Erdoğan and Pashinyan look forward as public opinion looks back
On July 11, 2022, Turkish Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan held their first phone call ever. The leaders not only exchanged polite wishes for the month’s religious holidays, but also released identically-worded statements in which they “emphasized the importance” of the normalization process between their countries.
As the governments of Turkey and Armenia take cautious steps towards normalization, public opinion appears unconvinced by the process, with recent polls on both sides of the border underlining long-held negative sentiments between the two nations despite the recent progress. Along with the possibility of Russian and Azerbaijani influence on negotiations, the ongoing Turkey-Armenia talks will be no easy task, and the public knows it.
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The Feel Good Identity
New insights into third and fourth generation Brazilian-Armenians
For much of the 20th century, the prevailing force shaping the various Armenian organizations that made up diasporan life had been hayabahbanoum — literally, “Armeno-preservation.” Whether it was church, dance troupes, schools, newspapers, or scouts, the main point of such activities was to ensure that Armenians stayed Armenian, meaning the language was spoken, the food was eaten, and young Armenian men and women met and married one another.
Living a life as Armenian as possible, so to speak, was perceived as a duty, coming as it did in the wake of a rich and vibrant culture being almost completely annihilated in 1915. In some sense, this was a natural reaction. How it played out depended a great deal on where a given community ended up. In the case of Brazil, four generations in, the Armenians have become more than just inhabitants in a host country, rather they are fully actualized citizens of a nation, if not citizens of the world.
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An influx of foreign residents and visitors is changing the face of Armenia
A quick walk from Republic Square, an LED sign lights up for a store. The place advertises itself in Armenian, English, Russian, and Farsi. Four languages, four entirely different scripts—a doubly literal and figurative sign of Armenia as a crossroads of cultures with a lively tradition of global trade cutting through borders.
Over the past decade and more, as Armenia and Armenians have reached out to the world for business, education, or tourism, foreigners have been beating a small, steady, and lasting path toward the country. According to the Migration Service of the Republic of Armenia, 18,856 foreign citizens had received temporary, permanent, or special residency status by the end of June, 2019, half of whom were from Russia, Iran, and India, with Syria and the United States trailing not too far behind. The numbers have been a bit erratic over the past five years (see figure), but a recent upward trend is notable.
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Home away from home
Mutig in die neuen Zeiten,
Frei und gläubig sieh uns schreiten,
Arbeitsfroh und hoffnungsreich.
Einig lass in Jubelchören,
Vaterland, dir Treue schwören.
The Austrian national anthem consists of three verses, each ending with a reverential description of the country – much-vaunted Austria, much-tested Austria, much-beloved Austria. The lyrics, composed after WWII, are telling. Austria, situated in the middle of the Continent, had had to re-invent itself as a republic following the fall of the House of Habsburg with the end of the First World War; and within two generations, had again to re-imagine its place in the world, in the aftermath of its wartime Nazi associations.
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The Media as a Diaspora-Homeland Bridge
1512, Venice, Italy and 1794, Madras (Chennai), India – what do these years and places, each so far apart from the other, have in common? They were both significant firsts in the Armenian world: the first published Armenian book and the first Armenian newspaper. The printing press has played a key role in keeping the Armenian identity alive around the world for centuries now, whether through Bibles or school books, yerazahans (“dream dictionaries”) or active media providing information on local events and sometimes having connections with goings-on in other parts of the global Diaspora.
Unfortunately, the Diasporan Armenian media has not always had the strongest links with Armenia itself, even in this age of the internet and social media. That relationship has undergone major changes in recent years, something which became even more evident over the course of tumultuous weeks in April and May, 2018, when the country saw tremendous political developments that were very closely followed across the planet from Boston to Beijing or Buenos Aires to Beirut, whether through pixels on a screen or through ink on paper. The Diaspora-Homeland media connection has entered a new era.
