It has been a month and a half now that an unpleasant controversy has been raging in Armenia around the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute (AGMI), its director Dr. Harutyun Marutyan, and a member of the museum’s Board of Trustees, Dr. Hranush Kharatyan. Among the accusations, one could enumerate the following: Dr. Marutyan avoids using the word “genocide” on purpose, preferring “Medz Yeghern” (Great Crime); his goal is to dilute, if not annihilate, Armenian legal claims, and to encourage rapprochement with denialist Turkey; he must be an agent of some obscure forces, if not of Turkey itself, and probably of the government of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, which has been accused of “destroying Armenian values and statehood” after coming to power in late spring 2018. Of course, diluting Armenian Genocide claims must have been part of these vicious purported goals, according to the allegations.
Dr. Hranush Kharatyan, in turn, is accused of having “installed” Marutyan as director of the AGMI precisely to achieve the aforementioned goals. She is portrayed as a Soros-affiliated person, whose Hazarashen NGO-Armenian Center for Ethnological Studies is allegedly receiving funds from George Soros to reorganize the archival fonds [collections] of the AGMI—separating published materials from archival documents, a common international practice—in order to share copies of these with an Azerbaijani colleague and endanger the supposed “security” of the published materials. Given that the son of Dr. Kharatyan is a well-known activist who is close to the leadership group surrounding PM Pashinyan, everything starts becoming plausible.
Over the past thirty years, I have refrained from commenting in writing on various developments in Armenia, including on many serious economic, social and political issues, on attacks on diasporan scholars, and on some cases of utter academic incompetence. I happen to be a drsetsi [outsider] and I believe that Armenia’s problems must be solved first and foremost by the population living in that country. The Armenian Genocide, however, does not belong only to post-Soviet Armenians and the AGMI is too important a pan-national institution, in my mind at least—what some people would call the only quasi-sacred non-religious institution in Armenia—to let muddy political games dirty it. I also feel there is much to be learned from what has been going on over the past month and a half about hybrid warfare in Armenia against the current administration. Finally, it should be clear that this article deals only with the AGMI’s current problems; it does not imply any overall judgment about the individuals involved on all sides of the current controversy or about the current political administration.
At the forefront of the accusations and “explanatory” narrative, one finds Dr. Hayk Demoyan, the previous director of the Museum-Institute (2006-2018).
During Dr. Demoyan’s tenure, the AGMI expanded and modernized and there is little doubt that he had something to do with those developments. A protégé of former two-term President of Armenia (and briefly also Prime Minister) Serzh Sargsyan, Demoyan was a candidate for the position of director in 2018, all the while claiming that he was not interested in it and that the transition to the new director was not fully legal from an administrative perspective. Even though he received a few votes from the members of the Board of Trustees, they were far from matching those of Dr. Marutyan. Whether Dr. Demoyan was angered by his failure to get re-elected, is a bit unclear and would require mind-reading. However, most officials in post-Soviet republics who have held state positions for many years tend to feel that their state institution belongs to them. Any succession is thus a cause for trouble as democratic values and a sense of what the French call “devoir de réserve” [reserve duty or duty of discretion] is totally absent in most post-Soviet republics. It may also well be that Dr. Demoyan believes his statements about the AGMI and the persons concerned. Who knows? On the other hand, Dr. Marutyan, whose daughter was elected to the city council of Yerevan on the list supporting PM Pashinyan, is also viewed as a partisan of the Velvet Revolution. In the context of the attacks against the AGMI director and Dr. Kharatyan, personal and political motivations thus seem intertwined. It is Dr. Demoyan who spun the yarn accusing these academics of being, more or less, traitors working for others.
Ironically enough, Dr. Demoyan was a member of the committee that gave the “President of the Republic of Armenia Prize in the nomination of persons having made a valuable contribution to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide” to Dr. Marutyan on May 29, 2012, “for his methodologically innovative research into the continuity of the memory of the Armenian Genocide and its relationships with the Karabakh Movement.” From 2007 on, Dr. Marutyan was also a member of the Scientific Council of the AGMI, when Dr. Demoyan was its director. It is therefore strange that Demoyan had not noticed he had a dubious character sitting right at the heart of the Museum and that he was willing to award that person a prestigious prize dealing with the Armenian Genocide. It is even more disconcerting to read the official press release from President Serzh Sargsyan’s office, dated 20 September 2012, which pertains to the second session of the State Commission on Coordination of the Events dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. It mentions that Hayk Demoyan himself “proposed to include into the Group Mr. Harutyun Marutian [sic].”
