Two Weeks Ago in Armenia

“My friend, what is your name?” my husband asks the stranger sitting next to him on the bar.

“Dikran,” the stranger responds, sipping his beer.

“And what do you do my friend?”

“I’m a criminal lawyer. I work as a bartender at another pub.” A pause. “Where are you from?” he asks us.

“Australia,” my husband says.

“Australia… That’s where I want to go.”

It is an awkward moment. Our visit is coming to an end and we have rarely been able to spend time alone, so we decide to have a few drinks after a family dinner. Instead, we find ourselves befriending complete strangers—as you do in Armenia—bonding and arguing with them, listening to their problems and hopes.

Dikran has never been to Australia. I’m not even sure he seriously wants to move there. He is simply looking for a way out, just like the two bartenders we meet, a young man from Beirut and a woman from Javakhk.

He tells us he pays half his wages for rent and is looking for opportunities in Dubai. She says she is a teacher by profession but is unable to find employment because she can’t afford to pay someone to hire her. Yes, pay someone to hire her. We learn it is common practice with some professions in Armenia, a residue of Soviet times. Not everyone can afford it but if you manage to pay a sum, you are guaranteed a job and a source of income. The only reason she is still in Armenia, she says, is because she has not had an opportunity to leave. The destination? It does not matter.

A little further into the conversation, I discover she is also a mother. I look at my watch. It is 3 a.m. There are five or six of us remaining. I get up and announce it is time for our bartender to get home to her baby. We disperse.

“How can you sleep in peace as president when you go to bed every night knowing another 20-30 families left the country that day?” a good friend asks us one morning over breakfast in his humble home on the outskirts of Yerevan. Sadly, people in Yerevan these days are talking about emigration in mass numbers.

It is meant to be a chat over morning coffee but we are greeted with a feast of a breakfast—delicious homemade pizza and pastries and the freshest fruits. The inviting, irresistible taste of Armenia in our mouths.

“No, I won’t leave. However bad it gets, I won’t,” he adds, stroking his two-year-old’s chestnut hair. We leave his house, our bellies full, and our hearts full, too.

We meet others like him—people, who are determined to stay regardless of the hardships they face. It is not just unemployment that is driving people away. A few days into our visit, we heard of the fatal shooting outside the Goris home of the notorious governor of Syunik, Suren Khachatryan, otherwise known as Litska. It has barely been a year since the beating to death of Army Doctor Vahe Avetian by the bodyguards of then-MP Ruben Hayrapetyan, Nemets Rubo. He is still the chairman of the Armenian Football Federation. And it’s only been a few months since the assassination of Artsakh war hero and Proshyan village Mayor Hrach Muradyan. There has been no serious investigation into or accountability for these crimes, at least not to the extent that pre-empts their re-occurrence. Oligarchic impunity seems to be reaching new levels in Armenia.

In the midst of all these stories and experiences, I feel heart-breakingly sad one moment, illogically euphoric the next. There is inexplicable warmth in my heart. It’s the warmth of the land, the unshakeable truth that it exists, it is here, I am standing on it, I need it, it needs me, it’s mine, it’s ours. It’s the unrelenting determination and commitment of people who are staying to fight the good fight, of diasporans who have left comfortable foreign shores to build new lives in Armenia. “It’s the best thing we did for our family,” one of them tells us. And it’s the warmth in the sincere embrace of complete strangers. They take me into their arms and lives, and thank me for listening to their problems. I feel humbled beyond words; I should be thanking them. The least I can do is promise to tell some of their stories in this column.

Back in the days when I used to visit Armenia, I would go looking for the positive. The flourishing Yerevan city center with its charming cafés and parks, the vibrant city life, the traditional Armenian artifacts at the Vernisage, the breathtaking beauty of the rugged mountains. These were the things I went looking for.

These days when I go to Armenia, I go looking for the truth. I’ve visited seven times since I first set foot in the country in 2001, and the old charms are not enough anymore. I am no longer interested in floating in and out like a tourist. I want the real—with all its positives and negatives. I want to thrive on everything that is good and expose myself to everything that is bad. I want the real, because before we understand the real, we will not be able to grasp all of the potential and opportunity the country has to offer. We will not be able to build the dream. This is also why I started writing this column six months ago.

It is time to leave. As we drive to the airport, I want to forget everything and immerse myself in the majestic view of Ararat standing tall and confident, a cleansing white so clearly visible that morning. However, I can’t escape the signs on what seems to be an endless row of shops and houses we pass by: “For Sale,” “For Rent.” It is a solemn reminder of that night in the pub and the many stories we heard during our 12-day visit.

I can still feel that warmth in my heart, stronger than before. At this stage I know nothing will change how connected I feel to this country.

It takes us 30 hours to get back to Australia and another 10 days to really get back and, needless to say, we are already planning our next trip.

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Houry Mayissian

Houry Mayissian is a communications professional with journalism and public relations experiences in Dubai, Beirut, and Sydney. She has studied European politics and society at the University of Oxford, specializing on the democratic reform process in Armenia as part of its European integration. She is currently based in Yerevan.

58 Comments

  1. How do you sleep as a Catolicos when your people get beaten, killed and pushed out by the oligarchs. I understand how the president sleeps – he is an idiot with little moral values or heart. But where are our religious leaders? Why can’t they make a statement or get involved? Oh I forgot, they serve the government not the people…

  2. Ah, another one sided rant. Did you impart upon the people you spoke with that the EU, US and even Australia are having serious economic problems? Or that a job is waiting for them when they land at their destination airport? Or that their offspring will likely be assimilated and lose their Armenian traits, cultural and ethnic?
    Articles like this, which only present the negative aspects, add to the pervasive but incorrect view that things are horrible in Armenia. It creates mass depression and eventually becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

    • Answer to AR :
      Obviously you do not know human nature. Survival comes first and other notions like Armenian traits, Armenian culture, ethnic identity comes last. One has to fill one’s stomach first. When you are hungry and no hope the rest is mambo jumbo.
      It seems that you have some kind of connection with the perpetrators of political mismanagement of Armenia, thus critisizing the writer.
      Why are you digging you head in the sand and avoiding the truth.

