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Garbis: Notes on Emigration

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Emigration is the single most detrimental threat to the Armenian nation today, even more so than governmental corruption. The National Statistics Service insists that the population of Armenia is still 3.2 million, a figure it has maintained since 2001 since the last census was taken. Meanwhile, behinds closed doors rumors are heard that there are barely 2 million people actually living in the country today. A new census is slated for this year, but its findings will be unpromising. Untold thousands leave the country every year as permanent emigrants.

'Departure of the Winged Ship' by Vladimir Kush

Emigration is increasing for several reasons. The main one is, of course, a lack of jobs and persistent mass poverty. Perhaps the most effective way to address this problem, while keeping the youth from leaving, is for the government to attract more investment in the IT sector. The overture to give tax breaks to technology companies doing business in Armenia is still not aggressive enough. The IT sector needs to increase four-fold. Technology centers need to be established across the country, from Kapan to Alaverdi, and new talent must be continually cultivated.

In the meantime, as part of a mass rural development plan, entire villages are being uprooted and transplanted to remote regions of Russia, where people are offered free housing and employment.

According to the National Statistics Service, the total number of poor increased from 27.6 percent in 2008 to 35.8 percent in 2010, despite the tens of millions being pumped into the country in foreign aid packages, investments, loans, and remittances. During the same period, there was about a 10 percent increase in poverty in rural Armenia. The 2010 poverty line was set at a monthly income of 33,517 dram, or about $90, per adult.

There are also problems related to sustaining small businesses. Rents are going up, and small stores find it hard to compete, especially with the chain supermarkets that are branching out across the city. Higher rent and prices for imported goods mean less profit when customer loyalty dwindles. The lower middle class—the core of Armenian society –has less and less to spend.

The third reason is attributed to bad attitudes and pervasive apathy.  I still hear statements like, “The country’s not a country,” and “Is Armenia even a country for you to come here?” as if it were all a big joke. A defeatist dissatisfaction with everything and blind indifference to the general state of affairs are suppressing the vital strengthening of society. The only segment of the population that has the genuine right to express a feeling of hopelessness is the poor/very poor. Many of Armenia’s destitute populace have no choice but to leave for Russia or elsewhere to find work.

Another reason to leave is that it’s fashionable. The youth dream of leaving the country and moving to more exotic places like the U.S., Canada, and Europe.  It’s the cool thing to do. Even if someone has a hard time making a go of things where they end up, emotionally, financially, or whatever, the stigma that it is “shameful” to go back inhibits their desire to return. So you have one group that is ecstatic about living elsewhere in the world—anywhere but Armenia—and another that regrets leaving in the first place, but won’t return to the homeland.

The majority of Armenian citizens have a lot to be thankful for. Although they may be blind to it, they presently have a relatively stable government and economy. The government insists that the economy will grow by 4.2 percent this year and that it will meet its target in collecting about $2.3 billion in tax revenues. Armenia is considered by the Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org/index/country/Armenia) to have a “moderately free” economy—ranked 39th in the world ahead of Norway, France, Turkey, and Azerbaijan—and is now implementing a revised, amicable registration process for doing business. It benefits from the support of the European community, the Americas, China, Japan, and of course its big brother, Russia. Petty crime is not common in many parts of the capital and arguably less so in the regions. There is little to fear by walking the streets of the city center late at night, and that’s something that certainly can’t be said of many cities around the world. And despite the beating of war drums by its oil-happy neighbor to the east, there isn’t a clear sign of a possible resumption in hostilities. No one in the international community, Armenia, or Artsakh seems to take the rhetoric seriously. Moreover, Armenians have had the privilege of living in a democracy for 20 years, enjoying the freedoms of casting a ballot, thought, expression, and enterprise, all of which are taken for granted.

Emigration long ago became a national security risk for Armenia, fueled by boundless cynicism and apathy towards nation building. If it continues unchecked, the emigration problem will instigate a severe, harrowing depopulation of the only parcel of land the Armenian nation can legally call its own. And ultimately, that will mean others will move in to take their place. The exodus from Armenia needs to be curbed, and that entails more than just evasive action taken by the Armenian government. It will need the support and encouragement of the Armenian Diaspora to ensure Armenia becomes a country that anyone returning would never dream of leaving again. That has to happen now.

42 Comments on Garbis: Notes on Emigration

  1. Christian, I think you have it completely wrong when you say: “Emigration is the single most detrimental threat to the Armenian nation today, even more so than governmental corruption.”

    Corruption is the cause of 99% of the emigration. It is the reason why the government does not put to force the types of remedies you suggest.

    If the government weren’t corrupt, there would be a much better business climate, the businessmen would pay taxes instead of buying seats in parliament, and we would have a much freer society and media.

  2. Christian,

    Thank you for writing this article. I agree with you that emigration is the biggest threat to the Armenian nation. You write:

    “The exodus from Armenia needs to be curbed, and that entails more than just evasive action taken by the Armenian government. It will need the support and encouragement of the Armenian Diaspora ”

    Specifically, what type of support and encouragement of the Armenian Diaspora would help? It seems the amount of money and other aid that has been given over the last 20 years has not worked. It seems the intentions of the Diaspora have been good, but ineffective.

  3. Garbis I don’t know if it still goes on; but an equally dangerous is the adoption of Armenian orphans and moving them out of country, kids are the future of our fatherland and when they grownup there are chances that each couple will reproduce two or more kids and so on.
    Don’t misunderstand me every single person who migrates is a big loss but kids are like our seeds and soon will multiply therefore we can’t throw them on foreign fields.

    • Osik, this is also part of the corruption problem. Those in charge of approving adoptions would prefer to give the baby to a couple from the west who pay a large bribe of thousands of dollars through a “facilitator”, than to a local couple who cannot afford this bribe.

    • Who gave you the right to speak on behalf of orphaned Armenian children? Who are you to decide what is better for them? To live in a loving family wherever this family may be living or to be stack at an orphanage?

