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.



[1] http://www.crrc.am/caucasusbarometer
[2] http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org 
[3] Putnam. R. D. (1995a). Bowling alone: America's declining social capital. Journal of Democracy, 6, 65-78
[4] http://www.idea.int/vt/countryview.cfm?id=8 


September 27, 2016

Discourse of post-April events in Nagorno-Karabakh

By Lidiya Chikalova
CRRC-Armenia International Fellow



The April 2016 events on the line of contact have destabilized the security situation in the Southern Caucasus. An attempt to change the status quo in the region was not successful. The mediation of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is postponed until further initiatives from conflict actors. The regional and global geopolitical players, Russia, Turkey, EU, the USA, and Iran, present in the conflict arena are contending for dominance in the region. Have April events in Nagorno-Karabakh changed the geopolitical outlay? This question is analyzed within the CRRC-Armenia international fellowship by means of ten collected expert interviews both in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

On the regional level, heirs to the former empires step in – Russian, Ottoman, Persian. States with geopolitical and economic interests keep a diplomatic game rolling in favor of dominance. On the global level other powerful states and unions like the US and Europe step in to seek for access to the Caspian and Black Sea regions. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict becomes a good leverage for the maneuvering of external players in the regional and global security spaces. Therefore the overall geopolitical picture of Nagorno-Karabakh is very complex.  

The core arguments of the study were formed around Russian perspective on its regional dominance. The first hypothesis argued that Russia is a primary, but not the only influential player in the Southern Caucasus. Second, that Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a battlefield between Russia and Turkey for geopolitical dominance, not between Russia and the US. The data was collected in Armenia (7 interviews) and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (3 interviews) from political experts and researchers, chosen on the basis of active and continuous research in the field.

According to the findings based on interviews, Russia is a primary major player today, but not the only one. Turkey together with the USA are balancing Russia in the region. Respondents were asked to state what country, in their opinion, is dominating in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Question posed
Response
Rn
Is Russia the primary player in Nagorno-Karabakh?
Yes. Also more Turkey, than the US
1
Yes, Russia is the only player
2
Yes. Also more Turkey, than the US
3
Yes. Also more Turkey, than the US
4
Yes, Russia is the only player
5
Yes, Russia is the only player
6
Both Turkey and Russia
7
Yes, Russia is the only player
8
Yes, Russia is the only player
9
Both Turkey and Russia
10


The second hypothesis, which is Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a battlefield between Russia and Turkey for geopolitical dominance, but not between Russia and the West was confirmed as well. Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the only stage where Russia and the USA agree on action steps and have constructive dialogue.


Question posed
Response
Rn


Do Turkey and the USA threaten Russia’s geopolitical dominance in Nagorno-Karabakh particularly?
Both. More Turkey, rather than the US
1
No, Russia is the only player
2
Both. More Turkey, rather than the US
3
Both. More Turkey, rather than the US
4
No, Russia is the only player
5
No, Russia is the only player
6
Turkey, not the USA
7
No, Russia is the only player
8
No, Russia is the only player
9
Turkey, not the USA
10


Several case scenarios were revealed on the basis of interviewees’ responses. A part of the questionnaire was focused on current status quo in the Southern Caucasus region and a change of the situation. Further questions helped assess the current mood towards conflict development in the Armenian society: What has got to happen for the present status quo to change? Which confrontation is ongoing in the Nagorno-Karabakh: Turkey vs. Russia or the West vs. Russia? Is Russia considered as the only player, if not, who are other players? With the inefficiency of international organizations like the OSCE and the UN and peace talks what outcomes/developments can we see in the region? Based on responses from interviewees and content analysis of phrases “increase of conflict”, “escalation”, “conflict resolution”, “external measures”, “war”, and “peace” author compiled elements of three possible case scenarios of the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh. The ultimate case scenario majority of respondents expressed was case-scenario B with elements of case-scenario C.  


Case scenario A
n/a
If to keep the escalation of the conflict in mind, then Georgian August-2008 scenario is possible. There might be a time for similar events when leaders are outside of the country.
Case scenario B
Rn: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,
The intensity of the conflict will continue, it will increase/decrease, but the seriousness of actions, like war will not happen again. The peace process will continue without a proper conflict resolution.
Case scenario C
Rn: 1, 10
After the war, parties (external) to the conflict might decide that serious measures must be undertaken. A decision will be made for all actors to accept. With the lack of political will from both sides, any sensible resolution will be imposed.

The April events, a four-day war, have not changed the geopolitical outlay on the whole. Russia remains a major player in the region who seeks to keep the status quo. Moreover, Russia is involved very much in peace process between Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic represented by Armenia, which has not been reached so far. Turkey steps into the game for regional dominance, unlike the USA, and sparks rivalry with Russia. Experts agreed on the possible case scenario for Nagorno-Karabakh, excluding potential conflict resolution in the near future.