    • Well said, Serj. I would like to add that it’s not just about the stomach. Armenians are resilient people, they can tolerate hardships. What they refuse to tolerate is lack of hope and lack of justice. When they see that they cannot change a corrupt government, when they see the impunity of the ruling class, they see no hope, and they leave, as they should. That is why having a democracy is a matter of national security for Armenia.
      .
      It is part of our national character not to tolerate tyranny. As British historian Christopher Walker wrote: “There was no concept of absolute monarchy, or of ‘divine right’ in Armenia. … Thus the Armenian king should never be seen as more than the first among equals.”
      http://armenia-survival.50megs.com/Survival_Ch_1.htm

  3. I think that the time has come for the entire diaspora – collectively-
    have a strong stand regarding this issue.
    Oligark or no Oligark, diaspora Armenians must be able to help and function there business wise without Oligark interference , I have a strong feeling that the government of Armenia is not giving a hoot to this issue, if Turkey pushed us out in 1915 I hope our government would not complete job.

  4. Ms. Mayissian many of us coming in, staying or going out of Hayastan share your thoughts, feelings of joy and sadness at different moments or simultaneously. Thank you for expressing our feelings as well.

    • In fact, I find many things that surprise me in your comments and not because I lack knowledge or relevant postgraduate training and expertise, but because many of your ad nauseams are either pseudoscientific or out of touch with reality. In some cases, they exhibit traits of government-induced propaganda and psychological mind-tilting. If this is true, then I wouldn’t reduce myself to enquire anything from you. I despise sell-outs.

      Allow me to open your eyes to some things.

      It is not true that “much of what the U.S. democracy entails is not found in the founding papers”, because much of what the U.S. “democracy” entails is based on and found in the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.

      It is also not true that “the founding documents allowed for the organic development of the U.S. democracy” because neither in the Federalist Papers nor in the Declaration of Independence nor in the Constitution the word “democracy” is not even mentioned. On the contrary, Article IV Section 4 of the Constitution states: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion…” The Founding Fathers knew too well about the perils that a democracy entailed. They feared a democracy as much as they feared a monarchy. They understood that the only entity that can take away the people’s freedom is their own government, either by being too weak to protect them from external threats or by becoming too powerful and taking over every aspect of life. And they were commendably farseeing. This government has become too powerful and is taking over every aspect of life, including the phone records of its citizens.

      The Founders also knew the history of democracies and this knowledge prompted them to do everything in their power to prevent having a democracy. They knew that a democracy has been historically controlled at the top by a small ruling oligarchy. In a democracy the citizens are conditioned to believe that they are indeed the decision-making power in the government trough their elected representatives. But, in truth, there is almost always a small circle at the top making the decisions for the entirety. A classical abridged definition of oligarchy: a rule by a few men.

      The Founding Fathers envisioned a constitutional republic, not a democracy. Alexander Hamilton wrote: “We are now forming a republican government. Real liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. If we incline too much towards democracy, we shall soon shoot into a monarchy or some other form of dictatorship.” While a constitutional republic has some similarities to democracy in that it uses democratic processes to elect representatives, pass laws, and spells out how the government is structured, creating checks on its power and balancing power between the different branches, the critical difference lies in the fact that in a constitutional republic the power rests in a written constitution, wherein the powers of the government are limited so that the people retain the maximum amount of power themselves. “We the People.”

      One example (figuratively speaking, of course) of the republic vs. democracy dichotomy is reported in the Bible. As we know, when the republic, in the form of the Roman government represented by Pontius Pilate, washed its hands of the matter after finding the accused Jesus innocent of all charges based on a written Roman law, and turned Him over to democracy, a mob of Pharisees and other Jews who “democratically” (read: in the majoritarian way) demanded His crucifixion, the “democratic” mob later crucified Him.

      It is not true that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows for a “reasonable search of people” by the government. The Amendment specifically states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” No one took oath or affirmation or described the place or things to be searched when this government started surveillance and phone records collection on its own citizens.

      No legitimate interests of the government can be above legitimate interests of the citizens. “We the People.” Remember?

      “Until the U.S. courts rule that it is unconstitutional for the NSA to listen to phone conversations, then it is constitutional.” Be enlightened that back in 1894 the U.S. Supreme Court, in Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brimson, 154 U.S. 447, 479, has ruled: “Neither branch of the legislative department, still less any merely administrative body, established by congress, possesses, or can be invested with, a general power of making inquiry into the private affairs of the citizen. Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. 168, 190. We said in Boyd v. U.S., 116 U. S. 616, 630, 6 Sup. Ct. 524,―and it cannot be too often repeated,―that the principles that embody the essence of constitutional liberty and security forbid all invasions on the part of government and its employees of the sanctity of a man’s home and the privacies of his life. As said by Mr. Justice Field in Re Pacific Ry. Commission, 32 Fed. 241, 250, ‘of all the rights of the citizen, few are of greater importance or more essential to his peace and happiness than the right of personal security, and that involves, not merely protection of his person from assault, but exemption of his private affairs, books, and papers from inspection and scrutiny of others. Without the enjoyment of this right, all others would lose half their value.’” Please note: this U.S. Supreme Court case has never been overturned.

