By: Zara Hovasapyan
I remember talking with my uncle in Armenia about the feasibility of the return of Western Armenia to Armenians and the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. He said to me, thirty years ago, the notion of an independent Armenia was nothing but a hazy dream, an absurd vision that would be virtually impossible to fulfill. Yet, in 1991, the Second Republic of Armenia was established. For centuries (except for the short lived First Republic of Armenia), Armenians had been living under the rule of a foreign nation and then, most abruptly, Armenian independence was no longer a dream, it was a reality.
This reality is still new. Our nation is new, only twenty-two years have passed since its establishment. After centuries of tragic events in our history, the tables have finally turned and given us a new beginning, one with a country. With the dawning of this new age in our history, Armenians have the opportunity to cultivate a new dream: Armenia as home. Would you repatriate?
There are over six million Armenians living in the Diaspora and only just over three million Armenians populating the fatherland. A ratio of 3:6 or 1:2. Wouldn’t a ratio of 2:1 be more suiting? Also, since 1991, the population of Armenia has dropped by 300,000. It doesn’t help that Armenians aren’t the most prolific people either. These numbers are a mystery to me. I know, being a Diasporan Armenian (for now), that we love Armenia and we work hard overseas for the betterment of our country. But, the operative term in the previous sentence is “overseas.”
I don’t deny that I have a romanticized image of what Armenia is and what I want it to become during my lifetime, however, I am not going with the mindset that success will be granted to me upon my patriotic arrival, or that the Ministry of the Diaspora will welcome me with open arms. But, as my parents did in 1996 when they immigrated to United States without financial support or any connections, I, too, will not give up. During the hardest and most trying times, my parents did not give up and were not discouraged when they realized that success isn’t handed to people on a silver platter upon immigrating to America, the land where dreams come true. My parents immigrated to a foreign land; Armenia is native to all of us. To some, Armenia has been home, to others it has been in our hearts, but it has always been ours.
I love the United States with all of my heart and I love all that it represents. I am eternally grateful for all that the United States has provided me and proudly consider myself an Armenian-American. The USA is a 236 year old country that was founded by people who saw issues and problems in their respective countries and came to create a better world. For the two and a half centuries that the United States has existed, its citizens have continued to fertilize the American seed that keeps growing and improving. Our twenty two year old country is a work in progress, an opportunity to time travel and go back to a time when a country is reborn. To go back to the time when the Bastille was taken or when Ghandi led Indians to independence; now is the time for Armenia’s rebirth. We have a portrait of a country that can use retouching. We are the artists and the resources in Armenia and the our experiences in other countries are the paint.
In our globalized world, people emigrate and immigrate everywhere. Due to this trend, nations are no longer homogenous or integrative (the salad bowl v. the melting pot). As I mentioned, I am proud to be an Armenian-American and my plans to repatriate do not insult the dignity of adding the hyphen and my nationality. We are always loyal and grateful to the country that took us in and allowed us to make a living but, wherever we go, we do not forget our roots and do our best to support Armenia. The statistics I presented earlier are a mystery to me as I often wonder why the feelings that urge Armenians to create a community, donate to Armenia and travel there do not apply to repatriation.
I realize that I lose some credibility since I am writing from my comfortable, American home. I have yet to buy my ticket to Armenia or make the commitment on a lease but, I know that Armenia is in my blood. I have traveled to Armenia five times as a tourist and during each trip, I am barraged by the maxim “yergire yergir chi.” My parents could have said that about the United States during their first few years here while facing hardships. I haven’t experienced Armenia as a resident and I cannot deny the statement, at least not yet. However, needless to say, I do not believe it. Even if there is some truth, instead of just saying it, we should work for improving and rectifying all shortcomings of Armenia.
The Armenian Diaspora is a very important and instrumental body for the Armenian cause and I am proud to be a part of it. The Hayaser Armenians of the Diaspora are not any less Armenian or less patriotic just because they don’t live in Armenia. But, we need Armenians in Armenia! We need people there! Land is just soil until someone cultivates it or builds on it or creates a home. None of this can be accomplished without having people there! And, more specifically, we need people who won’t be bystanders but will be proactive citizens who want to build a nation!
A wise man once shared a quote from the Melian Dialogues. The conquering Athenians told the Melians “hope, danger’s comforter, may be indulged in by those who have abundant resources.” He is right. But, it holds true when one has something to lose. Otherwise, hope is motivation. I hope, in time, that I will be able use my knowledge and experience for the betterment of Armenia and I hope that my love for Armenia will only grow and further encourage me to continue dreaming of a perfect Armenia that will someday be realized. I hope that repatriating will be my first dream to come true in Armenia.