March 13, 2018

Perceptions and State of Democracy in Armenia

By Jan Bednorz,
CRRC-Armenia Intern

This blog post uses the results of the Life in Transition Survey (LiTS) conducted in 2010 and 2016 by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as well as the Caucasus Barometer 2011 and 2017 datasets, in order to analyse the attitudes towards democracy and perceptions of democratic institutions in Armenia. Those perceptions are then collated with actual evaluations of Armenian democracy provided by organisations such as the Freedom House, the Economist and the World Economic Forum.

In the academic world of economics, it is widely agreed that democracy is a necessary precondition to achieve a long-term inclusive growth and thus, broad and sustained prosperity (see for example: Acemoglu and Robinson 2013, Acemoglu et. al. 2014; Madsen, Raschky & Skali 2015). This stance prevails to some extent in Armenia – according to LiTS 2016, 66% of people pointed democracy as a preferable political system (or 48% according to Caucasus Barometer 2017). Although it falls well behind Western European attitudes, that is significantly higher than the average for the transitioning countries. Armenia has also one of the lowest levels of approval for an authoritarian regime (even lower than Western Europe), which shape at 7% or 10% as reported in LiTS and Caucasus Barometer respectively. However, the worrying fact is that the support for democracy has actually weakened over past years: down 10 percentage points from 76% in 2010 (LiTS) or down 7 percentage points from 55% in 2011 (Caucasus Barometer). Also, strikingly notable share of Armenians (27% and 31% according to LiTS and Caucasus Barometer respectively) claim that “for someone like them it [the political regime] doesn’t matter”.

There is a huge difference though between a ‘paper’ democracy (often meaning not more than holding elections of limited credibility once in a while) and true liberal democracy which manifests itself in people’s ability to control and change government, politicians being restricted by the rule of law and prevailing values of social solidarity and participation. Most Armenians find virtually all of the basic democratic values and institutions non-existent, falling far behind not only European perceptions but also those of other transitioning countries. Less than 20% respondents indicated that Armenia had law and order, fair justice system and political opposition; less than 10% believes in fairness of elections (see Figure 1). Also Caucasus Barometer results indicate that as much as 70% find the country to be not democratic at all (33%) or democratic but with major flaws (37%); only 3% considers Armenia to be a full democracy.

Figure 1. Percentage of respondents who agree that the country has these basic democratic institutions.

Source: LiTS 2016, Country assessments: Armenia. Available at:

These perceptions seem to be confirmed by actual measures delivered by international organisations and watchdogs. Armenia is ‘partly free’ according to Freedom in the World report delivered by the Freedom House and placed on 136th place among 210 countries measured, even behind a number of Sub-Saharan African states. The Economist’s Democracy Index puts Armenia just slightly above a threshold between an ‘authoritarian’ and ‘hybrid’ regime. Moreover, the Democracy Index score has remained more or less stagnant since its introduction in 2006, while the Freedom House’s rating has actually slightly declined in comparison to the first measurement in 1998. Another indicator, Inclusive Development Index (IDI), by the World Economic Forum, although does acknowledge a positive economic growth over recent years, it also shows deterioration of ‘inclusion’ factor, meaning deepening wealth inequalities and declining intergenerational equity – features associated with extractive regimes rather than democracies.

Lack of improvement in many aspects of political and social life over the years might be the reason why people seem to remain quite pessimistic in terms of past advances as well as possible future changes. Only 13% agree that economic situation in 2016 was better that 4 years before, despite an average Armenian being 9% wealthier than in 2012 (based on real GDP per capita, World Bank Data). This perception correlates with the IDI measure – the economic growth did happen but was not followed by progress in terms of poverty reduction, unemployment decline, etc. Furthermore, merely 11% of respondents think that political situation improved over the same period (LiTS). According to Caucasus Barometer, just 10% think that the country’s domestic politics are going mainly (8%) or definitely (2%) in the right direction (see Figure 2); a staggering 46% do not believe the situation in Armenia will ever improve.

