Depopulation Crisis in Armenia

October 2013

The Kololian Foundation of Toronto, in cooperation with the International Center for Human Development (Armenia, Yerevan), announced the completion of a one year research project in Armenia aimed at identifying the root causes of emigration from Armenia. The research also resulted in the making of recommendations to reverse the de-population tide. The research report was presented on October 8, in Yerevan, at a United Nations conference. The full report is available for download from the website of Depopulation Crisis. Other topics include "Rule of Law", "Demographic Crisis", "Corruption", "Reasons and Solutions", "Repopulation" and "Repatriates from the Middle East".

The research was conducted by four distinct academic groups: the Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University, the Research and Business Center of the Faculty of Economics at Yerevan State University, the Hrayr Maroukhian Foundation and an independent group of academics who present the case of repopulating Kashatagh and Shahumyan.

October 2013

The Kololian Foundation of Toronto, in cooperation with the International Center for Human Development (Armenia, Yerevan), announced the completion of a one year research project in Armenia aimed at identifying the root causes of emigration from Armenia. The research also resulted in the making of recommendations to reverse the de-population tide. The research report was presented on October 8, in Yerevan, at a United Nations conference. The full report is available for download from the website of Depopulation Crisis. Other topics include "Rule of Law", "Demographic Crisis", "Corruption", "Reasons and Solutions", "Repopulation" and "Repatriates from the Middle East".

The research was conducted by four distinct academic groups: the Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University, the Research and Business Center of the Faculty of Economics at Yerevan State University, the Hrayr Maroukhian Foundation and an independent group of academics who present the case of repopulating Kashatagh and Shahumyan.

Armenia’s demographic and emigration trends have reached crisis proportions. This acutely threatens the very existence of Armenia. Drawing on statistical data, other research sources, media reports, focus groups and original surveys, the researchers in Yerevan assembled various analyses to show common patterns. Together, these sources have produced a set of policy recommendations through which the Armenian government and other stakeholders can take action to reverse population decline.

This appears to be a first class piece of work and addresses the painful issues which we are all familiar with. But, the most important thing is that the research was done by young people on the ground in Yerevan. Three of these young people are going on a speaking tour in the Diaspora, Europe and the Americas.

In addressing the issue of declining population, The Report examines the following areas:

  • Employment and educational systems
  • Corruption and the lack of Rule of law
  • Economic and judicial reforms
  • The need for Government accountability
  • Business environment
  • Lack of a cohesive parliamentary opposition
  • Tax and customs policies
  • The need for civic activism and legal consciousness.

Open Letter From the Sponsor of the Research Project, Vahan Kololian

October, 2013

Dear Compatriots:

Re: The Study on the depopulation crisis in Armenia

The shrinking population of Armenia is a very serious issue. “One day we shall have a free and independent Armenia” had become the battle cry of all Armenians for 70 years, following the genocide and the Bolshevik revolution. At the time of Armenian independence in 1991, the population of Armenia stood at 4.0 million. Today it is below 3.0 million. A free, independent Armenia was achieved, and yet today we are witnessing the dissipation of Armenia, resulting from unprecedented levels of emigration. This exodus is now at crisis proportions. It represents an existential threat to the country. Armenia’s adversaries are watching. They continue their blockade, and watch with satisfaction as Armenia empties itself. 

Background of this Research Project

While it would be easy to lodge criticism at current government policy, particularly from the diaspora, we felt that a more constructive and researched based approach was called for. It was felt that a research project should be launched from within Armenia on the demographic trends and the de-population of Armenia.

In co-operation with the International Centre for Human Development (“ICHD”) in Yerevan, a selection process was conducted, resulting in four research institutions or groups being selected:

  • Russian-Armenian (Slavonic University) Research Team
  • Research and Business Center of the Faculty of Economics of Yerevan State University
  • Research Group of Arshak Balayan, Armen Gakavian and Avetik Mejlumyan
  • Researchers from Hrayr Maroukhian Foundation

The role of the Kololian Foundation has been to fund the research and its related costs. The independence of the researchers has been maintained throughout the project.

Objective

It was felt that an academic and disciplined approach needed to be taken, to search for the root causes of population decline.

