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The Time for Protest is Over

The other day I read a headline in an Armenian outlet that Turkey was launching a satellite into space in collaboration with Tesla. The Armenian piece of it was that Armenians and Greeks were protesting this. What more appropriate juxtaposition to illustrate the state of the Armenian Nation in relation to the state of Turkey?

For decades, we lied to ourselves that the incredibly cheap investment in perpetual periodic protest was a sufficient answer to the salvos of our enemies. We have forced ourselves to make believe that marching down Hollywood Boulevard and chanting slogans in front of Turkish and Azerbaijani embassies and consulates the world over is somehow an adequate response to the ever increasing military, economic, and diplomatic power of our enemies. We have chosen to subvert the agonizing work of fortifying our nation to anachronistic and often annoying acts of civil disobedience like interrupting lectures and shutting down traffic.

This year, it is painfully apparent that these past two decades of protests have been either ineffective or, in the case of Yerevan’s 2018 protests, astoundingly catastrophic. If we have any intention of recognizing the mistakes of our past, we must likewise recognize that the time for protest is over.

Armenians protested in the 1960s and 1970s and 1980s and 1990s, often because that’s all we had. In some cases, like in lobbying Soviet authorities to build the Armenian Genocide memorial in Yerevan and in energizing the Artsakh independence movement, it is clear that protest had a considerable role to play. Nevertheless, even in these cases, the protests were tools used by the Armenian political leadership in the respective periods to achieve other, greater ends.

Otherwise, protest has been an excuse to assuage the nagging urge to do something. Protest is among the easiest forms of action: it is easier to protest than to build teams of well-educated lawyers ready to work for decades toward substantive goals like reparations or training teachers and administrators who will educate Armenian youth; it is likewise easier to protest than it is to build a country by planting crops, growing businesses, or working unglamorous but honest jobs.

We have hoped that protest will grant us a better homeland, Genocide recognition and restitution, and respect among the family of nations; it has given us none of these things.

Yet we continue to protest; inertia is a powerful force.

While we convinced ourselves in our thinly veiled coffin of obliviousness – and were convinced by others – that we were “doing our part” to “raise awareness” and “ensuring our voice is heard,” our enemies, those permanent fixtures on the Armenian landscape, forged ahead. We protested the injustices of Azerbaijan while they employed force and cunning to achieve their evil ends, culminating in their occupation of Artsakh. We protested Turkey’s denial and scrubbing of Armenian history and culture from its present-day territory while it artfully positioned itself to again become a global power.

Azerbaijan and Turkey succeeded; we did not. Our maturation is conditioned on us reconciling with these facts.

The top universities in the world are filled to the brim with Turkish students who often return to serve in their foreign and defense ministries. Azerbaijan, learning from their Turkish brethren, have emulated this model. The Bayraktar drone that wrought havoc on Armenian soldiers in the Second War for Artsakh’s Independence, one of the most advanced military drones in the world, was developed by Selcuk Bayraktar, who received his master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), two of the top schools in the world.

There was an attempt to redirect Armenian resources to educating our youth on a large scale and it was called the Luys Scholarship Program, launched by the Serzh Sargsyan administration. However, rather than develop a cadre of young Armenian professionals ready to serve the Armenian state, it created an elite class of professional ingrates that often used the educations they received at the top ten universities in the world to berate the very government and officials that gifted them the opportunity to receive a world-class education. Among the most vulgar detractors of the Sargsyan administration and among the most fervent supporters of Nikol Pashinyan’s protests in 2018 were newly-minted graduates of the Ivy League universities on Luys scholarships.

It was the failing of the Luys program itself that it did not require those receiving the generous financial aid to serve the Armenian state; many used the opportunity to establish themselves abroad, an updated version of “take the money and run.” Indeed, their complaints of the government were transparently ludicrous attempts to rationalize the immorality of benefiting from a system without making any substantive contribution in return.