Figure 2. Direction in which country's politics is going.
Source: Caucasus Barometer 2017 Armenia. Available at:

In conclusion, Armenians do realize the importance of democracy. However, their positive attitude towards it is being weakened by (justified) lack of trust in existing democratic institutions and lack of improvement of the political environment over the years. It also results in very pessimistic views on the future advancements, which might further lead to a greater political passivity. Also (although economic analysis was not by any means a purpose of this analysis), a glance at IDI measure seems to confirm the theory that democracy is indeed correlated with inclusiveness – in Armenia, better quality of democratic institutions would eventually lead to more equal growth and reduced poverty and unemployment levels.

  1. Acemoglu, D., & Robinson, J. A. (2013). Why nations fail: The origins of power, prosperity, and poverty. Broadway Business.
  2. Acemoglu, D., Naidu, S., Restrepo, P., & Robinson, J. A. (2014). Democracy does cause growth. National Bureau of Economic Research.
  3. Caucasus Research Resource Centres. Caucasus Barometer (2011, 2017). Available at:
  4. Economist (2018). Democracy Index 2017. Available at:
  5. European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (2010, 2017). Life in Transition Survey. Available at:
  6. Freedom House (2018). Freedom in the World 2018. Available at:
  7. Madsen, J. B., Raschky, P. A., & Skali, A. (2015). Does democracy drive income in the world, 1500–2000?. European Economic Review, 78, 175-195.
  8. World Bank (2018). World Bank Open Data. Available at:
  9. World Economic Forum (2017). Inclusive Growth and Development Report 2017. Available at:

February 27, 2018

Changing Family Values? Armenia 2011 – 2015

By Katherine Kawalerczak,
CRRC-Armenia International Fellow

In this post, four sets of survey question responses from the Caucasus Barometer for Armenia (2011, 2015) are analyzed and compared: (1) Ideal number of children per family; (2) Preferred gender of the child; (3) Having an abortion – Always justified or never justified; (4) Getting a divorce – Always justified or never justified. These four sets of questions are operationalized to represent “family values,” which for the purpose of this post, refers to attitudes and practices surrounding the maintenance of the “traditional” nuclear family unit (a husband and wife and their child(ren)).

Comparison of 2011 and 2015 responses to these questions reveals that while negative attitudes toward divorce and abortion are slowly declining, a significant number of respondents still hold negative or ambivalent views of these practices. In terms of attitudes toward children, it appears that the ideal number of children per family is increasing, with 76% of respondents in 2015 indicating that the ideal number of children is 3 or more (Figure 2.1). This ideal does not align with Armenia’s total fertility rate, which was 1.36 children/woman in 2009, and 1.64 children/woman in 2017.

Related to these issues is boy preference and sex-selective abortions, interconnected phenomena which continue to impact Armenian society. Underlying this entire post is what the United Nations Population Fund refers to as “patriarchal and ‘traditional’ rigid social norms and perceptions” in Armenia, surrounding such issues as masculinity, femininity, sexuality, gender equality, and relationships within families.

Preferred Gender of the Child
According to a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report, Armenia has one of the world’s highest gender imbalances at birth: in 2013, 114 boys were born for every 100 girls in Armenia (compared to the natural ratio of 104-6 boys for every 100 girls). This trend has been attributed to both cultural preference for boys and advancements in ultrasound technology, resulting in a high demand for sex-selective abortions.[1] Despite new legislation illegalizing sex-selective abortions and campaigns geared at educating the public about the negative consequences of sex imbalances, on both society and the status of girls and women within it, boy preference remains a serious issue facing Armenian society.

In 2010, the Caucasus Barometer for Armenia posed the following question: “If a family has one child, what would be the preferred gender of the child?”[2] 54% of respondents indicated that they would prefer a boy, 35% said it did not matter, and 10% indicated a girl (Figure 1.2). Culturally, boys are preferred in Armenia, and in other countries with high sex ratios at birth, because they preserve the bloodline and family name, and are expected to care for their parents in their old age; in contrast, girls are expected to join the household of their husband’s family.

