Vahe Oshagan's Statement at the Armenia-Diaspora Conference, 1999
[This is Vahe Oshagan's presentation at the Armenia-Diaspora
Conference, delivered on 09/23/1999. These notes are basically a
transcription of the recorded speech (delivered in Armenian), with
minor omissions. Please Note: This is not an official translation,
nor am I a professional translator. I have done this for my own
use, and would like to share it with Groong readers. Comments in
round brackets are my own additions -- Razmik Panossian]
Statement at the Armenia-Diaspora Conference
.... On Tuesday we watched with pride the forces of Armenia,
yesterday with delight we heard the voice of the diaspora; and we
saw its power, its essential importance -- that force, that inner
force through which Armenians persist.
One nation, one fatherland, yes; but you have noticed how many
differences there are between the various diasporan
communities. Every country has its own means and rhythm of
development, and the diasporan Armenian has to fit into that, and
to resist it. In the diaspora we do not have a common thread except
Armeniannes. One nation, yes; one fatherland, yes; but one culture?
This is a question.
I am amazed to see how little, you the hayasdantsis know about the
diaspora. We live in the diaspora, and we are surprised by its
diversity. It is essential for Armenia's intellectuals, church
leaders and people to come to the diaspora in order to know its
second half. After that they will understand the difficulties we
encounter in the diaspora.
For the diasporan intellectuals there are a few fundamental
problems related to the defence and development of our
culture. First, to find the boundaries of Armenianness. Who is an
Armenian? What is an Armenian? You, here in Armenia, do not have
this kind of crisis. We, every minute, ask what does it mean to be
Armenian in America, in Beirut, in India?
Anyone who comes and tells me, in any language, that he is willing
to protect his Armenian heritage (ter ke kangnim im hayutian
jarankis) and struggle for its future, that person is for me an
The conditions of the diaspora demand this, so that we can endure
In a personal formula, I put this notion as such: "The Armenian is
he who suffers for not being an ideal Armenian [haye ain e vor ke
taknapi ideal hai ch'ellalun hamar]." That ideal is in all of us,
in whatever language.
We must find the boundaries of diaspora. We do not know what is
diaspora. We do not have a theory of it. The people of Armenia have
a clear formulation about their country. Is diaspora a condition of
mind? a geographic location? a spiritual feeling? a left over of
traditions? What is it? We still do not know what it is. But our
biggest problem is the continuation of its culture. We must keep
and develop our western Armenian culture, and also the diasporan
culture. These are our essential characteristics of our raison
We come to the issue of language and spelling. For us, for me, it
is clear that the Mesropian [classical] spelling will eventually
win out [much applause at this point, no doubt by all the
diasporans --RP]. Sooner or later, the wisdom of the Armenian
people will win out. And it will reinstate [...unclear...] thanks
to the new and old spelling/ orthography.
Let me add a strong personal belief, that language is a personal
and national factor, and no one -- not the linguist, not the government
-- has the right to change it. A big mistake was made in 1922, but
you cannot fix one mistake with other mistakes. We must establish a
committee which will only deal with this issue, ask the opinion of
the people, of the intellectuals, etc. The people must have a say
in this. It is essential to respect people's identity. Changing
language, changing orthography/spelling means playing with people's
The defence of the fatherland and of Artsakh is our next major
issue. We will succeed together, or we will fall together. We are
either all together or all... [applause, applause].
The diaspora is a front. As much as Artsakh was, and Armenia. We
are all soldiers of the Armenian people. With this psychology we
fight for Armenianness in the diaspora.
A few minutes on issues related specifically to literature. We
negate/disown (uranal) all the icons. We accept none of the
icons. Everything and everyone is open to criticism, reexamination
and restructuring; be it Daniel Varuzhan, Hakop Oshagan, Tumanian,
Charents. No one must be protected from the sharp mind of
criticism. Total independence of the intellectual. I would have
been happier if the state in Armenia was looking after its
intellectuals a bit more. [Is this not a contradiction? --RP.]
The literature of the diaspora is healthy. Our instincts are
healthy. We are passing through a weak period, there are a few
writers, but writers have always been a few. Today, our language is
suffering a bit, but the talent of the Armenian people, from
Argentina to America, to Iran, India and Beirut, Armenian
literature is healthy; it could be healthier but it is ok.
Our ideal remains unity of the Armenians in their historic lands;
the mixing of our two cultures in the process of creating one
Armenian culture; and to burry once and for all the eastern
Armenian and western Armenian intolerance.
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