The Best of the Boys are Leaving… Or Are They?

We have sung from childhood about living in a diaspora pining for the homeland. I have never felt the strength of this song until the day I sat down the kids of Gyumri during the AYF Summer Camp and along with some of the most patriotic people I know, sanf this song to them. My eyes filled with tears. I have gone away from my homeland, we sang, I have left my friends and family. We sand we will once again be reunited. Such an old concept and so very relevant to our days as well. The fire in my heart consumed me from that day onward, when the group of 100+ individuals of varying ages, 8-17 years old, stood up and gave a standing ovation, each moved by the sincerity in our voices. It haunted me for years and to this day is the single proudest moment of my life. It was also the song that took over my mind every time I visited Canada after my move to Armenia in 2013.

Today, it is another song that keeps me up at night and brings me to tears. It is another melody and other lyrics that fill my heart with longing, that batters at everything I have ever believed in. I watch them leaving. Gaggles and masses heading towards flight towards lands that promise rivers of honey and fountains of milk, leaving behind that very thing. Even writing these words, my eyes fill with tears. For with every individual who leaves, thinking the grass is greener on the other side, the land I have pledged to love and protect is left crying out in pain. Like a mother who cannot bear the sight of sending her child away, so is the pain felt by the country as a whole.

So now I sing,”The best of the boys are leaving, looking for their luck in other countries… leaving behind their loved ones and looking for something to fill the void from far away…” I sing that I am the world’s foolish lover and have friends more foolish than I. Boy is that true. For I am considered the fool in leaving behind Canada and coming home to Armenia, while the day’s migrations are taking the opposite route. How wrong you are my friends, but only time will show you exactly how wrong you are….

But are the best of the boys really leaving?

While it is true that many who head out towards the country that has allowed for Syrian refuge are indeed some truly incredible individuals, there are many who are staying put, understanding that while things look shiny from here, what glitters is not always gold. Some have already tried to take a different route, head up to Sweden or elsewhere, and have returned. Some simply do not even entertain the thought of walking away from the place they considered home from the day they were born. What gives me hope is seeing these boys and girls, these men and women, these children and adults who have a certain fire in their eyes and a longing to make things better with their own hands. They say that if you love someone, you let them go. If they come back, they were always yours, and if not… well, you know the rest. I’ve come back along with many others and we are here to stay. The best of the boys are not leaving it appears, but building a better Armenia! I raise a glass in gratitude for those who have not fallen to the lure of faraway lands and who have not lost hope here. They are the best of the boys in my eyes. It’s good to be living among you!



24 Years Later on a Golden Path: The Generation Born to Independence

I should start with a rather hearty congratulations sent out to every Armenian out there. Armenia is officially 24 years old, as of September 21, 1991. It is an incredible feeling really and I am more than just a little excited to see how the country will mark its 25th anniversary in the upcoming year.

While it may not seem like the country is very old (we have gone through so many regimes, changes in power and a mega metamorphosis over the years, making the multi-millennium old country appear no older than a mere teenager), it is clear that it is maturing at a very fast pace. Ups and downs put aside, this is a country where the most incredible things are happening every day, if only you know where to look. We are transforming into such a pretty butterfly, but one that lives for an eternity, not the type that dies within a few days. We will have our Golden Age come soon, a renaissance of sorts that will sweep the nation. First, however, we need the Independence Generation to mature a little more. They are, after all, a mere 24 years old, born in the days of homes quashed and rivers of sorrow. This is the generation that will bring about the best years this country has ever seen for they have nothing to compare with. These are the heroes of our future, the leaders who do not look back on Soviet days long gone, but to a bright and incredibly inspirational future. They are the seedlings who will bud into the most fragrant of roses, with thorns to warn off those who seek to overthrow their rule.

