Is This How Our Free and Independent Armenia Should Be?

Let’s begin by saying that we are proud to have a free and independent Armenia. That our country has been able to survive a brutal baptism, overcoming the devastating Spitak earthquake in 1988 during the waning days of the Soviet Union and the catastrophic collapse of its economy when the Bolshevik’s socioeconomic experiment in state building self-destructed. It was an experiment that ignored accepted economic principles and the inextinguishable desire and determination of captive ethnic people to maintain their unique cultures. In addition to these significant obstacles, from its very inception Armenia was caught between its dependence on Moscow and its interest in strengthening its relationship with the West.

During these 22 tumultuous years, the three administrations that have governed Armenia have been challenged to balance the country’s independence with the demands of Russian interests in the South Caucasus; the genocidal proclivity of Turkish-Azeri leaders; and the realization that its future is best oriented toward Western Europe. During these years the country has had all of the trappings that characterize a going political entity. Progress has been made and if we were to compare the Armenia of today with the Armenia of some 20 years ago, the progress has been palpable.

However, having noted the success in maintaining this precarious balance and the progress that has been made, it would be unfair to gloss over the adverse impact that these same administrations have had on Armenia and its people. Some blame for what currently plagues Armenia lies with the opposition parties and their respective leadership. How the blame is apportioned is unimportant. The fact that there is blame to share is important.

A recent conference organized by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the UN Office in Armenia was held in Yerevan to explore the demographic challenges facing the country. For the administration to have its Labor and Social Affairs Ministry hold or even participate in such a conference is the height of cynicism: It is the unholy alliance between the ruling Republican Party and the oligarchs that has prolonged and intensified the economic malaise that plagues Armenia, and that is responsible for the demographic challenges the conference was to consider.

Yet, Deputy Minister Ara Petrosyan carried out his ministerial duties by citing the “Spitak earthquake…the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Karabagh War, and the transport blockade imposed by Azerbaijan and Turkey” as reasons Armenia has such a high level of poverty and unemployment.

Another factor for the serious decline in the annual population count is the below replacement-level fertility rate. The low birth rate in Armenia is not necessarily the same reason for the low birth rate that the conferees cited for developed countries, where opportunity costs are a significant factor in delaying marriages as well as encouraging lower birth rates. A study introduced by one of the participants “revealed that emigration of young…[Armenians] is determined by the lack of opportunities for professional growth and development, as well as the wish to live in a society with better protection of human rights, democracy, and governance.” An endless number of studies on countries experiencing similar problems already cite these same reasons.

Another survey introduced during the conference indicated that emigration was encouraged by “systemic issues such as centralization of business and monopolies and issues in education and the judicial sector.” In addition, “the business sector is handled by a group of people who are also directly involved in public administration, supervising specific areas or sectors of the economy. This makes smaller competitors vulnerable, causing unemployment and unequal distribution of income throughout society.” Should any of these conclusions really come as a revelation to members of parliament and representatives of relevant government agencies who were in attendance, or to the opposition political leaders who sat on the sidelines while the very reasons cited were taking root.

The same tired excuse that the closed border with Turkey and Azerbaijan has been a contributing factor to Armenia’s problems was mentioned again. This excuse will never die. Armenia did not close the border and if Turkey had allowed it to remain open, Armenia would have been overwhelmed by a Turkish economy that can out-produce at a lower per unit cost practically anything that Armenia produces or is likely to produce. Consider that Turkey’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is over 45 times greater than Armenia’s GDP. The argument in support of an open border is that it would reduce the cost of goods that Armenians purchase. True, but how does Armenia pay for these goods? Since when is having an unfavorable balance of payment situation sound economics? Do proponents of an open border suggest that Turkey exploit workers in Armenia to produce the goods Armenians need? Who benefits? The Turkish businessman, or our connected politicians and oligarchs, or both. An open border without proper safeguards (which are most likely to be determined by the same unholy alliance of politicians and oligarchs that rule Armenia) would not benefit the Armenian worker and his family. In all likelihood, the Turkish lira would replace the Armenian dram as the currency of choice. Like Russia, Turkey would serve as a second magnet attracting our young people in search of employment and other opportunities.

Unfortunately, one can easily be misled by the veneer of vitality observed in Yerevan, which successfully masks the problems that engulf our country. The level of economic development in the country is inflated by the development that is taking place in our mayrakaghak (capital city)—development, by the way, that follows no comprehensive master plan other than to meet the profit motive of entrenched politicians and oligarchs. This development does very little to reduce the high level of poverty or unemployment; or to increase the limited educational and professional opportunities for our young people; or to stem the flow of individuals and families forced to leave Armenia in search of a better life.

Some opposition political parties have announced that they are prepared to address the demographic challenges that Armenia faces. Although the intent is sincere, it is based on an unrealistic assessment of the situation. The demographic challenges—stemming emigration and the below replacement-level fertility rate—are inextricably tied to a culture of governance where corruption and favoritism permeate all aspects of the economic, political, and judicial systems.

Sad to say, the political parties are in no position to lead a movement for change. Let’s consider the various groups required for any effort to succeed. First and most important are the opposition leaders. Who among them has the charisma and the influence to create a working coalition of the required constituencies? Consider that there is no significant working relationship between any major opposition party and the various groups of activists. This should be the first step in broadening the base of any political party that is genuinely concerned with seeking change. Gaining the support of the electorate would seem to be a priority of the first order. If the people who are affected by existing conditions cannot be mobilized, what chance is there for change to occur? As it is, a significant number of voters most likely have no appetite for confrontation or have legitimate reasons to stay above the fray. Consider that some one million voters did not participate in the 2013 presidential election.

