The ARF “Azadamard” Gomideh on Sat., May 18 celebrated the 95th anniversary of the establishment of the first Armenian Republic at the Armenian Community Center. The event was held with the participation of the Detroit AYF “Kopernik Tandourjian” Senior Chapter and Homenetmen of Detroit.
ARF members and supporters attended the dinner-dance, which featured singer Hrant Gulian. On the Gomideh’s behalf, ARF member Georgi-Ann Oshagan delivered the evening’s message, which follows.
Around this time 95 years ago, the Armenian Nation was moving toward the formation of its first republic. Just imagine what life was like for our ancestors 95 years ago:
Western Armenia was stripped of Armenians who had been murdered or deported in the first genocide of the 20th century, by Ottoman Turkey.
There were about 600,000 refugees in eastern Armenia, where there wasn’t enough food for their survival.
The Armenian people had not ruled themselves for about 600 years, so we had no modern tradition or experience of governing ourselves.
So many of our leaders and intellectuals had been murdered purposely by Ottoman Turkey on April 24, leaving us without the full leadership we needed.
We were landlocked.
We were in hostile territory, with Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Russia as our neighbors, always prepared to swoop in and take any part of our land for themselves.
Under these terrible conditions, on May 28, 1918, the Armenian people declared independence under the leadership of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF).
Against all odds, we formed our republic based on the democracies of the Western nations which we hoped would champion our cause for freedom, independence, and unity in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide.
But when the republic was declared, its future was not secure. For most of its two-year existence, Armenia’s borders were not defined. We trusted the Western Powers—especially the United States—to stand by us, draw reasonable and just borders for our country, help us with humanitarian aid, and serve as our protector through a mandate that would serve as a shield against the enemies who were all around us.
President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, was a personal ally of the Armenian people and wanted to see the establishment of an Armenian republic that was built to last. But things changed. President Wilson was confronted by opposition from Congressional Republicans who saw challenging him as a way to regain the presidency (not very different what the politics we see today in Washington).
Even Democrats began to move away from supporting President Wilson’s plan for Armenia. The public outcry against the genocide and the efforts to help the Armenian people after the genocide began to die down. People got tired of helping “the starving Armenians.”
Big business in the United States saw it more lucrative to cultivate Turkey as an ally—as it had more resources and oil interests—and not Armenia, which had no investment-worthy resources and no economic base. Indeed, Armenia needed generous humanitarian assistance to get on its feet.
These dynamics caused Armenia to see the support that it had in the months following the genocide slip away, month by month. The Versailles Treaty that would have established Wilsonian Armenia died in 1920, and by the end of that year Armenia was essentially alone, fighting bravely for survival until it was conquered again, divided, and what we know of as Armenia today was folded into the Soviet Union.
The political dynamics of yesterday are not very different from the political dynamics today. The reestablished Armenian republic is still in the same hostile neighborhood, and we still have on-and-off unreliable support from the West, including the United States. We still are relying on the West to “do the right thing,” the moral thing, for Armenia, but economic interests—oil, again—are still in the hands of Turkey and Azerbaijan, not ours.
But one major difference today is that the Armenian Diaspora, unlike the diaspora of 1918, is strong and stable and fairly well organized. It’s a critical and growing part of the Armenian Nation and is in a position to influence and push the West to keep Armenia on safer ground.
Tonight is a night to celebrate. But it’s also a night for us as Diasporan Armenians to rededicate ourselves to the Armenian Nation. To the security of the Armenian Republic. And Artsakh. And Javakhk.
We are the Diaspora. You and I. This is our responsibility—to serve with the vision of the founders of the original 1918 republic, believing that against all odds, we are building a strong, united, independent Armenia. Not because anyone gave Armenia to us, but because we fought for her existence and survival and prosperity.
Enjoy the rest of the night and this celebration, remembering our victory on May 28!