2006 • Vol. 28, No. 1 (95)
Archive About Us
Dr. Chookaszian Appointed 6th Henry S. Kazan Visiting Professor
Mamikonian Concert Attracts Hundreds to the Opening of the Keyboard Concert Series
Elementary Armenian Language Course Filled to Capacity With New Students Eager to Learn
Kati Litten Joins Armenian Studies Program as New Administrative Assistant
Dr. Chookaszian Enlightens Audience About Contributions of Armenian Artists
Turkish Novelist Orhan Pamuk Wins Nobel Prize in Literature
Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Legislation to Build a Genocide Memorial in Sacramento
Congratulations Fresno State Armenian Studies Minors and Grads
Matthew Karanian and the Stone Garden Guide: Shedding a Positive Light On Armenia
French President Jacques Chirac Visits Armenia and Calls on Turkey "To Recognize Its Past"
Former Kazan Visiting Professor Dr. James Reid Passes Away
Zoë Grill-Delivering a Unique Taste
Armenian Studies Website Statistics June-October
The Effect of Genocide on Twentieth Century Thought
What is an Armenian?
Armenians on the Internet
This article was first printed in the 1980 Hye Sharzhoom, Vol. 2, No. 2. It
is being reprinted here as part of a series of looking back at the pages of
BY BARLOW DER MUGRDECHIAN
What does it mean to be Armenian? To know the Armenian language, or the culture,
or the literature? These are a few of the common views.
I would like to offer my opinions, from my perspective as a third-generation Armenian.
I would like to examine what it is to be Armenian.
There are those who say to be a genuine Armenian you must speak Armenian. Where
does this view come from? Often from the older generation and sometimes it is heard
from those who have recently arrived from Armenian communities abroad. But is it
necessary to speak Armenian to be Armenian?
For others, religious or political affiliation is involved. Some say the Apostolics
are better Armenians than the Protestants or vice-versa. Others say the Ramgavars
are more Armenian than the Tashnaks, or that the Tashnaks are better Armenians than
Some might add culture and literature to the debate. Don't you need an understanding
of these to be an Armenian? Maybe music is the most important, or perhaps poetry,
or even dancing.
I have posed many questions and have offered no answers. To do so would limit the
question of "what is an Armenian."
What, then, is the over-riding characteristic of an Armenian? What does it mean
to be Armenian?
To be Armenian is to have the unquenchable spirit and faith of the Armenian people.
I say spirit and faith, and I mean that essence which has enabled a people to remain
just that, a People, for over two thousand years, throughout massacre, persecution
and all manner of tribulation. We are alive as a people, while others have fallen
through the march of history, alive as a people against constant, overwhelming and
How does one obtain this spirit? Does being born to Armenian parents automatically
enroll one in the ranks of the Armenian nation? To be Armenian it is not necessary
to have Armenian racial characteristics. It is not even necessary to be born an
Armenian, to have an Armenian last name, or be a member of a certain political party.
There is no all-inclusive class of Armenian.
It is necessary to desire to partake of that body of knowledge that is known
as Armenian. One must also be willing to contribute as well as to take.
To be Armenian is to have the spirit and also to pass the spirit on to others—to
your children, to your friends, and to the world at large. This entails passing
on knowledge of Armenian history, customs and traditions. And once these have been
instilled once this spirit has been nurtured, the natural desire for more information
will follow. And because it is so natural it will be all the more effective.
What is the tie that binds us? What is it then to be Armenian? To be Armenian is
to have the pride in our past and the confidence to work in the present. The future
will hold no barrier and the present no difficulties to those who are concerned
and who carry the spirit. To be Armenian is to have that pride and spirit that ties
us all. To be Armenian is to see that the Armenian heritage is not lost.
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