The third group essential to creating change lives is the diaspora. A firm relationship between opposition leaders and diasporan leaders is, at best, a work in progress. Two subsets of leaders can be identified: There are the wealthy philanthropists who work independently with government and religious leaders in Armenia to underwrite their personal projects. And there is a second group of leaders who head the various organizations that solicit funds and channel humanitarian, technological, and financial aid to Armenia and its people. The projects that are being funded and the aid that is being provided are important. However, in large part it is a band-aid approach because it responds primarily to the immediate needs of the people, such as medical services, meals for the elderly, making potable water available, environmental rehabilitation, housing, etc. These are among the many needs that the administration has failed to address. Underwriting projects and providing aid without any attempt to address the policies, corruption, and the oligarchic and oligopolistic systems that are directly responsible for the poverty, unemployment, and demographic situation that so desparately requires this aid does little to empower the people so that they can build a better Armenia and improve their quality of life.

Diasporan leaders have a duty to weigh-in and lend their support to a legitimate opposition movement. Many of these diasporan leaders have the ear of the president and the Catholicos, meeting regularly when occasions demand or when receiving a medal in recognition of their service. Each of us has a moral responsibility to help our country. There can be no excuse, when we have the opportunity, to turn a blind eye to what we know is the cause for the debilitating conditions affecting our people.

The final group that is a key to real change includes the president and the oligarchs who are the beneficiaries of the economic malaise they have created. Unfortunately it is not likely that they will acknowledge their avarice as being responsible for the existing conditions in Armenia and voluntarily change course.

We are a people with a brilliant history that extends over millennia who have overcome adversity so many times in our past. But today, we seem to be willing to sit idly by as our country withers slowly and possibly irretrievably into oblivion. This is neither an over dramatization or an exaggeration of existing conditions in mer mayreni yergir. Our problem is that the opposition leaders (group 1) talk a good game, but the results never live up to their rhetoric. The electorate (group 2), except for energetic groups of activists, for the most part has no sustained appetite for confrontation or believes there is no credible opposition to lead them. Based on past experiences, they have reason to believe it would be a futile effort. The diasporan leaders (group 3) are hesitant, or worse, do not believe that they should be involved in the internal politics of Armenia. They are doing their duty by underwriting their personal projects or funneling aid to our brothers and sisters in need. The only committed, determined entity in all of this is the ruling party and the oligarchs (group 4) who form the power structure that is the root-cause of the problems. They will not voluntarily participate in any effort to change a system they oversee that would jeopardize the wealth and influence they enjoy.

Until an effective movement can be formed where there is trust and understanding between the opposition political leaders, representative sectors of the electorate, and key diasporan leaders, our people will continue to experience these unacceptable and demoralizing conditions. Is this what our free and independent Armenia should be?

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Michael Mensoian

Michael Mensoian, J.D./Ph.D, is professor emeritus in Middle East and political geography at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a retired major in the U.S. army. He writes regularly for the Armenian Weekly.

52 Comments

  1. Great piece of rhetorics! Accurate arguments and valid calls. I request though to complete this with the next chapter. We know the issue. What do you suggest we do exactly and where do we start? We need a leader to follow, fearless and wise, respected and loved, drenched on both sides of the equation that os emerging a fragile Armenia. Who is that leader? You, me? And if so, what is the next logical step?

  2. Well written and well said ,how true it is.Unfortunately we have no political party who can lead the nation out of this mess.It seems that no one cares anylonger.Even the ARF which is suppose to be the champion of armenian liberty has been totally idle these days, and do not have any guts to stand up against these oligarchs who are destroying Armenia. Its seems that only a revolution is going to change the government,but who will be able to lead it?

  3. Thank you for mentioning (almost) all the problems that Armenia and Armenians every where are facing. Please allow me to add two more:
    1. The Armenians in the diaspora (including those originally from Armenia) are losing any interest in Armenia and the Armenian causes.
    2. Those Armenians working in NGOs are more active in promoting the political and other agendas of those financing their work at the expense of Armenia’s and Armenians interests.
    However, I will do what you and many of our excellent scholars do: mention problems but never mention any solution and/or action plan.
    I guess we need a real LEADER that will initiate a real REVOLUTION (HEGHAPOXOUTOUN). Until then, everything thing is just bla bla bla.

  4. An excellent article capturing most of what is wrong with Armenia today.
    But who or what will change things?Even a successful revolution would probably be self defeating with the Russians waiting in the wings.Putin has Serge by the balls and he is now terrified of upseting him.Hence the Customs Union move.
    What can Europe and the west offer to a new Armenian government sympathetic to them (however arrived at…by fair election or revolution) that would protect them from a Russian backed Azeri attack?

