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July 24, 2001

Letters to the Editor

Armenian Exodus: Who's to Blame?

Hugh Pope's feature story ("At Last A State, Armenia Lacks People—Decline In Population Among World's Worst; 'I'd Go Anywhere,' " International, July 6) on Armenia and the problem of emigration underlines an alarming phenomenon of strategic proportions for the Armenian republic, its people and policymakers. Though poignant, Mr. Pope's article does not, however, display comprehensiveness.

The Armenian nation, having suffered conquest, genocide and partition over the years, has recently been given a special second chance to forge a strong, democratic, sovereign state out of the legacy of a painful past. Amid a variety of positive development indicators, external realities such as military conflict, blockades and closed borders have combined with serious shortcomings in leadership to create a crisis of public trust and confidence. The political, socioeconomic and psychological conditions prompting the exodus have resulted in a mixed record of independent Armenia's first decade.

The Young Turk leaders of the Ottoman Empire were responsible for the great Armenian dispossession of 1915, which included all the components of the crime of genocide, the destruction of the historic Armenian homelands, and the murderous finality for millions of human lives. Modern-day Azerbaijan was responsible for unleashing, and later losing, a war of aggression against the Armenian land of mountainous Karabagh. The perpetrators unfortunately evade acceptance of responsibility, yet eventually might mature toward facing their history and themselves. But there still remains the question: Who is to answer for the departure over the past 10 years of more than a million Armenian citizens from their very own Republic of Armenia? Their interests in the matter aside, certainly not Turkey or Azerbaijan, neither Russia nor the U.S.

This issue and its resolution lie within. Yes, we are to blame. And contrary to the prevalent tenor of Mr. Pope's article, Armenia and her people can and will put their house in order, establish the rule of law, empower the body politic and demand accountable government. They will find the courage and fortitude to turn the tide on emigration. For this, the Armenians must be able to defend their rights in respect of ill-willing neighbors and their transgressions, and to confront and then meet their many contemporary challenges, both foreign and domestic.

Raffi K. Hovannisian
Founding Director
Armenian Center for National and International Studies
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs
Republic of Armenia
Yerevan, Armenia

Related links: Armenia. After a Decade of Statehood, Suffers Rapid Loss of Human Capital—Wall Street Journal staff reporter Hugh Pope's feature story on the current challenge of Armenia, emigration.

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