Diaspora Armenians Answer the Questions
1. How did your ancestors come to this country?
Artun, Turkey — I was born and raised in Turkey, and lived my entire life there, until my recent move to France almost two years ago. So my ancestors were all Anatolian armenians, my fathers’ being mainly from Istanbul and my mothers’ mainly from eastern Anatolia.
Diana, Russia — My ancestors were born and lived in Artsakh. In the early 1990's my father came to Russia to work and stayed here.
Melanie, Canada — I was born in Canada. Both of my parents were born in Egypt in the 1950s. They moved to Canada in 1969. On My Father’s side, my grandfather Hratch was from Kharpert (Harpout) and grandmother from Dikranagerd. My mother’s side, her grandmother was from Dikranagerd and grandmother from Bardizag. On both sides we have survivors of 1915. Hratch was 8 yrs when he went of the desert walks with his mother and brother. Later they would reach Egypt – where his mom had become invalid from the walks and his brother had died. He became technically an orphan and grew up in Egyptian orphanage. He met his future wife in Egypt and they had kids - my father. On my mother’s side. My grandmother’s mother was visiting relative in Egypt at 16 years old (alone) and the day she embarked on the ship from Egypt to return to Bardizag, they told her that there was genocide, and her village was destroyed/murdered. She never took the boat and started her life at 16 years old without family in Egypt. She married, had kids (my grandmother) in Egypt. When my mother was born in 1950, in Egypt, they decided to move to Canada as this time Canada wanted to populate certain cities. Some Armenian Families were already here so they helped others immigrate. They arrived in 1969. My father did the same. My father and mother both met in Canada in 1975.
Inna, USA — My parents grew up and lived in Baku. In 1988 like many other people they had to flee and ended up in Russia, in the city of Kaliningrad.
2. Do you consider yourself Armenian or a citizen of your country?
Artun, Turkey — While I was living in Turkey, this actually was a recurring question on my identity. I always have felt that I was both of them, but at times, it was difficult to decide which one comes first. In my younger ages, I was more inclined to say that I was from “Armenian origin”, as if it was an addition to my identity as a Turkish citizen. But later on I began to feel that this was not right, so I started saying that I am an “Armenian”, putting that part of my identity in front of the other. Now that I’m living in France, the situation is a bit more complex but also easier at the same time: More complex because when I tell people that I’m coming from Turkey they immediately assume that I’m Turkish, and I need to give them additional explanation on my Armenian origins. On the other hand, it is easier to introduce me as an Armenian first, when I am the one doing my own introduction.
Diana, Russia — I consider myself more a citizen of Russia, as I was born in this country and was brought up under the influence of its culture, however having parents and relatives from Armenia our family tries to venerate the Armenian traditions in everyday life.
Melanie, Canada — It took me a long time to consider myself a citizen of any country. And I still have difficulty doing it. I do not feel I participate in the civil life of any country enough. It was a long intellectual work to convince myself I am a Canadian citizen, even if my mother, and father have been here for 30 years, and I was born here. I think to feel like a citizen, you must participate actively in the culture or politics, own property or your work must force you to help some aspect of your country. I do not do any of those. I know I am protected when I travel. That’s it. On the other hand, I can say I feel more entitled and connected mentally to the concept of being Armenian, because my parents convinced me I am Armenian and when I visited Armenia 3 times in the past, I truly felt my type of intellect, humour, personality were VERY much Armenian…. To consider myself a citizen however, is not possible. I do not feel the citizen of Armenia consider me as such. And I am humble enough to know they suffered for the last 100 years while I was not here!
Inna, USA — I was born and grew up in Russia and lived there until I was 22 years old. I always felt like a cosmopolitan, a citizen of the world, especially after moving to America. Passport/citizenship are of no account for me. The perception of Armenian is always with me; however I must admit it is not as keenly felt in America as it was in Russia.
3. "What have you done for Armenia?" "What has Armenia done for me?" Which of these questions is closer to you?
Artun, Turkey — These two questions represent a chicken-egg scenario: Countries/states are for people, not the other way around but at the same time they can’t exist without the people. Given the fact that more Armenians are living outside Armenia than within, this becomes a lot more complex. But if I really have to choose one, I tend to think that the “what has Armenia done for me?” question sounds closer to me. I think it would be in Armenia’s benefit to try to build more cultural and intellectual bridges to connect with Armenians around the world. This can encourage people like me, who are not in a close relation with the country and their inhabitants.
Diana, Russia — "What has Armenia done for me?" is closer. I do not think I have done anything important for Armenia. Living in another country I often share stories and culture of Armenia hoping that my friends will better feel this country. As to the question what has Armenia given to me, I think most importantly the genetic heritage, some striking personality traits and behavior.
Melanie, Canada — Other than a few Facebook posts and genocide recognition marches and discussing/defending Armenian history in my thesis in university not much else. I defend my country and represent it accurately and encourage other to learn about Armenian history and present whenever I can. I would like to say that I prefer Armenia has done something for me. I think it is important to be proud of your country… in this sense I am very proud of some of the NGO work there and even the capacity of the military & women which have kept borders secure...
