Armenia’s Existential Decision: Regathering of Armenians

Avetik Chalabyan

Second of a multi-part series, this article was originally published in Armenian by Mediamax on May 30, 2022.

Avetik Chalabyan’s legal representatives have published his article penned at the Armavir Penitentiary Institution, where the co-founder of ARAR Foundation is currently being held under trumped up charges. 

Part 1:

In my previous article, I wrote that the alternative to Nikol Pashinyan and the “Nikolism” introduced to the Armenian reality is not another person but a radically different approach to our national identity.

The three pillars of this identity are: Regathering, Modernization and Militarization.

Regathering of Armenians: Continuous influx and regathering of Armenians in the preserved parts of our historical homeland

Modernization: Building a progressive, highly productive economy and a dynamic and free society in Armenia

Militarization: Consistent expansion of the security capabilities of the Armenians and Armenia, with the prospect of becoming an independent player in the region

These three pillars are deeply interconnected and form a general concept, yet each with its own characteristics and sequence of actions. Therefore, in these essays I will first identify the main elements of each pillar and then present them as a whole. Today, we will focus on Regathering of Armenians.

While Regathering of Armenians is highly desirable, it is a challenging process. From the fall of the Bagratuni dynasty in the 11th century to the present times, the Armenian reality has been one of dispersion. For centuries, people have left their historical homeland due to lack of security, lack of economic opportunities, repression, persecution and ethnic cleansing. As a result, the number of Armenians on the territory of the historical homeland has almost never exceeded three million, while the population of neighboring Azerbaijan has increased four-fold in the last century, with approximately eight million Azeris living in the South Caucasus at present.

Regathering of Armenians has indeed taken place a few times in the past centuries, when Eastern Armenia came under Russian rule throughout most of the 19th century following the influx of Armenians from the Ottoman and Persian empires[1]. A similar migration happened in the early and mid-20th century, when a large number of western Armenians moved and settled both in independent and Soviet Armenia. 

Except for a brief period of the independent republic from 1918 to 1920, when a large number of Armenians moved to the newly independent republic as a result of displacement from and the loss of western Armenia, their security guarantor was first the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union. With this perceived security, Armenians settled in the present-day Armenia, as it had become a relatively safe and secure place to raise a family.

However, today there is no such external guarantor of security. The Russian Federation, with all its ambitions, is neither the world empire of the 19th century nor the superpower that the Soviet Union was. The Russian Federation is mainly focused on its own security today. Thus, Armenia does not have another external security guarantor – while there are people who mention other possible guarantors, to me such thoughts are more imaginary than real.

Given these conditions, a mass immigration of Armenians to Armenia proper will be rather unlikely, regardless of the effort. Instead, the future Armenian state, and the political and social forces supporting it, should focus on the active immigration of those Armenians who repatriate not because they are looking for security and prosperity, but instead because they want to strengthen the foundations of security and prosperity in their ancestral homeland for future generations. This was the idea behind the first waves of resettlement in the state of Israel, which at that time was laying the foundation of a new state in the middle of a desert, surrounded by enemies. Even if such devotees make up only a small percentage of the Armenians of the Diaspora, our goal should be to focus on the potential of these patriots on the homeland, given its precarious condition today, and the need to defend it, as the main goal for all Armenians.

The Armenian state has a lot to do here, from specific benefits for repatriates, to assisting them with resettlement, not just in Yerevan, which is bursting at the seams as is, but in the provinces. Making resettlement in the provinces an attractive option would not only help repatriates, but will also strengthen regional towns and villages and facilitate the construction of strategic settlements. Such settlements may be established in sparsely populated areas of major strategic importance in Syunik and Vayots Dzor, in the border areas of Tavush and Gegharkunik, as well as in the valley between Hrazdan and Sevan, which have become attractive for both tourist and high-tech development (the Gagarin Project is already underway).

Repatriation should be of great importance not only for the state itself, but also for the political and social organizations. The decision to repatriate is difficult for any family, especially given the perceived dangers Armenia is facing in the immediate future. In order for a particular person or family to make such a decision, it must be supported and encouraged by their local community and be provided with information about life in the homeland, and how one can use one’s skills and abilities to make a living in Armenia. Those in the homeland should welcome the repatriates and help them get engaged in local activities and view the repatriates not as competitors but as partners in the defense and betterment of the homeland.

