Legitimacy and Trust towards Yerevan and Ankara

Legitimacy and Trust towards Yerevan and Ankara

I used to think that it was a question of legitimacy outright, no qualifications. How could any government of Armenia deal with Turkey, especially with regards to the Armenian Genocide? The Armenian Cause may not be perfectly defined, but it certainly includes recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and it belongs to the organised Diaspora, period.

Sure, it isn’t like Armenia itself isn’t a part of the Cause; in many ways, it is the realisation of the hopes and dreams of the Diaspora. But for a government in Yerevan to deal directly with anything to do with the Genocide? Forget about it. Our Armenian committees, assemblies, clubs and unions have been around long before the 21st of September, 1991. Generations have dedicated themselves to something which was never even allowed to be brought up in the Soviet Union.

Now, Artsakh, that’s different. That’s something the Armenians of Armenia – and, certainly, Artsakh – have to handle, with whatever help the Diaspora can muster. But the Genocide issue is the Diaspora’s, with the assistance of the Republic of Armenia, with her embassies, and her representations to the UN, Council of Europe, OSCE, with her official place on the map.

This, it seemed to me, was the way it was working out.

These recent goings-on have provided a great deal to digest. I’ve read the articles. A “historical sub-commission” seems quite inconceivable. The protocols mention territorial integrity and the inviolability of frontiers, but not the right to self-determination. The Treaty of Kars was under duress, and it was under the USSR and not the Armenia of today. I’ve heard the arguments, I’m well-aware of the technicalities. But I don’t think that’s where the heart of the matter lies.

The real issue at hand, in my opinion, is one of legitimacy and trust. The legitimacy of the government in Armenia is questionable, not just for the Armenians of the Diaspora, but very much so for the citizens of our Homeland as well.

We all know that there never have been truly free and fair elections in the history of the Republic of Armenia. We all know that there is immense corruption and ineptitude in the way our government works. But above all, we remember the last presidential elections and their aftermath. Serge Sargsyan’s time in office would be under a cloud regardless of anything. And his legitimacy would be questioned no matter what, whether it came to dealing with the Turks or not.

All I’m saying is that if we had people sitting on Baghramyan Avenue and Republic Square who, as per our perception, knew what they were doing and had the nation’s best interest at heart, then we would have a much harder time questioning the steps they would take.

I don’t have to add that a profound question of trust is raised all the time for Armenians when dealing with the Turks. We have absolutely no real basis to trust their government. If we said that nothing has changed, that Turkish state policy has not altered over the course of the past century, that might sound like an exaggeration, but I’m not certain if it isn’t true when it comes to Armenian matters.

And not just Armenian matters. The Turks allowed themselves to invade a sovereign state – Cyprus – and they have been occupying and have recognised the self-declared republic in the northern part of that island for over three decades now. How can we expect their attitude and position to be modified, simply by having signed a document?

Armenians and plenty of other minorities have had and continue to have a hard time in Turkey. Monuments of Armenian cultural heritage have lain derelict, and many have been willfully destroyed. Renovating the church on Aghtamar island in Lake Van a few years ago seemed a petty gesture, and simply insincere, especially as it was rendered a museum, and even more so as that happened in the face of a border that remained, and continues to remain, unilaterally shut.

These, I find, are what’s really at stake. We don’t have a government in which we believe, neither in Ankara, nor, tragically, in Yerevan. It is a broader question of legitimacy, not just pertaining only to the Armenian Genocide, and the recent policies of the Armenian government call to question the way every other issue is handled as well, including Artsakh. No matter what is done, a majority of the Armenian public will perceive it sceptically.