2566) The Concept of Diaspora - Homeland Relations

Much has been said regarding Diaspora-Armenia relations during the past few years. In their commentaries, everyone has tried to explain and get to the bottom of this issue. The manifestation of the issue of Diaspora-Armenia relations took on importance as of the last decades of the second half of the twentieth century and became a unifying axis for the . Diaspora. This unifying axis for the Diaspora became even more important when the generation of Genocide survivors lost the hope of returning to their homeland and living on their ancestral lands, at least in the near future. On the other hand, taking root and getting established in the lands in which they found refuge, a new phase in their life began. This generation, lived with the hope of what future would bring and looked for a unifying axis. This unifying axis turned out to be the return of its lost ancestral lands and the other half that it did possess, the homeland that kindled dreams, namely Eastern Armenia.

Even back during the period of Soviet Armenia the Diaspora attempted to display the correct approach to this question. The unifying axis for all democratic political parties and organizations and those ideologically close to Soviet Armenia was to rally around Soviet Armenia. During this same period there were parties, organizations and one segment of the people for whom, by uniting with the western world, their unifying axis became the struggle against Soviet Armenia, to “liberate Soviet Armenia from the USSR, with the notion of joining it to the western world. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) played a pivotal role in unifying these elements. For the ARF, the pitting of the Catholicosate of Antelias against the Mother See of Etchmiadzin, resulting in a split among the churches, and using the See of Antelias as a tool against Soviet Armenia and the See of Etchmiadzin, were devices in the service of achieving its objective.

In any event, up till the collapse of the Soviet Union, the relation between the Diaspora and Armenia had an ideological, political and class nature to it. The struggle was one of political ideas; to align with either the western or eastern axis and to struggle against the other. This is one of the more important traits of the issue that is either forgotten or intentionally not taken into account by many in their analyses and elucidations of Diaspora-Armenian relations. After the independence of Armenia that segment of the Diaspora that had rallied around Soviet Armenia lost its established unifying axis. In the initial period of independence the Artsakh issue, the earthquake, war, etc, served to unify not only the people of Armenia but all Armenians. In just a short period of time this became the unifying axis for all Armenians since it was an issue of concern for all.

After the independence of Armenia and with the advent of the free market system, the societal social-economic polarization led to the creation of new movements and a heated struggle on their part to come to power. For this very reason, the unifying axis of the fatherland for the Diaspora again became a principle of political, ideological and class struggle. Ideas imbued with pan-national values gave way to a class-based and political struggle.

Those citizens who emigrated from Armenia took with them the political views and sympathy of those movements. For this reason a new political environment took form in the Diaspora, a new approach, towards the authorities in Armenia.

Diaspora-Armenia relations and the means and form for unifying the Diaspora differed from the previous state of affairs. The mass exodus from Armenia, starting from 1992, altered the classical face of the Diaspora. The nearly two million citizens who emigrated from Armenia who lived abroad, mostly in Russia, had much closer links to Armenia than the others in the Diaspora. They had strong bonds to their relatives and friends and as a result of these links they would get information about the daily problems in Armenia. They would also directly assist their relatives and friends back in Armenia financially. Those who emigrated from Armenia weren’t uprooted from their fatherland as western Armenians who barely managed to survive the Genocide. The former still considered themselves to be Armenian citizens and would relate to the ruling state of affairs in Armenia on various occasions. For this reason, they were the first to react to any given issue confronting Armenia.

The economic, political and social problems in Armenia and the domestic and foreign political policies of the Armenian government, immediately impact on Diaspora-Armenia relations. Whilst all other forces were assisting the newly independent Armenian state during the presidency of Levon Ter-Petrosian, certain forces in the Diaspora, especially the ARF, due to their opposition to Ter-Petrosian’s politics, didn’t support the Armenian state. The ARF spared no effort to maintain a highly spirited struggle of slander against Levon Ter-Petrosian and to seek the overthrow of his government. After Kocharian came to power, when the ARF became a part of his government and up till today, the ARF has unreservedly supported the state and the same political line is reflected in the Diaspora, in ARF circles. Thus Diaspora-Armenian relations have a class, ideological and political nature to them.

