Are Armenians ready for recognition?

Sassoon Grigorian, Associate, Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Sydney

Australia, 11 January 2009

 

Approaching the 100th anniversary, Turkey recognizes the Armenian genocide – its decision embraced by the European community and the United States. The Armenian community meets the decision with surprise, then a few moments later – asks itself, "what next?"

Sassoon Grigorian, Associate, Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Sydney

Australia, 11 January 2009

 

Approaching the 100th anniversary, Turkey recognizes the Armenian genocide – its decision embraced by the European community and the United States. The Armenian community meets the decision with surprise, then a few moments later – asks itself, "what next?"

This moment may only be years from now. The decision that Turkey faces is not a decision of if, but when. Turkey is showing all the signs of preparing its population of eventual recognition.

You don’t think so? Well who would have thought following the murder of Hrant Dink, at his funeral, one hundred thousand mourners would march in protest of the assassination, chanting, "We are all Armenians".

Most recently, some 200 Turkish intellectuals have launched an internet petition about the genocide, saying that they are sorry. The text of their apology does not use the term genocide, but at least 27,000 Turks, from all walks of life, have signed the petition.

And, in 2005 Prime Minister Erdogan had first made the offer of a joint study between Turkish and Armenian historians in a letter to President Robert Kocharian sent on the eve of events marking the 90th anniversary of the start of the genocide. In his written reply,

Kocharian effectively rejected it and proposed instead the creation of a Turkish-Armenian inter-governmental body that would address this and other issues of mutual concern.

 

For many, the establishment of the joint study is seen as an opportunity for Turkey to deny the historical truth of the Armenian genocide. However, the study may also provide the Turkish Government the opportunity to allow a so-called independent body to make a difficult decision on its behalf. The Government can argue that recognition was not something they were forced, but merely recommended by this so-called independent body.

 

For Turkey, national pride is also at stake. Any recognition is highly unlikely to include reparations, exchange of lands, properties or the like, but more likely a formal apology, in effect meeting the needs of the Europeans and the United States, and possibly even the Republic of Armenia – but not necessarily for the Diasporan Armenian community.

 

And what then? A possible split of positions within the Armenian community, with some arguing for compensation (monetary or otherwise), the right of return, and claims to historical lands. No longer a united position, but a collection of different viewpoints.

 

Since visiting Turkey five years ago, I have seen this development of recognition not only commence but gather at accelerated pace.

 

No one should doubt the sophistication of Turkish diplomacy. For years Greece as member of the EU threatened to veto the possibility of Turkey being granted entry to the club. Following a rapprochement between both nations, that threat is withdrawn. Cyprus also was making similar declarations a few years ago; however, now having discussions on reunification with its northern neighbour, such matters are muted.

 

Rather than being an outside player in the past, Turkey has emerged as a pivotal player in the Caucasus by the establishment of a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform. It consists of five countries. These countries are Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia. Again, through its diplomatic initiative.

 

There are many who will argue that this scenario of recognition with no attachments will be an unwelcome one. They may argue that with open borders, Armenia would be avalanched by cultural influences from Turkey. Already the Turkish Radio and Television Organisation (TRT) is preparing for the new Armenian TV station, which will begin broadcasts at the end of 2009.

 

I would argue this presents the Republic of Armenia an opportunity for the first time to have normal relations with its largest neighbour, presenting significant trade opportunities. An opportunity for once and for all to lift its socio economic status to a more level playing field and compete with the rest of the world. It may have to deal with cultural influences, but isn’t Armenia already influenced by the region it is in?

 

Whatever the eventual outcome, one thing is for sure; the Armenian Diasporan leadership is on notice. For more than 90 years they have been able to effectively campaign from the same song sheet. Well the game has changed, and the time has come to reconsider its tactics and planning.

 

Further, both Armenian Diasporan organizations and the Armenian government need to consider establishing initiatives of their own to deal with the issue. For example, President Sargsyan’s invitation to President Gul to the world cup qualifier football match between Armenia and Turkey was a welcome one.

 

By taking the initiative, you are more likely to set the agenda, as Turkey has done with their proposed joint study and the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform.

 

Armenians put simply need a new game plan or face the prospect of being caught off guard.

 

  

(Views expressed in the opinion piece reflect that of the author not the Institute)


14 comments
  1. This is a very interesting,
    This is a very interesting, forward thinking view. Worthy of discussion and serious consideration.

  2. This is very important
    This is very important question I’ve heard many times.
    Good article. One I’d like to make is that it leaves an impression that the writer has some separation in his mind between people in Armenia and Diaspora. I hope this is not what author feels, but that’s the impression I’ve got.

    Best Regrads
    armenian from Armenia

  3. to be more precise, the
    to be more precise, the impression comes from these 2 paragraphs:

    “For Turkey, national pride is also at stake. Any recognition is highly unlikely to include reparations, exchange of lands, properties or the like, but more likely a formal apology, in effect meeting the needs of the Europeans and the United States, and possibly even the Republic of Armenia – but not necessarily for the Diasporan Armenian community.”