During the Soviet period, the issue of boy preference was solved through large family sizes: couples would keep having children until the desired son and heir arrived. Indeed, Armenia had one of the highest fertility rates in the Soviet Union, with an average of more than four children per woman in the 1960s.[3] The fertility rate has fallen drastically since this time, in large part due to the economic, political and social instability wrought by the breakup of the Soviet Union, the war with Azerbaijan, and the 1988 earthquake. In 1990, the fertility rate was 2.6 children per mother.[4] The current fertility rate (2017 est.) is 1.64 children per woman.[5]

If the economic situation in Armenia is such that most couples cannot have large families, the sex of their first, second, and/or third child becomes much more important. For couples desperate to have a son, prenatal ultrasound screening and sex selective abortions were considered viable options until recently. Now that sex selective abortions are illegal in Armenia, and perhaps in part due to public awareness campaigns, the sex ratio at birth is declining: in the beginning of 2017, 111 boys were born for every 100 girls (compared to 114/100 in 2013).[6] It remains to be seen if a cultural preference for boys can truly be eradicated, however. Many activists within Armenia believe that the key to overcoming the practice of sex selective abortions is “changing the value of the girl, and women’s equal status in [Armenian] society.”[7]

Preferred Number of Children

While the total fertility rate in Armenia is currently 1.64 children per woman (2017 est.), the 2011 and 2015 Caucasus Barometer data shows that the ideal number of children per family is high, and continues to increase. In 2011, 3% of respondents believed one child was ideal, 28% said two children, 38% said three children, 21% said four children, 8% said five or more children, while 1% indicated that they did not know or would rather not respond (Figure 1.1). Three children was considered to be ideal by the largest percentage of respondents. The second most popular choice was two children.

In the 2015 Caucasus Barometer, two new response options were added: “six or more children” and “whatever God will give us.” The data shows that the percentage of respondents who believe three or more children is ideal is increasing: 1% said one child was ideal, 19% said two children, 44% said three children, 24% said four children, 5% said five children, 3% said six or more children, 2% said whatever God will give them, and 2% did not know or did not wish to respond (Figure 2.1). While three children remains the most popular choice, as in 2011, the percentage of respondents who chose this option in 2015 increased by 6%. The second most popular option in 2015 was four children (24%), versus two children in 2011 (28%).

The possible explanations as to why some individuals desire large families but may not go on to have them are numerous: economic instability or precariousness; disagreement between couple about how many children is ideal; deciding to stop having children after a son is born; living in an environment which favors small families (urban versus rural); and others. While it is beyond the scope of this post, the Caucasus Barometer data can be further segregated to reveal which factors impact the desire for larger versus smaller families (i.e. urban versus rural residence, religiosity, gender, income level, age). For instance, statistics have shown that Armenian families with four or more children are far more likely to live in poverty than families with fewer children.[8]


Induced abortions are legal in Armenia, and for many years, abortions were one of the most common methods of birth control in the country.[9] However, data from the Caucasus Barometer indicates that the practice is viewed extremely negatively in Armenia. In 2011, the majority of respondents, 71%, said that abortion can never be justified (Figure 1.3). In 2015, that figure decreased significantly, to 56% (Figure 2.2). However, that still leaves over half of respondents who are staunchly opposed to the practice, regardless of mitigating factors.

According to UNFPA, over 40% of Armenian women have had at least one abortion (2017 est.). One proposed explanation behind this relatively high rate is that affordable contraceptives are not widely available, and many people believe them to be harmful.[10] A 2016 UNFPA survey found that 67.8% of respondents believed that contraceptives had bad side effects for women, while 40.4% believed it is morally wrong to use contraceptives. At the same time, 78.8% of respondents believed that intimate partners should use a form of contraception if they are not ready to have a child.[11]

This disinformation or ambivalence toward other methods of contraception, including condoms, coupled with the practice of prenatal ultrasound screening for sex and subsequent sex selective abortions, may factor into Armenia’s total abortion rate. As for negative views of abortions, other factors must be investigated, including overall levels of self-assessed religiosity and cultural and/or social expectations and pressures in favor of large families.


