A Message from 1878

As the Armenian town of Kessab in Syria is under siege, its Armenian population has been completely evacuated, with many Armenians hiding in churches. CivilNet reports that the church is sending a delegation to Latakia to see what help the escapees need.

Raffi (Hakob Melik Hakobian)

Given the circumstances, I thought the passage below was appropriate. It was written in 1878 by Raffi (Hakob Melik Hakobian) in his book, Jalaleddin. 1878. Sixteen years before the Hamidian massacres and 27 years before the Armenian Genocide.

“O fathers! O forefathers! I drink this cup, but not to you. If instead of all these monasteries that you filled our homeland with you had built fortresses; if instead of exhausting our wealth on the purchase of holy crosses and sacred vessels you had bought weapons; if instead of filling our churches with clouds of sweet smelling incense you had burned gunpowder, our homeland would already be free and the Kurds wouldn’t be here raiding our villages, killing our children, ravaging our women…Our country’s destruction began here in these monasteries, for it was in them that our courage and daring were extinguished. Since the moment Drtad exchanged his sword and crown for the cross and disappeared into Maniah cave to practice asceticism, these monasteries committed us to slavery…O ancient gods of the Armenians! O Anahit! O Vahakn and Haik! It’s to your sacred memory that I drink from this cup. You, come and save us!”

Also relevant is Khrimyan Hayrig’s Iron Ladle speech the same year.

Ukraine and Other Social Movements: Where Are They Now?

Ukraine is on the brink of a civil war. The current Ukrainian movement is a continuation of a string of movements which actually started in Georgia and Ukraine about ten years ago.

Protester wearing Ukraine state flag colors facing the massive f

The current president, Viktor Yanukovych, was then the subject of protesters’ scorn. His election win was declared illegitimate, he was removed, and Viktor Yuschenko, his main opponent, took power. Ten years on, Yanukovych, the same guy who was removed, and this time as the sitting president, is the renewed subject of protesters’ scorn.

Curiously, ten years later, the exact same thing is happening. Except this time it has become more violent.

The romanticism of revolution, a common theme among activists in Armenia, too, has brought Ukraine to its knees. Except few people on either side seem to bother asking whether these revolutions or social movements achieve their intended goals and whether they are the best way of achieving those goals.

Below I’ve included a piece which originally appeared in the AYF West‘s publication Haytoug in its Winter 2014 issue. I explored some the Georgian and Ukrainian experiences, in addition to the more recent Arab Spring revolts. If the future of a country is of concern, those purportedly so interested should be asked whether they think the problems of that country are solved in the streets or in the people’s minds.

Social Movements: Where Are They Now?

By: William Bairamian

A social movement can look like and be called many things. Whatever their appearance or name, the goal of all social movements is presumably the same: a change for the better. If this is indeed the ultimate objective of a social movement, it is well worth considering how successfully a movement achieves that objective.

In the past ten years, several social movements have grabbed the world’s attention for the change they promised. Deemed successful for achieving their goal of change, though not necessarily change for the better, further evaluations have been sparsely performed. However, in judging social movements, what happens afterward can often be as important in evaluating success or failure.

The social movements discussed here – the Rose Revolution of Georgia, the Orange Revolution of Ukraine, and the Arab Spring in Egypt and Libya – are popular and well-known reference points in the past decade and that is why they were chosen. They also straddle a spectrum that includes nonviolent protest (Georgia and Ukraine) to violent revolution (Libya) and that in-between (Egypt).

There is no question that these movements achieved some success, if only brief or superficial. The question, rather, is whether they secured change for the better, as promised, and as determined by what followed.

First in the course of social movements in the past decade was Georgia. The country had a similar experience with its post-independence government as many of its Soviet-era cohorts like Belarus, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and the Central Asian states.

Strongmen more familiar with politburo than parliament took the reins of countries in disarray, less interested in attending to the people than looking out for themselves and doing the bidding of outside influences – Moscow, in the Soviet case – as they well knew how. In Georgia, that strongman was Eduard Shevardnadze.

In 2003, Shevardnadze, a Soviet leftover, was forced from office during a pro-West and anti-Russia movement called the Rose Revolution. The country welcomed Mikheil Saakashvili, a Western-educated and backed lawyer who promised much in the way of removing the country from the Russian yoke and setting it on a path toward European integration and economic development.

