Diaspora Ministry’s Affront To The Diaspora



13 March 2012

The homepage of the Virtual Armenian Diaspora Museum

Armenia’s Diaspora Ministry on Tuesday unveiled a Virtual
Armenian Diaspora Museum, which contains so many factual errors,
inconsistencies and inaccuracies that if it were meant to bolster
the image of the Diaspora, it does the exact opposite.

According to Armenia’s State Radio, “The aim of the Virtual Museum
of Armenian Diaspora is to introduce the history of the Armenian
people, the present and the future. The project will make the history,
cultural heritage and achievements of the Armenian people available
to the public, will develop and instill among young people of the
Diaspora the idea of Armenian national identity, the feeling of pride
for belonging to the Armenian nation, will make Armenian communities
of Diaspora recognizable to each other. It also aims to strengthen
ties between Homeland and Diaspora, as well as between Armenian
communities of Diaspora.”

If this is the stated aim of the Virtual Museum it does more to
highlight two very relevant problems plaguing the Diaspora Ministry
and its minister, Hranush Hakopyan.

1. The inability to draw a distinction between the Diaspora as a
political entity that was borne as a result of being forced to settle
in foreign lands due to deportation, massacres and Genocide and the
communities that have popped up as a result of individuals choosing-of
their own volition-to leave the homeland and settle elsewhere.

2.Not fully comprehending the Diaspora as an entity that has kept the
national ideals and aspirations of the Armenian people alive-in some
instances, for centuries.

The content of the Web site is nothing more than an aggregation
of information that can be culled from a quick Google search or a
reworking of Wikipedia entries. It is apparent that there was no
substantive research done to accumulate the information and build
content for what could have been an extremely worthwhile effort.

Instead, the Web site is a depository of facts and figures, most of
them inaccurate and diminishes our Diasporan reality to nothing more
than pockets of Armenians living in different worlds.

If, 20 years after Armenia’s independence, the Diaspora is being viewed
in such a light, then a critical component of our nation-building
process has failed.

In unveiling the Web site, Minister Hakopyan explained that “Armenians
are one nation regardless of their residence, and Armenia is the
Homeland of all Armenians. This was the idea that became the slogan
of the museum.”

Let’s look at the Western US community as an example. Today, this
community, which numbers above a million, is a vibrant and diverse
entity that has grown through the institutions that were established
by those who first settled in the Western United States as survivors
of either the Sultan Hamid Massacres or the Armenian Genocide. Even
the newest of newcomers should realize that the church, in which they
worship or the school they attend was a result of blood, sweat and
tears of dedicated individuals who toiled to not only survive and
provide for their immediate families, but to harness our national
aspirations to build and create communities, in which Armenians can
flourish as Armenians.

So, to Mrs. Hakopyan I say that the Diaspora is not a slogan to
propel the creation of a haphazard Web site whose content is more an
embarrassment than a showcase of our rich Armenian national heritage.

The Diaspora is a political entity that has played a critical role in
the national liberation struggle and in state-building. Without it,
perhaps many of the achievements of the last 20 years would not have
been possible. (In fact, the Web site does not contain a definition
of the term “Diaspora”).

The minister, in her message on the Web site, says: “We shall do
everything to make the web-site interesting and cognitive, to reflect
the phenomenon of Armenian Diaspora with its rich palette and deep
essence. I am confident that Armenian specialists creating web-sites
in different parts of the world will contribute to the process to
make the web-site more interesting [sic.].”

Conventional wisdom would dictate that the aforementioned specialists
would have been brought together prior to the launch of the Web site,
in order to shed light that the Diaspora is not merely a “rich palette”
but rather a critical force in our national identity.

A glaring omission from the Virtual Museum is the Armenian press in
the Diaspora. In my humble opinion as the editor of this 104-year-old
publication, leaving out the press is a virtual crime for this
Virtual Museum.

The Virtual Armenian Diaspora Museum is an insult to the Diaspora. It
is the Diaspora Ministry’s responsibility to rectify this situation
by immediately taking it down and, if the ministry is truly committed
to creating this important repository, bring together experts to work
on creating a Web site worthy of our national aspirations.


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