Editorial:1918-2024. The Struggle for Independent, Sovereign Statehood Continues

By ARF AU | Monday, 27 May 2024

In the first half of 1918, the Armenian nation faced a severe existential crisis. The decision of the Bolshevik authorities to withdraw Russian forces from World War I created an opportunity for the Ottoman army to recapture territories it had lost during the war. The fall of Batumi and Kars opened the doors of Eastern Armenia to the advancing Ottoman army. With the capture of Alexandropol (today's Gyumri) on May 15, the enemy reached the borders of Yerevan.

Aram Manoukian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, who would later be known as the founder of the First Republic of Armenia, was acutely aware of this existential crisis, declaring bravely: "We are alone and we should rely only on our own powers to both protect the frontline and establish order within the country."

Driven by security concerns, on May 18 Aram urged Catholicos of All Armenians Gevorg V to leave Etchmiadzin. The spiritual leader not only refused to do so, but also ordered the bells of Armenian Apostolic Churches to toll non-stop for six days, heralding the nation’s battle for life and death. The church bells tolled and brave Armenian men and women from all walks of life - peasants and farmers, intellectuals and artists, writers, musicians and poets, heeded to the call to save their families and their nation and identity on the historical battle fronts of Sardarapat, Bash Aparan and Gharakilisa. After six centuries of subjugation, these heroic battles laid the foundations of independent Armenian statehood - for the first time in Armenian history.

Facing enormous external and internal challenges, the first republic unfortunately did not have a long life. However, its existence, in and of itself, the single most important milestone of our contemporary history, because the emergence of independent Armenian statehood at this critical juncture guaranteed the survival of the Armenian people and Armenia as a country and a state. The ensuing Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was the successor of this first independent republic, as is today’s Republic of Armenia.

Today, as we commemorate the 106th anniversary of the first independence of Armenia,  we offer our deepest respects to that generation of Armenians in 1918 and remain eternally grateful for their unwavering faith and steadfast determination to establish the foundations of Armenian statehood from, literally, nothing.

More than a century since these historical events, our enemies have, once again, taken possession of parts of our homeland, this time with the permission and consent of the Armenian government led by Nikol Pashinian. And once again, the Armenian church is standing up to defend our homeland, our independence and our statehood.

As with the heroic battles of 1918, today’s struggle is, in its essence, centered around the noble cause of independent, sovereign statehood, crowned by a truly - not only nominally - democratic Armenian government that safeguards the interests of the Armenian nation. The “Tavush for the Homeland” movement has captured the imagination of Armenians worldwide and, once again, ignited our commitment and dedication to this centuries-old vision.

In the words of the last Prime Minister of the First Republic of Armenia, Simon Vratsian: “For the Armenian man, independence is a concept of national significance.” It is therefore incumbent upon every Armenian in the homeland and the Diaspora, to support our continued struggle for independent, sovereign statehood.