Population Matters

The matter of how many people live on Armenian controlled land has been something I’ve wanted to address for quite some time. Yerevan’s recently enacted increase in benefits to families having more children provides just the context needed to broach this subject.

All the jokes about size mattering are no laughing matter when it comes to population. Without enough people, a country cannot have a strong military, a very pressing aspect of life for the Republic of Armenia given its hostile and belligerent neighbors. Intellectual life, innovation, cultural development and progress also rely on having a larger base of people for support.  

Crucially, even the economy of a country is dependent on its population. At last year’s ANCA Western Region Grassroots Conference, Zareh Sinanian, the new Diaspora “minister” (I use the term for simplicity recognizing it is not his official title), noted that for the RoA to be sustainable, it must have a population of five million by 2050 (the figure and date are from memory and might be slightly off, I apologize for not being able to locate my notes).

This is why birth rates (increase needed), emigration (decrease needed) and repatriation (much more needed) are such critical matters for our young republic. All of this is true for Artsakh and Javakhk, too. Let’s not even touch the relevance of our remaining population in Western Armenia!

Those among Armenians scattered worldwide who are cognizant of and sensitive to the problem of worldwide overpopulation may be taken aback by this. Sorry, but in this case, given the centuries over which our population was decimated under Turkish tyranny, we are not left much choice. Let the Brazils, Chinas, Egypts, Indias and U.S.’ of the world worry and act on this very real problem that is part of the cause of climate disruption. We have to bring our population back up to a level that will enable Armenians, Armenia and our culture to be sustainable and bloom in the long term.

Others may be concerned about the implications of these concerns to individuals, since necessarily, having more children, not leaving for better economic opportunity and moving to a country that is less developed, thriving and secure, all imply sacrifice and varying levels of hardship. Tough luck for all of us. As Vahe Oshagan once said to us in a class he taught, “Being Armenian is suffering!” This is not a very pleasant prospect. But, recognizing it as our reality and getting over its “negative” flavor enables us to shed its worse ramifications and act in our own best interests with a clearness of mind.  If someone is having more children, we should help in any way possible to enrich those youngsters’ lives. If someone is remaining on Armenian soil despite economic hardships, we should be investing in creating opportunities for meaningful and properly remunerative work. If someone is repatriating, we should be cheering her/him on and making the transition as smooth and easy as possible.

But, let’s be aware of what has been going on for a long time. Take a look at the accompanying table of birthrates for the part of our homeland under our control (not including Artsakh and Javakhk). You can see how we have been doing the wrong thing for a long time. That has only been exacerbated by the poor governance of the post-re-independence era. Couple that with the emigration that began in earnest in the 1970s, and you can see why a major reset of our national mind frame is necessary if we’re serious about ourselves as a nation. The net result is obvious in the results of the last two censuses, nominally 3,213,011 in 2001 and 3,018,854 in 2011, and another scheduled for this year with an even lower total anticipated.

Year Birth Rate* Growth Rate
1950 30.202 0.00%
1951 31.391 3.94%
1952 32.58 3.79%
1953 33.769 3.65%
1954 34.958 3.52%
1955 36.147 3.40%
1956 37.336 3.29%
1957 38.525 3.18%
1958 39.714 3.09%
1959 38.727 -2.49%
1960 37.74 -2.55%
1961 36.754 -2.61%
1962 35.767 -2.69%
1963 34.78 -2.76%
1964 32.726 -5.91%
1965 30.672 -6.28%
1966 28.618 -6.70%
1967 26.564 -7.18%
1968 24.51 -7.73%
1969 24.111 -1.63%
1970 23.711 -1.66%
1971 23.312 -1.68%
1972 22.912 -1.72%
1973 22.513 -1.74%
1974 22.628 0.51%
1975 22.743 0.51%
1976 22.859 0.51%
1977 22.974 0.50%
1978 23.089 0.50%
1979 23.341 1.09%
1980 23.594 1.08%
1981 23.846 1.07%
1982 24.099 1.06%
1983 24.351 1.05%
1984 24.207 -0.59%
1985 24.062 -0.60%
1986 23.918 -0.60%
1987 23.773 -0.61%
1988 23.629 -0.61%
1989 22.737 -3.78%
1990 21.845 -3.92%
1991 20.953 -4.08%
1992 20.061 -4.26%
1993 19.169 -4.45%
1994 18.031 -5.94%
1995 16.893 -6.31%
1996 15.755 -6.74%
1997 14.617 -7.22%
1998 13.479 -7.79%
1999 13.473 -0.04%
2000 13.466 -0.05%
2001 13.46 -0.04%
2002 13.453 -0.05%
2003 13.447 -0.04%
2004 13.774 2.43%
2005 14.102 2.38%
2006 14.429 2.32%
2007 14.757 2.27%
2008 15.084 2.22%
2009 15.093 0.06%
2010 15.102 0.06%
2011 15.111 0.06%
2012 15.12 0.06%
2013 15.129 0.06%
2014 14.936 -1.28%
2015 14.743 -1.29%
2016 14.549 -1.32%
2017 14.356 -1.33%
2018 14.163 -1.34%
2019 13.794 -2.61%
2020 13.424 -2.68%