      There are 10 million + Armenians in the world and 2000 orphans in Armenia. If these TEN MILLION cannot adopt 2000 orphans, then ANY family in the world should have the right to adopt them. This is a shame on the entire nation to have Armenian children in orphanages in 21 century!!

      Don’t get me wrong, Armenian orphanages are one of the best ones in the industry. They should not be closed down after every single Armenian orphan is adopted or placed in a foster family. Orphanages should be reformed and their personnel retrained to work on PREVENTION of orphanhood and rehabilitation of children with disabilities.

  4. avatar Vahram Sookikian // March 22, 2012 at 1:31 pm // Reply

    Let us look at the other side of the “Scales”. For many reasons Armenians have migrated to other countries, they have generally enriched their own lives and have contributed to their host country.

    Many articles in the Hairenik written over decades have told of these happenings.

    For example, the list of Armenian inventors and their contributions have made a huge impact in these United States

    This contribution has been in every field imagineable. The net result is a positive one for the human race.

    And this is not a new situation. Beyond the Great Flood, probably the largest impact of population movement started with the forced transplantation of Christian Armenian villages by Persia.

    Through further migration to India some “transplants” became the “seeds” of what became The British East India Company and individual Armenians contributed hugely to its success and went on to turn Chinese cities like Hong Kong into world centers of commerce.

    What better reason for the suffering of Armenian people than to make the world a better place *
    —————————————-
    * The Armenian Mafia is enough reason to once again go into the “Market Place”.

  5. avatar gaytzag palandjian // March 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm // Reply

    Garbis,Osik et al
    Like one of you gentlemen ,Vahram ,I believe mentioned above it has been in the Armenian press not only in the North American armenian communities but in Europe as well. Emigration is FIRST of all an International Phenomenae rampant in many countries of the world,especially those whose economy lags behind a given standard norm of more or less bearable one…
    REPATRIATION , as vs. emigration is the solution to same .We all know that.
    However, it can be combined with Nation building ….which this servant of you guys and the Whole of Armenian nation is ¨suggesting¨Far from offering .I don´t do that,I know my nation well…. so take it or leave it…suggested ideas views..
    Please therefore go to http://www.armenianneews.info …and click on Ussers articles(top left).I think one of my articles deals at length w/Repatriation,2nd from top to bottom.Thanks if ypou read it.
    Best,

  6. The ruling class is the problem… ITS CORRUPT.. ITS A THIEF OF AN ESTABLISHMENT.. ITS SOLE PURPOSE IS TO KEEP THE FEW CLANS WITH ALL THE MONEY AND THEY CAN CARE LESS ABOUT OTHER ARMENIANS..

    EX PRES. Robert Khatcharian is said to be worth over 200 million dollars.. How did he “earn that”. The Armenian Lottery? Hes a thief as they all are..

    TELL ME HOW MUCH BRIBE MONEY IS REQUIRED FOR AN OUTSIDE CORPORATION TO SETTLE IN ARMENIA PROPER?

    I’ll be honest, as a staunch ARMENIAN the current situation almost makes me want to never go there..

  7. In its vulnerable geopolitical situation Armenia cannot afford losing its most precious resource: the people, first and foremost from the national security perspective. Inability and reluctance of the ruling elites to establish law and order, a better-governed and more economically viable nation-state is the major reason why people emigrate. At this critical historical juncture we cannot afford outflow of the people. The current ruling regime must go and more public-spirited, patriotic, educated, and professionally capable people must come instead. As long as we have one illegitimate unpopular regime after another, nothing will change…

  8. avatar gaytzag palandjian // March 22, 2012 at 7:20 pm // Reply

    Co- incidence!!!
    A few minutes ago the Channel H1 Armenian TV started a debate exactly on Emigration. Please forgive me if I do not remeber the participants names.
    The young lady was right of course when she answered question posed to her by interviewer lady,that leaving a country in any democratic country is a FREE option.Reason must be searched if it is relatively high in proportion to population.
    Correct.But then talk is about creating jobs ,jobs and jobs.This is BEING DONE,but again we(both there an d in Diaspora) do not realize that Firstly.
    Country went through earthquake,war and RATHER UNNECESSARY SPEEDY TRANSITION TO FREE MAARKET ECONOMY.
    i lives both in dictatorial Franco and post Franco Regimes-that of Euro soccialism enacted by Don Felipe Gonzalez- vice pres. of Internacional socialist.Pres. was Willy Brandt.12 yrs with ea of above. The peeriod when Gonzalez Socialist party rule was passed, it ws THE TRASNITIONAL one, that slowly took Spain to a Free market one and eventually and ggradually into EU-Whjereas Armenia plus the 14 other ex soviet republics OVERNIGHT flew into the Wild free mat economy…
    Bygones are Bygones.But this TRIGGERED not only the fast entry into the wild system but also THE FREE DEMOCRATIC system-above hinted at- allowed to our compatriots to follow ONE ANOTHER OUT!!!!
    Hovsep wrote from Belgium (as example) I earn near ten times more here and voila Vartan followed him …tens pof thousands like this example and..
    The Govt. will not be able to stop that in any way,especially if the wild economy FREE mart economy is there to stay. The rich get richer and the poor poorer.What I have gathered so far from this like debates on TV. w/rgds to this ISSUE, is rather evasive.Which can be explained of course as being in consequence of the FREE market LAW.
    But they do not touch the other side or face of the ISSUE, namely my cherisedh and planned and ¨suggested¨ PLAN,for which please refer to my articles above mentioned in http://www.armeniannews.info,WHICH ABOVE was erroneously typed . In Short THE DIASPORAS MUST REPORGANMIZE AND TAKE IT UPON THEMSELVES-like in 1945 after WWII TO ORGANIZE A MASSIVE R E P A T R I A T I O N.And this time over with ample GAPITAL!!!!!
    see and rad me in 2nd article in said site.Thanks if you do

