Editorial: Marking Independence Day When Armenia’s Sovereignty is Threatened

The Sardarabad monument (Photo by Matthew Karanian)
The Sardarabad monument (Photo by Matthew Karanian)

The Sardarabad monument (Photo by Matthew Karanian)

This year, as we mark Armenian Independence, it is more reminiscent of 100 years ago when Russia and Turkey colluded to quash Armenia and the aspirations of all Armenians of exercising their right to independence and self-determination.

For 44 days last fall we watched as Moscow and Ankara, once again, conspired and by aiding Azerbaijan and abating some of the most gruesome human rights violations, made another attempt of robbing Armenia of its independence and Armenians of their dignity and right to determine their own fate.

On May 28, 2021 Armenia’s sovereignty is in jeopardy and its very existence is threatened. Artsakh has been reduced to a fraction of its size; Ankara has a foothold in Aghdam along the tenuous line-of-contact with Artsakh; 1,000 Azerbaijani troops are camped out in Armenia; more than 200 prisoners of war and captives are being tortured by the Baku regime; and just this week six soldiers were taken hostage and one was killed by Azerbaijani forces.

How did we get here?

First and foremost, Armenia’s “strategic ally,” Russia, has abandoned its commitments to Yerevan. At every turn when Russian leaders boast of Moscow’s—and more specifically President Vladimir Putin’s—role in brokering a ceasefire in Karabakh, Armenia is forced to relinquish and surrender something—usually territories—while Azerbaijan is allowed to advance its destructive and aggressive policies.

Armenia’s Western “allies” talk a good game, but are short on action. During the war, France sounded the alarm about Ankara deploying mercenaries and pledged to broker peace, while the United States stood by and watched Artsakh burn. In the current border standoff, France, has again stepped up its rhetoric, while the U.S. is still practicing its false parity and has chosen to assist Azerbaijan enabling it to continue its killing spree.

Armenia’s leaders have also played their part in hastening this reality due to their opaque and misguided understanding of the concept of independence.

When Armenia declared independence in 1991, its leaders began a fire sale of Armenia’s key infrastructure—electricity, gas, communications, transport, IT—making Armenia solely dependent on Russia. Taking a page from the Soviet playbook successive governments looked at the population as being dispensable—and at times disposable—in their self-serving mission to amass personal wealth at any cost and at the expense of the people.

The current regime has treated Armenia’s independence as theater—or a reality show— replete with selfie sticks and props and has squandered the people’s trust that brought it to power. For 44 days, the regime, headed by the prime minister, lied not only to the population of Armenia but the entire Armenian nation by painting an optimistic outcome for the war despite the mounting causalities and reports of brutal attacks. On November 9, with one signature and hardly any remorse, the prime minister not only surrendered territories in Artsakh but, through his self-absorbed arrogance, paved the way for the crisis to reach such a point where foreign troops have encroached and have decamped on Armenia’s sovereign territory.

In 1918 Armenians were also left to their own defenses, but instead of clamoring they banded together and at all costs fought valiantly and established the Independent Republic of Armenia, shattering 600 years of tyranny and oppression. Those leading the effort, namely the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, were fully cognizant of the stakes, but they marshaled the people toward victory in Bashabaran, Gharakilise and Sardarabad. That same resolve shepherded our nation to another victory when Artsakh was finally liberated in 1994.

May 28, 1918, the day Armenia declared independence and established the first Republic of Armenia, has always been the “Phoenix rising from the ashes” moment that has inspired and emboldened generations of Armenians to take action and advance our national aspirations, making it an individual—and collective—struggle for each and every Armenian.

During the dark Soviet years, celebrating May 28 meant recommitting ourselves to the ideal of independence and working harder to realize our dream of an independent Armenia. When that day came on September 21, 1991, we, as a nation, rejoiced and pledged to do our utmost to strengthen our homeland and May 28 became that pillar upon which our homeland rested.

The great poet Paruyr Sevak made the clarion call when he urged all generations to know themselves from Sardarabad. This past year has shown that in order to emerge from our current national predicament we have to not only know ourselves but define ourselves by Sardarabad.

We are humbled by those who sacrificed their lives for our nation and bow our heads to their memory.

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