By Artak BEGLARYAN
While there were some relations existed between Armenia and Diaspora in the years of the Soviet government, Artsakh, which had to exist within the artificial borders of Azerbaijan, was absolutely deprived from the opportunity to communicate with Diaspora. The situation has been changed since the initiation of the Artsakh movement and proclamation of independence of the Artsakh Republic.
A lot of organizations and individuals in Diaspora used their material and non-material resources to help Artsakh and support its struggle in the international arena. The contribution of the volunteer-fighters from Diaspora into the military victory of the Artsakh struggle is invaluable. Since the cease-fire Diaspora has deeply immersed into the post-war rehabilitation of the economy, infrastructures, education and other fields of Artsakh life, continuing the political support on the international level. Thus, the relations between Artsakh and Diaspora can be divided into two main trends:
The socio–economic aspect. The contribution of Diaspora into the socio-economic activity of Artsakh is huge. There have been a lot of personal and collective donations. The society even does not know about the most part of these donations, however, we all have taken part or at least followed the annual telethons: most of the collected funds are directed to heal Artsakh’s wounds. Much more important are the investments or the funds, not yet invested by Diaspora into the business in Artsakh, allowing to provide jobs and stable source of income for the local population. The invested funds are not finished after the end of concrete projects (asphalt, construction), stimulating production of goods, providing revenues to the investor and incomes for the personnel to keep their families.
The Government of the Artsakh Republic proclaimed the agriculture a priority sphere of economy, intending to stimulate investments into this branch. The inflow of funds into this field of economy is quite visible, but it is also obvious that a significant part of the agricultural potential of Artsakh is still unused. So in such conditions foreign investments should be stimulated. It is clear that because of high risk in the area of the Karabakh conflict foreign investments pass by Artsakh, but funds from Diaspora do come to Artsakh, being invested not only for getting revenues. The favorable tax field and privileges can become a good stimulus for the Diaspora organizations, which could invest money into the Artsakh agriculture and get revenues. Everybody understands how strategically important is the correct use of the agricultural potential. It is not only capable to secure the foods self-sufficiency of the country, but also to solve the problems of unemployment in the rural areas, re-connecting peasants to the land and dissuading them from moving to town or abroad. The stimulation of investments by means of tax and other privileges can work on the whole Artsakh economic area.
The more frequent visits of the Artsakh officials to the active Diaspora communities have become an effective way of building relations between Artsakh and Diaspora. For example, after the visit of Prime-Minister Ara Harutiunyan to some Middle Eastern countries an agreement has been achieved on the investment of several millions of dollars. Certainly, it is good, but the necessary factor, allowing to attract investments favorable, is just economic conditions.
The political aspect. Various organizations from Diaspora have provided political support to Artsakh since the very first days of the Artsakh movement. The decision of the U.S. Congress, made by the efforts of the Armenian lobbyist organizations, thanks to which a direct financial assistance is provided to Artsakh is one of the most striking examples of that. In addition to the social and economic importance, this aid is also very much important from the political point of view.
Anti-Artsakh resolutions have been prevented and anti-Azerbaijani documents have been adopted several times in the countries where Armenian communities are strong. One of the most recent political achievements of the Diaspora is the statement by the Uruguayan Foreign Minister on the necessity of the recognition of Artsakh independence. Probably, it can be considered as the biggest achievement of the Diaspora in its political assistance to Artsakh. The mentioned statement marks the beginning of the international recognition of the rights of Artsakh Armenians (to independence or reunification with Armenia). It is necessary to use all our resources to make this process work. Organizations in Diaspora can play a huge role in the process, trying to urge their governments to make appropriate statements on the readiness to recognize Artsakh or even recognize it directly. First of all, such states can be those, where the Turkish-Azerbaijani lobby does not counter-act against the Armenian influence. So some Latin American countries can be a convenient field for the activity of the local Armenian communities.
It is necessary to point out that organizations in the Armenian Diaspora do a lot for presentation of Artsakh to the international community. They hold conferences on Artsakh topics in European countries, the United States, organize visits of MPs to Artsakh, making Azerbaijan nervously convulse. Undoubtedly, these activities allow political figures from given countries to get a true picture of the Artsakh conflict, being some sort of PR-actions, addressed to the residents of those states.
Meanwhile the organizations of the Armenian Diaspora in Europe and the United States consider the international recognition of the Genocide as priority, which has its reflection on their activity in the Artsakh issue, the Russian community is passive in both – the recognition of the Genocide and in the Artsakh direction. However, it is necessary to stress that there are quite a lot of people in the Armenian community in Russia, who are of the Artsakh origin, which supposes a more active struggle. Maybe it is explained by the fact that the community in Russia is too disperse and is not well-organized. So it is this direction that should be discussed and analyzed more attentively to search and find the ways to urge Armenian organizations in Russia to be more active in their work with the society and government, taking into account that Russia is one of the three co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group, occupied with the Karabakh conflict settlement.
However, it is obvious that organizations carry out a serious work in the Artsakh direction, also helping the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The spiritual–cultural aspect. Artsakh, as a cradle that has retained the Armenian national culture for centuries, can become one of the perils, preserving the national identity for Diaspora. The cultural and tourist interest toward Artsakh among the foreign Armenians, visiting Armenia, is obviously growing. Youth camps, organized by the state or various parties and organizations, are now more frequently held in Artsakh. It is a very effective way for young people to get acquainted with the homeland and national values just at place and to let them feel that Artsakh is theirs too. Considering the problem from this point of view, it is necessary to aim the human and material resources of the Armenian Diaspora at resettling and developing the liberated territories. There have been some cases when whole settlement areas were restored with the financial assistance of the Diaspora, but such efforts have not been systemic. Why don’t we propose to our compatriots from Diaspora not only to provide the financial support, but also to come and settle down in the liberated territories? It is well-known that after the Iraqi war hundreds of Armenian families temporarily settled down in Armenia, but then left it for other countries, so I think that most of them might have been happy to resettle in the liberated part of their homeland.
Summing up, I would like to state that Diaspora has carried out a colossal work in assisting Artsakh, but there is some need in coordinating the efforts and increasing the effectiveness. And finally it is necessary to point out that Artsakh should not be presented separately in the relations between the homeland with Diaspora, as far as we are one nation, one culture and one state – Armenia.