Raffi Hovannisian: 2005 State-Of-The-State Address

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October 24, 2005



May 30, 2005 Yerevan

They are born to prove,
That the end becomes a beginning somewhere.
They are born to prove,
That there is no miracle,
There is only necessity.
They are born to prove,
That all bravery starts,
Where every means comes to an end.
Paruir Sevak

Distinguished delegates and guests, Ladies and gentlemen:

I am thankful for the warm words and good wishes expressed from this high podium. I am also grateful for the huge and inspiring confidence shown by the Congress' honorable delegates who have nominated me for the responsible position of Chairman of the Heritage Party. I feel obliged to carry the high mission of serving the Motherland with united force, a responsibility left us by our forebears, a calling which contemporary demand has made the order of the day.

The wealth of the Armenian people's centuries-old civilization, a richness that has passed from one generation to the next, today reaches us like a golden river. It nourishes us stream by stream, and makes us rightfully proud of our ancestors' heroic deeds and creative talent. It reminds us of the words of the great Father of History, Moses of Khoren: "Although we are a small flower bed in limited number and on many occasions we have fallen under the rule of foreign empires, there are nevertheless brave deeds in our world, deeds which are worthy of recording and commemorating."


It is our supreme duty to assume that legacy. I am proud and confident that the joy and readiness of accepting it abide among the determined souls who have gathered in this hall; that none of us is alone, privileged, or subordinate. I am happy that, by its name and mission alike, the political force which has moved to take charge of the light and darkness, the pomp and misery of our past and present as one inseparable whole, is in tune with the order of the day: to become master of Armenia's heritage. It is necessary to reassess it, at once laying today the foundations of the desirable tomorrow and bequeathing to the generations to come a perpetual and proud new legacy: a free, independent, renewed, and prosperous Armenia. This is our collective priority: Let us build our tomorrow today. Let us build it without either disowning or unduly advertising our both rich and difficult heritage. Let us create it, not by means of lofty promises or charming speeches, but through daily hard work and diligence. And let us always remember the true words spoken by ?former US president Teddy Roosevelt: "It is not the critic who counts... The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Dear compatriots,

Heritage's current Congress is being convened during a month which is definitively symbolic for the Armenian people. May is the month of the Battle of Avarair, the struggle for our national identity. It was the result of the triumph at the Battle of Sardarapat in May 1918 and similar heroic battles that finally, after struggling and suffering through the centuries, by the blood of its liberty-loving sons the Armenian people united to regain its independence on May 28. And in 1945, hundreds of thousands of Armenians took their rightful part in the victory over fascism. That too was in May, our indelibly-etched May 9, which also marks the landmark liberation of Armenian Shushi. Glory to all those heroes, one of whom, General Arkadiy Ter-Tadevosian, is among our Congress' guests of honor. Freedom-craving Artsakh's courageous sons, Marshals Hovhannes Baghramian, Hamazasp Babadjanian, Sergey Khoudiakov-Khanperiants, and Admiral Hovhannes Isakov were on the first lines of offense against the pestilence of fascism. In achieving victory, it was the national spirit and the historic memory of their genocide-subjected Motherland which gave them strength. Armenians, and particularly the Artsakh Armenians, knew very well the price being "paid," because they were living not only in a huge empire but, much worse, in a small "subordinate empire" formed within the Soviet Union. At the sunset of the USSR, shoulder to shoulder with their country, these heroic Armenians shattered the chains of dictatorship. And at that pivotal time for Artsakh's survival, which again was in May, the Armenians' powerful defense brought the aggressive empire to its knees. And yet it preferred peace; we all remember that on May 12, 1994, Azerbaijan was compelled to sign a ceasefire accord with the Republics of Armenia and Mountainous Karabagh. Through that agreement, a fragile peace is maintained at the Azerbaijani-Karabagh line of contact to this day.

And so May is a month of survival and redemption, of peace and rediscovery of our national character. But together with that historical heritage, we have the sanctified tombs of our martyrs, we have Yerablur, another oppressive yet compelling, bitter yet heroic heritage, a legacy that motivates new feats for the building of peace--in eternal memory of the fallen and for the longevity of the living. In a moment of silence, let us pay our respects to all of our heroes, both famous and unsung, who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the Homeland and the dignified continuity of its generations.

