July 9, 2014

Extending the borders: CRRC-Armenia junior fellow presenting at the International Conference on “Religious Diversification Worldwide and in Central and Eastern Europe”

By Marianna Fidanyan, CRRC Junior Fellow
CRRC-Armenia 2013 Junior Fellow Marianna Fidanyan participated in the conference with the paper about the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC). She gave her speech during the session on diversification of church and state relations, and talked about the historical role of the AAC, the current situation, and perceptions of the church in the Republic of Armenia (RА) and in Diaspora. Marianna’s participation was kindly supported by the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs of the Republic of Armenia.
The Conference was organized by the International Study of Religion in Eastern and Central Europe Association (ISORECEA) in cooperation with Vytautas Magnus University and Lithuanian Society for theStudy of Religions. It took place on 24-27 April in Kaunas, Lithuania, and gathered over 90 participants.
The main purpose of the conference was to reveal the patterns of religious diversification within the Central and Eastern European (CEE) societies, with the focus on differences in approaches, adaption processes and attitudes of the states towards the changing situation. The conference had an objective of bringing together scholars from different disciplines in order to share experience and knowledge on the most foreground issues concerning the religious freedom vis-à-vis the emerging diversification processes in the region. The conference program also included the issues of religious tolerance, church and state relations, religious minorities, human rights, etc. During 18 parallel sessions, about 80 papers were presented by the scholars from 26 countries of the world.

Irena Borowik, professor of religious studies at the Jagiellonian University and co-founder of the ISORECEA, gave the first plenary speech. She mainly talked about processes transforming religious field in CEE during the last decades with focus on the changes taking place inside the religious systems and around them. The session was followed by the speech of Eileen Barker, professor emeritus of the sociology of religion at London School of Economics, devoted to the diversification among New Religious Movements, paying attention to the special characteristics that different generations of those movements have. The last plenary session mainly covered the issues of interaction between the religion, state and society in the Baltic States and was represented by Ringo Ringvee, the adviser at the religious affairs department at the Estonian Ministry of theInterior.

Ms. Fidanyan’s paper comprised of social research in addition to the extensive review of scientific literature. The most of the findings were based on 15 in-depth interviews with historians and theologians and other experts on issues in question, as well as AAC priests and representatives of minority religious organizations. Moreover, two focus group discussions with local and diaspora parish members were held in order to find out how the Diasporan Armenians perceive the AAC as compared to those from the RA. The comments made during the discussion panel, helped to further develop the paper and submit it to the Edited Collection of Essays on “Religion and Migration in the Black Sea Region”.

Furthermore, along with coauthor Arman Gasparyan, she represented the most recent findings of the study entitled “The Armenian Apostolic Church - Historical Role, Current Perceptions and Function among the Armenian Diaspora” during the presentation at CRRC-Armenia on July 2, 2014.

May 13, 2014

Public Presentation on Armenian Tax Perception Survey

By Diana Hovakimyan

On May 7th, 2014, the USAID-funded Tax Reform Project (TRP) team held a public presentation on Armenian Tax Perception Survey 2013, which was designed and conducted by Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC)-Armenia in November-December 2013. More than 1,440 households and 400 business entities and individual entrepreneurs, selected through multi-stage clusterized sampling, were interviewed in all regions of the Republic of Armenia via face-to-face interviews with standardized questionnaire.

The main goals of survey were to identify attitudes of general public and business community toward the tax authorities, facilitate an improved public-private discourse, help develop effective and efficient tax policies and tax administration, and raise awareness of tax policy and tax administration related issues in the Republic of Armenia. Public presentation of the CRRC-Armenia implemented survey results was an opportunity for the Government of Armenia, private sector organizations, advocacy groups, business associations, as well as tax professionals and other interested stakeholders to get information on public perceptions about tax related issues, and discuss the main findings of the survey. 

In his opening remarks Mr. Janusz Szyrmer, Chief of Party of the USAID Tax Reform Project, emphasized the significance of such initiative. Mr. Gagik Khachatryan, Minister of Finance of the Republic of Armenia, mentioned that the survey results could serve as an important guide in developing the tax code. Director of USAID/Armenia Karen Hilliard noted that there was a need to conduct the survey annually in order to benchmark the progress of the Armenian tax system over time. According to Dr. Hilliard, the implemented survey will play a key role in promoting dialogue between the state and private sector. In addition, Mr. Jean-Michel Happi, the World Bank Country Manager for Armenia recognized the importance of the survey in improving the tax system in Armenia. 

