Armenian President treated Fresno like a doormat. No wonder there’s little appetite to help country’s plight.

An unannounced, hush-hush visit by Armenia’s President left virtually every local Armenian with a cold shoulder. It’s the latest slap-in-the-face by the Armenian homeland to locals.

If an Armenian President shows up to a Fresno cemetery and no one’s there to see it, did it really happen? 

That’s the question that vexed me upon seeing a hastily-arranged social media sizzle reel of Armenian President Vahagn Khachaturyan and Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer touring Ararat Armenian Cemetery surrounded by Armenian security services.


The hasty tour consisting of no more than three stops by the Armenian head of government was marked by a severe lack of interfacing with actual everyday Armenians who live, work, play, and pray in the San Joaquin Valley. 

Lest we forget, the Valley is a corner of the world that twice took in scores of Armenians at times when Ottoman Turks tried to exterminate the Armenian people – the Hamidian massacres in the late 19th century and the Armenian Genocide of 1915. 

Yet, it appears that neither President Khachaturyan nor his leadership team deigned to think it would be worth the time, energy, or effort to build a connection with the Armenians who have called the Valley home upwards of 120 years. 

Perhaps it’s just a lack of gumption on the part of these Armenian emissaries.

For comparison’s sake, a Turkish agricultural trade group appears to have possessed a bigger set of stones by announcing they would be visiting Fresno in 2019 to meet with the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation, and farmers – before being promptly drop-kicked off the collective local calendar due to blowback from Armenian farmers and residents.

Suffice it to say, it’s Grade F diplomacy from a government that spent the better part of the past three years begging the Valley-based Armenian diaspora to provide financial and political support for wars it was badly losing to a U.S. military ally.

Yet, it’s just the latest in a long line of cultural and political disconnect between local Armenian Americans, their ancestral homeland, and the government that runs it.

Three years ago, I aired plenty of grievances about the failings of the Armenian government’s semi-official, semi-ceremonial representative in Fresno to build stronger ties with our region’s local government, particularly as calls to action to support Nagorno-Karabakh grew more desperate from the Armenian government.

While my concerns remain about missed opportunities to improve rapport by the local representative of Armenia with Valley government leaders, it’s clear by Wednesday’s exhibition of drive-by diplomacy that ham-handed engagement in these parts starts at the top with leadership in Yerevan.

Perhaps the most infuriating element of this tour stop wasn’t that it ended up being a glorified photo op, it’s that it could have been so much more for a population of tens of thousands who call this city home.

It represented a real chance for the Armenian Republic’s relationship with its diaspora – which could charitably be described as frayed and poorly-maintained – to improve.  

Instead, that relationship will remain just as disjointed and disconnected as ever.

Even worse, it doesn’t have to be this way. Another diaspora, America’s Jews, offer a guiding light for building stronger ties between the people stateside and their ancestral homeland in Israel.  

But make no mistake, such an effort doesn’t materialize out of thin air.

In the case of Israel, it is the result of consistent engagement on the part of a bevy of U.S. and international organizations that have helped bridge the gap between the diaspora and the homeland, strongly and vigorously backed and endorsed by the government.

Armenians, sadly, have not learned from this playbook. 

The Republic of Armenia, since its independence from the Soviet Union, has taken a decidedly hands-off approach to engaging its people in the diaspora, especially in the United States. 

The results are plain as day, starting with the uneven support by diasporan Armenians for a war effort to protect the now-largely nonexistent Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh from Azeri invasion. 

Armenian Americans, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley, are deeply proud of their heritage. 

But the disrespect and disregard they’ve garnered by the leaders of the Armenian Republic is why that pride seldom extends as far to the ancestral homeland or its government.

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