History is an organically-linked and tightly-braided weave which relates a variety of episodes from the heroic, everyday, and sometimes even unwanted realities of our people. It is time for us to accept our history as it is, without attaching a deadly stigma to any of its pages or proclaiming any portion of the historic legacy unacceptable. Unfortunately, the opposite trend often looks for fertile soil among us. By seeing it merely as a gift of destiny, we should not reject the first Republic of Armenia, which became the pioneer of our enduring survival. We should not issue a blanket condemnation of Soviet Armenia, renouncing the traditional good that remained both from it and its dissident movement. And we should not defame the present, despite its many vices. Had the first Republic of Armenia not existed, then the second Republic would have not come to be. And then, just like others, we too could at best have been an autonomous area inside the Soviet Union, always longing for liberty and independence. Even as part of the Soviet Union, its imperialistic symptoms, nation-assimilating policies, and the cruel forced exile of 1937 notwithstanding, we once again found ourselves, our national spirit, and our special way to enrich our heritage and make our country prosper. At the very beginning, we were weak and could not prevent Mountainous Karabagh's and Nakhichevan's unjust alienation from Armenia. However, toward the middle of the Soviet empire's lifespan the people stood tall upon its land, and during the time of the USSR's collapse rediscovered the temporarily-lost values of its National Will. The precedent of the first Republic of Armenia and the longing for a sovereignty cut short were at the very heart of the contemporary movement for Armenia and Karabagh. And, indeed, there was the necessary grounding for the independence of Soviet Armenia: that was the legal opportunity afforded by the USSR. This is why I underscore the unbreakable connection among all of Armenia's republics and, while encouraging self-criticism, stand against the division of history or the historic heritage. In this light, we are at once conservative and progressive. I want to believe that my Heritage colleagues join in this judgment of history.

This is but a part of our heritage, and the nation perceives and remembers it in its entirety. Both in 1998 and 1999, some questioned the people's vote for Karen Demirchian who had earned the popular title of "builder." But the reason was simple: in the days of the Soviet empire he developed his country to the extent possible and in the way that he pictured it, and in 1988 he understood that the will of the people was paramount and hence gave in to it. Subsequently, some people were "astonished" at the enthusiasm over the "Unity" alliance led by Mr. Demirchian and Vazgen Sargsian, the modern-day Sparapet, or Supreme Commander, of all Armenians. Once again, the explanation is evident: they were the reflectors, builders, and defenders of the legacy reserved for their time. Consequently, it is all the same; political distinctions and demarcations notwithstanding, the people will remember, revere, and learn from all the devoted guardians, old and new, of Armenia's heritage--Aram Manukian, Garegin Nzhdeh, Andranik, Dro, beloved Catholicoi Vazgen I and Karekin I, as well as Karen Demirchian, Vazgen Sargsian, Yuri Bakhshian, Ruben Miroyan, Mikael Kotanian, Armenak Armenakian, Henrik Abrahamian, and Leonard Petrosian who fell to the bullets of criminal cowards at the National Assembly on October 27, 1999.

Today, it is a joyous occasion for us, the members of Heritage, to welcome Greta Mairik (Mother), who gave life to the Sparapet of an entire nation. It fills us with emotion and hope to see among our ranks the honorable Anahit, Yuri Bakhshian's comrade-in-principles and beloved partner in life. Let us pay our respects to them once more and receive strength from all of our martyrs, whose spirit continues to soar above the Armenian world.

Yes, complete with its accomplishments and setbacks, our heritage is indeed one common essence. And the important thing is that by respecting and tolerating, helping and supporting one another, we, the bearers of that heritage, must likewise see ourselves as one interconnected entity with common aims and aspirations: Armenia's strengthening, democratization, real independence, and the welfare of man and woman alike. Once and forever, the success of each individual must accrue to all, and the triumph of all must belong to each and every one of us.

In history, there are no sole owners of national heritage. All of us, together, hold the measure of our historic pulse. We are the masters of this remaining piece of land called Motherland; we are the scribes of a living past called history; and we are the keepers of a national treasure called culture. The cornerstones for all this are our national spirit and the heritage that guides our potential for power. I see Heritage at the forefront of those forces which bear an unshakable national will that nourishes and empowers, which consolidate our statehood--the main political institution guaranteeing our collective liberty, independence, and sovereignty--and which unconditionally serve the interests of every citizen, all the people, and the entire nation.

Our primary duty is to make each citizen of Armenia become the master and carrier of the heritage left to the current generation, so that he might defend, cherish, and enrich this legacy with his own strength, mind, might, and unshakable dedication. This is the truth, and no matter how easy the solution might seem, it still requires perseverance, willpower, prudence, wisdom, and unity. And all of this today, otherwise it will be too late, because time is crucial in this continuously changing world where each and everyone is in such a hurry. We have no right to delay; delaying is tantamount to decisive surrender. But let us not forget these wise words either: "Time is precious, but what is more precious is the truth."