  5. It is extremly frustrating to hear and read about the same tunes about what ails Armenia, what is wrong and what needs to be fixed.
    All the pundits reiterate the same issues. It is painfully obvious that nothing changes. The President and his Republican Party, have full control of the country through their absolute majority in the Parlaimennt and the opposition is weak and in shambles.
    What is an “effective movement” and how will it be established?
    I have not seen a single proposal on how to really create a strong and forceful opposition.
    Here is an idea . The Republican Party holds 69 seats. Six other political parties together hold 62 seats. The Prosperous Party with 37 seats has the most in the minority, while the Non-Partisans the least with 2 seats.
    Other than the ARF, I know little about the remaining five parties. Who are the leaders?, what is their platform?, what are their objectives? What do they do to help the country and the Armenians.
    The only way we can have an ” effective movement” in Armenia, is for these six parties to put their self interests, egos, politics aside and serioulsy try to put a coalition together to form a solid and strong opposition that has only the interest of Armenia is its objective.
    For this to happen, a leader has to emerge from one of these parties that can unite the opposition. The question is who is this leader?
    Until this happens, hell can freeze over, and nothing will change in Armenia.
    Vart Adjemian

  6. Well said Dr. Mensoian. You laid it out perfectly but taught us nothing. We who care about Armenia and who work quietly to provide some humanitarian aid to the hopeless poorest of the poor are tired of hearing about what the problem is. You as a retired military leader know quite clearly that it will take one last huge effort by the folks who are most affected. The solution to correcting the downward spiral isn’t an easy one. Nothing comes easily. And so it is with earning a nation of hope and liberty. History is replete with countries including our very own USA where the populace shook off the undesirable rulers who were not in the least interested in what was fair for the people. Its time now for Armenian nationals to stand for and demand what they cherish and what they believe; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  7. This is my second posting, as the first one vanished and have no idea what happened to it.
    It is somewhat frustrating that the same tunes keep playing about what is wrong in Armenia, what ails Armenia, the corruption, emigration and influence of the Oligarchs.
    However, what is the solution? what is an “effective” movement?
    The president with his 69 seat majority held by his Repulican Party enjoys absolute majority, and govern the country at their will.
    The other six parties hold a combined 62 seats. The Prosperous Party has the most with 37 seats and the Non-Partisans the least with 2.
    Other than the ARF, in our circles little is known about the other five parties.
    Who is their leader? what is their platform? what is their agenda?
    what do they do for the benefit of the country?
    The only way for an “effective moevement” to become effective, is for the opposition to unite and form a strong, cohesive, united and influential force. Even though the total combination will still be short of majority, it will a big block of votes.
    To accomplish that, it needs a leader. The question is who?
    Who can become the leader of such a coalition that will be able to convince the other parties and their leaders to put aside their self interests, egos and politics for the good of the country?
    Until that leader emerges, and the opposition remains weak and fragmented, hell can freeze over, and nothing will change in Armenia.
    Vart Adjemian

  8. Dear editorial,
    I was for 2 weeks in Armenia recently. Every factory, that produced some scientific or technical product is closed, or not working.
    Our first priority is to open those damaged factories somehow.Those
    countries that get rich and wealthy in our days, have good industry
    and agriculture.

  9. This is an excellent article which all serious political parties should take notice of.

    Sadly, ARF Armenia has been one big disappointment over all these years with their strategy,policies,and above all with their quality of cadres in positions of responsibility.

    They even went to bed in a coalition with serzh where 10 innocent Armenians were murdered in the streets of Yerevan during serzh’s election,a very big mistake where now the population have no trust left in the ARF.

    They need to radically change if they want to come to power.

  10. Open Letter to the leaders of:
    Prosperous Party
    Armenian National Party
    Rule of Law Party
    ARF
    Heritage Party
    Non-Partisans

    I sincerely hope that you, or someone in your party leadership has access to the Armenian Weekly and has read Dr. Mensoian’s well articulated article. It clearly lists the problems, but no solution as to how to have an ” Effective movement”.
    You certainly can also read the comments.
    A major trend line that emerges, is that to have an “Effective Movement”, there must exist a viable and strong opposition. We need a leader from amongst you, who can bring your parties together and establish a unified opposition whose only purpose and objective should be to improve economical, political and social conditions in Armenia.
    If you are real and true patriots, you should be able to put your differences, self-interest and egos aside, and be able to agree on the common purpose.
    Admittedly, it is not going to be easy. But if there is a will, there must be a way.
    Vart Adjemian

