Idei în Agora. Armenian Identities Homelands and Diasporas – International Conference

Idei în Agora / Ideas in the Agora


Armenian Identities

Homelands and Diasporas

International Conference

Conveners: Sorin Antohi and Varujan Vosganian

Organizers: Union of Armenians of Romania, Bucharest City Museum, Orbis Tertius Association

Bucharest City Museum, Casa Filipescu-Cesianu, October 21-22, 2023

The Union of Armenians of Romania, the Bucharest City Museum, and the Orbis Tertius Association convene an international conference devoted to the intercultural, transnational study of Armenian identities. It will be held under the auspices of the Academia Europaea.


The conference continues the collective effort that started with a similar event, The Armenian Genocide: History, Memory, Responsibility (Bucharest City Museum, Casa Filipescu-Cesianu, October 13-14, 2017, Organizers: Union of Armenians of Romania, Lepsiushaus Potsdam, Bucharest City Museum, Orbis Tertius Association, Conveners: Varujan Vosganian, Rolf Hosfeld, Bedros Horasangian, Sorin Antohi). The 2017 conference has explored the history of the Armenian genocide and of its lasting consequences, its memory (including its forgetting, denial, forgiveness, transgenerational trauma, and public significance), and the related issues of responsibility (from the ethics of memory to political recognition, from moral solidarity to retrospective justice). Conference videos at International Conference: The Armenian Genocide: History, Memory, Responsibility – Casa Filipescu-Cesianu – Muzeul Municipiului Bucuresti (

This conference, while addressing aspects of the genocide, integrates it in the longue durée of Armenian history, from its beginnings to its current avatar as part of a post-historical global condition, for which the diasporic dimension is central. In the spirit of the previous conference, emphasis is to be laid on the conceptual, global, and comparative dimensions of the millennia of Armenian experience (including its internal diversity), while keeping in mind the latter’s specificity.

The event will be open to the public, enjoy media coverage, will be video recorded and shared online, also being the basis for future publications.

It is part of the series, Idei în Agora / Ideas in the Agora, established in 2017 and hosted by Sorin Antohi. So far, in its 82 editions and other associated events, the series has featured more than 100 participants from Romania, Armenia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Moldova, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States.

Saturday, October 21

17:00-19:00 Session One:

Moderator: Sorin Antohi

His Holiness Datev Hagopian, Bishop of the Armenian Church of Romania, Welcome Speech

Varujan Vosganian, Opening Address

Sorin Antohi, How Can One Be Armenian? From Homelands to Diasporas

Avedis Hadjian, “We are a small nation”: Exclusive Nationalism and the Definition of Who is Armenian

Sunday, October 22

9:30-11:00 Session Two:

Hakob Matevosyan, Diaspora as a Social Field: Unpacking Cultural Identities and Power Relations Within the Armenians of Hungary

Arsen Arzumanyan, The Armenian Orphanage in Strunga, Romania

11:00-11:30 Coffee Break

11:30-13:00 Session Three:

Levon Chookaszian, Massacres, Genocide, and Freedom Fighters in Armenian Art

Bedros Horasangian, What Should Armenians Do if They Don’t Have Gas and Oil and Nobody Needs Them?

13:00-15:00 Lunch Break

15:00-16:30 Session Four:

Moderator: Varujan Vosganian

Sossie Kasbarian, (Re) constructing ‘Homeland’ – Imagined, intentional and precarious

Razmik Panossian, Building a Nation in Diaspora: Armenians 1920-1991

Sorin Antohi, Concluding Remarks


  1. Sorin Antohi (Bucharest)
  2. Arsen Arzumanyan (Yerevan/Bucharest)
  3. Levon Chookaszian (Yerevan)
  4. Avedis Hadjian
  5. Bedros Horasangian (Bucharest)
  6. Sossie Kasbarian (Stirling, UK)
  7. Hakob Matevosyan (Berlin)
  8. Razmik Panossian (Lisbon)
  9. Varujan Vosganian (Bucharest)