Precious friends at arms,

Today, in proposing my chairmanship, you delegate to me the difficult but honorable task of surmounting these problems. And if my thoughts coincide with your own concerns, then we are companions made for each other and for our common quest. Holding that belief, I trust I have your full support and undivided solidarity. This would allow us together to realize the supreme mission of passing down our heritage to its rightful owners, the people, so that they will finally receive all that which really belongs to them, and not to a few high-level personalities who see themselves as privileged and who have "privatized" the domain of the nation. Our principal duty is ourselves preventing the pillage of our heritage or at least clearing the road for those who can. And if that calling has fallen upon us, then let us provide our answer. Is there a committed determination to solve the multitude of accumulated problems? And are we ready to combine forces to overcome the impediments that lie ahead? It was William Penn who said: "No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown."


Standing at the juncture of this fateful mission, I see my role first in returning to the people the sense of higher values--Motherland, nation, statehood, and the human citizen. Accordingly, Armenia's domestic and foreign policy must be anchored in the Armenian Republic's sovereignty, the nation's unity, the citizen's liberty, and the rule of his rights. Now, allow me to outline the bases of the Heritage program.

Nationwide, we transform our Homeland from being an instrument for personal use to a dynamic force on the path of faith, hope, commitment, and truth. Its boundless essence is empowering, and our reverence toward it sacred and unconditional. This is the criterion for all spheres of life--spiritual, national, societal, family, and individual.

Liberty, both personal and collective, for all elements of society, is the value supreme. Without liberty there can be no real development or security, knowledge or creativity, tiller or intellectual, village or town, dignity or future.

The president is the carrier of trust of the body politic, the pointer of the way, shareholder in the common destiny. The president does not bear false witness to the people, who are the source of his authority. He contemplates no interest other than that of the nation. He is accountable to the public and in communication with it. He is answerable with his honor, his name, his life, before the law. The office of the President is not a gift to one's own self.

All branches of power must be distinctly separated yet united in the duty to guarantee freedom for the country and its citizens. The citizen, individually and as a controlling concept, deserves full respect and, together with the president, is subject to the rule of law alone. The executive, legislative, judicial, and unfettered informational estates are, in check and in balance, guided by this principle.

The government, in coordinating the domains that touch upon the national interest and that require federal concern, is the foremost facilitator of civil liberties. It is streamlined, flexible, rapidly responsive, and free of extraneous, burdensome bureaucracy. The provincial governors, the mayors of Yerevan and other cities, and local self-governance structures must be elected and subjected to compulsory electoral recall. In each and every field of public service, the official treats the citizen with due regard, applying rules and regulations equally to friends and strangers. The official is professional and courteous, conscientious and adequately paid. Diligent performance of his or her authorized duties is an essential part of the normal daily work. Any violation of ethics or any conflict of interest, whether derived from good or from selfish intention, is subject to the highest measure of liability provided by law. In terms of surmounting corruption, what is needed are personal example; political will; amendment of legislation to enable the formation of an independent investigative and prosecutorial body that starts with the presidency and moves down through every nook and cranny of the administration and society; application of mechanisms for citizen empowerment and public oversight; and finally, broad popular support to stand together against the inevitable reactions of violence from affected quarters both in and out of government.

The economy is a country's unique equation of national and free-market relations. Self-serving or rhetorical attempts to bring these two components into conflict are artificial and lacking in integrity. A strong, developing, competitive economy correlates inherently with global systems, at once maintaining its own profile and dynamic. In this arena as well, liberty is key, and the government endeavors at capacity to guarantee the right of free economic activity under the law. Tax rates reflect the most modest necessities of national and local budgets, not the immodest appetites of individual officials. Every one pays taxes pursuant to law, and rates decrease as collection becomes universal. Corruption, in all forms and manifestations, is prosecuted with the ultimate legal gravity. All this assumes a new system of democratic governance, which also facilitates the entrance of newcomers into the market, protects all legal investments and enterprises, and establishes a reliable infrastructure of guarantees for Armenian and other investors.

Science, education, modern technologies, national culture and sport no longer are mere items on populist political platforms. They are realms of individual and group discovery, and intersections between traditional values and current conditions, which comprehend both the perils of just marking time and the unlimited potential for progress and development in the millennium. Armenia indeed enjoys all the prerequisites for becoming the regional center for high technology. These and related areas become the competitive field where Armenia's new generation stakes its claim, hoists the flag, and radiates its pride. It is time to prepare the ground for this by way of a multidisciplinary strategy anchored in individual initiative and state support.