Afterwards, CRRC-Armenia Program Coordinator Lusine Zakaryan presented the main findings of the survey. According to the findings, 67% of household respondents receive information about taxes from the TV and radio, whereas 48% of businesses receive the same information from tax bodies.

Fifty percent of households and 52% of businesses agreed that if paying taxes were easy and less-time consuming, people would be more willing to pay them. 

Other findings indicated that one of the main reasons for avoiding or evading tax payments for the majority of households (58%) and businesses (56%) were high tax rates. 

Interestingly, 44% of all surveyed businesses think that businesses pay bribes to tax/customs authorities, and one of the reasons (36%) for this is to pay less taxes.


At the end, Mr. Armen Alaverdyan, Deputy Head of the State Revenue Committee mentioned that there was a need to make a comparative study with other transition countries to have more complex and consolidated approach in the long run.

Other information on TRP can be accessed through CRRC-Armenia website.

May 4, 2014

Caucasus Barometer 2013: Hopes for the Better Future

By Valeria Sargsyan

On April 18, at Ani Plaza Hotel, recently released results of the Caucasus Barometer 2013, an annual cross-border survey in the South Caucasus region, were presented to the public. Over 80 participants of the presentation were welcomed by the Yerevan State University vice-rector Dr. Ruben Markosyan, World Bank (WB) External Affairs Officer Vigen Sargsyan, and CRRC-Armenia Research Director Artak Ayunts. 

Dr. Markosyan emphasized the need for such high-quality research in the region, as the one CRRC-Armenia provides, and expressed deep satisfaction with a possibility for researchers, analysts, and all interested people to compare data on different issues across the countries in the region. Mr. Sargsyan, in his turn, underlined the importance of CRRC-Armenia research and expressed regret on not fully using that invaluable data. He also expressed gratification to the CRRC culture to openly share the primary datasets, which goes on line with the WB open-access approach.

CRRC-Armenia CEO Heghine Manasyan began her presentation with extending gratitude over EPF-Armenia, Yerevan State University, National Statistical Service of Armenia, Carnegie Corporation, and CRRC-Armenia staff for many years of fruitful, productive and efficient cooperation. She presented findings based on new questions regarding awareness of regional conflicts, Armenia's joining the Eurasian Customs Union, and human rights and social media usage questions, as well as traditionally covered population's attitudes on economic, social, political and other vital issues in the South Caucasus.

As in previous years, unemployment and poverty are issues worrying people most in Armenia (45% and 16%) and in Georgia (54% and 10%), while Azerbaijanis tend to mention regional conflicts (38%) followed by unemployment (25%) as the most important issues being faced by their country.

Attitudes towards country's membership in the Eurasian Economic Community-Customs Union (EEC-CU) and European Union (EU) across countries were diverse as well: 65% of Georgians support the country’s membership in EU, while only about 41% of Armenians and 34% of Azerbaijanis do so. Instead, 55% of respondents in Armenia support its membership in the (EEC-CU), against 32% of Georgians. Not surprising then 83% of Armenians considering Russia as the main friend of the country.

It is worth mentioning that 34% of Armenian thinks that the country is not a democracy, as opposed to 18% of Azerbaijanis and 11% of Georgians thinking the same way. Moreover, this figure has been growing during past 3 years in Armenia (28 and 27% in 2012 and in 2011 years respectively). Nevertheless, majority of people in all three countries think they have the right to openly say what they think:

As observed, people in South Caucasus countries are not well aware of the regional conflicts in their neighboring countries: around half of the Armenians and Azerbaijanis haven’t even heard about Georgian-Abkhaz conflict; however, 62% of Georgians said they have heard about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Moreover, the very fact that 35% of Azerbaijani people believe that this conflict could be solved by peaceful negotiation raises hopes for better future.

As part of the social capital and values fragment of the presentation,  Dr. Manasyan noted that 35% of Azerbaijanis tend to think that education is the most important factor for getting a good job (as opposed to 19% in Armenia and 28% in Georgia) and for well-being of the children: 41% against 28% both in Armenia and Georgia.

Still, people’s attitude towards economic future in Armenia leaves much to be desired yet: only 30% hope that financial situation of their children will be better off when they reach their age, with average score of 5.2 from 10 on perceived household economic rung.

