Population Matters

Garen Yegparian
Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian

BY GAREN YEGPARIAN

The matter of how many people live on Armenian controlled land has been something I’ve wanted to address for quite some time. Yerevan’s recently enacted increase in benefits to families having more children provides just the context needed to broach this subject.

All the jokes about size mattering are no laughing matter when it comes to population. Without enough people, a country cannot have a strong military, a very pressing aspect of life for the Republic of Armenia given its hostile and belligerent neighbors. Intellectual life, innovation, cultural development, and progress also rely on having a larger base of people for support.

Crucially, even the economy of a country is dependent on its population. At last year’s ANCA Western Region Grassroots Conference, Zareh Sinanyan, the new Diaspora “minister” (I use the term for simplicity recognizing it is not his official title), noted that for the RoA to be sustainable, it must have a population of 5 million by 2050 (the figure and date are from memory and might be slightly off, I apologize for not being able to locate my notes).

Armenia's birth rate through the years

Armenia’s birth rate through the years

This is why birth rates (higher needed), emigration (decrease needed), and repatriation (much more needed) are such critical matters for our young republic. All of this is true for Artsakh and Javakhk, too. Let’s not even touch the relevance of our remaining population in Western Armenia!

Those among Armenians scattered worldwide who are cognizant of and sensitive to the problem of worldwide overpopulation may be taken aback by this. Sorry, but in this case, given the centuries over which our population was decimated under Turkish tyranny, we are not left much choice. Let the Brazils, Chinas, Egypts, Indias, and U.S.s of the world worry and act on this very real problem that is part of the cause of climate disruption. We have to bring our population back up to a level that will enable Armenians, Armenia, and our culture to be sustainable and bloom in the long term.

Others may be concerned about the implications of these concerns to individuals, since necessarily, having more children, not leaving for better economic opportunity, and moving to a country that is less developed, thriving, and secure, all imply sacrifice and varying levels of hardship. Tough luck for all of us. As Vahe Oshagan once said to us in a class he taught, “being Armenian is suffering!” This is not a very pleasant prospect. But, recognizing it as our reality and getting over its “negative” flavor enables us to shed its worse ramifications and act in our own best interests with a clearness of mind. If someone is having more children, we should help in any way possible to enrich those youngsters’ lives. If someone is remaining on Armenian soil despite economic hardships, we should be investing in creating opportunities for meaningful and properly remunerative work. If someone is repatriating, we should be cheering her/him on and making the transition as smooth and easy as possible.

But, let’s be aware of what has been going on for a long time. Take a look at the accompanying table of birthrates for the part of our homeland under our control (not including Artsakh and Javakhk). You can see how we have been doing the wrong thing for a long time. That has only been exacerbated by the poor governance of the post-re-independence era. Couple that with the emigration that began in earnest in the 1970s and you can see why a major reset of our national mindframe is necessary if we’re serious about ourselves as a nation. The net result is obvious in the results of the last two censuses, nominally 3,213,011 in 2001 and 3,018,854 in 2011, and another scheduled for this year with an even lower total anticipated.

There is good news in addition to the new family support policy. Emigration rates have been dropping over the last three years.

Now, let’s all get busy doing the right thing on the population front, and not going the snooty, spoiled, and selfish route of having only two children, wasting our resources on vacuous luxury items (overly large residences, overpriced cars, immodest vacations, etc.), and discouraging those among us who have the heart to repatriate.

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7 Comments

  1. Naira said:

    Thank you for writing this article. I think you are 100 % correct. I too feel like being Armenian is suffering. Why should I bring a child that I am going to love very much into this suffering and misery?!?! We do nothing but criticize each other. I often hear we Armenians claim to be the first Christian nation, but do we live a Christian like life? Do we love each other? Take Latinos for an example in California. They will fight with US government not put down their worst gang members like MS13. I can go on and on writing but while population was decimated under Turkish tyranny, I often feel we are decimated under Armenian tyranny as well!
    Armenian economy survives on mild domestic economy, foreign aid, remittances from Diaspora. We build nothing but empty churches and contribute to other countries. Some cultures younger than Armenians are sending people to mars and moon.

