Despite statements about improvment of economic atmosphere in the republic, Armenians still leave their country when it’s possible. According to national census, conducted in October of 2011, population of the republic was 3,018 million people. According to the National Statistical Service of Armenia, 2013 was the last year when there was a weak population growth (3,026 million people). However, figures of the following years confirm pretty bad situation, which continues since 2014: in 2015 population dropped to 3.010 million, in 2016 a negative threshold of 3 million was passed, population reached 2.998 million.
The scale of migration over the last ten years can’t be compared to what was observed after collapse of the USSR. Experts usually outline three waves of emigration: the first is associated with war, which led to the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven regions of Azerbaijan.
As a result of Armenian aggression, Azerbaijan and Turkey cut their economic ties with Armenia, resumption of which will be possible under conditions of withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from occupied territories of Azerbaijan. The second wave happened at the end of the 1990s. It was caused by economic crisis, which was directly associated with economic blockade of the republic and 1998 default in Russia, since after the collapse of the Soviet Union Yerevan still had close economic relations with Moscow. The third wave happened at the end of the 2000s. It happened as a result of global economic crisis. Experts believe that consequences of the last wave can be still seen today.
In addition to labor migration, which remains one of the sources of republic’s income, the number of people wishing to permanently move to another country remains stably high. Nevertheless, many believe that it’s impossible to explain the nature of migration from Armenia by just economic factors. Today Armenia suffers from widespread post-Soviet disease, known as lack of justice. Clannishness in the upper echelons of power, which often intertwines with criminal world, poisons atmosphere in the republic’s society. Armenians don’t believe that it’s possible to achieve fair justice in the republic, since “ties” can often solve any problem. That’s why initiation of criminal cases, arrests and searches in the apartments of brother of former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, Alexander, or similar famous cases weren’t surprising for Armenian society. Although current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wants to establish order in the republic, public perceives everything with a skepticism, since many people believe that Pashinyan’s government will need more than five years to imprison all those guilty, and it will be a difficult task.
The second factor is presence of powerful Armenian diaspora abroad. Its successes inspire Armenians living in the republic. Largest Armenian diasporas live in Russia (over million people), America (up to 2 million) and France (around 800 thousand). Armenians abroad are actively involved in film and media industries, work in the field of medicine and public health, as well as business. Their fame abroad, just like a magnet, attracts Armenians there. So there’s a stereotype in Armenian society, according to which Armenians have much more opportunities outside of Armenia. However, such stereotypes often turn out to be myths and have no connection to reality, which almost all emigrants face.
However, there’s much more realistic reason for migration, associated with fear for resumption of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Long-term military rhetoric of Armenian leadership, militarization of society, which can be seen in constant tension and calls to be ready for a new war affect the way people live. Armenia closely monitors situation on the contact line, since it’s not a secret for anyone that soldiers of the republic are also serving in the unrecognized Karabakh republic. Over the past months international observers have recorded a noticeable decrease in number of violations of the ceasefire regime, but situation remains tense. Prospects of settlement of the Karabakh problem is considered to be nonexistent in Armenia, and likelihood of death of more soldiers of Armenian army is still high. If hostilities resume, regardless of their outcome, consequences of this war will be catastrophic for Armenia.