As in previous years, Armenia shows higher figures for interest in emigration, either temporary (60%) or permanent (31%). And finally, Georgia brings up the rear with the traditionally highest level of happiness in the region: 7.0 from 10 against 6.6/6.7 in Armenia/Georgia.

The presentation, followed by question and answer session, was mainly attended by researchers, NGO and government representatives, policy analysts and other interested parties.

All the Caucasus Barometer related materials and documents are available on the CRRC-Armenia webpage.

February 6, 2014

First Work-in-Progress Discussion at CRRC Armenia

Armenian Police Reform in Comparative Perspective

By Zofia Baldiga, CRRC-Armenia International Fellow

On January 29th, CRRC-Armenia hosted a presentation on Armenian Police Reform in Comparative Perspective delivered by Nona Shahnazarian and Matthew Light. The event was organized within newly launched Work in Progress academic discussion series coordinated by CRRC-Armenia in cooperation with various scientific institutions. The aim of the series is to create an opportunity for the fellow researchers to present their research on the early stage, share their methodology, present tentative findings and receive some valuable feedback on their ongoing projects. 

The research on Armenian Police Reform is currently being conducted by Nona Shahnazarian, Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Social Research in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Matthew Light, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science of the University of Toronto, Canada.  

The objective of this comparative case study is to address current police reforms in Armenia in comparison to other CIS states, notably Georgia, as well as to give an insight on the reform process, structural changes inside the police entities, anti-corruption measures facilitation and implementation, human rights issues, recruitment and training schemes for newly hired policemen, the introduction of community policing to Armenia and public awareness of the ongoing structural changes in the police forces. Moreover, Shahnazarian's and Light's research is the first systematic attempt to describe the recent evolution of policing in Armenia.

During the presentation, the subject was elaborated upon and the research methods and tentative findings were discussed. The study is based on an ethnographic research and a desk study on legal framework and documents. Between 2011 and 2013 Shahnazarian conducted roughly 200 interviews in several Armenian cities (Yerevan, Vanadzor, Stepanavan, Hrazdan, and Masis). Among the respondents were NGO activists, police officers,  ordinary citizens (mostly taxi drivers), government officials, and, last but not least, high-positioned police officers. The interviews were taken to assess the conceptual change of Armenia’s policemen behavior (particularly the highway police) patterns in the daily formal and informal interactions with citizens.

In a nutshell, the research revealed that major structural changes inside Armenian police forces are being implemented. The anti-corruption measures, the conceptual changes in training programs, improvements in treating detainees, creation of a new „Elite Battalion” and the increasing numbers of women students in the Police Academy could be brought as  an example of a new, good practice.  Unfortunately, the police reform has a very low public recognition. Both ordinary citizens and NGO representatives have low awareness of the evolution of the institutional approach to policing.

Among the attendees were representatives of civil society organizations and research institutions. This informative and important presentation was then followed up by a lively discussion during which the issues of the public trust towards the police forces and public awareness of the ongoing structural changes were raised.

January 30, 2014

Exploring Circular Labor Migration: A Look from Poland

Introducing the newest International Fellow:
by Zofia Bałdyga

The high level of both temporary and permanent labor migration from Armenia is considered as an issue of fundamental importance for the state and for the society. The phenomenon of both permanent and pendulum migration from Armenia was examined by various institutions. It was a subject of interest of several think tanks (International Center for Human Development) (ICHD)), research centers (CRRC-Armenia), NGOs active in the field of development aid (People in Need), migration (IOM), and humanitarian organizations (Caritas).

In addition, migration management facilitation is a high priority issue for wide range of international and foreign counterparts. Indeed, EU Advisory Group aims to provide Armenian government with tailored expert advice and to ensure that good practices designed and implemented in European Union member states are promoted and facilitated in Armenia. This initiative seems to be a meaningful example of deep understanding of a cooperation need between countries that accept or release migrants.

Another project, “Strengthening Evidence-Based Management of Labor Migration in Armenia”,  jointly implemented by ICHD and IOM, could serve as a good model for creating networks between destination countries and countries of origin to  prevent irregular migration of Armenian residents through regulation and to facilitate the employment possibilities both for potential employers and employees.  Additionally, the project is appealed to assist competent Armenian Private Employment Agencies striving to compete on the European labor market by enhancing their service delivery, and to foster circular labor migration (CLM) between Armenia and the EU.