About one year later, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine promised similar changes t0 the Russia-oriented government of the former Soviet republic.

When Viktor Yanukovych, the candidate backed by another Soviet leftover, incumbent Leonid Kuchma, ran for president in 2004, he was challenged by Viktor Yuschenko. Allegations of rampant voter fraud led to a political tug-of-war, called the Orange Revolution, which ended in the courts awarding the presidency to Yuschenko, the pro-Europe, anti-Russia candidate. The court’s decision was hailed as a progressive victory.

Georgia was indeed successful in implementing some reforms and setting its sights on Europe, although the latter may have made for better external publicity than internal stability.

Four short years after the euphoria of Saakashvili’s victory, Georgia saw a familiarly brutal crackdown on the opposition by the Caucasian darling of democracy, complete with curtailment of free press, tear gas, beatings, raids, and water cannons. Furthermore, despite promises of policies more inclusive of Georgia’s several ethnic minorities, little changed, including the lot of the country’s severely discriminated-against Armenian population in Javakhk.

The coup de grace of Saakashvili’s poor governing was the decision to attack his own citizens in South Ossetia, antagonizing Russia and consequently procuring a loss of Georgian territory.

Ultimately, widespread discontent with Saakashvili resulted in Bidzina Ivanshvili, a billionaire opposition candidate, winning the premiership. This was followed by the recent victory of the presidential candidate supported by Ivanshvili, Giorgi Margvelashvili.

In Ukraine, Yanukovych, the man on the losing end of the Orange Revolution, became prime minister in 2006 and has been president of Ukraine since 2010 amid infighting and power struggles in the “Orange” opposition. His opponent during the Revolution, Yuschenko, got 5.45% of the vote in the 2010 presidential election and Yuschenko’s Our Ukraine party got 1.11% in the 2012 parliamentary elections. Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of the revolution, has since been convicted of abuse of power and embezzlement and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Although the victory of an opposition candidate does not necessarily translate into the failure of a social movement – and, indeed, might prove its success – it begs the question of whether the people for, and with, whom the movement was taking place believe the resultant change was for the better. In the case of Georgia and Ukraine, the answer points toward an unambiguous no.

More recently, another wave of revolutions struck, this time across the Middle East. Collectively called the Arab Spring, the ostensible objectives in each country varied, ranging from regime change to political and economic reforms. Egypt and Libya, two heavyweights in the Arab world, fundamentally changed as a result of mass protests in the former and armed revolt in the latter.

Egypt, the crown jewel of the Arab Spring because of the country’s size and central role in the Arab world, deposed its resident authoritarian, Hosni Mubarak, and held an election where Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was chosen as the country’s president. There was jubilation but it was short-lived.

Shortly after Morsi tried to implement constitutional reforms, the military conducted a coup d’etat, Morsi was removed, and military rule was instituted. The revolution that was supposed to usher a new era of Egyptian politics became a mockery.

To the west, Libya, led by the eccentric Muammar Gaddafi, fell to groups of ragtag rebels aided by NATO bombings chose force as the primary agent of change. The rebels fought Gaddafi into submission, eventually capturing and killing him.

Now apparently forgotten when it comes to post-revolution analysis, Libya, unable to form a sustainable government for going on three years, is flirting with the ignominy of becoming a failed state. The glee-ridden removal from power, and execution, of Gaddafi & Co. has not guaranteed a better state of affairs.

Social movements, whether revolutions or otherwise, are often thought of as a panacea for societal ills. For precisely that reason, a distinction must be drawn between social movement as feel-good exercise where change is the solely discernible goal and social movement as vehicle, meant to put society on the right trajectory. Frankly, they cannot be an end unto themselves.

Many social movements have been successful but what differentiates them from the failures?

Simply put, the most successful social movements, the agreeability of their goals notwithstanding, have been based on principles that were clearly outlined in speech or writing in the time before society was moved, as it were, toward action. Thereafter, those principles guided the post-movement leaders.

In what might be the only instance where a similarity between them can be noted, the commonality of guiding principles was integral to the initial success and long-term sustainability of the American and French revolutions; the socialist-communist revolutions of Russia, China, Cuba, parts of Central and South America, and southeast Asia; and, the Islamic jihad movement.