In its relations with the Armenian government must the Diaspora act as a unified entity?

The concept of Diaspora-Armenia relations is totally different from the concept of relations between the Diaspora and the Armenian government. No one denies the existence of Diaspora-Armenia relations but Diaspora-Armenian government relations have always been and will continue to be dependent on different Diaspora political parties and organizations and on the ideology of the Armenian government - the level and content of its democracy, its economic, domestic and foreign political policies. Both past and present experience attests to this.

Also different are the concepts of “one nation, one fatherland” and “one nation, one state”. What do we understand by stating “one nation, one state”? The concept of “one nation, one fatherland” is more or less comprehensible (if by fatherland we mean the entire Armenian world), but “one nation, one state”, at least given the present situation, is a meaningless conception given that we already have one de jure state and one de facto state. And if, by some miracle, western Armenia also became a state, then we would have one nation and three states. Thus, it is possible to be one nation and have several states. However this is not the issue. The issue remains when we say the word state, what kind of state are we talking about, a dictatorial one, democratic, socialist, and capitalist and the particular variants of each? What is important is the state polity (petakanutyun), which possesses a distinct composition - the executive, legislative and judicial branches. When we speak of the state polity we must comprehend these three pillars. The state is built on these three pillars. The authorities in power or their combined totality, the state, has a class-conscious nature to it and expresses the political will of a given class in society; it serves as its political representative. Whilst the executive and legislative bodies are the proponents of the political will of this or that class of society, the judiciary must always remain an independent system, free of state political influence. No one oppose the state or denies its existence. However, one can oppose certain policies of the regime or strive to have it overthrown.

Today, the accusation made by the regime in Armenia and parties in the coalition as well as individual political statesmen that the opposition forces seek to “weaken the state” is baseless, to put it mildly. A given nation can loose its state polity as a result of incorrect political policies but not as a result of the struggle waged by the people in the defense of their rights. Throughout the entire world, depending on the nature and form of a given nation’s democracy, people are struggling for their rights and an improvement in their socio-economic situation; in opposition to its regime, in other words, the nation. No one is saying that the judicial or executive authorities, as part of the state structure, must disappear. No one says that we don’t need a legislature. That would translate into anarchy. Thus a correct conception of both state and regime is important to understand the concepts of “people-state” and “Diaspora-Homeland” relations and to place them on the right footing.
Diaspora-Armenia relations

It is clear that for the government of Armenia the concept of Diaspora-Armenia relations is understood to be the unifying of Diasporan financial resources and for them to be directed towards Armenia. However this issue isn’t merely one between rich or charitable Diasporan benefactors, on the one hand, and the Armenian government or Armenian social institutions on the other. Diasporan benevolent foundations, if they wish to work through Armenian government channels to develop Armenia, or through their own private auspices, is a matter for them to decide. Benevolent work is a good thing and worthy of encouragement. However, this is totally different from Diaspora-Armenia relations, or put more correctly, relations between the Diaspora and the Armenian State. The former is based on a spiritual-cultural-humanitarian principle and the latter on a political-ideological one. We would be overjoyed if all the benevolent foundations and individuals would work together to spur Armenia’s economic development and to improve its social conditions. This, despite the fact that it would be preferable that this take place by means of a exclusive structure in order to insure that the assistance reached its intended target and not wind up as an additional source of income for a certain group of people.

As to the issue concerning “Diaspora-Armenia”, or put more correctly relations between the Diaspora and the Armenian State, this is not a matter of assistance or donations, but purely a political question. It is possible to give a more correct formulation of the issue - the political interaction between the Diaspora and Armenia or the political interaction of the Armenian state vis-à-vis the Diaspora. Whether we want it or not and regardless whether the Armenian government wishes it or not, it will directly have to deal with the problem. The Diaspora is not a homogeneous political unity comprised of one party or one political outlook. In its relations with the Diaspora, the Armenian government must come to grips with the diversity of the Diaspora, with the variety of its political and social forces. And it will not always be the case when those forces will defend the ruling authorities in Armenia. They might even be highly critical of those authorities. When speaking of Diaspora-Armenia relations we must answer the following question. What party or political and social institution in the Diaspora will enter into relations with the Armenian government? Who will be representing the Diaspora? As we’ve pointed out the Diaspora isn’t a uniform structure with a single outlook. Given this, what issue can serve to unify the Diaspora so that it enters into relations with the political representative of Armenia, namely the government, with a unanimous voice under a unitary structure? It is important to formulate the correct set of political relations between the Diaspora and the Armenian state.