But the problem of the Luys Scholars was a mere microcosm of Armenian society. By the time these top students reached college age, their minds had already been poisoned by a society bursting at the seams with activists funded by foreign governments and organizations who built a narrative that it was more important to “develop civil society.” This ambiguous catchphrase included perpetual protest and civil disobedience based on the insistence that opening a park in a cafe or raising electricity rates by a few pennies were just cause for blustering indignation and to bring the country to a standstill.

Years of protest culture that had convinced people that their own moral and ethical failings were not the problem and that they were doing something of value by hitting the streets to complain about every last thing. This culminated in the protests of 2018 that led to the current tragedy through which we live today: protest culture was the damp, dark cavity in which the fungus of Nikolism was able to multiply and flourish.

Many in Armenia and the Diaspora, instead of slowly and painfully building the institutions which would allow nationhood to eventually function – because it never does from the outset – spent resources on cultivating an activist class which knew how to organize a spectacular protest, replete with slogans, songs, and merchandise. However, the Armenian Nation failed at cultivating a politically mature citizenry that knows how to debate ideas, accede to political compromise, and build the long-term political thinking needed to sustain a country through the inevitable tumults of nationhood. This is evident now more than ever.

This has, in no small part, been exacerbated by outsiders, including some enterprising Diasporans, who have moved to Armenia, permanently or temporarily, and who have organized and participated in protests in a sort of irresponsible adventurism not unlike what’s described by Teju Cole as the “White Savior Industrial Complex” in Africa (he is not the only one who’s written about this in Africa).

There is an inherent moral hazard to this adventurism on the part of Diaspora Armenians. They try to address perceived injustices through an easily accessible form of political activity in protest, not least because they do not have the capacity to participate in or promote any higher form of said activity like debate, but are often in the position of convincing locals that they are experiencing injustice that needs to be met with outrage and protest without considering that the consequences of their protest will lead to instability and, as we saw in the autumn of 2020, death.

This is unsurprising because these Diasporans import their largely innocuous and inconsequential understanding of protesting in the stable countries of their origin to Armenia.

Easy, cheap, and great for visuals, these protests reached exactly zero of their goals, whether it was Genocide recognition, preventing further Azeri injustice, or stopping the closure of a mismanaged Armenian TV station (yes, there was a protest for that, too).

If asked why go through the trouble, the answer is invariably that it is to “raise awareness,” the favorite refrain and non-answer.

The point is best illustrated by the mother of all protests, that in Los Angeles in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide’s centennial. There were a reported 135,000 people who attended, shutting down major streets in one of the largest cities in the world. Thousands of man-hours were expended by hundreds of organizers over several years to organize this gargantuan event. Yet, it is impossible to say what effect this, or the dozens of other demonstrations that occurred throughout the world, had. On the question of awareness, there was little more than a news clip a few seconds long on local TV – but our ability to get the permits to shut down a few streets in Los Angeles and the drone pictures of the crowd peppered with the tricolor made us feel good.

Each distraction that does not contribute to the strengthening of the Armenian Nation in view of our reality, which includes powerful opponents, is a waste of our limited and currently dwindling resources. Our fantasies about having it all by fighting the fights of others, spreading ourselves too thin, and believing that we will be able to compete with our highly-focused enemies has brought us to the very edge of the vortex of dissolution. But, it is these torturous times that offer the opportunity for us to reflect on our mistakes and correct them.

Protest is a means for weak, disaffected people who are unable or unwilling to find other means to extricate themselves from their circumstances. In the years before Armenia’s independence, we were in the former camp: without other means; today, we are firmly in the latter camp. Our unwillingness to replace the exciting, instagrammable, and often ego-centric protest culture that provides cheap thrills with the incredibly tedious, drab, and thankless work of thinking through problems and working behind the curtains for a greater good which some of us may not see has demonstrably crippled us.

Now, decades after protests that distracted us from the work to be done that ultimately resulted in the loss of Artsakh and an enfeebled Armenian state, are we ready to admit our mistakes and not repeat them? We’ll soon know.


