understand clearly who we want to be in the future. Unfortunately, during the years of independence, the state elites of the Republic of Armenia have failed to develop a more or less common systemic program for development. It was not the general development strategy that determined the state policy in various fields, but, on the contrary, specific events and situations that determined the policy.
The private strategic initiatives are, of course, important. But without the presence of a common national development strategy, private strategies may lose their meaning, enter into conflict with each other, no cumulation and synergy effect will be produced. And to develop a common project, a pan-national institution is needed. In modern conditions, I believe, such an institution can only be the Armenian state, the role of which is underestimated by the authors, in my opinion.
The authors often use the terms “behavior patterns”, “character traits”. To my mind, the term “identity” should be basic in describing national peculiarities. All the other concepts are either implied by this term or derived from it.
In the understanding of the identity of the Armenians some stereotypes need to be overcome. First, it is necessary to overcome a kind of anachronism and apriorism that is present not only in the mass consciousness, but also at the level of works claiming scientific status; it seems that the identity of the Armenians was originally given, it does not change, and everything just boils down to its preservation. Identity is changing of course: spontaneously or strategically-programmatically, evolutionarily or revolutionizingly transforming. This is, let’s say, a “temporal” stereotype. But there is still the “spatial” one: modern Armenians are very diverse, today there is no standard average Armenian identity. There is a “layering” of identities (especially in different communities of the diaspora). Perhaps, it is necessary to recognize that the diaspora as a kind of unity, integrity does not exist at all – it is the conventional name for the communities of ethnic Armenians.
The viewpoint of the authors on the “global network” of the Armenian merchants with a “locus of power” in New Julfa, in my opinion, is a bit idealized. Without belittling the position and role of the Armenian businessmen in the world trade, I still think that the network itself, apparently, was not self-sufficient (as a purely Armenian project). It functioned insofar as it could be combined with the interests of the great powers. From its experience it is obvious that the effectiveness and self-sufficiency of the network is possible only if the “locus of power” is its own sovereign state. By the way, the prominent representatives of the New Julfa network, for example, Shahamir Shahamirian, were clearly aware of it in the epoch of the network’s decline.
The authors describe the ongoing projects of scientific and educational nature: TUMO, FAST etc. They certainly are extremely important. These initiatives are aimed at the formation of advanced technocrats and managers. But they influence the formation of a citizen and a patriot, at best, indirectly. In general, the trend of technocratization is important and very popular. But it is impossible to absolutize it one-sidedly. It is necessary to implement the technocratization and the formation of a business mentality program not at the expense of civil and patriotic education.
In the context of the above, the implementation of projects in the socio-humanitarian field targeted at the population (especially the youth) of the Republic of Armenia becomes a top priority. Such projects should be directed to:
- The development of civic consciousness.
- The most important component of civic socialization is the systemic civic education, which practically doesn’t exist in Armenia.
Overcoming the closed ethnic mentality and extremes of ethnonationalism (which is a negative consequence of mono-ethnicism) and the formation of soft civil-state nationalism. A global nation implies not only the preservation of Armenian self-consciousness in the diaspora, but also the transformation of the Armenians’ closed consciousness in Armenia into an open, global one.
Another possible project could be the project of creating the Armenian Cultural Diplomacy Institute. The uniqueness of this institution should have been that the Armenian communities should first of all be the object of its activities, and then through them – the societies of the countries where the communities live. Taking into account the enormous layer of the Armenian cultural heritage and the already existing extensive network of Armenian communities, the project implementation at minimal cost would have the maximum effect, contributing to the preservation and development of the Armenians’ cultural identity and to the formation of the cultural image of Armenia and the Armenians in the world.