New graves for Armenian soldiers killed in the recent war over Nagorno-Karabakh cover the hillside at Yerablur Military Memorial Cemetery on Nov. 30, 2020. Jack Losh for Foreign Policy

BY HARUT DER-TAVITIAN

“A high heart ought to bear calamities and not flee them, since bearing them reveals the grandeur of the mind and fleeing them the cowardice of the heart.” Pietro Aretino

“To be brave in misfortune is to be worthy of manhood; to be wise in misfortune is to conquer fate.” Agnes Replier

We must admit that our defeat in this last Artsakh war put us and every patriotic Armenian in a difficult state of mind. We must also admit that more than the pressure of defeat, we are concerned about the disgraceful situation we are witnessing inside Armenia. It is our deep conviction that in our personal lives and the life of nations, progress is made by those who learn from every defeat or failure and create the opportunity to make up for the loss. We are witnessing the complete opposite inside Armenia. Just as in the past two decades when opportunists exploited the victory of the First Artsakh War for their own enrichment, today they are exploiting defeat, once again to their own interests. Thus, we are becoming vulnerable to new disasters. Unfortunately, our leaders lack the brilliance of Pietro Aretino, who lived five centuries ago, and the wisdom of Agnes Replier, who lived nearly a century ago, to overcome defeat and failure and to become the masters of our destiny.

In this article, we will suggest the path we must take to overcome this defeat, manage our destiny, and build a dignified future. Our suggestions will not be novelties at all, but a quick re-enactment of the main realities we have voiced in the articles we have published over the past three decades. We hope that our suggestions, which were overlooked in the euphoria from the victory of the first Artsakh war, will be heeded in the light of our defeat in this second war. This defeat should be a sobering slap in the face for all of us, revising our mentality and behavior.

Here are our top suggestions.

– Being Aware of the Responsibility of Generations
We believe that every generation, as one link in the long chain of history, has a responsibility to contribute to the strengthening of that chain. In order to succeed in this regard, the following question must be ingrained in the mindset of each individual. “What can I do for my NATION?” In our article “Responsibility of Generations” published on May 6, 1995 in “Massis”, we wrote: “Each generation is responsible for its own link of the chain of history … So let us not only be cognizant of our weaknesses and correct them, but also be aware of our strengths. We are a strong nation. Otherwise, we would not have existed today, when nations that were much stronger than us disappeared … Our generation is facing a historic mission. Our newest national Awakening that began in 1988 has a long way to go before our unfulfilled dreams come true.” Once again it is worth quoting the last quatrain of a little-known poem by Bedros Tourian entitled “My Pain”.

As one branch of poor humanity,
I have a miserable homeland.
To die insignificantly without helping it,
Oh, that’s the pain for me.

– Perception of the Value of the “Whole”
When we take a look at our millennial history, it becomes clear that whenever we were guided by the interests of the “whole”, that is, the Armenian nation, we have achieved victories. And when the interests of the “part”, that is, the individual-clan-party, have been preferred, then the “whole” has certainly suffered. In our article “Whole and Part” published on January 4, 2003, we mentioned: “Instead of developing the consciousness of the ‘whole’, we plunged into the labyrinth of regimes and ideologies that divided the national spirit. We divided the people to create our monopolistic turfs.” We have addressed the need to cure this weakness of ours in many articles, such as “From Selfishness to Patriotism”, “Understanding Each Other”, “The Word Also Kills”, “The Essential”, and so on. In the latter, we mentioned that the “greats of the Armenian nation were immortalized because they sought to serve eternity beyond the transient. They were immortalized because they sought to serve the society, the people and the nation beyond themselves. They told us that when you reconcile yourself with your nation and live with it, you not only give a boost to your personal development, but also to your nation. But when you despise and ignore your folk for your personal gains or try to advance yourself by trampling on your compatriot, you do not contribute to the long-term interests of yourself or your nation.” Unfortunately, this consciousness is not yet perceived by the leaders who claim to lead our nation. Otherwise, we would not have fallen into these dire times.

