by Abedian Hossep
The Armenian homeland historically known as the Great Armenia, comprises a very large area of mountainous country, which includes most of eastern Anatolia. The western boundaries situated between Kharput and Maltya in modern Turkey. The eastern boundary would expand to Artsakh, which is the Armenian name for the mountainous Karabagh, which covers a distance of over 450 miles (west to east). From Armenia's northern border, it includes Ardahan (a city close to the Georgian border), lake Sevan, and to the south, the traditional frontier with Persian Azerbaijan below the western part of lake Van. This all measures some 250 miles(north to south). However, today the Armenian Republic includes only 10%of the ancient territory of Great Armenia, comprising of 29, 800 km^2 land, where as the ancient area was approximately 250, 000 km^2 (Marshall 6).It is worthy of mentioning that modern maps of Turkey excludes Armenia, as the historical name of the area, and it is strictly prohibited to use this name for that region, but instead they rather use the name "Turkish Anatolia" or " Turkish Armenia"(Marshall 7).
Armenians are descendents of an ancient nation, who inhabited their traditional homeland in Eastern Anatolia since prehistoric times. There are remarkable archaeological records of the continuous human occupation of this region around mountain Ararat, since the old Stone-Age. Historically, Armenians were mostly concurred and became subordinates of other countries. however, from 95 to 55 B.C., the greatest Armenian king, Tigranes II, expanded his kingdom from the Caspian sea across to the Middle east, including Jerusalem, Syria and all of the eastern Mediteranian sea.
Armenians speak an Indo-European language, which is uniquely independent from other languages, by its alphabets and grammar, which was founded in415 B.C.. (Marshall 7). In the beginning of the first century two apostles, St. Tadeos and St. Bartocomous, brought Christianity to Armenia. Due to their efforts, in the year 301 AD, Armenians excepted Christianity as a nation, which made them the first apostolic orthodox Christian state in the whole world (Marshall 10). However Christianity developed in Armenian dependently of Rome and Constantinople. Therefore, there are certain doctrinal and liturgical differences among them (Marshall 11).
Today the scattered Armenians number between six to seven million, spread virtually all over the world. They consistently exhibit high intelligence and are successful in business and professional life. They are renowned as scientists, mathematicians, lawyers, doctors, dentists, and jewelers. They excel in the arts and in literature, Armenians are numbered among orchestral conductors, soloists, film producers and directors. They also introduced many military leaders, but not politicians (Marshall 13).
The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks, in 1453, was disastrous for the Armenians and unfortunate for the Christian world as a whole. However, the Armenian community was dominated during most of the Ottoman period by an elite, consisting of merchants and local government officials. There were massacres organized by the order of Sultan Abdul Hammid II, on December 1895, to perish 300, 000 Armenians from their motherland (Marshall 30). In April 24 1915, after the down fall of the Ottoman Empire, which followed a revolution, organized by young Turkish party, called the "Committee of Union and Progress", lead by Talaat Pasha, later minister of interior, committed a new series of massacres. The Armenian race lost a million and a half people, killed by weapons, deliberate starvation, privation, and pestilence. About one third of the nation died painfully and no Armenian household today is free of the memories of those who perished in this holocaust (Marshall 31).
On the other hand, eastern part of Armenia, was conquered by the Czarist Russia and it was ruled peacefully. In May 28 1918, eastern Armenia (today Armenian Republic) declared its independence, accomplished by the Armenian Socialist Nationalist Federation party, called "Dashnaks". However because of the First World War there was a pressure growing from Turkey, and its ally Germany, to conquer the Caucus and also there was an outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Consequently, on December 2 1920, the Dashnak government decided to hand over, its two year old independent republic, to the Bolsheviks; or according to Dr. Robert Birley, historian at Oxford University: "They preferred to be Red than Dead"(Marshall 34).
The Soviet Republic of Armenia was formed at the end of the 1920's.the economical situation took a new turn, because of Red army's soldiers and Komsomol young communists, armed to their teeth, proceeded to every household, rich or poor and forcefully removed and confiscated their belongings and properties. in 1924, the Leninist New Economical Policies(NEP) provided a flexible frame work for Soviet Armenia and the whole U.S.S.R. The new policies allowed the small shopkeepers and craftsmen to make a modest living and by these small changes Armenia started to rise economically and culturally (Marshall 61).