National security and international relations are interconnected concepts, neither of them an end unto itself but rather both as avenues to secure private freedoms and public aims. It is here that the state's sovereignty and the nation's interest are paramount priorities. Whatever is required to defend our newly recovered sovereignty and to realize our vital interest becomes the sole decisive standard, deeply rooted and always stable. The institutional warranty of this national imperative is our compact armed forces; its basis and solidarity is society itself, unarmed but well protected. Armenia and the Armenian people are prepared to address matters of historical justice and modern controversy in an open, genuine, and purposeful manner. We are ready and waiting--with one and with all. Any peace program, economic incentive, prospect for cooperation is neither objective nor realistic without a comprehensive resolution of divisive issues, albeit brought to bear in gradual implementation. Fully cognizant of our rights and interests, we wish well to others near and far. The internal status quo, on the other hand, calls for immediate change. Armenia is master of a unique identity forged through a long history and now possessing a contemporary agenda. It is indeed a complex identity, God and us as witnesses. A rich cultural heritage; fateful orientations dictated by the strategic geopolitical contours of the Armenian Plateau; Genocide notwithstanding, the aspiration to normalcy and good relations with all neighbors; Asian correlations and Middle Eastern derivations; Slavic-Soviet birthmarks turned fraternal; and, significantly, the espousal of enlightened European and fundamental human values. In these niches of identity, we seek neither enemy nor scapegoat. Simply, we are preserving what is our own. If we have failed or if we have been deceived, we are at fault; and when we have conducted ourselves correctly, we have been worthy of credit.

Distinguished delegates, guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Since 2003, the current administration unfortunately has squandered all available opportunities to achieve the necessary breakthrough and to muster the nation's potential, and it has missed all terms and conditions of accreditation. Today, a fundamentally new quality of governance and essential value changes in all directions, both horizontal and vertical, are compulsory for Armenia. It has been said that "the one who holds power always has to remember three things: First, he is the ruler of people; second, he is the ruler under the yoke of law; and third, he will not rule forever." Neither a continuation of the destructive inertia of the current state of affairs, nor a mechanical change of power, nor even a photocopied revolution can serve as a true alternative for our state system. The top imperative on Armenia's agenda is a system-wide democratic transformation of its civil, national, and state bodies and institutions, particularly now and for the new era's full duration.


As the saying goes, "No fortress can be compared with the people's trust." If people were given the opportunity to form their own government, if our ship of state were anchored in the collective will, then today the gap between society and authority, the mutual disdain and distrust would all be ruled out. Returning power to the people is not an end unto itself. That is the only way for the body public, whether tiller or teacher, peasant or intellectual, laborer or scientist, to become the master of its own rights, destiny, Motherland, and heritage entire.

Under the current conditions in which society is widely disregarded and alienated, when instead of "by the people" elections are held according to customs and "mentalities" of vice and because of which people vote "with their feet" by taking the road to exodus, we cannot play even the smallest role in the region, find our place under the sun, and stop an emigration flow that now threatens national security. I attach importance to two supreme goals which are closely interconnected in this sense: Homecoming and National Revival.

Dear friends,

You know that I "returned home" in 1990, when Armenia's independence was not yet declared. Even then, however, I deeply believed this to be inevitable. I came back also in order to quench my longing for our ancient land and to make my long-standing aspiration to become a proud citizen of the Republic of Armenia come true. Back when I was a child, the yearning for a statehood once lost, the belief in its restoration and commitment to fight for it were imparted to me by my grandfathers Kaspar, who served with General Andranik, and Hovakim, a volunteer in Keri's 4th Brigade, and my patriotic grandmothers Khnkeni Kotcholosian and Siroon Hovannisian. My parents Richard and Vartiter played an immeasurable part in the choosing of my life' s path and the forming of my worldview. Growing up in a family of renowned intellectuals, a historian and a physician, I learned early on to examine every given subject analytically, to approach it with a comprehensive view crystallized by a free competition of rational options, well-measured responsibility and collective creativity, and never to come up with hasty decisions. It was perhaps the counsel of my elders which nudged me toward the double specializations of Armenian History and Near Eastern Studies at the University of California. Upon graduation I studied at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where I became strongly interested in law and rights, diplomacy and the foreign policies of communist countries. With my father's record as guide, I wanted to find my Motherland in history and in reality, and to learn about it as much and as profoundly as possible. Ever since my first visit to Armenia in 1970, I have desired and then lived the joy of coming home, knowing full well that the same return is cherished by thousands of Armenian families across the world.

Fortunately, the "iron curtain" of the Soviet empire exists no more. However, there are other large and small "curtains" which have been, and are currently being, myopically raised by the country's authorities, thus causing artificial hardships for all homecomers--whether they are current or former citizens of Armenia, Eastern or Western Armenians, American-born or Russian-speaking, whether Apostolic, Catholic, Protestant, or from Hamshen. And what is left is simply to admonish in Balzac fashion that "authority makes only the great ones grow, and leaves ordinary people as they are in nature." This matter requires a complex solution, and it must be resolved by our generation.

