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Vahe Oshagan's Statement at the Armenia-Diaspora Conference, 1999

      [This is Vahe Oshagan's presentation at the Armenia-Diaspora
      Conference, delivered on 09/23/1999. These notes are basically a
      transcription of the recorded speech (delivered in Armenian), with
      minor omissions. Please Note: This is not an official translation,
      nor am I a professional translator. I have done this for my own
      use, and would like to share it with Groong readers. Comments in
      round brackets are my own additions -- Razmik Panossian]

    Statement at the Armenia-Diaspora Conference
    Vahe Oshagan

    .... On Tuesday we watched with pride the forces of Armenia,
    yesterday with delight we heard the voice of the diaspora; and we
    saw its power, its essential importance -- that force, that inner
    force through which Armenians persist.

    One nation, one fatherland, yes; but you have noticed how many
    differences there are between the various diasporan
    communities. Every country has its own means and rhythm of
    development, and the diasporan Armenian has to fit into that, and
    to resist it. In the diaspora we do not have a common thread except
    Armeniannes. One nation, yes; one fatherland, yes; but one culture?
    This is a question.

    I am amazed to see how little, you the hayasdantsis know about the
    diaspora.  We live in the diaspora, and we are surprised by its
    diversity. It is essential for Armenia's intellectuals, church
    leaders and people to come to the diaspora in order to know its
    second half. After that they will understand the difficulties we
    encounter in the diaspora.

    For the diasporan intellectuals there are a few fundamental
    problems related to the defence and development of our
    culture. First, to find the boundaries of Armenianness. Who is an
    Armenian? What is an Armenian? You, here in Armenia, do not have
    this kind of crisis. We, every minute, ask what does it mean to be
    Armenian in America, in Beirut, in India?

    Anyone who comes and tells me, in any language, that he is willing
    to protect his Armenian heritage (ter ke kangnim im hayutian
    jarankis) and struggle for its future, that person is for me an

    The conditions of the diaspora demand this, so that we can endure
    in spirit.

    In a personal formula, I put this notion as such: "The Armenian is
    he who suffers for not being an ideal Armenian [haye ain e vor ke
    taknapi ideal hai ch'ellalun hamar]." That ideal is in all of us,
    in whatever language.

    We must find the boundaries of diaspora. We do not know what is
    diaspora. We do not have a theory of it. The people of Armenia have
    a clear formulation about their country. Is diaspora a condition of
    mind? a geographic location?  a spiritual feeling? a left over of
    traditions? What is it? We still do not know what it is. But our
    biggest problem is the continuation of its culture.  We must keep
    and develop our western Armenian culture, and also the diasporan
    culture. These are our essential characteristics of our raison

    We come to the issue of language and spelling. For us, for me, it
    is clear that the Mesropian [classical] spelling will eventually
    win out [much applause at this point, no doubt by all the
    diasporans --RP]. Sooner or later, the wisdom of the Armenian
    people will win out. And it will reinstate [...unclear...] thanks
    to the new and old spelling/ orthography.

    Let me add a strong personal belief, that language is a personal
    and national factor, and no one -- not the linguist, not the government
    -- has the right to change it. A big mistake was made in 1922, but
    you cannot fix one mistake with other mistakes. We must establish a
    committee which will only deal with this issue, ask the opinion of
    the people, of the intellectuals, etc. The people must have a say
    in this. It is essential to respect people's identity. Changing
    language, changing orthography/spelling means playing with people's

    The defence of the fatherland and of Artsakh is our next major
    issue. We will succeed together, or we will fall together. We are
    either all together or all... [applause, applause].

    The diaspora is a front. As much as Artsakh was, and Armenia. We
    are all soldiers of the Armenian people. With this psychology we
    fight for Armenianness in the diaspora.

    A few minutes on issues related specifically to literature. We
    negate/disown (uranal) all the icons. We accept none of the
    icons. Everything and everyone is open to criticism, reexamination
    and restructuring; be it Daniel Varuzhan, Hakop Oshagan, Tumanian,
    Charents. No one must be protected from the sharp mind of
    criticism. Total independence of the intellectual. I would have
    been happier if the state in Armenia was looking after its
    intellectuals a bit more. [Is this not a contradiction? --RP.]

    The literature of the diaspora is healthy. Our instincts are
    healthy. We are passing through a weak period, there are a few
    writers, but writers have always been a few. Today, our language is
    suffering a bit, but the talent of the Armenian people, from
    Argentina to America, to Iran, India and Beirut, Armenian
    literature is healthy; it could be healthier but it is ok.

    Our ideal remains unity of the Armenians in their historic lands;
    the mixing of our two cultures in the process of creating one
    Armenian culture; and to burry once and for all the eastern
    Armenian and western Armenian intolerance.

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