To Be, or Not to Be, a Country

Lately I’ve been ruminating about this malaise that is rampant in Armenia, the notion that the “country’s not a country.” This mentality has really been bothering me lately and I just don’t know how to ignore it. The more I hear it or imagine people thinking it, the more frustrated I am.

I can’t remember the first time I heard this phrase. I’m guessing it was back in late 2004 or perhaps 2005.  At first I used to hear it regularly from someone who I consider an extended family member, even though we aren’t related. But when he used that expression, it was to vent his anger and frustration with having to contend with paying bribes, high taxes and other bureaucratic issues  on a near daily basis when he was farming twenty hectares of land in the Ararat valley. Now you can hear it from anyone on the street if you listen carefully enough, young and old alike.  I’ve heard teenagers say it, without even understanding what the implications are for saying such a thing.

The world is changing and with it costs for food and utilities are rising though the roof. And as I’ve pointed out in a previous post, the authorities are taking away jobs, not creating them. I keep hearing stories of people being offered contracts to relocate to Russia where they’ll have a job and home provided for them, and they’re signing up. Then, as I wrote about before, I think about the untold number of people that have left so far from all over the country. Entire villages have supposedly moved en masse. How can the government continue to turn a blind eye to this problem?

I also hear more and more about twentysomethings applying to study abroad, somewhere in Europe, the US or wherever. I know of at least three people who are doing that. There is a huge drain of talent and intellect, and there doesn’t seem to be any kind of discussion about how to reverse the trend. Why don’t officials try to understand why it is that so many citizens of Armenia live day to day believing that their country is not a country?

Now I find myself thinking about this exodus when I get into bed at night. Here am I, an Armenian from the US who came to Armenia to be a part of something — a movement of change for the betterment of the homeland. I felt that civil society was strengthening and that soon the people would reclaim their government from the oligarchs, and work for the common good of all citizens, not an elite circle of families. I’ve only seen things get worse. Dissent is put down and some people live in fear. Apathy is thriving. Protests yield no results. People are leaving, and the government is letting them go.

The country’s not a country. But what does that really mean for Armenian citizens? And what will make Armenia a country for Armenians to stick around and rebuild it, nurture it for future generations? Why can’t anyone answer these questions?

5 thoughts on “To Be, or Not to Be, a Country

  1. You have painted the sad reality of what Armenia is and has been for some time now. Of course it is worse now than it was prior to March 1, 2008 and will only get worse if we don’t come to terms with the reality we are facing and stop it head on.

    What Armenia needs is just what you have stated. The people have to find it in themselves to reclaim the country from the self-elected government and oligarchs. If this is not done soon, I fear that there really will be nothing left of Armenia as we would like to know it in the near future or even a foundation to rebuild it into an Armenian state when the dust settles.

    I have recently written a paper on some of the realities that face Armenia that may be of interest to the reader of this blog that can be found at

    Let us all wake up and take action!

  2. I have spoken to a few young Armenians as well. When they speak of those who go out to protest, they in effect separate themselves from the protestors with comments such as, “Ha, gnacin kagnecin, heto inch eghav.” This apathy is so disturbing. Maybe, for many, the attitude of someone else has to get it done comes from two decades of Diaspora help. Maybe they have become used to someone else getting it done for them, whether family sending money from abroad and larger scale assistance from Diasporan benefactors. Unfortunately, this slowly but surly coming to an end. Young Armenians have to realize that change will not be handed to them. They have to struggle and fight for it. Some may criticize a Diasporan like me for making suggestions from afar. But I am at liberty to do this because I have seen in done in the democratic country in which I live. I believe in it. I know it to be effective. And as long as I am here, I can help. I can’t be of help if I am there, a small fish in a pond of apathy.

  3. I just saw your post about the word Diasporan 🙂 It’s not that big a deal 🙂
    diasporan (comparative more diasporan, superlative most diasporan)

    Of or pertaining to a diaspora  [quotations ▼]

  4. I would like to know what the estimated 6-9 million Armenians outside Armenia are doing as the country is going to hell in a hand basket?

    I too have heard about Armenians leaving for “virgin lands” in Russia. Can you blame them?

    There were only around 10,000 at the March 1st HAK rally. It seems that Armenians have forgotten that 10 people were murdered on that day just three years ago.

    Where is the outrage? Why do Armenians continue to put-up with a regime that stole the presidential election in 2008?

    Raffi Hovannisian and other Heritage Party MP’s joined the HAK rally and were applauded by the crowd. LTP neither noted their presence or let RH speak. Bad move HAK…

    The opposition must join forces in the run-up for elections in 2012 and 2013. I see no other plausible way to change things short of a coup d’etat.

  5. I can’t understand how people can continue tolerating the mismanagement, nay, the total lack of longterm policy analysis in Armenia. From personal observation, I can only say that the country is undergoing a real trauma in terms of socio-econommic progress.

    On the other hand, I really couldn’t point to any political alternatives. It would be interested to see what happens in the run-up to next year’s parliamentary elections. Will Heritage and the HAK make nice, join forces, and actually achieve something tangible?

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