In Armenia, migration is very often perceived as a one-way road leading from Armenia to the CIS countries, United States, Canada or European Union member states. Nevertheless, I do believe that this road is bidirectional. I see well-managed circular labor migration as an opportunity to combat irregular and illegal migration and to bring gained skills and capital back to Armenia.

Though, circular migration existed in Armenia life since Soviet times, the relevant state policy is still underdeveloped, while the CLM model is strongly and widely advocated by European Union policy advisers. CLM could be seen as an instrument to regulate seasonal work in Russia, traditionally being the main and preferred destination of low and medium-skilled circular labor migrants from Armenia. The main advantage of organized CLM schemes would be the holistic assistance to the job-seekers ensuring that their rights as workers are protected. Successful implementation of this conceptualization shall involve NGO sector, governmental and employment agencies, both private and public. 

Bilateral agreements on workers mobility are subject of interest of both Armenia and EU member states. As an example, the Polish case could be mentioned.  Polish Migration Policy, an official document reflecting the governmental approach to migration and integration of third country nationals to the Republic of Poland, confirms that the vision of potential regulations of migration flows between the countries is very congruent and enables bilateral cooperation. Moreover, Poland has declared a political will to develop its relations with Eastern Partnership countries, and, in particular, now Armenians are able to get the work permit for Poland through the simplified scheme.

As a young researcher from Poland experienced in migration policy analysis, I have always been longing for gaining work experience and deeper insight into migration profile and migration policy measures developed in traditional emigration countries, citizens of which I have been encountering on a daily basis during my work in Warsaw. In 2012, I was given an enriching opportunity to work with ULISSES unit, a division within ICHD, responsible for implementation of the above mentioned project. As an intern, I was responsible for European stakeholders identification and external communications with foreign counterparts, as well as for legal framework and seasonal employment regulations analysis. During the two months of my internship, I developed a deep interest in Armenian migration policy towards circular migrants and returnees. In summer 2013, I returned to Yerevan and to ICHD to support the project team as a CLM Expert. 

Now, I am joining CRRC-Armenia as an International Fellow to gain more profound scientific insight into the phenomenon of temporary migration from Armenia. In addition, I am deeply interested in push factors repelling Armenian citizens from their homeland, such as unemployment, lack of career development opportunities, or women's underprivileged situation in the labor market.  

Furthermore, mentioned developments show that CLM management is a promising field that might lead to fruitful international cooperation and shall bring Armenian citizens enriching opportunities to develop their careers and gain new skills. I believe that, to achieve this goal, policy makers, researchers, and NGO workers have to cooperate and monitor the migration patterns development and consequences. This belief has influenced my decision to stay in Armenia and continue working on migration issues.

December 28, 2013

Prospects for the Global and Regional Economy: IMF Public Lecture

By Valeria Sargsyan

On December 20, 2013 CRRC-Armenia in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Resident Representative Office in Armenia and the Yerevan State University (YSU) organized a public lecture on Prospects for Global and Regional Economy”. The lecture, conducted by the IMF Resident Representative in Armenia Ms. Tereza Daban-Sanchez, was hosted by the YSU, and attracted students, bankers, auditors, researchers, and business people interested in economic developments and their effect on Armenia.

Overall, Ms. Sanchez presented the regular issue of IMF’s “Regional Economic Outlook: Middle East and Central Asia” Report. She began her presentation with a remark on relatively weak global growth, including China, Russia and other major emerging market economies, noting that global growth forecast is a subject to a number of risks, however, and mitigating these risks requires further policy efforts, mainly in the advanced economies.

She further went on with a discussion about the Caucasus and Central Asia region as the one containing both oil and gas exporters and importers thus showing reasonably steady growth rate. This stability is reflecting in a recovery in hydrocarbon sector, strong commodity prices and a firm growth in domestic demand, supported by stable inflows of remittances. However, there are some risks stemming from slowdown in key emerging markets, tightening of global financial conditions, and weak domestic institutions and accountability paired with political uncertainty. As for policy response, further efforts are needed to rebuilt buffers, as well as more exchange rate flexibility and structural reforms to spur job creation and private investment are essential, she believes.

Ms. Sanchez concluded this part of the lecture with a summary of near term priorities for the Caucasus and Central Asian Region, for both oil and gas exporters (to preserve part of the oil and gas wealth for future generation and ensure that budgets are sustainable) and importers (to create fiscal space by reining in hard-to-reverse expenditures and by broadening tax bases, Increase exchange rate flexibility to lower the risk of output and price fluctuations).