  11. No hard feelings major Mensoian.Waht Ms Lucine Hayes writes is frank expressed not just excellent writ etc.People should not expect MIRACLES!!!! also true.We Armenians expect latter Mayoriamente(mainly).Why? because our voj(khasiat) Raison Détre(style) is so.the major speaks of a palpable change is noticeable in RA.Indeed,so , as seen in the eyes of the beholder( a la Americana, i.e. make-over(s)…but why so?very simple, the political economy system that was adopted in -<NOT ONLY RA-but all rest of the ex 14 republics, was/is that of the so called free-market economy -turned wild- in all 15…..
    Whereas one thinks- believes if the opposition in RA became a coalition of 5 or six political parties,it would take care of the situation(which again is not a real solution).Well, I beg to differ with all.
    My idea -even though a bit late-is to change over to a Scanduhoovian(Scandinavian) economic system,which in my view can only be effectively adopted if one or two of the age old Armenian political parties ,plus non -partisans,both in Homeland and Diaspora co operate and bring about the CHANGE,maily from the Diaspora.Latter can have the ¨suggested¨entity(above) formed,to begin with- around my envisaged TWO ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS OF IT.That of PCA´s the back bone,Professional Colleagues Associationms 15 of them(only 5 on the scene)totalling membership over 100 thousand,elect their Elite(by choice of merits only9 not Euro-Am style campaigning-power brokerage and money spending …then again WITH THE HELP OF A R F (now turned into my envisaged,¨suggested¨ Scandinavian Democratic Solcialism(this my reference to their way of Governance) in brief,a systme that makes Volvos,Saabs, vechilces and jet aircraft,while not possessing skyscrapers…..
    AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, name of said party and objective-if they so please-chaning to ARMENIAN E V O LU T I O N A R I E(S)Federation,THUS GETTING MORE INTO THEIR RANK AND FILE!!!!
    In order to successfully accomplish above,emissaries should immediately be sent over to some 3/4 of those Up North countries to closely study their manner of Governance IN PRACTICE not via internet/books etc.,then again,our Diaspora should shed away the BBB´´s(if not totally and at once)latter is the ARA Baliozians ref. to Bishops,Benefactors and bosses,at least ALONGSIDE THESE establish the A E F New Statute.For the one that is at present practiced is over 160 yrs old SAHMANATRUTYUN that our clergy and amiras in old Constantinople, now istanbulla adopted.old for a Dynamic Diaspora that strives to achieve things.I shall soon myself,God willing participate in an important gathering where I shall expose the whole doggone cabuddle for some to ponder upon and decide for themselves.I only ¨suggest¨´ mind you,am afraid to advise fellow Armens and or offer,set forth or dictate..far from it all.
    Hasgcoghin shad parev

  12. the answer that many of you are seeking exists in working outside of the system and thus against the criminal oligarchy that controls all. any political party opposition is within the system thus rendering their efforts futile even if they are well intentioned which in itself is doubtful. i recommend that Dr. Mensoian as well as all other Armenians look into the workings of Nakhakhorurdaran (preparliament) for answers to the problems that many readers have voiced.

  13. ADDENDUM,
    Please excuse me.I forgot to ¨sugggest¨¨ the other COMPONENT!!!
    Terribly important for us Diasporans!!!!!
    That of establishing ..¨THE NATIONAL INVESTMENT TRUST FUND¨,nUCLEUS BY OUR 7/8 MAGNATES THEN DOWN THROUGH MILLIONAIRES to 100 dollars I N V E S T O R S-for without a H U G E F U N D wee neither can successfully defend our (Recognition of the Armenian Genocide) by the world , nor START a Repatriation based on loaning 100 thousand dollars mortgaged loans to desireees to repatriate—–
    The Fund can indeed be in a neutral country such as CH(Geneva9 so as from both sides of the ATlantic our millions will pour into it.Tax free(it can so be drawn iup its charter by pour Int´l law attorneys etc., and it has many excellent advantages….
    Please excuse badly typed and
    E& O. excepted please!!!

  14. I read with interest this extremely well done synthetic analysis of what Armenia is today.I also read the comments which in majority were evocating a carismatic leader to guide a sort of revolution.Wrong.Revolutions must be done by continuously evolving
    mass of communities.Like Tahrir Square in Cairo.

    • If Armenians where smarter and packed their belongings and moved to a better country decades ago, none of this would of never happened. Thanks to patriotism and christianity, Armenians will continue to suffer for as long as they continue to believe in either one. Armenians should accept the consequences of their decision to remain in Armenia. Continue the same way, God will help lol.

  15. Dear compatriots

    This article was written by one person but as one can see from the feedback ,almost all agree that there is a problem and we need an urgent solution. I am sure it is frustrating for all of us here to see our country and people suffer while we stand idle in a hopeless situation waiting for some leader or saver that never comes.

    If the leader is not coming then we should look for the leaders in ourselves, working in parallel for a common goal. Anyway, it is in our nature as Armenians to be leaders since no one of us wants to be just a soldier. The important thing is to agree on common goals and objectives and go to action.

    Let’s take one example from the list of concerns : For example if one of the objectives is to get rid of the existing oligarch system then we should work on multiple fronts in the same direction. Now let’s see what this system is all about .

    1.The oligarchs came into existence due to a vacuum created after the collapse of the communist system. Before, everything was owned by the state and privatization came at such a speed that a few opportunists with the help of the previous communist leaders managed to take big chunks of the state property in their possession and then consolidated their belongings to monopolize all profitable businesses. These are the oligarchs.

    2. For the oligarch system to survive it must hinder the development of the middle class and keep the majority of people in poverty with just enough time to run after their daily bread.

    3.If you remove an oligarch or two from their position another oligarch will arise to replace them, unless you bring back the old communist system and take over everything they have as state property.

    4.This means that before removing the oligarchs you need to develop a middle class , and this is exactly what the oligarchs do not want since it will bring them closer to their end.

    5.Now we have a common objective , develop the middle class in Armenia. Also by developing the middle class in Armenia will give rise to entrepreneurship that will create newer and better jobs for the lower class. Now we can solve two problems at a time.

    6.Who can we help develop the middle class in Armenia ? If the current leadership is not capable, is not in a position or is not willing to do so , then the Diaspora Armenians should think of different ways.