The yarn spun by Dr. Demoyan was immediately seized upon by a network of newspapers and news websites affiliated with or sympathetic to the former regime: 168.am; tert.am; hraparak.am, 7or.am; yerkir.am, etc. A well-known political operative and publicist, Narek Malian, leader of an anti-Western, anti-liberal, extreme-right organization called Veto—whose targets include George Soros and the Open Society Foundations, LGBT advocates, the European Union, and the Pashinyan government—kept the Soros-centered narrative rolling (along with its twin organization, Adekvad) with remarkable energy. Officials of some political parties and even a few academics also joined in this well-orchestrated campaign. One scholar, Haykazun Alvrtsyan, even went so far as to accuse Dr. Marutyan of being a Turkish agent, no less.
To sum up, developments at the AGMI related to Dr. Marutyan and Dr. Kharatyan were promptly transformed into issues endangering national values and the validity of the Armenian Genocide, threats to the national security of Armenia, and evidence of Turkish and Western “penetration.” The well-orchestrated controversy became a tool in the hands of those favoring the previous regime and trying to destabilize the current one. And it is not surprising that both of the targets—Dr. Marutyan and Dr. Kharatyan—seem to be partisans of the Velvet Revolution and, more importantly, are perceived as such.
“Facts” and Facts
There are, however, factual problems with the narrative about these two individuals. Despite some awkward statements to which I shall return later, Dr. Marutyan is far from refusing to use the word Genocide. And lest there still be any doubt about his patriotism, this is the synopsis in English of an article in which he raises a significant issue:
Consequently, by emphasizing the mass murder of Christians, that is the followers of a particular faith, we push back Christians’ national, ethnic affiliation, their national identity; thereby reducing the political value of the genocide. Genocide is actually equalized to “faith slaying,” but it is a much broader phenomenon. Let us not forget that the Armenian Genocide was accompanied with deprivation from the homeland, which in the case of Armenians was direct manifestation of ethnic genocide. These and many other questions show that the proposed solution and the implementation of collective forms of canonization at least need a thorough study at multiple levels. (p.64) 
By referring quite frequently to Medz Yeghern, Dr. Marutyan seems to try to name the “Armenian Genocide” in a unique way, like “Holocaust” or “Shoah” in the case of the Jewish Genocide. To be sure, Medz Yeghern (Great Crime) was also the term commonly used by the survivors of the Armenian Genocide to name the unnamable, that is, the genocide of their people. There is, however, a key difference with the use of the terms Holocaust or Shoah: not only did and does Germany recognize the genocide committed by the Nazi regime, it has also paid massive reparations. Such is not the case with Turkey in relation to the Armenian Genocide. Besides, some world leaders have also used the term Medz Yeghern (with a distorted translation, “Great Calamity”) precisely to avoid using the term “genocide,” which has legal implications. Therein lies the problem which might deserve a discussion, not in Dr. Marutyan’s alleged evil intent.
As a proud descendant of Vaspurakantsis, his roots are in Western Armenia. His own research—besides the prize-winning book mentioned above that demonstrated the linkage between the Armenian Genocide and the perceptions of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by the tens of thousands of demonstrators in Yerevan in 1988-90—deals with a subfield of genocide studies focusing on issues of memory. Dr. Marutyan has also been a longtime and very active member of Armenia’s Vaspurakan Compatriotic Association, of which he was a board member from 1995 to 2001 (responsible for scholarly works) and vice-president from 2006 to at least the end of 2017. Dr. Marutyan has addressed Dr. Demoyan’s accusations in a short essay entitled “Memory is Changeful, but in Hayk Demoyan’s Case ‘Forgetful.’”
The accusations against Dr. Hranush Kharatyan are even farther from the truth. What hidden power and status is she endowed with to be able to force the more than a dozen members of the Board of Trustees—including academicians, representatives of ministries and major organizations, a prominent foreign historian, etc.—to vote for Dr. Marutyan? As a matter of fact, published reports show that Dr. Demoyan received two votes. As for the Hazarashen NGO, it just has nothing to do with the AGMI and the reorganization of the archival fonds. Nobody has provided a single shred of evidence documenting this invention. To be absolutely thorough, the Hazarashen NGO-Armenian Center for Ethnological Studies did get a couple of small grants from the Open Society Foundation: the first one in 1998, to “conduct research on current economic, political, and cultural status of the Bosha ethnic minority group in Armenia;” the second one in 2014, to study the “underlying reasons for soviet repressions of 1949 and raise general public awareness on the subject; to generate public demand for responsibility of the soviet Armenian political and administrative power with the aim to generate change in the public behavior, overcome fear from political power and create understanding of the need for civic approach when dealing with state power.” Together, the two grants were worth $25,000.