      As for the difference between Russia and the U.S. on the issue of surveillance, believe it or not, in Russia too, and in Armenia, too, there are avenues to challenge a government action that you don’t like. But my question was deliberately misinterpreted, so I repeat: if autocratic Russia and democratic U.S. both do surveillance of their citizens, then how is the U.S. different from Russia on the issue? Don’t give me this crap about what citizens can or cannot do after their civil rights were violated. Attempt to answer for yourself if a democracy, as you like it, can do massive surveillance of its citizens (I hear that NSA has constructed even “Bigger Daddy” in Utah) without “oath or affirmation and description of place, persons, and things to be searched”?

      Freedom-loving people like me will always surface wherever subservient people like you will pop up. Make no mistake…

    • My post of June 27, 2013 at 5:00 pm was addressed to the commenter posting under the name ‘Vahagn’.

    • Did you just copy-paste from Daneen Petersen’s speech from this website, john?
      http://www.stopthenorthamericanunion.com/NotDemocracy.html
      Weak, man. At least I cite my sources.

      You are merely engaging in a word game. What you call a constitutional republic, I call a democracy. By democracy, I am not talking about the unrestrained ancient Greek model of democracy, I am talking about the system in the United States, its constitutional system in its modern form that has evolved through decades of Supreme Court decisions. It is that system that has turned the United States from a country of 3 million to a world power, as opposed to its neighbors, and it can help Armenia become powerful and achieve its national aspirations as well. While you may feel good by calling yourself a “freedom lover,” ironically you are contributing to Kremlin’s attempts to keep Armenia weak and subjugated by denying its people the right to rule themselves. And you are doing it by attempting to discredit the very concept of democracy through your useless semantic games.

      The founding fathers did not reject the concept of democracy altogether. They rejected the extreme, unrestrained democracy of ancient Greece, which led to tyranny of majority. They make it amply clear that by “democracy,” they meant this extreme democracy. For instance, Alexander Hamilton said: “It has been observed that a *pure democracy* if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny.” So, the founders were only rejecting the idea of pure, unrestrained democracy. The U.S. is not such a system, it is a democracy with checks and balances to prevent a tyranny of majority. It is that system that Armenia needs to become prosperous and powerful.

      Your own quote of the Fourth Amendment makes it clear that the government can make reasonable searches. It says: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against *unreasonable* searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” So, it prohibits unreasonable searches, and therefore allows reasonable ones. And the Amendment does not require warrants for all searches. For instance, the police can stop you in the street without a warrant and do a pat-down (a “Terry search”) if they have what the Supreme Court called “reasonably articulated suspicion.” The Fourth Amendment only says that, where warrants are going to be issued, they have to be issued after taking an oath. All warrants in the U.S. are issued after an oath is taken.

      Normally, the government has to obtain a warrant from a FISA court to wiretap private conversations. Under the Patriot Act, they don’t have to do it when national security is involved. Whether the Patriot Act is constitutional has not been decided by the Supreme Court. You may feel that it is unconstitutional, and it’s a perfectly valid position, but until the Court says so, it is constitutional. Your 19th century case does not automatically make it unconstitutional, because we are living in a different age, with cell phones and techno-savvy terrorists.

      Just because you did not like my answer regarding Russia and the U.S. does not mean that I did not answer your question. A free society such as the U.S. provides many avenues to curtain surveillance by the government, such as lawsuits, courts, legislation, and the media. These avenues are not available to citizens in Russia or Armenia. Yes, they may have some avenues, but they are much more limited and hazardous than those available in a democracy. In Armenia, for example, a civil activist may try to appeal to European entities and be branded a “traitor.” In the U.S., we don’t have to appeal to foreign entities, because we the people have the democratic institutions to challenge the government. And it is that system that thousands of Armenians choose to live under instead of Armenia, so clearly, they must know that there is a difference between two systems.

  5. Yes, it is truly hard now to survive in Armenia. I am a female physician and a mom of 3 boys, and we also have many hardships…. But I will never ever leave my country,too- why should I? My grandparents fled the massacres,and decided to get settled in Armenia where then I was born. I have to fight, we all have to fight for the full previliges to leave in this small piece left from our ancestral homeland. NO- to emigration. NO-to disappointment and NO-for abandoning Armenia. We all have a DEBT.

    • Regarding Gohar’s post. Yes. We all have to fight to make Armenia a livable land. And to make all those “NO’s” into a reality, we all need to change the government of Armenia, change the system, and establish a democracy. That’s the only way to save Armenia. Otherwise, Gohar, you and your three sons alone will never be able to defend the country from the enemy no matter how long you remain there.
      .
      And all those anti-democrats above who talk about economic problems in the West, I would like to know what country you live in now, and why you don’t try to move to Armenia and live there.

    • Vahan, your rants of democracy are amusing especially in light of the recent revelations that the so called beacon of democracy, the USA, has been spying on its citizens for several years. And apparently, the people elected to oversee the intelligence community went right along with the charade.

      As for living in Armenia, yes, unlike you, I and like minded individuals are working to make that a reality sooner rather than later. Can you say the same?

    • AR, your lack of knowledge of democracy is quite amusing. In a democracy the government can do surveilance of its people, something that your beloved pathetic autacracy called “Russia” has been doing for centuries. And Armenians still prefer to live in the US democracy despite being “spied” upon, rather than in Armenia. So, if you want Armenians to want to live in Armenia, you better work to establish democracy in Armenia. Btw, how are you and “like minded people” working to make living in Armenia a reality. Any hope for success, or still “working”?

    • “In a democracy the government can do surveillance of its people.” Another gem by the democramaniac. The previous one read: “Democracy is a rule by a tiny minority elected by a majority”. Hilarious!

      I’d be interested to know from which founding paper or framework document in this country has Vahagn dug out the rubbish that “the government can do surveillance of its people”?