  9. avatar gaytzag palandjian // March 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm // Reply

    ONE MORE VERY IMPORTANT MATTER,
    That has been at the back of my mind and I have not raised the issue.It is the VERY STRANGE LAW OR METHOD OR WHATEVER YOU WISH TO CALL IT IN ARMENIA,as follows:-
    1.There is no such thing as ID.that what in almost all so called democratic countries is a personal identification document,in the U:S-. the Drivers´s license also is used 99% as such.But in Europe and many others the ID document is seperate ….A N D N O T A P A S S P O R T .
    whereas in Armenia the passport serves as FOR BOTH USES.
    2.As Identification ID and
    3. As a passport that can be pressented to cross border into a COUNTRY THAT HAS RECIPROCAL ENTRY…or an easily pobtained or given VISA
    Which last year(please it is not emanated from me) the News was that the Russian Federation facilitatesd very much VISA giving(unlike Euro, or U.S. visas) and droves and droves got them and emigrated!!!
    My humble SUGGESTION-hOPE hAIRENI `PEOPLE DO READ aw AND POSTS SUCH AS MINE…
    I suggest to authorities in RA to immediatley pass law in National Assembly to issue ID´s and STOP ISSUEING PASSPORTS TO ALL.
    People who wish to leave country for any reason whether on touristic visits ,family member visiots and orEmigration should apply and after through screening and Formalities(something that is used freely foranything -unfortuantely-in Armenia EXCEPT FOR PASSPORT ISSUEING !!!
    I think I have exhausted what I wished to convey.Is anyone listening in Yerevan???????

  10. APATHY is the bigest threat facing the Republic of Armenia. It isn’t emigration or corruption. These are merely by-products of a mentality that inflicts both the government and the people. The government lacks vision and a sense of accountability. Why? Because it lacks any interest in moving the country forward with new ideas and approaches. This leads to the mismanagement and corruption we all know and lament. Then,we have the public at large, who would rather leave en masse than actually change the reality on the ground. I can tell you countless stories of ordinary, well-intentioned people, who chose this approach. Those in the diaspora have no right to criticize those who leave. The apathy is pervasive and it covers Armenia and the Diaspora. We go along willy-nilly and are satisfied with the minimum while the RA, that last sliver of the historic homeland, is lurching on the precipice of extinction.

  11. This is a tragic state of affairs and a shame to the whole nation. The bottom line is that successive Armenian governments have failed. Not only have they failed to attract Diasporan immigrants to their historical fatherland when it reached independence, but they have failed even to keep the native population from leaving the country.
    This, in spite of the reverberating military victories against the aggressive neighbour twenty years ago. The fact is that we have won the war, but we have lost the peace.
    I don’t want to use harsh words against our present leaders as I am not sure if any Diasporan Armenian was in their place would do better. But, the fact is that we lack leaders with motivating power. I don’t mean charismatic, populist leaders, but highly motivated souls who could serve as examples for the bewildered sections of the populace.
    In my humble view if and when state corruption can be done away with, Armenia will become a better place to live for its citizens. Then there will also be a more solid economy and less incentive to move out. In time, many Diasporan Armenians too may be motivated to move and get settled in their promised land.

  12. Dear compatriots
    Sure you agree with me that if Armenia becomes a country as Denmark,for exemple,than we will have to administer the immigration to Armenia of Aremnians or other citizens.
    So let us consider how we can create this second Denmark.

  13. avatar gaytzag palandjian // March 24, 2012 at 6:25 pm // Reply

    Arguments and or debates that are non constructive and with tendency towards ONLY critique that is Negative of sorts will not get us anywhere.
    Apathy ? indeed for those who believe that Armenia -that went through-like always multiple difficulties before it was REBORN 20 yrs ago…no need to mention,for those savvy..Then Look at (if you have Armenian channel TV´s that near daily show achievements of new canals,for farming, small and medium and large size plants being opened.The army THE main ACHIEVEMENT of all times after 600 yrs…of foreign rule…
    Not to mention advancements in arts, sciences and education.Opening of new embassies abroad, and hosting foreign ones in Hayastan.
    True there are shortcomings and I may be also inclinded to voice up quite a few,but then one must not be that hopeless.
    Emigration is -like I wrote ,if not above in this thread on another one, is not unique for us Armenians. Millions left Spain when Regime change happened in 1939,That many also from Yugoslavia, Turkey etc. Also true for us Armenians it is most alarming since our population in RA is not comparable to those aforementioned.But then ,there are remedies for that.
    Erroneous thoughts that the Diasporan can go and rule there ,not very appropriate.What we can do -like we ADEVOCATESD AND WON- To establish diasporA MINISTRY.BUT THIS is exactly where we should push for more..TO HAVE F I V E PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVES, from our 5 main Diasporas. N.& S. American.EU,. RF, and Middle East,right there in the Minsitry,so as on daily basis many issues can best be handled…
    there are more healthy ways of COOPERATING with Homeland.One is Just this one mentioned. Unless we act correctly without hurting their feelings and their dignity WE CANNOT IMPLEMENT OUR GOOD WISHES.
    I ¨suggest¨ in order to be able to convey more of our desires and said wishes,FIRSTLY TO REORGANIZE OUR OWN HOUSE IN DIASPORA ASAP.it is then that with adequate weight we can have real cooperation ion Homeland be LI -IRAV , Full fledged PARTNERS….
    So far we are fragmented and some undesired elements on both sides are taking advantage of the situation .There the Oilgarky , here the BBB´s(this is coined by ARA Baliozian, Canadian writer philosopher) i.e., Bishops, Bosses and Benefactors. In myb opinion all are to be TOLERATED, if…….JUSTLY elected to these posts by an electorate that is from the people. And those to be lected worthy of their position sthey are to occupy and elected ONLY FOR MERITS, not for having . More later on…

  14. avatar Christian Garbis // March 25, 2012 at 2:45 am // Reply

    I just want to make the point if it wasn’t inferred in the article that corruption exists because Armenian citizens allow it to. Emigration continues not because of governmental corruption. People leave Armenia for personal or socio-economic reasons, namely they can’t stand being in Armenia any longer or they can’t find work. You can’t have a normal functioning country–one without governmental corruption, where the rule of law works, where unemployment is low, etc.–while apathy controls the masses.

