A Vision for Armenia’s Future

By Benny Shohmelian, Jerusalem, 23 October 2023

We are a three-thousand years old nation. It is a miracle that we are still around after countless invasions. Despite our tribulations, we still have a portion of our land, a state with 29,800 square kilometers. This in contrast with other ancient nations, such as the Assyrians, who once had an empire.

What took place in Artsakh is a major failure by our governments and our nation. It will remain in our collective consciousness forever. However, the calamity must be a turning point for our nation. It’s time we defined our goals for the next fifty years and made it our shared vision.

To regain pride in our country, we should elect politicians who will pursue a defined course to success and return our country to glory. This would require a significant amount of work and with the participation of every Armenian. We may choose to argue with one another, continue to place blame, label each other traitor, continue to grieve, and continue to wallow in sorrow. Or we can pursue a route that incorporates most of us so that we may heal and prepare future generations.

Here’s my vision of the correct road map we need to take. We have to establish institutions with well-defined objectives. We must work together to ensure every component of our national effort contributes to the nation’s path to greatness.

1. Corruption
Our failures on the battlefield and the fall of Artsakh were due to corruption as the primary culprit. We might have avoided defeat had we, during the thirty years we controlled Artsakh, made the necessary investments in our economy and in our military rather than indulge in corruption.

2. Education
Having an excellent educational system is the most effective way to build or revive a country. We can benefit from the example of Finland, Singapore, and China. We should have a system that will take care of our children from the first day they start school. The government should be responsible for their mental and physical health, as well as their hygiene and the food they eat. We should have a nationalized martial arts program where young people can learn to defend themselves. We need a system that will allow us to pick the brightest children at an early age so they may attend specialized schools.

3. The Armed Forces
“God, don’t bring that day when we would need our women to protect us” is a popular saying. That day arrived a long time ago. In Scandinavian countries you will find that women have always participated in wars. Although women make up more than half of our population, we are not taking advantage of their capabilities. The Israeli army includes women. Even though a woman’s primary responsibility is to raise her children, I think children with trained, educated, and experienced moms are more likely to be successful in life.

4. The Economy
A country where there is safety and clearly-defined financial legislation means that country has a better chance to thrive. If we want to encourage foreign investments in Armenia’s economy, we should enact laws that will guarantee the safety of those investments and allow large sums to flow into the country.

5. The Global Diaspora
Imagine Armenians’ connections, riches, and political influence as a hidden treasure a century after the Genocide. Untapped goldmine. After independence from the USSR, Armenia’s governments were dishonest, untrustworthy, and unorganized, losing Diaspora trust. This prevented them from recovering subsurface gold. Offer Armenians globally a single objective. Imagine a trustworthy, transparent institution that can collect $10 per month from every one of us, or $100 million each month.  These are some ways Armenians abroad may support their motherland.

The Jerusalem patriarchate’s property wealth may support multi-million-dollar projects if managed well. However, the St. James Brotherhood’s clerics’ unscrupulous mismanagement, the internal laws and regulations that don’t allow outsiders to meddle, led to sell or long-lease many properties to Israeli purchasers for pennies, padding individual wallets. Over 1500 years, thousands of Armenian pilgrims visiting the holy land accumulated vast lands and wealth for the nation. In the previous 30 years, the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem has done nothing to serve the Armenian community in Jerusalem or the nation, and dishonest priests were trusted to administer Armenian possessions in the holy land.

Armenia should encourage communities around the world to effectively manage their properties.

6. Our Adversary
Who exactly is our adversary? Around 900 years ago, the Turks began invading our land. Although they were few, they knew how to increase their population quickly. When the Turks attacked a community, the first thing they did was kill all the men, and then they abducted the women. Finally, they took the children and brainwashed them, trained them in their barbaric ways, and made them hate their own nation. These Armenian boys became their best soldiers: they were called Janissaries. This is how, in just a few hundred years, they rapidly increased their population and take control of vast lands. Most people who name Turkey and the so-called Azerbaijan as their homeland are not Turks. A wide-ranging DNA survey revealed thousands of people who identify as Turks are largely descended from Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Romanians, Serbs, and others from the Balkans. We should drive this point home to the so-called Turks by pointing out that we are the same people. This might change their perception of the “enemy.”

7. Politics
Over the past thousand years, our nation has not exactly been led by visionary people.
Russia might be the worst ally for any nation. On the other hand, Russia and Armenia have common objectives. If Armenia is eliminated, a huge Turkish empire from the Balkans to Mongolia may be established. It would pose serious danger to Russia. This is one of the main reasons the Young Turks wanted to eliminate Armenians in 1915.This is why the Suinik Corridor is so important.

Similarly, Iran will be unhappy to see such a Turkish empire next to it. Thus, Russia and Iran have no choice but to stand with Armenia; it is how we play the game that will determine how powerful we will be politically.

Other growing superpowers, such as China and India, also have interests that align with Armenia’s. I also think the U.S and Europe have interests in Armenia. They’re interested in the immense natural resources of Central Asia, and Armenia is on their route. Thus, the importance of the Corridor. We must protect our southern border by all means.
Being a small country in a difficult region, we must seek peace with our neighbors. We have to find a way to reconcile with our past. I am not saying we should concede our rights to our historical lands. It’s very difficult protect our borders without making peace. Now that we still hold the Suinik Corridor, we have a strong card. We must not make the same mistake we made in Artsakh. When we had the upper hand, we should have made peace with Azerbaijan during the 30 years we controlled Artsakh and the surrounding areas.