      Autocracy called Russia or the Soviet Union has indeed been doing surveillance, but to her “honor”, so to speak, Russia never called herself a democracy. But since the U.S., which gets hot under the collar presenting itself to the world as a democracy, does surveillance too, and I bet has been doing it for long time, then what is the essential difference between the American “democracy” and Russian “autocracy” on this particular issue?

    • “john,” if you find something in my comments that surprises you, it most likely means that it is something that you do not know, and that it is time to learn something new. Just ask, I will educate you, no need to unnecessarily flaunt your ignorance. Much of what the U.S. democracy entails is not found in the founding papers. That is the beauty of the founding documents—they allowed for the organic development of the U.S. democracy as changing times require it. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. constitution allows for a reasonable search of people by the government. The jurisprudence as to what that means is constantly developing, and usually involves balancing the right of privacy with the legitimate interests of the government. Until the U.S. courts rule that it is unconstitutional for the NSA to listen to phone conversations, then it is constitutional.

      The difference between Russia and the U.S. is that in the U.S., you have many avenues to challenge a government action that you do not like. You can sue and let the courts decide. It may reach the U.S. Supreme Court, which can decide what is the proper balance. You can campaign for a legislative action to ban such surveillance, if enough people support you. And you can speak to journalists to bring a questionable government practice under the public light. In Russia or Armenia, you cannot effectively do any of these. The courts are not independent and are a joke. Elections are rigged, and the legislation is in the President’s pocket. And journalists get beaten and killed if they criticize the government too much. But sure, if you see no difference between Russia and the U.S., please, feel free to move there permanently. I am sure we can do fine with one less malcontent who does not appreciate the country that gives him the freedom to freely criticize it.

  6. Dear Mr. AR, The only people who live well in Armenia are the oligarchs and their cronies. The rest of the population is suffering and want a quick exit out of Armenia. Towns like Goris, Kavar, Ashtarag and almost every town and village are depopulated to such and extent where one in every two houses is empty because the occupants have left. If the trend of exodus continues from Armenia at such alarming rates, the country will be depopulated with no sizable citizens to sustain a country’s existent. As I always say to our leaders in Armenia, WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE. In the end, you are responsible for the sad situation that Armenia is in. Stop robbing the country and start thinking of the people. Trust me Mr. AR, this is not a one sided view of Armenia. It is the very reality of our poor country today.

    • As someone to visit Armenia often, not ventures to the marzes, I can tell you that you claim is rubbish. What you may have seen or heard is misinterpreted because many of the people who reside in the towns and cities you listed, mostly the males, work in Russia for a good chunk of the year. So if you visit these places at a time when the male population or young population is out of the country, of course you will assume that these cities/towns are becoming de-populated. While emigration is an issue, it is not a catastrophic one as some would like us to believe, nor is it unique to Armenia. Our neighbors in Georgia and azerbaijan face these issues, and even more wealthy EU states like Romania and Slovenia are dealing with emigration.

    • We can help by doing whatever we can to make Armenia a democracy. That means putting pressure on the government, and giving the local organizations and people our support, knowledge, and expertise as to how a true country is supposed to function.

    • Do you think the male and young population from these towns and villages are ever going to return to Armenia? I doubt it very much. They are gone for good, never to return. In fact, more will follow them. I have one advise for you my dear good Armenian friend; exodus from Armenia is a serious socio-political issue is detriment to the country’s long tern survival. I am not talking without grounds because I have been and seen this situation in Armenia. I have also talked with hundreds of residents of these small towns. We should stop denial and force our government to change course. Awareness is the best remedy for change. Denial is the enemy to change. Be aware, it is not a joke any more.

  7. If every Diasporan Armenia can feel the same sadness and take ownership of their historic homeland (like Zionists did for Israel), we’ll take the country back from the sold out government and reform the Church. Barev Hayastan!!!

  8. Well said Gohar,

    I was not born in Armenia, nor is East Armenia my ancestral territory, today I live in Holland quit comfortably, only been once in Yerevan when I was 8. But today I am seriously thinking of moving to Armenia. It is time for us diasporans to stop whining and searching for excuses not to go, but actually GO! Today it is oligarchs tomorrow it is the hot sun giving us rash, we need to stop complaining, only together we can make our only true home Armenia flourish in glory. Trust me if all the diasporans 10+ million move to Armenia tomorrow, there will be no Karabakh issue. No one will even dare to point a finger at us. Only we can make it happen, and we need to stop finding excuses to leave or to stay away, we need to start moving. Armenia is calling us!

    • Dear Aram, when you stop “seriously thinking” and actually go and live there for a few years, I would like to know how you feel. High-worded propaganda will not convince people to go to Armenia. They already tried in 1947, and most of them left the country. We Diasporans don’t whine, we want to make Armenia a country where every Armenian will want to live and die. The only way to do it is to make Armenia a democracy, the kind of democracies where Armenians currently go to. Every Armenian deserves to live in a decent country, and every Armenian knows it, and they will not be fooled by patriotic bravado.

    • Yes, Aram, I do fully agree… We are strong if we all stand in this land, here in our small Armenia. Then no one really can dare to make us leave, make us suffer and tolerate what shouldn’t be tolerated. If there is no will and committment, then there will be lots of excuses for a retreat. This small land of ours needs physical presence of Armenians and there seems to be no other long-term survivorship option for Armenia.

    • Armenians don’t move to other countries because they are democracies, they move there because they think they will make more money. If Armenians cared about living in democracies they would not move to Russia for example. And with the authoritarian bent that the US has been increasingly taking, neither would they move to the States. Again, they hear they can make a decent living and they move. Vahan’s obsession with democracy is mind numbing, and doesn’t consider other factors which dictate a country’s success.