Dr. Kharatyan has also worked on a project of the Open-Archives.org online platform aimed at “an interactive ranking of archival openness from post-Soviet countries. The platform also includes blogs on archive-related issues, methodology by which the assessment is done as well as research findings on existing archival legislations and practices in target countries.” This project was sponsored by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information, an organization located in Tbilisi and funded by numerous Western organizations and countries, including the Open Society Foundations.
Mr. Malian also mentions in his videos another grant received by the Hazarashen NGO. This was a grant from “DVV International (the Institute for International Cooperation of German Adult Education Association) and partners [which] implemented a series of Armenian-Turkish reconciliation projects [from 2009 to 2016] through funding support by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” The main result of these projects was an ethnographic book based on oral histories of how Turks, Kurds, and Armenians remember the past, that is, the Armenian Genocide and its consequences. Entitled Speaking to One Another: Personal Memories of the Past in Armenia and Turkey, this work is made up of two ethnographic sections: the Turkish one, “Wish they hadn’t left” by Leyla Neyzi, and the Armenian one “Whom to forgive? What to forgive?” by Hranush Kharatyan-Araqelyan. The volume does not reach a conclusion, does not preach forgiveness or forgetting, and does not touch on the issue of various forms of reparation. It is strictly ethnographic and quite enlightening.
In her own introduction to the Armenian section of the book, Dr. Hranush Kharatyan states:
The perception, and to a significant extent, the attitude of Armenia’s present population to Turkey and the Turkish people, along with the possibility of developing Armenia-Turkey relations, has been largely shaped by the Armenian Genocide; massacres and deportations that started in Ottoman Turkey at the end of the 19th century and reached its obvious conclusion in 1915-1922, followed by the lengthy “official reticence” of the USSR and Soviet Armenian authorities in regard to the massacres. (p. 77)
She sums up the content of her section of the book thus:
Family memories of the present generation of Genocide survivors among the population of the Republic of Armenia, along with their apprehension about Turks and their influence on general public opinion, are represented in biographical materials which were used as sources for this work. (p. 79)
Nothing broader is dealt with in this volume. In addition, it is ironic that the timing of this project coincided with the so-called Armenian-Turkish Protocols, which the government of then-President Serzh Sargsyan signed in Zurich on October 10, 2009. Those protocols called for the creation of “a joint commission of independent historians to study the genocide issue,” thus making the nature of the 1915-1917 extermination of Armenian Ottomans a matter for discussion. Those raising an uproar today, such as Dr. Demoyan, Mr. Malian, and others were silent then: they did not see any problem with those protocols.
To sum up, the two above-mentioned accusations against Dr. Kharatyan have no validity. And if anybody still has any doubts, they should read her recent volume entitled Armenophobia as a Factor in Turkish Identity Construction: Armenians in the Provinces of the Republic of Turkey in the Mid-20th Century. Not only is this massive work one of the very few historical/ethnographic books published in post-Soviet Armenia whose scholarship matches that of the best international historians, its content is simply damning for Turkey. Besides her well-known liberal attitude and the political activities of her son, there might be another reason why Dr. Kharatyan became a target in this campaign: the focus of some of her research and publications. I am referring here to her numerous writings on the one hand on Bolshevik-Kemalist collaboration in the demise and Sovietization of the first independent Republic of Armenia (1918-1920) and, on the other, on Stalin’s Great Terror in Armenia and his post-World War II persecutions. These topics do not sit well with various academic and political circles close to the previous regime, and even less so with the current Russian authorities.
But how did this problem start and is it totally artificial? The answer to the latter question is no. Mistakes were made that were subsequently manipulated to produce the alleged scandal. The first indication of trouble came at the end of last year. A young researcher who worked at the AGMI, Ani Voskanyan, was told suddenly by Director Marutyan, twenty-four hours before the end of her contract, that she would be dismissed the next day.