    7.Some ideas for developing the middle class in Armenia.

    a)Create freelancer jobs in Armenia. For example in the IT business, architecture, design , translations , article writing, jewelry design and anything else that you can outsource from your existing business . Hey, you might even save some money for your business while helping your country.

    b)Look for partnerships : While we are complaining on why we had to accept a customs union with Russia we should be thinking of taking advantage of this situation. Any product that you assemble in Armenia in the near future can be exported to Russia without customs duties. Take advantage and expand your business to this huge market while helping your entrepreneurial brothers in Armenia.

    c)Direct investments : If you have equipment that you are not using due to lack of demand on your market, see if you cannot move part of your production line to Armenia and produce locally something that is being imported at the moment.

    d)Group up with others from your community and open up representative offices in Armenia to market the group products and services locally or to look for opportunities on an ongoing basis.

    e)I am sure you can come up with other and may be better ideas

    Conclusion : With a Diaspora of 3 times the population of Armenia , with a presence in almost every country and in every business field, we should be able to make a real difference . If not, then may be we did not deserve a county anyhow …..

    I can also tell you where to look for that leader , If you are still looking for him/her . Look into a mirror !

  16. What is the role of the diaspora? The Government of Armenia is a mindset expert in post Soviet Union to control and exploit people in the name of the nation, however only hides the pursuit of power and wealth for the olicarquia in power. The destinations of Armenia are very attached to Russia and unfortunately these rulers are totally dependent on them, they feel that their safety is in defense of Russian interests in the region.
    The diaspora is the fifth power, and should be the voice and action for the democratization of Armenia. It is our duty to contribute for the success of the country, but we must be aware that to help the future of Armenia must learn to say … NO to everything the Government of Armenia does ..

  17. The government needs to make policy changes for sure, but also the people themselves need to also become entrepreneurs and pull themselves up. I have been in Armenia twice this year and I can tell you they are facing many challenges many in Europe are – how to create a middle class without traditional manufacturing. The main solution for Armenia is technology. The government is focused on this and so the people need to also. You can read about the full Armenian IT sector report on iTechnology.am : http://www.itechnology.am/2013-freelancing-issue/armenian-it-industry-report-2012/

    At Digital Pomegranate [www.digitalpomegranate.com] we are creating a great solution of training people in web and graphics design. We are also opening a full online marketplace November 15th. My point is that it is now easy to open a company in Armenia, they problem is this “middle class” everyone is referring to needs to have the skills and sell them to the world. We hope that Digital Pomegranate will be a showcase of how to build a better Armenia. In fact our campaign is Build Your Business…Build Gyumri If you want to understand what are the possibilities and how we plan on making a difference read this – http://www.itechnology.am/editorial/setting-ideas-in-motion/gyumri-the-future-tech-and-creativity-city-of-armenia/

    • Thank you for your input. I have visited your suggested websites and I have forwarded the links to several of our contacts in this field. Further I would like our organizations to cooperate with each other in your projects for Armenia.

  18. in my humble opinion help should go to individual families who are or will become entrepreneurs,one on one bases for few thousand dollars government do not see lucrative to ask part of it.F.Y.I. it exists such a committee that follows up to hard working individuals and families who borrow money with no interest paid and returned the original amounts end of each year to apply for a new interest free loans for one year again and works for the qualifier.I am a witness of few of those cases,about time to help those families rather than bureaucrats.

  19. It’s time we stopped putting the cart before the horse. Maybe we should go through an absolute dictatorship phase where our national interests are above all. Realpolitik says we cannot all be equals. Textbook democracy and sovereignty are pipedreams.

  20. The only way to develop a middle class in Armenia that can remotely begin to shift the dynamic is to support the growth of small and mediums sized enterprise. That means: support small business, and stop making grants to NGOs who will only come back next year to ask for another grant. We need simple vehicles for financing: debt and equity. Key sectors to think about: agriculture, energy, water, livelihoods, some health and education (these can continue on grants, as well), and technology/tech transfer (Go, Digital Pomegranate! Go Tumo! That’s what it’s all about).

    We don’t need to sit down and reinvent the wheel. We don’t have in Armenia some intractable problem that every other developing country on earth doesn’t also have. What we DO have however is a combination of a) intractable and rather short-sighted political leadership, b) intractable and even more short-sighted diaspora leadership, and c) lots of good will AND reasonable amounts of capital between us. We can only hope that the latter is used intelligently to adjust for the shortcomings of the former.

    Yeah, we need leadership in the form of folks who are willing to call out the injustices but also take an even handed, incentives-based approach to coming up with solutions that attract buy-in from all sides. The Diaspora is not doing much of this, but it could.

    As a start, though… how about this? How about just ONE major philanthropist working in Hayastan (many of whom support status quo unsustainable interventions, by and large) volunteer to RE-DIRECT his/her funding as a credit guarantee facility to one (trusted) local bank or micro-finance institution, simply with the caveat that it MUST go to populations who are heretofore considered unbankable? This doesn’t have to be rocket science.

    PS) It would kind of be a shame if our “realpolitik” contributes to mass emigration at such a scale that there are only about a million or so women, children and elderly folks left by 2050. Yeah, that’s about what UNFPA projects coupled with a ‘reality-check’ adjustment because no one in their right mind would buy today’s current census figures. Maybe we shouldn’t be so blithely nonchalant in simply relegating the nation to its shadows.