If we can achieve peace, Armenia has the opportunity to benefit from the new trade routes through the corridor while without standing against the interests of superpowers.

8. Technology
We need to initiate a space program to land on the moon in the next 15 years, at the latest. Doing so will allow us to make significant leaps in communication, weapon production, rocket technology, and a great number of other areas whose potential benefits are currently beyond our comprehension. The Tumo Center for Creative Technologies is one example where we must concentrate our energy.

9. Transportation
Because our terrain is hilly, tunnels and subways are the most efficient modes of transportation. Since we are landlocked we should focus our efforts and resources on developing aviation. We should invest in transportation technology that uses the air as well as tunnels and rail.

10. Waste Management
There are a number of countries rarely have any waste. They recycle almost all the waste and garbage to electricity, and make sure smoke does not pollute their air. China transforms the desert into fertile land through tree planting. We must educate our people to take care of our environment.

11. Tourism
Armenia is a beautiful country. We have a rich cultural legacy and a history that goes back thousands of years. Tourism boosts our economy and helps visitors to know us and our homeland, we should develop our tourist industry. We should develop adventure tourism, sports tourism, medical tourism, and other types of tourism.

12. Health Care
Armenia must have an efficient and free healthcare. To achieve it, we should learn from nations such as Israel and invest in the construction of hospitals and medical facilities.

13. National Insurance
When an Armenia citizen retires, he should not be dependent on anyone. The government should introduce a national insurance/pension plan.

I believe by adopting only half of my suggestions, we will be in a better place than we are now.

Map of Armenia through history – Credit: Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

3 comments
  1. Thank you, Mr. Shohmelian, for your thoughtful article and great ideas.
    I’d like to address the notion that Armenians should have (or could have) made a reasonable “peace” with Azerbaijan over Artsakh back when Armenians had the upper hand in the mid and late 1990s.
    As far as I know, the only firm details we have ever learned publicly were that azerbaijan would provide “autonomy” to Artsakh after Armenians ceded the territories outside of Artsakh.
    What KIND of autonomy?
    Police and self-defense forces with strict control over borders, immigration, trade, and water rights?
    We have NO idea whatsoever. Only the negotiators know.
    Would a “peace” agreement have allowed azerbaijanis to take Shushi, move back into the rest of Artsakh, and deliberately start trouble that would have led to a NEW war?
    I tend to think so.
    Would there have been a sizable buffer zone around Artsakh? We don’t know.
    Would the peacekeepers of such a 1990s agreement have been Russians?
    We know that Russian “peacekeepers” since 2020 outright BROKE the Nov. 9, 2020 tri-party agreement. They allowed an azeri blockade and then allowed the azeri attack and takeover of Artsakh of a few months ago.
    And we know Azerbaijan broke that same 2020 agreement and previous ceasefires for decades.
    Would Western peacekeepers have been allowed in by a 1990s agreement and would they have stopped an azeri attack or a blockade of the Lachin corridor?
    We would have hoped so, but we don’t know.
    Has the West come to the aid of Armenia or Artsakh militarily PRIOR to the azeri takeover of 2023? No.
    Thus, overall, what would a document signed by azerbaijan in the 1990s have been worth?
    We do know that Russia and Azerbaijan have outright broken their various signed agreements with Armenia and Artsakh for many years.
    And we know that both have been making further demands upon Armenians.
    Indeed, any “peace” agreement that Azerbaijan would have signed in the 1990s could have meant the death knell of Artsakh even EARLIER than 2023.
    I well remember OSCE Minsk Group negotiator Joe Presel (representing the U.S.) tell Armenian Americans in person in the 1990s that the U.S. would be satisfied if a peace agreement over Artsakh could last just “ten years.” In other words, the US would have settled for a temporary peace soon to be broken (by Azerbaijan, of course).
    Azerbaijan may never have agreed, and didn’t agree, to any reasonable peace agreement years ago.
    It appears that it was playing for time and developing military superiority (with the aid of Russia, Turkey, and Israel).
    There’s a lot we don’t know and will never know.
    We do know this: The azeri regime is a liar without a shred of honor or decency, just as is the Turkish regime. The Russian regime is not far behind.
    Have Armenians made serious errors? Yes.
    But that’s not the question I am attempting to answer here.

  2. I think the main failure of the past Armenian governments was that they did not follow the adage “if you want peace you have to prepare for war”. History shows that peace deals and other agreements fall apart when one is militarily strong enough to defend what they consider rightfully theirs, regardless if that is an accepted fact by the larger world community or not. Just look at what happened in Cyprus in the 70s and more recently Ukraine and Palestine. The truth (that no one wants to admit) is in this world the prevailing principle is “might is right”. All this talk of peace, justice, and historical rights is just that, talk. It is only true if you have the power to defend it. Armenia should have been arming itself, fortifying locations at the borders of their contact with Azerbaijan, and generally gotten prepared for the inevitable future attack by Azerbaijan. The fatal error is they underestimated their adversary by a long shot and now they endure the consequences.

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