2965) Who Is An Armenian? By Vahe Avetian

© This content Mirrored From  http://armenians-1915.blogspot.comSep 30, 2009

This question has always been crucial to many political and cultural discussions among Armenians since the Genocide of 1915 when Armenians fled to different countries of the world. Since then, it has been important to define the unifying force of our ‘imagined community’, however the dispute continues and instead of bringing us closer it creates hinders between “us”, Armenians living in today’s Republic of Armenia and “them”, Armenian living in Lebanon, Turkey, United States, Russia, France and in numerous other places.. .

Since we have gathered here to address this issue I would suggest first try to define “what is an Armenian” in our understanding.

We frequently claim that Armenians feel their homeland by blood. If we develop this claim further, we should probably conclude that genetics is the defining factor of nationality. If so, how can we define if Armenians living abroad are truly Armenians? Shall we take DNA test for all Armenians? What if the results of the hypothetical test show that many Armenians among us are not genetically part of this nation? Such outcome should not be ruled out as our country being on the crossroads of civilizations since the ancient times, was conquered and occupied by Arabs, Seljuk Turks and the Soviet Union during the last millennium. Many times in history Armenians were forced to assimilate and it should not be excluded that generations of assimilated Armenians today might not possess 100 percent ‘Armenian genetics’. Should those be taken out from pan-Armenian list?

Language has traditionally been considered one of the pillars in nation definition. If we agree that language defines Armenians then ethnic minorities living in Armenia and speaking Armenian (Assyrians, Greeks, Russians, Kurds, Ezidis, etc.) shall be considered Armenians, and those who were born from Armenian parents outside of Armenia and speak only English, or Russian, or French, or Turkish … are not Armenians.

For Armenians being the first nation that officially adopted Christianity, religion is being equaled to nationality on many occasions. If we define Armenians by their religion, will then catholic Armenians from Javakheti and Shirak regions be counted as Armenians? What about the Armenian Muslim minority of Turkey? What about atheists or Buddhists, followers of Krishna or Jehovah’s witnesses born from Armenian parents?

In many democratic countries today defining factor in nationality is the citizenship. If we agree with this premise, then Armenian Diaspora in the United States, Russia or in Europe won’t be considered Armenian. Ironically, Armenians living outside of Armenia together make up to 10 million, while those living in homeland are less that 3 million. If we base the definition of nationalism on citizenship, Armenians living in their country will become a minority.

Traditional theories do not seem to be helpful in this case. However, it is of utmost importance to define the national identity of Armenians, as the current confusion results in intolerance within the same nation: Christian Armenians hate Muslim Armenians; language becomes a cause of derogatory remarks if an Armenian does not speak Armenian; until recently mixed marriages of Armenians with other nations’ representatives have not been very welcomed.

If there are no principles and theories that suit our understanding of nation, we should probably try to define principles that would help our nation flourish and develop: principles, based on tolerance and self-determination as the fundamental human value. With this principle we will consider Armenian anyone who declares himself/herself Armenian regardless of genetics, race, color of skin, religion, etc. Almost all Western democracies are facing the issue of multiculturalism today. In some countries, multiculturalism is considered a problem of defining ‘us’ and ‘them’. In fact, I believe that multiculturalism becomes an indicator of week and strong democracies.

We can, of course, refuse to accept democracy as a living standard for the Armenian society, but we’ll be doomed to living in a society where our being Armenian will be defined by a dictator, a religious patriarch, or a corporate oligarchy that will create an artificial image of national identity for us to believe in so they can pursue their own agendas using all possible technologies of brainwashing.
Vahe Avetian's Earlier Articles At This Site

Who Is Vahe Avetian ? ( Armeniapedia.org )

Vahe Avetian - writer, publicist, politician

Vahe Avetian was born in August 23, 1962 - in Yerevan, Armenia in a family of linguist, philosopher Maro and journalist Gouram. He attended English school in Yerevan between 1969 - 1979. The same year (1979) he started studies in the Armenian Academy of Agriculture graduating 1984 V. Avetian worked as veterinarian in 1984 - 1987 in various locations in USSR and Armenia. In 1987 he worked as a quality engineer in the Combined Nutrition Factory in Yerevan. In 1988 V. Avetian started his involvement in politics. Entering the Independence Army from the first day of its foundation. He participated in founding of The Republican Party of Armenia and became a council member of the party. He suspended activities in the Army and the party in 1992 and emigrated to Sweden at the personal request of Hrair Maroukhian. He entered the ARF from the first day of the ban on the organization in Armenia and left the day it resumed activities again as agreed. During his work with the party V. Avetian is elected as one of the representatives of the ARF branch in Scandinavia. Besides linguistic studies, V. Avetian obtained Swedish education in administration, communication, management, psychology of working group.

He attended the Theological Institute of Stockholm - the Human Rights program designed in cooperation with Swedish Academy of Democracy. Founded the organizations 3K - Kreativ Kultur Kraft, Gallery Bunker, Ynternet.org Armenia, Ynternet.org Sweden, 3K Studio, SvFI, YCIC Published the human rights oriented web journals - Independence Army and Malm vgen V. Avetian is the founder of the European Ombudsmans League V. Avetian is a member of Center Party of Sweden form 1999. Has been elected to the council in the Sollentuna community. In 2002 V. Avetian was elected as a candidate to the local, regional and parliament elections. Now he resides in Sollentuna community in Stockholm and continues his political activities with main orientation on Human Rights, both in Sweden and Armenia V. Avetian works with Democracy Support project in Armenia implemented by the International Foundation of the Center Party of Sweden. Vahe is author to 6 books: Independence Army, EstablishMENT, This and that, Svartskalle, Blatte and Baghdasar, Loki, Nils... He speaks 4 languages.

