Prof. Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian, Los Angeles
For Part I click on Hijacking the Heritage of the Armenian Highlands (Part I)
Despite the vast territories the Ottoman Empire lost after WWI, Turks ended up securing a huge chunk of land mainly from the homelands of three indigenous peoples, such as Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians. Currently, 97 percent of the occupied territory lies in Asian Turkey and only three percent is located on the European side of the Bosporus. This vast land almost measures about 400 miles from north to south, and extends over 1,000 miles east to west. Over half of present-day Turkey comprises the Armenian Highlands, a country of staggering numbers of actual and potential archeological sites nowhere found in the world.
To explore this archeological paradise, Turkey is enlisting German, English, and American archaeologists to excavate the antiquities, without allowing them to make any reference to Armenia or Armenians. As a result, Turkey ends up packaging and promoting the findings as belonging to Turkish heritage. The present excavations along the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers are all in Western Armenia.
The Armenian nation has to fight back; otherwise, within a few decades Western Armenia will become a footnote in history books. Armenians should reclaim their cultural heritages. Ideas have changed the world; ideas can also advance Armenia’s interests and causes. So, here are some avenues to combat the usurpation of the Armenian heritage as belonging to Turkey:
I. Armenia must make sure that whenever a site is accepted to be included in the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the correct name of the country should be mentioned. That is to say, instead of stating Turkey, it should be listed as found in Western Armenia, or on the Armenian Highlands in present-day Turkey. For example, we cannot say ziggurats are part of Iraqi people’s heritage, but rather they belong to the Sumerians, but are now found in present-day Iraq.
II. Like Turkey, Armenia must establish an active, non-partisan Armenian Cultural Heritage Foundation with the explicit mission of informing, educating, and inspiring our young generation and other nations about the vast and rich heritage of the Armenian people in their ancestral homeland. If Armenians cannot invent or innovate, they should emulate Turkey. There are at least several archaeological excavations in each part or province of Turkey. How do they do it? They follow four ways: Enlist the participation of international archeologists, obtain funds from external sources, make sure the archaeological finds remain in Turkey, and never in the scientific reports that the finds were located on the Armenian Highlands.
III. Similar to the Jewish Diaspora publishing organizations in the United States, Armenians should come up with an organization(s) to help writers publish and sell their books to the public and libraries around the world. Over 95 percent of the text books adopted by colleges and universities in the U.S. are by Jewish American writers promoted by the Jewish publishing organizations.
IV. Armenian archeologists, historians, etymologists, philologists, and other scholars, should name the sites in Armenian for all of the archeological sites in the present-day Turkey, such as naming Gobakly Tepe as “Portasar” in Armenian.
V. Offer degrees in Armenian history with a concentration in Armenian heritage. Universities around the world with Armenian Studies Programs should also emphasize the study and the writing of dissertations and their disseminations about the Armenian Heritage discovered on Armenian Highlands. The Armenian heritage is a goldmine for any researcher to write about their discoveries and how they have contributed to world civilization and particularly to the Western civilization. After all, scholars are beginning to regard Armenia to be the cradle of Indo-European civilization long before its flowering in lower Mesopotamia.
VI. Republic of Armenia’s tourist agencies should promote the idea that after visiting the Armenian heritage sites in present-day Turkey, they should make sure to come and see the rest of the Armenian heritage in Eastern Armenia as well. In this way, non-Armenians would get to know that there is also a wealth of archeological sites to visit in the Republic of Armenia. Archeological tourism is burgeoning in the world and Eastern Armenia has a lot to offer to satisfy the hunger to visit exceptional sites.
VII. Armenian political and non-political organizations should offer scholarships for studying and publishing about the Armenian heritage in the present-day Turkey. A scholarly dissertation would advance the knowledge of the existence and excitement of the Armenian heritage in places other than Eastern Armenia.
VIII. And finally, let us not forget that relating the archeological findings in Western Armenia to that in Eastern Armenia, would synergize the tourism industry of the Republic of Armenia. Tourism is the most lucrative industry, especially for a developing country for the same capital investment is used over and over again without being used up.
Let us not forget Turkification. The Armenian Highlands is purposefully called “Eastern Anatolia” by the Turkish government in order to subject the Armenian homeland to a total obscurity and even oblivion. The entire homeland of the Armenian indigenous people is like a vast basket of mixed eggs. As they hatch, they show the trajectory civilization progress of humankind from the Stone Age times like the Gobakly Tepe monuments to Medieval Times of the glorious days of the Ani, once the capital city of the Armenia kingdom.
The whole idea is that “doing nothing” until we return to Western Armenia is not an option. We should also take measures to combat the Turkish propaganda of denying Armenia’s rich heritage and culture found in present-day Turkey. Hijacking the Armenian Highland’s heritage is a serious crime just like stealing someone else’s intellectual property or identity, but unfortunately the civilized world is not organized to protect ancient sites and to penalize those who desecrate them wantonly. Azerbaijan went unpunished for desecrating an entire old Armenian cemetery in Nakhitchevan by bulldozing it into a ruble of oblivion.
The Armenian nation (Armenia, Artsakh, Diaspora) should organize to protect our heritage as actively as possible without depending on other organizations or countries to come to our rescue. The Internet is an open battlefield for the weak as well as for the strong to wage war for establishing the truth.
Embarking on a campaign to counter Turkey’s denial of Armenian homeland in the confines of present-day Turkey, would keep the memory of the world of the occupation of the Armenian Highlands alive. Additionally, the benefit of reclaiming our heritage centers on the opportunity to instill pride in our new generation, pride of who we are, pride of where we came from, and pride of where we want to be. Our new generation is our only ardent hope for some day to go home–back to Ararat. With a proud memory of the Armenian Highlands, the dream of one day to return there would be possible.