Second Genocide in the Offing?

Jirair Tutunjian, editor,

It’s about 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 24.

I am in a battered taxi, on the road from Yerevan to Echmiadzin.

We are passing through the garish, obnoxious, preposterous Casino Row.

To make conversation, I ask the cabbie whether he had been to Dzidzernagapert earlier in the day.

He takes a deep breath and mutters: “I am waiting to pay respects to the second Dzidzernagapert.”

I ask him what he means.

Jirair Tutunjian, editor,

It’s about 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 24.

I am in a battered taxi, on the road from Yerevan to Echmiadzin.

We are passing through the garish, obnoxious, preposterous Casino Row.

To make conversation, I ask the cabbie whether he had been to Dzidzernagapert earlier in the day.

He takes a deep breath and mutters: “I am waiting to pay respects to the second Dzidzernagapert.”

I ask him what he means.

“We are going through a second genocide…The country is emptying every day… Nobody knows the true unemployment rate …People are borrowing money wherever they can just to stay alive…It’s much worse in the marz (provinces)…In 1915 our women committed suicide rather than submit to the Turk; now our girls are selling their bodies to Iranian tourists… Soon there will be no Armenian left in Armenia… then we will build a second Dzidzernagapert outside Armenia for this second genocide…” the cabby’s outburst continues. “I am an engineer and a professional musician, but I can’t find a job. I am driving a taxi because there’s nothing else I can do. Many men are doing the same.”

The outrageous and painful rant pours cold water on my high spirits, having witnessed earlier in the day seemingly half of Armenia’s population at the grand Genocide memorial.

The following morning, returning from Echmiadzin, I ask another cabby whether he is earning enough to support his family. “We are not living; we are surviving,” says the man who still works at the age of 75 because his monthly pension is 30,000 Dram (about $52). He has four children: one is in Belgium; the second in Russia; the third will leave any day now for Russia. The fourth, is underpaid at a Yerevan retail store, says the grandfather, who like so many adult males, has a two-day stubble. He says his children have stopped sending remittances because “the economy is bad in Europe and in Russia.”

When he drops me at Hrabarag Square ($5 for the half-hour drive from Echmiadzin), he pulls out a pamphlet from the glove compartment and gives it to me. It’s a Jehovah’s Witness pamphlet. “Read it. It’s good for you,” he says with a half smile.

Cabbies are traditionally and notoriously easy information source for visiting journalists everywhere. Sometimes they merely project their own circumstances, although they merrily assume the role of a credible source re the national psyche and condition. However, during my eight-day recent visit to Armenia, I heard dismal variations of what the two cabbies had told me. I heard it from young women in parks, from middle-aged family men, from painters at the Saryan Monument and from young men at the Cascades Park. I heard the same agonizing stories in Yerevan and in Echmiadzin. They all blamed President Serge Sarkissian and his affluent coterie for the dismal economic condition. And practically everyone claimed to have voted for Raffi Havanissian at the recent presidential elections.

A few days after the above encounter, I gave to a wealthy politician (a redundant descriptive) a summary of what I had heard. He said that Armenians are notorious for wanting work to be all ready and easy (wrapped in ribbon?) before they deem to take on the task. He said that he had vacant jobs at his company which paid $1,000 a month, but that there were no takers. When I mentioned the politician’s statement to several men, their response was unanimous: they would take any job which paid $1,000 a month. Two Syrian immigrants I met told me they found it extremely difficult to import car accessories from Europe because of archaic and restrictive customs regulations.

Who is to blame for the economic basket case Armenia has become? Who is to blame for the unemployment, the emptying of Armenia, for the bureaucracy’s corruption, for the deteriorating infrastructure, for the absence of rule of law? For the disillusionment, for the hopelessness?

Is it the corrupt, unwieldy, fossilized Soviet mentality which is “sucking the blood” of Armenia?

Is it the Turkish-Azeri economic blockade?

Is it the emergency condition (daily threats from Azerbaijan)?

Is it the alleged crib-to-tomb welfare tradition and mentality of the Soviets?

Is it because those who run the country belong to the same clique that runs Russia or in other words, does President Putin decide who runs Armenia?

Is it the oligarchs who control Sarkissian and whom Sarkissian may not be able to control even if he wants to?