Sorin Antohi (b. 1957) is a historian of ideas, essayist, translator, and consultant based in Bucharest. Has studied English, French (University of Iași, Romania), and History (EHESS, Paris). He has taught mainly at the University of Michigan, the University of Bucharest, and the Central European University in Budapest (where he served as Academic Pro-Rector and founded Pasts, Inc. Center for Historical Studies, under the honorary presidency of Paul Ricoeur). He has conducted research at institutes of advanced study and other institutions in Paris, Bielefeld, Stanford, Vienna, Essen, Berlin, Leipzig, etc. He has published widely (thirteen books, eight co-written; eight edited and co-edited volumes, hundreds of book chapters, articles, etc.) on intellectual history, history of ideas, historical theory, and history of historiography, utopianism, etc. He has lectured, attended and (co)organized conferences in over thirty countries. He has served on various academic, editorial, and civic governing or advisory bodies, e.g., member of the Board, International Committee of Historical Studies, and secretary general of the International Commission for the Theory and History of Historiography. Member of the Committee, Utopian Studies Society Europe (2018-). Member, Academia Europaea.

Arsen Arzumanyan (b. 1989 in Armenia) has studied International Relations in Yerevan (BA 2009, MA 2011), Diplomacy (Amenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), as well as Romanian (2011-2012), Political Science (PhD 2015) and Foreign Languages (BA 2018) at the University of Bucharest. He has worked for the Government of Armenia, the Armenian Embassy in Bucharest, the Romanian Government, and the Union of the Armenians of Romania. He has translated from Armenian and Russian into Romanian (for instance, the fairytales of Suren Muradyan, 2023), has published a textbook of Armenian for Romanians (2018), and most recently the monograph, Orfelinatul armean din Strunga: Mărturii ale unor destine frânte (The Armenian Orphanage of Strunga: Testimonies of Broken Destinies, 2023). He has organized summer schools of Armenian language, history, and culture for young Armenians from Romania.

Levon Chookaszian. Professor Chookaszian is the author of two monographs (Grigor Tsaghkogh, Yerevan, 1986, and Arshag Fetvadjian, Yerevan, 2011) and three books (Vladimir Atanian, The Art and the Life, Los Angeles, 2010, Anatoli Avetyan, Metal Works, Painting, Sculpture, Yerevan, 2011; The History of the Exploration of the Armenian Medieval Art (1830s-1950), Yerevan, 2016), and around four hundred articles and reviews on Armenian art. 1978-1996, Senior Fellow and Professor of Armenian Art at the Center for Armenian Studies in the Yerevan State University. In 1996 with a grant from UNESCO, he established the UNESCO Chair of Armenian Art History and Art History Department at Yerevan State University. Since then and till 2018 he was a director of that Chair. Currently he is a director of the Chair of Armenian Art History and Theory at Yerevan State University. Since 1992, numerous invited lectures on Armenian art at Italy, USA, Canada, UK, Lebanon, Greece, Germany, France, Hungary, and Romania. 2015, elected to the Ambrosiana Academy in Milan; 2016, elected as corresponding member of the Academy of Montpelier.

Avedis Hadjian was born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1968. He is a writer and journalist. He has worked as an Editorial Writer for La Prensa newspaper in Buenos Aires. He later moved to the United States, where he worked for CNN, Bloomberg News, and The Wall Street Journal. He has published in Los Angeles Times, International Business Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, Hyperallergic, and The Christian Science Monitor. He has studied journalism in Buenos Aires. He is also a graduate of Cambridge University with a degree in International Relations. His book on the Armenians who still live in the geography of the Genocide in occupied Western Armenia and Cilicia, Secret Nation: The Hidden Armenians of Turkey, was published in April 2018 (I.B. Tauris – Bloomsbury, London and New York). He lives in Venice.

