The most pressing issue of the worldwide Armenian community today is the improving of poor socioeconomic conditions of Armenia and Artsakh. This issue does not get as much attention among the Armenian community as the key agendas of Genocide recognition, the recognition of Artsakh as a sovereign state, or the repatriation of historic Armenian lands. However, the bettering of socioeconomic conditions in the homeland will allow for the more effective allocation of resources to reach the goals of Armenians worldwide.
Today, many Armenians in Armenia and Artsakh are not self sufficient, relying heavily on much needed financial support from friends and relatives abroad. Others who do not have that source of aid live in poverty. Many leave the fatherland en masse looking to find work, to aquire a good education, and trying any means possible to find a way out. “Yerkire yerkir chi!”, I heard quite often from friends and family when I visited Armenia two summers ago. They did not share my enthusiasm for Armenian efforts that had recently resulted in Resolution 252 clearing the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The only thing on their mind was finding a way out of the country that I was so eager to enter and experience, at least through the eyes of a tourist. The conditions in Artsakh are even worse than in Armenia. Residents do not even have access to a constant source of water as the Gift of Water, A Gift of Life telethon that I watched last year revealed. Another looming threat is that Azerbaijan spends more on its military than Armenia’s entire yearly budget.
How can we, Armenians in the diaspora, expect the active participation of Armenians of the homeland in lobbying for genocide recognition when they are struggling to put food on the table? How can we advocate for the future repatriation of historic Armenian lands when Armenians are hopelessly abandoning and deserting the only patch of land we can call home today?
Our first priority should be to concentrate efforts and resources to help create jobs, schools, top-notch universities, and a prospering state in Armenia so that residents don’t see any motive to leave their country. This would be an invaluable contribution that would make a difference in the lives of our fellow Armenians today. These efforts would result in the modernizing of Armenia and the strengthening of the military. I dream about the vast expanses of Wilsonian Armenia. However, I cherish the gains we have made in Artsakh through the sacrifice of thousands of lives, and I am afraid of losing that hard earned land.
Only with a full stomach, secure atmosphere, and a content heart can the residents of Armenia direct their energies to other issues so dear to diasporan Armenians. In the future, diasporan Armenians will be able to concentrate all their energies and financial resources to longtime traditional agendas and goals without diverting attention and money to deal with poor conditions in their “hayrenik”.
There is no reward in painstakingly working to have a history recognized when the present and future of a significant offshoot of that history, Armenia and its inhabitants, looks grim.