  1. David Davidian David Davidian Apr 22, 2021

    While I sympathize with the author’s sentiments, to conclude that the act and time for protests are long over, having had limited or no success, one must compare it against never having protested at all. Should Armenians replace protesting with something else? Perhaps, but that would involve enacting and serving a long-term vision.

    In the US, authorities often let protests occur without confronting the protesters to minimize their media impact. In other places, protesters are beaten, killed, and jailed. Such violent reaction is generally seen in authoritarian states — but could be ignored if such active dissent were not potentially effective.

    One might also claim that the assassination of Turkish diplomats in the 1970s and 80s did not affect the promotion of Armenian genocide claims. However, to make that conclusion, we would have to see the results of Turkish diplomats having never been assassinated.

    Yerevan, Armenia

  2. Steve Steve Apr 22, 2021

    The author is spot on in every sense. Unless a protest turns into a revolution it is a true waste for our reality today.

    • Diana Harutyunyan Diana Harutyunyan Apr 23, 2021

      There is certain truth in analysis, but What alternative author is suggesting? It is just observations, without deep analysis similar to protests logic.

  3. Bedros Bedros Apr 22, 2021

    So what do we do?

  4. Stepan Stepan Apr 23, 2021

    Unfortunately what is missing are detailed and concrete steps to replace public protests. It is understood alternative steps are complex and often challenging, nevertheless, it is essential if key benefits are to be extracted from it for the Nation.

  5. Bedros Bedros Apr 23, 2021

    There’s the saying “it’s easier to be critical than to be correct.” Let’s modify that to “it’s easier to be critical than to offer constructive ideas.”

  6. Hacob Khodaverdian Hacob Khodaverdian Apr 23, 2021

    What is and always have been missing is a true leadership. One that inspires every Armenian to be active and be involved for a common cause.
    A country of 3 million has 17 different factions, political parties and disillusioned groups, and none of them with a common voice or a voice of reason.
    Being engaged is not collecting likes on Instagram or marching on the streets of Los Angeles with beautiful drones footages, but rather behind the scene as part of a mobilized force, actively moving Armenian ideas forward. By becoming engaged in writing articles, creating visuals, pushing policies in Armenia and diaspora for the betterment of Armenia.
    Jews, in a country that is 1/3 of Armenia, with a single word “anti-Semite” have ruled the world. It has forced its policies and that of other nations to benefit its people and its country. Yet I have never seen a single Jew to March in protest anywhere in world.
    Where is our “Anti-Semite”?

  7. Arman Kocharyan Arman Kocharyan Apr 23, 2021

    Great Article William,

    By protesting we are essentially asking others to step in and solve our problems instead of taking matters into our own hands. Only way to overcome our situation is through hard work over a long period of time. We need good doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, farmers, electricians… who good at what they do, and at the same time care for the national interests of Armenia.

    Keep up the good work.

  8. Avery Avery Apr 25, 2021

    {By protesting we are essentially asking others to step in and solve our problems instead of taking matters into our own hands.}.
    That’s exactly right: protest, protest, and more protest. And if we protest the requisite length of time, then some powerful force will surely solve our problems for us, while we go from one kebab party to the next, and while Armenian owned stores in California enrich Turkey and Azerbaijan by selling their products. So they can use the funds given to them by Armenians to murder more Armenians. Smart.
    {Only way to overcome our situation is through hard work over a long period of time}
    Wrong: our situation was overcome in 1994. After a 6year war and the loss of about 6,000 Armenian KIA. For the first time in centuries Armenians liberated a small part of our historic lands occupied by the nomad invaders. Then the SorosaMobs in Yerevan threw it all away. Even more tragic: those young men who were shouting insults at Artsakh heroes while swooning over the Dukhov Messiah – were deliberately fed to the meat grinder by it (the reptile). What an absurd tragedy.
    {We need good doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, farmers, electricians…}
    Wrong: we have enough of those. What good did they do? In 1915 the nomad savages with zero education murdered 250 of our incomparable intellectuals: who stopped them?
    What we need are KILLERS. Men and women who put the fear of untimely Death in Turks and Turkbaijanis. Men like the late Gen Manvel Grigoryan. A man with no education, but whose name struck fear in the Turkbaijani murderers of Armenian civilians. A man who the Turk in Yerevan and his SorosaMobs jailed on fake charges, and eventually succeeded in causing his premature death: homicide. One Gen Manvel Grigorayn is worth more than the 100 or so Armenian-American so-called “intellectuals” who undersigned a letter of support last year for the BLM (the organization: a Marxist, anti-family, anti-Christian, organization led by hypocrites). Where are they hiding now?
    And far more than Killers we need Armenians who are ARMENIANS at heart, not just those who have an Armenian last name and speak Armenian. When people in Armenia are zombified to such an extent that a traitor like Pashinoglu who had 1,000 of their 18-20 year old sons killed and murdered by Turks can walk around in Yerevan unmolested – then no number of doctors, lawyers, …..will do any good. When a people have lost the highly necessary (for survival) trait of Hate, then they have become sheep or a herd of cattle.