Limitations of the Study

The real desire of those supporting this study, and of the researchers themselves, is for this paper to be a catalyst for a robust national dialogue, not resulting in finger pointing, but consisting of real self-examination of what needs to be done by all state and non-state actors in Armenia and the Diaspora. Only when the taboos come down and we bare our souls to one another, can we begin the process of addressing the fundamental issues which are driving citizens out of Armenia.

Some Positive Developments

There are some initiatives being taken by the current government that are commendable. One such initiative is the Ministry of the Diaspora’s Syrian-Armenian resettlement project. It is early days, but one hopes that Syrian Armenians will stay in Armenia, long after Syria returns to a post-war calm. 

There are also some positive signs where the private sector is participating in nation building activities. Micro Lending is being developed by certain banks as an active way to make loans to job creating enterprises and projects. Artsakh Bank is a good example of Micro Lending where micro loans are increasingly a part of its commercial activities. Artsakh Bank reports good take up of its micro lending program, in agriculture, processing and small scale manufacturing. And most importantly it reports a very low failure rate, where their portfolio has performed above expectations.

Follow on Work Required

This paper does not pretend to address all issues or offer all solutions. The issues not addressed in depth in the current paper, which need to be examined are:

  • the need for organized and effective parliamentary opposition;
  • a study of citizens’ purchasing power, where basic goods and services in Armenia are 3 to 4 times more expensive than neighbouring countries. Blockades and other trade barriers such as tariffs need to be studied. The question must be asked, “is there a section of Armenian society that benefits from such restricted trade by driving and maintaining higher prices?”
  • the need to review Armenia’s post high school education where more emphasis could be put on trades and less on the arts and humanities;
  • the need for private ownership of land, in combination with expansion of an agricultural policy, where land grants are made (similar to “Homesteading” in North America, 1800 – 1900), to families who show capability to farm such lands. Such a program can be supported financially by the Diaspora.
  • better co-ordination of diaspora support. Since independence, diaspora organizations such as The All Armenia Fund, The Armenian Relief Society and AGBU have donated money to bricks and mortar projects, schools, clinics, and hospitals. Is it time for the state to take over funding infrastructure and the diaspora to fund programs in health, housing, job creation, relocation, and most importantly, enticing and integrating of immigrants?

The sponsor and the researchers of the current paper, invite others to take up these issues and join us in bringing forward ideas for the betterment of Armenia.

Let’s be Positive

It is important that we approach the issues afflicting Armenia with a sense of optimism. Negative tone and negative attitude produce negative results. Let’s remember the words of William Saroyan:

“Go ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a new Armenia.”

The resilience and determination of Armenians is legendary. Let’s turn these attributes to addressing and conquering the social issues of Armenia.

Respectfully,

Vahan Kololian
The Kololian Foundation
Toronto, Canada
vk@mosaicinstitute.ca
vk@kololianfoundation.com

 

 

11 comments
  1. Technology for Education

    As an individual and a small contributor, who is concerned with "educational systems", I visit southern Armenia three times every year to equip selected village schools with technology for education. Classrooms are equipped with new computers, WiFi-internet, screen projectors, printer/copier – in brief, technology for education in remote village schools – to students who previously had little, if any, experience with technology. 

    The program has increased computer literacy among the students, enrich their educational opportunity, providing them with better skills for a brighter future, advanced studies, and future employment with economic viability.

    Technology for education is a vehicle to learn skills and concepts beyond the technology itself, it is a way of allowing students to immensely expand their skills that they need to be successful, and to take control of their education early in life.

    I would like to encourage every Armenian living outside the country, to re-connect with people in  Armenia – for each person within their field of expertise and profession. For example, if I was a medical doctor, I would connect with doctors and hospitals in villages – understand their needs and discover where and how to make a difference. However, I happen to be a computer science professional with interest in education, so I connect village schools with technology and teach the students/teachers how to use and include technology in education.

    There needs to be direct people-to-people assistance; no overhead expenses, no delays, no bureaucracies, no politics – only immediate results.Take ownership and make a difference.

    1. IT “Surcharge”

      Armenians are among the brightest people on the planet and do have answers to their problems.

      Technology is the perfect solution to Armenia's problems. It is not surprising that I have heard the proposal to "Singaporize Armenia" repeatedly, from professional economists and lay folk alike. As I said, Armenians tend to be bright.