Turning to Armenia, Ms. Sanchez presented an overview of Armenian economy, existing risks, policies, challenges and obstacles as related to the CCA emerging market vision, that is a higher, sustainable, less volatile, and more inclusive growth. “Achieving the vision will not be easy, and CCA countries face many challenges along the way,” she stated. The possible policy recommendations for external/global and domestic challenges for Armenia were made, including strengthening fiscal frameworks, fostering financial sector development, and focusing on structural reforms.

The lecture was followed by a lively discussion mainly focused at the awareness and information sources and availability, regarding existing economic situation and reforms run, as well as IMF’s role and place in Armenian economic policy.

December 25, 2013

Happy Birthday, CRRC-Armenia!

By Valeria Sargsyan

On December 11th, 2013, the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC) - Armenia celebrated its 10-year anniversary at the Yerevan State University assembly hall with a meeting followed by a reception.

CRRC-Armenia was honored with presence of many representatives of non-governmental organizations and government agencies, academic community, international organizations, partners and fellows.  The event was also attended by special guests:  Ms. Deana Arsenian - Vice-President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, HE US Ambassador John Heffern, Minister - Chief of Staff of the RA Government Vache Gabrielyan, Dr. Aram Simonyan - Rector of Yerevan State University, Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan - Eurasia Partnership Foundation CEO.

The meeting hall was filled to capacity and created a positive atmosphere for celebrating this important yet obliging landmark. A video reflecting on milestones that dot the CRRC-Armenia’s decade-long history made it possible for guests to explore it. The two-hour celebration included various speakers taking the podium. The guests expressed congratulatory messages, words of gratitude directed towards CRRC-Armenia and acknowledgement of its past and present activities and accomplishments. Vache Gabrielyan, joining the voices, read out the congratulatory message from the RA Prime Minister and awarded Heghine Manasyan RA Prime Minister’s commemorative medal. 

Ambassador Heffern also welcomed the guests and admitted that “…it is hard to imagine a better and more productive collaboration than this one between YSU and CRRC-Armenia.” He also noted that nowadays, when politics relies on facts and conclusions, CRRC provides deep, valid and reliable data that is used by many public and private agencies.

Eventually, CRRC-Armenia CEO Dr. Heghine Manasyan introduced key landmarks and achievements of CRRC-Armenia over the last 10 years. "We, the CRRC-Armenia staff, are very proud to hear today all those words of acknowledgement and appreciation," she admitted. “There is no better time to get started again than with the coming of a significant anniversary. As we look back on our achievements over the past 10 years, including our recent establishment as an independent foundation, we recognize that these achievements have been made possible through outstanding acts of caring and a commitment from our donors, partners, users, and friends. I earnestly hope that our efforts and accomplishments have prepared us towards future goals and objectives for a bright and prosperous future. At the same time, more than just marking the passage of years, this important date should connect our high-water marks with past and present CRRC-Armenia staff members, since it is really people and relationships that matter most and keep us moving forward”, said Dr. Manasyan.

Certainly, while celebrating the anniversary, CRRC-Armenia was celebrating devotion to social science research, loyalty to the partners and friends, value of high-quality research resources, and appreciation to the donors for its achievements. It was both a celebration, with socializing and recalling, and an inspirational dispute over the present and future of CRRC-Armenia. The interactive communication illustrated what goes on now and will be going on in the future at CRRC-Armenia: groundbreaking research, valid data collection, reliable resource provision, and high-professional training, all in one as always aimed at strengthening social science research and public policy analysis in the South Caucasus, particularly in Armenia.

Follow the the event full photo report and coverage on YSU website and in the newspaper.