    • The opportunities to make more money, AR, are a result of the rule of law and the economic freedom that the democracies provide, so Armenians like things that democracies give. And the idea that Armenians only move for money and not democracy is precisely the kind of false propaganda that Serge’s regime has been advancing. The reason that many Armenians move to Russia is because Russia makes it very easy for them, by providing, for example, money (through the notorious “compatriots” program). Also, many Armenians speak Russian, and the geographic proximity too makes things easier. However, many of these Armenians, once they experience crude side of Russia’s autocracy and its police, move to the United States, where they settle and prosper. Rarely do Armenians move from the U.S. to Russia. And by the way, the U.S. does not make it as easy for Armenians to move to Russia. Instead of giving money to Armenians, the “green card” program does requires Armenians to either have their own money or have a sponsor before they move to the U.S.

      I have spoken to many Armenians who have moved to the U.S. from Armenia, and they say that they are not coming just because of the economy. They talk about the lack of justice, lack of rule of law, and the impunity of the ruling class. All the hallmarks of a non-democratic regime.

  9. I am so grateful to read about another Armenian from the diaspora having this connection to Armenia that I have felt every time I have gone; I feel sometimes that no one else ‘gets’ this. I was born in the US, my husband is from Artsakh and our children have already visited (they are 3 and 2)….I too have been to Armenia 7 times since 2003 and I fall in love more and more each and every time. We talk about the possibility of moving (back for my husband) but it always seems like the obstacles in front of us are insurmountable. I LOVE the kind of carefree REAL childhood my kids could have, the true warmth and love in the simplest of things…our family (both mine and his who are there)…but some how it always feels like a dream…an impossibility. No one voices this side of it. Diasporan Armenians are some how traitors….”es im Hayastanin hervic ksirem” but its not my fault I was born in the US…my “Armenian-ness” shouldn’t come into question and I LOVE my country…both my countries. I feel a connection to Armenia that I cannot describe….to the water, the bread, the mountains and the air. I wish one day that it becomes a country where making a living will be possible so that perhaps my children can say, “I want to move home.” And when they do, I will understand.

  10. Serj,

    I understand human nature better than you’d think. One such aspect is hope, and how to kindle it and how to drown it. One sided articles such as this, and the other psy-op pieces put out by foreign funded outlets in Armenia contribute to the drowning of hope both in Armenia and the diaspora. Some of us look at things from an intellectual point of view, not emotional, which is what your comment and this article have in common.

    • One way to deny hope to people is to deny the opportunity to change their government, something that Armenia’s regime has been doing. As a result, Armenians are denied hope in their country and go to countries where they can find hope (eventually settling in democracies). Articles such as these reveal the truth despite the Kremlin-finded psy-op propaganda and its agents.

    • AR,
      Your statement reminds me ” barab ghoski kak mghitarank”. What hope are you talking about? Does hope fill your stomach? That article that you see as one sided does show what the truth is.
      Can you show the other side of the medallion? Can you show the “wonderful” things that hapenning in Armenia ? The writer did not dwell on how to do things, she only showed what is going on.
      Oh…it is so easy to pontificate from far away.

      What do you have against “foreing funded” outlets? They are the only ones that are showing the way democracy works.

    • Vahan, you are the one that comes across as conducting a psy-op campaign. Bringing in discussions about democracy and how authoritarian Armenia’s government is when you know it is light years ahead of where it was just a decade ago and ahead of its neighbors as well. Other than agitating for revolution, which would be a Turkish fantasy come true, you offer no serious solutions. Democracy will NOT make Armenia more powerful or a better state to live in.

    • I am not agitating for a revolution, AR, I am advocating democracy in Armenia. It is up to the people in Armenia to decide how to achieve that democracy. It is preferable to do it through peaceful means, but if that fails, then they need to do a revolution, because the alternative, lack of democracy, will lead to continued drain of human resources, which will result in the destruction of Armenia.

      It is not enough for Armenia to be “democratic” based on the standards of its neighbors. Azerbaijan can afford to be non-democratic, because they have oil. It’s their oil against our human resources, and lack of democracy drains our human resources.

  11. Aprees Anna. Very well said. I also like what Arma wrote above. I also sympathize with the author of this article (Houry Mayissian), who makes a truthful description of the situation in Armenia.
    When one studies economics, one of the first case-choices one faces is: “Do we produce guns or butter?”. Sorry, it is impossible to produce both guns and enough butter to live-it-up, and have your iPhone5, your iPad, your BMW…
    Let us stop calling each-other names like “traitor” for not doing what we want the other to do. We will work together to make our country a better place to live than it is nowadays.
    Aram jan, when you get tired of the fog and rain in the Netherland, come and visit us on top of our mountain in Yeghegnadzor, where we lead a simple, healthy life (No BMW, no car in fact, no i-Phone,…), with just the internet connection, and the view of our mountains and the feeling of solidarity with OUR people, no matter how they voted.