  21. No offense meant here,to anyone, in what I ´m about to write here below:-
    All posts are appreciable and all have some important points in them.
    But in our past,we once had this same Trait(if i may say so)called and/or referred to as ARSHAGAVAN!!! where ,there was no Organization,that would reflect disciplined work efforts towards defined objectives.In brief everyone opted for some different aim,et.,never consensus or a COMMON DENOMINATOR to build upon a strong, healthy and effective Governance mode-system,until it collapsed and our ship-so to say-navigated(without a captain)to nowhere in particular-probably to crash against rocks-had it not been for some other Armenian establishment.That of our Spiritual guidance/leadership ,always under jurisdiction of this that Empire…
    Now having said that, it is the picture here in Diaspora,with some little differences of (make-overs ) if you will.
    My viewpoint? I have written about it before we CLASSIFY INTO WROK-PROFESSION TYPE GROUPINGS –5(whether you like it me like it or not there on the scene,The Health/Medical,The Engineers& sci,The BAr, adn thje Jewllers.WE need 10 more such as Transport Travel,Banking & finance e tc., then through these ,we get their Elite(by democratic votes but this time over people elected for their MEERITS) NOT CAMPAIGNING ,POWER BROKERAGE(MONEY SPENDING ETC.,
    THEN WE INVITE OUR TRADITIONAL POLITCO AND S`PIRITURAL LEADERSHIP TO PARTICIPATE IN HAVING IN ALL aRMENIAN DENSE TOWNSHIPS cENTRAL bODIES,BASED ON participation adn representation-as abov explained, on to delegating one person from ea of the 15 fields , olus one e a from the diff.politico and 3 spiritual denomination to Central Counil of ea Diaspora country.Next I shall explain we arrive a a DIASPORA SUPREME COUNCIL…thanks for reading me.
    Otherwise I respect all of those proposals sest FWD, but I only suggest(take it or leave it)

  22. Addendum,
    For it is easier for a co-worker co professional to mingle get to know ea other better, learn from ea other and progress.Say a mechanic or mechanical engineer (haphazardly, as it is done now( to associate with a person far advanced in chemistry or medicine). Thus,in their own Grouping they will advance more and most importantly be able to elect their 3 person delegates to the Inter -professional,One, most advanced in any given profession, the other culturally-Nat´,int´l and a politicized person,the Third Economically-Note one completing the other…
    We must indeed, begin to form into such associations and then it is from these that we get our ELITE.Elected for their worth and endowed with MERITS…
    Otherwise the Arshagavan will continue to the detriment of our nation´s weakening further,unorganized,FRAGMENTED and without objectives.
    I have indicated that OUR MAIN OBJECTIVE WOULD BE TO ESTABLISH THE NATIONAL INVESTMENT TRUST FUND.
    2.ORGANIZE Repatriation on a big scale.3.100th Anniversary of our Genocide approaching prepare to go International ,buying space on front pages of important newspaper and produce at least ONE good feature film, such as from ¨m a m i g o n ¨.Some still talkj of 40 days of Mussa Dagh film,which was produced and did not leave much effect.Try it again is really futile.We need one to compete with ¨Schindler´s List¨….

  23. AND HOW OUR LONG INDEPENDENT-READ FRAGMENTED DIASPORA-SHOULD BE???
    Please comment on this as well.Enough opining on R.of Armenia!!!!

  24. I think it is a good and sober discussion of the problem. However, the major influence of Russia and its policies is lacking in the picture. This influence is the primary driving force of “the unholy alliance” and corruption. Despite the sentiments of majority of Armenians living in Armenia for Russia and “the Old system,” Russia’s influence is negative and deteriorating one, while the rhetoric of Russia protecting “us” from possible invasions from our wonderful neighbors is just unsupported in the absence of real actions (as opposed to proclivities) on part of Turkey and Azerbaijan.

    While it is true that there is a large wave of migration from Armenian, it should be noted that there are many talented and “decent” Armenians working for Serge and his thugs; and they do it in spite of a clear understanding of the evil involved. Is not this a group of potential leaders and reformers?

    As for electorate, people believe that there is no hope, but at the same time, they willingly accept those small amounts as “compensations” for their “correct” votes during elections.

  25. gaytzag – you are absolutely right about Mamigon. I am astonished that it was not made into a film long ago. Atom Egoyan should have read Mamigon before he filmed Ararat.

  26. All the suggestions about investing in Armenia and supporting small businesses are well-intentioned, but they cannot work in current Armenia. The investors and small business are being smothered by the corrupt government and the oligarchs, and it is the lack of democracy that allows them to do so. Without establishing democracy and rule of law, there will not be a sustainable middle class in Armenia.

    Therefore, the priority should be to establish democracy in Armenia. To do that, we need to start from the top: the current constitution needs to be replaced. It allows the current system to exist (through lack of independent judiciary, centralized state, long periods between elections etc.). Instead of reinventing the wheel, Armenia needs to adopt a constitution that has worked. My preference: the U.S. one. Why? Because it has turned a country of 3 million (initially) into the most powerful, stable, and prosperous country, three qualities that we want for Armenia. And it is a system where thousands of Armenians choose to live under.

    How do we get there? That is where we Diasporans can help. We live in a democratic state, and we know how it works. We Diasporans, including our lawyers (who know most about the system) need to educate the activists in Armenia as to what kind of constitution the country needs. We also need to pressure the government to agree to a change. We can do it by threatening to withhold aid to the government-supported projects, threatening to support the anti-regime forces, and threatening to publicly discredit the Armenian government. Unless we Diasporans show that we are willing to do these things, the regime will keep fooling us and stealing from the people, the end result being the destruction of Armenia.

    We also need to give the message to both the government and the activists that if there is no democratic change, there will be a revolution, whether we want it or not.

