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Why Do Oppressed Nations Adopt a National Course?

The following was written by Hakob Manandyan and published in February 1906 by the Tiflis-based newspaper Arshaluys. Manandyan was a major historian of Armenian culture and one of the most renowned Armenologists of the 20th century. This translation was completed by Beyon Miloyan and appears for the first time in The Armenite.

In every country where there are oppressed subject nations, they are the first ones to demand the right to self-determination and self-development.

The impotent struggle of oppressed nations is exceedingly harsh and brutal, for they wage an asymmetric battle not only against the government of the ruling nation, but also its majority, which naturally possesses and benefits from special privileges authorized by its government.

If the working man is exploited and enslaved by the iron fist of capitalism, oppressed subject nations are afflicted by ruling political powers.

Weak subject nations are the “proletarians” of political tyranny, and in the rank of the oppressed populations of the “proletariat”, the Armenian has been the most persecuted to date.

The national dignity of the Armenian is disparaged and scorned, her national right to self-determination ridiculed and jeered, her very existence threatened.

The Armenian wants deliverance from that nightmare of national persecution, wants to breathe freely as a nation and proceed along its own course of national development. Whether she likes it or not, the Armenian is forced to be national, because she is an oppressed nation.

The Armenian is a “national” and not a “nationalist.”

“Nationalists” are those chauvinist fanatics of the ruling nation who knock and trample over oppressed nations’ rights and demands of self-development.

To confuse the “national” with the “nationalist” means to confuse the persecuted with the persecutor and the oppressed with the oppressor.

Is it necessary to still explain that the course of persecuted nations is not only not “nationalistic”, but also that it cannot be?

Our national course has an age-old history of struggle and countless sacrifices, and essentially our whole press has naturally followed this national course, even when it has asserted the opposite.

Not only among us, but wherever there are oppressed and persecuted nations, the consciousness of national interest and the struggle for self-determination are powerful and predominant, as we see for example in Austria-Hungary among the Slavic minorities and in the Russian Partition of Poland.

And so it is with us. The current policies of our oppressed and blood-stained nation can only be national.

That is an indispensable demand of our sad reality and our surrounding historical conditions.

Hakob Manandyan

February 23, 1906

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