This issue raises many questions. Was there a previous evaluation of Voskanyan’s work, say six months or a year earlier, mentioning that her work needed improvement, or did the director’s decision stem from academic disagreements? Indeed, Voskanyan had openly raised somewhat justified concerns about the content of the AGMI’s announcement of a conference entitled “Struggle for Armenian Cilicia: Cilicia and Cilician Armenians in the Aftermath of World War I (1918-1922)” and about the director’s too-frequent use of Medz Yeghern, instead of Armenian Genocide. The title of the conference seems to have changed since then, and even though the reference to “Armenian Cilicia” is no longer mentioned, some non-academic wording still appears in the text. These issues could and should have been addressed to the Scientific Council, of which I happen to be one of the many members, but it seems that the director rejected that solution and dismissed Voskanyan. Then, the latter started expressing her concerns on Facebook in the first half of April, which is the time when the AGMI director came up with a call for Armenians everywhere to replace their Facebook profile photos with photos of their relatives, either victims or survivors with a special frame created for that purpose, on the occasion of the 105th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide with a simple caption, “I Remember,” a big mistake on his part. Thus, around mid-April the politicized campaign described above started.
There are several problems stemming from Voskanyan’s dismissal. First, academic freedom is of utmost importance if the scholarly level of Armenia is to improve. If Voskanyan’s abrupt dismissal resulted from divergent academic views, then there is no doubt that her academic freedom was infringed upon. Second, how come it is possible to dismiss a scientific worker with a mere one-day notice? I am not a specialist on Armenia’s labor laws, but I am under the impression that something is wrong, and I am therefore not surprised that Voskanyan is now suing the AGMI and its director. Third, how come Dr. Marutyan is also the chair of the Scientific Council and thus decides when a meeting is needed? This is not a problem that pertains only to the current director; it is an inappropriate way of structuring an academic institution in general. As a matter of fact, this Scientific Council exists only on paper. Fourth, the way Voskanyan was dismissed might not have been a good idea as it suggested that other scientific workers could be treated the same way. The fewer than ten AGMI full-time scientific workers are a tight-knit group of promising young scholars, fully devoted to their academic mission and to the memory of the Armenian Genocide. A good manager would know that this way of laying off people will generate resentment and animosity among at least some of the other scientific workers, if not all of them. Authoritarian reactions might appear impressive, but they tend to be counterproductive. Finally, it is unclear whether Voskanyan pursued an agenda broader than her academic concerns, such as agitation against the director, which might explain the latter’s reaction.
The controversy then erupted, focusing on the caption, “I Remember.” The only problem with this caption was that, in 2015, on the occasion of the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, a pan-national logo was adopted by the government and representative organizations of the Armenian people worldwide: “I Remember and Demand.” Immediately, this change led to significant reactions. For instance, a young leader of the Supreme Council of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) in Armenia wondered whether it resulted from dilettantism or the type of “peace-loving” with Turkey that characterized the 1990s, that is, the regime of the first President of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan. As the opposition to the current government often portrays PM Pashinyan as the pupil and protégé of Ter-Petrosyan, the allusion to the past could be read as a reference to the present. The idea was that the director was dropping the just Armenian demands for reparations from Turkey. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Demoyan developed this theme more thoroughly, arguing in particular that this change undermined the authority of the AGMI. Among the many articles that dealt with this issue, only one avoided casting aspersions on Dr. Marutyan and provided a dispassionate, rational analysis of the director’s mistake. As an exception in an ocean of dirt, it is worth referring the reader to that article/interview of historian Armen Marukyan.
This issue (“I Remember”) has become a godsent gift that keeps giving, up to now. Did Dr. Marutyan’s change stem from a governmental directive? No. Did the Board of Trustees approve his change? No. Was this change discussed by the Scientific Council? No. But did Dr. Marutyan mean to get rid of “I Demand?” Strangely enough, he really did not. He came up with the idea about memorabilia and remembrance and made a decision without taking into account the environment in which he is operating on the one hand and people’s sensitivities on the other. In view of the massive reaction against his decision, the AGMI had to revert to the pan-national logo promptly. On the website of the AGMI, a rather feeble explanation for “I Remember” was offered, which tends to corroborate the above analysis. It might have been simpler to state that this was just a caption for a day of remembrance, which was not meant to replace the national logo, and to apologize for the bad impression it had left.