    Also no one above mentioned the necessity for democracy to function. The parliamentary elections are not too far off, and it will be interesting to see just how many reports there are of people selling their votes this time around. Obviously democracy can’t work when voters take bribes–that only fuels governmental corruption.

  15. I guess the question is ‘How?’ How do we create Denmark of Armenia considering that she’s in the midst of two wild Turkic nations externally and in the hands of past and present unpopular ruling regimes domestically? Some posters say: ‘we need no western-sponsored revolution’ and I agree with them. But then the only evolutionary, legitimate measure left is elections. How do we bring forth responsible leaders with motivated power if one rigged election follows the other and if the sinister behind-the-scenes globalist powers generally prefer to have subservient—not patriotic and public-spirited—local governments? How?

  16. avatar gaytzag palandjian // March 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm // Reply

    ADDENDUM- 3 M A J O R IMPORVEMENTS THAT CAN BE IMPLEMENTED URGENTLY,IF WE FROM DIASPORA JOIN UP AND VOTE FOR THEM:-

    1. Request Gov.t of RA to admit 5 permanent delegates in Ministry of Diaspora.
    from North and South Americas,EU.RF. and Middles East.
    2. Request Gvot. of RA to emit Speccial reskidency passports to Diaspora Youth and Young at $75.-(after scrutiny by church and consular authorities)to pass 2 month Summer vacations in RA,language,history and Cadet military training.
    3.Request RA to issue plastified ID cards to population in RA,reserving passport issuance only for travel purposes.

    These can be enacted ,without much difficulty,if we in Diaspora raise our voices and unanimously ask for these changes.Firstly OUR PRESENCE…

  17. Christian
    I beg to disagree that corruption exists because Armenian citizens allow it to. If they won’t allow, their many ills and social concerns won’t be attended to. If a government official won’t take a bribe as a matter of principle and social custom, why would a citizen be motivated to bribe? Emigration continues because of governmental corruption and inability of the ruling elites to govern effectively. If people leave Armenia for socio-economic reasons, as you admit it, namely they can’t find work, then whose fault is it that the people can’t find work? Who creates jobs in a society? Is it not the government? Apathy controls the masses because they see no way of changing their lives, neither by means of uprisings that are ordinarily suppressed nor by means of elections that are ordinarily rigged. A commoner’s mentality goes like this: “If, irrespective of whom I cast my vote for, it’ll be stolen or rigged, then why won’t I just sell it to make a one-time profit for my impoverished family?” If he or she can be blamed for this, then so can be a bribe-giving governmental or pro-governmental candidate. Saakashvili of Georgia didn’t attempt to blame his fellow citizens for giving bribes to the police; he just fired several thousand policemen so other government officials learn the lesson. Do you think Serjik has balls to do the same?

    • Serko,

      You would be surprised to learn that majority of times citizens approach to a government official with a bribe first. Of course, having said this, I do not mean that government official should take the bribe-the government official can reject the bribe.
      To me it is very simple-if I do not give a bribe no one can take if from me. If they want a bribe from me I will reject. Case closed.
      I lived in Armenia and never gave a bribe to anyone. I studied in the YSU, and not only I did not pay a tuition fee, but never gave a bribe to any professor.

      However, some of my classmates complained that they had to give bribes to get their grades. However, those very same students did not prepare for their exams and complained that they did not pass their exams. Obviously, they never told it to their parents. The story was told is this-I prepared for my exam but my professor is corrupted and did not let me pass. Now, I need the money to bribe him/her.
      You ask ‘If a government official won’t take a bribe as a matter of principle and social custom, why would a citizen be motivated to bribe?”

      For a simple reason-it is a soviet tradition to bribe, and 3-4 generations have been raised and educated in the Soviet Union. It is not easy to change people. And Diasporan Armenians instead of trashing the Armenian government in Armenia should teach and pass their experience to them.
      And, let’s not forget that first elections in Armenia were not rigged. I wonder if you are happy with the outcome. I am not.

      As to Sahakashvily, I thought that Georgian people could afford having ”Sahakasvily” but we could not. Actually, it turned out that Georgians even with very favorable geographical location could not afford having Sahakashvily.

  18. Government is made of people. People make the jobs. Corruption undermines this as long as people tolerate the corruption.

  19. The number of Turks living in Yerivan was:

    575.000 in 1926
    150.000 in 1990
    5.568 in 2001
    000000 in 2012

    Where did they all go ?

  20. avatar Christian Garbis // March 26, 2012 at 8:52 am // Reply

    There is no justification for bribery on any level in a democracy, period. I can’t emphasize that enough.

  21. avatar gaytzag palandjian // March 26, 2012 at 10:34 am // Reply

    To Necati,
    How can one imagine that Armenians -after various genocides-still are the lambs???
    Indeed, in 1990,what remianed of the turco-azeris in Yerevan were put on carpets and asked to leave…
    This ocurred after Sumgsait and Baki Armenians were slaughtered…understand efendi????
    What you expected that they would still wish to live with them????
    Leave that for the stupids or search for stupids to think like you…

  22. Sella
    Citizens approach government officials with bribes because they know their cases won’t be attended to without them. Had citizens known that officials wouldn’t accept bribes under the penalty of law, they would hardly attempt to bribe. Your concept of bribe-giving and bribe-taking (“if I do not give a bribe no one can take it from me”) is somewhat simplistic. Go ahead and don’t give a bribe to a policeman who, as it once happened to me, stopped me because, in his own words, he was “standing on his post under the scorching sun whole day”. That was the reason. See what happens to you. Of course, if you’re not interested in a result, don’t give bribes. University professors’ case is different; we were discussing governmental corruption.

