Editorial: Armenian History is far more than just Genocide
By Vahagn Avedian

March 12, 2007

On April 24, the Armenian nation will remember the 92nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian genocide does occupy a major part of the Armenian history and identity, even though both the Armenian identity and history are far much larger and wider than this single moment in time. The fact that it occurred not so long ago and signifies a tremendous horrifying trauma in the life of the Armenian nation is undebatable. Add to this that the Armenian genocide is the only genocide in modern era which is openly denied by the inheritors of the perpetrators then one should clearly understand why it still, almost a century later, does take an important part of the Armenian everyday life and a large portion of every academic and diplomatic issue concerning Armenia and Armenians.

But in respect to the rich Armenian history and culture, when putting the genocide into perspective against the entire history, one starts to ask if we should not start paying more attention to the other aspects of Armenian history and heritage. This, of course, does not suggest that the attention on the genocide and its research should be neglected nor decrease. The Armenian genocide, with its peak spanning between 1915 and 1916, could also be said to have occurred between 1894 and 1923, during which the Armenian population was subjected to massacres and ethnic cleansing of variable severity. If then we assume that the "Armenian" nation is about 2,500 years old (counting from the vicinity of the time for the first documented occurrence of "Armenia" in King Darius cuneiform as country of its own), then the genocide constitutes only 1 per cent of the Armenian history. If, however, one should include the Urartuian heritage, who rightfully should be regarded as the native ancestors (in difference to the immigrants Indo-European ancestors who assimilated the natives) of modern Armenians, than that one percent diminishes even further. The Armenian history and its unique culture, created by molding the Western and Eastern cultures constantly passing through this natural passage which connects Asia with Europe, has not only survived the past three millenniums but has also succeeded to influence and enrich the global culture and its civilization. The Armenian Highland, a natural link between the two continents, has been the obvious choice of place for passage of the armies of many super powers but also the merchant route connecting the trade between the two continents. Armenia, then and now, has been forced to carry a balanced policy in order to not perish in the struggle of two warring rivals meeting on Armenian soil.

Armenia has during her almost 3,000 years of existence contributed with far too many factors, far more than it is possible to mention here. A short list over some of these contributions would include generals, administrators and emperors establishing their own dynasties in the Byzantine Empire; introduction of the domed architecture from East into Western building and strong influence over the Gothic style; constituting an important part of the bulk of the merchants in Middle East and Asia Minor handling the trade all the way from mainland Europe to Far East; creators of abundant quantities of architectural marvels (among others the unique Armenian cross stones, "khatchkars"), some listed among the protected world heritage sites; a unique and highly flexible language and alphabet, capable of creating a rich literature as well as dynamic adaptation to the global development in the world; and finally an inventive and forward striving nature of its people who have contributed with numerous amount of musicians, composers, inventors and entrepreneurs. Yet, this list is far from complete. Mentioning this kind of accomplishments could be regarded as bragging about one's own nation, but putting the size of the Armenian nation, its lifespan, and its geopolitical position and its highly adventurous existence, one can not help to be amazed with the survival skills of that people and the quantity and quality of their achievements.

So, even if the Armenian genocide, quite rightfully, occupies almost every major area of present Armenian history studies, these students as well as the general public should start paying more attention to the remaining 99 per cent of Armenian history and the cultural, architectural, musical, literary, technical and several many other aspects. In spite this dark one percent, the remaining 99 percent contains so many shining moments that their light should not be overshadowed by that tiny percent, how burdensome that may ever be.