Patriotism versus Patria
Our patriotism is nothing if not anti-Turkism, and the most patriotic Armenian is the most anti-Turkish. In general, for an Armenian, anti-Turkism and patriotism are directly proportional. The whole of our Soviet literature and art, the whole of our culture, bears the stamp of anti-Turkism, and is filled with grieving, tearful, suffering demands for Ararats, Sipans, Karses, Erzerums, and who knows where else, and with the representation of our centuries-long, victorious and resounding past.
We represent a past that begins and ends with defeat in glorious colors, uncritically and without examination, forgetting or not comprehending that we have real treasures - achievements in literature and art, which we have so squeezed and belittled by forcing them to fit within our narrow limits and world-view, which we have so failed to present to the world, that they appear faded, or don’t appear at all - and instead we speak arrogantly and vaingloriously about our age and our losses, seeking and finding the causes of our losses in our neighbors and in the world. Europe is presented as the betrayer of our interests - our neighbors, as the enemy. With no friends, no allies, it is we against the world. As though the other nations and states of the world have only friends. As though only we have no luck. All of this is the foundation of our entire culture of the 20th century, that is to say, the foundation we have been raised on. Wronged by the world and our neighbors, we demand and demand. We are the aggrieved, and we live for our grievances and our claims.
When all the nations that were under the Soviet dictatorship, from the Baltics to the Far East, were inspired by the opportunity that presented itself and began to demand independence and sovereignty, we began to demand not independence, but Karabakh, pitting ourselves against our neighbor, without considering that our dispute with our neighbor could be postponed, in the hope of solving it in the future, peacefully, as a dispute between two independent and sovereign states.
Instead, we have acquired an unsolvable problem, a weapon aimed at our two states that holds back our economic and political development.
Without thought, and without thought for ourselves, we demanded Karabakh and considered any expression of independence to be a provocation. We created the Karabakh Committee and made idols out of its members, none of whom had ever dealt with politics, making our blindness absolute and transforming the people into a mob, and we began the headlong regression that has gone on until today, and will keep on, because without ironing out the Kharabakh wrinkle, our National Intelligentsia, with the complete irresponsibility characteristic of the slave mentality that is theirs and theirs alone, continue to preach grievance to such a degree that today the most important foundation of our state foreign policy has become the Genocide, and as its consequence, grievance.
And there is none among them to say, let’s stop for a minute, let’s preach love and respect for our neighbors, in the hope of receiving love and respect in return. No, only Zeitoun, Ardahan, Van, Nakhijevan. Without thinking about the current and future potential of the state, without understanding that it is better to have a small but dignified state than two and a half to three million aggrieved claimants, constantly at war with their neighbors. Only aimless claims, Armenian patriotism (different from all others), weeping and wailing, cursing, complaining. Grievance is one of the two bases of the development of Armenian thought over the last 100 or 200 years, the other being the Genocide, with all its masochistic manifestations.
The intellectuals and public figures who served the dictators of all ages faithfully and till the end, who swore loyalty to all kinds of anti-human ideas and slogans, who are weak with longing for the old country, today, without having ended the war, are pushing us toward a new war. If only there were someone who would ask these patriotic intellectuals and their supporters, “What have you personally laid on the altar of the freedom of the homeland? What have you sacrificed? How many drops of blood? How many drops of sweat? How many battles have you fought? How many times have you been wounded? How many of your sons, not yet turned twenty, have you buried?”
Just don’t say that all those boys who were killed are yours. They belong to the mothers who go to Yerablur every Saturday, whose tears never dry. And have you been to Yerablur? How many times? We have borne Panjouni (trans. note - the name of the would-be politician in Yervand Otyan’s political satire of the early twentieth century, still used mockingly today) on our shoulders, crowned in glory, from the beginning of the 1900’s all the way to the 21st century, and now, fed on the milk of a huge empire for 70 years, Panjouni is sending us into battle, for no one’s sake but his own.
It was not by accident that during Soviet times we were allowed to engage in the propaganda of anti-Turkism and grievance; this was consonant with the wishes and plans that deprived us of statehood, that conquered us (through the fault and participation of our National Intelligentsia as well). Yet any statement - even a thought - spoken or written, about the restoration of statehood, about independent statehood, was reprehensible, and no “national” intellectual or public figure, no poet, no historian would even think of it, would even want to think of it. On the contrary, they were against independence; they did not want it (as if it were up to them). They swore allegiance to their masters every second, they considered the chance to go to Moscow the greatest honor, they chattered about the brotherly family and the true path of the beloved Party, and they would write a couple of lines about Van, Masis, or the ruins of Ani, figuring they had done their patriotic duty, as they had lost applause, decorations, and well-being.
The patriotism that seeks our future in the past, that doesn’t see the mistakes of our fathers and grandfathers, that deems it inadmissible to talk about these mistakes out loud, has always done us harm. This is how our grandfathers loved this country, and as a result of their love we shrank down to an imperceptible spot on the world map. We have inherited nothing from them but defeat and emigration. This is what happened. Matricide and patricide are absolutely not patriotism. Let us condemn Samvel (trans. note - the eponymous hero of Raffi’s novel, who killed his mother for the sake of his homeland) as we would if he were our neighbor, and go forward. Let our children look at us and at our grandfathers freely, critically and, why not, with irony. Let them laugh at our grandfather’s and our “clodhopper” patriotism, let them free themselves from it and create our state in accordance with their own ideas, the ideas of citizens of the 21st century.
To this end, our press and television might, without limiting human rights at all, avoid engaging in revanchist propaganda and sowing the hatred of neighboring peoples and states in our children.