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Armenia’s Leaders Need to Uphold the Historical Truth in the Face of Intimidation

By Marc A. Mamigonian and Bedross Der Matossian

As scholars focused on the Armenian Genocide — its causes, implementation, repercussions, and its denial — and with Armenian Studies more generally, we feel compelled to express our concerns about aspects of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s April 24, 2024, message on the occasion of the 109th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

We want to make it clear here that we do not represent any political groups nor take sides in the current contentious political climate in Armenia. We are writing as individuals with an interest in upholding the historical record and not on behalf of any institutions; the views presented here are our own.

We will refer to and quote from the official English translation of this message posted online on the prime ministerial website: https://www.primeminister.am/en/statements-and-messages/item/2024/04/24/Nikol-Pashinyan-April-24/.

Readers can compare the 2024 message with those of 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. While we duly recognize that the message begins by stating the Prime Minister’s intention to “commemorate the memory of 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide,” the aspects that are most concerning to us are the absence of any identification of the perpetrator of the Armenian Genocide; language that echoes long-standing denialist rhetoric implying that the victims of the Genocide were responsible for their deaths; and the implication that a collective post-genocidal “mental trauma” prevents Armenia or Armenians from perceiving reality.

It is important to note that Mr. Pashinyan’s message does not exist in a vacuum. It needs to be read within a larger context that includes the ethnic cleansing of all Armenians from Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2023 (called genocidal by various analysts), following the 2020 44-Day War launched by Azerbaijan with the entire military and logistical support of Turkey, and the 2022-2023 illegal blockade of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh imposed by Azerbaijan with, again, the support of Turkey.

In short, at no time in recent history has the Armenian government been in a position of greater powerlessness vis-à-vis Turkey and Azerbaijan, “one nation, two states” who aggressively deploy denial of the Armenian Genocide and of other historical facts about Armenia and the region as part of their political arsenal. When Turkey and Azerbaijan are seeking to dictate Armenia’s future, it is no less important to them to dictate the past as well. The Armenian Prime Minister and other government leaders cannot acquiesce to Turkey and Azerbaijan’s false historical narratives, which are aimed at the elimination of Armenia as such.

Mr. Pashinyan’s 2024 commemoration message seems to mark a sea-change in terms of language and rhetoric and the advent of a disturbing self-censorship mode when it comes to naming the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide.

In 2019, Mr. Pashinyan mentioned that “[o]ne of the peculiarities of the Armenian Genocide is that the people subjected to the genocide were not only physically destroyed, but also deprived of the right to live in their homeland … the land on which Armenian culture and Armenian identity were formed and developed over thousands of years.

In 2020, Mr. Pashinyan identified “Ottoman Turkey’s long-standing policy of Armenophobia [that] culminated in 1915 during the Young Turk government,” when “[d]ue to the Genocide that had been perpetrated at a state level for many years, Western Armenia was completely emptied of Armenians,” who were “deprived of the right to live in their historical homeland.”

In 2021, Mr. Pashinyan stated that “the first genocide of the 20th century was perpetrated by the Young Turk government in the Ottoman Empire. What happened in those days was described by the great powers as a crime against mankind and human civilization.”

In 2022, Mr. Pashinyan declared that “107 years ago, the Armenian people faced a ruthless tragedy, the genocide. The goal of Ottoman Turkey was to exterminate our ancestors.”

The Armenian Mirror-Spectator

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