Diaspora is Armenia's Top Asset
Created 16 Apr 10
Loyal expatriate Armenians return often, support economy.
By Aghavni Harutyunyan in Yerevan
In a market in Yerevan, visitors can buy an empty jar labelled simply
`Armenian Air'. It appears absurd, but it taps into a profitable
emotion: the love that diaspora Armenians feel for this little
Ashot, who runs the stall selling the jars, said they were very
popular with visiting Armenians and had helpfully labelled the jars
with ingredients: the spirit of hospitality; the air of Yerevan and
the mountains; the smell of Armenian bread and meat; the steam of Lake
Five million of the world's eight million Armenians live outside the
republic, and their visits are a major boost to its economy. Almost
two-thirds of the 575,281 tourists who came to Armenia last year were
from the diaspora.
Salbi Agarakian, in her late fifties, was born in Aleppo in northern
Syria but has lived in Los Angeles for almost half a century. She
first came to Armenia in 1991 and has visited whenever she can since.
`When I see Armenian TV channels, when they show the [Yerevan
landmarks] Cascade Complex or Republic Square, I immediately want to
come to Armenia, to walk the streets, to mix into the crowds. I always
miss Armenia. I feel pangs for it, for the people and the country,'
`Compared to the 1990s, there have been significant changes, but the
country must grow further. All of us must try to become better.
Although it takes 16 hours to fly here, and my work does not let me
travel often, I want to be in [the religious centre of] Echmiadzin for
Easter, to hear the priests talk, to be among the people, with my
family, my extended family. For me the nation is a family, and not
just people. Here I do not feel alone, I am with my family.'
Agarakian's ancestors, like those of most diaspora Armenians, were
scattered across the world by the mass killings of Armenians committed
by Ottoman Turkish troops in the First World War. The question of
whether the campaign of murder was a genocide or not has dogged
relations between Armenians and Turkey ever since.
According to Suren Manukyan, deputy director of the museum of the
Armenian genocide, there are no precise figures for the number of
Armenians who lived in what is now eastern Turkey before 1915. He said
most historians think there were two million, of whom 500,000 survived
the mass killings, and found asylum in various countries around the
The major inflow of diaspora Armenians takes place in April, since
April 24 is the Remembrance Day for the victims of the atrocities,
marking the anniversary of the arrest and savage murder in 1915 of 250
Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul.
In the first years of Armenian independence, many diaspora Armenians
invested in the country, although often these deals ended unhappily
owing to official corruption or incompetence.
`Several complaints remain today. Either the money due for payment is
not paid, or a high price is set for some services or goods. The
American and French Armenians are used to accuracy, and clear
relations,' said Tevos Nersisyan, spokesman for the diaspora
ministry, which was set up in October 2008 with the aim of encouraging
unity among Armenians.
`This is a very difficult duty, since sometimes Armenians from
different societies differ more amongst themselves, than in relation
to different nations. There are people who feel themselves to be
Armenians if they no longer have Armenian names, while many who have
Armenian surnames feel they are foreigners. It happens that Armenians
living in the same country only meet each other at our events.'
For seven years, Anahit Meliksetian and Artush Andreasian have visited
Armenia regularly from their home in Iran. Their two children study in
`We always had connections to the homeland. When the chance came to
study in Armenia, the children preferred to come to Armenia although
we have a `green card' and they could have studied in the United
States,' Meliksetian said.
`Everything is coming together bit by bit. Armenia is our homeland. We
do not ask what our country can do for us. We ask what we can do for
Her daughter, Ani Andreasian, is in her second year at university in
`I decided for myself that I would live and work here. I do not feel
like I do in Armenia anywhere else. It is nice to feel that
everything, be it good or bad, is mine. I am thinking about living
here for longer, and becoming a citizen of Armenia,' Ani said.
Diaspora Armenians can receive citizenship in a simplified procedure,
without the usual need to live in the country for three years or know
the Armenian language. They can also, if an agreement exists with
their country of origin, become dual nationals.
Armenians from the 18 countries whose citizens require an invitation
to gain a visa can enter the country without bureaucratic
procedures. This applies to countries like Syria, Egypt and India,
which have significant Armenian populations.
Iranian Armenians can get an entrance visa at the border. Shahen
Babaians, was born in the city of Urmia in Iran, and first came to
Armenia in 1991, although his homecoming was not what he had hoped for
since the economy was collapsing and the country was at war over
`After three months I returned to Iran, but with a desire to come back
to Yerevan as soon as I could. However, I only got back to Armenia in
2002. Then I came to Armenia with a firm desire to live here, to
marry, to raise a family. After a few trips, I at last managed to move
my business to Armenia, to marry an Armenian woman, and my daughter
Sose is now six years old,' he explained.