The same impression of a person “owning” the Armenian Genocide appears in an interview Dr. Marutyan gave in Greece. He explains to the journalist that he wants to change the memory of the Armenian Genocide, suggests vaguely that people want to change it and asserts that he will emphasize self-defense and Armenian acts of kindness and solidarity. Of course, restoring Armenian “agency” during the genocide (to use academic jargon) is long overdue and a conference or an exhibit on such actions and acts is more than justified. The problem, however, lies in Dr. Marutyan’s missionary attitude and the premise of his argument. He explains that the Armenian youth is alienated from the issue of the Armenian Genocide because it does not want to feel it belongs to a group of victims. Two questions are in order. First, what are the large-scale studies on which Dr. Marutyan bases his impression, showing that the Armenian youth in Armenia and the diaspora are alienated by the feeling of victimhood? There might be some; I am not aware of any. Second, even if there were such studies, who exactly has given a mandate to the AGMI director to reshape the Armenian memory of the genocide? The government? The diaspora organizations? The Church? The AGMI Board of Trustees? The Scientific Council? I suspect nobody. Finally, it should be stressed that, if he were simply still a scholar working in an institute in Armenia, Dr. Marutyan should be free to emphasize whatever academic issue or approach he wants about the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath. That is academic freedom, and it is to be cherished, even if one disagrees with his choices and perspectives. Once he agreed to be the director of a state institution, however, this freedom became constrained by the existing decisions of the state. The same applies to a politician or a scholar of international relations who agrees to be the foreign minister of his state. That person might have had valuable ideas about foreign relations as a scholar or politician; however, once she joins the government, she must carry out the policies of her president or prime minister.
In that same interview, the Greek journalist states: “The matter of genocide is huge and has a lot of aspects. Wrongdoings on all sides [the boldface is mine]. So, it’s better to state everything in order to move forward as you say.” He does not reply. However, he continues by displaying a slightly scornful attitude toward historians:
“And I’m an anthropologist. I have a deal with people [sic]. And historians have a deal with documents only, documents, books, books, then documents. So, it’s other [sic]. You need to understand what to feel, and how to feel people. Do they want changes? Do they have other views, other aspects maybe they are interested more [sic]? So, you need to catch [sic] and to suggest maybe some other aspects.”
First, does Dr. Marutyan know that, in the 1980s and 1990s, it was a handful of historians—most of them still graduate students—who fought denial at various major conferences in the West until some senior scholars joined them around the year 2000, once ethnic conflicts and genocides had suddenly become trendy topics? Where was he at that time, what was he doing? For sure, it is not the scholarship produced in Armenia that changed anything in the West—for the struggle took place there—as European or American genocide scholars who are not ethnically Armenian do not read Armenian. Thus, they cannot benefit from some interesting publications written mostly by Armenia’s younger scholars. There is also another problem: the pitiful section on the Armenian Genocide published recently by the Institute of History of the National Academy of Science. Except for a couple of very minor publications by the late Professor Vahakn Dadrian, it shows no knowledge whatsoever of the scholarship of the past forty years, no less, and of the current debates. In a nutshell, it could have been written in Soviet Armenia in 1967. To his credit, Dr. Demoyan was the only scholar in Armenia who raised substantial questions about this publication. Second, whether people want some mysterious changes or not does not change the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide, or the Holocaust for that matter. Yes, a genocide is an event characterized by the immense victimization of the target group.
Unfortunate lack of judgment is also obvious elsewhere. Dr. Marutyan concluded a lecture in Turkey, at the Hrant Dink Foundation, by appealing for funding help. Not exactly the right country for such an appeal and for appearing as a supplicant. Another gift to his detractors. Thus, an unsigned article on tert.am claimed that he was trying to get funding from Turkey! Narek Malian, the leader of Veto, did not miss the opportunity for further stressing this distortion: did it not make sense that an imagined Turkish “agent” would want funding from Turkey? The artificial narrative had accrued one more “convincing” piece of pseudo evidence. By the way, if the AGMI needs funds, Dr. Marutyan should have been a bit more forthcoming a year ago when everything was in place to launch a worldwide fundraising campaign to establish a multi-million-dollar endowment for the Museum-Institute.