    “Whatever the eventual outcome, one thing is for sure; the Armenian Diasporan leadership is on notice. For more than 90 years they have been able to effectively campaign from the same song sheet. Well the game has changed, and the time has come to reconsider its tactics and planning.”

    It’s hard to imagine that Armenians in Armenia would have different needs from Armenians in Diaspora regarding recognition; I’m also sure that in Armenia itself leadership is on notice as well.
    Ideally I would very like to see 1 leadership for our nation comprised from people in and outside Armenia, and in general more consolidation of us in any aspect.

    I didn’t mean to critisize or side track the meaning of this article:)

  4. I welcome comments made. I do
    I welcome comments made. I do think the reality is that communities in the diaspora, and the people of the Republic of Armenia do have, and are motivated by different interests.

    That said, when it comes to recognition it is one and the same. The issue will be when this is addressed, how to reconcile a joint/single position beyond, whatever that may be.

  5. Mr. Grigorian has penned a

    Mr. Grigorian has penned a timely and useful article on a much neglected subject – namely, what do we want, and how are we going to get there. He is correct that we need a better game plan. Readers may find an article of mine on a similar subject to be of interest: Title: "Genocide Acknowledgment: A Dead End?" [April 24, 2005] Please don’t be misled by the title.

  6. A very good article indeed.
    A very good article indeed. All that stands between the past and future is; as the author writes- “what next?”

  7. ” DIVIDE Y REINARAS “, fue la

    " DIVIDE Y REINARAS ", fue la estrategia utilizada por los turcos otomanos talaat, enver, djemal, adoptada luego por la alemania hitleriana y continuada por kemal ataturk, erdogan y gul.- Mientras que desde el Gobierno de la Rca no se organize un mecanismo ministerial de " demanda y acciones " centralizado, para utilizar el apoyo unificado de toda la DIASPORA, aprovechando el avanze tecnologico de las comunicaciones ciberneticas de llegada masiva al corazon mismo de las Organizaciones Internacionales, CONTINUAREMOS FAVORECIENDO LA ESTRATEGIA UTILIZADA POR LOS TURCOS DESDE HACE APROXIMADAMENTE UN SIGLO.- Miguel Angel Nalpatian(1942).- Mar del Plata.- Buenos Aires.- Rca Argentina.-      

    1. Mr. Miguel Angel Nalpatian, 

      Mr. Miguel Angel Nalpatian,  I am sure you are reading the article before posting your comment.  Since the article is in English, you might want to post your comment in the same language.

      And what does 1942 mean beside your name?  are you talking about someone or yourself?

       

      Thank you!
      Vartkes

      1. Reply Sir Vartkes

        Sir Vartkes; Con el respeto que Usted y su comentario ( que nada tiene que ver con el articulo ) me merecen, debo responderle que " la vida no comienza y finaliza en los Estados Unidos de America y que igual  vivimos y morimos utilizando o no el idioma Americano ( Ingles ?? ) ".- En este sitio vi comentarios en Frances y tambien en Armenio.- La comunidad nacida en la diaspora Argentina utilizamos el Español ( le guste o no ).-  Que, para su conocimiento, es el lenguaje poblacional, mundial y mayoritariamente utilizado.- Bay Sir Vartkes.- Miguel Angel Nalpatian(1942).- Mar del Plata.- Buenos Aires.- Rca Argentina.-   

        1. I disagree

          Sr. Miguel, tengo que discrepar con usted. Si alguna vez visita un sitio extranjero, tengo que respetar el idioma del sitio, si un artículo está en español tengo que responder utilizando el español, especialmente si el 99% de sus lectores son el español. ejemplo: si visita un sitio como http://www.latajznami.pl, el único medio de publicar un comentario sería en polaco, ¿no?
          Espero que el mismo respeto de otras personas que están visitando un sitio diseñado en el Idioma Inglés.
          Hablo 4 idiomas y no imponer mi propio idioma a nadie. Si quiero un puesto en el idioma Inglés no me visite un sitio dedicado a ese idioma.
          Gracias por la comprensión.

          ————–

          Mr. Miguel,  I have to disagree with you.  If I ever visit a foreign site, I have to respect the site’s language, if an article is in Spanish I have to reply using Spanish, specially if 99% of its readers are Spanish.  example: if I visit a site like http://www.latajznami.pl, the only means of posting a comment would be in Polish, right?
          I would expect the same respect from other people who are visiting a site designed in the English language.
          I speak 4 languages and never impose my own language to anyone.  If I want to post in a non-English language, I visit a site dedicated to that language.
          Thank you for understanding.

