Remarks by President Serzh Sargsyan at the 9th Convention of the Volunteer Homeland Defenders Union
I am obligated to structure all my speeches according to the accepted standards, to take into consideration how an official statement will be received by the most diverse audiences so that words addressed to the one do not indirectly upset or hurt the other. I have also to consider every protocol nuance. To keep in line, today I should have started like this, “I salute the delegates and guests of the 9th Convention of the Volunteer Homeland Defenders Union.” However, I will not do that, because 25 years of shared path make me speak and start in a different fashion – like this,
Folks, it’s good to see you again.
Vazgen used to say, “Homeland defenders are one of our greatest achievements, if not the greatest. They shielded with their bodies, with their blood the borders of our country and it was their blood that spearheaded creation of the Army of this country.” Vazgen was right. It is true that homeland defenders are not border troops – they are the border itself. The homeland defender is a parent who spread his wings over the fires, covered the blow with his own body as long as was need for his child – the young Armenian Army – to grow up and mature. On September 21st that very Army, its young and mature men and women marched proudly down the Republic Square. It was thanks to you, folks, thanks to all our folks and thanks to our nation, its struggle, deprivations, and unbending spirit.
Honor and glory to them all, all those who are not here today. And certainly, honor and glory to the folks who fell on the battlefield and yet continue to bring up generations through their spirit and their example: Everlasting glory to their memory.
Long live those who reinforce the power of our pivot. That pivot is created of the material which makes the Armenian brand, the Armenian system of values. That pivot originates from the depths of times.
At the critical times for the Armenian nation, at the times of life and death challenges, taut strings of the Armenian bows were ringing again and again. And that calling awakened the bearers of a rebellious and righteous Armenian character. In one night that call turns the people of the most peaceful occupations, most peaceful Armenian laborers – teachers, farmers, journalists, tractor drivers and workers – into warriors and courageous commanders. They become an unbending and adamant willpower and rise against the enemy. That’s how it was from Hayots Dzor to Shushi, from Avarayr to Sardarapat, from Vaspurakan to Bash Aparan and Karvatchar. It will be that way again in the centuries to come, if the foe’s sudden sword attempts to darken the Armenian skies again.
At the end of the last century, the world had witnessed once again transformation of the Armenian, who this time emerged as a volunteer defender of the homeland. When an Armenian volunteer was asked in bewilderment, “You have five children, how can you go to war?” he responded, “I go to this war because I have five children, so that they live in a safe country.”
The fist of the Armenian homeland defenders crashed the backbone of the enemy’s phalanx, brought the enemy to his knees and enforced him into peace.
Homeland defender’s spirit and skills forged at the battlefield became the Armenian Army. Heroism of the brave, who fell at the battlefield, became a lesson of patriotism for the thousands of children who are being educated and will be educated in the Armenian schools. Combat brotherhood of the homeland defenders has become an anchor of social accord which would lend a hand to our society in times of need. And such days have not been few in the last two decades. The hand was landed by the nation, which was standing at the brink of rift and which supported by this unyielding pivot of values would conquer every dividing line and re-find the road of advancement.
The homeland defender came back home. He returned to his peaceful work, his pen and shovel. The lecturer stood before his abandoned audience, the student occupied his sit in auditorium. The homeland defender assumed the leadership of the country and rode his neglected tractor. Today, looking at a scrawny and humble toiling peasant in a distant village somewhere in Tavush, who is not too tall, salt-and-pepper already in his hair, and it’s hard to believe that you’re facing a man who inspired awe into the enemy during the Artsakh war years. The homeland defender participated also in the arduous job of the army building, giving his experience and confidence to young soldiers and commanders.
He was filled and filled the entire nation with the confidence of his leader, the Sparapet that “the beginning of the 21st century will see the formation of the new type of Armenian, who will be become the carrier of its national ideology, void of the inferiority fears, daring, confident, with a glorious history behind his shoulders, and with the horizons in front…”
And this nation, which has countless centuries to come, will remember for a long, long time the wisdom of the homeland defender, as he put it, “There cannot be a former homeland defender; if needed, for our fatherland we and our friends are ready to put on our uniforms again.” (M. Grigorian). Dear Manvel, let God grant us no necessity to do that.
Dear Homeland Defenders,
Being a non-political organization, the Union of Homeland Defenders in our society has been holding a social and even political weight and role. Let’s admit that at times there were also conflicting views about the Defenders. A person returning from a war has been having serious problems in all times related to the accommodation to a peaceful life, problems related to finding a place and role in the new milieu. These problems are psychological, as well as public and social. Today, with the years’ experience before our eyes, we can state that the Union of Homeland Defenders was predominantly able to solve this problem. Moreover, the Homeland Defenders have always been dignified as befits the solder of the fatherland. Social and political behavior of the Union of the Homeland Defenders has been having its positive influence on our society. The atmosphere in our country is also shaped by their civil position.
Today, in the person of the Union, we have an organization which is concerned with the future of our country and our nation, which is far away from opportunism and has its precise and principled stance on every critical issue we face.
Present in this hall are individuals, who at the time of danger showed no fear, for whom Armenia and Artsakh are above politics and everything else. I repeat, everything else. Many of them are my fellow comrades in arms, and I am proud of it.
But the victory has not finished but has given a start to a new task – building of a free and just Armenia.
Today, there are processes underway in our country which will positively change the country, providing it with characteristics that befit a country of the 21st century civilization. This is a call of the times, and there is no other way for Armenia to develop. It’s a huge and strenuous task, but we will accomplish it. We will accomplish it standing shoulder to shoulder; united we will succeed.
Armenia is entering a new course of development. We are building a new country, a new society and a new citizen. Discipline and freedom, public order and democracy – they complement and condition each other. The citizen of Armenia will be as free as law-abiding.
All strata of our society demand a free and just country; they demand also a rule of law; not in the future but here and now. And they are right.
Meanwhile, there are individuals among us who overestimate their abilities, who simply abuse the difficulties; there are also impatient and suspicious ones, whose faith has been shaken because they met with injustice or lawlessness. We have to continue to change, restoring our faith – faith in our own strength, our country and future for Armenia.
The country is changing by day. Many of negative phenomena, which were habitual yesterday, today are extinct. Some of negative trends expanded, some new have come into existence. Changes will first of all be aimed at eradicating them. We have taken the course of Armenia’s comprehensive modernization. Modernization will affect our political and legal structure, our industry, education and science. We have to become a modern nation, which is competitive and is ready to face the challenges of the current times.
Armenia is a country of victorious people. It simply cannot be poor or backward. In a country of victorious people, the person’s dignity cannot be abused. We see that everywhere in the world, almost every nation stood up for its dignity. We were among the first who did it, and have to achieve results faster.
Distinguished Homeland Defenders,
People in this hall symbolize the human and national dignity at its best. You had gone to battle armed with that dignity. You live with it. We are building a new Armenia, which will personify our human and national dignity. I have no doubt that we will succeed. To succeed, we have to believe. We have to believe to carry on with the changes.
Stay firm, folks. I wish you every success.