    To bribe is not a “Soviet tradition”; corruption existed as long as the human race had developed into civilizations. Roman Empire immediately comes to mind. The point of concern is the proportions of corruption as they undermine the foundations of statehood. Soviet corruption fades in comparison with the magnitude of corruption in the post-Soviet states.

    I haven’t seen Diasporan Armenians “trashing” the government. On the contrary, whenever citizens rose against governments (in 1996 or, most recently, in 2008), Diasporans never criticized the actions of the government however unpopular they have been for the population.

    First elections in Armenia (you mean presidential elections?) were, indeed, not rigged. I was happy with the fact that they proceeded openly and fairly, but wasn’t happy with the outcome, either. The point is: let the people correct their own mistake. Don’t bring robiks and serjiks on our heads irrespective of our choice. Have more confidence in the ability of the people to learn from mistakes and correct them.

    Saakashvili I didn’t quite get what you meant, but the fact is that the level of corruption in Georgia is strikingly lower than in Armenia. The fact that many Armenian businesses move to Georgia speaks for itself.

    Boyajian
    What do you mean by “people make the jobs”? Is it not the prerogative of a government to secure jobs in a society? In 1996, throughout Kocharian’s rule, and in March 2008 people rose against the regimes. Intolerance against widespread governmental corruption was their major concerns, among others. Did the government change as a result? Boutique owners have bribed the government to set their junkyard stores first on Abovyan Street and now on Mashtots Avenue in Yerevan. Several civil, human rights, opposition, and environmental groups protested in intolerance. What happened?

    Christian
    Of course, there’s no justification for bribery on any level in a democracy. I wish to see trials in which both the officials as bribe-takers and citizens as bribe-givers are punished. BTW, is Armenia a democracy?

  23. Sella, sorry for being so cryptic. What I mean is that in a democracy, ideally, the government is the people. The people create the government of their choosing through the representatives they elect. Therefore the people create the government, the economy, the industry, the good and the bad. When people realize their power and responsibility, and exercise their power, rather than relinquish it passively, apathetically, helplessly or out of fear, to thugs, than you begin to solve the situation we find in Armenia today. And you are right to ask the question…Is ROA a democracy?

    • “And you are right to ask the question…Is ROA a democracy?”

      I think Armenia can be considered semi-democracy at best.

  24. “The people create the government of their choosing through the representatives they elect.”
    Exactly, but the tragedy is that the people are barred from the option to elect the government of their choosing. I refuse to think that the people of Armenia who have produced to the world geniuses like Aram Khachaturian and Viktor Hambartsumian, Ivan Bagramian and Artem Mikoyan, Tigran Petrossian and Abraham Alikhanian, can now only have as their “representatives” dodi gagos and lfik samos.

  25. Boyajian
    If we admit that the people create the government of their choosing through the representatives they elect, you don’t mean to say that if Armenians were given a chance to elect their representatives, the prevailing majority of the government of their choosing would be thugs? I hope you don’t think that the prevailing majority of the population is thugs or thug-sympathizers who’d elect types in their semblance. In the current parliament only a handful of intellectuals—mainly from ARF and Heritage fractions—are represented. Do you think this handful of people proportionally represents the intellectual, educated layer of the society (students, academia, journalists, doctors, teachers, etc.) however small it might be in the post-Soviet period?

    • Serko,

      What I meant was that when we are talking about corruption both bribe givers and takers, as you said, should be kept responsible for their actions.

      The geniuses like Aram Khachaturian and Viktor Hambartsumian, Ivan Bagramian and Artem Mikoyan, Tigran Petrossian and Abraham Alikhanian that you brought up were not politicians. Our people still produce Arthur Meschian, Monte Melkonian, Arkadi Ter-Tadevosyan, Vazgen Sargsyan etc but they are not politicians. We need good politicians and diplomats.

      “Go ahead and don’t give a bribe to a policeman who, as it once happened to me, stopped me because, in his own words, he was “standing on his post under the scorching sun whole day”. That was the reason. See what happens to you. Of course, if you’re not interested in a result, don’t give bribes. University professors’ case is different; we were discussing governmental corruption.”

      I will not give a bribe. I would rather pay the fee knowing that at least some percentage of my payment will go to our budget. Call me crazy but I will not give a bribe.

      “To bribe is not a “Soviet tradition”; corruption existed as long as the human race had developed into civilizations. Roman Empire immediately comes to mind. The point of concern is the proportions of corruption as they undermine the foundations of statehood. Soviet corruption fades in comparison with the magnitude of corruption in the post-Soviet states.”

      I know that corruption existed as long as the human race had developed into civilizations. But the level and extent of corruption in the country makes a big difference. I do not quite agree with you that in Soviet times Armenia had less corruption. I think it had more and definitely people gave/took more bribes in Soviet times.

      “I haven’t seen Diasporan Armenians “trashing” the government. On the contrary, whenever citizens rose against governments (in 1996 or, most recently, in 2008), Diasporans never criticized the actions of the government however unpopular they have been for the population.”

      I have heard and seen Hayastanci and Diasporan Armenians trashing the Armenian government.

      ”First elections in Armenia (you mean presidential elections?) were, indeed, not rigged. I was happy with the fact that they proceeded openly and fairly, but wasn’t happy with the outcome, either. The point is: let the people correct their own mistake. Don’t bring robiks and serjiks on our heads irrespective of our choice. Have more confidence in the ability of the people to learn from mistakes and correct them.”

      I have much more trust and respect for Kocharyan and Sarkisyan than LTP.
      Can we really afford learning from our mistakes again when we have Artsakh issue pending? When we are squeezed between two hostile Turkic countries? When Turkey and Azerbaijan along with some Armenians were hailing LTP in 2008? BTW, Turkey and Azerbaijan are still supporting LTP. I guess there is no need even to wonder why.

