Organized Repatriation as the Path
for the Development of the Armenian State and Nation


     Armenia does not have much time to create a strong state and to emerge from its current crisis - a couple of years, or at best a decade. A fleeting glance at the alarming demographics alone compels this conclusion. From 1991 to 2001 the population of Armenia, including Artsakh, has decreased by 1-1.5 million, currently constituting no more than 2.5 million, perhaps even less (the 3 million people discovered in Armenia in 2001 by the RA Statistics Service is clearly exaggerated). If we consider that each year from 1995 to 2001 on average 50-60,000 people left Armenia, then, if the emigration continues at the current pace (all conditions indicate that it will continue unabated), by 2010 Armenia's population will be between 1.5 and 2 million. Moreover, most of the émigrés will be young people and skilled professionals. The remaining older and less educated workforce will be inadequate to meet even Armenia's most elementary national security needs in the army, or to develop the economy, or press for the bare minimum of social justice for a prosperous and democratic state (and without societal pressure, such a state cannot be achieved). Thus it is a vicious circle: Emigration creates unfavorable socio-economic conditions, which in turn feed emigration. Thus emigration must be stopped at all costs. It will not stop by itself, but if unchecked, will continue without end.
     It is time to cure and compensate for the consequences of the enormous emigration from Armenia. It is time to plan and implement a massive, organized immigration, which should take the form not of willy-nilly repatriation, but rather should be based on solid research with clear solutions to key issues of employment and housing, to which I shall return in a moment.
     Repatriation is, amazingly, absent from the agenda of Diasporan organizations. Indeed, repatriation is almost a taboo at all manner and levels of Armenia-Diaspora meetings and deliberations, including the 1st and 2nd Armenia-Diaspora Conferences.
     Neither the current fictive state of Armenia [1] , nor the traditional structures of the Diaspora have any interest in organizing any kind of mass repatriation. Fortunately, compared to the past, the current historical circumstances and globalization, which has had a primarily negative and damaging impact on us, now presents unprecedented opportunities to address repatriation on both the individual and collective level, including Armenia's liberal visa policy, increased mobility of populations, media and information access world-wide, and the sufficiency of Diasporan capital to maintain a home and establish a business in Armenia.
     Organized repatriation could be organized in various phases:

     1. Bringing together groups of 3 to 50 or more families in the Diaspora that want to repatriate so that they get to know each other.

     2. Each group would collect capital to organize a business in Armenia that would support the group and give them work, each with a share proportional to investment.

     3. Each group would send its representatives to Armenia for 2-3 month business trips to study the market and prepare work and living conditions.

     4. Depending upon circumstances, repatriation could take place in stages or in a single organized group (which would make a deep impression on diasporan public opinion).
     The repatriates would not be dependent upon any structure and would not have exaggerated expectations, since in Armenia would be awaiting the homes they themselves bought (or built) and their business and work. In the first wave would be former local inhabitants or "Hayastantsis," which means they would be well aware of Armenia's current economic, legal and other conditions and would stand to be more realistic.
     Even a moderate sized organized repatriation would address many of the problems facing the Armenian nation and state:

     1. Demographic. Only repatriation can avert the imminent crisis of Armenia's depopulation of Armenians.

     2. Economic. Organized repatriation would improved the country's economic situation, since tens of thousands of Armenian families would be returning with the businesses they themselves established, which would be a great impetus to the country's economic development, significantly expanding the internal market and consumption. In addition, the repatriates will bring with them significant capital. For example, each family of 4 returning from the US could bring, let's say, $30,000 on average. Even calculating conservatively, 20,000 families (80,000 people) could bring $600 million, 40,000 families (160,000 people) $1.2 billion, 60,000 families (240,000 people) $1.8 billion, and 100,000 families (400,000 people) $3 billion.

     3. Moral and Psychological. The repatriates will bring new energy and enthusiasm to the homeland, significantly improving the depressed psychological state of the population living in Armenia. They could contribute to relieving the tension in nearly all of the vital spheres of life, from defense and the economy to the legal rights of the population. Many of our compatriots living abroad in recent years (of course, not all) have lived in better conditions than those who stayed in Armenia. Repatriates would play the same role that reinforcements play in a battle, when it is essential to replace tired and worn-out troops with specially selected reinforcements.

     4. Legal. Those establishing permanent residence in the homeland will not tolerate abuses of power. They will bring a completely new and vigorous impetus to the on-going struggle for social justice and equal rights in Armenia. This will in particular be fostered by their having a certain economic independence and self-reliance and by their being organized in groups from their own circles. In this way civil rights and the legal framework will experience an unprecedented period of development.

     5. Cultural. Those establishing permanent residence in Armenia will have the goal of teaching their children Armenian, becoming involved in Armenian culture, and living with Armenian mores and customs (implicit in their desire to return to Armenia) [2] . They would deliver a jolt to the anti-national, anti-cultural distortions that have suffused Armenia.

     6. Scientific. A number of young people would enter Armenia as native speakers of foreign languages, who in the future could make major contributions to Armenian scholarship and science.

     7. Health. Repatriation would permit Armenians from different, often distant, subgroups of the Armenian nation to meet and mix diversifying the genetic make up and improving the health of the next generation.

     8. Maintaining Armenian Identity. Repatriation will save Armenians in foreign lands from the inexorable process of assimilation.

     In a word, at this historic moment, the highest priority of the Armenian nation should be an organized repatriation.
     The first hundreds will be followed by thousands, and thousands by tens of thousands . . .


 

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