Well, it happened. As a constant follower of Armenian news in both Armenia and the Diaspora I've always thought about creating a blog to talk about it. I was encouraged by some other members of the Armenian blogosphere during the aftermath of the March violence as I was actively following the news and commenting about it at blogs such as Onnik Krikorian's fantastic Caucasian Knot: http://blog.oneworld.am/ I never did get around to doing it and eventually as the situation receded so did the impetus to add another star to the blogosphere's Armenian constellation. Five months later and the Georgian war has spurred me to finally go through with it and set up a blog so here it is. I'm an active follower of Armenian news but I really don't have any particular behind-the-scenes expertise or doctorate in this sort of thing, I'm just an amateur lover of it. The reason I think Georgia spurred me was because:
1. I didn't see it coming, I just kind of took for granted after years of following the news on these frozen conflicts that they would just stay that way for years to come. I should have known better, which makes me worried about the Karabakh situation more than ever. I should also point out that I am young enough that I don't remember Karabakh War the first time around and seeing the scenes of South Ossetia and Georgia bring home what could happen there again as well which is a very painful thought.
2. I knew 2008 would be an eventful year in the Caucasus with elections in all three countries but this invasion adds a whole new dimension to the problems there. It will certainly lead to much musing and speculation for a long time to come on a region of the world very important to me so what better place for it than a blog? Besides Armenian and regional politics though I also plan to cover goings-on in the diaspora at large with a focus on my own little corner of it Philadelphia (one of the more ignored Armenian-American cities which seems to be totally unique in its community dynamics from other diasporan cities. It certainly wouldn't hurt for other cities to learn from it). On top of all this the Turkish-Armenian soccer game is in less than a month and the dynamics between the two countries possibly headed into totally new territory I think there are many intriguing things occuring which bear discussion and reflection by all Armenians.
An introductory post should include a little information about me and my aim with this blog (without going on much longer!) I am purely a diasporan and I frankly have seen very little blogging about the diaspora and its myriad issues. We have some great blogs on Armenia itself and I thought it wouldn't hurt to add to the fray one coming from the diaspora discussing both issues in Armenia which I have visited and here as well. I named the blog West of Igdir because... well mainly because naming your blog is one of the hardest things you'll ever do short of birthing a child and I wanted to make it as painless as possible by just making it the first thing which came to mind. Why is an Armenian blog named after a Turkish town? West of Igdir is a notion I took from my great-grandfather's diary, a gamavor with General Antranik who wrote it on the battlefield in 1915. In an especially stirring passage translated into English he writes about his group of soldiers crossing over from their actions around Lake Van down into Igdir and its green Ararat valley. "Leaving the village of Mousn that morning, in one and a half hours we climbed to the top of the hill which was the Russo-Turkish border... In the evening we arrived in Igdir. It was as if we came to a new world. The whole city was green and blooming. We fell from hell to paradise." These lines he wrote really struck me, not only they are beautifully poetic lines from the field of war but the way they so perfectly illustrates the freedom from all the fighting and genocide to the west. The line is even more poignant today because this valley which provided freedom is no longer passable from one side to the other and Igdir is no longer a safe Armenian city. It goes without saying that both Armenia and the diaspora for their own reasons have yet to pass east to their own Igdirs so to speak, and many of the problems of these two Armenian nations have roots firmly in that same Armenianless land "west of Igdir". It is my hope that watching from this blog the slow work of peace and reconciliation- not just for Armenia and its neighbors but for Armenians with Armenians internally and for diasporans with diasporans throughout the world- each may too somehow pass out of the dark shadow of the past west of Igdir into their own green valleys.