In his inaugural address, on April 9, President Sarkissian said: “Let me highlight three main ones [top priorities]: emigration, unemployment, and poverty. The solutions to these problems are to be found in the same field. Efficient economy that is on the rise, this is the formula to our success. The second priority is in ensuring the rule of law. Equality of everyone before the law is a binding prerequisite both for our economic and political advancement. The third priority, mostly directly linked to the one before, the rule of law, is the deepening of democracy.”


Why do we have a faint suspicion that he must have said something similar at his previous inaugural address?

The question remains: How do we stop the slow suicide of Armenia?

Do Sarkissian and his oligarch honchos, henchmen, and hangers-on care while they enrich their illegally acquired assets in foreign banks?

Will Armenians of Armenia soon import the defeatist Seattle slogan of the ‘80s: “Will the last person leaving Yerevan please put out the lights?”?

  1. Inch Anenq?

    I, as a diasporan Armenian, suffer because of the situation in our motherland. What can we do? Why are we sitting and waiting for the 100 anniversary of our Genocide? Hell, it is happening right now in Syria too. Why has the world gone silent while the US, Israel, and Turkey are busy destroying the world?

    Where does the UN fit in all this? Oh, I forgot: the UN is America. It is not just in Armenia that horrible things are happening. Turkey is continuing the destruction of our ancient heritage and churches; the Azeris are at work killing Armenians, and Israel is busy helping Turkey wipe Syrian-Armenians and our Genocide history. Why can't we approach the world or UN and demand justice before it is too late for all Armenians. I am not ready to give up my nation and my existence. We should not let the likes of Vladimir Putin and other oligarchies decide the future of our Motherland.

    Seriously, Armenian people, we have to wake up and rebel. We have to take action against the so-called powerful countries (three at least) and take them to the World Court. Enough is enough re denial, ignorance and injustice.

  2. We, Armenians, in Armenia

    We, Armenians, in Armenia are sick and tired of Serge Sarkissian and his junta. The biggest threat to Armenians and their future is the ruling Republican Party. Quite recently one of the notorious Republicans–Galust Sahakyan–told said the Republicans will hold power until Armenia is at war with Azerbaijan. This means the authorities will never a sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan, even if an agreement is reached, simply because they would lose power, according to Sahakyan's logic.

    War is not an excuse for the current situation in the country. If the so-called ruling elite had the slightest responsibility for the future of country, it would use the cease-fire to strengthen the economy, build true democracy, develop infrastructure, uproot Soviet corrupt traditions, etc. What we have instead is a vicious cycle of rigged elections, oligarchic structure of economy, terrible emigration, extreme poverty, deteriorating infrastructure, corrupt courts and police, a weakening army and the worst of all, the hopelessness of people.

    At least after having resolved the issue of holding power (no matter how), the so-called president will start real reforms, since the current situation threatens his rule, which will lead to a major blast in the near future with negative outcomes for the people and the regime.

    Sarkissian and his junta have declared war on the Armenian people and Armenia. To understand this, look at the so-called "new" government, where nothing is actually new: all the same corrupt ministers have been re-appointed, and some have been occupying their seats for more than 10 years and all of them have failed in their work. Some of them are criminals. It is not even worth mentioning that almost all of them are big businessmen, among them the notorious head of State Income Committee.

    I wish I could write something good about Armenia, but I can't. There is nothing positive happening in our country. It is time for all Armenians in the world to save the motherland. We are blaming Turkey and Azerbaijan; we are announcing territorial and financial claims against Turkey, but we do not understand that this is a ridiculous enterprise since we are losing the last piece of land due to our inability to arrange our nation's life as a result of subjective reasons. We do not look serious to the outside world, and nobody, including Turkey, will take as seriously unless we become a strong nation.

  3. 2nd Revolution, Not Genocide

    When the first post-Soviet administration in Armenia, under President Levon Der-Bedrossian and his Interior Minister Vano Seradeghian, gave away what the people collectively owned to the well-connected, they established an order that will continue until another social upheaval occurs to bring about change.

    Whether the citizens in Armenia will be able to bring about a revolution remains to be seen. Until then, it will be business-as-usual, no matter how much ink is poured, no matter how introspective we become and no matter what solutions are offered on paper.