According to the 2011 Caucasus Barometer for Armenia, the majority of respondents, 56%, indicated that divorce can never be justified, 3% believed that it could always be justified, and 37% fell somewhere in between these two extremes (Figure 1.4). In 2015, those numbers changed significantly: only 34% believed that divorce could never be justified, 6% believed it could always be justified, and 57% fell somewhere in between (Figure 2.3). This change might indicate that traditionally rigid attitudes toward marriage - that the union must be upheld regardless of incompatibility, intimate violence, or other factors - are slowly changing in Armenia. The heated public debates surrounding violence against women and girls, and the resulting legislation criminalizing domestic violence, may likewise be a reflection of a broader trend in Armenian society toward greater gender equality.[12]

That being said, there remains a strong, conservative voice in Armenia advocating against these developments, claiming that they run counter to “traditional Armenian values” and serve to undermine the fabric of Armenian society, the patriarchal family unit.[13] The idea of a clash between the traditional “Eurasian Family” and a “Western agenda” of greater rights for women and LGBTQ individuals which will inevitably lead to moral and demographic decline holds significant sway in Armenia, and is connected with Russian soft power influence.[14] Whether this “anti-genderism” will continue to impact attitudes and practices within Armenia, including those related to marriage and family planning, remains to be seen.


Andrew, Jack. “’Our community loves boys more.’ Armenia’s missing girls.” The Financial Times (11 October 2017).

Armenpress. “Sex-selective abortions to be forbidden by law in Armenia.” (19 January 2016).

The Caucasus Research Resource Centers. “Caucasus Barometer 2015 Armenia.” Retrieved through ODA -

The Caucasus Research Resource Centers. “Caucasus Barometer 2011 Armenia.” Retrieved through ODA -

Janbazian, Rupen. “Armenia Adopts Law against Domestic Violence at Last.” The Armenian Weekly (8 December 2017).

Khojoyan, Sara. “Armenia: Large Families Hardest Hit by Poverty.” Institute for War and Peace Reporting (5 April 2012).

Pujol-Mazzini, Anna. “Armenians urged to value their women as abortions of girls skew population.” Reuters (9 October 2017).

Shahnazarian, Nona. “Eurasian Family versus European Values: The Geopolitical Roots of “Anti-Genderism” in Armenia.” PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo (October 2017).

United Nations Population Fund. “Men and Gender Equality in Armenia: Report on Sociological Survey Findings.” (2016).

[1] United Nations Population Fund, “Men and Gender Equality in Armenia: Report on Sociological Survey Findings,” (2016).
[2] This question was only asked in the 2010 Caucasus Barometer Armenia.
[3] Jack Andrew, “’Our community loves boys more.’ Armenia’s missing girls,” The Financial Times (11 October 2017).
[4] Jack Andrew, 2017.
[5] CIA World Factbook, “Armenia,” (2017).
[6] Jack Andrew, 2017.
[7] Anna Pujol-Mazzini, “Armenians urged to value their women as abortions of girls skew population,” Reuters (9 October 2017).

[8] Sara Khojoyan, “Armenia: Large Families Hardest Hit by Poverty,” Institute for War and Peace Reporting (5 April 2012).
[9] United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 2016.
[10] Anna Pujol-Mazzini, 2017.
[11] UNFPA, 2016.

[12] Rupen Janbazian, “Armenia Adopts Law against Domestic Violence at Last,” The Armenian Weekly (8 December 2017).
[13] Rupen Janbazian, 2017.
[14] Nona Shahnazarian, “Eurasian Family versus European Values: The Geopolitical Roots of “Anti-Genderism” in Armenia,” PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo (October 2017).

May 26, 2017

Employment and poverty in rural areas of Armenia: Machine learning driven analysis

By Erik Hambardzumyan
CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellow

The aim of this blog post is to give insights with regard to employment dynamics in Armenia. Most of the analysis is based on Caucasus Barometer 2015 survey data, World Bank data and official employment statistics report of National Statistical Service of Armenia (NSS). The analysis consists of two parts: the first one is the descriptive analysis of the employment sectors dynamics; the second part is machine learning techniques analysis[1].

