Armenia’s controversial national anthem

A new version of Armenia’s national anthem, which says “Armenia is always with you”, was adopted by the Armenian parliament on Friday in defiance of the central government’s attempt to replace it with a similar version that not only alludes to the Armenian Genocide but also demonstrates the country’s territorial integrity. The new song has attracted widespread support from Armenian politicians, the public and foreign diplomats.

In March, the Speaker of the Armenian parliament, Zulfikar Aghazadeh, announced his opposition to change the national anthem and warned that Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russia all had a vested interest in the anthem not changing. This was not because the Armenian anthem, written by Thomas Law and published in 1915, contains the fascist slogan “Armenia is always with you”, and because it does not mention the Armenian Genocide – Turks’ struggle to hide their murder of Armenians from historians and from others in 1921 and 1922. It is because the Armenian national anthem, painted as an overwhelming victory for Armenian freedom, inspires patriotic actions in Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russia.

Armenia’s national anthem, which is written in simple Armenian poetry, was first introduced by modern Armenian president, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, in 2005. Both its rehearsal and its introduction took place at events in Gallipoli in Turkey. Many others have also used the anthem in Turkey, possibly to appease the Turkish government, which has repeatedly demonstrated its hatred for Armenia in order to maintain its control over the region. An increasing number of Armenian politicians and artists have refused to sing the song, but they have been afraid to publicly oppose the changes.

The new national anthem does call Armenia a nation, but the new version proposes a war against a fictitious “Armenian nation” that has unilaterally declared war with the Republic of Azerbaijan. (The term is based on the Armenian military’s strategy of distraction, which culminated in a full-scale war in Nagorno-Karabakh.) The Turkish military and the Republic of Azerbaijan also have designs on Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Armenian president’s record in Karabakh has not always been positive. However, the media and politicians in Armenia are more fond of attacking the current Armenian president than they are of defending him.

As a result, Armenians from Armenia to Baku have gone on to create their own versions of the anthem. Draped over loudspeakers in Baku airport are two versions of the same song, one praising Armenia and the other praising Azerbaijan. (Many Azerbaijani politicians also defend the original version.) With the new version in place, Armenian-Azerbaijani opposition to Armenia’s policies have escalated. According to a report in Milliyet, some Georgian legislators are worried that Armenians will take a separate flag from Georgia, with which Armenia and Azerbaijan were once part. Reprinted above is the Turkish version of the song.

Armenia has responded by saying it won’t recognise the illegal Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh as a government, nor will it allow it to rule. But the Azerbaijani government has also given Armenians tacit permission to spread Armenia’s image abroad, making the song officially an unofficial anthem of Azerbaijan’s newest province, a route Armenians are not likely to contest in the short-term. Instead, they will prepare slogans for the 2018 World Cup tournament in Russia.

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