He said it was harder to run a business in Armenia than Iran, but did
not regret his decision to move.
`I always dreamed of living in my homeland. I know Armenian badly, and
always dreamed that my children would get an Armenian education, and if
possible, in the homeland itself,' he said.
Aghavni Harutyunyan is a journalist from the Azg newspaper.
Seda Muradyan, IWPR Armenia country director, contributed to this
Diaspora expansion takes priority to borders
16 April, 2010 03:25:00
With just days left before April 24th rolls around, Turkey has
decided to take a surprising step. DavutoÄ?lu met with the Ambassadors
and Consuls based in North America in order to deliver the message;
`The normalization of relations with Yerevan will only be possible if
it includes the diaspora.'
As the international community awaits the Turkish-Armenian borders to
open, Turkey has decided to open the door to the diaspora first.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet DavutoÄ?lu made an announcement to
the mission chiefs in North America where the diaspora is most
prominent. "Normalization is only possible if it includes the Armenian
diaspora. This process will be completed with the diaspora.' Minister
DavutoÄ?lu was joined by the ambassadors in the North American
continent as well as consuls from Toronto, Chicago, New York, Houston,
Los Angeles and Boston to receive detailed information regarding the
differences between the diaspora. During the meeting, in which mission
chiefs from the United States as well as Canada were in attendance,
DavutoÄ?lu expressed that the normalization process with Yerevan would
soon be coming up. Emphasizing that the process will be successful if
the diaspora is included, DavutoÄ?lu made the following requests:
Open the mission doors to the Armenian diaspora, and invite them in.
Attend meetings and events held by the diaspora and explain our
position to them¦
Invite the diaspora to come to Turkey, including even those who are
opposed to Turkey.
Try to attend meetings with Armenian diplomats¦
Explain our position to almost everyone, including Macedonia, Albania
and the Palestinians¦
THE ANATOLIAN DIASPORA
April 16 2010
On the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington,
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan looked for a remedy on the
fate of the normalization protocols Turkey signed with Armenia last
fall. Well, since he is the main cause of the problem when it comes
to the current situation regarding the protocols, he is supposed to
find the solution. But this is not an easy task for him as first and
foremost he needs to change his references.
I have underlined before: The notions and concepts regarding the
Armenian question and those used by Turkish politicians should be
reassessed thoroughly. One of these notions is the "Armenian diaspora"
of which sizable numbers are settled in the United States.
Next week is the 95th anniversary of an event in which 200 leading
figures of the Ottoman-Armenian community were seized in Istanbul
and deported. April 24, 1915, is the symbolic day of the removal
of Armenians from these lands and the formation of a diaspora by
The word "diaspora" has a negative connotation in Turkish so much that
it cannot be used, for instance, for over a million Turkish-descent
Germans who have become a genuine diaspora in Germany after being
granted naturalization and citizenship rights. The diaspora, in
official language, is the name of a group which is known as the
eternal enemy of Turkey.
With Turkey's brand-new Armenian policy, the diaspora is treated
like a center of mischief causing trouble for "poor" Armenia and
"reasonable" Turkish Armenians living in Turkey. For instance,
the reason behind Erdogan's threat to deport Armenians from Armenia
who try to earn their bread in Turkey is the approval of "genocide"
bills that are forced by the diaspora in the United States and Sweden.
He does this without questioning a second how approximately 10,000
Armenian-descent Swedes could have had this bill passed - just like
in Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia where hardly any meaningful Armenian
This "evil" diaspora is, in fact, perceived as the unique obstacle
in front of Armenia who is looking for peace with Turkey. Turkey's
Armenian policy is based on this black-and-white world.
Grandchildren of our countrymen
This notion now needs a re-formatting. First of all, we have to know
that the most effective and most bitter members of the diaspora who
speak up the most are the grandchildren of Armenians who survived the
deportation a century ago or who were saved by their compassionate
neighbors from the massacres.
If not assimilated, these people speak Western Armenian and sometimes
Turkish. They mostly live in Armenia, France, North and South America
and the Middle East. The total Armenian population in the world is
around 9 million, one-third of which lives in Armenia. The biggest
group outside Armenia is composed of 2 million who are in Russia.
Armenians of Anatolian origin form the other big group with 2 million
The integration of Armenians in their new home countries was far
from easy. Let's not forget that they were overwhelmingly Anatolian
peasants. But they rapidly adapted to the countries to which they
There were different waves of migration. Around 1915, during and
after, Armenians were forcefully removed from Anatolia, most of whom
lost their lives. During the establishment period of the Republic,
there were left only 300,000 Armenians in Turkey. Today, the Armenian
population in Turkey is estimated to be about 50,000-60,000. Following
the Grand Catastrophe, the Turkish government found it possibly
inappropriate for them to remain in Anatolia.