In the set of relations between the Diaspora and the homeland it must be decided what standards and on what legal principles and by what mechanisms will it be possible to interact with the Diaspora. Then there is the issue of the rights of the Diaspora as constituting a majority of the Armenian nation. In what form and to what extent will this reality manifest itself with the political life of Armenia? Both the Armenian government and the coalition, of which it is a part, constantly talk about Diaspora-Armenia relations. But what relations do they have in mind when the Armenian government denies the right to vote, the most basic but important of rights, to its citizens living abroad?

Of course, efforts to assist the homeland, to improve the conditions of its people and to develop its economy through charitable and humanitarian efforts, are always to be welcomed. However, to support the government or to share it political and ideological opinions, is conditioned on whether or not the perspectives and political positions of political parties and social institutions and organizations are in line with government ideas and political opinions. It is based on this principle that it remains impossible to create a single front in the Diaspora. Political decisions made by the Armenian government regarding domestic and foreign policy or in its approach to a given issue, are responded to equally in the Diaspora as in Armenia.
Diaspora-Homeland relations, to a certain degree, can be realized along the following lines

Benevolent foundations must open offices in Armenia. They must prepare projects with strategic import in order to more effectively assist in Armenia’s development. Armenia will not prosper merely through cosmetic programs.

All social organizations and projects operating in Armenia must interact with their counterparts in the Diaspora. In the same manner, political parties and organizations functioning in Armenia can also interact with political parties and organizations in the Diaspora with which they share a commonality of interests and outlook.

The Armenian government must reconcile itself with all those forces in the Diaspora in a non-biased manner, taking into account their opinions and suggestions. The government must come to the assistance of all cultural, social and educational institutions operating in the Diaspora, regardless of their political persuasions.

Who is the Armenian political representative regarding the recognition of the Genocide; the Diaspora or the government of Armenia?

The Diaspora must be the leading force when it comes to the recognition of the Genocide. The Republic of Armenia can contribute on a non-official level, through the participation of scientific and political institutions and organizations. For the Armenian government to pursue this matter officially would merely complicate the establishment of relations with its neighbors. Regarding the issue of Genocide recognition what is needed is the creation of a single international pan-Armenian institution, absent official Armenian government participation. This institution must be capable of advancing this issue through a unified political policy and strategy. This issue will never be resolved merely by opening more “Hye Tad” (Armenian Cause) offices.

Diaspora-Armenia relations will not be put in order just by the creation of a “Ministry of the Diaspora”. The Armenian government will only be able to assist in the development of a set of correct relations between the Diaspora and Armenia by taking all the above facts into account and by preparing a corresponding policy. Diaspora-Homeland relations will not be served if the facts regarding the true reality of political life in the Diaspora are not taken into account or destined to neglect and if the government pursues purely one-way interests. If this turns out to be the case the Ministry of the Diaspora will devolve into just another costly and self-serving institution.

by Yervand Khosrovyan, Germany, August 7, 2008
Hetq Online


Anonymous said...

I admire the idealism, unrealistic plus unapplicable wishes for good! If he had read your postings and free E-library, he could have been more knowledgable not only about the genocide fanfare but also on a century old tradition and active life of ARF or Dashnaks & Hunchaks to "milk money for benevolent excuses" and make a luxurious living on the differences. He should read the prophecy of Reno Gazette of Oct.15, 1915.
I do not think that the Armenian politicians will permit diaspora welfare organizations to run their own projects for public good, which is not their primary concern.

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