    Within the Diaspora, we ordinary Diasporans need to pressure our organizations (ARF, ANC etc) to join in putting the pressure on Armenia’s government and helping Armenia’s activists. These organizations depend on our support, and we need to let these organizations know that we will not support them unless they join the movement.

    If we are willing to do the above, we will turn Armenia into a powerful, prosperous, and stable state. Otherwise, as Mensoian said, our country will wither into oblivion.

    • buddy boy:
      Democratic India vs Autocratic, One-Party rule China.

      India: 0
      China: 10

      So much for your democratic magic.

      And it is quite rich for an Azerbaijani nomad to give indigenous, sedentary, civilized Armenians advice.
      Why don’t you go home to Azerbaijan and bring one of those magical Democracies to the Sultanate of Aliyevistan ?

    • Coming back to get debunked some more, buddy boy? As I have educated you many times, India is considered a flawed democracy. We Armenians need to follow the examples of successful democracies, like the United States. But of course, I understand that desperate apologists try to focus on flawed models to scare the people away from the concept of democracy. Fortunately, the Armenian people are smart enough to know the difference. Now, if you like Armenia’s ruling thugs so much, why don’t you move there instead of living in and using the benefits of the United States as a typical nomad.

  27. I refer to the comment by the reader on this page named “koko” and his reference to “Nakhakhorhurdaran”, the “Pre-parliament” social movement. Such movements, even if not on a massive scale, are a sign of the alertness of the society and the concern of the ordinary citizens for their fate. They need to be encouraged and assisted as such social movements in fact hold a measure of promise for the future of Armenia. I do not however apporve the other part of Koko’s opinion that “any political party opposition is within the system thus rendering their efforts futile …”. Our oppostion activists should learn not to exclude others and think themselves of the sole saviour of the country. They have to realize that no one leader, party or movement is in state to bring change to Armenia and that every one can easily fail at one point or other. A coalition of opposition parties in which shuch social movements are represented would be the most realistic and promising alternative, I believe.

    • i agree that a coalition would be ideal but that unity does not exist. when attempts were made during the last presidential elections by one of the candidates none of the others made a motion to join. to clarify “within the system” and “futile” – since the election process cannot be corrected for a multitude of reasons; it is unrealistic to expect change even if an ideal opposition party existed with an ideal leader. there needs to be an overhaul. none of the current parties are that solution nor have they put anything forth as a path to the solution. Preparliament is at the forefront since they have a transparent and comprehensive plan for aforementioned overhaul.

  28. To Vahag,
    That is why I have suggested to have the ¨National Investment Trust Fund¨ headquartered in Geneva(Switzerland).While the investments will bear fruit(interest)re-invested in Nordic Govt. Bonds,ONLY income from these to be LOANED(not given) against mortgages to those who wish to Repatriate to RA/Artsakh.
    Let the Gov.t(like many many others) carry on their style…until someday ….anyhow
    We in Diaspora seem to be ready for a CHANGE.For I think change ought to come from here.We first put our house in order then FWD to Fatherland.

  29. Koko
    In the last presidential elections, even within a flawed electoral system, one presidential candidate (if we are talking about the same person) got a unique opportunity to forge a coalition of opposition forces. Instead, at the height of his victory, he made tragic blunders which eventually made him from an otherwise successful and effectual leader to history. No opposition leader or movement is going to make miracles in this country. They just have to learn to work together to acheive something. The self-ccongratulatory, narcistic cancer which reaks havoc on our nation has to be weeded out. If the Pre-parliament does not manage to find other companions to join it in the so far successful movement, you may be sure that it will have the same inglorious ending as others.

  30. i was referring to Hayrikyan (he suggested the coalition), i believe you are referring to Raffi who did not ven respond – others rejected the offer). he did have a unique situation that surprised everyine including Serzh and even Raffi himself. that in itself proved that the Armenian people know very well right from wrong but they were left at the alter so to speak and Raffi was the runaway bride. we seem to be on the same page, unfortunately this mode of communication sucks to get actual thoughts and feelings across. and yes Preparliament’s eventual success is absolutely dependent on others however not political parties rather free-thinking, dignified and self-righteous Armenians who want to have a true independent Armenian nation. let us, all of us, focus on the positive that has been going on and help in any way we can even if it be simple moral support.

  31. Dear koko,

    Been active in Armenian politics for a long time but I never heard of this Pre-parliamentary group. Is this something serious? What is their politics? Who is their leader?

    • Gurgen jan – they are very serious. there are 33 members (intellectuals, artists, military leaders etc.) and do not have a leader – they are equal. there main pint is the system is so corrupt and beyond “repair” that to work within it is meaningless; thus their objective is to create a shadow government and through the people’s approval establish it as the governing body. that is much too short explanation. you can check there website http://www.preparliamnet.org. the Armenian section is quite comprehensive. they and there members are also featured in articles, interviews, press conferences on a daily basis through wen based media. hope this helps.

  32. Dear koko,

    This is the first time I am reading about this group. A few dozen members, no real political platform, no leader and they are creating a “shadow government”?. Isn’t that illegal? I think they are begging for the Armenian kgb to come knocking on their doors one of these nights. Why can’t they join an established political party like our ARF. The ARF will benefit from their expertise and they will be able to work from inside the ARF’s worldwide structures to get things done? What they are doing don’t make much sense to me. I don’t know what to say, other than good luck to them.