      The "problem" is that the IT industry in Armenia is making double digits growth gains. That is a "problem" for whom exactly? Well, the ones who panic, the Jrrr Meliks who do not yet know how to milk such an industry and monopolize that as well. Hence the "surcharge" on IT companies of late.

      Who are these people exactly?  Zangi or Zrangi?
       

  2. Puzzled by Research

    Excuse me, but I must be missing something here.

    Even Armenians, who have not been to Armenia, know that the country's depopulation is caused by lack of opportunities, by corruption, by the absence of the rule of law, by the oligarchs, by the lack of credible opposition, by the blockade. We have heard these accurate reports countless times in the past decade.

    Yet a well-meaning organization (Kololian Foundation) went and hired FOUR academic groups which spent a WHOLE YEAR and, I assume, considerable amount of money, to tell us that these well-known shortcomings of Armenia have to be looked into and RESEARCHED EVEN MORE… while everyday more and more Armenians are forced to leave their homeland. The word "redundant" comes to mind to describe the "research".

    So I am scratching my head… what was the point of the Kololian-sponsored year-long research? Aren't the eggheads in their ivory towers unaware of the problems, although they live in Armenia? Was this some sort of job-creation for the academic set?

    What Armenia needs is not recommendations for further study. We know the problems. What we need is a way and means to solve these existential challenges.

    The research reminds me of the last scene of the first Indiana Jones movie where important papers were stored in vast government archives never to see the light of day.

    1. About the “Research”

      Hayorti, you are sooooo right. What did this research accomplish? Did it give us a new insight? Did it teach us something that we did not know?

  3. Serzh Sargsyan, President

    This posting caught my attention and especially the top quotes in the Report in question.  The most poignant one was uttered by the Republic of Armenia's President Sargssyan himself:

    "The greatest problem of our country is not with the people, is not with the corruption, and nor with the criminals; our country’s greatest problem is the grim attitude. This grim attitude must go. Help us to get rid of that attitude. It’s not the sole responsibility of the authorities. Emigration is predominantly the authorities’ problem but not solely, because people leave Armenia not, as it is often said, because of the shortage of justice or jobs. The core reason for emigration is this grim
    atmosphere, people don’t see light in the end of the tunnel, they have no hopes… What can I do, if there is no civil activity? Please help, I urge you all, let’s change this atmosphere…"

    Serzh Sargsyan, President of Armenia, March 2013"

    The President is absolutely on the mark with this comment, absolutely.  99% of the problem is the deafening loud defeatism and fatalism among ARmenians, and I would love to exterminate its source with whatever ideological memetic pesticide is available.

    It is precisely the attitude that is the problem.  I have heard time and again the reluctance, the actual reluctance to participate in commerce due to the charity being there, for example.  Indeed, I can imagine a small economy with monopolism can be stifling to entrepreneurship, but, truly, I have heard of situations where labor shortages were the case due to the reluctance to work! 

    Armenia has become a country where the interior decor of an individual unit in apartment building is simply impeccable and fresh, but the exterior of the building is reminiscent of an 1800 dilapidated Ottoman village.

    1. Grim Attitude

      Thank you for your eloquent letter and for your passion for Armenia.

      However, an attitude doesn't come out of nowhere. The citizens of Armenia didn't one day all drink some water which overnight made them grim

      Despite what the president says, the grim attitude is a result of a bad economic situation, corruption (private and public), and government bureaucracy. Most people wouldn't be too eager to leave their homeland if there was the prospect of a decent life.

      1. Grim a Collective Effort

        Let's face it: the fish smells from the top. Armenians also have a tendency to self-flagellate. 

        Let President Sargsyan look into the mirror and see the grim in himself. How well has he carried himself so far? How bright and sprite has he been in trying to enforce at least a semblance of civic order? The fact is that we keep on hearing the same tired song of "oligarch, corruption, protection rackets" and so on.

        The groundwork of domestic treason and civic suicide–laid down by Ter Petrossyan–is something that Sargsyan and entourage have felt very comfortable in, like good leather shoes with holes in the sole. 

        Let Sargsyan keep on uttering the words he does, and perhaps he can start living by those words once he sees what a sham his administration is and those of his predecessors have been.