Successful social movements continue beyond the streets to become a part of the target society’s fabric and collective mindset. Their ideas become ingrained in the belief systems of the people: American society largely believes in the principles outlined in the texts that readied the people for the Revolution; socialism and communism created vehement believers of those philosophies, some who exist until today; jihadists believe in the righteousness of the terror they wreak upon their enemies.

In contrast, too easily do some social movements devolve into power struggles where one bad system is exchanged for another, where the inheritors of the movement’s spoils seem more concerned with the guise of revolution than adopting a new value system.

Each of the four examples above included revolutionary successors of the deposed who purported support of democracy and change but acted with a disdain for those who disagreed with them, much like the people they replaced. With society unable to believe that their new leaders had their general wellbeing in mind, the goodwill granted the new leaders upon their arrival was irreversibly corrupted.

The greatest social movements begin not on streets but in minds. They may end in public gatherings or violence but they can only be successful with leaders devoted to ideas in which the people can trust – and that they do trust. That is what carries them beyond chants and marches to meaningful and sustainable change.

If any more poignant example is needed, it can be found in modern Armenian history: long before a bullet was fired to liberate Artsakh, a social movement led by intellectuals prepared the groundwork through the proliferation of ideas for what evolved into a victorious fight for liberty.

Young Man Leaves Australia, Joins Armenian Armed Forces

There are stories that show the exceptional devotion to the Armenian homeland among a new generation of young Armenians who realize that the future of Armenia is their responsibility and is a matter of their individual contribution to the future of the nation. This is one of those stories.

Tigran Petrosyan is a young man who lived in Australia for five years and recently repatriated to Armenia. He is currently serving in the defense units of the Armenian Armed Forces. He is stationed in Artsakh.

The following is theGampr’s translation of the Razm.info interview.

Razm.info spoke with Tigran Petrosyan, an Armenian repatriate from Australia who is currently serving in the Armenian Armed Forces in Artsakh.


After living in Australia for five years and receiving a college education, the 20 year-old Petrosyan chose to return to his homeland and establish permanent residency there. Thereafter, he was drafted into the army as is required by law.

Razm.info: You’ve decided to return to Armenia and live here. What is the reason behind your decision?

Petrosyan: After living outside Armenia for five years, I felt like something was missing; I didn’t feel happy, although I had whatever I needed: I studied at a good university, I had a good job. But after thinking about it long and hard, I decided to return to Armenia, live here, and start a family.

I didn’t have any legal issues [in Australia or Armenia]. Rather, I decided on my own to return to my homeland. My conscience is at rest, I feel better – better even than in Australia. And, in all honesty, my life here is better.

Razm.info: And had you thought about serving in the Armed Forces?

Petrosyan: Yes, of course. I had thought about it and was ready to serve. I had never given any thought to skipping military service. If I had, I wouldn’t have even returned.

Razm.info: How long before you started your military service did you return to Armenia? Did you see any changes [in the country]?

Petrosyan: I returned in the summer of 2013. About 4-5 months later, I was drafted into the military. As far as changes, yes, of course there were actual changes. I think that after my military service, I’ll see even more of them.

Razm.info: After living in a foreign country for so many years, how was the process of getting used to being called to military service? How were you able to adjust to the lifestyle change?

Petrosyan: Although I was gone for about 5 years, even abroad I tried to live as an Armenian. That is, I didn’t cut myself off from my roots. So, my return wasn’t a shock but the years away had surely left their mark.

The pre-military service preparations and tests took a bit long. In a few instances there were some mix-ups and confusion which were a result of my expired passport. In the end, after the bureaucratic hurdles, I was able to leave for my service.

Razm.info: You are now a military service member, you’ve given the soldier’s oath. How do you feel?

Petrosyan: I’m very proud and happy. A soldier’s oath has a special place in any man’s life and I’ll remember [mine] for a long time.

Razm.info: What are the main difficulties of military service?

Petrosyan: Honestly, I’ve been here for a few weeks already but I don’t have anything bad to say – I haven’t yet encountered any serious issues.