  4. Armenia’s Mines

    I read somewhere recently that there are more than 600 foreign-owned mines operating in Armenia. How many Armenian citizens to do they employ? What financial benefits do they bring to Armenia's budget? Are Serge Sarkissian and his oligarchs skimming what belongs to Armenia for their personal gain? Is that the reason why there are so many late model Mercedes and BMW cars in downtown Yerevan?

    I was in Yerevan last year. It seemed to me that the centre (Opera, Mashdots, Northern, Hrabarag) area is a showcase and playground of the rich with stores selling expensive designer label products. Outside the centre, it's miserable Third World. That's where 99% of Armenians live. Meanwhile, Sarkissian and his corrupt, cruel and heartless people live in the Westernized bubble in the centre of Yerevan.

  5. The Author Ought…

    The author ought to state his points without using what cab drivers told him as evidence that things are going to hell in a hand basket. Cab drivers worldwide are known to complain even about the most mundane things in society.

    To people putting all the blame on Sargsyan and the RPA, I ask you, what political party in Armenia offers a real vision and real statesmen that would be able to handle the very serious socio-economic and geopolitical issues that confront Armenia. The opposition couldn't even unite for the Yerevan elections because all the party leaders are egotists who put their name and 'legacy' above the common good and the commonwealth.  Until Armenia has a real opposition, we will not see the RPA lose.

    As for the emigration, Azerbaijan is facing the same problem yet they have petro-dollars flowing in, and only one closed border. Georgia too is faced with high unemployment and emigration. The EU is in serious trouble as well, particularly Spain, Greece, Portugal, Slovenia, and Bulgaria. The problems Armenia faces are not unique nor are they easy to solve. Changing the leadership in Armenia will only do so much, but will not solve the underlying geopolitical causes.  

    It is way past time that Armenians looked at ways to invest in Armenia and in Artsakh, work with the authorities, to build a self-sustaining republic. We have a good opportunity with Armenians from Syria who are looking to settle in Armenia, but what Diaspora organization or wealthy individual has put their money where their mouth is, and started up a program to build or refurbish homes, and establish some sort of income-generating enterprise in Armenia? 

    1. Reply to LG

      To reply categorically to LG's letter, the author of the op-ed column did mention that cab drivers around the world are notorious for their outspoken opinions, but in Armenia's case what the cab drivers said was repeated by everyone (50 to 60 people) the author spoke to in Yerevan.

      Azeris and Georgians are emigrating for the same reason Armenians are. So what? We are not responsible for Azeri or Georgian emigration trends. Our concern is the 2-million or so Armenians.    Azerbaijan has a population of 8 to 9 million. Georgia has 6 million. They can afford to "bleed".

      The world economic situation is less than bright, but there are degrees of darkness. $55 a month pension for a 75-year-old (a dinner for two at a good Yerevan restaurant is $30) says how low has Armenia's economy sunk.

      Re the call for Diaspora entrepreneurs to invest in Armenia. We know all too well how Diaspora businessmen were cheated or obstructed by the locals, mostly the authorities and the bureaucracy. Once burned, twice shy.

      A Syrian emigrant told the column's author that he wanted to import auto accessories from Europe, but customs had put impossible barriers to discourage him starting the business. The author was also told by dozens of people that if someone, who is not a member of the oligarchs or the elite, launches a successful business, he is often approached by the members of ruling gangster plutocracy to share the business 50:50 or else.–Editor

      1. Point not clear

        It appears that my point was not clear enough.  This article, along with others that claim that doom and gloom is in store for Armenia sensationalize facts.  Facts which are common not only among Armenia's immediate neighbors, but in countries that have a larger populations and economies, and have been established states for much longer.

        Georgia's population is barely 4 million.  1 million of them are not even ethnic Georgians.  Azerbaijan's populations is below 8 million.  1.5 million are not ethnic Azerbaijanis.  Armenia's population is anywhere from 2.6-3.2 million.  98% are ethnic Armenian.  Last year Armenia's GDP grew by a higher percentage than did Azerbaijan's or Georgia's.  