Undoubtedly, that which keeps us Armenian is the family, which also is the foundation for the strength of state. The Armenian family of today is living in the hardest of times. Because of the dire social conditions, many traditionally strong Armenian families either have fallen apart or are on the verge of collapse. Many fathers and even mothers are wandering about foreign countries with the hope of supporting their families from abroad, and the critical concern of raising the children is left to the whims of chance. The way out is not only in the creation of dignified work conditions, but also the establishment of justice and the rule of law and the erection of public barriers against the country's endemic corruption and the criminal elements that have become one with the authorities. The nation 's revival and its grand homecoming can be guaranteed only in this way. Today more than ever, we also need a unique spiritual homecoming, a renaissance of the values of our ancient faith, culture, and civilization, which would then enable the assumption and realization of an altogether modern mission in the region and beyond.


In this context, I would like to say a few words on the imperative of reassessing our place and role in the region and evaluating the current problems under the scope of the solutions offered by today's civilized world. The wars, genocides, and conflicts in the region have, in varying degrees, distanced us from one another. And despite occasional attempts to escape from home and set sights on other parts of the planet, we all continue to live in the same geographic home. There have been and always will be divisive issues. All we have to do is to find the strength to solve those issues ourselves, without waiting for others to impose solutions on us or to establish in our place law and order in the Caucasus.

It appears that each of us, in our own way, has become a hostage of historical mistakes. Some are afraid of the past, some of the future, and some of the shadows of both. The reality, however, is that unreconciled conflicts and disputes existing in the region are our common legacy, and we are its masters. Consequently, with united force, our country and its neighbors must fill the gaps left throughout history and not redirect them to the generations next in line. It is appropriate now to outline a draft resolution of the Mountainous Karabagh conflict, which I have set forth in a ten-point plan. It is my conviction that reaching mutual agreement on them will trigger the possibility to resolve all outstanding problems connected with regional security and cooperation, guarantees for lasting peace, uninterrupted operation of transport and communication avenues, and the return of refugees from all sides. Those points of departure are as follows:

First: Respecting Artsakh's right to freedom, self-determination, and decolonization without predetermining its final international status. The Republic of Mountainous Karabagh is self-determined in correspondence with all criteria of international law. Sound reasoning reminds us that Mountainous Karabagh's past status cannot be seen as a benchmark for tomorrow. Accordingly, it is not necessary to predetermine Artsakh's final international status. Stating that independence cannot be recognized and instead spreading militaristic propaganda, as Azerbaijan does, means from the outset rejecting the Artsakh Armenians and the authorities representing them. It is crystal clear that choosing such an avenue is tantamount to leading the negotiations to an impasse. Our task is to rule out recurrence of past precedents and to have confidence in the process. And if despite all this Baku continues to demonstrate an impetuous demeanor or show its teeth, then official Yerevan's formal recognition of the Republic of Mountainous Karabagh should not be excluded.

Second: Securing Mountainous Karabagh's participation in the process set to determine its future. Sooner or later everyone will come to understand that the solution will not become a reality as long as Mountainous Karabagh does not participate in the discussions entailing its future. At least history has proven that no matter how much some want to disregard it, Artsakh is a player nonetheless. If democracy is to be our way of life, then the logic of democratic processes must be respected, and this logic presumes participation of all parties. And it is not too difficult to grasp that Artsakh as a separate party must likewise be incorporated into the talks. History does not obligate, but rather reminds us that there are no recognized or unrecognized states. They either exist or do not exist. It is one or the other.

Third: As a small step to promote mutual trust, proposing the exchange of a portion of Fizuli with eastern Martuni and northern Martakert, both of which to this day remain under Azerbaijani occupation. Consequently, the demilitarization process and the return of refugees that would follow could turn into a unique, real, and psychological trigger to a precedent for peace.

Fourth: In case of success, continuing with the exchange of Shahumian and Getashen for a commensurate section of Aghdam.

Fifth: With the combined efforts of international monitors, opening routes leading to international communication pathways, thus connecting the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Artsakh, Armenia, Nakhichevan, Turkey, and the Black Sea. The terms of operation for all those avenues, from beginning to end, must be agreed and governed according to one uniform supervisory authority. By deliberately keeping the borders closed, the regional countries must not become an impediment to their own and others' progress. By bringing their share in regulating relations, open roads will also steer new domestic interests toward economic development.

Sixth: In the meantime, clarifying the possibilities for filing a legal action with the International Court of Justice. Understandably, the question of rights should be resolved in the political arena. Nonetheless, we should also not rule out the favorable implementation of other methods, especially under the light of the "law-based" rhetoric periodically voiced by Azerbaijan and Turkey. And the ground for this starting point is the determination of tribunals and preparation of the relevant files.