This brings to mind the tale of Vartevar and how the tears of Asdghig gave rise to roses thus healing the world of its sorrow, pain, anger and jealousy. The sun shines really bright these days really, brighter still than when I first move in 2013, years ago. The sun is warmer, the sky clearer and it appears that the blossoming roses are truly giving rise to a nation of positive energy, hardworking and beautiful, with a love for each other and their country that overflows from their hearts. It appears the tyrant has been slain and Asdghig’s tears turn to that of happiness, knowing that her own love has found roots in the generation born to independence. And who better to beam with pride than her lover, Vahagn, the very essence of the sun?

Independence is hard to come by but we have brought it about twice in the past 100 years. In 1918 we proved that we are ready to be free, to govern our own people in our own nation, without having to kneel. We brushed off our knees and stood tall, a feat that many could not have imagined being achieved only years before. In 1991 we once again joined hand in hand to ensure we have a nation, to ensure we save our language, our culture, our identities. We gave the vote that was overwhelming, nearly unanimous in the call for freedom from foreign regimes. We snatched our future from the hands of those who would have devoured us and thus paved our destinies with gold. Only, we failed to notice the value of the ground we walked on as we trudged forwards, forgetting that beyond the dirt, the grime, the sorrow and death was glittering warmth and a wealth that would be irreplaceable. Some failed to see because they kept looking backwards, some because they only looked to the sky. Today, however, that path is clearing, the snow is melting, the ice has become nearly nonexistent. There are still those who look back, still those who have yet to notice the gold on the ground because they are too busy looking up or to the sides where the same path does not exist, but the youth, the well-read and well-rounded, the generation belonging to the days of independence knows the truth. The sky is blue, the sun shines bright and just ahead of us the road is clear once more, the golden shimmer mirror the proud rays of the sun. The old gods and the new rejoice because Armenia is becoming whole once more, one steady step at a time. Now is the time before the rise of the Golden age and those who remain, those who dare to dream and can see beyond the fog, they will be the ones to create what will be the foundation for a new Armenia.

Happy Independence Day to our dearest homeland. May your Golden Age rival that of the most esteemed of countries in the world. May your children forever feel the call of the mountains you cave created to protect your land. And most of all, may the Independence Generation grow to become the most awe-inspiring and magnanimous of rulers, known for bringing peace and prosperity to our lands. Happy Independence Day and may you stay free for all the centuries and millennia to come!

How to be a right protester: 10 tips from Armenians

Haha! Pretty much!

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Hey! These days local and international media blow up with articles about protests against electricity price rise in Armenia. The protests started long ago, but finally people managed to take under their control one of the main avenues of Yerevan: Baghramyan avenue on which there are situated many important buildings such as the National Assemby and Presindential residence. It’s already the fifth day that a part of the avenue is closed and protesters remain there, they even sleep on the street during the night.

Of course the story started with violent actions of police, spraying machine and hundreds of arrested people, who then where set free and came back haha.

But my article is not about violence, it’s about our creativity in activism.

So what to do while you are protesting in Armenian style:

1. Be prepared for spraying machines, rain and other watery stuff like that: 


2. Be phisically…

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Standing Up for Their Rights: The Rise of #ElectricArmenia

The streets have been ringing with calls of miatsoum (Join us!) and alive with the excitement of the people who once again show hope in seeing a better future for days now. The hearts are beating, the eyes alight with a fire to see things change, and change for the good. This is no revolution, not in the sense that both Russian and Western media make it out to be. This is a call to those living in the country to stand up and show their own strength, for once feeling like they hold the power… and all of it done legally, peacefully, with heads held high and pride surging through their veins. The youth have awoken, this time coming to the streets better prepared to protest against a hike in electricity prices that essentially would make the poor even less likely to live a standard of life they are entitled to. As I see the crowds gathering in waves, waning during the peak times of day and the dead of night only to be bolstered with newcomers as the dawn breaks and dusk sets in, I hear myself singing a rather fitting song from Les Miserables:

Do you hear the people sing!
Singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

I most definitely am hearing the people sing, and dance as well! The unity among the people, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the MP and the waitress, the writer and the butcher – this is what Armenia is truly about. This is what #ElectricArmenia is about.

