Armenia, a country with a unique culture and rich history testified by ancient historiographers and modern researchers is celebrating its 31st anniversary of independence on 23 September.
In September 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia gained its independence and recreated the Third Republic of Armenia and subsequently joined the international community of independent states. Armenia has from then on resolutely walked the path of creating a sovereign, democratic, and social state.
As a political entity, Armenia is a small country with approximately three million people. However, more than double the country’s population, around seven million Armenians, live in countries around the world. This large diaspora makes Armenia a truly ‘glocal’ nation — a global nation with local Armenian communities worldwide. It is these glocal Armenians along with those residing within the country’s borders who have carved an identity for their state as an independent, cohesive and democratic nation.
In a recent exclusive interview with the Managing Editor of The Times Kuwait, Armenian Ambassador to Kuwait H.E. Sarmen Baghdasarian, spoke about his country’s storied history, the worldwide community of Armenians, and of his keenness to further strengthen relations with Kuwait in all domains.
The ambassador began the interview by noting: “This year on 23 September, Armenia celebrates its 31st anniversary of independence. I believe that, just like freedom in the famous phrase, independence is also a state of mind. However, if freedom is more of an individual desire, independence is the embodiment of a collective aspiration and efforts. Independence is, in fact, the manifestation and the result of collective freedom.
“For the Armenian people independence meant more than just a formal declaration: above all, it meant the realization of a long-cherished dream driven by historical memories and a sense of the vital importance of regaining statehood.
“Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the idea of independence matured in the minds of the Armenian people not as an imaginary dream, but rather as a realistic goal. In 1991 Armenian people unanimously voted in favor of that goal, vowing to commit to a free, Independent and sovereign Republic of Armenia.
“As a young diplomat starting a career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at this critical juncture in Armenian history, there were unique challenges and opportunities. The early years of independence were both challenging and promising at the same time. After the collapse of the Soviet Union followed by the first Nagorno-Karabakh War and the economic crisis, the still-young Republic of Armenia faced difficult times. Having the opportunity to serve our newly independent country first-hand, and to witness the Armenian flag fluttering at the UN Headquarters for the first time was an incredible honor and joy for me and, of course, for every other Armenian.”
Ambassador Baghdasarian continued: “Today, as an ambassador and the official voice of Armenia in Kuwait, I have several responsibilities and obligations. First of all, this position puts on me the responsibility of representing the spirit of Armenia that was shaped and perfected on the crossroads of civilizations; a spirit that contributed immensely to the development of humankind.
On the other hand, I am also obliged to uphold the reputation and image of a true Armenian individual, a ‘glocal’ citizen. Many may not have heard of Armenia, many may not be able to show it on a map, but I doubt that there is anyone who has not met or at least heard of an Armenian at some point of their life, in some part of the world.
I represent the Armenian who is the bearer of centuries-old history, of an ancient civilization, science, art, culture and tradition; the Armenian who built, created and left his indelible mark on history, and continues to leave his mark wherever he grows up to this day. Be it the famous Armenian car mechanic working in Shuwaikh, or the inventor of color TV, or the developer of ‘Moderna’, the vaccine that became a household name during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I represent the Armenians, about whom the famous philosopher Emmanuel Kant said: “…rather intelligent and industrious people with unique roots, a people who can move from North to East and South to West within the old world and find genuine hospitality in whatever region they decide to stop in”. These people are Armenians, the children of old and new Armenia, and as the face of Armenia first of all it is my duty to represent them with dignity.”
Turning to Armenia’s relations with the Arab world, and in particular with Kuwait, the ambassador noted: “As part of one geographical and geopolitical region, the Armenian and Arab people throughout their history shared similar challenges and fate. Connected by social, cultural, customary and political links the two nations have been living and co-creating side by side for centuries. The ties between the Armenian people and the Arab world grew stronger during the tragic events of the early 20th century, when thousands of Armenians escaping the Genocide found good hospitality and a safe shelter within the Arab world. From then on, a large part of Armenians became an important element of emerging Arab states putting the basis for the Armenian communities in the Arab world, existing up until this day.
“The Armenian community in Kuwait was established with its organized institutions in the early 60s of the past century, almost simultaneously with the State of Kuwait gaining its independence. Since then, the local Armenians have been actively involved in many areas of Kuwaiti social life, making a significant contribution to the prosperity of Kuwait. And this makes me incredibly proud every time I speak about the Armenians here.
“At the state level, Armenian-Kuwaiti relations were officialized in 1994 through establishing diplomatic relations. Armenia and Kuwait fruitfully cooperate in a variety of fields, including trade and economy, agriculture, science, education, culture etc. There is a sustainable political dialogue between our two countries, which is being enhanced and further developed thanks to the efforts of the embassies in both countries. Joint intergovernmental commission has been formed between Armenia and Kuwait. The intergovernmental commission is one of the main driving forces for our bilateral cooperation and we are working to organize the next session.
“In recent years, student programs between the Yerevan State University and Kuwait University have also become more active and popular. Meanwhile, tourist flow from Kuwait to Armenia has significantly increased, mostly due to Armenia’s cancellation of the visa regime for Kuwaiti citizens. I am sure that there is still a huge potential for the development of comprehensive cooperation between our two countries, and we are directing our maximum efforts towards its realization.”
Relating his personal experience, both as an ambassador and as an Armenian in Kuwait, Ambassador Baghdasarian stated: “What makes Kuwait so unique is its people. There is so much peace, solidarity and willingness to help others here that you cannot help but be amazed by this country and its kind-hearted people. It is no secret that Kuwait already has the reputation of a great benefactor in the international arena, which, in my opinion, is one of the greatest assessments that can be given to a state.
“Kuwait has always stood out for its balanced policy and mediation in conflict reconciliation. In this sense, Kuwait is a unique state. As for Kuwaitis, they are the exact reflection and the bearer of the external image of their homeland. There is one more thing I would like to highlight about Kuwaiti society. It is the family relationships and the close ties between family members.”
In reference to recent incidents of border skirmishes and outright wars between neighboring states, the ambassador said reflectively: “ i am convinced that in the contemporary world, a country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and the right of its people to live peacefully and safely in their homeland should not be a subject of discussion, and even more so, should not be questioned or threatened.
However, I do not want to turn this conversation into a platform for political statements. I would just like to state that as with Kuwait, Armenia has always been committed to and strived for exclusively peaceful settlement of disputes and conflicts through designated international formats and platforms. I also believe that the most important necessary step to achieve lasting peace is the desire and commitment of both sides to mutual respect for the inviolability of each other’s borders and territories.
The Republic of Armenia reaffirms its commitment to the agenda of establishing peace and stability in the region, and calls on the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to intensify efforts to resume the work of this internationally mandated negotiation format. Peace cannot be achieved through the use of force or threats of any kind, said the ambassador in conclusion.