British Foreign Office Issues Report on Armenian Diaspora

The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office

LONDON—The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office released a report entitled “Armenia’s Diaspora – Its Role & Influence,” which Asbarez obtained on Monday.

The report presents the UK’s assessment of the realities of the Armenian Diaspora and editorializes some of the real achievements of the Diaspora, while at time minimizing the role the Diaspora plays in the every-day life of Armenia.

Keeping in line with its long-held policy of denying the Armenian Genocide, the report refers to the events of the 1915 as “inter-communal violence of 1915.”

Below we present the report without revisions to text and will provide commentary in coming days.

Armenia’s Diaspora – Its Role & Influence

Armenia has, in proportional terms, the largest Diaspora of any former Soviet state, much of it concentrated in Russia, the US and France. This has been a huge source of support for the Armenian state. But it’s also periodically acted as a brake on Yerevan’s scope for manoeuvre, particularly over the Nagorny Karabakh dispute and relations with Turkey. This is likely to remain the case in future.

The most politically active Armenian Diaspora community is the US one, whose focus on achieving official US recognition of the 1915 ‘genocide’ is likely to intensify over the coming two years. By contrast, the Armenian community in Russia remains largely disengaged from political lobbying – but might we see this change over time?

“We live different lives, Armenia and the Diaspora. Here it is real politics, while the Diaspora lives with the ideas of unreal politics, and they cannot change their ideas so quickly.” (Levon Ter-Petrosyan, then-President of Armenia, 1993)

Of all the former Soviet states, Armenia has the largest global Diaspora community, in proportion to the size of its national population, by some margin. Whilst precise figures are open to debate (given in particular the tendency of some Diaspora activists to inflate the numbers), it is generally reckoned that there are around 8-10 million people of Armenian descent currently living outside Armenia (whose own population is currently estimated at around 2.9 million). The largest Armenian communities are based in Russia (2.3 million), the US (1.5 million), France (400,000) and the Lebanon (230,000), with sizeable populations (80,000 or more) also residing in Ukraine, Syria, Argentina, Poland, Turkey1, Iran and Canada.

The ‘gap’ between the size of the Diaspora and Armenia’s own population is growing. It’s estimated that Armenia’s population has shrunk by almost 1 million since 1992 as a result of an exodus of Armenians to join these Diaspora communities. Most (70%) of these are believed to have gone to Russia and other CIS countries, with only 10% joining the Armenian community in the US. The latter remains largely comprised of descendants of former residents of the Ottoman Empire who fled the territory of modern-day Turkey during and after the inter-communal violence of 1915 – this was supplemented by a ‘second wave’ of Armenian immigration into the US from the Middle East (Syria, Lebanon, Iran) in the 1970s-80s.

Estimates of the true size of the Armenian population of Turkey are particularly problematic, given the reluctance of some ethnic Armenians there to identify themselves as such, and also in view of the seasonal fluctuations in the size of the Armenian migrant workers’ community in Turkey (often based there illegally).

Britain’s Armenian Diaspora remains fairly small (around 18,000), and drawn from a wide number of other Diaspora communities (Cyprus, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Lebanon).

What role does the Diaspora play in Armenian society?

Diaspora support has played a crucial role in Armenia’s economic survival and development. Since 1991 Armenia has received several billion dollars’ worth of financial support from US-based Diaspora Armenians alone. Among the most prominent donors has been the Lincy Foundation run by California-based magnate Kerk Kirkorian [sic], which on its own has invested nearly $300 million in Armenia since independence. More recently, however, it has been the Diaspora community in Russia that has provided the most significant financial flows into the Armenian economy – as of 2008, remittances from Armenians working in Russia accounted for 15% of Armenia’s official GDP (some believe the real figure, taking into account ‘shadow’ payments outside the official banking system, may in fact be twice as high).

But the Diaspora’s contribution cannot be measured purely in terms of investment and aid levels. It has arguably played an even greater, although less easily quantifiable, role in terms of developing Armenia’s ‘human capital stock’, providing generations of young Armenians with training & study opportunities in the West, and exposing them to a world outside the confines of the former USSR. Diaspora Armenians have also made significant ‘in-kind’ contributions to improving the Armenian economy, health and education systems through technical advice and support. This also extends to the unrecognised ‘Nagorny Karabakh Republic’, which has received proportionally very high levels of Diaspora support since 1992 in the form of both funding and technical assistance (e.g. Armenian Diaspora doctors, teachers, engineers, etc. undertaking voluntary secondments to institutions in NK).