      In 2008 LTP claimed that the presidential election was rigged and he got more votes. I am deeply disappointed that big portion of our society can still follow LTP, knowing what he did to Armenia when he was in the office. I yet to see the level of corruption, chaos, looting, robbery, organized killing orchestrated by Vano Siradeghyan, that I saw when he was in the office. And no president had rigged the election as shamelessly as LTP did in the second presidential elections. Thanks God Vazgen Petrosyan forced him out of office. Let me tell you one thing. When LTP was in the office people in Armenian did not get their salaries for 7-8 months. After Kocharyan came into office not only people started getting their salaries on time but they got all the money that the government had owed them. Can you imagine what does it meant not to get salary for 7-8 months? And our people were supporting such a leader again.

      Saakashvili I didn’t quite get what you meant, but the fact is that the level of corruption in Georgia is strikingly lower than in Armenia. The fact that many Armenian businesses move to Georgia speaks for itself.

      What I meant is that Armenians cannot afford having a Western-supported Sahakashvily. You know what happened to S. Ossetia (that is why I said that even Georgians “cannot” afford having Saakashvily since they lost S. Ossetia due to Saakashviliy’s politics). Armenia due to its geographical location cannot afford having a Western-financed government. Even if the Western-supported/financed government can lower the corruption significantly in Armenia we still cannot afford having that kind of government. I do not want to have a leader like Saakashvily in Armenia. We should have pro-Russian, Western-friendly government and that is what we have. We, both government and citizens, should find a way to shape up. Unfortunately, it is a very slow process. This is where Diasporan Armenians can effectively collaborate with Armenians in Armenia/Armenian government.

    • Excuse me for my mistake. I meant Vazgen Sargsyan forced LTP out of office not Vazgen Petrosyan.

    • avatar Boyajian // March 27, 2012 at 9:37 pm //

      I agree with you Serko. I don’t believe that Armenians prefer being governed by ‘thugs’ but I do believe they have not yet learned how to ‘kick the bullies to the curb.’ Of course, I am speaking from the point of view of a diaspora Armenian and don’t really know the daily trials of living in the ROA. I believe that Armenians of Armenia, who have had relatively little experience in self-governance in the last millennium, have much to learn about democracy and the power of the individual and the citizenry in a democracy. We Armenians know about diplomacy, about getting on the good side of those in power, about bribery and about cleverly getting around a system. We also know about making do with little, excelling in education and art and patiently waiting for better days. But do we know how to govern ourselves?

      We are like school children who have learned the rules for success in school, both those written and unwritten. We know what it takes to please the teacher, to get the grade, to advance, and to get along with one another. We know who to befriend and who to avoid. School children look to the teacher to keep order, to punish rule breakers and reward those who do well. But what happens when the ‘teacher’ has left the building? The bullies of the class take advantage of his/her absence while the rest too patiently wait for the teacher to come back and re-establish order. They wait for the external authority they have grown accustomed to. But the teacher is not coming back and those who are being bullied need to figure out how to stop the bullies on their own. They have to figure out that they are the majority and that they can create the country that best reflects them by courageously using their voice and their vote. If they don’t, then they will get the country that the bullies choose for them, or they may choose to ‘leave the building’ themselves.

    • Serko, If you think that it is ok to give a bribe to get the job done because you do not have time, I do not see a reason why it is not ok for a government official to take a bribe to rescue his children from hunger .
      The government official is not allowed to take bribes, but you as an Armenian or foreign citizen are not “allowed” to give bribes either. I understand that government official “forced” you to give a bribe, but THEORETICALLY you could have gone without having the job done or you could have come back or stayed longer. I do not mean you should have done so but I am saying theoreticaly you could have.

      Criticizing Armenian government is fine it is not fine to trash it.

      Boyajan and Serko,

      We can discuss it over and over.
      I lived in Armenia and I do not believe that all the trouble we have in Armenia is because of government. I believe that both government and people have to change.

      Let’s look what happened to Armenia after getting her independence. Armenian citizens elected LTP. The elections were transparent and fair. This very same government that Armenian citizens have elected started looting and robbing its people in an unbelievable manner. And LTP rigged the election second time and so on and so on. I just do not see how Armenia can get rid of corruption when an ordinary citizen thinks it is ok to take 5000,00 drams and sell his/her vote. When an ordinary citizen can not make a living. Low wages is one of the main culprit to me. Do you know any poor country that is not suffering from a massive corruption? I do not know any.

      Everything is interconnected. Things are not simple. It is not like if we elect Raffi Hovhanisian tomorrow things are going to change dramatically in Armenia. BTW, I would never give my vote to Raffi Hovhanisian.

      I agree with you Boyajian. You cannot live 600 years without statehood and in 20 years become a democracy. It is just does not happen that way. Just look those countries that have democracy and look at their pass and what it took them to reach that status. Did it happen in 20 years? Of course not. Like one Armenian said on the Armenia’s independence day: Armenia is just 18 years old, he is like a young guy who just came back from army- he (she) needs time to grow up and mature.

      I see how Armenian citizens are changing positively, how they are becoming more demanding day by day. I also see how Armenian government is slowly shaping up under pressure from its own people.

    • Serko,

      “I personally have no trust and respect towards any of them. But you shifted from the main point: did your people entrusted Kocharyan and Sarkisyan (as well as LTP during his re-election in 1996) with their vote of confidence? Personally, we can trust and respect whoever we wish, but did the majority of the eligible citizens of Armenia actually elect these individuals to rule over them?”

      I do not know about majority but my immediate family and I have voted for Kocharyan. And, I will vote for him again if he runs his campaign for a president again. I would not vote for Sarkissyan, but again if the main competition will be between Sarkissyan and LTP, my vote will go for Sarkissyan.

    • Serco,

      Sorry for hijacking your Your name:-) I was not careful. I wrote a long post but I think it did not save somehow.