– The Prominence of National Orientation
In various articles, we have emphasized the importance of having a policy of national orientation in shaping our independent destiny. On the 4th anniversary of Armenia’s independence, we published an article on Sept. 23, 1995 entitled “National Orientation”. In it we wrote “Let us not be carried away by vain and dreamy promises and hopes, wherever they come from. Let us not seek justice from the right or the left, nor let us spit in the face of that justice, disappointed and wounded. Rather, let’s realize that this so-called justice is directly related to our strength. If we harbor that power, we can demand and assert our rights. If we don’t, then our demands become ridiculous, we become impoverished and despised from the left and right. ”

– The Need to Free Ourselves from Self-deception
It is hard to accept that we as a nation suffer from self-deception, but it is a necessary step we need to take in order to overcome the misfortunes we have suffered and the dangers that still threaten us. As a nation, we don’t realize that we are wasting the heritage we have inherited. We do not dwell on our shortcomings and continue to besmirch and discredit various nations that have appeared on the stage of history centuries after us but are now far ahead of us! In our article “From Self-Deception to Self-Awareness and beyond” published on January 3, 2015, we referred to this national disease and noted: “Every Armenian must ask loudly “Was this my Big Dream?” Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of Armenians will give a negative response to this question, from those dispersed from their ancestral lands as a result of the Genocide to those who emigrated from Armenia in recent years. Therefore, we must all express our dissatisfaction over all shameful demeanors and disgraced people, especially those in leadership positions, which cause national disappointment.” In that article, we quoted Raffi asserting 150 years ago that “self-deception is a moral suicide, the cure for which lies in self-awareness. It is self-awareness that moves the individual to enduring endeavors, it inspires the person to unceasing progress. It gives birth to genius, craft, science and the well-being of the world. Dissatisfaction with his condition is an honest stimulus that leads to his well-being. ”

– The Essence of Democracy and the Rule of Law
As pleasing as the image of a hero achieving miracles may seem, he cannot ensure the long-term well-being of a state. On the other hand, the dictator who considers himself a hero is just as much a misfortune for his country and people, no matter what kind of a “macho-man” he considers himself. The rule of law and democracy are essential to the well-being and progress of a country. In our article “The Tragedy of Feudal Armenia” published on August 20, 2011, we mentioned: “The situation in the country could not be improved by replacing just one feudal lord with another. Institutional change and the change of the people’s mentality and psychology is more imperative. The wider the base of democracy in the country, the stronger the country’s position and the right of the citizenry to have a dignified life and future, because the country does not depend on just a few people who can be bribed, impoverished or even killed. Rather than hoping for our salvation from individuals, we should encourage the strengthening of Charentz’s message in the minds of the people, i.e. the formation of a collective force”. We have repeatedly referred to the importance of democracy and the rule of law in our articles, including “The Need for Democracy and Worthy Leaders”, “The People’s Step”, “Mutual Trust, Unity, Responsibility, and the Rule of Law”, “Democracy and Stability”, etc. In the latter we mentioned: “If we are truly concerned about the dignified future of our country, its economic growth, the improvement of its foreign image, and the just solution of the Artsakh issue, then we must first create a legal, just and democratic framework in our country. We must be well aware that the degree of stability of any state depends first and foremost on the quality of the principles of justice, law, freedom and democracy that the people profess.”

– The Importance of Learning from History
On October 19, 1991, we published our first article in “Massis”, entitled “So that the Mistakes of the Past are not Repeated.” Since then, in many articles, we have pointed out parallels between the past and the present, emphasizing the need to learn from them. For example, in our article published on Oct. 2, 2010 and entitled “From the Heroic Battle of Sardarapat to the Disgrace of Kars, from the Heroic Battle of Artsakh to…” we wrote: “Do the victories achieved by the sacrifices of idealists in desperate situations become prey to peacetime opportunists and exploiters who lack national consciousness and patriotism?” We concluded our article by stating: “Do we realize that proceeding in this manner, the Artsakh war can also end up in a new Karsian disgrace? Let’s contemplate and find a way to change this process.”