Descriptive analysis of the employment sectors dynamics 

To get an overview of overall employment dynamics, it would be worth examining the employment sectors for the three strata: rural, urban and capital using Caucasus Barometer 2015 data. As the figure 1 shows, the majority in the rural areas is engaged in agriculture. As for the capital, most of the people are engaged in trade, repair of vehicles or goods, while in urban areas the majority is in the education. Agriculture appears to be the major source of employment in rural areas. Given the fact that rural population comprises 37.3% of the population[2] it is worth examining the agriculture sector dynamics using productivity as the key metric. One way to compute the productivity in the context of the problem is to measure the value-added generated by a person engaged in the sector. 

Figure 1

The value-added of agriculture sector was 19,326% in 2015[3] (% of 10.529 billions USD of GDP[4] and average annual employment of 379000[5] in agriculture sector). Thus, the productivity indicator would be:

As for services, value-added (as % of GDP) was 51.892%[6], given 523000 people are involved in the sector.
As we can see service sector is almost twice as productive as agriculture sector.

The machine learning part

It is crucial to define the ‘High’ and ‘Low’ incomes in the context of the problem; the income over 400 USD per capita is defined as ‘High’ income and under 400 USD per capita - ‘Low’ income. Furthermore, the prior examinations of the dataset led to the following a priori decision rules with regard to person’s income. If a person has an advanced computer knowledge, is male and if he works in the banking sector as a manager, he will have high probability of being in ‘High’ income class. As for the ‘Low’ income, if one has no basic computer knowledge, is female and works in education sector having elementary occupation he has high probability to be in the ‘Low’ income class.
Figure 2

The figure 2 reveals the distribution of respondents’ income engaged in agriculture, hunting, forestry. It shows that the majority (89% of all engaged) are low income class people.

Having this in mind let us compare with the evidence gained by the decision tree algorithm (figure 3). Note that if one’s employment sector (WORKSEC) is not mining/quarrying, electricity, gas, water supply etc. than it is agriculture, hunting, forestry, manufacturing, education, and healthcare. It is essential to consider that model’s predictive accuracy is 78% which means out of 100 instances it correctly predicts 78 of them.
Figure 3

If respondent’s work sector is not mining/quarrying, electricity, gas, water supply etc. we turn to the left and get the 86% probability of that person being the part of low income class; in the same fashion if that person belongs to either mining and quarrying, financial intermediation/banking, mass media work sectors then the probability of that person being in the ‘High’ class is 28%. Hence, the highest probability of one being in the ‘High’ income class (100%-55%=45%) is when the person belongs to either mining/quarrying, financial intermediation/banking, mass media work sectors or when his or her employment duration starts earlier than 2012. Most of the abstract rules that the model is suggesting, are quite intuitive and close to our prior determinations. The model hints that the driving factor of one’s income in Armenia is employment. 


Based on the findings most of the people in the rural areas are involved in agriculture which is a very low productivity sector; almost twice less productive than services sector. According to the decision tree model people employed in agriculture, hunting, forestry, manufacturing, education, and healthcare are poor. Moreover, 86 out of 100 people of either sector can be identified as low income people.

[1] The workings have been fully done using R statistical software; the full information about the workings (figures, decision trees) with code can be found here





April 10, 2017

The Armenian Government: A Parent or an Employee on the Way To Democracy?

By Armine Mkhitaryan, 
CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellow

In this post, the readiness for democracy is operationalized into two indicators: government as a parent or as an employee. Literature suggests that if people treat the government as an employee it means they are completely ready for democracy (Bessete & Pitney 2013; Slatter 2004; Diamond 1989).

Source: CRRC Caucasus Barometer, 2015

The Caucasus Barometer survey in 2015 by Caucasus Research Resource Center-Armenia finds that while most Armenians (78%) say they see the government as a parent and only 22% as an employee, more than 56% of respondents still estimated democracy as “Absolutely important”. Some factors such as a high level of education, high financial status or high social status were analyzed to see if those stand behind such a wish for democracy. The findings reflected in infographics above illustrate that high level of education, high financial status and high social status do not necessarily assume more positive attitude towards democracy (CRRC Caucasus Barometer 2015; World Values Survey 2014).

