Mount Ağri (Ararat) is like ’the Ergenekon’, or ’the Gokturk Scriptures of the Armenians’. The Armenians believe that they are the descendants of the Noah’s children. According to an ancient Armenian belief, the Deluge was not only a tragic catastrophe for the Armenians, but also a great punishment and a test which came from the God. There are similar approaches in other Christian sects as well. But there are only a few who identify themselves with the Mount Ağri, or Ararat as they call it, as much as the Armenians do. First of all, the geographical proximity led to emotional proximity. This devotion may be, regardless of religion, due to the genetic transmission of the tradition of worshipping to the mountain.
This adoration can be observed in the Ottoman period or even before. The Mount Ağri, arising with its splendor, was perceived by the Armenians as a place to gather on its ’skirts’. But none of the moments in history has this adoration to the Mount Ağri been as “exalted” as today. The contemporary Armenians, so to say, deify the Mount Ağri. They only remember Armenianness and revenge fever when they see the Mount Ağri.
The current situation is not a good one and it is also not the result of a natural process. The secessionist Armenian movement that started before 1915 has sought help from many instruments such as terrorism, assassinations, military coup, riot and collaboration with the occupiers. The movement has never admitted defeat and the more it was defeated, the more aggressor it became. It wanted to stand up as it fell down and some time later, it turned out to get delight from pain. The Armenians were first exiled to the Middle East, then to Cyprus, to Europe and to other small regions. The feeling that the journey was not complete did not perish as the Armenians arrived at the final destinations like the U.S. and France. Perhaps, there has left no place to arrive at geographically, but the journey in the minds has severely continued. Some of them migrated first to the Caucasus and then to Russia. Moreover, their exodus still continues. The number of Russian Armenians who emigrated to the Western Europe and the Northern America after the end of the Cold War increases day by day.
Where is the motherland, where is the foreign land?
These two became fully mixed. An Armenia which doesn’t include the Mount Ağri is not perceived as a motherland.
It is hard for the Armenians to say “motherland” to an Armenia which excluded Van adn Agri.
Well then, will these wounds heal if Turks give Van and Ararat (the Mount Ağri)?
Is the issue that simple to say “what would you lose if you give us Ağri?” as the Armenian-origin French singer Charles Aznavour asked.
In Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet (May 14, 2006), the answer of Levon Ananyan, the chairman of the Armenian Writers Union, to Ece Temelkuran’s question reflects the same points:
“If you knew the meaning of Ararat (the Mount Ağri) to us, you would carry it here by lorries! It is a mountain for you, but it is our roots. We are an emotional community. You fear that we will demand Ararat, but it is a hearty issue for us.”
In short, we also see in Ananyan’s speech that Armenia is not viewed as the real motherland. He sees the issue as “the motherland is where Ararat is”. And what he doesn’t see is the fact that the Mount Ağri is very important to the Turks as well; that it is a hearty issue for the Turks too. This is because the Mount Ağri is also a homeland for the Turks. Just like Istanbul, Van or Izmir…
Frankly speaking, I find the Turkish approach much more sounder. The Turks know that they came from the Altay Mountains and the Central Asia. But they don’t need a mountain or a scripture to make somewhere homeland. They embrace and pay respect to the place they live in as homeland. Even if you carry lorries of soil from the Central Asia, it will not compare to Izmir for Turks. Same logic is also true in religious aspect. The Turks will not differentiate between Gallipoli and Mecca. Afyon is sacred, so is Ordu.
Another dimension of Armenian “disorder” is the Ararat compassion of Armenians in the Diaspora. The Ararat, which is seen from Armenia, can not be seen from California or Marseille (Diaspora). An overwhelming majority of Armenians in the U.S. or France have never seen Ararat and sat by the Van Lake. Most of them believe that they will be slaughtered if they come to Turkey. They dream of Van and Agri in such an “ignorance”. They name their shops with Anatolian cities. They set up football teams and name it Malatyaspor. I don’t know what the name of this disorder in psychology is. I call it “disorder”, because the words “homesickness” or “nostalgia” are weak for this situation.
The Armenia’s situation is lamentable today. Unemployment is over 30%. The population is still decreasing. The unemployed youngsters still emigrate. The Armenians, who have migrated at least 3-4 times since 1915, keep on moving. They not only seek job or food but also homeland. However, the homeland is the abandoned Armenia. They don’t even care about it. If millions of Armenians around the world had invested some billions of dollars each year, Armenia would have revitalized. Not only the emigration would have stopped but it would also have attracted migrations from Turkey.
As long as the Armenians look at the Turkish territories from Armenia and sigh, they will never have a homeland because the true homeland is where you live. It is where you show your sympathy for homeland. It is where you earn a living and live peacefully. The Armenians perhaps will gather, if not today, on the skirts of the Mount Ağrı in the future. But it will be never possible with this mentality. Let’s assume that they were able to obtain some land from Turkey through violence and fraud. They will not have a homeland even in this case because the Armenians don’t know what homeland means. If Turkey had given Ararat to Armenians, the Armenians would have only had a mountain, but they would have lost Ararat. If they had been given Van, they wouldn’t have settled there. They would have only had a lake but they would have lost “Vaspurakan”, because they don’t know the value of Van. Can those who don’t grasp the value of Armenia grasp the value of new lands? They live in a world of dreams. The yesterday’s pains are more appealing than today’s peace for them.
Assoc.Prof.Dr. Sedat Laçiner
Translated by : Abdi Noyan Özkaya