Inna, USA — Both questions are to the point and both are interesting. What have you done for Armenia Probably every self-respecting Armenian should ask himself/herself this question and think about it seriously. To my mind there is nothing better than the perception that you are useful for someone and can make life a little better, introduce something new. I am glad I have the opportunity to attend church, make donations to the funds, be involved with projects related to Armenia, and tell people about the Armenians, traditions, culture, support the startups and larger businesses. What Armenia has done for me? It is a bit awkward because the country can only offer something/open eyes/opportunities, and to implement one must have the backbone, aspiration and desire. It all depends on us. I cannot imagine a situation where I will be blaming or praising a specific country for something that happened. The country is like a blank canvas, and we are the ones that draw the rest. I first came to Armenia when I was more or less mature, a conscious person at the age of 25. What it has done for me? It opened my eyes how people live, did my head and soul in (in a good way), allowed me to touch the beautiful, probably has dispersed some naive infant thoughts in me, made me fall in love with myself.
4. What do you like, or what don’t you like in Armenians and Armenia?
Artun, Turkey — Since I’ve never visited Armenia and I’ve known very few Armenians from Armenia, it is a difficult question to answer for me. Also, I generally try to stay away from generalizations on countries, cultures and people. That being said, I can say that the Armenians who value culture, intellectual progress and solidarity have always fascinated me, and I’ve been glad to see these qualities in many Armenians I’ve known. On the other hand, I’ve come across many who manifested selfish and ignorant behaviour that I completely dislike. On an additional note, I’d like to point out that the latest developments in Armenia were really inspiring for me. The way the Armenian people stood up for their principles, their freedom and their future was quite unbelievable. I can only hope that the Armenian people can continue building upon this.
Diana, Russia — There are not many Armenians around me today to assess globally but if I were to name some qualities, e.g. in the south of Russia Armenians are often very expressive and loud which is unusual for a quiet person like me. Nevertheless, to my opinion it is compensated by some best qualities that Armenians have; it is hospitality and the desire to help even the strange people. Moreover, for me, for a person who is not an expert at all, ancientry and distinctness of Armenia and the ability of the Armenian people to preserve and take pride in their country and its history is also of great importance.
Melanie, Canada — I can speak of Armenian here in Canada & Armenians of the country separately. I like the strength of Armenians and our ability to adapt, do good work, open businesses and generally we are very liked and admired by anyone who hears about Armenians. Most people in the world say we are impressively intelligent and we are not liars – this is true! We are a bit innocent and I like that. I noticed we try to adapt as much as possible and advance we are paranoid a little bit of how the world perceives us, I know that in Montreal this paranoia is taken to an extreme, where the community (especially the women) are extremely judgemental of the youth. How we dress, what we study, how we talk, who we marry…. It is so bad that I stopped participating in community evens when I was 12 years old as I was a bit eccentric. As for the Armenians in Armenia – I am both in love and hate them at the same time. Hate especially in the sense when I see severe abuse or lack of self-awareness (in cases of animal abuse or child abuse…). The women are very strong, but at the same time they translate this strength into hurting other women much more than I have seen in other parts of the world. (mother in law violence, hate speech towards women’s NGOs, high levels of conservatism). I forgive everything because I know this is a condition of Armenia’s isolation. Many of these problems are internal poverty or political problems which diminish people’s ability to “know more” and better ways to do things, or even retain hope… I love Armenians in Armenia SO MUCH at the same time – I feel a level of intelligence, it is almost scary how smart they are... of course it is generalization – not everyone is the same. Armenians are like me – we learn fast! Hahaha I also appreciate their knowledge of history and culture.
Inna, USA — What do I like or what I don't like in Armenia and Armenians is perhaps the most difficult question. My thoughts beetle off… I definitely cannot say about the country, as I spent only a few weeks there. Of course I want to say I am so glad that our people are so talented, diligent, kind, smart, venturesome… beautiful. I want to see more progress, more improvements and modernization of infrastructure in the country.
5. Would you like to move to Armenia?
Artun, Turkey — This is a quite complex question, with many different aspects. In a way, I am Armenian and I have strong cultural questions with the Armenians living in Armenia. On the other hand, I’ve always been an “Armenian from Istanbul” my entire life, until recently when I became a “Diaspora Armenian” living in France. Armenian culture is a strong part of my identity, one that I intend to further explore and develop, but to be honest I’m not sure if it’s currently strong enough to push me towards such a decision. Maybe in the future, once I get the chance to visit Armenia and get to know the country, I may be able to make a more educated decision.
Diana, Russia — As I have never been to Armenia, I cannot say for sure whether I would like to move forever or no, but I will definitely visit the historical homeland of my father.
Melanie, Canada — I have wanted to leave Canada and move to Armenia since I am 21 years old (first time I visited). I am scared that if I return it is now very westernized in many ways. I sincerely do not want to return to all of the bad western things I escape (pollution, consumerism, junk television, etc). I am working of establishing a business here and educating myself so that when/if I move I will not be dependent on the economy there and have a way to bring outside resources to the country. My help will come in maybe… 5-10 years.
Inna, USA — Before moving to America I might have considered this idea. At the moment I cannot imagine myself in another country. When I was younger, I thought I would move to Armenia to live there late in life.