  26. Thanks for your clarifications, Sella, but I still find many of your arguments unconvincing.

    You say: “when we are talking about corruption both bribe givers and takers should be kept responsible for their actions.” But your previous comments suggested that you tended to blame bribe-givers (ordinary citizens) more than bribe-takers (mostly government officials). I beg to differ. Although both bribe-giving and bribe-taking are deplorable, I believe that uprooting this ugly trend is government’s prerogative, because the government has instruments in their possession to make corruption-marred individuals legally liable. A good chance for it is the upcoming parliamentary elections. You don’t really anticipate that the government will throw in jail those candidates who’d offer bribes to the electorate, do you?

    I didn’t say that Khachaturian, Hambartsumian, Bagramian, Mikoyan, Petrossian and Alikhanian were politicians. I meant to say that many of these bright individuals represented our nation in the Soviet legislatures (however powerless they might have been). I know that our people still produce intellectuals and devoted individuals. My point was: where are they? How does the intellectual layer of the society represented in the parliament? I refuse to admit that the prevailing majority of our people are semiliterate thugs or thug-sympathizers comprising the majority in the parliament. How could this be if therewasn’t a widespread electoral fraud?

    You say: “we need good politicians and diplomats”. But who would allow intellectuals with such qualities to rise up on the political horizon? Serjik and his clique, or any other former regime?

    You say: “I will not give a bribe. I would rather pay the fee knowing that at least some percentage of my payment will go to our budget. Call me crazy but I will not give a bribe.” Again, if you’re not interested in a result, you won’t. But there are situations in which, due to circumstances or shortage of time or emergency or pressing need, what have you, one would prefer bribing to get the job done. Let me give you an example. Last time I was in Armenia was in 2010. I could only stay for 10 days and had plenty things to do. One of them was to notarize power of attorney. I went to the notary public’s office, stood in line for a couple of hours, then waited for the notary to come back from her lunch break, then finally met her. She handed over the required documentation that, she emphasized, needed to be filled out by her staff and the fees I needed to pay. I went to the bank to pay the fees (rather high for just a notary certification of a one-page document), stood in line, paid the fees, but by the time I returned to the notary’s office, it was already closed. The following day, I went to the office, again stood in line for a couple of hours to have notary’s secretary fill out the forms. She told me to come after the lunch break. I did. She then said she was busy with other customers and unexpectedly high workload and asked to come the following day. Next day I went to the office, again stood in line for a couple of hours. This time around, the secretary told me that she forgot to get approval from the notary to process my case, but, regrettably, the notary was out for the day. A man sitting next to me, turned to me and said: “I inadvertently heard what this lady kept telling you. Don’t you know that you need to pass some money under the table?” Since I had only two days left I had to do what I generally hate to do. Can you blame me?

    You say: “I don’t quite agree with you that in Soviet times Armenia had less corruption. I think it had more and definitely people gave/took more bribes in Soviet times.” Having lived in Soviet Armenia most of my life, I categorically disagree that under the Soviet rule people gave/took more bribes, because there was incomparably more law and order, morality, and, yes, fear in the society. There was also more power in the hands of the people to complain and have their concerns heard and attended to.

    “I have heard and seen Hayastanci and Diasporan Armenians trashing the Armenian government.” Do you mean to say that our government is so accountable to the needs of ordinary people that it is immune to public criticism? I hope not. Also, criticizing the government for wrongdoings and crimes is the constitutional right of the citizens.

    “I have much more trust and respect for Kocharyan and Sarkisyan than LTP.” I personally have no trust and respect towards any of them. But you shifted from the main point: did your people entrusted Kocharyan and Sarkisyan (as well as LTP during his re-election in 1996) with their vote of confidence? Personally, we can trust and respect whoever we wish, but did the majority of the eligible citizens of Armenia actually elect these individuals to rule over them?

    “Can we really afford learning from our mistakes again when we have Artsakh issue pending?” Not only we can, but we must, if we want Armenia to become a better-governed country and a civil society. If a leader is legally elected, enjoys a broad-based popular support, and is, thus, accountable to the populace, it is highly unlikely that he’d do anything that would jeopardize national security or statehood. Being squeezed between two hostile Turkic countries only obliges us to have stronger statehood and legitimate, responsible leaders.

    Re: LTP, Rob, or Serj. I’m above discussions on personae. None of the three (except LTP during his very first election) was a legitimate popular president. If you try to find justification for this or that one, who was better who was worse, what would happen under this one or that one, then one can come to a conclusion that we don’t really need democratic form of government. Let’s revive the monarchical dynasty (last one we had were the Cilician dynasties) and forget about such weird things as elections, representational or participatory government, etc. That’s a matter of choice, which may be not bad at all, I don’t know.

    I now get what you meant by Saakashvili, but I only mentioned his name in terms of uprooting corruption, not that he’s supported by the West. And yes, I know what happened to South Ossetiaand Abkhazia. I also know that these two regions were only nominally parts of Georgia and sooner or later their status would have been ascertained. You say: “we should have pro-Russian government and that is what we have.” Well, how much more pro-Russian can we be? Almost everything is in Moscow’s hands. Is anything left?

  27. avatar gaytzag palandjian // March 28, 2012 at 11:50 am // Reply

    Sella and others who think of regime change in RA…
    The only way out fort a better system -if that can be somehow introduced into RA-is the Swedish,Finnish ,(Scandinavian) Social Democracy…
    However,since for past 20 yrs the Wild free m art Economy is there,it is not so easy to change it . One important factor that may actually help implement such a system is the one I am wroking on ….
    it is not yet ready. I shall `post it on http://www.armeniannews.info(top left corner click on User Subscribers articles..
    in due course. A NEW concept of Electoral system and Governance is the title…
    Otherwise by just another rigged Election or quassi so, bringing in yet another free Economy system it won´t work.
    What is more I ¨suggestsed¨.
    1. Have 5 PERMANENT Delegates from our 5 major Diasporas,i.e. N.& S.A,mericas,EU.RF. and Middle East, to cooperate and sort of introduce NEW breath and blood in the homeland.
    2.Issue tens of thousands of SPECIAL RESIDENCY PASSPORTS TO Diaspora Youth and Young for $75.for these to spend 2 months summer ,learning language,culture and undergo military cadet training there.
    3. Issue ID ´s for population of Ra,instead of passports.Latter only for thoe who wish to visit friend family and for emigration much more difficult issuance

