On September 19-20, Yerevan will host another Armenia-Diaspora Forum. I’m not trying to badmouth anyone here, but I don’t believe that gathering can lead to radical changes. The conference is supposed to include the decision on foundation of a Pan-Armenian Council. It’s a noble idea, but reality showed that pretentious actions and calls for action don’t make the Armenia-Diaspora relations any stronger.
It’s the second anniversary of the Pan-Armenian Declaration on the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide soon. Does anyone remember what it says?
Let’s bring up a more recent example: in February 2017 Prime Minister of Armenia Karen Karapetyan addressed a call to Armenian Diaspora, but that call didn’t result in tangible achievements.
Times have changed. People don’t want to unite around ambiguous ideas and calls anymore. This especially concerns those Diaspora representatives who don’t speak Armenian, have never been to the country, and consider Western Armenia to be their historical homeland because that’s what they learned from their grandparents.
Nowadays the possibilities are increasing and the time is scarce, so you should offer people an attractive, or as you’d say in the West, sexy agenda to make the return to Armenian roots or visit to Armenia a joyful experience, not a “historical responsibility”.
Yesterday we reported about the efforts taken to reopen the Armenian Museum in Jerusalem. Middle East plays a key role in global developments since the beginning of the 20th century, and that role will only grow bigger. To have such enormous heritage in the Holy City and treat it the way we do is historical stupidity. Our article quotes Claude Mutafian saying that reopening of the museum will require around EUR 2 million and the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Nourhan Manougian promised to secure that sum.
I’m certain that if the issue of collecting EUR 2m for the Armenian Museum of Jerusalem receives proper coverage in the Armenia-Diaspora Forum agenda, becoming one of the key topics, the money will be gathered easily. Many people would want to get involved in the project, a tangible action that will give a sense of national pride and allow Armenia to advance her interests in Middle East.
There are many other projects too, which could become game changers.
In 2012, Professor with the European Astrophysical Scientific Center Garik Israelian and famous architect Michel Mossessian discussed the idea of opening an observatory in Artsakh with President Bako Sahakyan. Five years have passed and that project is still in the stage of a vague idea. The reason isn’t essentially the lack of funds, but our inability to think big.
We spend our summer vacation in the Basque Country, San Sebastian and Bilbao. Several friends of ours heard where we were headed and insisted that Bilbao “is a boring industrial city”. However, as we reached Bilbao and spent some time there, I couldn’t understand how you could think this fantastic city, where old and new architecture reached perfect harmony, to be boring. Then I realized that my friends must have read about Bilbao before 1997, when Guggenheim Museum was build in the center of the city to replace the abandoned harbor.
The museum changed everything. Bilbao got a second wind and became a city that attracts millions of people every year. The Basque authorities invested more than USD 120m in construction of the museum despite not being rich. They weren’t rich, but they were smart.
We’re smart ourselves, so it’s time to realize that giving the Armenia-Diaspora relations a new strength requires a bold and clear agenda.
Two years ago Noubar Afeyan told in the interview he gave us:
“We need to understand where we can get inspiration for a renewed identity that can coexist in the Diaspora and in Armenia. That is an interesting challenge. We need academics, philosophers, writers, we need lots of people to express themselves and to put it out there for people to digest, accept and start repeating for this to emerge.”
I believe that realizing bold projects is the best way to find that new identity.
Ara Tadevosyan is Director of Mediamax