All this will require continuous educational and awareness-building campaigns, training, creation of opportunities and encouragement by both public and political organizations. Our church also has an important role to play, and it must make a difficult choice between the present imperative of securing the homeland and the alternative of temporarily weakening the church’s own flock in the Diaspora communities. However, if the church and political and community organizations in the Diaspora and Armenia come together around the central idea of repatriation, it will be realistic for about 50,000-70,000 Armenian families to repatriate to Armenia in the next 10 years and join the nation’s rebuilding and reinforcing efforts. By joining forces with creative and tenacious Armenians already in the homeland, they will create a strong ethnocentric nucleus in the homeland which would also serve as a bulwark against the spread of anti-national elements to the point of seizing power in Armenia.

It is important to address immigration to Artsakh while discussing Armenian Regathering. Unlike the current Republic of Armenia, whose population has been significantly shaped by numerous waves of immigration, the population of Artsakh is indigenous and has never seen large waves of repatriation. However, Artsakh also needs people who will help develop its post-war economy, who will enlist in its armed forces, and who will create new educational potential for its population. Assuming that the future government of Armenia will not abandon and will also consistently pursue the issue of Artsakh’s legal status, it must also pursue a coordinated policy with Artsakh authorities to encourage the immigration of creative and combat-ready people to Artsakh. This will further strengthen our combined potential.

Although repatriation should be the main focus of Armenian Regathering in the coming years, natural population growth is also important in the long run. In recent years, the birth rate in Armenia has stabilized at the level of 12.5 births per 1,000 people per year, which is insufficient in terms of population growth, especially in the conditions of continued emigration and the threat of war[2]. Therefore, it is necessary to increase the birth rate in Armenia by at least 20 percent. Evidence of state-offered benefits for family growth shows that these various levers only have a temporary effect on the birth rate, where the most important factor in raising birth rate is public opinion. For example, Israel, which is under constant threat of war, has maintained a high birth rate in recent decades despite its highly urbanized population, because people there are motivated by the notion that the growth rate of the Jewish population in the country should not be lower than that of the Arab population. The same must happen in Armenia: any Armenian family living under the imperative of defending the country must realize that the country is first and foremost defended by its people, and Armenian families are tasked with raising individuals who will become defenders of the country.

Thus, the defense of the country begins with having three or more children in the family, raising them from an early age with the awareness of defending the country, educating and training them, and instilling in them the right values. Whoever does not do this, is hesitant to have a third child, does not prepare their child physically and mentally, and is thinking about getting their child excused from military service from the moment they are born, is fueling the “Nikolism” mantra, preparing a weak generation that is not only incapable of defending their homeland, but also is reliant on someone else to defend the country and people like them.

Therefore, all those who are protesting in the streets today to liberate the country from Nikol and “Nikolism” must make a clear decision today. After this phase is over, they will join efforts to facilitate Regathering of Armenians, with each person/family focusing on giving birth to the next generation of patriotic Armenians. This will be the best homage to the memory of those soldiers who fell defending our country.

Armenian Regathering will revitalize the mission of Armenia’s defense and progress. More about that later – in the meantime, if you are reading these lines and want to help rid our country of the “Nikolism” metastases, you need to make a clear decision for yourself about your role and participation in the new Regathering of the 21st century.   


[1] The influx of Armenians from Ottoman-controlled areas (Western Armenia) was primarily a rearrangement of Armenian presence in historical lands, where Armenians from western Armenia settled in eastern Armenia.

[2] Azerbaijan’s birth rate is north of 15, as a comparison.

Ara Stepanyan

Ara Stepanyan

Ara Stepanyan is a Boston-based consultant advising companies and government agencies on a broad range of complex business problems by applying his expertise in economics, finance, data analytics, and strategy. His experience includes engagements across a broad array of economic issues related to domestic and international tax disputes, corporate restructurings, data-driven strategy, and investigations in connection with corruption and money laundering. Ara holds a PhD in economics from Rice and an MPA from Harvard.
Ara Stepanyan

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1 Comment

  1. Very good, I look forward to his further two articles. It must be right to emulate the policies of Israel, perhaps without the unnecessary cruelty to Arabs/ Moslems. The advantage if course for Armenia and Artsakh ( including it temporarily ‘ Occupied Territories ‘) is that Armenia has no minorities. It would be brilliant if Armenia totally refused entrance or settlement by unwanted cults such as Islam, Scientology and Zionism. Surrounded on three sides by 200,000,000 Moslems makes this imperative.

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