BY DR. VIKEN HOVSEPIAN
Today, Armenia is once again serving as a shining example in the history of democratic processes.
One hundred years ago, despite being short-lived, the independent Armenian Republic wrote a proud chapter in Armenian history, primarily due to its adherence to high democratic values. Its inclusion of women in political life (even before United States had even granted women the right to vote), its tolerance toward Yezidi and other minorities, and its systems of free public education, free healthcare and social welfare, the First Armenian Republic even in those tumultuous days, served as a beacon of light and as a shining example of a just and free society.
And now, exactly 100 years later, Armenia once again is in the process of setting another example of democracy for all of humanity to see, especially if what has now begun continues on the same path and truly free and fair parliamentary elections are held. This is something that should engender pride for each and every Armenian.
In reality, this wave of mass protests that has revolutionized Armenian society without a drop of blood being shed, and what is being channeled now within the guidelines of the constitution, brings forth a new day, and a New Armenia for all of us. Really, how many examples in history can we find where in such a short period of time, the force of democracy erupts like a volcano with its lava forging its path toward constitutional and at the same time fundamental, systemic solutions?
Today, it is an indisputable fact that the Armenian People demand change, and not just in its political reality. Seeing the strong-willed and broad-based demands of the Armenian People and especially its youth, it is obvious that what is wanted is a far-reaching systemic change, in what can even be seen as a sociopolitical revolution.
Here that which is superficial or mediocre is no longer acceptable and has no place in this movement. It is precisely this fact that fills our hearts with pride and optimism.
Thus, let no one try to dampen the spirit and hope of this wave of change. Let no one try to minimize its force. Nothing can stop it, and there is no turning back. What was unimaginable just a few weeks ago has now become inevitable simply because both spirits and minds are now soaring.
It is obvious that the People have begun to be hopeful. They have begun to tie that hope to Armenia and its future and not to emigration or foreign lands. If you don’t believe it, look at the light in their eyes. Look at the happiness on their faces.
And this is truly the greatest accomplishment of Nikol Pashinyan and his colleagues. They succeeded in giving the People the courage to have hope without feeling defeated. They succeeded in making the likes of us understand that tying hope to the immediate future of Armenia is not naive or misplaced.
And if Nikol and his crew stray and we are all proven wrong, it is clear that the People and the pages of history will be unforgiving not only toward Mr. Pashinyan but also toward all of us for not understanding and internalizing what we saw and witnessed.
Therefore, we must hope that the ship which has sailed and now seems to have emerged from the storm into calm waters, will take us all to a port of victory where free and fair elections will be achieved. This is where the true work of state-building will begin. This is where the foundations of repatriation, prosperity and strength will be laid.
There will always be suspicion toward that which is uncertain, and it is natural for some to approach these rapidly changing times with caution. That is fine, as long as such caution does not lead to cynicism which will eat away at the collective hope and optimism of the People toward a bright future. It was this hope that until recently seemed impossible, and which in turn killed the spirit of innovation, the genuine prosperity of the country, and the drive for individual progress. Dictatorship and tyranny thrive in spaces where hope is suppressed.
For small nations or for those engaged in existential fights, hope is as important as bread and water. The stronger the opportunity and ability for hope, the greater the readiness to commit to progress. That society which nurtures collective hope and vision is difficult if not impossible to stop.
Witness the generation of May 1918, which fought and won an unequal battle with courage and commitment.
In today’s reality, it is only external forces or internal conspiratorial actions which can serve as a ruse or stumbling block on the path of the People. Such attempts can only come from enemies, and would be tantamount to treason.
The People of Armenia have started to breathe and have begun to rid themselves of gut-wrenching and toxic pessimism to look toward a field of dreams. It is here that the idealism of the masses meets the possible, and indeed reality.
It is here, finally, where Homeland and Diaspora will meet, it is here where the development of the Armenian economy will become the art of the possible. And it is here where the much-delayed movement of “Tebi Yerkir – Toward the Homeland” repatriation will become not just a matter of self-sacrifice or national duty, but rather a command steeped in happiness and genuine motivation.
For the love of God and in the name of the coming victory for our people, let us cherish hope and give it strength. This is not the time for pessimism or cynical thoughts. This golden opportunity that has been created challenges each of us to cleanse ourselves of cynicism, faithlessness, and predictions of failure.
Today is the day of courageous visionaries who will take the lead toward a bright future.
Today (finally) is the day for politicized youth and those who strive for ideals
Today is the day for revolutionaries who love their nation. Today is the day for architects of the state-building, the same as it was 100 years ago, in May of 1918.
A version of this op-ed appeared on the author’s Facebook page on Monday