Reinventing the Armenian Myth

Knar Khudoyan


The ruling party in Armenia has been promoting a plan to develop a new Armenia and new Armenians since the beginning of the year. According to Pashinyan and his team, Armenia’s old nationalism has run its course, and there is a need to establish a new one. The entire government apparatus  is working towards creating a new Armenian myth.

In a recent interview with Petros Ghazaryan on public television, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan claimed that Armenia gained independence in 1990-1991 with the aim of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Now that this issue is “closed,” Pashinyan questioned the purpose of the republic’s existence (raison d’etre). He suggested that the entire concept and content of statehood should be reevaluated and dismantled.

The authorities urge people to stop dreaming about an abstract “greater Armenia” and instead consider the tangible 29,800 square kilometers of Armenia as their true homeland. They suggest renaming the school curriculum’s “Armenian history” to “the history of Armenia” and admiring Aragats, the highest mountain in Armenia, rather than Mount Ararat, which is in Turkey. They also recommend changing the anthem and coat of arms to reflect this new perspective.These attempts to redefine patriotism are not new, although the opposition media machine claims otherwise, attributing Azerbaijan’s new demands to this agenda.

The political party in power has always been strongly attached to 19th-century liberal nationalism. It’s not a coincidence that the party’s name refers to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s book “Social Contract,” which argues that the  agreement  between the state and its citizens is the source of sovereignty and the foundation of national identity. The book posits that language, religion, tribal or regional origin should not be the basis of national identification. Surprisingly, the government is attempting to change the Armenian national anthem, an ode to the Italian unification movement and its hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi, one of the beloved European nationalist movements of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Outdated Armenian Nationalism

To create a new model of patriotism, the old one must first be demystified. “Civil Contract”, fearful and cautious, is only changing the name of the discipline without rethinking Armenian history. Prime Minister Pashinyan has openly shared his fears about the unknown future that lies between the old and the new: “There is a vacuum between the old and the new, and it is unclear what will happen next.”

It is impossible to create a Fourth Republic and get  rid of the Third Republic with such fearful steps.Firstly, it is essential to acknowledge that the interdependencies of the 90s, such as the Armenian Independence Movement, were not born out of 19th-century European nationalism, which had served as a uniting force. Instead, they were a product of the 20th-century mutation of Nationalism that promoted ethnic-linguistic nationalism and separatism.

The movements that emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s were the heirs of Woodrow Wilson, whose map introduced the concept of dividing Europe into ethnolinguistic countries. This division led to the dissolution of the multi-ethnic Habsburg and Ottoman empires at the cost of genocides.

Historians have the responsibility to debunk nationalistic myths that were created for the Third Republic. Unfortunately, the version of history that nationalists want is retrospective mythology. In his famous lecture ‘What is a Nation?’ In 1882, Ernest Renan highlighted that forgetting or misrepresenting history is a crucial factor in forming a nation. Therefore, the progress of historical studies can threaten national identity. Due to this, the Armenian media is often filled with trolling about the old myth of conquering Mount Ararat and creating a greater Armenia from sea to sea. However, there is no real discussion about who started the “Greater Armenia” myth and for what purpose.

French philosopher Roland Barthes Believed that those in power create and propagate myths through the media to manipulate the public. In line with this, Prime Minister Pashinyan has been sharing pictures of Mount Aragats on his Instagram account, suggesting that the Armenian army should prioritize serving this mountain instead of Mount Ararat. By and large, the government proposes to change the images.

 The question of whether the Civil Contract party possesses adequate media resources to make Mount Aragats a revered and symbolic mountain remains unclear. 

Taking the path of a new myth-producer, “Civil Contract” party completely loses touch with politics. According to Barthes, myth is depoliticized speech.There is one language which is not mythical, it is the language of man as a producer: wherever man speaks in order to transform reality and no longer to preserve it as an image, wherever he links his language to the making of things, myth is impossible. This is why revolutionary language proper cannot be mythical. Revolution is defined as a cathartic act meant to reveal the political load of the world: it makes the world; and its language, all of it is functionally absorbed in this making. Revolution announces itself openly as revolution and thereby abolishes myth.

This is why Pashinyan, obsessed with idea of myth-production, turned from a politician into a storyteller for the masses.

Knar Khudoyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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