Armenians may divide among themselves, but as Gevorg Emin so aptly stated, when there is a threat, particularly from the outside, they will come together and fight alongside one another. In this case, the governing parties are not seen as one of the people; they are seen as enemies more so sometimes than Azerbaijan. While there are those uninformed who may call it an anti-Russian rally, or one which seems to take on the style of the Ukrainian revolution, the truth is that this is merely the local population grasping at an opportunity to make its voice heard, struggling for control over the way the people “elected” into power use the reigns given to them. After all, absolute power corrupts absolutely, they say. When the authorities begin to abuse their places, exploiting what is in their power for their own gains, or so it appears, those who initially dropped in their ballots will certainly rise to the occasion and remind said individuals that their power is truly not as absolute as they may think. In the meantime, they will certainly enjoy themselves to the maximum, including dancing Kochari in the middle of Baghramyan Street, sleeping on the hot asphalt, and playing chess while being cheered on by total strangers who feel suddenly like close family.

Raffi Suzy

Water Us and We Will Sprout and Grow

In response to the only show of violence seen throughout this protest, the 2.5 thousand became 10, and now we see ever increasing numbers on Baghramyan street, with new waves flowing in from Freedom Square. The diaspora stands in solidarity with those living in Armenia, raising its own voice to match the strength found in the boom that resonates throughout the country, beginning the hashtags of #ElectricYerevan, #ElectricGyumri, and #ElectricArmenia.

Of course, in response to the water cannons used to disperse the population camping out on the streets on June 23, those gathering on the 24th came in with their own precautions and entirely Armenian humour:

Setting the Record Straight


While we in Armenia know the truth, it appears that the police were indeed correct in stating that there are provocateurs among us in the crowds. These people include “journalists” spreading false propaganda:


Russian media is abuzz with the false information being transmitted, not only by apparent Armenians who are only Armenian in name, but also Ukrainians and Russians themselves who are warping the stories to present the appearance of an Armenian Maidan, while Turks and Azeris are using the propaganda machine for their own interests, some even stating their stance of solidarity in the “fight against the Armenian government.”

Of course, there are images which have us amused to no end as well, as spread by Russian sources. Apparently our Dear Kanye West is a Western provocateur here to encourage unrest. I doubt I’ve ever seen anyone so happy to be arrested though!

Of course, no “revolution” would be complete without love blooming – whether we are talking about the sudden revolt in Vancouver when Canada lost a game or the love of comrades in Les Miserables, the love the spurs the fight against the English for Braveheart or any of the other love stories that have captured the hearts of freedom-loving individuals everywhere.

Strong images from the past few days include:

               Celebrating Birthdays While Protesting – © Narek Aleksanyan

This brings to mind another of Emin’s incredible works, the Dance of Sassoun. “As Sassoun danced, the world was enthralled; as Sassoun danced, the world understood that this is no dance, but a country’s history where even the losses count as prideful victory; where nothing can defeat this ancient people, who with their efforts and with their wills know how to dance…”

Պարեց Սասունն, ու ողջ աշխարը հիացավ,
Պարեց Սասունն, ու ողջ աշխարը հասկացավ,
Որ պար չէ սա, այլ մի երկրի քաջ պատմություն,
ՈՒր պարտությունն անգամ ունի հպարտություն,
Եվ չի հաղթի ոչինչ այն հին ժողովրդին,
Որ այս ջանքով,
ՈՒ այս կամքով
Պարել գիտի…
Հասկացան ու ասին ի լուր ողջ աշխարի,
-Հալալ է քեզ,
Սասուն, պարի…

Guest Post: #TurkeyFailed Because I Live in Armenia and So Should You

As the World’s Armenian community gears up to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Ottoman turks, the hashtag #TurkeyFailed has been trending across armenian social networks. The phrase, usually followed by accounts of multi-generational survival, uploaded onto the web by Armenians is meant to empower the descendants of these genocide survivors. As photos of survivors, and their progeny are shared and commented on, we are reminded that though 1.5 million of our grandparents had been dehumanised, robbed of their birthrights, their possessions, marched into deserts and brutally massacred, yet the five hundred thousand or so who survived managed to, as William Saroyan so eloquently put it; “laugh, sing and pray again”; build “a new Armenia” in the four corners of the globe. They passed on as best they could their culture, traditions and language to a new generations of Armenians, now totalling over 7 million people.