September 24, 2016

The Republic of Armenia in Numbers

By Sonia Siropian, CRRC-Armenia Volunteer
     Mariam Arakelyan, CRRC-Armenia Program Assistant



Source: Caucasus Barometer 2008, 2015

August 4, 2016

Trust towards political institutions: variations from titular ethnicity to ethnic minority in Azerbaijan and Georgia

By Mariam Arakelyan
CRRC-Armenia Program Assistant



Trust towards political institutions strengthens the legitimacy, stability and efficiency of any government. Distrust can be very helpful to encourage the government to work better, but at the same time distrust costs alienation and withdrawal from the political processes, as well as results in a fragile state that is unable to mobilize national resources or shape a collective vision for national development (Dimond, 2007). There is no consensus in scientific literature regarding the potential causes of trust. While, some scholars, attribute trust toward the institutions to cultural norms (Mishler, Rose,2001 ) others consider trust as an expected utility of institutions performing satisfactorily (Coleman, 1990; Dasgupta, 1988; Hetherington, 1998 as cited in Mishler, Rose, 2001). 

Trust becomes more crucial for multi-ethnic countries that have the responsibility to protect the rights of ethnic minorities, including indigenous people. It can well be the case that in such countries ethnic minorities exhibit lower level of trust toward political institutions than the ethnic majority, as they may face problems of integration, can remain highly underrepresented in central and local government and administration as well as can be socially, economically and culturally marginalized. The aim of this blogpost is understand the level of trust ethnic minorities exhibit toward the political institutions in the two countries of the South Caucasus: Georgia and Azerbaijan. Armenia is excluded from the analysis as it is a mono-ethnic country, with the majority of the population being ethnic Armenians. 

The fact that relatively large communities of ethnic minorities live compactly in Georgia and Azerbaijan allows us to compare a data of one administrative unit populated by ethnic minority with a similar unit populated by the title ethnicity. Particularly, in the case of Georgia the regions of Kvemo Kartli (45% of ethnic Azerbaijanis[1]) and Samtskhe-Javakheti (54.5 % of ethnic Armenians) will be compared to the region of Imereti (99% of ethnic Georgians). In the case of Azerbaijan the Economic administrative unit of Quba-Xaçmaz (with compact population of Lezgians) will be compared to Dağlıq Şirvan (majority of ethnic Azerbaijanis).


For the analysis the 2013 wave of the Caucasus Barometer survey is utilized[2]. Trust toward the President, toward the Parliament and toward the Government is the main variables under scrutiny. Respondents were asked following question “Please assess your level of trust toward each of the political and social institutions on a 5-point scale, where ‘1’ means “Fully distrust”, and ‘5’ means “Fully trust”.

Chart 1 depicts respondents’ trust toward the political institutions in the Georgian regions under scrutiny. 

                                Chart 1
Note: The original question: “Please assess your level of trust toward each of them on a 5-point scale, where ‘1’ means “Fully distrust”, and ‘5’ means “Fully trust”. How much do you trust or distrust /country’s/…?” The original question was recoded: answer options “Fully trust” and “Somewhat trust” into “Trust” and answer options “Somewhat distrust” and “Fully distrust” into “Distrust”.
According to the Chart1 people in Kvemo Kartli expresses higher level of trust toward the president, the government and the parliament compared with Imereti and Samtskhe-Javakheti regions. In Kvemo Kartli 53% of population show trust, while 51% of Imereti population express their distrust for president (At the time of fieldwork (October 3-27, 2013) incumbent president in Georgia was Mikheil Saakashvili)[2], which opposes the suggested hypothesis. Moreover, “Do not know” is the answer of 20% and 17% of Kvemo Kartli population for the trust respectively toward the Parliament and the Government. At the same time, Chart 1 presents the fact that population of Samtskhe-Javakheti has the most accentuated indifference toward the political institutions, as the level of “neither trust nor distrust” for all three institutions is higher than it has been expressed by the people living in remaining two regions and the lowest level of “Distrust” among the Georgian regions. 

                                Chart 2
Note: The original question: “Please assess your level of trust toward each of them on a 5-point scale, where ‘1’ means “Fully distrust”, and ‘5’ means “Fully trust”. How much do you trust or distrust /country’s/…?” The original question was recoded: answer options “Fully trust” and “Somewhat trust” into “Trust” and answer options “Somewhat distrust” and “Fully distrust” into “Distrust”.
The case of Azerbaijan also seems not support the suggested hypothesis as the population of Quba-Xaçmaz, populated by ethnic minorities expresses as much trust as that of Dağlıq Şirvan. Interestingly, the trust toward the president is very high in both regions. Particularly, in Dağlıq Şirvan 77% of the respondents trust the president, while in Quba-Xaçmaz only 60%.