The Diaspora plays a key role in leveraging support for Armenia from foreign governments – nowhere more so than in the US, which has provided $2 billion in aid to Armenia since 1992, making it one of the largest recipients of US aid per capita in the world. Lobbying of the US government and Congress by Armenian Diaspora groups has been crucial to securing this outcome. The most active of these are the Armenian Association of America (AAA) and the larger Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), the latter being affiliated to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaks), a nationalist Armenian political party currently in opposition to the ruling regime.

These lobbying organisations are highly instrumental in maintaining international political support for the ‘Armenian cause’, particularly in the US, where their goal remains to secure official US government recognition of the 1915 ‘Genocide’ against ethnic Armenians in the Ottoman empire.

Relatively small numbers of Diaspora Armenians have returned to Armenia to live permanently, and of these few have risen to prominence in politics. The most notable exceptions are Raffi Hovannisian (Californian-born leader of the opposition Heritage party) and Vartan Oskanyan (Syrian-born Harvard graduate, Armenia’s Foreign Minister from 1998-2008, now Head of the Civilitas think-tank in Yerevan).

Is the Diaspora’s influence welcome within Armenia?

Yes – and no. Successive Armenian governments have been fully conscious of the vital asset that the global Armenian Diaspora represents for a country lacking in mineral resources. Under President Sargsyan, a separate Ministry for Diaspora Issues has been created, charged with promoting even greater interaction between the Republic of Armenia and the global Armenian Diaspora. Significantly Armenian Diaspora organisations have shown relatively little interest to date in internal governance/democracy-building issues within Armenia. However, a view among some members of the global Diaspora is that the Armenian government over the last ten years has signally failed to harness the Diaspora’s potential to rebuild the economy or promote democratisation. Economic policy in particular has remained parochial and oligarch-bound, and some significant Diaspora investors have retreated with fingers burned. The political elite have also been dominated by a narrow group of largely Karabakh veterans, whose main international links are mostly focused on Russia (through previous service in the Soviet military, for example).

In the area of foreign policy, there have periodically been pronounced tensions between ruling administrations in Armenia and the global Diaspora, most notably over policy towards Turkey and the NK conflict. This was most visible under the leadership of Armenia’s first President, Levon Ter-Petrosyan (1991-1998), whose relationship with the more nationalist elements in the Diaspora was always an uncomfortable one, given the latter’s distrust of his perceived readiness to make excessive concessions on these issues (in particular his refusal to prioritise ‘genocide’ recognition by Turkey as a pre-condition for the normalisation of bilateral relations). Under Ter Petrosyan, the Dashnak party was banned in Armenia, and his eventual downfall in 1998 was at least in part triggered by furious Diaspora criticism of his support for an ‘unacceptable’ compromise solution on NK. For his part, Ter Petrosyan criticised the Diaspora’s ‘unrealistic’ view of Armenia’s policy priorities, and more recently, in his reincarnation as an opposition leader, has bemoaned the Diaspora’s lack of focus on Armenia’s retreat from democracy under his successors. President Sargsyan has, by contrast, attracted less ire from the Diaspora (in part in recognition of his Karabakhi roots and his direct role in securing NK’s ‘liberation’): whilst the ANCA strongly opposed his signing of the abortive Protocols with Turkey in 2009 on the normalisation of relations, the main focus of their criticism was the US (for allegedly ‘pressurising’ Yerevan into signing), rather than Sargsyan himself.

Another important impact of Armenia’s Diaspora, of particular relevance at present, is on its stance towards regimes such as Iran and Syria, where sizeable Armenian minorities remain. The vulnerability of these minorities is felt keenly by the Armenian government. In addition to Armenia’s need, as a small, blockaded country to remain on good terms with other neighbours, this explains why it has been found voting against, abstaining or absenting itself during voting for UNGA or Human Rights Council Resolutions on Iran and Syria.

Outlook & Conclusions
The positives in Armenia’s relationship with its global Diaspora will continue to outweigh the negatives from Yerevan’s standpoint. The support the Diaspora provides will remain crucial to Armenia’s economic survival in a hostile neighbourhood. On foreign policy, however, sentiment within elements of the Diaspora will remain a significant obstacle to achieving compromise-based solutions over the NK dispute and Armenia’s relations with Turkey.

An interesting issue to track will be the position of the Armenian Diaspora in Russia, by some margin the largest Armenian community outside the country itself. In contrast to the longer-established Diaspora communities in the US and Europe, Russia’s Armenians have hitherto shown little interest in lobbying their host country’s authorities to take a stronger line on e.g. ‘Genocide’ recognition. Given the nature of the Russian regime, its relationships with Turkey and Azerbaijan, and the generally ‘apolitical’ nature of many Armenian labour migrants working in Russia, it is unlikely that this picture will change soon. Over time, the possibility that this community could also be mobilised as a political lobbying force in support of the Armenian ‘cause’ should not be entirely discounted, However, for the time being the public stance of organised Armenian groups in Russia is focused on proving its loyalty to the Russian state – a similar dynamic for a vulnerable minority as in Iran and Syria.