Although throughout Stalin's reign, Anastas Mikoyan, an Armenian who was one of the chief members of the communist party (Politburo), the Armenian people suffered huge loses. During Stalin's great terror many Armenian nationalists, especially the enlightened and educated class, were captured and either got executed or got exiled to Siberia. This once more seized the opportunity for the Armenian people to restrain their own faith under their own hands. Stalin also, in 1930, planed to form a Trans-Caucasian Federation, which had Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia under one united federation. this was mainly due to the fact that Stalin realized that the only way to stop Turkish influence over the five Muslim Turkish speaking republics of central Asia, such as Kasakestan, Turkmanestan was to form a collegian, where nationalism was not the central matter, but International Communist Partisanism was (Marshall 64). Hence Stalin decided to cut some areas, such as Nagorno-Karabagh and Nakhichevan, from Armenia and attach it to Azerbaijan, which led to the recent crises in the region. Therefore, Soviet Armenia became even smaller than the first independent state of Armenia in 1918 (Marshall 68).
For 70 years Soviet Armenia was depended politically and economically on the dictates from Kremlin. However Armenians were somewhat privileged compared with other Soviet states. They enjoyed a reasonable standard of living, a health service highly acceptable by the regional standards and excellent educational facilities (Marshall 69).
In early 1988, Armenians in mountainous Karabagh, encouraged by Mikhail Gorbachev's declaration and prompted by a number of statements made by the Armenian leaders in Armenia and Russia, demonstrated peacefully and demanded to be made part of Armenia. On February 20, the Karabagh people voted overwhelmingly to transfer the region to Armenia. The same day a huge demonstration followed the demand in Yerevan. As the events were escalating the Karabagh Committee was formed, which was a Union National Self-Determination Committee. This newly born organization was led by Levon Ter Petrossian, later the president of the republic for 7 years, and Vazgen Manukian, who became the first prime minister and the ideologist of the whole movement. On October 16 1991, barely a month after the independence, Armenians went to polls to elect their president. Levon Ter Petrossian, who won by 83%, became the president of the Armenian Republic (Bouroutian130).
Meanwhile tension and conflicts were rising rapidly and Karabagh Armenians, with the help of the Dashnak forces and the Armenian Republic's army, fought to recapture their homeland and make it independent from the Azerbaijian's rule. They succeeded to gain and keep their autonomous government over a vast Armenian populated territory (Bouroutian 134)
After a long and frustrating war between the two nations, both sides agreed to maintain a ceased fire, which goes on for three years, to sustain a political balance in the region. However, on January 20 1998, matters took a new turn. Europeans and other nations decided to settle the conflict in the Caucasus. There was a peace proposal presented by the Minsk Group, which is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe(OSCE). By this announcement there was a rift created between the Armenian politicians in Karabagh and Armenia. The OSCE's proposal, which is referred as "step-by-step" approach, stipulates that Armenian forces should withdraw from the so-called "occupied territories" and wait for the future negotiations from the Azeri government, On the other hand Mountainous Karabagh government suggested a "package" approach, where both sides should comply and exchange security with acceptance of autonomous bounders given to Karabagh. But the "step-by-step" approach was agreed as the central piece of a major policy speech presented by the president during the press conference, on January 26 1998, in Copenhagen. Which created a severe skim not only between Armenia and Karabagh officials, but also within the Armenian's ruling elite. These conflicts led the president to peacefully resign, on February 3 1998, and got excepted by the Armenian General Assembly. The prime minister, Robert Kocharian, who was formerly the president in Karabagh, was announced to become the active president until the upcoming elections to be held in 40 days ( Armenian weekly1-16).
Armenians are a nation with a old historically and a rich culture. They experienced many struggles, disasters and misfortunes throughout the history. However now history has taught them that vigilance, modernization and caution must replace blind faith and dogma.