    • hye hye Apr 25, 2021

      precisely this.

    • Arman Arman May 5, 2021

      One of the main reasons why we won the war was because we worked hard . We didn’t take any shortcuts, we didn’t give up. Az*ris had a far superior military and positioning, we could have went with LTP/Pashinyan way and given up the lands, but we chose to fight for 6 years straight until we becamse victorious. I agree, back then we had killers, we had real men that were down to fight under any condition, that is unfortunately something that we lack today.

      We don’t have enough intellectuals, if we did, they wouldn’t have let foreign funded outlets and Armenian traitors brainwash the majority of our nation. Foreign funded media outlets, like Azatutyun, CivilNet, EVN Report and many more have convinced the mass population that our war heroes are involved in corruption. They convinced the poor, that the reason they live under poverty is because of the rich stealing from them. Unfortunately, for more than two decades we didn’t have any platforms that would expose these lies on a national level. Instead, many of our leaders became geghtsis like Doddi Gago and Nyemets Rubo who did the complete opposite.

      In Russia for example, they have many intellectuals like Vladimir Solovyov, Mikhiev, Bagdasarov, Kurginyan who have their own shows and media outlets on national TV and the internet, where they constantly expose SorosaMobs that you just mentioned. They also constantly instill Russian nationalistic values to their viewers, something that our leaders also failed to do so. There is a reason why Putin has a 70% approval rate, over the years he has built many classic and modern media platforms where intellectuals have had his back through debates and other platforms.

      Now in terms of producing scientists, engineers, lawyers etc. Let’s observe the Jewish community, specifically the Ashkenazi Jewish community. Making up just the 0.0019% of the Earths population they have achieved by far the most in the fields of science, engineering, medicine, law, entertainment since 1948. Jews produced more Nobel Prize winners, Fields medalists, Turing Award winners, world-renowned lawyers in this period of time than any other nation. And while making huge strides in these fields they also managed to keep their national identity. That is why for a nation that went through a holocust and faced oppression for many years before and even after World War 2, managed to build a country like Israel. A country that not many would dare to mess with. For a nation with a similar history and population size, we are not even in the same stratesphere as the Jews, in terms of these accolades. And I personally think we should work towards that, instead of playing victim and protesting all the time.

      I absolutely agree with you that we need killers, Manvel Grigoryan was a hero, and it’s a shame what happened to him. I agree with you that there needs to be way more nationalism within Armenians, otherwise globalism will bring end to our nation. That being said we also need to learn from the mistakes of our leaders, and try to improve going forward.

  9. kfeto kfeto Jun 12, 2021

    You Armenians are like sheep, make a lot a noise bleating, but you go where you’re driven, slaughtered when needed, hell, when some degenerate shepherd even feels like it, you get …..

  10. Bedros Bedros Jun 12, 2021

    The Armenian nation (Armenia and the diaspora) should focus on military inventions and systems for export and to defend the homeland. Put opera, classical music, ballet, literature, and art in general in the back seat. Make the homeland untouchable first. Emulate tiny Singapore which has unfriendly and jealous neighbors.

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