The Feel Good Identity
New insights into third and fourth generation Brazilian-Armenians
For much of the 20th century, the prevailing force shaping the various Armenian organizations that made up diasporan life had been hayabahbanoum — literally, “Armeno-preservation.” Whether it was church, dance troupes, schools, newspapers, or scouts, the main point of such activities was to ensure that Armenians stayed Armenian, meaning the language was spoken, the food was eaten, and young Armenian men and women met and married one another.
Living a life as Armenian as possible, so to speak, was perceived as a duty, coming as it did in the wake of a rich and vibrant culture being almost completely annihilated in 1915. In some sense, this was a natural reaction. How it played out depended a great deal on where a given community ended up. In the case of Brazil, four generations in, the Armenians have become more than just inhabitants in a host country, rather they are fully actualized citizens of a nation, if not citizens of the world.
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An influx of foreign residents and visitors is changing the face of Armenia
A quick walk from Republic Square, an LED sign lights up for a store. The place advertises itself in Armenian, English, Russian, and Farsi. Four languages, four entirely different scripts—a doubly literal and figurative sign of Armenia as a crossroads of cultures with a lively tradition of global trade cutting through borders.
Over the past decade and more, as Armenia and Armenians have reached out to the world for business, education, or tourism, foreigners have been beating a small, steady, and lasting path toward the country. According to the Migration Service of the Republic of Armenia, 18,856 foreign citizens had received temporary, permanent, or special residency status by the end of June, 2019, half of whom were from Russia, Iran, and India, with Syria and the United States trailing not too far behind. The numbers have been a bit erratic over the past five years (see figure), but a recent upward trend is notable.
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The Media as a Diaspora-Homeland Bridge
1512, Venice, Italy and 1794, Madras (Chennai), India – what do these years and places, each so far apart from the other, have in common? They were both significant firsts in the Armenian world: the first published Armenian book and the first Armenian newspaper. The printing press has played a key role in keeping the Armenian identity alive around the world for centuries now, whether through Bibles or school books, yerazahans (“dream dictionaries”) or active media providing information on local events and sometimes having connections with goings-on in other parts of the global Diaspora.
Unfortunately, the Diasporan Armenian media has not always had the strongest links with Armenia itself, even in this age of the internet and social media. That relationship has undergone major changes in recent years, something which became even more evident over the course of tumultuous weeks in April and May, 2018, when the country saw tremendous political developments that were very closely followed across the planet from Boston to Beijing or Buenos Aires to Beirut, whether through pixels on a screen or through ink on paper. The Diaspora-Homeland media connection has entered a new era.
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