Repatriation as a New Axis of the Artsakh-Diaspora Relations

By Alexandr KANANYAN
Independent expert

Before starting to write this article, I thought for a while how appropriate it would for me to take part in the discussion of this topic: the relations of Artsakh and Diaspora. The point is that I support the idea of the  juridical fixation of the de-facto established political and state integration of Artsakh with Armenia within a common national state, and for me, from the view of the state governance, tackling public problems  and in all other aspects,  Artsakh is indivisible from the remaining Armenia. At the same time, it is personally for me and my life, Artsakh is not just a special, but also a sacred place.

Moreover, Artsakh is such for the whole Armenianhood. Quite reasonably: our current independence has been initiated through Artsakh, and it is in Artsakh, more than in any other place, the fortunes of the Armenian statehood will be  swayed today and long years on.

The relations between Artsakh and Diaspora are theoretically multifaceted, and they embrace all spheres of our national-state life: from the state building and culture up to the inner feelings of an Armenian in Diaspora, concerned with preservation of his or her national character. However, these relations have not been arranged and systemized, they are exclusively superficial and ineffective. The Diaspora actually continues to have nothing to do with the Artsakh realities, being dissociated from the problems, available here, and does not take part in overcoming the inner and foreign challenges in any effective manner.  As for Artsakh, it is satisfied with the ceremonial attention from the Diaspora and sincerely grateful for the financial aid, provided to it. But in such a situation we all lose, as long as we uselessly waste our time and national potential for fractured projects, distorted priorities and superficial actions, not obligating us to do anything important.

It seems that time has come to re-evaluate the existing approaches and models of activity. Everything is interconnected in the modern world. The relations between Artsakh and Diaspora will remain being all the more fractured, if a common space of effective interaction is not shaped, at least at the network-centric level. Let us begin from noting that the Armenian Diaspora has already faced the crisis of its own identity for a long time. It is not only the problem of individuals, but also all Armenian organizations in Diaspora.  The traditional mechanisms of socialization and organization of the Armenians, living abroad, are facing more and more serious problems. Abstract meetings, banquets and other pompous forms of patriotism are not interesting and seem alien for the new generation. The third and fourth generations of the Diaspora are trying to find some new ways of perception and realization of their own national identity. The main requirement here is to get a real scope of activity, which should be maximally free and attractive. If we display the readiness and act properly and boldly, then Artsakh (not only the authorities, but the society as a whole) would be able to redirect a huge supply of inner potential and energy to the Diaspora, now in the deep crisis. Even more, Artsakh is capable to open a new unprecedented page of repatriation, the political strategic importance of which is impossible even to imagine.  If the Armenian organizations in Diaspora wish to have a future, they should carefully review the traditional priorities, understanding that each family, repatriated to Artsakh, has much more symbolic and strategic importance for overcoming the consequences of the Genocide, than huge ineffective financial expenses and organizational efforts, wasted for the promotion of the international recognition of the Genocide or the mass construction of cult buildings in the countries with Armenian communities.

However, all that is not so simple. An Armenian in Diaspora and an Artsakh Armenian are divided today not only by different mentalities, ways of living or citizenships. The biggest problem is that the “elites” of Diaspora and Artsakh are pathologically afraid of the civil initiative and network-centric activity. Today the main obstacle for the relations of Artsakh with Diaspora is just such a mentality, which should be completely improved. It is difficult to expect in the near future that the Artsakh authorities, constrained by the Soviet mentality, or the traditional structures of Diaspora, crystallized in the secluded space of their own “self-efficiency,” will have the intention or be able to take effective steps to transform the ceremonial events into a constantly growing network-centric cooperation. That is why, instead of them and sometimes despite their will, it is the society that should do it, we all, as much as we can, ready and aware of our own national responsibility.

The settlement of the liberated territories is the extremely important activity that can provide with the most strategic effect. The annual fund-raising “marathons,” as some sort of traditional ritual, undoubtedly, should have their continuation. However, the final goal is the inflow to Artsakh by repatriates, new Artsakh people, citizens of Armenia, and not just finances. A public body should be created as soon as possible to be responsible for propagandizing and additional organization of the settlement process. At the same time, it is necessary to publicly explain to the organizations and individuals in the Diaspora, who have monopolized the spheres of “patriotism” and “national philanthropy,” that time has come for urgent servicing the vital priorities of the national security of the Armenian state.  We are aware that the process of settlement of the liberated territories is full of numerous obstacles, but it is also no less clear that all they are surmountable.  In the end, we should call things by their proper names. It is necessary to indicate and gradually impose the real priorities to the structures, flagrantly squandering the financial potential of the Diaspora.  Would it really matter if pair of officials in the State Department look at them askew, or anybody in Yerevan remains dissatisfied…?

Much has to be done in Artsakh as well.  First of all, we have to say goodbye to the tradition of the “nominal” action, when individual statesmen presented themselves everywhere as bold champions of the settlement policy for the liberated territories, meanwhile in fact froze that process and even contributed to reduction of their population. This anti-state phenomenon requires a thorough consideration, and in the Artsakh conditions it is absolutely unacceptable.  In the relations with the Diaspora, it is also necessary to remove all obstacles, related to our compatriots’ movement within Artsakh, their consular registration and appropriate problems.  I mean the cancelation or revision of some bureaucratic instructions and filling the legislative gaps.

The experience of many years shows that the enlargement of the ties between Artsakh and Diaspora, their profound intensification in the near and medium-term perspectives is possible not so much through the traditional Diaspora structures, but rather by establishing multi-polar, network-centric partner relations.  The worldwide web, being an excellent tool for the network self-organization, mutual information and coordination of the efforts of persons in different parts of the world, provides a huge space for their establishment. My personal observations prove that each Artsakhi man or woman, actively and substantially represented in the blog-sphere and social networks, monthly receives a solid correspondence, which, besides all familiarizing issues, includes cooperation proposals as well. There is also a big number of Armenians in Diaspora, especially young people, theoretically studying the possibility of repatriation.  It is worth mentioning a remarkable fact here. By the invitation of the “European Movement of Artsakh” three young Armenians from Lebanon came to Stepanakert for internship. As soon as upon the third day of their arrival all three expressed the desire to repatriate to Artsakh on the permanent basis, despite the fact that the very first days of their stay they witnessed a couple of unhealthy phenomena, typical to our public life. Last summer the author of this article received nearly thirty people from Yerevan and Diaspora; some of them are now occupied with preparations for repatriation to the liberated territories.

When discussing the issues related to intensification of the partner cooperation between Artsakh and Diaspora,   it is necessary to point out that unlike Artsakh (and the whole Armenia), the Armenian Diaspora is very heterogeneous with specifics, typical to each country or a region, where a concrete community lives. Developing the relations with each segment of the Diaspora, the peculiarities of any given regional community and their aspirations, coming out of their status, should be taken into consideration. Naturally, Armenian communities in the United States and the Western Europe substantially differ from the ones in the Middle East or post-Soviet countries. However, despite all existing distinctions, the network structures, taking part in the development of the Artsakh-Diaspora relations, should be maximally united, as far as Arstakh,           being one of the main sources of the revival of the Armenian statehood, is itself the initial link and symbol of unity and restoration of the territorial rights of the Armenian people, broken by the Genocide.


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