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The Armenian Island of Venice
The Armenian presence in Europe stretches from London to Larnaca, Lisbon to Lviv; the Armenian Catholic Mkhitarian Congregation is among the most impactful examples of that legacy and this year marks a three-century-long presence in one of Europe’s most iconic towns.
The vaporetto leaves from San Zaccaria to one of the most unique corners of Venice, a testament to the centuries of multi-cultural history of that magnificent city. The unique corner is really an island – Isola di San Lazzaro degli Armeni, or the Island of St. Lazarus of the Armenians. This year marks the 300th anniversary of that island becoming home to the Mkhitarian or Mechitarist Congregation.
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The media in Armenia suffers from the same legacy as in much of the post-communist world. Although the Internet has shaken things up in the past few years, media independence is still in the making.
Media In Armenia: Fast Connections, Slow Change
As with most of the post-Soviet world, the Armenian press did not have much to go on in terms of a real journalistic tradition after the USSR collapsed. There may have been a lot of publications in the Armenian world-within the country and in the organized diaspora outside of it-but as far as the new Republic of Armenia was concerned, its journalists and broadcasters were coming out of decades of censorship when independence came in 1991. That legacy can be felt to this day, as numerous media outlets clearly toe the line of national policy, while others go to the other extreme of spreading scandals. Very few have the courage, the resources, and the professionalism to carry out objective and meaningful reporting. Continue reading →
A ‘Close Creative Encounter’ between İstanbul and Yerevan
A creative format born in Japan that allows people to present and discuss ideas recently helped foster creative dialogue between two neighboring peoples who do not always see eye-to-eye: Turks and Armenians.
Pecha Kucha — Japanese for “chit-chat” — was conceived by two architects in Tokyo in 2003, originally as a means for young designers to showcase their work while giving them a chance to meet and network with one another. It has since grown immensely in popularity, with presenters from all artistic genres, and even academia, participating in regular franchised Pecha Kucha Nights in over 500 cities around the world.
Two of those cities are İstanbul and Yerevan. Organized with the support of USAID, the Eurasia Partnership Foundation and the Global Political Trends Centre at İstanbul Kültür University, the Yerevan Pecha Kucha franchisee — associated with Yerevan’s The Club, a well-known eatery that is not just a restaurant, but also a gallery and gathering space — worked together with the İstanbul franchisee, 34 Solo, a design consultancy, to put together what was described as “probably the first” inter-city, international Pecha Kucha Night, entitled “Close Creative Encounters.” Continue reading →
A Good Day for Homophobia in Yerevan
There has been much talk of the LGBTI community in Armenia lately. A bar, widely considered to be a gathering spot for those who think and act differently than most in this country, was recently firebombed and vandalized. The violence was condemned in large part only by the LGBTI community and its supporters, until two ARF MPs acted on behalf of the assailants, posting bail for them pending trial. That gave way to greater attention and greater condemnation, particularly in the diaspora—including by several leaders and opinion-makers associated with the ARF.
Partly in response to that event, a conference on LGBTI tolerance issues took place in Armenia last week. It was poorly attended–perhaps by 20 or 30 people at most–though supported by European bodies and the UN. And on Mon., May 21, a rally in support of diversity and tolerance was planned on the occasion of the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, but also not too far on the calendar from the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, which is marked on May 17. Both events were spearheaded by an NGO known as PINK (“Public Information and Need of Knowledge”), alongside other civil society groups.
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Following the Remarkable Footsteps of Our Merchant Ancestors
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (A.W.)–Sebouh Aslanian, the recently appointed assistant professor and Richard Hovannisian Term Chair in modern Armenian history at UCLA, lectured at Harvard on Sept. 14 on the fascinating story of the Armenian merchants of New Julfa (Nor Jugha). Stretching across the Mediterranean, down through the Indian Ocean and all the way to the Pacific, encompassing the Middle East, the Russian Empire, India and Tibet, and the Far East, the Julfa Armenians commanded a vast and active network of trade in early modern times.
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