The Armenians: From Kings and Priests to Merchants and Commissars

In This Review

The Armenians: From Kings and Priests to Merchants and Commissars

By Razmik Panossian
Columbia University Press, 2006
492 pp. $40.00

No single theory, Panossian contends in this inspired and thoughtful navigation, can account for a national identity with roots as ancient as the Armenian, formed as it was from such disparate experiences among a scattered people. Thus, rather than choose between warring schools of thought, especially those that treat nation and national identity as primordial and those that see them as constructed, he seeks a middle ground where diverse theories merge productively. Viewed this way, Armenian national identity is a modern, post-seventeenth-century phenomenon, in its very essence subjective but rooted in historical realities of language, community, religion, and shared experience tracing back at least to the third century BC. More than this, it has been the transcendent, joint project of both Armenians on the land (historic eastern Armenia) and the diasporic other half (largely from historic western, or Ottoman, Armenia), divided in Soviet times, commingling now with seminal effect.

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