        As someone who has kin in Armenia, a number of whom are in business, I can tell you that they have faced none of the issues you have presented.  And as for the Diaspora businessmen getting burned, I think you ought to look at the very successful business ventures that Eduardo Eurnekian, Ruben Vartanyan, Stepen Martirosyan, Samvel Karapetyan, and a number of other well to do Armenians have established in Armenia.

        1. To Once Again Reply

          To once again reply categorically to LG's letter.
          1. That the world economy is in trouble doesn't require elaboration. However, there are degrees of economic misery.

          2. Georgia's population is 6 million; Azerbaijan's 9 million. The Armenian Government exaggerates its population stats. The current population of Armenia is between 2 to 2.5 million… and declining fast.

          3. Three of the four successful Diaspora Armenian businessmen LG cites are Armenians from Russia. These have traditional connections with Armenia's elite. Their success should not be considered typical of the Armenian Diaspora experience. Eurnekian is a special case. He is so strong and has been so publicly beneficial to Armenia that no one dares to touch him. It's no exaggeration to say that among many Armenia circles Diaspora Armenian businessmen are considered naive foreign cash cows ready to be milked and cheated.

          1. You Have Failed

            Sir, you have failed to show how your piece is not just another doom and gloom/sky is falling, sensationalist article.

            Armenia lies about its population but Azerbaijan and Georgia do not?  Try again. There are more migrant workers in Russia from Azerbaijan than from Georgia or Armenia.

            We don't need to look at the world economy. Let us instead look at the EU. More than half of its 27 members are in a bad economic state. This also brings us to the theory that closer integration with the EU will eradicate corruption in Armenia and improve the standard of living. False. Please take a look at the articles on Bulgaria's elections which took place today. Here is the most recent example of an EU state which is plagued by corruption, low standard of living, dysfunctional political parties, and an angry populace. Bulgaria has been a member of the EU since 2006, and a NATO member since 2004. Yet earlier this year the capital, Sofia, was hit by brownouts and even blackouts causing mass protests. Here we have a country which is a member of the EU and NATO, is not in a state of war, didn't suffer a genocide 100 years ago, doesn't have two borders closed, and (unlike Armenia) has access to the sea. However, in some important ways is doing worse than Armenia. The point is that corruption is socio-cultural and will take quite some time to lesson to the point of irrelevance.

            And I will state this again, Armenians wishing to do business in Armenia will run into problems only if they are naive. Your claim that only those Diaspora Armenians with hard government connections being successful is not true and runs counter to my personal and family experience. I too have heard some 'horror' stories but they are less than the successful ones.

          2. Other Jurisdictions

            To LG.

            The op-ed is about "doom and gloom" because the situation is one of doom and gloom. Far too many Diaspora Armenians prefer to retain a fantasy image of their homeland and maintain that the problems Armenia faces are temporary and not gigantic. This willful blindness helps perpetuate–if not strengthen–the authorities and their affluent, corrupt and goonish cliques.

            The op-ed did cite other problems (war, Turkish-Azeri blockade, Soviet mentality) which hurt Armenia's economy. However, the corruption, the incompetent and authoritarian bureaucracy, the klepto-elections, the commonplace bribery, the strong-arm tactics of the rulers, the indifference of the authorities to the plight of the Armenians… deny Armenia the chance to combat its external enemies. To say that "corruption is socio-cultural and will take quite some time" to vanish is irresponsible. What time frame? Another 20 years? Fifty years? Will there be an Armenia then to be reformed?

            "Meg dzaghigov karoon chikkar" (One flower doesn't signal spring) says all about the handful of small businesses developed by Diaspora Armenians in Armenia. These are one off, individual patriotic efforts with little impact on the economy. Since you say you know of many successful Diaspora businesses in Armenia, it would be useful to find out how much Diaspora Armenians (other than Eurnekian, the New Jersey real estate family, and Russian-Armenians) have invested in Armenia in recent years.–Editor.

          3. Taxi Driver’s Wisdom


            I have not been to Armenia for over two decades but Armenia remains a daily mental presence for me and I believe that there is a profound reality in the taxi drivers' comments in Armenia.

            Contrast their comments with a conversation I had few years back with a taxi driver from a Caribbean country while he drove me to my destination. He made an observation which has remained etched in my mind: "If you are good, the sky is the limit in this country."