Bedros Horasangian Born in 1947, he was educated at the Bucharest Polytechnic Institute and started his career as an engineer. Then he has worked in various positions at the Armenian Archbishopric, newspapers and cultural periodicals, as a diplomat (cultural attaché at the Romanian Embassy in Athens; deputy director of the Romanian Cultural Institute, New York). He has published numerous works of fiction, political commentary, literary and musical chronicles, essays, op eds, etc. He has been very well received by the public and by critics. Among others, he has received the Prize of the (Romanian) Writers’ Union (1984), and the Prize of the Romanian Academy (1987) Curcubeul de la miezul nopții (short fiction, 1984); Închiderea ediției (short fiction, Bucharest, 1984); Parcul loanid (short fiction, 1986); Sala de așteptare (novel, 1987); În larg (novel, 1989); Portocala de adio (short fiction, 1989); Misteriosul om în negru sau Ora melomanului. Roman în foarte multe părți (novel, 1992), Enciclopedia armenilor (1994; revised, under the title Trotineta lui Edi. Proze și povestiri dintr-o enciclopedie a armenilor, 2020); Bonjour popor (1995); Zăpada mieilor (novel, 1996); Integrarea europeană (poems, 1997), Obsesia. Cine l-a ucis pe Olof Palme (novel, 2002), Miss Perfumado și alte femei (short fiction, 2009), Berlin, Berlin (2023. He has written, translated, collected, commissioned, edited most of the materials (articles, essays, memoirs, translations, etc.) that went into Dosar 1915, a long-term effort to inform the Romanian public about the Armenian genocide.

Sossie Kasbarian is Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Stirling, Scotland. She is co-editor of Diaspora- A Journal of Transnational Studies.

Dr. Kasbarian’s research interests and publications broadly span diaspora studies; contemporary Middle East politics and society; nationalism; transnational political activism; refugee, displacement and migration studies.  She is the co-editor of the book The Armenian Diaspora and Stateless Power – Collective Identity in the Transnational 20th Century (co-edited with Talar Chahinian and Tsolin Nalbantian), Bloomsbury 2023. Please see

Hakob Matevosyan is a sociologist with a research focus on migration, diaspora, and transnationalism. He is particularly interested in the interplay of memory and historical narratives in the making of social generations and in the questions related to diaspora identities, descent, and power relations within and around generations of migrants. Since February 2023, Hakob Matevosyan has been a postdoctoral researcher for the research project Moving Russia(ns): Intergenerational Transmission of Memories Abroad and at Home (MoveMeRU) funded by the European Research Council and hosted at the Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS). Hakob Matevosyan leads the work package on conducting intergenerational surveys among national reference populations and people with a Russian background in Canada, Estonia and Germany.

As the recipient of the Global Excellence Scholarship of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Portugal, Hakob Matevosyan completed his doctorate at Leipzig University (Department of Cultural Sociology, Graduate School Global and Area Studies). His doctoral thesis was awarded the 2020 Doctoral Prize from the Research Academy Leipzig. He holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in sociology from the Yerevan State University, Armenia. Before joining ZOiS, Hakob Matevosyan was a postdoctoral researcher at the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO). He also worked as a research fellow at the Department of Cultural Sociology at the Institute of the Study of Culture, Leipzig University. After completing an internship at the UNDP/UNV in Yerevan, he functioned as the Head of the Data Processing and Management Department of the Institute of Political and Sociological Consulting (now Breavis), Armenia.

Razmik Panossian is Director of the Armenian Communities Department at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book, The Armenians: From Kings and Priests to Merchants and Commissars, and various other academic publications on Armenian identity, diaspora and politics. Prior to his appointment at Gulbenkian in 2013, he worked at a Canadian governmental agency in Montreal devoted to international human rights promotion and democratic development. He has been a consultant at UNDP in New York. He obtained his PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2000, where he subsequently taught.

Varujan Vosganian was born in 1958 into a family of Armenians who have survived the Genocide and came to Romania. He is the President of the Union of Armenians in Romania (since 1990). He has studied Economics (BSc 1982, PhD 1998) and Mathematics (BA 1991). After participating in the 1989 Revolution, he entered politics, and has held various Government and Parliament offices ever since. Since 2005, First Vice-President of the Writers’ Union of Romania. Besides works in the field of economics, political analyses, and numerous op eds, he has published twelve critically-acclaimed books of poems and short fiction, as well as novels, some of them becoming best-sellers in many countries (his work has been translated in more than twenty languages). He has receieved various national and international prizes, awards, and medals, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize for his magnum opus, Cartea șoaptelor (2009), a literary and moral international phenomenon, published in English with Yale University Press in January 2019 as The Book of Whispers.