Seventh: Ensuring democratic elections in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Artsakh. A number of pivotal provisions which have proven their validity throughout history should be considered with this issue, which is no less urgent than all the previous points. Democratic elections mean a mandate based on public confidence. Leaders who are elected in this way would disperse public distrust, and all solutions would be examined with them openly and publicly. When calling for democratic elections, we of course mean the establishment of democracy in the three countries, and it is this culture that would resolve all kinds of confrontations without violence or violation. Democracy, on the other hand, is a multi-participatory process, and when searching for alternative solutions, it allows for the representation of the interests of all groups. And such solution is a warranty for stable and enduring peace.

Eighth: Establishing diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia. Perceived as almost the same entity as Azerbaijan and seen as one of the conflicting parties, Turkey, most unfortunately, has adopted a biased stance since 1990. I will discuss the intricacies of Armenian-Turkish relations later on, but for now I would merely say that such a stance by Turkey, which is one of the region's important players, does not at all favor the resolution of the problem of mutual Armenian-Azerbaijani mistrust and the overcoming of existing and potential strains. It is manifest that when it comes to Mountainous Karabagh, it is virtually impossible to find a firm, lasting, and equitable solution without parallel regulation of the landmark relationship, or lack thereof, between Armenia and Turkey. This regulation should be based on the acknowledgment of history and contemporary values.

In this connection, I attach importance to the ninth point which is derived from the mutual trust that diplomatic relations entail, that is, the final resolution of all outstanding communication, economic, ethical, ethnic, legal, territorial, and border issues which still remain among Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Republic of Mountainous Karabagh. This requires of all sides a mature commitment to sealing a comprehensive regional conciliation.

And lastly, based on the foregoing, guaranteeing the rightful return of all refugees and their heirs to their places of origin: Azerbaijan, Artsakh, Nakhichevan, Armenia, and Turkey. It is an evident truth that the road toward resolving the Mountainous Karabagh conflict and settling the Armenian-Turkish relationship passes through mutual trust. And one such step in that direction should be the guaranteed right of a safe return for refugees and their progeny. And I mean refugees of all nationalities. The Azerbaijanis must be given the chance to return to their places of origin in the Republic of Mountainous Karabagh and surrounding areas. And concurrently, the Armenians also must have the right to return to their homes in all relevant directions, including Artsvashen, Gardmank, and elsewhere under the control of the Azerbaijani armed forces. And finally, this accord must likewise guarantee the rightful return of refugees and their heirs to their historic homeland situated in the contemporary territory of Turkey. If this matter encompasses only one group or direction, then the question of other groups or directions must also be clearly addressed. Through gradual but coordinated steps, all sides which once were seen as a source of regional danger and violence must now prove that they are prepared to be tolerant toward others, including the smallest of units. Only then will reciprocal faith and common confidence be restored.

These approaches are mutual concessions; they are constructive and in the interests and aspirations of the conflicting countries and the international community. Hence they are realistic, honest, and in the spirit of the third millennium. It is unfortunate, however, that in the freedom-loving world, including in Europe, the challenges and aspirations of the liberty-longing Armenians of Artsakh are sometimes improperly understood or reflected upon in various reports and policy presentations. It follows that we need to ponder and formulate an all-inclusive doctrine; we do not need to be cunning and deceitful, or turn Armenian society against the international community, which in turn leads to Armenia's disappointment in the world's indifference to our trials and tribulations and the triumph of historical justice. However, in order to prevent our tragic history's repetition in the new millennium, the very same united Europe is now making an attempt to avoid the bitter experiences of the 20th century. And at times we even bear witness to how Europe attempts to offer new solutions to the major mistakes of the past. And within that framework, the Armenians of Artsakh must also come out and seek justified answers which, of course, might be various.

All that remains is a realistic approach by all the parties which, judging by the modern-day propaganda machine of Azerbaijan and Turkey, is currently absent. When it comes to war, we must demonstrate time and again that Armenia is never the aggressor and will always take the initiative for the sake of peace.

Together with my family, friends, and Anahit Bakhshian, I recently visited the corridor situated between the Republics of Armenia and Mountainous Karabagh which had been liberated from a regime of peril, horror, and cluster bombings. It is hard to convey the feeling of pride we felt at the heroic deeds of the Motherland's courageous sons who defended the Armenian identity in that forgotten corner of our patrimony. We marveled at the bravery and spirit of those few who are living there today, in a corner of their historical homeland. However, admiration aside, there were many problems as well: the inhabitants receive little public attention, living conditions are harsh, and it was repeatedly painful yet understandable that their Azerbaijani neighbors are not there. It was so fulfilling to see that in contrast with Armenian historical monuments that are "in captivity" within the frontiers of unfriendly neighbors, the cemeteries and monuments abandoned by the Azerbaijanis have remained intact and untouched. We Armenians are not perfect either, but when compared with Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Nakhichevan, we obviously are more tolerant and respectful not only of our own, but also of the historic memory and cultural heritage of others.