            Don't get me wrong: I am not idealizing the United States. Yet I cannot deny the notion that if you are good, the sky, in fact, may be the limit even if your parents make a living grooming dogs or collecting their excrements from front yards and never care to vote for anyone. That possibility seems to be lacking in Armenia. Some happenings in Armenia are alarming and go about with almost impunity and thus dampen the spirit, to say the least.

  6. Let Us Address Correctly

    I agree with the title of this article. However, the respectful author makes basic mistakes in the conclusions, repeating the principles found in Turkish propaganda.

    For a better understanding, I have to draw your attention to the beginning of the 1990s, when the USSR shattered into 15 pieces and the new neo-liberal governments of 13 countries including now independent Armenia, started to destroy their own industries and manufacturing base. Only Kazakhstan and Belarus kept theirs; this is because their former leaders survived the power transition and their establishments were able to think on their own. That is why you can very rarely notice any Kazakh and Belarus “gastarbaiters” in Western Europe and America.

    Meanwhile, I remember vividly the tall tales of the consultants of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), EU, USAID and many other foreign structures, about the inexpediency of saving our own industrial infrastructure and population. “You are a small country, so small workshops instead of great factories are enough for you,” they repeated endlessly. “We need no more than a population of 800,000,” repeated their mouthpiece, Vano Siradeghian, at the time.

    This was the best way to organize a roadside racket of our material wealth and population resources; to bring “independent” Armenia into the condition of a banana republic, dependent on foreign subsidies and occupied by foreign capital tranches. I have to remind readers that this plan was dictated and put into practice in a small country, which was fourth among the 15 Soviet republics, in terms of gross national product (GNP) after giant Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Armenia was the producer of modern computing machines, missile guidance heads, several finished components for aerospace and defense elements, while exporting 80% of its light-industrial products.

    To keep Armenia away from asserting its own independent policy, the political agents that pretended to be “ecologists”, insisted on shutting down the only serious source of electricity for the country–the Metzamor nuclear power station. At the same time started the Azeri provocations of ethnic cleansing in Artsakh, the same cleansing that had started in Abkhazia and Ossetia by the Georgians.

    Thus the borders of Armenia were blocked by Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The only “life line” by land was (and remains) Iran, which is also experiencing economic blockade by the same international structures. Please do not forget that among our national fortune, the first that was immediately “privatized” and sold for pennies to unknown foreign organizations, was the water and sewer system, the electricity network, and the mail, railway and telephone infrastructures–everything that becomes an arena for the desperate struggle of the country’s defense in times of major challenges. Levon Ter-Bedrossian and his team had handed those tools to foreign capital on a silver platter.
    It has been more than 23 years since Armenia withstood siege and survived, despite all difficulties. There is no precedent for this in history or geography. Every cargo brought from abroad, including school accessories, paper for printing, toys, clothing, computers, spare parts, units of machinery becomes four times more expensive because of the flight and the double-tax expenditures. The same “benefits” are paid when Armenian business tries to export its own production.

    In such conditions, the market is unable to survive, and this is the basic reason of the blossoming of the oligarchic structure of our economy. Yes, our oligarchs are disgusting–as are all similar robbers around the world. But this is the overwhelming consequence and effect of the blockaded borders of the country. An open market is not possible when two of Armenia’s four borders have been closed for decades, and one is shut by Georgia for months, immediately after we sent Armenian schoolbooks to Abkhazia, helped our church in Sukhumi or voiced support to this neighboring country that seeks freedom from the former micro-empire of Georgia.
    However, our people are tidy and full of hospitality; the children are unique in their talents; and according to the International Institute of Human Resources last year, among 78 countries in Europe, Asia and America our youth were among the happiest people. In fact, they are much happier than are their affluent cousins abroad.

    I can cite many countries which were founded under easier conditions and which started to "eat literally each other" in a shorter time. That is why I am not surprised when our poor peasants, fed up by the payments for the land, water and the other benefits of the Creator, leave the country. I am never surprised when the loafers, alimony dodgers and all types of losers who seek “democracy” and “freedom”–freedom from their responsibilities to their family and motherland.