Sorin Antohi, How Can One Be Armenian? From Homelands to Diasporas

In books published in Romania and France over more than fifty years, Cioran constructs—in his own fragmentary, obsessive and apophatic manner—an extreme metaphysical definition of Romanian ethnicity. The most succinct version of this negative hermeneutic of Romanian-ness is the question “Comment peut-on être Roumain?”, formulated as such in La Tentation d’exister (1956). It is Cioran’s adaptation of “Comment peut-on être Persan?”, the question addressed by the world of Enlightenment Parisian salons to an Oriental traveler, the noble Rica, fictional hero of Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes. In Montesquieu’s book, the question signals a superficial, arrogant, and essentially ridiculous refusal of alterity, a closing of the mind by absolutizing the chance norms of a local culture which perceives itself, and imposes itself on others, as universal. Cioran took it from there. I have extended his approach to other cultures and to the analysis of ethnic stigma, the excess of collective self-criticism that has accomp

anied radical nationalism as a negative, self-destructive counterpoint. In this paper, which was preceded in 2022 by a public lecture and an essay (published by Ararat), I look through this lens at Armenians, following them from their homelands to their adoptive lands, and trying to make room in my theory of ethnic ontology (the metaphysical form of radical nationalism) for the diasporic condition.

Arsen Arzumanyan, The Armenian Orphanage in Strunga, Romania

In April 1923, in the Armenian Orphanage of Strunga, 200 children (150 boys, 50 girls) find refuge. They are all survivors and witnesses, some from a very young age indeed, of the Armenian Genocide. They have lost their parents or any contact with them. Although short-lived (1923-1926), the Strunga Armenian Orphanage has left a deep mark on the hearts of the Armenians from Romania, and has also raised the interest and the solidarity of many Romanians.

One can see this on thousands of pages of the Armenian press published in Romania (in both Armenian and Romanian) to this very day. This presentation is based on extensive archival research, and concentrates the substance of the book I published in Romanian for the centennial of the orphanage (see bio).

Levon Chookaszian, Massacres, Genocide, and Freedom Fighters in Armenian Art

The Armenian massacres, the Genocide organized in the Ottoman empire at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, Armenian-Tatar (Azeri) clashes in the early 20th century, were real catastrophes for the Armenian people. The loss of the essential part of the historical homeland, the deportation and the organized mass killings, the appearance of thousands and thousands of orphans, the loss of property and cultural monuments, the loss of historical memory were very painful for the survivors during many decades. The armed resistance of the inhabitants of certain cities and villages are heroic pages of the Armenian history. Numerous Armenian artists portrayed in their art works the tragic and heroic events of that period. Certain artists heard the stories of suffering from refugees, others miraculously survived, escaping arrests, or lost family members. Many children saw the death of their parents and relatives inside paternal houses or during the death marches in Syrian deserts. Some of those who grew up in orphanages became artists. Thus, the massacres, the Genocide, and the national liberation struggle became subjects of Armenian painters and sculptors.

Avedis Hadjian, “We are a small nation”: Exclusive nationalism and the definition of who is Armenian

“For although we are a small nation, and are very limited in number, and deprived of power, and have been conquered by other nations many times, still in our country there have been many feats of courage worthy of being immortalized in writing.”

Movses Khorenatsi, 5th century AD

The statement by Khorenatsi has been an article of faith in historical accounts about the Armenians. The comment dates back to a time when Armenia was at least ten times larger than the modern republic and was a mid-size power that acted as a buffer between rival empires or, often, the extended battlefield where they clashed. Yet the veracity of it has only grown over time, to the point of being a truism and, in any case, an accurate description of what the Armenian nation is, quite literally, today, sixteen centuries later. Moreover, the Armenian nation in the 21st century is even smaller, comparatively speaking, than it was in the 5th century of our era.

We are going to explore which factors have curtailed the growth of the Armenian people, from demographic factors to imperial politics and the Genocide, yet our focus will be exclusive nationalism in its most basic definition. Has the Armenian identity evolved in such a manner that it has contributed to exclude people who would otherwise, with a more inclusive conception, could have been embraced? And if this is so, which were the causes? At the time of Khorenatsi’s writing most of the leading actors of the Armenian nation were of Parthian origin, who chose to become Armenian and, indeed, helped define the identity as we know it today. How did we go from embracing Parthians like St. Gregory the Illuminator, king Tiridates III, St. Sahak Partev (the Parthian), and king Vramshapuh as quintessential and foundational Armenians to becoming a people that is now endangered on its own land?