If getting rid of Ms. Voskanyan on short notice was aimed at imposing the director’s authority, then the attempt was futile. I was told, and I could subsequently verify, that another scientific worker, Ms. Arevik Avetisyan, complained on her Facebook page that the state had not funded the benefits (sotspatet) of the AGMI workers after the Museum-Institute was transformed into a foundation in March 2018. She views this situation as discriminatory because the state is apparently paying such benefits to the workers of the Matenadaran, which is also now a foundation. While the complaint was not targeted directly at Dr. Marutyan, it clearly expressed discontent. And then came an interview with Ms. Gohar Khanumyan, AGMI chief archivist, who expressed serious concerns about the reorganization of the museum’s archival fonds. The aim of this reorganization was, as mentioned above, to separate published from unpublished archival materials and to check the integrity of the existing documents.
The details of her concerns are mostly irrelevant for our purpose. Dr. Marutyan invited in early 2019, if I am not mistaken, a group of external experts to get advice about how to organize all the fonds, including the archival ones, in accordance with the best international practices. He followed their advice and did not act arbitrarily. In addition, Khanumyan’s concerns could have been referred to the Scientific Council or the Board of Trustees, instead of being leaked to the uninformed public and thereafter manipulated for political purposes. Suddenly, the reorganization of the archival fonds became intertwined in some people’s imagination with George Soros—who is supposed to have given directives to support Turkish President Erdoğan—with funding from Soros’s Open Society Foundations via the Hazarashen NGO and Dr. Kharatyan, and with alarming concerns about the security of the published materials.
It is a bit ironic that there was no such uproar about national security when the policies of the previous semi-authoritarian kleptocratic regimes were leading to the emigration of at least 1.3 million Armenians from Armenia; to the pauperization of large segments of the population; to the exploitation of its vital small farmers; to corruption everywhere, including in the army, the judiciary and higher education; to the transformation of late-Soviet high culture into vulgar mass culture; and to Armenia becoming a colony, to name just a few problems. It would seem these issues were insignificant threats to Armenia’s national security, compared with the current “scandal” around the AGMI.
After a month and a half devoted to dirtying and undermining the AGMI and the two scholars affiliated with it, the actors involved got tired. The “scandal” lost traction. Lilit Galstyan, a member of the ARF Supreme Council, made a last-ditch effort to keep the issue alive at the very end of May, on artificial ventilation so to speak in the current circumstances, but in vain. The campaign died out, as suddenly as it had started, a good indication of some likely background coordination. In the context of the ongoing attempts at destabilizing and delegitimizing Pashinyan’s government, it was time to focus on a new topic (Armenia’s handling of COVID-19, the regime’s alleged political persecutions, etc.), or to choose a new “target”—ideally a valuable institution or respectable people—and to drag its [their] name in the mud, before moving on to something else…
Conclusions and Analysis
What conclusions can we draw from this sad story?
1-There is no nefarious treason, but there is a serious problem of governance at various levels: the director first, and then the Board of Trustees and the Scientific Council. For instance, the Scientific Council exists only on paper; it is useless. The director should not be its chairperson and more independent members should be part of it as there is no culture of free debate. There is also no strategic or academic thinking. What is more, there is no sense of devoir de réserve and no discipline internally at the AGMI. This also results from failure in governance. Problems, sometimes real and at other times imaginary, are made public, feeding the agenda of some actors who want to create “scandals” to destabilize the existing regime. Whether there is some coordination between some of the internal and external actors is unclear, but it is telling that the leaks are put to good political use.
2-The institutional structure of the AGMI and its statutes need to change to ensure checks and balances and continuous, effective supervision of and accountability from the AGMI leadership. This is not suggested to belittle the leadership, but to avoid mistakes that will unavoidably damage that leadership and, even worse, the institution itself.
3-Even the proclamation published by the AGMI workers in defense of the institution barely devotes a few lines to its director. As for the Board of Trustees, it did not even publish a short statement to defend the honor of Dr. Kharatyan and Dr. Marutyan during these six or seven weeks of defamatory attacks against them. What that could mean is open to conjecture.
4-The AGMI, one of the only two pan-national institutions located in Armenia, besides the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, has become part of the current effort to destabilize the existing regime. This pan-national lieu de mémoire, has de facto been smeared by those who claim to protect “national values.” If anybody is happy, it is the two neighboring countries of Armenia who deny the Armenian Genocide.