November 17, 2016

Ի՞նչն է պայմանավորում Հայաստանում հանրային մասնակցությունը տեղական ինքնակառավարմանը

English below

Ո՞ր գործոններն են պայմանավորում հայաստանցիների մասնակցությունը տեղական ինքնակառավարմանը: Սույն պատկերագիրը ներկայացնում է այդ գործոններից մի քանիսը: Պատկերագրի հեղինակը ՀՌԿԿ-Հայաստանի կամավոր Սոնիա Սիրոպյանն է: Պատկերագրի համար աղբյուր է ծառայել ՀՌԿԿ-Հայաստանի «ՀաՄաՏեղ» հետազոտական ծրագրի դրամաշնորհառու Մարգարիտա Գաբոյանի ուսումնասիրությունը՝ հիմնված ՀՌԿԿ-Հայաստանի 2015թ. «ՀաՄաՏեղ» համապետական հարցման տվյալների վրա

The author of the infographics is Sonia Siropyan, CRRC-Armenia volunteer. A source for the infographics is a research by Margarita Gaboyan, CRRC-Armenia CELoG fellowship receiver. The study was based on the CELoG nation-wide survey results. 

October 5, 2016

Homogeneity, Social Capital and Political Participation in Armenia

Analysis of the Caucasus Barometer and World Value Survey data

By Sonia Siropian
CRRC-Armenia volunteer

As we live in a globalized world with constant migration flows, ethnic diversity has become a common reality of the modern society and a debated topic in countries where nationalist parties have come to rise. Political representatives of nationalist parties commonly criticize ethnic diversity as an argument against immigration, claiming that multiculturalism makes integration difficult and divides the nation, resulting in what they call ‘parallel societies’. Consequently, they argue that the creation of parallel societies threatens democracy and instead, they advocate ethnically and religiously homogeneous societies. A similar account for diversity has also been proposed by scientific scholars, of which Samuel P. Huntington (1996; 2004) may be the most well-known in his debated Magnum Opus ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ and his critical reflections regarding immigration to America in his work ‘Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity’ (2004).

One could interpret the understanding of heterogeneity as a democratic threat, as a possible tension in what is defined in political science as social capital. In short, social capital is characterized by reciprocity, trust and cooperation in social networks, where public goods are produced for a common good (Putnam 2000). Putnam (2000) who coined the term argues that strong social capital is a fundamental element of a functioning democracy. Social capital could hence be argued to engage the citizens in political participation and thus contribute to the democratic development. This post will examine whether the level of social capital in the Armenian society can be connected to the level of political participation, while challenging the argument that homogeneous societies (here, the Armenian society) do have increased social capital. This will be conducted by using data provided by Caucasus Barometer, which is a cross-country nationally representative survey running in the three countries of South Caucasus; Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.[1] The analysis will also refer to World Values Survey, consisting of surveys conducted in almost 100 countries which contain almost 90 percent of the world’s population, using a common questionnaire.[2]

Armenia is often described as an exceptionally homogeneous country, and the Caucasus Barometer (CRRC 2015) can confirm this view, as 91% of the respondents consider themselves to belong to the Armenian Apostolic church and 99% of the respondents describe their ethnicity as Armenian. This implies that the Armenian society is religiously and ethnically homogeneous which, according to the previously mentioned arguments, should also generate high levels of social capital and political participation. 

However, it should be addressed that homogeneity could be understood as a rather ambiguous concept, because although societies may be homogeneous regarding ethnicity or religion, these societies still consist of individuals that may have varying values and beliefs that are not founded in their ethnic or religious background. One of many examples can be found in the Caucasus Barometer, which illustrates the diversity in values and beliefs among the Armenian people. The respondents were asked the question “Support or oppose opening of the Armenia-Turkey border with no preconditions?” – a sensitive question that particularly engages many Armenians because of the heated, and historically rooted conflict between the countries. The responses were rather equally distributed around the spectrum, which indicates varying beliefs in a homogeneous society. Hence, even when researching countries that are generally viewed as homogenous, researchers should still consider the complexity of societies, and the individuals that form societies. It then has to be concluded that the Armenian society may be considered as homogenous in regards to ethnic and religious identity, but it does not prove homogeneity in societal values.

