Armenia’s Education and Science minister Armen Ashotyan proposed on January 17, 2014 that the official name of the country – the Republic of Armenia – be changed to the Republic of Eastern Armenia.
Historically, Armenia has been divided into Eastern and Western Armenia, Eastern Armenia being part of the Persian Empire until the beginning of the 19th century, before it became part of the Russian Empire. Part of Eastern Armenia later became the First Republic for two short years before it was seized by the Bolsheviks to become the Soviet Armenian Republic. In 1991, it was proclaimed as the independent Republic of Armenia.
Western Armenia is now part of Turkey. Its population was annihilated by the government of Turkey during the genocide carried in 1915-1923. “I propose discussing the issue of renaming our state in terms of restoring historical justice and lawful demands. I think the Republic of Eastern Armenia would be a more correct name for the state built in this part of the Armenian Highlands,” Armen Ashotian wrote on his Facebook page.
Ashotyan, who is deputy chairman of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, first came out with this proposal in 2005, during the discussion of the package of constitutional reforms. “The public discussions on constitutional reforms are focused on political transformation and changes in the government system. Yet, in my opinion, constitutional reforms open up impressive and interesting opportunities in the field of foreign policy,” the minister wrote.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s Political Affairs Director Giro Manoyan responded to Ashotyan’s suggestion in an open letter. In his response, Manoyan made a suggestion of his own, saying, “If Mr. Ashotyan would like to pursue ‘justice and self-determination’ for the Armenian nation, then – before turning to the constitution and the Republic’s declaration of independence – Mr. Ashotyan and the Republican Party can start by rescinding the Armenian government’s ratification of the Armenian-Turkish protocols, by defining the official border between Armenia and Turkey to be the true border set by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, and by adopting the realization of that border as a government responsibility, among other tangible, more effective measures.”
“We should be balanced. Do we lay claims to Western Armenia by renaming the Republic of Armenia Eastern Armenia? This step is supposed to be followed by further logical steps,” Ashot Melkonyan, director of the Institute of History of the National Academy of Sciences, said. “On one hand, we suspended the ratification of the disgraceful Armenian-Turkish protocols (which means that they are still on the agenda). On the other hand, we are laying claims to Western Armenia, which is to our heart. How are we going to combine the two?”
Armenia should not only make statements, but also amend its foreign policy. If it had been done, Melkonyan said, he would understand Minister Ashotyan.
Edik Minasyan, Dean of the Department of History of Yerevan State University, was surprised at Minister Ashotyan’s proposal. He noted, however, that Armenians have lost part of Eastern Armenia as well. “In other words, we would be glad if Eastern Armenia entirely belonged to us. But the Republic of Armenia could lay claims at any moment,” he said.
Vazgen Manukyan, Chairman of the Public Council of Armenia, said: “I don’t know about Ashotyan’s proposal, so I can’t make comments. In any case, I don’t think it is the best time to discuss such topics. Nor do I think this is Armenia’s priority task.”