I would now like to speak about the future of the Armenian-Turkish relationship. The Armenian Genocide and its final act turned ninety last month. The lack of recognition, redemption, and "closure" for this defining watershed for Armenians and Turks alike has been driven by power politics and the hedging of history, aggressive revisionism and a strategic incapacity of the perpetrators, the victims, and their generations to call it like it is and move beyond.

The lessons, risks, and dangers flowing from the Genocide and its contemporary continuation are all the more poignant because the Armenian case was not only the physical murder of most individuals making up the nation, but also the violent interruption of its way of life, and forcible expropriation of its homeland of three millennia. This stands in sharp contrast with the Holocaust and accounts in part for the denialist behavior of the Ottoman Empire's successor regime, the quest for justice and personal integrity of the battered and scattered Armenian survivors, and the vicissitudes of international diplomacy.

The legal, ethical, educational, material, and territorial components of this landmark catastrophe have proved too complex a challenge for any party or power to meet. It is the truly unique underpinning of the Armenian experience that accounts in large measure for why a historical, world-documented nation-killing remains in suspense to this day and continues to serve as an instrument for polemics, politics, and a variety of "national interests."

The absence of a meeting of modern Turkish and Armenian hearts and minds means a history that is off limits but ever present, a frontier that is undelimited but closed, and a relationship (or lack thereof) that is hostage to the heritage of homeland genocide. It is this very relationship between Turkey and Armenia and their constituencies that is the key to creating a brave new region where the interests of all players converge to form a single page of security and development. And if honestly and efficiently forged, it is this relationship that should become the foundation for the strengthening of respective sovereignties, for cooperation in matters of education, culture and historical preservation, for an enduring peace in Karabagh, Nakhichevan, and the broader neighborhood, for open roads, skies and seas, and for the guaranteed choice of a rightful return of all refugees and their progeny to their places of origin.

As it stands, however, an unrequited past still doubles as an unsettled present, leaving unchecked and unpredictable the many future impediments to peace, stability, and reconciliation. How long can this commingling of tenses go on? How can all concerned frame a process for a resolution of substance? Can the heirs to Turkish perpetration translate self-interest into seeking atonement, and can the descendants of the great Armenian dispossession agree to move on? Will our children ever see the light, let alone reflect back from the heights of the post-Genocide world?

Turkey's and Armenia's initially separate paths to European integration might provide them one, perhaps penultimate opportunity against their own odds, to assume history, draw the line, and embrace a promising epoch as sound, if unlikely partners in regional and global affairs. New benchmarks, new leaders, and a new discourse are in order.

Continued official denialism notwithstanding, there has emerged in Turkey today a voice, still in the vast minority, seeking a brave reexamination of Turkish history, the foundations of the modern Turkish state, and Turkish-Armenian relations in particular. These beginnings of a crack in the official wall of silence are gradually approaching the seminal crossroads of the Armenian Genocide. Unbeknown to them, this follows in the exceptional tradition of thousands of Turkish families who in 1915, at the risk of losing their own lives, endeavored to hide and save individual Armenians from certain death. My grandmother owed her life to one such righteous family of heroes, who to this day remain unsung because of the official Turkish dialectic.

Whether in Turkey or abroad, this new generation of compelling, liberated Turkish thought should be engaged on all levels. And yes, the potential Turkish and Armenian accession to the European Union should become the major causal thoroughfare for a truly European state coming to terms with history, a settlement of accounts, an inevitable normalization, and the joining of forces for regional security and cooperation--both as neighbors and as members of the EU. No one should be the odd man out.

Turkey and its people might properly assume this higher mission by looking truth in the eye and daring to turn a new page in Turkish-Armenian relations. We wish them every success and self-confidence in bridging this most monumental divide of their modern history. Apart but always in balance, independent Armenia and its people the world over must be strong and steady enough to stay the course, shed their light all about, and attain the redemptive day of truth's triumph--with distinction, determination, and dignity.

Fellow citizens,

As long as it has not surmounted its domestic problems, Armenia will never be capable of adequately responding to the multitude of challenges it currently faces. I approach with reticence the distinctions made between foreign and domestic politics and the differentiation between Karabagh and Armenian-Turkish policy. There is only one viable diplomacy, which is far-sighted, effective, and broadly planned, a diplomacy that is based on Armenia's vital interests and the political will of the people and takes the interests of all countries into exact account. We will always lose out if our political disposition serves the endeavors of others. And no matter how much it might not be fancied by others, a policy which is anchored in a nation's own interests, as a rule, is grasped and respected. Even if an attempt is made to influence your position, at least a chance for negotiations emerges and in that way the country becomes a factor and not an instrument. Otherwise, they negotiate not with you, but with the party whose orientation you serve, and all the while you are ignored, scorned, and even punished.

