The Years of 451,1920, 2020 in Armenia 

  • by Western Armenia, May 27, 2024 in Politics

(Essay part one: 451y.)

We are very fond of rewriting and reshaping our history according to the times and political demands.

We change the facts of history as we see fit at the moment.

But we have an important feature in the we like to describe historical defeats either as "moral victories" or as the result of "betrayal". Why? because complex descriptions of historical events are a headache. And look how attractive and easy the simple explanations are.

You don't have to think, "everything is so simple." We get a "hero" and a "villain-traitor" like in a very hot Hollywood movie. But most importantly, it allows us to overlook the fact that we may not have been victorious in the first place, and that our defeats may have been the result of our own mistakes.

Western Armenia TV presents the essay "The Phenomenon of the Already Seen: 451,1920, 2020"yy., where our correspondent presents our national conflicts.

Let's take Avarair. What happened in 451y? We like to say that Persia and the Eastern Roman Empire were trying to "assimilate" us. We have all read Derenik Demirchyan's "Vardanank" and we are convinced of the hundred percent accuracy of Demirchyan's nationalist retelling.

Did the Persians want to force us to abandon Christianity? Well...if so, why didn't the Persians do it in 301 or 428 when the Armenian kingdom was abolished?

To understand this, one must first understand the position of Armenia between Rome and Persia.

In the ancient world, Armenia was often a buffer state between those two empires. Over the centuries, the Persians and the Romans had an agreement that neither side should occupy Armenia, and the Persians had a great influence on the Armenian court (according to some versions, the Yervandunis and Arshakunis came from Persian noble families).

In the fourth and fifth centuries this began to change. Despite that, strong pro-Roman movements began in Christianizing Armenia (which brought it closer to Christian Rome).

The Mamikonians formed close relations  with the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Theodosius II.

Sasanian Persia seems to be today's "Russia", Rome - "America", and Christians with liberal ideas for those times - "Syrians".

The Persians, who were constantly at war with the Romans, began to have serious fears that Rome would exploit its connections in the Armenian noble circles and open a "military base" in Armenia, attacking Persia from there.

In short, the Armenian Western Christianity and especially the Mamikonian dynasty became a serious threat to Persia.

The Persian king Yazdegird G demanded that the Armenians relations  with the Western Church and become followers of the Eastern Church instead.

Apparently, religion was not very important for Yazdegird. all that mattered was the strategic security of Persia and its strategic balance with Rome, which was threatened by the pro-Western Mamikonians.

The Mamikonians were categorically against Yazdegird's demand, while the House of Syunyats (led by Vasak Syun) was in favor. The House of Columns (in Syunik) was closer to Persia, and therefore had closer ties with the Persians.

Mamikonians probably won this intra-Armenian political struggle, which led to a confrontation with Persia.

The Mamikonians had good relations with the Roman emperor Theodosius II and were convinced that he would send help, but this did not happen (according to some rumors, Theodosius told Vardan that "Byzantine ships cannot climb the mountains of Armenia").

The battle of Avarair ended with the defeat of Mamikonians, the death of Vardan Mamikonian and the destruction of the famous Armenian widow. After this, the Armenian church labeled Vasak Souni as a "traitor".

But did Vasak betray his nation, or was it just that the Syunis were more realistic, they understood that small Armenia could not resist the Persians, and thus they refused to participate in the dangerous game of the Mamikonians.

It's hard to say: What's important is that in the end we built our favorite "moral triumph" and our even more favorite "hero/traitor" theses.

To be continued...