Thursday, August 31, 2017


Vahe H. Apelian

There seems to be a frenzy across the globe to sanitize history by removing monuments and or renaming streets and cities. Of course, the phenomenon is not new. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the statues of Lenin were brought down including in Armenia when it stood in the center of Yerevan of what was once known as Lenin's square. It is now called Republican Square. Similarly, one of the largest Russian city, Leningrad at one time, was reverted back to its historical Saint Petersburg.

A similar thing is happening in the United States. After the demonstrations in Charlottesville over the Confederate general Robert E. Lee statue, few Confederate statues were removed in the cover of the night in Maryland. 

A similar debate is going in Australia and in Armenia as well.

Recently the opposition party "Menk" proposed renaming the streets of Yerevan that were named after prominent Bolsheviks. Today I read that Daron Markarian, the Mayor of Yerevan, opposes renaming the streets. He claims that it amounts to unnecessarily dabble in history. He claims that as the city Yerevan expands there will arise the need of naming streets and proposes to consider renaming such streets after persons "Menk" advocates. 

Prominent ARFers in the Diaspora have proposed placing the statue of Aram Manougian where Lenin's stood at one time. The city of Yerevan has announced that to celebrate the upcoming centennial of the founding of the first Republic of Armenia,  it will have the bust of Aram Manougian carved and placed at the intersection of streets close to the Republican Square but not in the square. The Republican Party of Armenia, the ARF-D that constitute the ruling coalition that governs Armenia have thus far remained silent on these issues.

In general, I oppose renaming streets and removing statues but yet again I see reasons and justification for doing so in some cases. But whose statue to be removed, and whose name to be erased from a street or a city and renamed can give rise to serious conflict when such a conflict would be a mere distraction from pressing issues and will solve nothing. 

Thus, I remain ambivalent. But I will have to admit to the following.  Because of the ongoing debate in Armenia over renaming streets, I learned of an Armenian communist leader Gassian, after whom a street is named. Had there not been a debate over removing his name I would not have known about him and I bet many if not most of the younger generation who use that street would not have given much thought as to who he was. 

In a strange way, such debates bring back to life persons and events long forgotten or not much thought of by many if not most in the hustle and bustle of their daily lives. Their resurrection of sorts kindles and inflames feelings over issues that many would not have cared much otherwise.

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