However, declaring that Turkey Failed at this time would be similar to declaring victory over shark-kind while still floating in shark-infested waters: Though the immediate danger may have been averted, we, as a nation are not out of the woods yet. The fact that I need to write this piece in english, rather than Armenian in order to reach the majority of my compatriots living in dispersed communities around the globe attests to the fact that we have sacrificed a lot for survival; our language, culture, and traditions, are constantly being diluted despite our best efforts, as we continue to live in lands which we do not call our own, while the concept of a hyphenated Armenian becomes increasingly solidified.

In the 21st century, it is no longer enough for Armenian people to live with the hope of indefinitely preserving Armenian identity, language, culture and traditions in suspension in their newfound homes abroad. Despite hollow promises that we make to ourselves, that we are ready, at moments notice, to return to our ancestral land, how many of us are ready to leave our cosy city lives, our jobs, and the communities we helped reconstruct over 3 generations to go back to mud brick villages in eastern Anatolia? I can recall, the times when i was back in native Canada visiting family, discussing my new life in Armenia with local armenian friends, and finishing our conversations with the question “And when will you be joining me in Armenia?” to which I would always get an embarrassed response in the form of “some day”. Our lack of readiness to leave these comfort zones was most exemplified by the destruction of the well established Armenian communities in Iraq, and now Syria.

Turkey’s failure will only truly be complete when we secure the existence, and sustainability of the Armenian nation. This, of course, can only be done when the majority of those living in the Diaspora, who see the preservation of their cultural heritage, will begin to see the Republic of Armenia as a genuine option for establishing themselves, raising families, and contributing to.

Afterall, the job is not yet done. Our young republic, which we inherited 76 years after the genocide, still deals with many of the typical issues that a start-up nation, with a soviet legacy would be expected to. Armenia still struggles to fight corruption, imperfect democratic processes, economic stimulation, emigration, and the precarious nature of its geopolitical location. Despite all this, Armenia offers unique opportunities for those who wish to contribute. The country changes at an astonishing rate. Despite a century of separation, and contrasts between the soviet and diaspora experience, many repatriates are pleasantly surprised to discover how much they share with their local contemporaries.

Almost four years ago, wishing to bank on this opportunity, I made the move here, established a business, employ a modest number of people, and pay taxes to the State. I am setting the foundations for a family here, and live what can best be described as a ‘normal’ life. I say this not to invoke the envy of the readers, but to explain why, in my case at least, #TurkeyFailed. For the first time in 3 generations, on the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, a member of my family will be in Armenia. My hope is that my story wouldn’t be unique.

Those who, like me, wish to see, a strong, economically sustainable, democratic and forward looking homeland, as opposed to one that dwells in its past, should know that Armenia doesn’t need your money, or pity, Armenia needs you. Armenia needs Armenians to populate the country, contribute to its job market, its economic development, cultural institutions, and demanding political change.

Until independence, the common line was that, “As soon as we reestablish an Independent Armenia, I will the first on the plane over there”. This has only materialised for a small numer. Today, there no more excuses: Many opportunity exists for those who want to help complete Turkey’s Failure, and subsequently Armenia’s victory, but living here. Those who may want to reconnect with Armenia’s culture, can always make use of resources online, such as the Armenian Virtual College’s Armenian lessons; they can receive a world-renown education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at the American University of Armenia, or simply try out life in Armenia to see if it’s right for them, by applying for the 3 month professional internship programme at Birthright Armenia. Resources such as the Repat Armenia Foundation dedicate themselves to helping Armenians from the diaspora to reclaim their birthright, and establishing themselves in their homeland. The possibilities are endless, the reasons are countless.

100 years after we were chased out of our lands, its time to come home. Only then, we can truly say that #TurkeyFailed

Post by Raffi Elliott

Thoughts, News and Interesting Tidbits- From Armenia C. 2013

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