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As Armenians, we have never been defeated in the past, we are not defeated now, and we shall never be defeated in the future. Throughout history, we have fought hard and won some wars, and perhaps have lost many more. Though, our spirit has never been defeated. We have triumphed from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. We were once known as the Great Armenian Empire, as great as the Persian, the Roman and the Hellenic Empires. Dikran the Great built his empire in Dikranagert, on the same land that we lost three months ago. At the beginning of the 20th century, our ancestors were massacred by the Ottoman Turks and we lost over a million and a half of our innocent citizens to the Armenian Genocide. No matter what the outcome of our wars were, how much land we occupied or lost, how many of us were killed, we always survived, rose from the ashes and came back stronger. We have always stood tall and we have always rejoiced in being proud Armenians. Our culture has persisted and our people persevered. The secret behind our survival as remained the same: that we never felt nor considered ourselves defeated.
Since the surrender of the seven liberated/ occupied territories and the signing of the November 9, 2020 document by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to formally hand over these territories, including Shushi and many of our sacred sites and structures, to the Azeris, the entire global Armenian population has fallen into a state of depression. The culprit of our despair and the cause of our depression has been nothing other than an overwhelming sense of defeat. A defeat that has managed to divide our people in a way that has never quite been felt in this way. In this last war, our brave soldiers fought tooth and nail for 44 days against the combined forces of Azerbaijan, Turkey, and foreign mercenaries. The cost of our losses was enormous, especially considering how small of a nation we are, compared to the hundred million combined forces of the Azeris and Turks. We tragically lost 5000 soldiers, a few hundred civilian citizens also lost their lives, tens of thousands were displaced, and we ultimately lost the territories we had held since our victory of 1994.
Unfortunately, the part that made it more difficult for us to accept this particular loss was the neglected and weak condition of our Armed Forces. Our last 3 presidents, in particular Robert Kocharyan, Serj Sargsyan, and former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan and most high ranking officers, were looting the country of its wealth, resulting in a deteriorated army and military arsenal. In all this, our church was not spared. Corrupt Karekin II and his Echmiazin team was busy accumulating wealth for themselves and their friends, striping our holy centers from any form of spirituality and decency. These irresponsible leaders filled their pockets and became billionaires, profiting off of what little prosperity Armenia was afforded. Not only did they rob the army and loot the country’s resources for personal gain, the entire oligarchy built mansions comparable to those of billionaires in other more affluent countries. All of this happened to a poor country with a 40% poverty rate.
As if this abuse of power was not enough for us to digest, this reality was accompanied by the daily misguided yet optimistic media appearance of a smiling Artsakhtsi President, Arayig Haroutounyan, speaking with excitement about the bravery of our soldiers, including the resistance they had maintained in order to protect our territories. An eloquent Pashinyan also made us believe that we were winning the war and had not lost an inch of Artsakh and our hereditary lands surrounding Mountainous Kharabakh. Whether this was a deliberate act to mislead the masses or they genuinely believed what they were saying, is difficult to determine. Little did we know, we were losing the war at a cost of thousands of our young soldiers when suddenly, in the middle of the night on November 11, 2020, we were presented with an unexpected “fait accompli” which robbed us Armenians of our hopes and dreams for this untimely war.
Pashinyan was forced to sign a document to stop the war and formally surrender the seven territories, including our historic town of Shushi. In return, Russia would send its peacekeeping troops to stop any advancement of the enemy, and prevent a further loss of life. As a result, we suffered significant psychological and spiritual damage, for which we were not prepared. Many prisoners of war remain captured, there remain questions about the demarcation of our borders, and the overall questions surrounding the fate of Artsakh over the coming years. Not only did the actual result of the war affect our disposition, the silence of the entire civilized world made us angry and realize that we are alone in this fight.
At no time in my life or over the course of our contemporary history do I remember us Armenians going through such emotional anguish. The last six months have caused immeasurable mental and spiritual harm to the psyche of our people, both in Armenia and across the diaspora. The 44-day saga and the losses we endured have created a disheartening despair within all of us. Yes, we are angry to have lost this war, but rest assured, we have not lost the battle. We will stand tall once again and show the world who we really are.
We should not forget that, throughout the 3000 years of our nation’s history, we have lost many other wars. In 1915, we came to near- extinction but managed to survive because we believed deep inside that we NEVER LOST THE BATTLE.
The Azeris and the Turks with their combined forces have, for now, achieved a temporary victory that will ultimately result in them incurring a larger future defeat and place them in a disadvantaged position. We have survived Genocide and our people and our nation will also survive this. We have to keep our spirits high and learn from our mistakes. We have come back stronger time and time again, and this time will be no different. Just watch us! However, right now, the most important job we have in front of us is to restore our faith and spirit and to emerge from this “defeated” mindset.
In these uncertain and confusing times, this sense of defeat is, indeed, exaggerated due to the fact that our people face an undeniable sense of confusion and hopelessness, as tyranny is not easily overcome. It can only be conquered if we reject this feeling of defeat. Through the rejection of this defeat, we will redefine happiness and triumph. We will summon the courage to persist in unity. This unity in the belief that we are not defeated is of utmost importance if we are to overcome this mindset of defeat and emerge stronger as a people and as a nation. If not but for the sake of our martyrs, who fought this war fully prepared to sacrifice themselves for their country. Lebanese- American poet, Khalil Gibran, best describes our current feelings in his poem below:
Defeat, my Defeat, my solitude and my aloofness;
You are dearer to me than a thousand triumphs,
And sweeter to my heart than all world-glory.
Defeat, my Defeat, my self-knowledge and my defiance,
Through you I know that I am yet young and swift of foot
And not to be trapped by withering laurels.
And in you I have found aloneness
And the joy of being shunned and scorned.
Defeat, my Defeat, my shining sword and shield,
In your eyes I have read
That to be enthroned is to be enslaved,
And to be understood is to be leveled down,
And to be grasped is but to reach one’s fullness
And like a ripe fruit to fall and be consumed.
Defeat, my Defeat, my bold companion,
You shall hear my songs and my cries and my silences,
And none but you shall speak to me of the beating of wings,
And urging of seas,
And of mountains that burn in the night,
And you alone shall climb my steep and rocky soul.
Defeat, my Defeat, my deathless courage,
You and I shall laugh together with the storm,
And together we shall dig graves for all that die in us,
And we shall stand in the sun with a will,
And we shall be dangerous.
So I say to him: Yes, dear Khalil Gibran, defeat has always brought us deathless courage. Yes, we are still laughing in the storm. Yes, we have dug graves and buried our martyrs. Yes, we will stand in the sun with a will, and everyone should watch us. Yes, we are now very angry and we have become very dangerous Armenians.
My fellow Armenians, our feeling of defeat is natural but should only be temporary. We must come together in unity, as we have in the past, and continue to be a strong and righteous people. Never forget, the Armenian spirit will never be defeated. They may burn our homes and churches, but we will laugh, sing, and pray again!