Bedros Horasangian, What Should Armenians Do if They Don’t Have Gas and Oil and Nobody Needs Them?

Who am I, who are we? We approximate. But the Armenians? I know and I don’t know who they are. Where is their country? Every single one of them has one. Or they come together and say Our Father. This is their country… Are there more types of Armenians or just one? Can you be Bulgarian, Italian, Romanian, etc. on your own? Obviously not. You have to be (anything/anybody) alongside others. Can a certain identit (ethnic, religious, professional, individual) be preserved in a multipolar world? Or one can simply say Es Hayem, I am Armenian. Full stop.

Sossie Kasbarian, (Re) constructing ‘Homeland’ – Imagined, intentional and precarious

The concept of ‘homeland’ is intrinsic to the concept of diaspora. In the case of the Armenian diaspora, ‘homeland’ is a complicated notion, and has many layers and understandings. This presentation looks at the role of the Republic of Armenia as ‘homeland’, in claiming its diasporans as part of its nation-building process, and in offering sanctuary and protection in times of crisis.

The paper will give a brief historical and conceptual background of diasporic ‘return’ to Armenia. It will focus on the case of the Syrian Armenians who have found refuge there since the start of the Syrian civil war.  The case of Syrian Armenians is disruptive to prevailing linear notions of home, homeland, nation and diaspora. It invites us to engage more substantially with the nuances and complexities of multi-layered identities reconfigured through war and continuing precarity.

While previous studies have acknowledged the challenges of settling in Armenia – economic, social and political – the 2020 war and its continuing reverberations, both at the local and the wider geo-political level, adds a layer of critical precarity that is qualitatively different. This presentation suggests that the 2020 Artsakh war and its continuing reverberations have rendered Armenia a precarious homeland for Syrian refugees. Such precarity potentially jeopardizes the intentionality of many Syrian Armenians to stay in Armenia.

Hakob Matevosyan, Diaspora as a Social Field: Unpacking Cultural Identities and Power Relations Within the Armenians of Hungary

This paper places a spotlight on the theoretical underpinnings of diaspora as a social field, using the Armenian diaspora in Hungary as a case study. Grounded in Stuart Hall’s conceptualization of diaspora as a cultural identity and Pierre Bourdieu’s social field theory, this study elucidates the intricate dynamics of diasporic communities and identities.

Through 33 in-depth interviews conducted between 2015 and 2016 with Hungary-based individuals of Armenian descent and participation in cultural events, this research unveils how the Armenian diaspora in Hungary functions as a social field. Three empirical investigations are presented, each shedding light on different facets of the Armenian diasporic field: the Transylvanian Armenians, late- and post-Soviet Armenians, and Armenians from the Middle East settled in Hungary. These investigations not only showcase the power dynamics and identity complexities within the Armenian diaspora but also demonstrate how the theoretical framework of a social field enriches our understanding of diasporic communities. By examining how actors within the diaspora struggle for authority and seek to accumulate diasporic capital, this paper underscores the fluid and dynamic nature of diasporic identities and power structures.

Exploring diaspora as a social field highlights the interconnectedness of diasporic fields with broader social fields, such as politics, media, and religion, and underscores the significance of power dynamics and strategies in shaping diasporic identity constructions. Ultimately, this paper contributes to the theoretical discourse on diaspora studies, emphasizing the importance of understanding diasporic communities as complex social fields where identities and authority are constantly negotiated and redefined.

Razmik Panossian, Building a Nation in Diaspora: Armenians 1920-1991
20th century nation building was a multilocal process for the Armenians. During the Soviet period, it was concentrated partly in Yerevan, and partly in various diasporan communities. This presentation focuses on the diasporan component of building community and identity. It analyses the process of identity construction without the support of state institutions, looking at factors such as language, education and political ideology. It situates the Diaspora at the heart of modern national identity. The 1988-1991 period was pivotal in shifting the diasporan gaze toward Armenia. The presentation ends by asking if another shift is currently taking place, away from Armenia and onto the Diaspora itself.