Central Data Catalog

Citation Information

Type Working Paper - Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Analyst
Title Armenian census numbers spark debate but are good news for president
Volume 27
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2002
URL http://www.cacianalyst.org/publications/analytical-articles/item/7037-analytical-articles-caci-analy​st-2002-3-27-art-7037.html
BACKGROUND: On February 15, 2002, the National Statistics Service of Armenia held a press conference announcing that there were 3,020,768 people in Armenia. The preliminary census data, collected from October 10-19, 2001, indicated that 950,000 Armenians have emigrated since the Soviet collapse in 1991. According to the United Nation's International Organization for Migration (IOM), Armenia has the highest rate of population outflow in the former Soviet Union. Nonetheless, the fact that the official population remained over 3 million came as a relief to many, considering the speculation that the number might have fallen below 2 million. Emigration has been a way of life for Armenians who have left their ancestral homeland in the Southern Caucasus and Eastern Anatolia for locations around the world for centuries. The Diaspora grew dramatically after World War I. Those that survived the massacres and deportations in Eastern Anatolia created communities throughout the world that still serve as population magnets. However, the biggest incentive for leaving Armenia in the past decade has been the economy. When the Soviet Union collapsed, so did Armenia's command economy and its people's living standards. Armenians took advantage of the most tangible new freedom in their lives - the right to emigrate. Most went to Russia, where there was no need for a visa or learning a new language. Many went west, to Europe or North America. Emigrating Armenians were soon followed by family members who sold their apartments at fire sale prices, leading to a collapse in the local real estate market. The Armenian government was not eager to undertake a census, which it delayed for years citing budgetary reasons. Privately, however, there were also fears that foreign governments would be less likely to provide aid to a country with a small population. There were also intangible psychological implications. Armenia is still in an unresolved state of conflict with Azerbaijan. While Azerbaijan has its own emigration problems, its population stands at a far more robust 8 million. Perhaps most importantly, Armenia's falling population stood as an indicator of the lack of faith its citizens placed in its government. Rather than stay and work toward improving their homeland, Armenians were giving up on it. Emigration stood as a terrible signal to adversaries as well as potential foreign investors. Ultimately, the international community pressured the Armenian government into holding the census and agreed to cover most of the costs.

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