    • Gurgen jan; i don’t think you’ve grasped what the Nakhakhorurdaran is about. did you look into them or just read my earlier brief description? the 33 members are of the committee not their entire member base – that is in the thousands. having no “leader” is intentional. if we are talking about illegal it is what the current government is doing, as a matter of fact everything that they’ve done is within the constitution. regarding the ARF or any other political group – they are all “helpless” because at some point they have to work WITHIN the structure created by the criminal oligarchs in power. ARF specifically has been letting Armenia, Armenians and its own constituents down time after time. their original mission seems to have faded along with original authors of that mission. it seems that the readers here seem to be mostly Dashnaks and are rather short sighted as to what is actually happening out of that sphere and most importantly what is happening in Armenia TODAY. i would ask that you take some time and look into for yourself what the Preparliament is about then draw your own conclusions.
      harganknerov,
      Koko

  33. Hello
    I am an Armenian from India it is true that we have been losing our Armenian nationalism everywhere in the world. Armenians are no longer interested in Armenian cause and thats a sad thing to see nowadays. Like in my family everyone says that we are Armenians but don’t have the spirit of being Armenian. We have adopted Indian culture and we don’t speak Armenian or follow the culture. When comes to Armenia main thing which affects Armenia is centralisation followed by the Soviet Union and blaming Turkey and Azerbaijan for everything this has to change. Armenia and Armenians has lots of potential but we are not utilising it we are depending on other nations rather than depending on ourselves. If the borders of Turkey and Azerbaijan is closed then also Armenian products can be reached around the world through Iran and Georgia. I will say that make use of every available resources to make prosperity but unfortunately we are not doing it. Armenians are not weak we have large population outside Armenia than in Armenian itself. Thank you.

  34. To John Joseph(from India)
    It is rather bizarr to say the least, that you should comment after near a year on above topic.Nonetheless welcome of course.Freee Press etc., is there for just that.
    Armenians have everything within their capabilities,EXCEPT ONE THING!!! they have lost the Spirit of Tigran the Great -so to say-they are now ¨obedient servants¨of the Wild FREE market Economy¨ that the LTP Gvot. set up and are following it to their best capacity.The ARF in Armenia as some have commented above is not what its other paart overseas (especially U.S.)is.
    I have bdeen here over a month now(in Yerevan, RA)attended 3 Gatherings.No not political party organzized and/or so motivated,like Pre parliament or any such. The first one was by Noravank a group set up(first by ex-Minister of diaspora Marashlian and others.I know they ¨dont paint much¨spanish,-¨no pintan nada¨.As to this one it aimed at -and actually had a sheme,shall we say to host the 5/6 turkish dissident ¨¨intellectualsóne or two in my view from their MIT(intelligence)..Then latter did indeed succeed in trapping one one or two of the organizers a Mr. Mikaelian(from Moscow) who upon Turks´s invitation flew t over to Istanbulla and then Ankara!”!Imagine for what to negotiate with them .What I ask??? the Dialogue, that is not at all appropriate only Turks gain by so doing they show TO THE WORLD PUBLIC ARMENIANS ARE NEGOTIATING WITH GREAT TURKEY.What an absurd and hopeless attempt!!!
    Armenians should frimly stand ground and await recognition by great Turkey of the genocide their predecessors committed..and only then begin negotiating.I firmly asked for KAN PARASI(Blood money) when at that meeting.Land issue etc., can wait.Who is listening??nobody.As to what you write I agree. After my 15th or 16 regular annual pilgrimmage to Yerevan, the Garbage collection is still at shams.No one reALLY CARES ..all they do is add to Beauty parlours, open more cafes and Restaurants,plus many more taxis in town buzzing around ,one does not know to where…
    I set up a New Sport The Disc golf in memorium of my beloved grandson who used to play as passtime while at college in mASS.
    The Young here prefer to be on the streets holidng one Mobile(cellular) in one hand and a pack of cigs in the other.The sport I have set up is some 16 kilometers on way to Etchimadsin at Ptghounk.and free for all to come and play.
    Another ONLY GOOD THINGS I AVE OBSSERVED IN YEREVAN IS WHAT Ovsanna Hovsepyan has done with a few friends.gather up the stray sick dogs off the streets and at present running 6 points where by Fund raising etc., theyse are cured then given to aoption.i brought some good Vitamisn from U.S. for her dogs and also help with my friend sfor the fund raising.
    Otherwise the scenario is the same in Yerevan .,oh by the wya many many more boutiques for ladies to dress up and go parading on the streets…
    Best hasgcoghin
    P.S- still hopefulñl that what (our 2 other gatherign s which i dubbes PERIPHERAL COLLECTIF OR Shrjasyun Havak COLLECTIVE…is still at it.Hope to see some more joining us to drive home something NEW(We are not a politicla group esteem them all but our aim is HAYUTYUN HAYASTAN Armenians and Armenia!!!!

    • Dear sir

      I came accross this conversation few days ago. When I said not to blame Turkey or Azerbaijan it never means that we should forget the attrocities done by Turkey or to forget Van, Grace or Karabhak or Shahumian. I meant we should streive forward in all this difficulties by increasing the trade of Armenia and progressing and show to the people who wants us dead that we can be powerful in all these difficult situations. Look at the Jews and Israel for example. They too were the victims of genocide but they worked to prosperity though they had hostile neighbours. That is what I was saying.

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