November 5, 2013

Twice a Diaspora: Researching Armenia's Assyrians

By Maxim Edwards, CRRC-Armenia International Fellow

As the most ethnically homogenous state of the Former Soviet Union and the first to accept Christianity as a state religion, the place of the country’s few ethnoreligious minorities in modern Armenia is a complex one.  Armenia’s 2011 census recorded 98.1% of the country’s population as ethnically Armenian, with past censuses showing a trend towards ethnic homogenisation (the 1926 census of Soviet Armenia registered ethnic Armenians at 84.5%, and their percentage has been steadily increasing ever since). Armenia’s largest ethnic minorities are at present Yazidis and Russians (35,272 and 11,862 respectively), with Kurds at 2,131 and Assyrians at 2,769. My research at CRRC-Armenia concerns the Jewish, Assyrian, and Yazidi communities, and my primary focus thus far has been on Armenia’s Assyrian community. Armenia’s Assyrians are largely the descendants of Assyrians from the Urmia region of North-Western Iran who arrived in Armenia at the invitation of the Tsarist government following the Treaty of Turkmenchai in 1828. There are now four Assyrian settlements in Armenia – the villages of Dimitrov and Verin Dvin in Ararat Marz, Nor Atages in Armavir мarz, and Arzni in Kotayk мarz. Historically these settlements’ populations were majority Assyrian, though given the impact of emigration on rural communities throughout Armenia, many younger Assyrians have now left to work in Russia, particularly in Rostov and Krasnodar Krai (the location of Russia’s only Assyrian village, Urmia).

Arzni, Kotayk Marz – this sign shows the village’s name in Armenian, Russian, and Assyrian (Neo-Aramaic)

Researching Armenia’s Assyrian community is of interest for a number of reasons. Given my interest in the nationalities policy of the Soviet Union, the story of Assyrians in the USSR can tell us a great deal about how the Soviet Union related to diaspora ethnic groups, and also provides an interesting insight into the politics of genocide recognition. Whilst many Armenians and Assyrians perceive the genocides in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and beginning of the Young Turk regime as part of the same historical process, Armenia has not yet officially recognised the Assyrian and Greek Genocides. A monument to the Assyrian Genocide was built up in Yerevan in 2012, yet that same year the Armenian Parliament did not accept a bill calling for that same genocide’s recognition. Nevertheless, Armenians and Assyrians enjoy excellent relations – mixed Armenian-Assyrian marriages are fairly common, and Armenians and Yazidis who live in majority Assyrian communities often have some knowledge of Assyrian. 

Yerevan’s Assyrian Genocide memorial on Nalbandyan Street, built up in 2012.

As stipulated in the terms of their settlement in Armenia, Armenia’s Assyrians accepted Russian Orthodoxy in the 19th century and consequently were exposed to Russian-language education earlier than many Armenians in the same villages, a fact which one interviewee described as a particular advantage to Assyrians emigrating to Russia. Dimitrov’s Russian Orthodox Church is still maintained by the Assyrian community, whilst churches in Arzni and Verin Dvin now follow the rite of the Assyrian Church of the East, as practiced by Assyrians in Urmia to this day. A particular focus of my research is related to the effect of the demographic crisis in Armenia on the country’s ethnic minorities. Given that the majority of Yаzidis and Assyrians inhabit rural settlements which see a higher rate of emigration than Armenia’s cities and large towns, it is entirely probable – as past census results illustrate – that the decline in Armenia’s population will also see Armenia becoming even more ethnically homogenous, impacting the Assyrian community as a result. This trend is, it must be stressed, the result of the poor economic situation in all rural localities of Armenia, regardless of their ethnic composition.  My research methodology involves taking interviews with residents of all four named Assyrian villages as well as Assyrians in Yerevan and the small village of Gelasor in the Khosrov National Park, one of the earliest Assyrian settlements in the country but now nearly entirely abandoned. My series of articles will, I hope, shed some light on the many questions facing the Assyrian community in Armenia  - genocide recognition, religious affiliation and emigration, and their close relationship with Armenians.

October 30, 2013

Armenian Economic Association Conference

By Arman Gasparyan, CRRC-Armenia Junior Fellow

The Armenian Economic Association  (AEA) 2013 annual meetings took place during October 18-20, and were jointly hosted by the Yerevan State University (YSU) and the American University of Armenia (AUA), aiming at bringing together scholars, researchers, and students to promote the exchange of ideas and to advance economics scholarship. The meetings were preceded by a reception at AUA on the 18th, to be concluded with a workshop on public finance at the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) on October 21, 2013.

The language of the conference was English and Armenian, while the sessions were organized with regard to language and field. The conference, co-sponsored by USAID/EDMC program, YSU, AUA, and CBA, was attended by more than 45 academicians and practitioners from Armenia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States, who presented their studies to interested public.