  12. Every problem in Armenia today can be traced to the ‘wrong’ political parties being responsible for the Independence and being in charge from the beginning.
    They have done nothing right. (….unlike your favourite political parties: all of which have a prefect track record of governance and managing a country).
    .
    If only your favourite political party was in charge, the following would have already happened:
    .
    1. Georgia would have given Armenia a 99 year low cost lease on a 10 mile wide land corridor through Javakh to the Black Sea, with existing port facilities. That in turn would have allowed Armenia to increase its exports massively due to very low transportation costs, 4-5 times cheaper than before.
    2. Due to low cost, reliable sea&rail transportation infrastructure, dozens of Western companies have established manufacturing facilities in Armenia taking advantage of the highly skilled, low cost labour, plus low cost, abundant electrical energy sources.
    3. The booming economy has created more jobs than can be filled by native Armenians. Serious discussions are being held at the Parliament to allow temporary guest workers into RoA from several disadvantaged counties.
    4. Plentiful natural gas deposits in Armenia would have been developed already: Armenia no longer depends on imported gas.
    5. A vast sea of oil under Armenia would have been tapped: Armenia is self sufficient in oil.
    6. US$15 Billion would have been secured from friendly Western governments and wealthy Western Diaspora Armenians, and the construction of the modern design 1,000 MegaWatt NPP is nearing completion. Funding for a 2nd smaller, backup NPP has been secured: surveys are being conducted to find a suitable location for it: construction is slated to begin soon.
    7. With funding provided by friendly Western counties and wealthy Diaspora Armenians, several strategic dams throughout RoA and NKR are nearing completion. These dams will store the abundant runoff of swelling rivers from the enormous winter accumulation melting snow, and provide irrigation for the growing agricultural sector during Summer months. Some also have integrated HydroPower stations to serve as redundancy backup and reserve power.
    8. Armenian women would have started marrying at 18 and having at least 4 children each. RoA Gov is considering a 3-child max law.
    9. At least 1 million Western Diaspora Armenians would have repatriated to RoA and Artsakh already: 100s of thousands more want to go, but RoA and NKR Govs cannot keep up with the demand: housing, roads, utilities are being build at full speed, but there is a 5 year backlog.
    10. Armenians living in Russia are eager to return home, but are being told to wait for the backlog to clear.
    11. Azerbaijan has finally accepted the Independence of NKR (liberated historic Armenian territories included, of course), and has started negotiations with NKR on the mechanism of returning rest of occupied territories in Lowlands Kharabagh to NKR and has stopped its massive military buildup. In return, NKR Authorities have pledged not to sue Azerbaijan for 100s of US$ Billions in damages inflicted on NKR by a war Azerbaijan started. And have pledged not to seek back-rent for the illegal rent-free use of vast Armenian lands for approximately 70 years.
    12. As a consequence of “Peace In Our Times”, RoA has reduced its defense budget by 90%, and has diverted the surplus to social needs of the growing population. The draft has ended. Only a small, volunteer, professional Army is being maintained Mainly to guard borders against smugglers and such.
    .

    Did I leave anything out ?
    Bonus question: why is that a non-Armenian (at least by birth) woman sees much progress and hope in Armenia, yet several Armenian women writing for AW and its sister publication see nothing but doom & gloom ?
    “What progress ?” you ask:
    Here:
    http://armenianweekly.com/2012/09/18/15-years-later-is-it-getting-any-better/
    Could it be because Ms. Rendahl has no inherent bias and political agenda affecting her views ?

    • The criticisms by Armenians throughout the years are one reason that the government has been forced to make those cosmetic changes that the non-Armenian woman is able to write about. Also, the motivations are different. The non-Armenian would not want to alienate Armenians, whereas the Armenian critics are concerned with the actual future of of their own homeland. Finally, it’s those thousands of Armenians who permanently want to leave who know how much real progress (as opposed to cosmetic changes) is made, and its their opinion that matters most.
      .
      And by the way, Switzerland does not have oil or sea either but is doing quite well. Maybe we can do as well as Switzerland, maybe we cant, but under a democratic system, we should do better than now (due to greater rule of law, more investment etc.)

    • Dear Avery,
      I am back from Yerevan,couple weeks ago.Have in memorium of my beloved grandson established the new Sport of Disc
      Golf in his name (see Ivan´s disc golf Armenia) on Face book.All your above points except one ,i.e. the 11th one is puzzling…
      well not even that one but the core of the issue ,you or others do not wish to see and or ingtentioanlly bypass is the main HIMNHARTZ,(Basic Question) we ARmenians have.it is not Nk, like many like parrots repeat what is also from mouth to mouth in a. that of Nk.No NK is <NOT our main issue.Our main issue is w/great Turkey,that btw, these days is going through a presidential turmoil(not that we ought to give a s…t to that) they are worried about their own,none of our business…let them solve it themselves.Not even the KURDS arfe intervening these days.Sill fools,if I were a head kurd, I would have given the order to …R …eNow is the time.Liek we Armenians did not know thwne to do that when neighbour(beautifull) Georgia was at war with Russia.Javakhjk should have declared itself .AT THE VERY LEAST AUTONOMOUS…
      More stuff you want from me…ask me
      best rgds

    • Welcome back, gayzag, I was getting worried, with you not posting any more. Glad to read your colorful posts again.

    • Switzerland is situated in the midst of historically and civilizationally homogeneous, like-minded, fullfledged, almost equally ranked and developed, uniformly-cultured European nations. Switzerland is the banking center of the world, which was provided safety and neutrality during the worst European calamities.

      Armenia, one of the greatest and oldest historical nations inhabiting the Earth is situated in between two originally nomadic, genocidal and bellicose Turkic nations. Armenia, being the first nation to adopt Christianity as her state religion, strives to survive in a predominantly Muslim, unhomogeneous, neighborhood. Armenia, which is renowned for her many contributions to the world civilization in the fields of language, religion, arts, music, literature, architecture, business and commerce, military art and technology is squeezed in between two unequally developed and civilizationally immature nations.

      How can a person, who I bet considers himself an intellectual, spew out a likelihood for such a primitive comparison between Switzerland and Armenia? In many cases, geography and geopolitics, not democracy or any other form of government, sketch out a country’s potential choices for development and well-being.

    • (quote by “john”): “In many cases, geography and geopolitics, not democracy or any other form of government, sketch out a country’s potential choices for development and well-being.”
      This is how losers think. That our future is predetermined by our geography, and that we cannot change it. Non-losers (and non-loser nations) use tools, whether borrowed or not, to rise above geography and shape their future. One such tool is a successful form of government, such as a democracy.

      Switzerland has often been surrounded by countries such as Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, the Revolutionary France, the Habsburgs—quite aggressive entities. And yet, it is doing much better than many others in the region. The United States had a spectacular success and expansion in a short amount of time due to its democratic institutions, while others in the area, such as Mexico, did not have the same success. Same geography, some excelled, some failed. Geography is always going to be there. If we want to be successful, we cannot use it as a constant excuse to not try what has worked in other successful countries.

