Commentary: An Anniversary to Remember


By Edmond Y. Azadian

September 21 of the current year marked the 20th anniversary of Armenia’s independence — a miracle in itself that the republic has survived against all odds. Despite all the problems, there is cause to celebrate the anniversary.

A long and arduous history is behind that survival and celebration, as many leaders and organizations have contributed to making that history. One of those organizations is the Armenian Democratic Liberal organization (ADL), whose anniversary falls on October 1. Indeed, the representatives of the constituent organizations which eventually became the ADL convened on October 1, 1921 in Istanbul to shape a new organization, endowed with the roots and experiences of all the participants.

A new world had emerged at that period in the wake of World War I. A new world order had set in with its defining impact on Armenia’s future and the worldwide Armenian population.

The Genocide had scattered the survivors around the world, the dream of Wilsonian Armenia was shattered, Cilicia was being depopulated and the tiny independent republic of Armenia was absorbed into the emerging Soviet Empire.

The Armenian leadership had to navigate through the pitfalls of international politics, organize the surviving remnants of the nation and find relevance for the newly-formed Soviet Armenian republic.

The political parties had to overhaul their platforms, ideologies and plans of action to guide the fragmented, disillusioned and confused masses who were clinging for dear life. Thus, the ADL was formed in these most confusing historical times, putting together the brains and experiences of its new leadership.

One of the constituent parties, the Armenagans, who believed in armed resistance and who had successfully defended the Vaspouragan Armenians (1896 and 1915), had to readjust to the new reality and convert their ideology to a political rather than a revolutionary course.

Another faction, constitutional Ramgavars, who had put too much stake in the 1908 Ottoman Constitution, had to revise their ideology, because the homeland territory, where constitutional democracy could be practiced, was lost.

The Reformed Hunchak party (Veragazmial) was to merge its nationalistic ideology into the realistic platform of the newlyformed party, whose course of action could only be determined and defined by the new political realities.

Although the new ADL adhered to a conservative philosophy and free-market economy, it had to accommodate in its political platform a modus vivendi vis-à-vis Soviet Armenia, where a compact population was sheltered and a system of statehood had survived, although with limited sovereignty.

Also, the Mother See of the Armenian Apostolic Church came under the new regime. Therefore, it was incumbent upon the leaders to design a razor-sharp policy to maintain cultural and spiritual ties with the Soviet Armenian Republic, while repudiating the Marxist ideology, a perilous road, which the ADL navigated for 70 years, before happily welcoming an independent Homeland.

The leaders of the newly-formed party had a tremendous amount of experience under their belt. Armenak Yegarian was the leader of the military wing of the Van self-defense in 1915. Arshag Chobanian, a cultural icon, had mobilized the public opinion in Europe in support of the Armenian Case. Vahan Tekeyan, a prominent poet, enjoyed the trust of Boghos Noubar Pasha, head of the National Delegation, on whose behalf he was dispatched to Yerevan (1919) to negotiate with the leaders of independent republic of Armenia.

Mihran Damadian had a crucial role in the formation of the Armenian Legion, which fought under the Allied Command and recaptured Cilicia, where Damadian served as prime minister for one day in the short-lived home-rule government of the enclave.

Vahan Malezian was instrumental in purchasing 20 military aircraft for independent Armenia from the British government, which later on reneged on the deal.

Earlier, Ramgavar leaders Dr. Nazareth Daghavarian and Mugurditch Antranikian had helped Boghos Nubar in founding the AGBU (1906), while on these shores Dr. Hovhannes Dzovikian became one of the founders of Knights of Vartan brotherhood (1916).

Thus the ADL became a major player in organizing and leading the Diaspora-Armenian communities, in trying times.

It was through the steadfast policies of the ADL that the majority of Diaspora Armenians preserved their loyalty to the Holy See of Echmiadzin and maintained cultural and spiritual ties with the Armenians in the Soviet republic.

At times the party’s position was in sharp contrast with the ARF, whose anti-Soviet fever overwhelmed its commitment to Armenia’s survival.

The ADL also promoted democratic ideals in running the affairs of diasporan organizations, balancing the hegemonic instincts of the ARF who could have controlled the entire Armenian Church in the diaspora to oppose it to Echmiadzin. Unfortunately, during the last few years, some destructive elements have infiltrated the organization’s fabric, with great appetite to grab its assets.

But the ideals which steered the organization in most turbulent times will help it overcome the current crisis and celebrate its 90th anniversary, extending due recognition and respect to its founding fathers who endowed the ADL with an indestructible ideology.