This year’s meeting was attended by several senior RA Government officials, while Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan opened the meeting at YSU. He was then followed (via videoconferencing) by the first keynote speaker, Daron Acemoglu, the author of famous “Why Nations Fail”. Dr. Acemoglu’s speech is available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-t0tDf36fUM. On the second day another keynote speaker Mark Davis, Head of EBRD office in Armenia, focused on capital markets in Armenia and accessibility of soft loans to Armenian companies. More details about Dr. Davis’s speech could be found at http://www.ebrd.com/russian/pages/news/press/2013/131010b.shtml.

Furthermore, Arman Gasparyan, one of CRRC Junior Research Fellows, participated in the conference with his paper “Alternative Energy as a Mean for Reducing the Monopoly of “Gazprom” in Armenia” in the session on energy. He mainly spoke about the means used by Gazprom JSC to accumulate power in Armenia and to gradually gain an excessive monopoly power, as compared to initial situation, when it was a natural monopoly. The paper hypothesizes whether the development of alternative energy sector could become a reasonable counterargument from the RA Government.
It is worth mentioning that Dr. Alexander Grigoryan’s research “Who Else Migrates from Armenia? Evidence from Intentions”, among some other papers presented during the conference, was conducted using data provided by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers. These and other papers, along with further details associated with the meeting could be found at the AEA website. 

September 20, 2013

Armenia and Pakistan: Time for Change?

By Maxim Edwards, CRRC-Armenia International Fellow

On the 21st of September 2013, the Republic of Armenia celebrates the 22nd anniversary of its independence. Great strides have been taken over the past 22 years in developing Armenia's overseas friendships. Nevertheless, bilateral relations with some countries have not been as successful. Whilst Turkey and Azerbaijan recognize Armenia's independence, neither maintains diplomatic relations with it. Similarly, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen maintain no diplomatic relations with Armenia, whilst Armenia's relations with EU member-state Hungary were suspended following the extradition of Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan.

However, one UN member, Pakistan, the majority Muslim country of 182 million, refuses to recognize Armenia as an independent state. In February 2012, Pakistan's ambassador in Baku reaffirmed his government's stance on Nagorno-Karabakh, stating that Pakistan would not recognize Armenian independence unless Armenian forces ended their violation of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.Pakistan's 'brotherly Muslim relations' with Azerbaijan due to 'historical, ethnic continuity' of Muslim people,have also led Baku to support Pakistan over Kashmir.

Despite Azerbaijan and Pakistan's mutual diplomatic support and co-operation in educational exchanges, joint economic ventures and military technology, Azerbaijanis appear not to value their country's relationship with Pakistan as a particularly important one. According to the CRRC's 2012 Caucasus Barometer, just 0.3% of respondents in Azerbaijan saw Pakistan as their country's biggest friend, compared to 95.5% for Turkey and 2% for Russia (see Graph 1).

Graph 1. 

Note however that these respondents were asked to name only their country's best friend, so to speak. Whether Pakistan would have proven more popular had respondents been able to name more than one country is worth considering.
Similarly, Pakistan is not perceived by Armenians as an enemy; when asked who they considered country's biggest enemy, 61.8% of respondents in Armenia chose Azerbaijan and 35.1% Turkey (See Graph 2). 

Graph 2. 

Of the four other majority Muslim countries which do not maintain diplomatic relations with Armenia (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen), none were mentioned by respondents. Meantime, Armenia has some trade with them (see the table below). 

Table 1. External Trade Database by country, 2012

However, for Pakistanis wishing to satisfy their curiosity about Armenia, there is always a chance. 'The biggest shock for me' says Farooq, a student, journalist and researcher from Pakistan living in Erfurt, Germany, - 'was that even though I had an Armenian friend, I hadn't known that my country didn't recognise Armenia'.Specializing in conflict analysis and being published many times, and perceiving Armenia as an ideal country to learn more and write an article, Farooq applied for the CRRC International Fellowship.  Once selected as an International Fellow, Farooq was ready to leave for Armenia to start his ten-week fellowship. Predictably, the process was time-consuming, and, though, he received a visa, due to personal reasons he never arrived.  

Nevertheless, Farooq is determined to visit Armenia, and should another opportunity arise, he would not miss it. He especially wants to study and try bridging the gulf he sees between Armenia and Pakistan. As he said, ‘ I am sure I will visit CRRC, Yerevan and Armenia one day. I am also sure that one day the situation in terms of relations would also improve solely because Armenia is the land of nice people and hospitality’. He believes that 'the youth will surely wish to reach out to Armenia, making Armenian friends like me and improving ties between both countries'.