  2. Ash said:

    It’s always going to be uphill battle to encourage the population to stay and have larger families without true economic prosperity – which feeds directly into the self-interest of individuals. And the established path to economic prosperity is not a secret. It requires investments in education, dependable and trustworthy legal/political systems, regional cooperation and trade with neighbors and trading partners. Unfortunately, easier to say but much harder to implement when there is an inherently corrupt political class and when surrounded by hostile neighbors.

  3. Raffi said:

    I Agree:……. ”decimated under Turkish tyranny, we are not left much choice. Let the Brazils, Chinas, Egypts, Indias, and U.S.s of the world worry”….

  4. Gabe Korajian said:

    Thank you Garen. Excellent article. Unfortunately, since independence from the Soviet Union, Armenia has had leaders who only focused in filling their empty pockets and became billionaires at the expense of poor Armenians. Instead of building a nation, both Robert Kocharyan and Serj Srgsyan, destroyed this once prosperous country. (I will reserve myself from criticizing Der-Bedrosyan, as he led Armenia through difficult times, the earthquake, war in Karabakh and social and economic shocks.) Anyhow, throughout these 28 years, we saw the bleeding of our population and the exodus of young Armenians, leaving their motherland in hundreds of thousands. It is estimated, 1,200,000 million left their beloved country since independence. How sad! When we look at a similar country, Israel, since its independence, it has continuously increased its population. This is the example we had to follow. Nevertheless, the past is the past. Now, we have to focus in creating a country where there is equality, justice, the rule of law, economic opportunity for all and a corrupt free leadership and civil service. If we fix our problems and create a just society for all, prosperity will follow. I am sure, many Armenians will return back to their fatherland. I believe in this because… Armenians love their country.

  5. ardachece barseghian said:

    Dear and respectable friend, you speak of Turkish tyranny but we have suffered a worse tyranny with the Soviet system, with, lenine, stalin, mikoyan, gulags, our territories offered to the Turks and Azeris, the strangling, the destruction of values human, civil and national, and intellect forbidden from any exchange, cooperation, freedom of expression, action and others. We are now paying for this 80-year footprint. Then finally it is not to limit the demography but to ensure a family education, school and training at the height of the world of countries structures in the material. That’s my simple opinion excuse

  6. Hagop Varoujian said:

    Garen, as always your subject matter is timely and appropriate. The fact that the diaspora has an indisputably major role to play in the survival of our homeland is no reason to discourage repatriation. we Should also take individual responsibility to do our utmost to make Armenia an economically feasible and an attractive place to live and raise the next generations.

  7. Gurgen2 said:

    Thank you Garen for including official data. Looking at the table we see that the worst birth rate since the 1950’s occurred during the Levon Ter Petrossian years and the best birthrate since the 1950s occurred immediately after LTP during Robert Kocharyan’s years. The recovery under Kocharyan from bad to good was colossal in 1998 and continued to improve until Serz Sarkisyan ruined things. The Artsakh ceasefire was signed in May 1994 when we were absolute victors which raised the nation’s morale and pride yet the birthrate continued to plummet for the next 4 years until LTP was finally evicted. The misery and poverty that occurred during LTPs years was largely artificially induced when electricity generated was sold over the border while the locals froze to death, the factories and mines were plundered and looted and food & fuel supplies were deliberately cut. Incidently the largest portion of the 1.2 Million emigrants occurred during those LTP years.

    Yet what have we done as a collective people? We have voted the right-hand man of LTP back into office and we have imprisoned the one president that truly gave Armenia and economic recovery. Don’t believe me? Study the data, not just the one shown in this article but all the official data. The emigration rate actually reversed and Armenia saw a rise in population during Kocharyan’s time. Armenia recorded unprecedented economic growth and went through a construction boom, the likes of which we haven’t seen since.

    Which brings me to to my final point – people don’t emigrate or stop having children only due to poverty. They do so because they lack hope in the future of the country. If Armenians remain politically illiterate and emotion driven animals that continue to be manipulated by negative forces then the hope in a positive future will not develop. At the moment I dont see any hope of reversing that trend.

    And don’t be fooled by the so-called recent drop in emigration rates. The 40,000 Indians entering the country every year with thousands of them given official residence in Armenia don’t count. From February onwards the same will apply to the Chinese since the visa regimes have been liberalised from Jan 21st. In the last calendar year 37,000 Armenians left Armenia for good. Check to bloody data and don’t listen to the lies this government is telling you.

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