On May 28, 2011, Policy Forum Armenia held a reception on the occasion of the Independence of the First Armenian Republic (1918-20). Held at the historic University Club of Washington, the reception was well attended by community members and friends of PFA from in- and outside of the Washington metropolitan area. The event also served as the first in a series of introductions of members of the Sardarapat Movement’s Initiating Group, film director Tigran Khzmalyan and informational technology expert Garegin Chugaszyan—who are visiting Washington at the invitation of PFA—to the Armenian community and policy circles in the nation’s capital.
In his keynote address, Dr. Rouben Adalian, Director of the Armenian National Institute, stressed the importance of the battle of Sardarapat for preserving culture and identity as well as regaining statehood in those darkest of times for the history of Armenia. As improbable as it seemed at the time, he noted that the success in Sardarapat became an important milestone for measuring successes of the future. Highlighting the importance of the battle of Sardarapat today, Tigran Khzmalyan emphasized the need for continued fight for independence in the present context, amid worsening governance and external dependence of Armenia. Stressing that independence should not taken for granted, he called on Armenians worldwide—irrespective of party affiliations and geography—to help regain Armenia’s true independence, one that will guarantee dignity, freedom, and prosperity. Recalling Yeghishe Charents’ poems written at the dawn of the First Republic, Garegin Chugaszyan reminded participants that the foundations of a strong statehood lie in people’s unconventional love towards country at the most desperate of times. He referred to the dark winter of the Third Armenian republic, which will undoubtedly end soon and be followed by the spring of the Forth Republic to come. In his closing remarks, PFA’s co-founder David Grigorian called on the community members to intensify their search for new ways of engagement with Armenia by focusing on civil society groups, such as Sardarapat, who are on the forefront of the battle for democracy and stronger Armenia. He stressed that the existing mechanisms have offered little, if any, incentives for the successive ruling regimes in Armenia to reform and do better, emphasizing the need to scrap them in exchange for new models of engagement that will have allegiances to people of Armenia (as opposed to their rulers) in their core. Discussions between members of Sardarapat Movement and stakeholders will continue through Thursday, June 2, to give an opportunity to share their views on the ongoing political and economic crisis in Armenia and offer ways forward.
Pictures from the reception are available from the Photo Gallery.
About Sardarapat Movement
We created Sardarapat movement as our answer to the Armenian Question. We, the men and women of the Republic of Armenia—Karabagh War veterans, school teachers, economists, human rights activists, and artists—came together in late-2010 to resist the ongoing political and economic crisis, to build a country that generations of Armenians have dreamt about, a country of freedom and social justice, of equal rights and responsibilities, a country of hope and opportunities for each and every Armenian worldwide. We realized that citizen-oriented domestic policies and independent foreign policy are far too important for be trusted to the current illegitimate ruling regime. That is why we decided to take charge now, just as we did 20 years ago, when we rose and won the war for Karabagh against all odds; and just like our ancestors did 90 years ago, by pushing back the advancing Turkish armies in the battle of Sardarapat. There were no political parties involved then, no regular army to speak of, and not a state in charge—just the free will of free people of Armenia, Armenians and non-Armenians alike.
The name of our movement thus bears a direct reference to the Sardarapat victory, a critical turning point of our modern history. Indeed, today’s Armenia is facing a new Sardarapat: the nation is divided by terrible polarization and injustice, when people are deprived of their basic rights of free vote and independent due process; when a handful of corrupt individuals has “privatized” the heritage of generations and bargains with adversaries on the terms equivalent to conceding our independence and our victories. Sardarapat movement stands for strong and vocal Armenia-centric foreign policy; against any territorial concessions in Karabagh, which would be equivalent to jeopardizing safety of people who live there and the security of the country as a whole. No reconciliation with Turkey is possible unless Ankara accepts its responsibility for the Genocide and takes credible steps for addressing its implications.
On the domestic front, we believe that our economy can no longer be a hostage to a few oligarchs, while the overwhelming majority of population is being humiliated by poverty and unemployment. We have to rebuild a strong export-driven economy in Armenia instead of maintaining the current deeply flawed model of overreliance on foreign transfers and import. Thousands of small and medium sized businesses should sprawl where at present a few monopolies choke the economy. We have to cherish our land and use its agricultural potential properly, no matter if it is in Armenia proper, Artakh, or the liberated territories. In rebuilding our economic potential we have to rely on all our resources, first and foremost on the human capital of those in Armenia and the Diaspora.
Together we can achieve a lot. Together we will!