By Hagop Vartivarian
Whether in the homeland or the diaspora, Armenians celebrated the 24th anniversary of the third Republic of Armenia. Our people always has proudly commemorated, and continues to commemorate and exalt this anniversary because it knows eminently how to value the importance of each episode of independence.
The anniversary of the restoration of our independence is May 28, 1918, which was achieved by all Armenians through a collective and unified struggle at the battle of Sardarabad. On May 26, when all the children of our nation, cleric and villager, worker and freedom fighter, teacher and political party leader, succeeded in halting the Turkish advance toward the province of Ayrarat. Two days later, the dissolution of the Transcaucasian Seim gave birth to the first Republic of Armenia. Our homeland, which had lost its independence for 600 years, suddenly found it again. The true date of our independence goes back further to the Artashesian dynasty.
May 28, 1918 marks the restoration of Armenian statehood and is recorded in our history as such. November 29, 1920 and September 21, 1991 have their respective significance in Armenia’s modern history, and no controversy should cast any shadow on either one through comparison.
Afterwards, our first republic was unable to continue its national mission—in other words to defend our territorial expanse and assure the prosperity of its people, and surrendered its statehood to the administrators of Soviet Armenia. On November 29, 1920 thus was born our second republic, the supremely Armenian republic. It brought positive developments to our people for 71 years. It had its institutions of higher education, the Academy of Sciences of Armenia and national cultural establishments. It organized the repatriation of Armenians scattered throughout the word in 1946 to 1948. It built our new temple to the national heritage—the Matenadaran, while it secured the ascendance of our centuries-old church in the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin. And it also preserved our borders, and during World War II it demonstrated the martial spirit of its youth. In other words, in general it was a boon for our people.
However, with the collapse of the Soviet order, on September 21, 1991 our third republic was born.
France, as a result of its revolution, had its national festival of independence dating from July 14, 1789. Afterwards, France had five republics. The last was born as a result of the efforts of General Charles de Gaulle. Yet through these 226 years, the French people continued to celebrate July 14 as the date of its anniversary of independence, which is better known as the day of the storming of the Bastille and the expulsion of King Louis XVI from Versailles.
The Bastille of our people without a doubt is Sardarabad, and only Sardarabad. The true struggle for survival of our people and its victory took place on the fields of Sardardabad, Sarikamish and Gharakilisa.
Now we proudly record the successes of our third republic. No matter how much the free press wants to devalue the positive achievements of our presidents, Levon Ter-Petrosian, Robert Kocharian and Serge Sargisian, in office today, history without a doubt will register their enormous accomplishments.
First, the defense of our territorial integrity remained unwavering. Not only did our soldiers defend the 30,000 kilometer expanse of Armenia, but also the Armenians of our republic of Artsakh which was born on the territory of Mountainous Karabagh and surrounding areas, by repelling Azeris and other groups from elsewhere. Thanks to the military forces of today’s republic and their political leaders, we have Artsakh, pulsing with Armenian life.
Secondly, we must record with veneration the value of our republic’s diplomatic corps, and in particular the delicate diplomatic work of our present minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Eduard Nalbandian, who while maintaining an equilibrium between the great states of the East and the West, has secured the great respect of the world by means of his staff and ambassadors and consuls in over 40 countries. Our beloved Zohrab Mnatsakanyan at the United Nations is no doubt one of these most respected officials of the Republic of Armenia. It must be said again that our minister of foreign affairs, believing in his mission, carries out truly talented work.
Third, our present-day Armenian governmental authorities, being well aware of the geostrategic environment of our country, and the religious and tribal heritage of our neighbors, remained faithful to the knowledgeable strategy of the previous republic, namely that the Russian people remains and will remain the permanent and fundamental friend of the Armenian people. We are happy that through a bilateral agreement not only has the western border of Armenia been assured, in other words the Turkish side, but also our four borders, from north to south and from east to west. On this issue we must certainly express our great respect toward Defense Minister of the Republic of Armenia Seyran Ohanian.
Fourth, the role of our minister of culture, Hasmik Poghosyan, is great in the international dissemination of Armenian culture and in its preservation. During recent years, the greatest names of European and American art have been invited to Yerevan for concerts, festivals, and theatrical events. They returned to their homes amazed at the high level and freshness of Armenian culture. Our much-beloved minister carried out and continues to carry out important work.
Fifth, the newly-created ministry of the diaspora is worthy of appreciation. It is the continuation of the Committee for Cultural Relations with the Diaspora of the past. Armenians as a result of the efforts of the ministry over several decades, felt more Armenian, and on various occasions visited Mother Armenia. Adolescents and scholars, doctors, jewelers, writers and businessmen made frequent visits, and not only from our traditional diaspora but from newly formed communities in Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. The fraternal assistance and openhearted welcome shown by the ministry to our Syrian-Armenian brothers in recent years testifies itself to the authenticity of our beloved minister Hranoush Hakobyan.
Sixth, we must attest on this occasion that the third Republic of Armenia has been a blessing for the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin. Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II turned our cathedral and the Holy See into an Armenian Vatican. Through his work of construction, education, publication, and interdenominational initiatives and services, the Church of Armenia is living a golden age. Our young alumni of Echmiadzin’s Gevorgian Seminary already have begun to serve in the scattered communities of the diaspora and without a doubt soon will begin to lead our diocesan lives.
Finally, we come to economic security and the possibility of securing employment within the boundaries of Armenia. Today the economy is not in an enviable condition in general throughout the world. We ourselves have a homeland unfortunately under blockade, but we also have a people with higher education and the energy and will to work. The twenty or so family and clan groupings must give a chance for the new generation to have a chance to participate in Armenia’s economic life in order to achieve an increase in the standard of living. It is not possible to only divide up the wealth of the country among a handful of families and their immediate circles. This is contrary to our understanding as democrats, and can be disastrous for the third Republic of Armenia…because we are not ready as a nation to start a fourth republic. Let the rich of Armenia give a share of their wealth to others in order to create new economic possibilities. In this way the new generation will remain in the land of their forefathers and not go to seek work in distant Siberias.
However, aside from these heartbreaking thoughts, it remains only to congratulate the anniversary of our third republic, which coincides with the first day of autumn. Autumn is the most beautiful season of Armenia. Let that beauty be present everywhere and Armenians always visit their 3,000-year-old homeland, Mother Armenia.
Happy anniversary, beloved Armenia!
(Translated from the Armenian)