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.

TigranPetrosyan

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.

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.

Հերիքա:

By: William Bairamian

Sanctions Proposed Against Armenia

That’s right. Sanctions – remedial punishment for perceived wrongdoing – against Armenia. Except it’s not another country proposing them: it’s Armenians. There is a not-so-impromptu effort to get people to stop donating to the All-Armenian Fund during its annual Thanksgiving Day Telethon, money from which will go to development projects in Armenia

As with most sanctions, they will affect not the governors that are ostensibly the source of contempt but regular people.

Behold a pernicious effort to divide a unifying force among Armenians that’s unfolding in our midst. At first it looks disjointed but it’s more coordinated than it seems.

Deftly timed to be released ahead of the All-Armenian Fund (called Armenia Fund in the U.S.) Annual Telethon which raises money for different projects throughout Armenia, the Policy Forum of Armenia released a report about its views on corruption in Armenia.

Ara Manoogian, a member of PFA and the creator of The Truth Must Be Told, has had a personal crusade, now at least a few years old, to assail the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund and has urged people to not donate to the organization that completes humanitarian and strategic projects in Armenia.

Ara Manoogian - Fellow at the Policy Forum of Armenia
Ara Manoogian – Fellow at the Policy Forum of Armenia

It just so happens that the PFA promotes Manoogian on its facebook page and Manoogian uses the PFA report to dissuade people from donating. 

PFA facebook page
PFA facebook page
Manoogian on his local TV show (video below)
Manoogian on his local TV show (video below)

First, I’d like to note for the record that I’m not a big proponent of blindly donating money to Armenia. I think there are lots of other ways Armenians can and should help the homeland.

That said, I certainly recognize the immensely large impact the All-Armenian Fund has had on Armenia but, more than any other, its linking of the Republic of Armenia to the Republic of Artsakh and the development of the North-South Highway.

Second, I love criticism and critique. They are the exercises that allow our minds to expand, that require us to prove to ourselves the truths in which we believe, or change those beliefs altogether. That’s why I take such a dim view of what I’m going to discuss (and have before in this blog): poor, unsubstantiated criticism is not only worthless, it gives criticism a bad name.

If you’re going to tell me the “truth” because it “must be told,” you damn well better be able to prove it. 

Here are the most common arguments I’ve seen for not donating to the All-Armenian Fund:

1) Don’t Donate Because Armenia’s Government Is Corrupt.

PFA Armenia Fund 1-redacted

So, forget that the PFA doesn’t bother explaining how the government embezzles “more in a year than your combined donations,” they’re telling you to not donate to the All-Armenian Fund because of it.

That is, “government embezzles money -> don’t donate to the All-Armenian Fund.” Wait, what? Is that a logical leap or am I living in a different universe?

Oh, and if you want to know to whom you should donate, according to the last comment made by the PFA there, figure it out for yourself. This is called un-constructive criticism. Mostly because you’re not constructing anything to replace the destruction you’re attempting to wreak. 

2) Don’t Donate Because All-Armenian Fund Is Corrupt, Too.

Ohhhhhhhhh.

PFA Armenia Fund 3-redacted

So it’s not just the Armenian government, Diaspora individuals, Diaspora organizations, but the All-Armenian Fund is also corrupt. Got it. So, I’m guessing the only non-corrupt thing in the Armenian world is the Policy Forum of Armenia…and Ara Manoogian.

Protesting election of Serzh Sargsyan in front of US Rep. Adam Schiff's office. Ya, I don't know either.
Incorruptly protesting election of Serzh Sargsyan in front of US Rep. Adam Schiff’s office in Burbank, CA. Ya, I don’t know either.

And since the evidence for all this corruption is in plain sight, I guess they’re right. Except, no.

Well, there is this video where expert opinions are presented as evidence:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUA5XFXkC1A&w=560&h=315]

I didn’t know there were so many well-informed people ready to comment on Armenia’s economic situation at the Americana in Glendale, whose motto has recently been changed to, “Where you can shop till you drop and interview scholars on Armenia all in the same afternoon!”

I’ve also tried visiting TheTruthMustBeTold.com which is the website where the To Donate or Not To Donate? white paper by Ara Manoogian is contained. Unfortunately my computer won’t let me visit the site because my anti-virus detects a virus deemed a severe threat. Nevertheless, I found the white paper that Manoogian publicizes every chance he gets.

If anyone can extract something from that that actually proves endemic corruption in the All-Armenian Fund, please let it be known.

I’m open to being wrong and if someone can show me that there is proof of corruption in this video which is being circulated, tell me.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4KGbMbHwec&w=560&h=315]

3) Don’t Donate to All-Armenian Fund Because…Well, Just Because! Ufffff.

“And don’t ask me why because I’m so annoyed!”

Lara Aharonian, the founder of the Women’s Resource Center in Armenia, is also not a fan of donating to the All-Armenian Fund.

i.e. "It's so bad, I'm not going to bother proving it to you."
i.e. “It’s so bad, I’m not going to bother proving it to you.”

The WRC has an office in Shushi and I’m not sure how they would drive there from Yerevan if it wasn’t for the road built by the All-Armenian Fund (see below).

It also receives money from Counterpart International, an organization which receives funding from the U.S. government. But it’s really unclear what the WRC is using their money on. Actually, there is no publicly available report of how the funds at the WRC are spent. Is it unreasonable for taxpaying Armenian-Americans to ask how their money is being spent? 

More Ara Manoogian. Start, if you can bear it, at 33:18 and observe what “truth must be told.” If you want to skip ahead, take a look at 49:37.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/_AAH_-eND-U?t=33m18s]

If the All-Armenian Fund provides an annual report and audits of its work by an internationally reputed accounting organization because it wants to show that the money of donors is being spent for the uses for which it is intended, let’s require the same of Armenian organizations that are receiving money from the U.S. government.

In case you’re interested:

2012 All-Armenian Fund Annual Report

All-Armenian Fund Physical Audit Report performed by Grant Thornton

It’s rather audacious, and arrogant, for one to expect the assumption of good intentions about themselves while suspecting others of wrongdoing.

glass house - architecturaldigest.com

If the argument is that there is graft and that’s why people shouldn’t donate, could the same logic be applied to not paying taxes because there is terrific waste in government spending? Or perhaps we shouldn’t donate when natural disasters happen, as they so often do, because all the money doesn’t get to where it’s intended. Or maybe we shouldn’t donate at all. Is it really possible to be totally sure your money isn’t being used for something other than what you intended?

Actually, it almost certainly is. But that’s why you’re donating and not running the organization to which you’re donating in the first place. You entrust the people who are in charge to complete the task they’ve said they’re going to complete. You’re not supposed to manage

And you know what? Even part of the money being donated to the All-Armenian Fund is disappearing (of which there is no hard evidence, mind you – pesky thing that evidence), so be it. You know why? This is why:

Built by the All-Armenian Fund.
Built by the All-Armenian Fund
Built by the All-Armenian Fund
Built by the All-Armenian Fund

In my trade, highways are called “supply routes.” That is, if you need to get supplies, for example, to soldiers, that’s what you use. Without them, all the weapons that you have stored in various facilities throughout the land are worth squat.

Put more simply:

When this happens

explosion - flickr.com

And you have this

no road - flickr

Your

Armenia tank - 1280px-T-72B_-TankBiathlon2013-30 -

Might end up like

NoRoad0 - sperone.free.fr

Ջոկի՞ք:

Now, it’s one thing that to be annoyed at moronic attempts to get people to not donate to an organization that’s verifiably doing work, and good work at that. It’s quite another when someone suggests that that organization (the All-Armenian Fund) is doing wrong or shouldn’t be doing the work at all when that work is protecting Armenians from very real enemies.

If you don’t want to donate, don’t donate. But don’t lie to people when you can’t come up with a good reason for them to support you.

I’m going to donate $50, a paltry amount about which I am ashamed. If you’re able to donate more to make up for the boycott this year, you can follow the link here. If not, at least do Armenia this solid and don’t go around trying to convince others not to help.

I bid you a very Happy Thanksgiving and I’ll leave you with a final thought by the estimable Armenian hero, Garegin Njdeh, posted on the very cool blog People of Ar:

flyer 1.FH11

Who Is Shant Harutiunian?

Last week, most of my stories had to do with The Great Armenian Revolution of 2013.

Today, Gegham Vardanyan (@reporterarm), a journalist in Armenia, posted this picture taken in Yerevan of graffiti that’s appeared depicting Harutiunian.

[tweet https://twitter.com/reporterarm/status/399817408392593408 align=’center’]

Other famous individuals that have gained the distinction of appearing in Yerevan street art are Garegin NjdehSoghomon TehlirianWilliam SaroyanVahan Deryan, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, and others. That’s the company Harutiunian now enjoys.

There are clearly people who do not think this man is enough of a lunatic to disavow his actions as dangerous and unacceptable, as I have argued they should. There are people marching so that he, a “political prisoner”, be set free – never mind the blatantly illegal actions he committed. There are people making him out to be a hero and enshrining him among actual heroes of the Armenian nation.

So, I figured something’s awry: either I misjudged this man and he deserves better treatment than what I’ve offered or I was right in assessing peoples’ reticence to resoundingly reject his antics because of a starvation for something more meaningful.

As I don’t take anything for granted – not even my own opinions and ideas – I decided to do a little research to see if there is something I missed between him becoming a public figure and when I got to know him, which was mostly last week.

I spent hours watching videos of him available on You Tube, of which there are many, trying to get to know the man (kind of) behind the (Guy Fawkes) mask.

Here are my observations:

1) PASSION, CONVICTION, KNOWLEDGE

He’s obviously passionate about what he believes. He also looks like he’s read some philosophy and history. Although from the videos it’s hard to tell whether he read the Cliff’s Notes version of everything or if he spent time studying the various texts of the people he references (e.g. Njdeh, Nietzsche, Marx).

There is definitely something in the noggin, it’s just not clear where it comes from and where it’s going. And I’m not sure it actually directs his actions the way he would have us believe.

2) NO DIRECTION

He speaks generally about starting a revolution but gives no reason why. Some of the things he has said he wants were “cultural revolution”, “revolution”, and Armenian philosophy or philosophers.

Much of the time he’s lamenting the lack of philosophical thought among Armenians and, rightly, the inability to have a substantive movement without that. But, contradicting his own statements on the matter, he ends up starting a half-ass “revolution” upon no clear premise.

3) WORST. DEBATER. EVER.

When he’s talking to an interviewer by himself, he seems reasonable, even amiable. But golly gee, brace yourselves if he’s in a room with another debater, particularly one who doesn’t fully agree with him: he is plainly incapable of having a civil discussion, a loose cannon.

Even after he’s made his point, when someone tries to say something in response, he continuously interrupts them and not to add anything in particular but to expound on points he’s already made or to repeat what he’s already said.

Even if you don’t understand Armenian, you can watch his interaction with others in the following interviews.

(Warning: there is a risk to your ears’ ability to continue functioning properly after watching)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiR2Maz6bg0&w=560&h=315]

At 7:20

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_ZbzD_3FA4&w=420&h=315]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isUcjIOpFzc&w=560&h=315]

When he has to interact with others, he’s unable to control himself, choosing yelling to discussion. His comments are often laced with insults. It’s almost a sight to see if it weren’t so excruciating to watch. He seems more interested in his own voice than in anything that anyone else has to say.

4) ANTI-RUSSIA CONSPIRACY THEORIST

He makes no bones about his disdain for Russia’s overbearing hold on Armenia – which is understandable –  and its meddling in Armenia’s affairs but the man is convinced that Russia controls every aspect of the Armenian government: Serzh Sargsyan’s presidency, Seyran Ohanian’s ministerial duties as defense minister, the whole national state security apparatus. What makes it a conspiracy theory, of course, is that he offers no evidence whatsoever besides saying that he has evidence that he can show. Absolutely nothing.

He actually seems obsessed with Russia and not very concerned with the Armenian authorities.

In reality, he pays so little attention to discussing the actual Armenian authorities and why he might not like them to the point that he’d want to start a revolution that I feel he would have been better served starting his revolution against Russia and not Armenia. After all, it’s not clear what the point of starting a revolution in Armenia is if, like Harutiunian apparently believes, Armenia is under Russia’s total control.

5) IRONY

I’m not sure if he’s being ironic or he just doesn’t see it as a big deal but as he’s roundly tearing Russia and its influence in Armenia to shreds, his speech is concurrently sprinkled with Russian words: “logika”, “dochni”, “proste”, “luboy”, “dubinkek”, “vopshum”, “militsek”,

6) PHILOSOPHER-CUM-REVOLUTIONARY

Harutiunian seems to fashion himself a philosopher-cum-revolutionary. He laments the lack of philosophy and philosophers among Armenians and sees them as a precondition, not only for Armenians but everywhere, to a proper revolution. So I can only imagine that if he’s complaining about a lack of philosophers but thinks they’re necessary for a proper revolution, he either believes himself to be the philosopher necessary for the revolution or he’s not interested in a proper revolution.

In any case, when I think of those two words – “philosopher”, “revolutionary” – I think these guys:

General Andranik, revolutionary
General Andranik, revolutionary
General Garegin Njdeh: revolutionary, philosopher
General Garegin Njdeh: revolutionary, philosopher
Raffi: revolutionary, philosopher
Raffi: revolutionary, philosopher
Plato: some would say philosopher but I ask, proto-Shant Harutiunian?
Plato: some would say philosopher but I ask, proto-Shant Harutiunian?

Not this guy:

Harutiunian (Credit: Photolur)
Harutiunian (Credit: Photolur)

He makes himself out to be a martyr before being martyred.

7) THE VULGAR PHILOSOPHER

His colorful language, sometimes during interviews, is a potpourri of Turkish, Russian, and Armenian vulgarity.

“TUFTA” (Russian obscenity)

“SRIKA” (Turkish obscenity)

“BOZ/POZ” (Armenian obscenity)

See him channel Khrimian Hayrig, Krikor Zohrab, and Monte Melkonian:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AVQvb1RxTo&w=420&h=315]

Just imagine, as you’re watching that video, Khrimian Hayrig, Zohrab, Monte, or perhaps Njdeh, one of Harutiunian’s inspirations, standing behind that megaphone saying the things Harutiunian is saying. Ya, no.

8) REVOLUTION FOR WHAT?

He talks about revolution but nowhere does he explain WHY. He just says he’s going to do it, that’s it.

Because he didn’t answer my question, I offer to any readers: what does he want revolution for?

And I don’t mean what YOU want revolution for; I want to know why Shant Harutiunian wants revolution. Because, as yet, I have no idea.

BECAUSE IF YOU’RE GOING TO OPENLY TALK ABOUT SETTING FIRE TO THE PRESIDENTIAL PALACE or occupying the state intelligence service or carrying two cans of benzene (presumably to use in revolutionary activities)…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7NluSttecI&w=560&h=315]

… I feel like you should have a good reason for it.

FINAL CONCLUSION

Awkwardly, I didn’t find myself disagreeing with everything that he said, little of which centered on him conducting a revolution. But that doesn’t excuse his actions or his behavior. My final conclusion is that Shant Harutiunian is batshit crazy.

There isn’t a single video I’ve watched where he’s interacting with an interlocutor where he doesn’t go berserk, arms flailing, yelling at the top of his lungs, interrupting the host or other guest/s – even grabbing them. He seems to always be on the cusp of a massive emotional meltdown.

I stand by my original assessment that he’s a lunatic. I won’t lower my standards of the expectations of our fellow men and women because the man reached his wit’s end – his wit may have been shorter than normal. I also won’t accept him soiling the sanctity of true heroes of the Armenian nation, those who didn’t resort to pettiness and vulgarity in their effort to make a point. It’s inexcusable.

Anyone trying to justify Harutiunian’s actions is just feeding the depravity that not only created him but allowed him to feel that he would not be absolutely rejected by society for his actions.

I’ll take philosophers-cum-revolutionaries. Real ones.

By: William Bairamian

[twitter-follow screen_name=’bairamian’]