I like the food. I’m especially pleased with our uniform. I’d like to start shooting exercises as soon as possible. Until now, there have only been positive emotions on my end – again, I’m really happy. The only yearning I have that I’m reminded of often is that for my family since I’ve been away from them for so long; that feeling is always with me.

Razm.info: You said you liked the food in the Army. What’s your favorite?

Petrosyan: I think I’d say my favorite is the bread and cheese we’re served for breakfast.

Razm.info: And how have you adjusted to waking up early?

Petrosyan: In Australia I’d wake up around 5:00AM so here it’s a bit more humane (smiles).

Razm.info: Which weapons [or, military equipment] do you like the most?

Petrosyan: I love cars and my expertise is in that area so naturally, I’d like to be a driver [of military vehicles]: Ural, Kamaz, or Satko trucks. I also really like tanks.

Razm.info: What would say to conclude?

Petrosyan: [To fellow soldiers] Happy military service and happy return to all!

Original interview.

Razm.info facebook page.

Updated: Armenia Admits More Syrian Refugees Than France, Italy, the UK, Spain, and Germany Combined


UPDATED: 13 December 2013, 21:30

According to numbers in a report by Amnesty International and an article in The Economist magazine, Armenia has taken in nearly as many Syrian refugees as the European Union and more than France, Italy, the UK, Spain, and Germany combined.

The scathing Amnesty International report takes Europe to task for utterly failing to help during the worst refugee crisis “since Rwanda” and calling their response “pitiful.” The European Union (area: 4.38 million km²), according to the report, has admitted about 12,000 refugees from Syria. The bulk of them, 10,000, have gone to Germany.

The report cites the following figures:

  • Only 10 EU member states offered resettlement or humanitarian admission places to refugees from Syria.
  • Germany is by far the most generous – pledging to take 10,000 refugees or 80 per cent of total EU pledges.
  • Excluding Germany, the remaining 27 EU member states have offered to take a mere 2,340 refugees from Syria.
  • France offered just 500 places or 0.02 per cent of the total number of people who have fled Syria.
  • Spain agreed to take just 30 or 0.001 per cent of refugees from Syria.
  • Eighteen EU member states – including the UK and Italy – offered no places at all.

Armenia (area: 41,000 km²) has taken in approximately 11,000 refugees from Syria according to an Economist article.

The burning question: could it be that Armenia has more money to deal with this humanitarian crisis than the European Union? The staggering results surprised us and they might surprise you.

Armenia GDP: $19.649 billion

EU GDP: $16.214 trillion

Europe not only has a higher GDP; its GDP is higher by approximately 16.02 trillion dollars. That comes out to the EU grossing twice as much domestic product than Armenia every doggone day. 

So, Armenia, which has 0.93% of the EU’s landmass, 0.12% of Europe’s GDP, has taken in more Syrian refugees than Germany and almost as many as the entire European Union.

I'm shocked - Fry

I can’t believe that Europe, the giver of democracy, civilization, and Christianity to places like the whole world outside  of Western Europe could suddenly turn its back on a problem that it probably had a big hand in creating. That’s never happened before.

Europe, you’re a loser.

Armenia, you rock.

By: William Bairamian

Note: In the original post, I wrote that there were 10,000 Syrian refugees in Armenia according to The Economist article. In fact, according to the article, there are 11,000 refugees from Syria who have found safe haven in Armenia. The number of refugees admitted by the European Union according to Amnesty International, 12,000, was recorded correctly here. Thanks for the correction, buddy. 

A Declaration of War

The end is nigh. All hope is lost. Vultures await our death. Armenia and the Diaspora are on the cusp of disappearance.

At least that’s what you might think if you read any Armenian news or interact with Armenians in person or online.

And the time has come for me to make a confession: I’ve had it with everything Armenian sucking. Diasporans complain about their organizations. University students complain about their Armenian Student Associations. Everyone complains about Armenia.

Sometimes I think Armenians suffer from the first known case of perpetual national depression or, PND, as it’s been known ever since I coined it just now.

The despair is suffocating and, frankly, boring. For the uniqueness-seeking among you, it’s just unoriginal. A leftover of past generations’ incessant focus on slights against Armenians, real or perceived, now basking in an anachronistic rebirth. Positivity should be in vogue if only because it might be considered a rejection of societal norms.

