Tag Archives: Armenian migration

Elections Over. Now What?

Karen Minasian, photo
Karen Minasian photo

As the press and politicians predicted, Serzh Sargsyan won the 2013 Armenian presidential elections in a landslide victory with 58.6 percent of the vote. His main challenger, Raffi Hovannisian, came in second with a rather impressive 36.7 percent, much higher than Levon Ter-Petrossian’s “official” count back in 2008.

Naturally we don’t know how realistic these numbers actually are since there was widespread vote buying, ballot stuffing and arranged voter turnout with some people purportedly being bused into Yerevan from Gyumri according to one account. RFE/RL reported other specific cases of voting irregularities.

Nelli Shishmanyan photo

There is already discussion of revolution in the air–Hovannisian’s press secretary Hovsep Khourshoudyan said today that “Even Serzh Sargsyan wants a constitutional revolution. A revolution is in the making.” And on Feb. 15 Aghvan Vartanian of ARF-Dashnaktsutyun told reporters that the party foresees a post-election “radical transformation” in Armenian politics. Naturally, such comments don’t seem serious when you have voters purportedly drawing caricatures on their ballots–one person actually ate his ballot at the polling station. This shows blatant cynicism in society, not a call for transformation.

As Armenians will likely tolerate another five-year term of Serzh Sargsyan, here’s a list of equally important issues and concerns that he should examine immediately in order to win over the confidence of the apathetic, hopelessly fatalistic public:

– Double the minimum wage to  increase the standards of living for 99% of the population, most of which is struggling, to further stimulate the economy with consumer spending.

– Dissolve the monopolies shared by several oligarchic clans to invite competition in the marketplace.

– Attract foreign investment by continuing to offer tax breaks to would-be investors. Waiving customs fees, a good chunk of which ends up in the pockets of officials anyway, would also be a nice incentive.

– Persuade oligarchs to create jobs by actually investing in the manufacturing sector instead of relying on selling cheap Turkish and Chinese imports at exorbitant prices to earn profits.

– Boost foreign investment in the IT industry. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. There is a plethora of talented young software engineers in need of jobs and career growth potential. They are leaving the country en masse–I personally know about eight people who have departed for the US, Canada and Russia and are extremely successful there. That talent has to stay put and help build the country.

– Overhaul the social welfare system to ensure that the plight of the very poor and homeless (yes, people without shelter roam Yerevan’s streets) is assuaged by providing free housing, health care and employment for those who need it urgently.

– Either stop or retract the complex web of governmental corruption. President Sargsyan best knows what needs to be done so there’s no need to elaborate here.

The Armenian diaspora can do the following:

– In memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide, actively become involved in curbing emigration and cease justifying the inevitability of it. As I have written on this blog the continued exodus has become an issue of national security for Armenia and it urgently has to reverse, people need to return to their homeland. Armenia needs to be populated, it’s that simple. Armenia is fast becoming a serfdom, and the middle class will likely shrink with continued cynicism and the infectious desire to be “anywhere but here.”

– Stimulate  civil society in Armenia through trainings and by promoting initiatives.

– Become proactive in democracy building efforts. The mentality that “you can’t do it” fostered by Armenians from Armenia living abroad needs to change.

Good luck, everyone.

Why Do Armenians Migrate?

In the 1990s just after Armenia declared independence and continuing throughout the decade the country saw a mass exodus of its citizens. Some even managed to leave during the perestroika era of the Soviet Union. Many of them wound up in the Los Angeles area while others made their way to Moscow, where there already was a significant Armenian presence to begin with. Still others went to countries throughout Europe like France, Spain, The Netherlands and Germany. Now the trend is to go to Canada since obtaining am immigrant visa has become easier recently for some reason.

There was a legitimate reason to leave the country 15 years ago. Armenia was plagued by war, an energy blockade and of course mass unemployment with little opportunities available to most citizens. I have heard numerous horror stories about how people managed to survive during the “dark and cold years.” It always seemed understandable to me why many Armenians chose to leave their homeland. But now, I’m having trouble coming to terms with the legitimancy for migration to continue.

I’m not convinced that there is a reason for citizens to leave Armenia any longer, especially young people. I find it hard to believe that there is a lack of work; rather, many youths are perhaps too lazy to find employment, particularly those who live off the riches of fathers or other family members who find themselves deep in the motherload of newfound cash, in some cases mysteriously.

Simply put, you can find work in Armenia if you look hard enough and are willing to sacrifice feeling “ashamed” for taking a particular job, like that of a cleaner. There are dozens of stores and restaurants open and continuing to open for business through Yerevan, so there’s work in the service industry. It’s true that the IT sector recently took a hit due to the global recession and many software developers found themselves without a job, but there are ways for them to find work either at other companies which continue to do business in Armenia or as independent contractors. I know programmers who have left for Canada and they seem to be doing well for themselves, so good for them. But I don’t think that they really needed to leave.

It is a trend, perhaps even prestigous, to get out if you are able to obtain a visa to another country. Like the article just published on Hetq Online pointed out, many wind up living in their host countries illegally when their privileges to stay dry up. Then returning to Armenia can be a problem for them if they don’t have their passports and residential status up to date.

So basically to sum up, I have believed for a while now that Armenians are simply taking the easy way out by migrating. Instead of staying in Armenia to struggle to build their society, Armenians choose to flee. It takes too much effort to do something about building a life for yourself if you are convinced that Armenia “is not a country.” When someone tells me this, my reply is always, “Then build your country to be the one you aspire to live in.” My statement is usually met with silence.