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  1. Abraham Benlian said:

    Does the Report say that we don’t make difference between a Turk and a Brit?:))

  2. Ohannes said:

    British foreign office or commonwealth they never change the way try to divide nations people
    or country’s so they can monopolize and take advantage of divided people the good news is
    Armenian people they learn they lessons 100 years ago good luck British liars with your
    divisive study Armenian people are one soul one heart one nation British morons keep trying

  3. Hratch said:

    Why the Armenian community in Russia remains largely disengaged from political lobbying is obvious. There is no room for dissent or opinion that might damage Mother Russia’s relations with the Turkic world. They’re afraid if such freedoms are allowed, they might lose their grip over the region and its resources. This gag rule over Armenians is much more enforced there than anywhere else in the world. Yet, our Russophile friends continue to support such an assault on Armenian interests.

    • said:

      This is just your opinion that Russian Armenians are disengaged.

      I would prefer that “the Diaspora” produced some matching results of such disengagement:

      Russian Federation officially recognizes Armenian Genocide – no need to waste tens of millions of dollars to bribe their MPs.

      Russian President and other officials visit Tsitsernakaberd every time they are in Armenia and not as “private persons” but representatives of the Russian nation.

      Russia supplies Armenia with superior weaponry free of charge or at deep discounts.

      Russian government has ethnic Armenians in key positions.

      Russian Armenians send billions of dollars to Armenia every year.

      Russian military bases in Armenia are manned by ethnic Armenians serving in the Russian army.

      Russian government pays for Armenian public schools (two in Moscow!) in areas with significant Armenian populations.

      What’s the Diaspora’s claim to fame?

  4. Hratch said:

    “However, for the time being the public stance of organised Armenian groups in Russia is focused on proving its loyalty to the Russian state – a similar dynamic for a vulnerable minority as in Iran and Syria.”

    Ladies and gentleman, therein lies the crux of our problem. I suggest everyone read and re-read this sentence to fully comprehend the state of our future !

  5. Vindicated Man said:

    FCO… They are too petty to deserve my hatred. I’m wondering what they wanted to accomplish with this timing.

  6. GeorgeMardig said:

    ….the events of the 1915 as “inter-communal violence of 1915.”… Britain wants to cover it’s shameless betrayal of not helping the Armenians when help was asked,

  7. H. Aghbashian said:

    Mostly reasonable and acceptable report, but “The British Foreign Office” should go back and check its archives and see what was “the inter-communal violence of 1915″ which they mentioned in this report. Gentlemen, This was the first Genocide in the 20th century as you know it and the whole world knows it. If really you don’t know what it was , ask Robert Fisk of Independent, he is a British like you. You are even avoiding to use the word “massacres” as many politicians do. We can understand that, your countries interests are more important for you than our Tragedy and the consequences.

  8. Sarkis said:

    The dying nation of the Anglo-Saxons never fails to insult the Armenian nation. The filthy English scum who authored this report took every opportunity they could to insult the Armenian nation – using quotations to call into doubt the Armenian Genocide; using other insulting euphemisms; criticizing the Armenians who seek recognition of the Armenian Genocide; and questioning the liberation of Artsakh and its de facto independence from England’s oil-rich buddies in Baku. The shameless English trash pretend that it is only the Diaspora in the west which cares about the Armenian Genocide, which is complete bull because the Armenian state and Armenians everywhere including the diaspora in Russia, the CIS, South American and the Middle East fight for justice for the Armenian Genocide. The charlatan who wrote this garbage pretends that the Russian-Armenians allegedly “do not care” about the Armenian Genocide when in reality the Russian government recognized the Armenian Genocide decades ago and therefore Russian-Armenians do not have to beg or protest for their government to recognize the Armenian Genocide, unlike the British, American and Israeli governments which go to all ridiculous lengths to protect their NATO brothers in Ankara. President Putin visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial in December 2013, and believe me the most powerful man in the world did not visit Tsitsernakaberd because of any lobbying pressure, he did so because he is the upright, moral, Orthodox Christian leader of a country which sees tiny Armenia as its strategic ally in the vital South Caucasus region. Additionally, the author pretends that Russian-Armenians are largely “apolitical” because they are migrant workers, when in reality all migrant worker Armenians – including those in Europe – are as active and concerned about the Armenian Genocide, it’s just that poorer migrants tend to lack the resources and time to put together large lobbying groups. This trash is not even worth commenting on.