There is good news in addition to the new family support policy. Emigration rates have been dropping over the last three years.

Now, let’s all get busy doing the right thing on the population front, and not going the snooty, spoiled and selfish route of having only two children, wasting our resources on vacuous luxury items (overly large residences, overpriced cars, immodest vacations, etc.), and discouraging those among us who have the heart to repatriate.


Garen Yegparian

Asbarez Columnist
Garen Yegparian is a fat, bald guy who has too much to say and do for his own good. So, you know he loves mouthing off weekly about anything he damn well pleases to write about that he can remotely tie in to things Armenian. He's got a checkered past: principal of an Armenian school, project manager on a housing development, ANC-WR Executive Director, AYF Field worker (again on the left coast), Operations Director for a telecom startup, and a City of LA employee most recently (in three different departments so far). Plus, he's got delusions of breaking into electoral politics, meanwhile participating in other aspects of it and making sure to stay in trouble. His is a weekly column that appears originally in Asbarez, but has been republished to the Armenian Weekly for many years.

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  1. NIce Garen: and in the Diaspora like here we keep saying there are 1 million or 1.5 million Armenians while the US census–one of the most accurate in the world–says there are 493,000….which sounds more accurate to many people, if you look at our strong but spread out achievements as a people.

  2. That being said Garen, I am a bit shocked at the comment “let’s not buy luxury cars, let’s have more than two children.” I currently have none. How many do you have???:)

  3. P.S. : The UN Population Office in Yerevan predicts that the population of Armenia will be 1.8 Million in 2100.

  4. Thank you Garen for including official data. Looking at the table we see that the worst birth rate since the 1950’s occurred during the Levon Ter Petrossian years and the best birthrate since the 1950s occurred immediately after LTP during Robert Kocharyan’s years. The recovery under Kocharyan from bad to good was colossal in 1998 and continued to improve until Serz Sarkisyan ruined things. The Artsakh ceasefire was signed in May 1994 when we were absolute victors which raised the nation’s morale and pride yet the birthrate continued to plummet for the next 4 years until LTP was finally evicted. The misery and poverty that occurred during LTPs years was largely artificially induced when electricity generated was sold over the border while the locals froze to death, the factories and mines were plundered and looted and food & fuel supplies were deliberately cut. Incidently the largest portion of the 1.2 Million emigrants occurred during those LTP years.

    Yet what have we done as a collective people? We have voted the right-hand man of LTP back into office and we have imprisoned the one president that truly gave Armenia and economic recovery. Don’t believe me? Study the data, not just the one shown in this article but all the official data. The emigration rate actually reversed and Armenia saw a rise in population during Kocharyan’s time. Armenia recorded unprecedented economic growth and went through a construction boom, the likes of which we haven’t seen since.

    Which brings me to to my final point – people don’t emigrate or stop having children only due to poverty. They do so because they lack hope in the future of the country. If Armenians remain politically illiterate and emotion driven animals that continue to be manipulated by negative forces then the hope in a positive future will not develop. At the moment I dont see any hope of reversing that trend.

    And don’t be fooled by the so-called recent drop in emigration rates. The 40,000 Indians entering the country every year with thousands of them given official residence in Armenia don’t count. From February onwards the same will apply to the Chinese since the visa regimes have been liberalised from Jan 21st. In the last calendar year 37,000 Armenians left Armenia for good. Check to bloody data and don’t listen to the lies this government is telling you

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