  28. Sella
    I don’t think it’s OK to give a bribe to get the job done. I think in many situations when there’s a widespread impunity for the government officials soliciting and taking bribes, we’re compelled to give bribes to get the job done. Even if I had time, I would have ultimately given a bribe. A local man who advised me on that had plenty of time, yet he knew he would have the notary attend to his case through a bribe. Why it is not OK for a government official to take a bribe to rescue his children from hunger, you ask? Because in contrast to a lay person a government official holds his or her position to serve the citizenry, not for personal profit as in the case of a businessman. If a government official takes a bribe to rescue his children from hunger, then this must be a concern of the government that pays him. It mustn’t be a citizen’s concern.

    You further say: “I lived in Armenia and I do not believe that all the trouble we have in Armenia is because of government. I believe that both government and people have to change.” I also lived in Armenia and I believe that changing the society by implementing progressive laws and applying them evenly to anyone—government official or not—who breaks them is the prerogative of the government. If you’re so compassionate about a government official who takes a bribe to rescue his children from hunger, why aren’t you equally compassionate about the citizens who, without any experience in participatory politics, have elected LTP in the early 1990s? Yes, they’ve made a mistake, but it doesn’t mean that they have to pay price for it enduring illegitimate regimes of Robs and Serjs. If you think people, too, have to change, then how do they change if their votes are rigged from one election to another? How else can a society change towards a better-governed one peacefully if not by electing more efficiently-governing leaders? If revolutions and social commotions are bad, as many here propagate, then what is it that’s left for the people if not by free and fair elections?

    Sella, noone’s primitive to think that a nation that had no statehood for 600 years can become a democracy in 20 years. What a nation can do in the 20-year time span, however, is to lay foundations for democracy. And I thus repeat: how do we do this if elections are being routinely rigged? I like reading about the 1918-20 First Democratic Republic of Armenia and it strikes me what devoted, concerned, and patriotic government we have had during those two short years of statehood. How was it possible to have such a government after the same 600 stateless years? One needs to have the courage to admit that unfortunately at this historical juncture we have irresponsible, self-centered, and self-enriching rulers and that the lack of statehood or the Soviet rule are just what they are: lame excuses!

  29. Boyajian
    We can of course attempt to transfer the situation on the ground into the realm of allegories, but I wonder how accurate an allegory can be to reflect on the situation? I agree with many things you’ve said in it. I’d highlight the question you’ve posed: “But do we know how to govern ourselves?” Not much, I’m afraid. We might have lost the “statehood gene”, so to speak, after the early 15th century when our last state formation, the Kingdom of Cilicia, was subdued by the Turkic Mamluks. But then, again, in 1918-1920 we had our short-lived DRA, and under the indescribably harsh conditions there functioned a concerned, responsible government. How was that possible? Mind you, the “teacher”, i.e. the Russian Empire, has left the building by the time. Even during the Soviet times, when a new “teacher” was in the building, many Soviet Armenian governments and leaders conducted shrewd policies that’d benefit their republic and their people. Arutyunov, Kochinian, Demirchian come to one’s mind. I remember seeing Georgians, Azeris, Russians dropping jaws at the plentiful contents of our food markets and stores, whereas there were chronic shortages of foodstuffs in some republics and regions of the USSR. How was that possible? As of now, the “teacher” is not coming back and you’re right to say that those who are being bullied need to figure out how to stop the bullies on their own, because they are the majority and they can create the country that best reflects them by courageously using their voice and their vote. But how do they create the country that best reflects them if their voice and their vote are being routinely rigged? Many say revolutions are bad. OK, if revolutions are bad, uprisings are bad, mass protests as a result of which unarmed people are killed are bad, then what’s good? The only conceivable conclusion we arrive at is elections. But if the government endlessly pioneers electoral fraud, how we change the country if we don’t want to get one that the bullies choose for us?

  30. I read all of your comments dear writers and I truly feel proud of being one of you , an Armenian with such eloquent, discrete, well thought, educated and sensible script, you described your points of view and reasoning and every one of your arguments made truly good sense to me in addition to the education and learning I received. Bravo to all . I read commentaries in other languages where I have never come to see any material sense whatsoever except bashing each other ceaselessly . Believe me, this nation with its superb mind will succumb and all these problems will be nothing but history. We all are in the right path of thinking.

  31. avatar gaytzag palandjian // April 9, 2012 at 7:13 pm // Reply

    Apo,
    Now that you-the only one so far-has expressed such sincere viewpoint re us here online,I would earnestly request you to read my viewpoints at length dealing almost with all our shortcomings .You see, i´m not one that only praises that we are the First etc., I do believe we still have a long way to go to achieve objectrives.
    Please, then read and opine as to my articles that the only ones who kindly accepted to host me are some youngmen in L.A., in the web site which also is a good source for Info,both armenian and International.Please go to
    http://www.armeniannews.info …and click on User submitted articles on top.
    Thanks .P.s. also do please express your negative views ,which is bettter for me than to keep silent…
    Gayzagpal@aol.com

  32. avatar gaytzag palandjian // April 21, 2012 at 2:03 pm // Reply

    Hey…Apo
    After near two weeks ,I see there is no response as yet from you or others.
    Do I have to believe that you did not care to enter and read my articles?or write me a couple words?
    And then we talk of cooperation?.
    I ´m beginning to believe in the old Armenian saying ,and I quote¨Ձուկը գլխէն կը հոտի¨, the fish stinks from its head…meaning we still are Un cooperative, J people.Don´t ask me what J stand for ,guess…

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