          ————–

          Miguel’s post above translated as follows:

          Vartkes Sir, With respect to you and your comment (which has nothing to do with the article) I deserve, I respond that "life does not begin and end in the United States of America and live and die like that or not using American language (English?) .- I saw comments on this site in French and also in Armenia .- The community born in the diaspora Argentina used the English (like it or not) .- That, to his knowledge, is the language population worldwide and mainly used .- Sir Vartkes Bay .- Miguel Angel Nalpatian (1942) .- .- Mar del Plata Buenos Aires Argentina .- .- Rca

           

          1. COMPRENSION ???

            SR. VARTKES; Este sitio y por este medio lo visitan personas desde todo el mundo y no exclusiva y unicamente de EEUU.-  LA CAUSA ARMENIA ES PATRIMONIO DE TODOS LOS ARMENIOS NO IMPORTANDO BANDERIA POLITICA, RELIGION, IDIOMA NI LUGAR DE NACIMIENTO, motivo este por el cual debemos obligarnos a difundirla en todos los sitios posibles y en el idioma que sea posible.- POR RESPETO A ESTE SITIO Y A LA PERSONA QUE LO ADMINISTRA, UD. DEBERIA REMITIRSE A COMENTAR UNICAMENTE SOBRE LOS ARTICULOS EXPUESTOS  " Y NO REALIZAR UN DISCURSO INCONDUCENTE " ( de que habla Ud. 4 idiomas, etc. etc. )  Y QUE  NADA APORTA A LA CAUSA.- Miguel Angel Nalpatian(1942).- Mar del Plata.- Buenos Aires.- Rca Argentina.- 

          2. Espanol or English

            To Senores Vartkes y Miguel,

            It is interesting to see your dialogue.  Frankly, to have a Spanish text submitted as a comment is refreshing and demonstrates the variety of who we are as a people. Mr. Miguel has written lengthier pieces on this site.  I would tend to agree in general terms with him in that people should have the right to express themselves as they see fit and in the language they feel most comfortable in.  Perhaps therein lies the crux of the matter.  Obviously Mr. Nalpatian has a very good comprehension of English, since he makes very valid points in his writings.  But also obviously, he feels more comfortable (or appropriate) expressing his views in Spanish.  That is his choice and it should be respected.  He also knows that many of the readers of "Keghart" are actually native Spanish speakers from South America and hence his attempt to perhaps engage them a little more by setting the example.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

            In defense of Mr. Vartkes, I think that he was misinterpreted.  His point was that English was more accessible and obviously the main language of this site.  I think that overall he is probably correct from the point of view of numbers. I do not think that he can be accused of assuming that Shakespeare’s language is superior to that of Cervantes or that the world starts and ends in the USA.  I also think that his online translation of Sr. Miguel’s response was an interesting solution to a common problem.  We Armenians are as diverse as the whole world is and perhaps those of us who have that ability should give a little more time to such small gestures of allowing others to be heard by a wider audience.

            While I personally am sufficiently proficient in Spanish  (along with many others as well), to be able to understand what Sr. Miguel is writing, I do not feel comfortable enough to express opinions back in written Spanish. I hope that he will accept my thoughts expressed in English. I also think that if we follow Mr. Vartkes’s example and translate the texts of others to make them more accessible, it would be wonderful. 

            So I am proposing a peace with an opportunity to cooperate.  How about it?

            Paregamoren

            Viken L. Attarian

            Mount Royal, Quebec, CANADA

          3. ” HAIRENAGITZNER “

            Baron Viken; Diasporai arachin generacion elalov, 67 dareganis, ierpek chi lesechi-vor alkervaze kerel castieren gam ispaneren hay americatzi degerun-mech; Not Discrimination.- Somos todos Armenios.- Hepimis Ermeni-is.- Hairenagitzner anmenknis Hai-enk.- Menak Parov.- Miguel Angel Nalpatian(1942).- Mar del Plata.- Buenos Aires.- Rca Argentina.-     

  8. A sobering article

    Mr. Grigorian has scored a Bull’s Eye !!!!!!

    The Armenian Diasporan "leadership" should have been on notice a long time ago.  The problem is that such "leadership" is not accountable to the whole Diaspora, or even to the communities at large that they operate in.  At best, they consider themselves accountable to parties, church members, charitable orgs, obscure boards of directors etc.  But the Diasporan Armenian has absolutely no way to exercise his or her voice within the context of understanding our Armenian selves as citizens of the liberal democracies of the West we live in (assuming that it is the case of course).

    As such, if they are serious, the Ministry of the Diasporan Affairs in the Republic of Armenia has an unprecedented opportunity to seize on this great representational vacuum and create initiatives that would allow the Diasporan Armenians a collective exercise of their representational right.

    If we view the Diaspora as part of the Armenian nation, then ways can be developed to structure a representation of the vast majority of this nation (those that live in the Diaspora).  Successful models have been tried, e.g. the representation of the Italian Diaspora in the Italian Parliament based on various demographic formulas.  The more important effect that this would have is the creation of mechanisms of true representation within the Diasporan communities and would end the hegemony of the traditional Armenian organizations that all have lofty claims about representation, but have actually no clue what that means in terms of democracy, accountability, fiduciary responsibility towards our collective assets, moral responsibility to preserve our heritage treasures around the world etc. etc.

    We are now at a point in history where beacuse of our "stunted" organizational growth we could be the loser once more.  We are at the edge of a precipice, and are intellectually "blindfolded" as a collective.  It is up to us whether we rip that "blindfold" off or insist into marching off the cliff like lemmings.

    Paregamoren

    Viken L. Attarian

    Mount Royal, Canada 

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