Little is more disheartening than hearing a young person, hardly of age, repeating the loathsome banalities of their parents about hopelessness, annoyances, and resignation about their nation. Young adults and their slightly older brethren galvanized in their drear against any rationality may be the only thing worse.

If you want a reason to prove things are just falling apart like some Achebean hell, I’m sure you’ll find plenty – although it will only serve to prove your insistent myopia and pessimism than any reality.

First, the rotten apple of everyone’s eye: Armenia. It has problems, as we can all agree, but they’re not apocalyptic. And if they were, the last person I want solving the problem is someone wailing at the top of their lungs that the apocalypse is coming. Think asteroid and ask yourself the type of person you want figuring out how to handle the seemingly impending doom.

Not to be outdone, the Armenian Diaspora also has its problems. Surprising, I know. But if you were waiting for Diasporan organizations to cater to you as if you were seated at the I Want To Do Something Armenian restaurant, worry not for you are in Elysium and you are already dead. Well, dead as a productive Armenian (thanks, Gladiator, for always pulling through).

Fact is, there is no restaurant; only a kitchen. If you want something, cook it up – you’ve got all the ingredients at your disposal. If it fails, try again if you have an actual desire for it to get better. But don’t spit on the other cooks or their dishes when you don’t like their food but aren’t willing to help or make your own. And if you can’t handle the heat, which in this case represents your overwhelming dejection and self-pity, you know what to do. And please don’t walk out banging pots and pans, causing a ruckus. I can assure you that nobody cares.

(If you think it was strenuous reading that metaphor, imagine writing it.)

There is seemingly no effort unscathed by naysayers ready to pounce on an opportunity to undermine. No proverbial good deed that goes unpunished. Some have even developed what can be called a regrettable talent of being able to extract negativity out of even the most positive news.

Thus, I am officially declaring war on the demoralizers of our nation. Those keen on sucking the joy out of being Armenian, intent on wickedly stealing the confidence and ambition and optimism of a people. The ferocity of Hayk and the Sassountsi and the heroes of Sardarabad and Artsakh will be unleashed to flood out your dastardly grief-mongering. (Curious how there is nary a myth or legend or history about the hopeless.)

Pre-mourners, what I’ll call those of you awash in the melancholy of a death expected but yet to occur: you are not needed. If it’s lamentation you crave, lament your own uselessness and not the impending downfall of the Armenian nation. Your campaign of despondence will be confronted with the fertilizers of strength and progress: encouragement, resolve, invigoration, principle, and love.

I know how difficult it is to remain devoted – I’ve been surrounded by you my whole life, after all. I know how much easier it is to curse and bemoan than to create and refine – I’m guilty of the former. But, despite my ongoing shortcomings, I’ve chosen the latter. It’s the least I can do to reciprocate the good fortune of being born Armenian and having an Armenia that I can love and cherish, till death – surely mine – do us part.

Neither Armenians nor Armenia are your whipping boy and they will not be. I just created an army of at least one to make sure they are not.


By: William Bairamian

Two Things I Love

The Armenia Tree Project and Sose and Allen’s Legacy Foundation have teamed up to plant a forest in memory of Sose and Allen in Armenia.

Each “Like” on the Armenia Tree Project’s Facebook page plants 5 trees. It really doesn’t get easier than that. If you have already “Liked” it, please repost so that others may do so, as well.


Sose and Allen were exemplary individuals and I encourage you to read their story.

Build a forest. Keep their memory alive. Do good.

Sose and Allen Forest ATP


Armenia Tree Project




Sose and Allen’s Legacy Foundation




Hetq Editor Calls Diasporans “Rascals with Fat Bellies”

Hrant Gadarigian, the English-language editor for Hetq, posted a note on Facebook earlier today that read, “The Armenian communities of the Diaspora are dominated by shopkeepers, pseudo-intellectuals, and clergymen. A miscellaneous crew of rascals with fat bellies and swollen egos.”

The full text is in the image below.

Hrant Gadarigian - Diasporans shopkeepers

The post was subsequently deleted.

Hetq About Us Page - HG highlight crop
Hetq.am About Us page

Hey, good non-pseudo-intellectual take on Diasporan Armenians!

