Dear editor, I’m responding to your questions about the Future Armenian convention.
What is the Future Armenian for you?
First and foremost, the FA is a platform for dialogue, a conversation, across the pan-Armenian world. It is this communication aspect that, to me, stands out as the essential element in the construction of the Armenian nation in its latest, post 1990s, history. For too long there was a lack of such objective platform bringing together Armenians of all walks, professions, diverse views, and opinions from Armenia and the diaspora. This is where the FA, leveraging the latest communication capacity, offers such an opportunity for the Armenians of the world to truly connect and 1) talk to each other; 2) learn about each other; 3) start putting together ideas for the benefit of Armenia and Armenian nation in general. This was what I saw at the Convention in March and had experienced while participating in the working groups meetings several months earlier in preparation for the convention.
But the FA also has a strong potential of becoming a forward-looking civic entity that, absorbing the intellectual and professional potential of all contributors, can become an objectively effective policy setting unit. Again, this would be relevant both in Armenia and in the diaspora. One could imagine the outcomes of the FA Convention or other meetings, the synergies that have been built through the diverse mix of participants’ talent, to serve as solid foundation in a range of activities towards heritage preservation, sustaining diaspora and strengthening its link with the country, promoting inclusive socio-economic development, and, all together, contributing in some small measure of hope to the just right for Armenians to live independently and safely on their ancestral land.
What are your impressions from the FA Convention?
The organization of the convention – for its intended purpose of focused discussion of specific thematic issues – was quite impressive. It was encouraging to see under one roof so many Armenians who’d travelled from different corners of the world to Armenia investing their energy and time and putting their minds together and engaging with the questions. Also, in terms of the organization, it was good to see the discussions being moderated and all relevant comments recorded in the minutes of the meetings. One could tell organizers had prepared well and did their homework ahead of the meetings.
On a more conceptual level, there is much hope that all participants attached to the outcomes of the convention. Granted it is going to be a lot of work, but even if some small portion of the transpired discussions becomes relevant in more applied policy decisions today, that would be an important achievement. It would be natural to expect that additional follow ups would occur and such gatherings, either in person or online, may continue to contribute to the betterment of the country and the nation. The key, of course, are the continued open communication and pragmatic assessment of the realities faced by Armenia and the diaspora communities.
So, generally, quite positive impressions with wishes to see even greater number of delegates and thematic discussions in the future.
Tell us about the work that you do:
Due to my research interests I became affiliated with the Future Armenian as an expert working with the diaspora group. We actively worked in the months before the Convention, brainstorming various ideas. My may proposition can be summarized in a triad of key categories, in this order: 1) identity; 2) trust; 3) engagement infrastructure [I develop these ideas in this paper]. The crux of the argument is that Armenian diaspora is multipolar, diverse, divided, and widely scattered. It is unlikely a large-scale repatriation (which for the most of diaspora-living Armenians would actually be immigration) wave may somehow magically build up a momentum. Instead, we should expect a more targeted approach. What does this mean?
Start with identity – it matters in a sense of determining who we feel comfortable connecting with, whom do we recognize as one of ours? For Armenian diaspora, which places a strong emphasis on the individual’s historical background origins, complicated by the layers of political, cultural, and educational factors, this becomes important. But in a simplest analogy, one could ask, for example, does this particular diaspora-Armenian consider Armenia is their homeland? You’d be surprised by the answer. I discovered that in my Armenian Diaspora Online Survey, which I ran between 2015-2018.
So that leads me to the second point – trust. Briefly, this is about trust relations among the individuals making up the broader diaspora group. So it is within the community and it is based on mutual identity recognition (e.g., just Armenian or some -tsi / -ցի Armenian?); time; and experience/interaction. But then, this category deals with trust between the diaspora community (in its broadest definition) with the ancestral (or perceived as such) country. That then leads to the third point.
Engagement infrastructure, today, is one of the most critical elements of this construction. A country’s diaspora strategy sets the engagement infrastructure and it can overcome any antagonisms that we might be picking up at the identity and trust stages above. Why? Because a country has the capacity to set up a mutually acceptable framework for all facets of diaspora definitions. And a clever, pragmatic, and country/nation centric engagement infrastructure inspires a diasporan to identify themselves with and develop, over time, some trust towards connecting with the country in whatever relevant capacity.
Incidentally, I spoke with FA in 2021 on the related topics https://futurearmenian.com/event/network-nation-combining-a-physical-state-with-a-global-network/
A general development view research paper on the topic https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/s41287-021-00432-x For more on my diaspora work http://agevorkyan.com/diaspora/ For the economic history of the post-socialist world, see my book http://agevorkyan.com/
Aleksandr V. Gevorkyan, Ph.D. is a macroeconomist specializing in open economy, macroeconomic development, diaspora studies, and post-socialist transition economics. Dr. Gevorkyan is the Henry George Chair in Economics and Associate Professor at the Department of Economics and Finance of the Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John’s University. Prior to the academic appointments, Dr. Gevorkyan worked extensively in the private consulting and public policy sectors. He also serves as Economics Subject Matter Expert for the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See To the United Nations. Dr. Gevorkyan is a member of the editorial boards at the Review of Political Economy and Keynesian Economics. He has authored several books, including Transition Economies: Transformation, Development, and Society in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union (Routledge, 2018), and edited Foreign Exchange Constraint and Developing Economies (Edward Elgar, 2023). Dr. Gevorkyan is a board member at the Armenian Economic Association. For a complete list of publications and ongoing research please see http://agevorkyan.com/
Please let me know if any other questions. Thanks for the opportunity!
All the best,
Aleksandr V. Gevorkyan, Ph.D.
Henry George Chair in Economics
The Peter J. Tobin College of Business,
St. John’s University
Senior Research Fellow / Vincentian Center for Church and Society
Research Fellow / Center for Global Business Stewardship
Expert (Economics), Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations