EDITORIAL: The Uses and Abuses of History

For us youth it is fundamental that we are able to critically analyse scholarly pieces on topics regarding Armenian affairs. As a diasporan community, articles such as those of Rachel Anderson’s, provide an expert’s view on how the Armenian Genocide of 1915 completely reshaped the composition of the Armenian nation as group of people, as well as the geographical entity of the Armenian state in the South Caucuses. In this editorial, the definition of the Armenian ‘nation’ purely references our people as opposed to our country. The majority counterfactual consensus does, as a matter of fact, maintain the view that had the Genocide not occurred, the Armenian nation would not have been spread en masse to all corners of the globe. Although the article focuses on American based Armenian interest groups – the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA), and the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) – we can draw significant parallels to the situation of Armenian diaspora politics in the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.

The article correctly suggests that “ethnic political organizations and the increasing demands of ethnic groups in modernized countries”, such as the United Kingdom or the United States, does not have to lead to the “demise” of ethnic groups in terms of their collective identity. As Armenians we have been almost lucky to maintain the same vigour in fighting for our causes, as we have always maintained our status as a useful, resourceful and progressive minority across the globe. Despite many of us having not lived in Armenia for several generations, this vigour is reflected in our minority status; having ARF Members of Parliament in countries such as Iran and Lebanon, or having a considerable political presence in countries such as the United Kingdom or the United States through the work of organisations such as the ANC and even the Armenian Youth Federation.

For Rachel Anderson, the Armenian Genocide as a “historical traumatic memory” for the Armenian nation has, in fact, played a big part in our shared history. For this reason, our political vigour partly stems from the fact that the humanitarian crimes against our people by the Ottomans in 1915 have been completely unpunished, with no remorse or retribution from the current Turkish government – a government, that I may hasten to add, has full European Union membership ambitions. This sentiment is further enforced by the work of Anny Bakalian, who conducted an ethnographic study of Armenian-Americans regarding a personal identification with the Genocide transcending generational differences. The study showed that 95% of Armenians in America “held strong feelings concerning the genocide”, an extraordinary figure against the context of a worldwide, general apathy with politics. More importantly however, this also disproves the notion that ethnic minorities are likely to fully adopt and assimilate into the culture of their host country (in the sense that they forget their ethnic and national characteristics).

The article also refreshingly references the massacres in Sumgait in 1988 as a result of ethnic tensions in Nagorno-Karabkh. As a continuation from last month’s protest in Trafalgar Square, we all became very aware of the fact that the Embassy of Azerbaijan in the United Kingdom is bribing people into believing their lies and propaganda regarding the events from 1988-91, such as funding Azeri university societies to spread their government’s falsified version of the events.

I warmly invite any Azeri university student to get in contact with any British university Armenian society or the AYF to start dialogue about the matter of the Khojaly supposed “genocide” of Azeri civilians by Armenian military forces. It is sad that some can be so misinformed about these events. It only takes reading official Azeri military documents and accounts from Azeris who were there to understand that Azeri citizens were not helped by their military to escape through a humanitarian corridor created so the Armenian military could avoid all unnecessary bloodshed. I warmly invite open dialogue to expel the historical blatant inaccuracies and fabricated lies promoted by the government of Azerbaijan; especially when its official military documents contradict the rhetoric of the government. How can the Embassy of Azerbaijan, London fund students to promote their own lies? On the other hand, the Armenian Genocide in Sumgait was a completely overlooked event during the Nagorno-Karabakh war; a total systematic massacre of Armenians by Azeris on racial grounds. The “#justiceforkhojaly” campaign funded by Azeri embassies around the world merely reinforces the fact that Azeri aggression towards our people is existent now more than ever; especially following the shooting of several Armenians by Azeri snipers over the last two months.

For those who have become indoctrinated to not be able to see reason, and those who are so quick to overlook the historical realities, it is all the more clear that as Armenians, sharing a recent, tragic collective memory, we must be ready to fight for our causes. Myself, I am ready to oppose views, such as those of the heavyweight historical scholars Benedict R. Anderson and Eric Hobsbawn, that the nation is an “imagined community”; we as groups of people can be shaped by our shared experiences. For the Armenian case, the aforementioned premise undoubtedly applies.

— Emin Moskofian

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