In this post, social capital will be operationalized into three indicators. Firstly, trust and reciprocity are two essential elements of the understanding of social capital. The more people engage with each other, the more they will trust each other which produces and embodies social capital. Putnam has observed the decline in social capital in the United States by revealing drops in political participation and reduction in formal (i.e. unions and organizations) and informal (i.e. friends and neighbours) socialization.[3] Hence, this post will draw from Putnam’s conceptualization of social capital and use trust, socialization and political participation as indicators. However, it is necessary to acknowledge that social capital is a multi-dimensional and complex concept, and that it, as many other social phenomena, is not easily measured. This analysis will thus be looking at trust, socialization and political participation as indicators of social capital to identify tendencies, rather than make definite assumptions, about the social capital in Armenia.

In the Caucasus Barometer, only 5% of the respondents in Armenia believed that most people could be trusted. In comparison, in countries like Sweden and the Netherlands that are considered well-functioning democracies, over 60% of the respondents believed that most people can be trusted (World Values Survey, 2010-2014). Respondents in Armenia were also asked whether they trust close people to help them in different situations, for instance 45% expect that people close to them will take care of them if they get ill. In case they need to borrow money for a month for usual expenses, only 33% say it’s very likely that they can expect that from people close to them. In the last six months at the time of the survey, only 10% of the respondents attended a public meeting and 37% volunteered without compensation, which reveals a rather limited social network among the respondents. The low trust that the respondents show in people in general, and in people close to them, combined with the low socialization in networks, imply that the social capital is very limited. These findings indicate an exceptionally low level of trust and reciprocity among the Armenian people, which suggests that the social capital in Armenia can be expected to be weak. 

Regarding the political participation of the citizens, the assumption that there is low social capital in Armenia can be supported by the low rates of voter turnout. According to International IDEA, in the parliamentary election of 2012 the voter turnout was 62.8 %, and approximately 60% voted in the presidential election in 2013.[4] This number is seemingly stable, as the Caucasus Barometer shows that only 63% of the respondents would certainly participate in a hypothetical presidential election in the coming week. Additionally, according to World Values Survey (2011), 89.8% of the respondents are not members of a political party and 77.2% claim that they would never participate in a peaceful demonstration. However, it is not political motivation that they are lacking, as 34% of the respondents in the Caucasus Barometer claim that the country’s domestic politics is definitely going in the wrong direction, and 20% think that it is mainly going in the wrong direction. So, what is keeping them from engaging in the political life and pursuing political change? One possible answer could be that the seemingly low social capital plays a significant role in that picture. 

The findings of this analysis suggest that an ethnically and religiously homogenous country does not necessarily generate high social capital and political participation. Since democracy depends on people participating in the political life, it suggests that the Armenian case may still be developing its’ democratic features in terms of realizing the power of the people and pursuing political interests. Perhaps the argument that emphasizes homogeneity’s importance for social capital and democracy should rather be focusing on homogeneity in terms of a shared understanding of the fundaments of civic engagement In other words – perhaps social capital does not derive from an ethnically and religiously homogenous society, but rather from people who share the motivation to shape society for the better and the realization of their own power to pursue their interests, regardless of their ethnic or religious background. How to strengthen the social capital in Armenia remains to be studied, and further research on building societies characterized by mutual trust and reciprocity is highly encouraged. More analyses of the links between homogeneity, social capital and political participation are also needed to deepen the understanding of their significance. What can be concluded from the analysis of the data used is that social capital could still be considered as an important element for political participation, however, in the case of the Armenian society, ethnic or religious homogeneity is not necessarily the key ingredient in the participative, and hence democratic, political equation.

[3] Putnam. R. D. (1995a). Bowling alone: America's declining social capital. Journal of Democracy, 6, 65-78