The current analysis seems to be in conflict with the reports on Azerbaijan that suggest minority right protection problems and harassment. However, it can also be the case that the respondents are unwilling to answer to the questions sincerely as the freedom of speech is heavily constrained in Azerbaijan. 

In sum, the blogpost fails to find a relationship between being an ethnic minority and expressing distrust toward political institutions in the two republics of the South Caucasus: Georgia and Azerbaijan.




[1] Please note that Caucasus Barometer survey is representative for countries but is not representative for administrative units, therefore results are made with reservation.. Trust toward the President, toward the Parliament and toward the Government is the main variables under scrutiny. Respondents were asked following question “Please assess your level of trust toward each of the political and social institutions on a 5-point scale, where ‘1’ means “Fully distrust”, and ‘5’ means “Fully trust”. 
[2] Data of National Statistical Service of Georgia (2002), which during last decade showed increasing tendency

July 12, 2016

Social Alienation of Syrian-Armenian Immigrants in Armenia: Sociological Analysis

By Shushan Ghahriyan
CRRC-Armenia Yerevan State University Scholarship Holder



The Syrian crisis, started in 2011, forced many Syrian-Armenians to leave Syria and resettle in Armenia. Followed by the challenges brought by war, in Armenia they faced problems that are common for the locals as well. Thus the research is focused on bringing out the manifestations of social alienation among Syrian-Armenians.
To analyze the phenomenon of social alienation among Syrian-Armenian immigrants we will refer to M. Seeman's (1959) approach to social alienation who defines the concept in terms of powerlessness, meaninglessness, normlessness, isolation and self-estrangement. Later, isolation was divided into social isolation and cultural isolation (Middleton, 1963).

Powerlessness
According to our results, powerlessness predominantly refers to inability to control desired outcomes of behavior and it is mainly expressed in socio-political situations. Respondents most often mention that they cannot change anything in Armenia, cannot improve their conditions as mostly everything depends on the Government and changes should come from there. This feeling of powerlessness is connected to the fact that Syrian-Armenians do not yet consider themselves as a part of the Armenian society.  
Social isolation
Powerlessness is closely related to social isolation. According to the interviews we can say that social isolation causes the feeling of powerlessness. When talking about social isolation we need to take into account the place of origin of Syrian-Armenians. In contrary to the ones from Allepo (a large city in Syria), people from Qamishli (a small city with strong community ties), feel more isolated as they cannot restore former ties and relationships as well as the community life they used to have.
Cultural estrangement
Cultural estrangement manifests in value differences. Syrian-Armenians are affected by oriental culture and this has its effects on their outlook. It was also mentioned that Syrian-Armenians are more business-minded than the locals.
Normlessness
Normlessness mainly refers to the ineffectiveness of laws. Usually problems in Armenia are being solved through “mediators”, people who are considered as informal problem solvers. This way of problem solving is very common in the Armenian reality. Thus we can say that this institute of “mediators” is to some extent a social capital in the Armenian society. From this viewpoint normlessness is not as obvious as other dimensions of alienation among Syrian-Armenians because they do not have the relevant social networks through whom it would be possible to solve problems in Armenia. Thus they rely only on formal, legal regulations which do not function properly.
Meaninglessness
Switching to the next dimension that is meaninglessness we should mention that it is connected with the person's past experience in different aspects and spheres. The notions of meaninglessness can be divided into two parts. The first is that it is meaningful to start a new initiative in Armenia, to have long-time plans, as Armenia is desired and sweet homeland for Syrian-Armenians and they still think that it is worth linking future with it. The second is that everything is uncertain in Armenia and one cannot predict what will happen in the near future. That's why they do not see any meaning in initiating, creating, planning something.
Self-estrangement
And the last dimension of social alienation is self-estrangement. It mainly refers to the situation when Syrian-Armenians lost something from their self. Most of Syrian-Armenian immigrants cannot realize themselves in Armenia as they do in Syria. When talking about self-estrangement first of all we should mention the loss of prestige and respect they had in Syria. We can state that self-estrangement is more specific to men. As for women, here in Armenia they have more opportunities for self-realization which was difficult in Syria surrounded by Muslims who have their strong rules concerning women.

To sum up, we should mention that these issues if not solved can deepen the feeling of alienation and create obstacles for integration to the society in Armenia.

About YSU Scholarship
Highly appreciating partnership with Yerevan State University and strong commitment to contribute to the excellence of social science research in Armenia, Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC)-Armenia has launched Yerevan State University Scholarship program in 2014. The goal of the program is to encourage young researchers, who make their first steps in social science research. For that purpose, CRRC-Armenia provides single-time financial support to two Master’s students from the departments of Sociology, and Economics and Management to allocate resources for field organization and first-hand high-quality data collection and analysis for their master thesis.