5-The mentality of the Stalinist period seems to survive in Armenia as two scholars have essentially been accused of being traitors and, thus, enemies of the Armenian people. In some circles, this mentality is complemented by hooligan-like, or fascistic behavior. On May 10, Mr. Malian posted an ultimatum on Facebook demanding the resignation of the AGMI director, of his daughter from the Yerevan city council and Dr. Hranush Kharatyan from the AGMI Board of Trustees. To these demands, he added another one: that Gandhi’s statue not be installed in Yerevan. It so happens that Dr. Kharatyan’s son is involved with the installation of that statue, in the context of increasingly cordial Armenian-Indian relations. The opposition to PM Pashinyan, however, portrays Gandhi as a great friend of the Turks because of some of his post-World War I anti-colonial statements, in particular about the Treaty of Sevres. This Gandhi-related alleged “scandal” was one more case meant to demonstrate that the “Sorosakans” and their apazgayin (anational) agenda were undermining the national honor and values of Armenia.
Like all good ultimata, this one had a deadline, May 13, and a strong concluding punchline:
“Նեղանալ չլինի, մերումանուկ եմ անելու առանց խղճի խայթի: Ժամանակը գնաց!!!!”
The expression merumanuk anel seems to be a relatively new idiomatic expression used in vulgar language. Being metaphoric, it is quite difficult to translate it precisely. These are four translations that educated friends of mine from Armenia have proposed:
1- “No offense. I will f*** your mom and kid without any remorse. The countdown is on.”
2- “Don't be offended, I will remorselessly spare neither mother nor child. The time is up.”
3- “Don’t feel offended, I will start the ‘mother-and-child treatment’ without remorse. The clock is ticking!!!!”
4- “Don’t be offended, I will deal with your mother and child without any remorse. The countdown is on.”
The beauty of this expression lies not only in its obvious elegance, but also in its lack of precision, which makes it difficult for the police to charge the utterer. Nonetheless, however vague the expression might be, it implies some kind of threat. As a result, Dr. Hranush Kharatyan, Dr. Marutyan and his daughter Arpenik lodged a complaint with several law enforcement and other bodies. After examination, it was referred to the police, which charged Malian under Article 137, Section 1 and Article 144 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia. The former pertains to threats “to murder, to inflict heavy damage to one’s health or to destroy property of big volume,” whereas the latter deals with the “illegal collecting, keeping, use and dissemination of information pertaining to personal or family life.”
The charges have now been referred to the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Armenia, which will conduct a preliminary investigation into the criminal charges.
6-Apart from the researchers of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the National Academy of Sciences, Armenia’s academic establishment has remained silent. A few scholars even participated in this campaign, but in veiled terms. One could perhaps invite all these silent scholars to read Julien Benda’s short 1927 book, La trahison des clercs (The Treason of the Intellectuals). They should know that the fake and calumnious accusations leveled today at Dr. Kharatyan and Dr. Marutyan could be leveled at them tomorrow. Outside academic circles, Dr. Kharatyan received the support of an NGO called Women for Democracy.
7-Even the site of the Eternal Flame, symbolizing the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide canonized in 2015, was desecrated. Two so-called “flash mob” events took place there, right in front of the flame: the first one by Mr. Narek Malian, on May 14; the second one by the ARF Nikol Aghbalyan Student Union, on May 27. It is likely that these patriotic, or nationalistic, young students, like many others, were not fully aware of Dr. Marutyan and Dr. Kharatyan’s writings and meant well. In any case, the symbol of the Armenian Genocide should certainly have remained immune from political activities.
Concise Comments on Hybrid Warfare and Disinformation
How does hybrid warfare, disinformation, and “scandal-creation” work? That is, what is the essence of what happened in this case? First, one needs a broad “master-frame.” In the case of this “scandal,” that master-frame had already been elaborated as early as June-July 2018: the followers of Mr. Pashinyan were destroying “national values” and, as corollaries, they were apazgayin (anational) individuals. (Among the other master-frames, one can mention that they were going to sell out Artsakh or destroy statehood.) This master-frame, however, needs to be filled with a painting, which itself requires various “elements” and persons. It is important to understand that, while the master-frame is permanent, the elements (like pieces of different puzzles) vary. These “elements” cannot be imaginary; most of them must be real, like the grants received by the Hazarashen NGO. The manipulation lies in the interpretation of those elements and of their links with the persons involved.