I forgot to mention that Gadarigian himself is an ex-Diasporan. But, like many who have moved to Armenia, is all too ready to disparage the Diaspora when the opportunity arises.

If an editor at Hetq is writing something like this publicly, might it be safe to assume that there are others who feel similarly but who aren’t as brash as Gadarigian? Might we assume that Gadarigian’s mentality has influenced his work or those who have come in contact with it?

Hetq logo.
Hetq logo.

Fortunately, Gadarigian seems to represents the remnants of a fading need – nagging urge even – to blindly undercut fellow Armenians. Unfortunately, he has a soapbox in Hetq where he is able to publish content skewed by his vision. Indeed, his mentality is echoed by some much younger than him who are anxious to continue such libelous rhetoric instead of being builders and leaders. Then there are those – and I like to believe they are more numerous – who reject the poisonous and corrosive mentality put on display by him.

Thus, Armenian youth, behold this example set for you by a member of a generation past. Know that you must be better and know that when you are, so too is your nation.

By: William Bairamian

[twitter-follow screen_name=’bairamian’]

Anti-Putin Protests: What’s The Point?

Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, visited Armenia on December 2, 2013. His visit inspired a rancorous response in some circles.

Below is a translation (mine) of a status posted on Facebook by Sedrak Mkrtchyan in response to a photograph of a nightgown hanging from a highway overpass. The nightgown symbolized the outrage over Russian treatment of Artsakh war veteran Hrachya Harutyunyan who was dressed in a woman’s nightgown to appear in court after being involved in a vehicular accident where several people died in Russia.

The succinct text below by Mkrtchyan lends a perspective to the protests that seems to be absent from the discourse about Armenia’s closeness to Russia. It might be surmised but I’ll state clearly that I agree with the ideas presented here.

Whatever is found in brackets are either my notes or my elucidations of something implied in the Armenian-language text from which this is translated. 

Mkrtchyan is a journalist from Armenia.

Credit: emedia.am
Credit: emedia.am

By: Sedrak Mkrtchyan

[twitter-follow screen_name=’517design’]

What’s the objective? What’s the point? I don’t understand…

Taking into consideration those who do not want Armenia to associate with Russia, let me propose the following scenario:

1) Russia announces that it is against Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union and the path toward association with the European Union is open,

2) Russia removes its armed forces from Armenia,

3) Armenia is forced to defend its borders with Turkey and Iran with solely its own armed forces, necessitating an increase in the size of the military by at least 30%, which is impossible for Armenia to do because of a lack of resources,

4) The price of natural gas rises,

5) The price of purchasing guns and artillery from Russia rises,

6) In the case of war started by Azerbaijan, there is no help from Russia nor from the Collective Treaty Security Organization (CSTO). The number of people and amount of land lost in Artsakh and Armenia in the ensuing meat grinder is anyone’s guess,

7) A potential Turkish military expansion, the extent of which is impossible to predict.

How might the European Union help with all of this [if Armenia “chose” Europe at the expense of Russia]?

1) Military assistance by the EU is excluded. They have one little problem with Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus and they are unable to do anything about getting it back for an official member of the European Union [Cyprus],

2) Any member country of NATO is excluded [from helping Armenia] so long as Turkey, Europe’s largest and strongest armed forces, has shared interests with Azerbaijan [note: Turkey indeed has the largest military in Europe but the strongest is likely the United Kingdom]; they could swallow Armenia up and not pay it a second thought,

3) Exports to the EU increase, some business grow, some businesses are enriched. Armenia’s long-term economic situation is improved.

It’s being curiously presented these days that if Armenia signs the EU Association Agreement, people in Armenia will become beautiful, tall, and their hair color will get a little lighter; fashionistas from the pages of monthly magazines will be walking on Armenia’s streets, red double-decker buses will be making the rounds, and the names of all cities and villages might see the addition of the word “New” before them.

I cannot stand Russians – and the more I immerse myself in the study of history, the more that is the case. But before hanging a nightgown [in protest], it’s imperative to look at the issue a bit more [deeply], beyond the most basic level.

[end text by Mkrtchyan]

We might benefit from Mr. Mkrtchyan’s advice to think more deeply about this issue. Other issues even. Who knows, it might even help with freeing Armenia from Russia’s yoke.