Friday, June 26, 2009

“Sometimes I like to talk about the past,” the Diaspora Armenian said, “just to forget about the situation Armenia is in today. You look around, we’re at peace, and Yerevan, at least the city center, looks like a European city, the streets and coffee shops full of young Armenians and hundreds of tourists. But think about what’s going on around us. It won’t be today or tomorrow, but in the future, Georgia and Azerbaijan will be in NATO. Our only friend, Russia, will be unable to help us, with Georgia blocking the way. We need to stay close to Iran, as our interests are closer than most realize.

“And then there’s the Turks. I’m worried that our government will agree to open the border with Turkey, if the opportunity arises. They’ll do anything to stay in power. I know it’s not easy, playing ball with Turks, Russians, the US, and Europe, but making crazy deals with the Turks is the last thing we need. Here we are, sitting in a nice coffee shop. If they open the border, who will be sitting at the next table but Turks, and there will always be some of our girls, with either financial or moral problems, ready to be there sitting with them. Our youth is already listening to rabiz, Armenchik and the like, which is just a poor imitation of Turkish music. These lovers of rabiz, and there are plenty, will welcome the Turks and their culture with open arms.

“This music, if you can call it that, is a slap in the face of people like Komitas and Toumajan, who saved our folk music from being totally lost. We owe Komitas more than people realize. If you look at the music he saved, his work, it is of a higher, more refined quality than others who did similar work. He was a genius. People say that Komitas, before being sent to the asylum in Paris, spent time in a Turkish asylum, because rich Armenians wouldn’t give the money needed to send him to a good hospital. I can picture what the Turks did to him there.”

Again speaking about the possibility of opening the border with Turkey, our friend continued: “If the border opens, and what happens here is what I think will happen, I’ll never return to Armenia. I’d rather live in the US or Europe, or even Turkey. I am Vanetsi, on both sides. I might consider living there, maybe in the same village my mother was from.

“My parents were both in Van in 1915. After the defense of Van, they both came to Eastern Armenia, then returned to Van with the Russians, and stayed there until the Russians left. They were there when Aram Manoukian declared the Van region independent, which lasted a month or so. There was also a Dashnak named Hambartsumyan who declared Van independent, again lasting just a month. They even printed their own money.

“Aram Manoukian was Karabaghtsi. Ruben Ter Minasyan, another important commander, was from Javakhk. At the time, Dashnaktsutyun considered it of the utmost importance to maintain the regions of Van and Moush, to make Armenia complete, and they came from everywhere to help.”

Commenting on the fall of Kars, he said, “It wasn’t the Dashnaks’ fault that Kars fell. Khatisyan was in Kars during the fighting, waiting for word on what to do. Then the Russians took Eastern Armenia, so Khatisyan had no say. He signed a treaty, which in fact meant nothing, as the Dashnaks had given up the government to the Russians. But keeping Kars was impossible, with the Russians advancing from one side and the Turks from the other.”

Then, quite seriously, he added, “What the Turks didn’t finish in 1915, they’ll finish in 2015. And without firing a shot. Just by opening the border.”

Note: As Shoghaken will be leaving shortly for a folk festival in Slovakia, the Yerevan Journal blog will take a short break, and will resume on July 9.

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