    • If I may stand, intellectually, above the primordial, crude categorization “losers vs. non-losers” and turn to Political Science 101 for a minute, I’d reiterate the accepted variables which constitute international assessment of the current or future rank of a nation in the global hierarchy. While somewhat mechanistic, these variables typically include:
      1. Geographical location and geographical range based on location and physical reach to other subjects of the hierarchy
      2. Critical mass of human and material resources
      3. Degree of national cohesiveness based upon historical, social, cultural, religious, and ethnic factors
      4. Economic development and density of networks of trade
      5. Type of government and degree of openness to new ideas
      6. Political and military capabilities comparative to neighboring countries
      7. Consistency of goals for exerting influence beyond its borders
      8. Number and complexity of external issues, including conflicts, that a nation can handle simultaneously

      Among these variables, political scientists contend (unless all of them are losers), geographical location and geographical range based on location and physical reach to other crucial counties are principal determinants of a nation’s politico-military vulnerability and its prospects for sustainable socio-economic development. Not even the number and complexity of external issues, including conflicts, but geography. As we can see, type of government and degree of openness to new ideas is on the list too, but it is not THE principal determinant, because non-democratic governments—to varying degrees—also provide for sustainable development and reduction of vulnerability of their respective nations.

      Now, let’s turn to History 101:
      1. In the early modern and modern history, Switzerland experienced commotion only once, when Revolutionary France conquered the country. However, this short occupation didn’t result in genocidal extermination and expulsion from ancestral homeland. It soon ended and led to the Congress of Vienna, which re-established Swiss independence. Moreover, all of the neighboring countries and the European powers agreed on paper to permanently recognize Switzerland’s neutrality
      2. Switzerland wasn’t invaded during either of the world wars
      3. Hitler’s Germany never attacked Switzerland
      4. Due to its geographical location in the heart of Europe, Switzerland has turned to an important base for espionage by both the Axis and Allied Powers, which allowed the Swiss to maintain their security
      5. As the financial hub of Europe, Switzerland had a capacity to maintain financial relationships with Nazi Germany and extend credits to the Third Reich thus effectively minimizing the perceived likelihood of invasion
      6. Switzerland enjoyed the immediate availability of non-bellicose neighboring countries and other European nations as trading partners
      7. In the course of WWII, Switzerland interned hundreds of thousands refugees and the Geneva-based International Red Cross acted as a safeguard for Switzerland’s security
      8. After the war, Switzerland extended credits to the countries devastated by war and donated to the Marshall Plan, making huge profits for her economy
      9. Switzerland joined the UN after a guarantee was given to her that all the neighboring countries and the international community would secure her exemption from any military demands and obligations

      I guess Armenia has the pleasure of choosing amongst good and better neighboring states from her thick deck of uniformly-cultured neighbors, as well as a capacity to extend monetary credits right, left, up, and down to reduce her vulnerability and secure economic boom, eh, “non-loser”?

    • Since we do not know what your sources are regarding your “poli sci 101,” we don’t know how valid your comments are, especially given your history of citing bogus sources to support your conspiracist views, and your inaccurate statements such as “Thrace is in Asia Minor.” Assuming, for the sake of argument, that your source is valid, then, sure, taken alone, democracy may not be the basis for achieving the highest rank. However, if it is set-up right, such as (as history has shown), the U.S. model, democracy can help a country master the other factors as well, including geography. Thus, in the presence of the rule of law, people will not be encouraged to leave the country, which will solve the demographic issues. Rule of law and democracy will also result in greater investment (in our case by Diaspora), which will lead to economic and military power, which in turn will help resolve the geographic factor (not necessarily by war, as diplomacy through strength can accomplish much).

      As for Switzerland, throughout its history, many countries tried to crush Switzerland, including the Habsburgs, who headed the Holy Roman Empire and ruled much of the world. These attempts, however, were unsuccessful, and in fact, several times the Swiss crushed the Habsburgs despite the numeric disparity. One factor was the effectiveness of their military, which came from autonomous cantons which were not under the oppressive regime of one king. The Nazis, who were quite genocidal and conquered pretty much all of Europe, avoided Switzerland not because they loved the Swiss, but because, in part, they knew that the Swiss military would give them hell in the mountains of the Alps. The military strength allowed the Swiss to deal with the Nazis from the position of strength and make some acceptable concessions, including in the area of banking and transportation across the Alps, which kept Switzerland secure. Several decades before that, in the late 1800’s, the Swiss had largely amended their constitutional system by adopting many features of the United States, which paved way to a more prosperous, powerful, and secure Switzerland.

      Sure, the Habsburgs and the Nazis were not the Turks, and no country is ever exactly like any other, but so what! That is the difference between a non-loser and loser thinking. You may pinpoint the various differences and use them as excuses not to try what has worked elsewhere. When you do it, you condemn Armenia to be the way it has been for the past thousand years, because, after all, the Turks are not going anywhere. Or, we can learn from what has made other countries powerful and try it in our own. No country has failed by adopting the U.S. model of democracy, and given the wonders that it has done for the U.S. in comparison with its neighbors, it will potentially make Armenia a regional power.

  13. Terrific article Houry! It’s clearly from the heart and it’s there for all to see – the good, the bad, the everything else in between. Exactly what many of us want to learn about. Thank you.

