The most pressing issue of the worldwide Armenian community today is the improving of poor socioeconomic conditions of Armenia and Artsakh. This issue does not get as much attention among the Armenian community as the key agendas of Genocide recognition, the recognition of Artsakh as a sovereign state, or the repatriation of historic Armenian lands. However, the bettering of socioeconomic conditions in the homeland will allow for the more effective allocation of resources to reach the goals of Armenians worldwide.
Today, many Armenians in Armenia and Artsakh are not self sufficient, relying heavily on much needed financial support from friends and relatives abroad. Others who do not have that source of aid live in poverty. Many leave the fatherland en masse looking to find work, to aquire a good education, and trying any means possible to find a way out. “Yerkire yerkir chi!”, I heard quite often from friends and family when I visited Armenia two summers ago. They did not share my enthusiasm for Armenian efforts that had recently resulted in Resolution 252 clearing the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The only thing on their mind was finding a way out of the country that I was so eager to enter and experience, at least through the eyes of a tourist. The conditions in Artsakh are even worse than in Armenia. Residents do not even have access to a constant source of water as the Gift of Water, A Gift of Life telethon that I watched last year revealed. Another looming threat is that Azerbaijan spends more on its military than Armenia’s entire yearly budget.
How can we, Armenians in the diaspora, expect the active participation of Armenians of the homeland in lobbying for genocide recognition when they are struggling to put food on the table? How can we advocate for the future repatriation of historic Armenian lands when Armenians are hopelessly abandoning and deserting the only patch of land we can call home today?
Our first priority should be to concentrate efforts and resources to help create jobs, schools, top-notch universities, and a prospering state in Armenia so that residents don’t see any motive to leave their country. This would be an invaluable contribution that would make a difference in the lives of our fellow Armenians today. These efforts would result in the modernizing of Armenia and the strengthening of the military. I dream about the vast expanses of Wilsonian Armenia. However, I cherish the gains we have made in Artsakh through the sacrifice of thousands of lives, and I am afraid of losing that hard earned land.
Only with a full stomach, secure atmosphere, and a content heart can the residents of Armenia direct their energies to other issues so dear to diasporan Armenians. In the future, diasporan Armenians will be able to concentrate all their energies and financial resources to longtime traditional agendas and goals without diverting attention and money to deal with poor conditions in their “hayrenik”.
There is no reward in painstakingly working to have a history recognized when the present and future of a significant offshoot of that history, Armenia and its inhabitants, looks grim.
By: Janet Shamilian
Is it acceptable that Arsen Galstyan represented Russia over Armenia?
On July 28, 2012, judoka Arsen Galstyan won the gold medal for Russia, securing the country’s first gold medal in judo after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This victory came within 41 short seconds into the final, a clear manifestation of Galstyan’s unparalleled talent in the men’s 60-kilogram weight class. Born in Armenia during the time of the Soviet Union, Galstyan stated, “I flew to London only for the gold and I’ve achieved my goal. What’s my next target? The next Olympics.” True Armenian confidence!
What should we make of Galstyan representing Russia instead of Armenia? This was a topic of debate within the Armenian community immediately following Galstyan’s monumental triumph. Undeniably, it would have been incredible if Galstyan represented Armenia. A gold medal for our homeland. However, just because he did not represent Armenia does not make him less of an Armenian. It surely does not give any members of the Armenian community any basis to deplore his achievement for Russia. This dissatisfying viewpoint does not allow one to appreciate the true magnitude of Galstyan’s success. After all, Galstyan, an Armenian was first to open Russia’s medal bank.
At the age of seven, Galstyan moved with his family to Giaginskaya, Adygea in Russia. Joining the Armenian diaspora, Galstyan was raised in Russia. Factoring that the country has better resources and supported Galstyan in his quest, it is understandable why he would represent the country that provided him with the adequate materials and means to such an accomplishment. Perhaps if he did not have the experiences and fortunes in Russia, he would have never been as exercised and ready to compete in the Olympics. For this, it is vital for him and other athletes to resort to means that will allow nourishment and growth towards their full potential. Instead of ostracizing him, we have to applaud his dedication and his vehement drive. His representation of Russia does not make Galstyan any less Armenian. Branching off this argument, the near seven million Armenians in the diaspora would have to be considered “less Armenian” since we are, indirectly, representing the country we have immigrated to every single day. If a diasporan Armenian succeeds in another country, then Armenians as a whole have succeeded. This power of unification is what we need within our community. We should rejoice over the fact that his talent has been recognized internationally. An ARMENIAN’s talent has been renowned.
This seeps into the importance of unification for Armenians all across the world. We should collectively be proud of him. Just because he did not win the gold medal for Armenia does not mean that merit is not extended to our country. He represented Armenia and Russia in his Olympic success. This is a victory for the Armenian diaspora and our Armenian nation.
Congratulations Arsen Galstyan! From all Armenians – you have made us incredibly proud. The glistening gold of your medal reflects your golden people. Thank you.
Paul Baghdadlian was a major role player in my musical cultivation. We lost a true legend in Armenian popular music two weeks ago after a long bout with illness. He was integral to keeping Los Angeles and the greater Armenian Diaspora entertained for over three decades. He was also a champion for the Armenian cause, keeping the ideology of a true Armenian Hero alive within his songs. In our household, Paul’s rhythm-filled music provided a soundtrack to my early life. Normally my father would play the vinyl records of a handful of Armenian artists. Manuel, Paul Baghdadlian, Harout Pamboukjian, Adiss Harmandian, along with a few unknown others, filled the house with music. Music plays a big role in my life to this day. Armenian music is where I got my musical roots from. I started playing piano when I was three years old, and by age fourteen I was already playing four instruments, including the guitar, bass and the drums. At last count, I play nine today.
Just as long as I have been studying and playing music, the music of Paul Baghdadlian offers a unique blend of western musical influences, most notably the pounding drums of his early drummer, Hrair Aprahamian, and the classical Armenian tones played on instruments more common to rock bands than Armenian orchestras. His guitarists played the guitar more like an oud or bouzouki. The whirling organ solos gave the music a fresh breath of air. This was a unique sound for its time.
Paul gave Armenian music a much needed edge for its time, especially when Armenian music in the 70s were more based on sounding like folk music than pop music. The Armenian ensemble or Orchestra became the Armenian wedding band with Paul’s music.
Paul’s life began in Aleppo, Syria in 1953. After moving to Lebanon, he participated in many Armenian events, quickly becoming a memorable character. During the advent of the Lebanese civil war, Paul would entertain young Armenian men defending the neighborhood of Bourj Hammoud, Beirut’s equivalent to Glendale in the United States.
Whether it was making coffee for the tired heroes of the neighborhood, or singing an old Armenian patriotic song to boost morale, Paul was a vital piece of Armenian history. However it was not until another Armenian by the name of Harout Pamboukjian moved to Lebanon and started singing there that Paul realized his true calling.
They both ventured to America in 1977, the same year my parents arrived as a part of the mass exodus from Lebanon and Soviet Armenia. As the Armenian community grew in what is now today Little Armenia, so did Paul’s venues for performing. By the beginning of the 1980s, Paul had become a local celebrity, playing weddings, christenings, and most famously the “barahantes.” Over the years as his success grew, so did his influence in the Armenian Diaspora communities around the world.
While his success along with his health declined over the years, it is those early years as a youth for which he was remembered. He is always famously quoted as saying, “love your people, love your motherland, love one another, and love the red, blue, and orange.” His influence as a cultural figure has given him the title of “king.” In the words of Neil Young, “the King is gone, but he is not forgotten.”