    Is it not interesting and enlightening that after dozens of insults and denials of the Armenian Genocide, the author then bemoans the fact that the diasopra is supposedly not active enough in “internal governance/democracy-building issues within Armenia”. Firstly, what nation in the world allows non-citizens to meddle in its internal governance? Interested Armenian patriots from the Diaspora is free to move to Armenia, get dual citizenship and then partake in nation-building and internal Armenian politics, but its silly to think nonresident non-citizens should have a voice in internal Armenian affairs. Let’s face the facts here: the British know that “democracy” (ie political empowerment of the lower, uneducated, and often self-destructive classes) in underdeveloped societies like young Armenia would open Armenia up for meddling by wealthy western governments and intelligence agencies. Look at what they did to open democratic Iran under Mossadegh the 1950s to get a picture, or the terror they unleashed in open and democratic South American nations to get a clear picture. The British know that if Armenia were a “democracy”, the clandestine operations they have tried to pull, like the regime change they were caught on tape planning with Arthur Baghdasaryan in 2007 would likely be much more successful.

    The facts are clear: British Petroleum built the pipelines from Azerbaijan through Saakashvili’s Georgia, bypassing Armenia and heading to Turkey, which in turn transformed a bankrupt Azerbaijan in 2004 to a multi-billion dollar petro-state. Britain is the closest ally of Turkey in Europe, a brotherhood of genocidal NATO nations. Britain goes to great lengths to deny the Armenian Genocide, even further than the US and on the same level as Israel and Turkey. The British Museum presents ancient Armenian heritage under the nonexistent category of “ancient Turkey”. And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

    Thank God our tiny Armenia is protected from these Anglo and Turkish vultures by the Orthodox Christian superpower that is Putin’s Russia. It’s a shame that the only true segment of this filthy report is that Armenians in Russia are not engaged in truly lobbying the Kremlin to their full potential. In fact almost all of the pro-Armenian activity we see from Russia is from the Russian initiative, rarely from the Armenian. I hope balance returns to the Russian-Armenian community as they finish establishing themselves inside post-Soviet Russia. God Bless our Armenian Fatherland, God Bless Mother Russia and President Putin and his government, and God protect the strategic alliance between our two fraternal, Orthodox Christian nations from all enemies both foreign (like the British) and domestic (British agents inside our societies like giorgi “azeri film festival in Yerevan” vanyan)!

    • Hratch said:

      It seems you have a pretty good grasp of Armenia and Armenian affairs, but I guess that’s why it makes it more impressing when you gloss over Mother Russia’s blatant disrespect and abuse of Armenian interests. If it was a case of oblivious attitude, then one might understand, and perhaps even forgive, but since you profess to know much more, then the refusal to address anything concerning Mother Russia and her attempts at damaging and stifling Armenian progress must be premeditated. For instance, how do you explain away the 4 billion dollar weapons sales to Azerbaijan? How do you justify the gloating announcement that same weapons sales will increase 2.7% next year? How is it that an about face EEU decision was made right after the meeting between – the strongest man in the world – Putin and Sarkisian? Do you not suspect coercion, intimidation, threats and blackmail? How about the fact that Turkey is now being courted for energy deals? What about Mother Russia’s hopes of having Azerbaijan joining the EEU? How about the non-response attitude towards downing our helicopter? What about the arrest of Levon Hayrapetyan?

      So you see, when you fail to address these and many others like them, you only expose your true Russophile agenda. Mother Russia is not, nor will they ever be, a friend of their little ‘Orthodox’ brother. The only way to deal with them is to have excellent relations based on mutual respect and interests. Otherwise, the master-slave relationship will only serve to dilute and destroy our nation and render it into irrelevancy. The sick man of Eurasia is on its last breath. The Ruble is in a rubble and $55 oil is here to stay. The 4 billion dollars they received from the weapons sales was wiped out long ago. The miscalculations over Ukraine and the Crimea will undo the tyrant. We on the other hand, can not afford to go down with the sinking ship. We must arise from our slumber and forge our way into the real world based on democracy, transparence, and freedom to all. God Bless Armenia, Long Live Democracy and Freedom, God protect us from all Russophiles both domestic and foreign!

    • Ricardo Asdorian said:

      Sarkis! congratulations on your answer. Share with you throughout your explanation.

  9. Mani said:

    The British Government is directly responsible that the Armenian Diaspora exists. Cutoff from its historical lands of Western Armenia. The hypocrisy and filth of the British policies are insurmountable, and that is the opinion of all the Lands that they colonized, usurped and divided towards their interests. The Turks owe their Ottoman Empire in the 19th Century and the Kemalist Fascist nation of today to the British and their cronies, who were watching our nation being annihilated and murdered, our women mass raped and our children butchered in the Genocide, Western Armenia emptying of its native population and they were sipping their teas with a whimsical “who cares?” attitude.

    Only ask the Indians among others what they think of you the Brits and your bloody hands. We Armenians spit in your face!