    But I am entirely surprised when our respectful Armenians of the real historical Diaspora repeat the slogans of Turkey’s anti-Armenian propaganda; that the political and economic awful circumstances are not connected to the permanent blockade of our country. Of course, Turkey and its patrons are interested in making people think that our problems are only due to internal corruption, bad governance, etc. and not because Turkey keeps us shut from the rest of the world.

    But why my Armenian brothers and sisters abroad take after Turkey in all these slanders? Might it be to calm down their conscience that they have done nothing to help? I don’t mean to seek their financial help, but the simple and very much needed support to raise all the Diaspora’s voice against the Turkish-Azeri blockade, for example, is a definite must.

    A week ago I signed a petition demanding President Obama close the Guantanamo prison. None of my relatives, friends or neighbors were kept and tortured there, but my sense of justice and responsibility made me join those who are struggling against this medieval center of torment. It would have been much easier to have sat on a comfortable sofa and suspect that all those chained prisoners in Guantanamo are bad people who don’t deserve their day in court.

    Why all the authors and readers of this respectful site do not try to start a signature-gathering campaign for the opening of Armenia's borders, especially the one closed by Turkey? Why do we wait until the bad people in the governments of Turkey, Azerbaijan and elsewhere think about the high price Armenia’s government should pay for them to reopen these borders, which they have blockaded on their devilish whim?

    Let us consider this will be a campaign-letter well written by the same respectful author of this article, Mr. Tutunjian, for example, addressed to the EU, which is still negotiating with Turkey for its possible membership. Let us be confident: we will be able to gather 1,000,000 signatures of the inheritors of the First Genocide of the 20th Century, together with their friends and neighbors. And let us consider the title of this campaign to be “The Second Genocide Still Continues Every Day”.

    Lia Avetissian


    1. Easy Talk

      The opening of the border between Armenia and Turkey depends exclusively on the Armenian people and not the Diaspora. As you said, it is very easy to make statements when you're sitting on a couch. The global economic crisis has affected everyone. There are no guilty parties.

      Maria Cristina Koutoudjian – Sao Paulo


      1. Let’s Collect One-million Signatures

        Dear Maria Cristina,

        Until now I was sure that the Diaspora also consisted of the Armenian people – not Chinese or Micronesians. We are two parts of the same nation, and Armenians abroad are Armenians as long as Armenia, or a small part of it, is alive. If such a vitally important task as the blockade of our borders by Turkey is just a matter of the Armenians living inside the Homeland, what is the duty of the rest? Just to brag, gossip and tittle-tattle how corrupt is our governance, how stupid is our people and the vices of our cab drivers?

        In fact, we have two real goals in national politics. One is a judgment in international courts on the Armenian Genocide, including the restitution of all its consequences. But the first one is the unlocking of Armenia’s boundaries. All other “goals” are blind alleys, leading to ways of swindling Diaspora’s monies by all kinds of lobbyists that work on both sides of the fence and are sure that the mission is impossible.

        Let us try the collection of one-million signatures, which may lead. What if we succeed in the main goal by joining the efforts of all the Armenians of the world and their surrounding?

        1. Easy Talk

          Lia jan,
          I am very happy to learn you are from HAYASTAN.
          Fight for your rights. Launch a petition. I will sign it, if it will benefit the Armenian people.

          Maria Cristina

    2. Bravo, Lia

      Bravo, Lia.
      I do not mean the critical comments. I mean the analytical approach, conclusion, and proposal. There should be a never-ending outcry of the Diaspora (using mass media) regarding the illegal boycott by Armenia's neighbors.

  7. Bastille Day in the Making?

    I read what our observant reporter saw first-hand and I don't question his integrity. Last week I read that Armenian tourists are spending millions for their vacation. The cost of wedding would feed Armenia families for months while upscale shops are the rage. Go figure. Only the elite one-percent is living and enjoying life. The rest are frying in their own fat. If they have no bread, let them eat cake.

  8. Border Opening?

    I must respectfully disagree with those who feel that a Turkish border opening with Armenia will save Armenia. It is the Turkish economy that will be strengthened from the opening, not Armenia's. And while there are no laws in place to regulate land purchases, there is no way to prevent large swaths of Armenian property from being bought up by foreign entities.


Comments are closed.

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