    • Necati,
      Your sarcasm is noted. However, how can you justify your dictator’s endevours to join the European Union , per you allusion of geographic location, when 80% of Turkey is in Asia.
      Belonging to any union does not have much to do with geographic location. What makes a union is a state of mind, social order, way of thinking, common grounds.
      Pray tell me…what does Turkey have in common with Europeans ? Wearing pants and jackets does not make you European, specially now that you sultan will force you to wear shalvars and Turbans ( Sarcasm…sarcasm)

  14. “Democracy” is the best way to create a failed state – very fast. For the deaf, dumb and blind amongst us: The political system in the West is tightly control elitist system where only a handful of selected political parties participate in the political process.

    • Democracy leads to a failed state when it’s not set up right (such as pre-Hitler Germany). Successful democracies, such as the U.S., lead to power, prosperity, and expansion, all things that we want for Armenia. Democracy does not mean that all political parties should be part of the government. In fact, historically, two-party democracies (such as the U.S.) have done better than many of the multi-party European models. A two party democracy is still a democracy. You still have a choice between the two. The problem in Armenia is that it is a one-party (i.e. Republican) semi-authoritarian oligarchy. The people have no choice. So they lose hope, and they leave. Too bad that the blind, the dumb, and the deaf among us cannot see this.

    • A two party system has not been historically better. The only reason someone would claim that is because the two oldest democracies, the UK and US have a 2 party system, the UK only in the past 50 years got a third party, Labour. Next, you obsession with democracy as the cure all will be quelled once you take the time to read about Georgia and how its democracy project under Saakashvili fared. What you and other liberal interventionists, and democracy now advocates fail to realize is that culture and a peoples mindset must agree with the notions and principles of a political system for it to function well, especially if the system calls for the participation of the people, which democracy does. The Caucasus has no history with democracy and expecting it to take root quickly, 20 years is not enough, is foolish.

    • Successful democracies? What is it, a new “non-loser” invention? The pioneer democracy, and by many accounts the perceived most successful one, the Athenian, failed miserably. What does this tell to the blind, the dumb, the deaf, and the affronters among us?

    • To AR, the spectacular success of the U.S. two-party system, and the failures of many multi-party European systems, including modern Greece, Italy, and pre-Hitler Germany, show that the two-party system is better. Georgia is not democratic, in fact it is classified as a “hybrid” system (i.e. semi-authocratic, like Armenia). Saakashvili quickly turned into a dictator because he did not realize one of the key aspects of a successful democracy–due process. He put people in jail left and right without much due process. A democratic Georgia would have never allowed Saakashvili to do something as stupid as attacking Ossetia. As for the mindset of Armenians, you are merely advancing the same-old self-hatred advanced by Yerevan’s regime that Armenians are not ready for Democracy. The massive emigration shows that Armenians want a different system, and the fact that many settle and prosper in democracies such as the U.S. shows that they are perfectly ready for a democracy.

      To john, successful democracies are those democracies have been stable and successful, such as Switzerland, Australia, Germany, and most spectacularly, the U.S. The ancient Greek model was a flawed democracy because it lacked checks and balances, which led to a tyranny of majority, which made grave mistakes, leading to the destruction of the Athenian democracy. Noone is here advocating that.

  15. Dear Vahagn,
    The colourful posts are really to be directed to Ms Houry,very well narrated and a la Americana.Alas, mine always are DRAB and deal with our perrenial Demands from great Turkey.There ought to be one old man here amongst you guys to remind you always that we have something pending..the un answered Genocide issue by great Turkey.We need to keep the flame ablaze.Please forgive me if it is boring.Hope some understood that NK is intentionally made to appear as our UNIQUE issue with the turco tatars.Whereas it is a fait a complit.
    Best rgds,
    g.p

  16. Serj,

    Almost noone in Turkey wants to join EU anymore because its economy is collapsing while Turkish economy is booming.

    You can see it from the speech made recently by The minister, Egemen Bağış.

    What we need is a Great TURAN Union instead of poor EU.

    We will make it soon. I hope.

    • I had a lengthy response to your Turkey v EU economy and so on…. but then you said “Great Turan Union”. lol.

    • Necati,
      You lines about why most Turks do not like European Union reminds me a very appropriate saying ” Tilki uzume yetismeyince ham demis”.
      After reading another of your posts I see that the infamous “SUN THEORY” is still valid in your mind, meaning most of the world is Turkic. Again, another leftover theory from Kemalist regime.
      I will not comment on your so called economic strength, many more learned people have written its fake superiority.
      However I would like to comment on your dream of Turan, for it is nothing but a dream as you guys do not take into consideration of present day facts.
      1.- Today none of major minorities in Turkey understand each other and are always at each other throats.i.e Alawits, yezidis, Kurds,AND you expect unity with Kirgiz, Turkmen???

      Don’t you follow news where Uzbeks ,Krygiz are killing each other….how are you going to unite.?

  17. Some white europeans had hated the idea of Turan Union too, when i mentioned about it. They do not want Turkey in the EU, but also dont want us to establish another union out of EU. SO STRANGE, is it not? RVDV?

    Think about it. Turkey, Turkmenistan, Kyrgizistan, Azerbaijan, Khazakistan, Uzbekistan, South Azerbaijan, Hungaria, Turkish Republic of Cyprus (maybe also Japan and a United Korea since they descend from Turan race).. All together will be a super power of the world. with every kind of natural sources, manpower…

    We really do not need a weak/xenophobic union such as the EU consisting of backward ex-USSR countries .

    • Over to you RVDV:
      .
      can’t wait.
      .
      (btw: RVDV – this type of mentality is in the super majority in Turkey: my estimation about 70%)

  18. Necati:

    I am white and I was born in European Istanbul so as a white European I agree with them. I’m thinking about the Turan Union. We’d have stiff competition from the African and Arab unions for “most corrupt union.” Even poor Greece with their decimated economy has a better standard of life and per capita income than RISING Turkey. Btw, leaving out Korea and Japan, all those countries combined have like 35 million people. Some superpower. I’m sure the west will be shaking in their boots

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