As an example of the incentive for the remaining Armenians to leave,
the Armenian church which remained in the Black Sea province of Ordu
was demolished in 1927 by the order of the government of the time
and the Armenian congregation had to immigrate. As a matter of fact,
immigration continued all through the republican era though it ramped
up in difficult periods.
In the aftermath of the 1915, Armenians of Anatolia left with their
institutions whereas properties remained behind. Figures for the
institutions are as follows: There were 2,500 churches and 2,000
schools before 1915; today there are only 43 churches and 18 schools.
The Ottoman Armenian political parties Dashnak, HÄ±nchak, Ramvagar,
as well as the Kozan (Sis) Patriarchate still exist today but out of
Turkey. Their differences of opinion remain as well.
For instance, not all Armenians think alike when it comes to the
protocols. The Armenian General Benevolent Union, or AGBU, in service
since 1906 and established in Ottoman lands with branches all over
the world, is one of them. The AGBU Executive Board published a
communiquÃ© on Sept. 14, 2009, in support of the protocols. The
communiquÃ© was saying that the implementation of the protocols is
a remarkable moment in the history of Armenia, the Armenian World
and Turkish-Armenian relations. After that, together with the AGBU,
three leading Armenian groups in the U.S., the Armenian Western and
Eastern Dioceses, the Armenian Assembly of America and the Knights
of Vartan, announced their support to the Armenian government in a
joint statement published on Oct. 1, 2009.
Today, the Anatolian Armenian diaspora speaks out and speaks
differently from the first generation who survived. They are also
curious and have various expectations. Some want to visit the graveyard
of their ancestors, some want to find the location of their properties,
and some are after their relatives who had to convert to Islam. Some
celebrate cheerfully in Los Angeles the championship of their favorite
Turkish football team yet some demand the return of their ownership
rights. Some hate Turks and some have broken the taboo and travel to
Turkey. But most are thinking about Turkey and look for justice.
It is totally unrealistic for Turkey's Armenian policy to overlook the
Anatolian Diaspora in the search for normalization and a solution. We
know that the minister of foreign affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu, is becoming
aware of that fact. Maybe one day, a Turkish prime minister during
a visit to U.S. will meet also with representatives of Anatolian
Armenian diaspora there to listen.
World Markets Research Centre
April 16, 2010
Armenian Companies to Open Branches in U.S. Silicon Valley
BYLINE: Lilit Gevorgyan
Today, Armenian prime minister Tigran Sargsyan stated that the
government is ready to help Armenian IT companies open branches in the
Silicon Valley, the U.S. hi-tech research and development hub.
Sargsyan stated that already this year the government hopes to
finalise arrangements between Armenian hi-tech enterprises and the
government on the details of opening permanent representation in
Silicon Valley. The next step will be starting their own production in
the world-renowned hi-tech centre and also establish links with
similar Armenian enterprises around the world. The prime minister
added that the goal is to use Armenia's traditional skilled workforce.
Government representatives have already been to San Jose, in the
United States, to explore the practicalities of the projects and
remain optimistic about its future.
Significance:Developing the hi-tech sectors of the Armenian economy
remains paramount for the South Caucasian republic, which does not
have any hydrocarbon resources. This sector has been gradually
developing due to two factors. Firstly, it is aided by the
availability of cheap and highly qualified workforce, and secondly,
due to the fact that the country has been in a blockade imposed by two
of its four neighbours, Turkey and Azerbaijan. The hi-tech industry
provides an opportunity to continue developing Armenia's strong
traditions of science-related disciplines as well as avoiding the
physical constraints of shipping. Opening branches of companies in
Silicon Valley will boost the hi-tech sector, however it may also
intensify the exodus of highly skilled IT professionals from the
country, a trend that has been increasingly growing since the country
became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Azg Daily, Armenia
April 17 2010
COPPER-STONE AGE FOOTWEAR DISCOVERED ON THE TERRITORY
April 16, 2010 - 20:05 AMT 15:05 GMT
Armenian archaeologists discovered ancient national footwear (trekh)
dating back to Copper-Stone Age, director of RA NAS Institute of
Archeology and Ethnography, Pavel Avetisyan stated.
As he told a news conference in Yerevan, "the find is extremely
important being a fully preserved artifact. This is the oldest sample
of ancient footwear ever found."
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Diaspora is Armenia's Top Asset