    2. Serzh Sargsyan-Grim Attitude

      Serzh Sargsyan is absolutely correct. However, he also displays the same attitude. A leader should attempt to build something for posterity. If he is capable of making such an astute and observant comment, perhaps he can stop seeing the Armenian state and nation as sinking ships to be sold, plundered and abandoned at the first sign of a water leak. He and his two predecessors, and their respective entourages of "Jrr Meliks" (refer to Mkhitar Sparapet) have been nothing but utter disappointments! 

  4. Emigration a normal process

    I would like to thank the Kololian Foundation of Toronto for sponsoring the research about the "Depopulation Crisis in Armenia". It's done professionally and gives a clear explanation about the reasons for the depopulation of our homeland.

    If we look into the mirror we will realize that we are all immigrants or the children and grandchildren of immigrants. If we ask the mirror, "Why did our ancestors or we emigrate, the answer will be "for a bright future" for ourselves and for our children, to give them a better future.

    Our homeland, Armenia, is economically not strong enough to support its population and provide all its citizens with well-paying jobs. The people are aware of the problems; so it's normal that they try to find a way out of the difficult situation and emigrate. The result of emigration is depopulation, right?

    Let's accept that today we have too many enemies, next to the Turkish and Azeri authorities our major enemies are the Christian superpowers who have sold their soul to the devil. The countries which are supporting us are our Communist friends (China for example) and our Christian friends (Russia for example).

    Corruption and oligarchs are present in every country, under different names. Take a look at the fall of the banks in the U.S, Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Portugal, The Netherlands, etc. Billions and trillions disappeared like vapor. Various Black Mondays have bankrupted countless businesses; businessmen have lost everything. God Bless them.

    My dear Armenian compatriots, I give up. I don't trust these so-called Christian superpower imperialists. I am very upset, demoralized, and hurt. Let's wake up; let's leave everything behind because all belongs to our LORD JESUS CHRIST.

    LET'S GO HOME. LET'S GO TO ARMENIA WHERE LIFE RESTARTED AFTER THE FLOOD. LET'S GO TO OUR SWEET ARMENIA.

    Before it's too late… as long as we have a strong president such as Serge Sargsyan, and true friends such as China and Russia.

    LET'S GO TO DZIDZERNAGAPERT, WHERE THE SOUL OF OUR GENOCIDE VICTIMS ARE WAITING FOR US. I AM SURE THAT THEY WILL WELCOME US WITH ROSES AND CLOVES, INCENSE, AND CANDLES.

    "IT'S BETTER TO DIE FREE RATHER THAN TO LIVE BOWED".

    LET'S  LEAVE THOSE WHO BETRAYED US BEHIND.

    LET'S GO HOME.

    Yours faithfully,

    Nicolai Romashuk Hairabedian
    The Netherlands

     

    1. Request for Funding

      Looks like our "strong president" will now be even stronger after the $180,000 health spa treatment he received in South Korea. Starving Armenians who one way or another paid for this trip are actually extremely proud. I suggest, we in the Diaspora, should create a special fund. Our presidents (apparently Arkadi was there, too) and all high-ranking officials who have contributed so much to Armenia over the last 20 years, should be able to go to South Korea every year to become stronger. And for Volodya Avetisyan, who is in jail with cooked-up charges for trying to fight for the rights of homeless azatamartiks, tough luck. 

      1. Tragedy of Back-biting

        Dear Varujan,

        It's a tragedy to see how Armenians wait for a chance to throw mud on their president, spiritual leaders or other national leaders. When the fox can't reach the grape, it says the grape is sour. Most people know it is a big lie that our president paid $180,000 for health spa treatment in South Korea. It is not the only slander addressed toward our president. There are many people who are jealous of him. Thus you can see the resulting back-biting.

        One of the Ten Commandments says, "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." Another commandment says, "You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor."
        Please keep silent: "speech is silver; silence is golden," says the proverb.

        Let's say that the parrots are repeating the truth. In that case, it would mean that every inhabitant of Armenia paid one dollar for the healthcare of our strong president. If you think that a good and a strong president does not deserve that, the choice is yours. Incidentally, what happened in South Korea is not our business.

        Yours faithfully,

        Nicolai Romashuk Hairabedian 
         

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