State, nation, society. This trinity sometimes compels different and flexible approaches, but at the same time they must flow from the same political source and must be pursued in all directions and domains--always in coordinated and purposeful fashion. The beacon and backbone of this formula is the state, and for that it must be legitimate, accountable to the people, rational, nationally self-confident, not provincially pompous. The Armenian state must finally reconcile its words and deeds, and must not superficially exploit either history or the present. Like all other national bodies, the state is simply an avenue for reaching the people, effecting their self-organization, and realizing their aspirations. Those bodies are for the people, and not the other way around. In this light, national security is paramount, and all the derivatives of our heritage are its inalienable components. And this means the security of all Armenians, no matter where they are--from Armenia and Artsakh to the large Armenian communities and isolated corners of the diaspora.


Together we can solve the whole package of ripe challenges which I have come to outline. It is only a capable leadership formed by the people's collective will and enjoying its vote of confidence which can lead the way out of the crises facing the country, a country where our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will come to live. We must pass on to them not our own YESTERDAYS, but the TOMORROWS they deserve. We are simply obliged to bequeath to the generations a free, democratic, and strong Armenia, where the nation's nucleus is made of real patriots and individuals of integrity, because only they can bring the nation together by unifying the parts and parcels of the Armenian nation scattered across the globe by the twists and turns of a fateful history. We do see the paths converging on that day, and we know the enormous efforts that are needed in order to build our tomorrow today.

Friends, colleagues, and coheirs,

We will use the coming months to promote Heritage and its message in the capital city and the provinces, and to disseminate and implement our platform and its every provision. All citizens of Armenia who enlist in Heritage will have the chance to take part in the party-building process in compliance with its conceptual criteria. If I become worthy of your choice, then I will convene an extraordinary Congress within the year during which the executive board, with a new chairman and members, will be elected under competitive conditions.

I invite those forces and individuals possessing conscience and will, and all believers in the Armenia of tomorrow, to join us right here and now, so that by prevailing in the constitutional referendum, local elections, and the nationwide polls to follow, step by step and stone by stone, we achieve our programmatic aims and strategic objectives. Our work is cut out for us. The time has come to move from long words on to tangible deeds and selfless feats. It was Confucius who said, "In times of stability, be bold in your words and cautious in your deed, and in times of instability, be bold in your deed and cautious in your words."

Whether it is personal, familial, or national, heritage is eternal. It transcends all time and occurrence. It is received from the past, obtains new meaning in the present, and is transmitted for safekeeping and enhancement to the future.

All of us shall fight for that future. Heritage is national: it is anchored in timeless values which have come to us from the depths of our centuries. And heritage is liberal: its calling is to bring physical and spiritual liberty to all. Our initial measure, and all those to come, will be to empower the people to become masters of the heritage that belongs to them, to return to them the power necessary for managing that heritage, and with that power to build, effective immediately, the new-century Armenia of our dreams.

I would like for Heritage's public debut to be in tune with the birth of Vahagn, which the same Father of Poets has bequeathed to us as a song from the minstrels of Goghtan, from creation to our decisive days:

The sky is turbulent, turbulent the earth, Turbulent the purple sea, And turbulent also the red reed in the sea.

Smoke curled out of the reed, Flame leaped out from the reed, And out of the reed a fair child came forth.

His hair glowed, His beard flamed, And his eyes were fiery suns.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We must call our common home--the Republic of Armenia, Artsakh, and the Diaspora--to order, urgently, fundamentally, and on the basis of the nation' s security. Our ideals for Armenia and the Armenian people are wholly different from what reigns today. In matter of civilization, culture, science, politics, economy, and security, we have things to resolve, to give and take from this world. Nationally, and with the twin peaks as witness, we have yet to arrive.

Storms and temptations, "the turbulent sky and earth," are still ahead. More than ever, we must be steadfast, iron-willed, in harmony, and worthy of our millennia-long creation and journey. Once and for all, we must acknowledge that all of us, without any exceptions, are accountable to the generations yet to come, and equal before the law. We must understand that it is time for work, for faith, for redeeming the trust once lost. Now let us arm ourselves with good words and deeds, honest analysis, and renewed dedication. Let us express our thoughts and stand behind them, argue from time to time, tolerate differing views, but when it comes down to our fundamental and far-reaching priorities, then let us be unshakable and at one with each other.

And so Godspeed, Armenian people, so ancient yet eternally youthful, it is with right, might, sovereignty, and dignity that we return home to Yerevan and to the four corners of our Republic. The Armenian nation today stands before the most vital turning point in its modern development. No one else is going to do it. It's ours to do, alone and together.