With this article, we have tried to give a summary of the main ideas that we have published in more than 300 articles over the past 30 years. Considering the limited capacity of an article, we naturally left out many other points. But this is enough to confirm that if our political leaders, intelligentsia and people had acted in accordance with the above-mentioned points, our current situation would be much more favorable. On many occasions we have sounded the alarm that we are on the wrong track and we need “an ABRUPT CHANGE OF COURSE in our way of thinking and acting to stop our current process of decay. This calm but destructive process must be DISTURBED in search of new ways and new perspectives” (“Abrupt Change of Course”, April 26, 2014). Many times we have emphasized the need to build our future with our own hands and joint forces. “There are people who are fatalists and surrender to the whims of fate; and there are people who believe that with their cognitive power they can create the destiny they deem worthy of … We shall build our future with our own hands, trusting our own power and the call of our heritage. We shall not tolerate any force, internal or external, obstructing our thoughts and thinking. The one who restrains people’s thoughts cannot lead the nation to a dignified future. Convinced that the main guarantee of a secure and dignified future for small nations like ours lies in the empowerment of the people themselves and in the establishment of a democratic, just and lawful society, it must be the responsibility of all of us to strive for that goal. We must support the struggle of those who are diligently fighting for that cause and spread their ideas. Because as the saying goes: “only those who believe they can, will win.” (“Change of Government Through Change of Mentality”, January 3, 2009)

Our defeat in this last Artsakh war should not subdue us, but strengthen our fighting spirit, atone for our mistakes and move forward. We are still hopeful that the young generation of Armenia will lead us in that direction. More than 400 years ago, Montaigne wrote: “There are defeats more triumphant than victories.” The process of justifying Montaigne’s statement begins with revealing the real reasons for our failures and holding those responsible accountable.

2 comments
  1. Dear Harut, Great article which I will pass along to all my friends. The only conundrum, not of your article, but to the whys and the how of the recent defeat was predestined long before those quotes; we as a people had seen this so many times that at the end of the day we need to look at the mirror and realize the problem is much deeper than any quote from any philosopher going back to the golden age of Athens! A century before Vartananz we had the story of Moshe Mamigonian, he was one of the greatest military tactician in world history (by far greater then Vartan) we all know what happened between him and King Varastdades; did we forget Tigranes II (the Great), at the pinnacle of power betrayed by two of his sons and wife; did we forget the assassination of Gagik who had the Seljuk’s on the run; defeated them (the Seljuks) at Sevan and at the shores of the Caspian. We’ll never know how world history would have changed had he not been assassinated. By now we should have known what we are as a people and as a race, these choice experiences I mentioned (out of countess) should have been the draconian manual (like Lycurgus created for Sparta) of how we must function as a people, but instead we keep repeating the same mistakes going back to choosing that worthless intersection with no stop signs as a place to build a country, (colonizing Madagascar would have been a far better option, we would have never met that satanic creed called Turks and our population would exceed 50 million Armenians and the potential of being the UK of Africa, rather than the valley of Ararat where every animal tom dick and harry went through and rubbed their garbage on us ; we can look at Ararat but we cant touch!

  2. A REVISED VERSION:
    Dear Harut, Great article which I will pass along to all my friends. The only conundrum, not of your article, but to the whys and the how of the recent defeat was predestined long before those quotes; we as a people had seen this so many times that at the end of the day we need to look at the mirror and realize the problem is much deeper than any quote from any philosopher going back to the golden age of Athens! A century before Vartananz we had the story of Moshe Mamigonian, he was one of the greatest military tactician in world history (by far greater then Vartan) we know what happened between him and King Varastdades; did we forget Tigranes II (the Great), at the pinnacle of power betrayed by two of his sons and wife; did we forget the assassination of Gagik who had the Seljuk’s on the run; defeated them (the Seljuks) at Sevan and at the shores of the Caspian. We’ll never know how world history would have changed had he not been assassinated. By now we should have known what we are as a people and as a race, these choice experiences I mentioned (out of countess) should have been the draconian manual (like Lycurgus created for Sparta) of how we must function as a people, but instead we keep repeating the same mistakes going back to choosing that worthless intersection with no stop signs as a place to build a country, (colonizing Madagascar would have been a far better option, we would have never met that satanic creed called Turks and our population would exceed 50 million Armenians and the potential of being the UK of Africa, rather than the valley of Ararat where every tom dick and harry animal went through and rubbed their garbage on us.
    We can look at Ararat but we can’t touch!

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