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South Caucasus
Georgi Vanyan, interview


Caucasus Center of Peace-Making Initiatives chairman Georgi Vanyan's interview to “Aravot” daily newspaper.

How would you characterize the present state of Armenian-Turkish relationship?

What Armenian-Turkish relationship are we talking about when our neighbor Turkey is just an opportunity for many common folks from Armenia to earn their living but how do they get it… Excuse me, but our citizens get that opportunity by means of extreme suffering, their rights are violated seriously, their self-esteem is destroyed, they become vagabonds traveling thrice-repeated long ways from one country to another.

Have you ever seen an Armenian working illegally in Turkey, who hides from law enforcers? There they are – men and women of age or teenager girls and boys.

Have you seen our fellow citizens suffering at Bagratashen-Sadakhlo and Bavra-Zhdanov border checkpoints on Armenian-Georgian border and at Sarpi-Sarp and Vale-Posof checkpoints on Georgian-Turkish border; have you ever talked to them? Have you ever discussed with them the RELATIONSHIP and its PRESENT STATE?

Have you been at Istanbul airport among a crowd of passengers of extremely expensive flight from Istanbul to Yerevan when they feel lost and helpless? When only God and the flight operator know why and until when is that extremely expensive and extremely intimidating flight being delayed, and when a pretty girl at the information desk is asked she just smiles vaguely, repeats “Erivan?”, feels pity, raises her shoulders, and shakes her head. Have you ever felt such suffering and intimidation, have you ever discussed the RELATIONSHIP and its PRESENT STATE with those people?

Do we know how many Armenians moved to Turkey after declaration of independence and how many of them have returned? How many continue to stay in Turkey so they may make a living? How they make it? In what conditions? What status and what perspectives do they have?

Do we know how many Armenians go to Turkey during a month or a year and how many of them return? Is there any statistical data about that? Have these issues ever been discussed at any level? Is there any analysis of reasons and consequences of this tragic shame, if there is where is it published? Is there a program and time schedule for prevention of the reasons of that situation and for finding a solution? Do we have it? Do we want to have it? Does any politician building his career upon “just Armenian cause,” oligarch, or statesman, their young follower and the latter’s teacher, journalist preaching nationalist hatred, or conformist building his well-being on “national liberation” ideas care about enormous human suffering I mentioned?

Is the fate of human beings on the agenda of those who create an imitation of Armenian-Turkish dialogue by means of conferences, seminars, and monitoring? Do any representative of national “elite” that I mentioned care or feel compassion for enormous human suffering? Now let me ask: who is our people’s enemy? Who is enemy of those people who are still alive? They say Turks are enemies. The girl who smiles vaguely and repeats “Erivan?” is an enemy? Tell me: is not it our national arrogance and “national liberation” ideas that sealed Armenian-Turkish border, as well as scoundrels exploiting such ideas are our enemies?

How would you characterize Armenian and Turkish official approaches to establishment of relationships between two states?

I do not think that establishment of relationships with Armenia is a significant issue for official Ankara, that it is on their agenda. That is much less significant issue than we may think. That’s more an issue shaped by certain reason, and we should look for that reason in Armenia. Armenia did not want to establish relationship and declined that possibility: if someone has not read the declaration of independence of the Republic of Armenia, let him read it now, and anyone who read may read it again, more attentively. If you will excuse the expression, this document contains territorial claims to Turkey, that is obvious. This is one aspect of the issue.

The “political” team was being placed on detached service by the ruins of Soviet Union who came to power with the slogan of “settling the issues with neighboring states” and later their followers have not reviewed their twenty-year-old “principled national fidaism”. They have not settled the issues with neighboring states and have not established good neighborhood. Moreover, they went into an undeclared war with Azerbaijan, conquered and destroyed seven regions of Azerbaijan.

For more than ten years everybody – starting with president and minister of foreign affairs, ending with journalists and seminar participants – has been talking gibberish about “liberated” or “dominated”, “occupied” or “taken” territories. Has anyone thought and said publicly that, in fact, it is a newest barbarity and is not an issue of territory and geography – it is tragedy of precise region, precise town, precise village… It’s tragedy of concrete family and concrete person. We should therefore be able to understand why not establishing relationship with Armenia may be so important for official Ankara, more important than we might imagine. This is also an issue shaped by cause and effect, is it not? And we should look to our actions for that reason. This is another aspect of the issue.

During two decades Armenia has not reviewed the “principled national approach” stipulated by the declaration of independence. Armenia has remained isolated from global developments. Moreover, the “Armenian Cause” committees operating in the diaspora through the open passage provided by the Declaration of independence have seized the functions of Armenian foreign policy; so the issue of international recognition of Armenian genocide has become the key issue of foreign policy.

Quite logically, Armenia turned from a potential subject of international politics into an instrument, which may be used by third countries as a bludgeon. So, it turned into the bludgeon for Turkey on the way towards EU membership. This is another, the most important aspect of the issue.

From your point of view, is there a difference between the opinion of Armenian society and the official approach?

Excuse me, talking about society of Armenia, I have a rather specific perception than the usual ones. If we do not take into account a few persons that are exceptional, Armenian approach is shaped and expressed by those in power and in the opposition; by diaspora’s “committees for Armenian Cause” (Union of Armenians of Russia may also be considered as one of them) with their local and foreign emissaries; by oligarchy; by media, by nominated intelligentsia, composed of conformists standing next to all these. So, there is, in fact, one attitude – and that’s their attitude. You may consider it official approach or the society’s approach as you please. And those who should constitute a “society” in classical terms are alone and aloof in Armenia; these people just try hard to earn their living. One is more successful, another one – less successful, one stays in Armenia, another – somewhere else. A common person’s opinion is behind seven closed doors.

Mariam Petevotyan