To illustrate this with two examples, the same master-frame—destruction of national values—was used against the Pashinyan government in two totally unrelated cases: when Armenia’s National Security Service charged an archbishop with swindling and money laundering and when the Parliament ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, known as the Lanzarote Convention. In the former, it was stated that the asserted “pillar” of Armenianness and national identity, the Apostolic Church, was being undermined; in the latter, that Armenian “family values” were being destroyed… The Veto organization and Mr. Malian were at the forefront of the struggle for the defense of these “national values.” In our case, the “elements” include the “I Remember” issue, Dr. Marutyan’s intermittent use of Medz Yeghern, his reference to the need for funding in Turkey, the reorganization of the archival fonds, and the aforementioned grants. The persons needed are obviously the AGMI director, but especially Dr. Kharatyan. Just as a classical painting needs good composition, “scandal” and disinformation require a convincing narrative tying the persons and the “elements” in with one another.
This is where Soros, the Open Society Foundations (OSF) and Dr. Kharatyan come in. As Dr. Kharatyan’s Hazarashen NGO had received OSF grants for a few projects and Dr. Marutyan had participated in at least one of them, things were getting promising. As these two scholars’ offspring are well-known partisans of PM Pashinyan, things were getting even better. And as both of these scholars are known for being favorable to the Velvet Revolution, things were reaching perfection. There remained to add a creative dimension to the painting. This creative narrative is akin, in fact, to the composition of a painting; without it, the “elements” are meaningless, for they can easily be addressed through rational, fact-based civil discourse. Dr. Demoyan and Mr. Malian took care of that creative task; others repeated the same artificial narrative, either deliberately or unwittingly. Thus, Dr. Kharatyan had imposed Dr. Marutyan as the AGMI director. Not only was the latter actively undermining the genocidal nature of the Armenian Genocide by using Medz Yeghern, he was also rejecting the nation’s demand for reparations by erasing “and Demand” from the 2015 logo: “I Remember and Demand.”
As for Dr. Kharatyan, her Soros-funded NGO was behind the reorganization of the archival fonds and she was going to share crucial information with an Azerbaijani. It does not really matter that nobody has provided a shred of evidence that the Hazarashen NGO has anything to do with that reorganization; what counts is the intricate beauty of the composition, its credibility for the uninformed. These two apazgayin, Soros puppets and Turkish-reconciliation lovers were thus actively sapping one of the highest “national values” of the Armenian people: the consciousness of the Armenian Genocide and the demands stemming from it. Unsurprisingly, they are partisans of the Velvet Revolution.
Behind all these manipulations and fake, pseudo-patriotic narratives about the defense of “national values,” there are goals that are being pursued. The first of these is a broad strategic goal: the creation of a “Western Liberal Scare,” not unlike the Red Scare in the United States in the 1950s, to keep Armenia in the hands of a semi-authoritarian, corrupt, political-economic oligarchy that benefited from post-Soviet Russia’s cultural, economic, and political sphere of influence and that shares the mentalities and “values” of the current nomenklatura of that important country. In this context, people viewed as infected with ”Occidentosis,” to use the title of one of Iranian writer Seyyed Jalāl Āl-e-Ahmad’s books, are ideal targets on political grounds, which can also merge sometimes with personal motivations.
The second goal is aimed at destabilizing society and hopefully the current government: the endless pseudo-scandals about the supposed destruction of “national values” aim at promoting anomie, that is, a feeling of things falling apart, of the center not being able to hold (to paraphrase a line from W.B. Yeats’s famous poem, “The Second Coming.”)
The final goal pertains to culture and mentalities: it aims at preventing the emergence of a society and state based on legal-rational norms that protect the population and give it a sense of its own rights. How else to make sense of the uproar against the ratification of the Lanzarote Convention or that against the possible ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention), signed ironically enough by President Serzh Sargsyan’s government?
To conclude, what exactly did almost seven weeks filled with accusations in the media and unfortunate actions achieve, besides undermining the AGMI, trampling on the symbolic grounds of the Eternal Flame and sullying the reputation of two scholars? Nothing. If Dr. Marutyan and Dr. Kharatyan were working for foreign states or getting ready to share with Azerbaijan the contents of the archival fonds (that apparently have some mysterious national security value), why didn’t the scandalmongers lodge a complaint with the police or the National Security Service? Why did they suddenly stop their campaign at the end of May, when they had not yet achieved any of their goals? And there are so many other such questions.
Who benefited then from all this? Certainly not Armenia, the AGMI or the Armenian Genocide issue.
The pity of it all...