In September 2006 V. Avetian was invited to USA, to hold literary, public and personal meetings. False charges of battery were brought against him by members of ARF in Los Angeles, were he spent 3 days in prison, was tried in 8 months. All charges against him were dropped as result. Accusations were brought against him by the order of ARF leadership, to hinder him to attend parliamentary elections in Armenia in 2006, were he was going to participate and have declared about that in several publications previously. Since then he resides in Washington D.C., USA.

Book Review - Independence Army: Stories, By Vahe Avetyan. 294 pages. (Stockholm, 2005) (In Armenian)
In this collection of anecdotes, encounters, dialogues, reflections, comments, autobiographical fragments, and poems, Vahe tells it like it is. If you don’t like blunt talk, this book is not for you

“Show me an intellectual who praises political leaders and I will show a BROWN-NOSER,” he writes.

“I am not a writer,” he declares at one point. Yet, he writes with the spontaneity of a volcanic eruption.

“My teacher of political science once told me, ‘Vahe, remember that politics is not necessarily prostitution. It becomes one only when whores engage in it.’”

“I don’t remember a single lesson about loving mankind, but about loving one’s country, as many as you like. And it is in the name of this love that we were taught to hate.”

On the prospects of the Armenian diaspora: when asked about it, an activist friend in Buenos Aires replies: “If we start thinking about our prospects, we will stop acting.

“On rereading what I have written, I am astonished at my own genius, but I am also willing to concede that in a few years, when I reread these lines, I shall have to admit that I am no better than a jackass.”

On one level this is an intensely Armenian book, but on another it is also anti-Armenian – or rather the anti-Ottomanized and anti-Sovietized version of Armenianism.

If I were to summarize Vahe’s central message, it would be: You have to die as an Armenian to be reborn as a human being, and only after you are reborn as a human being, may you hope to be a good Armenian. Or: “To renounce your self you must first have a self.”

As long as we have writers like Vahe Avetyan among us, we may think about our prospects with renewed hope.

P.S. After reading Vahe’s book, I started reading Umberto Eco’s ON LITERATURE (New York, 2004), in which I came across the following paragraph: “If one maintained that all myths, all revelations in every religion, were nothing but lies, then, since belief in gods, of whatever kind, has shaped human history, we could only conclude that we have been living for millennia under the rule of falsehood.”

If to “belief in gods” one were to add all kinds of ideologies, from nationalism and communism to many other isms (with the possible exception of alcoholism), one could divide writers into two broad categories: those who justify and perpetuate falsehoods and those who expose and ridicule them. Vahe belongs to the second category, for which reason he deserves our admiration and gratitude.

Ara Baliozian
July 08, 2005, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

In her review of Vahe’s first book, INDEPENDENCE ARMY (Yerevan, 2005) Ashkhen Keshishian said it was “the best thing that could happen to our otherwise gray and moribund literary scene.

Another reviewer went further and called it a “volcanic eruption.” In his second book, ESTABLISHMENT, Vahe continues his struggle against ignorance and intolerance, the twin sources of most of our problems.

When told by hostile readers – make it, psychoanalyzed by phony Freudians – that his criticism is a result of a suppressed childhood trauma and a way of settling personal scores with unidentified adversaries, he explains he is only introducing critical criteria established in the West. At best, he goes on, “I only translate and paraphrase for readers who may not be familiar with foreign languages.”

Elsewhere he writes: “The consensus about me seems to be that I am a megalomaniac and a self-centered egoist because I speak incessantly about myself. It follows, as night follows day, that those who speak in the name of the nation and mankind are humble altruists.” I find this type of scorching sarcasm irresistible. If others find it unsettling, so much the better.

A word of warning: Vahe’s style is colloquial, direct and deliberately crude. If you are easily ruffled by unbuttoned exuberance or provoked by unleashed fury this book is not for you. But if you like to be exposed to the testimony of an honest witness, if you prefer your vodka straight, and if you are not afraid to shake the hand of an hombre whose grip is bone-crushing, Vahe is your man!

Ara Baliozian
January 23, 2006, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
I finally read your book Vahe, all of it. It's hard for me to talk about it, let alone write about it. But I think I discovered a light. A light which is burning so passionately, even though so far away, and burning for such a good cause. That light is you and how you feel about the little place we both call home. The moment I finished the book, I realized that I will miss the book and you. That's right. I felt that I was talking to you throughout the book: agreeing and disagreeing, getting angry at you, rejoicing while discovering all new angles that you opened for me, and blaming you for opening your heart so widely and leaving it out there...

Thanks for being there and for burning so brightly. You just gave me more courage to do what I knew was the right thing to do and the right way to feel. For me, you filled the gap between Njdeh's writings, sacrifices of Monte, Peto, many others, and the hands of my “mshetsi” grand mom.

One more thing. I realized that I have been needing a light like this for many years... pretty much since I left home. Even if our relationship does not envolve into friendship and hopefully help us both to do what we do, I intend to be in touch by reading all that you write.

A reader 2004, Washington D.C.


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