Readers' opinions

The opinions of the authors of the feedback reviews present their own attitudes and do not always coincide with the views of the “At the Crossroads” authors.
Karen Uzunian 
Karen Uzunian 
Co-founder, CSN Caucasus, Tbilisi, Georgia 
The authors of the discussion paper, esteemed Nune Alekyan and Ruben Vardanyan, put a “multi-line” heading on the cover of their work (some phrases of which are written in the motto style), which eloquently testifies to the very difficult task that the authors have set themselves when writing: 

 

1. How to Become a Global Network Nation. 

2. Integration of Diversity. 

3. At the Crossroads of History, Civilizations, Ideas. 

4. Think to Connect! Think to Create! Think to Act! 

5. Armenia Breakthrough to the Future. 

6. XXI Century – OUR Century. 

In the paper, in my opinion, in addition to several important topics, two main themes (under my conventional names) are exposed for discussion: 

1. The choice of the optimal Model for the Republic of Armenia and Diasporas (the Armenian nation) taking into account the long-term perspective. 

2. The Priority Values of the Armenian Nation (“discrepancies” over what is “Prospering Armenia”). 

In essence, the message of the paper is a challenge, call for search of the “Scenario” of the Project-Model-Development (of the Republic of Armenia, Diasporas and the whole nation) for the long run.  
 
After carefully reading the work, one clearly realizes: in general, the topic under consideration is very multidimensional, multi-layered and so complex (affects many aspects and nuances of everyday life of a multimillion nation) that writing a “Scenario” for the implementation of the project requires an incredibly weighted and balanced approach.  
 
The coming out of this undoubtedly original and thoughtfully-written work is not only incredibly useful and timely for the nation, but also very relevant. It is important for the country and the nation in order to continue to move forward in the political, economic, scientific, technical, cultural, educational and military directions in this (scientifically and technologically rapidly developing) global world to be organized and creative, with a creative approach (intuitively and logically) to grope and realize the key drivers in the economy, culture, science, medicine, technology that could become the driving forces capable of taking Armenia to a new level.  

- If you do not know where to sail to, no wind will be favorable. 

- The walker will overtake the rider if he knows where to go.  

The authors of this paper have been given my detailed written statement of my vision on this topic, which I entitled “The Republic of Armenia and the Diasporas – A Practical Recommendation”.  
I dare to hope that the paper under discussion will echo in the minds and souls of many who are not indifferent to this topic, and that more professional, creative and intellectual personalities than I will make their worthy contribution. For there is a number of problems that can be solved only collectively.  

The implementation of the selected, collectively-designed Model (with a verified systemic basis) is the key to success for fruitful communication and increasing the “circle of trust” among the Armenian people scattered throughout the world, for a “global network nation” with broad powers of ideas of inclusive activities and integration of diversity. 
 
I express my gratitude to Nune Alekyan and Ruben Vardanyan for writing a very informative and interesting manuscript – from that category of manuscripts which (borrowing a phrase from M. Bulgakov’s novel and translating it verbatim) “do not burn” (good writing will rise from the ashes and find its way to the reader). 

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Grigory Arzumanyan
Grigory Arzumanyan
Head of the center “Nanobiophotonics”, Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), Dubna, Moscow Region, Russia
First of all, I would like to note that the authors’ plan for preparing the given work is a complete success, and such a manuscript, in my opinion, will receive a decent estimate of future readers.

I quickly and easily read this paper recommended by the academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yuri Tsolakovich Oganesyan, a world-famous scientist whose name was recently given to the 118th element of the Periodic Table – Oganesson. Let me say a few words about the book itself and I’ll start, perhaps, as it seems to me presently, from the key point: the work is very timely. If it was possible to write it earlier, then at least not later than this. Such books, of course, are very necessary for readers both in Armenia itself, and, what is very important, in our large diaspora all over the world. I myself occasionally visit Armenia, where I was born, grew up, studied and lived and worked for some time. The trends that are now being observed there are causing some optimism and hope for a noticeable improvement in the well-being of the people in the foreseeable future. But this is a very difficult path. Thus, such writings that call for the search for solutions and ways to unite the nation around a kind of “an Armenian Jerusalem” are, of course, extremely relevant for today's Armenia. And in this regard I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the authors of this work Ruben Vardanyan and Nune Alekyan for such a laborious and creative work, as well as express my confidence that this work will be widely in demand by the society. The network structure and model of the hub, examples of which we find in our historical past (the global trade network of Armenians from New Julfa) and which are proposed in the book as one of the options for life arrangement in Armenia, can and should, in my opinion, be considered and widely discussed. And the title, by the way, is very aptly-chosen – “At the Crossroads. Time for Decisions”. It is really true, since the authors’ concern that everything can develop in the future in not so favorable manner for the Armenian people and for sovereign Armenia has, unfortunately, the right to exist. And in order to avoid this, a lot of real things need to be done, including with the help of such writings.

After all, it is well known that sometimes a timely pronounced word or an expressed idea aimed at the benefit and prosperity of society can have tremendous power and significance. Also, we are in need of breakthrough projects uniting the nation in the field of economics, in the social and cultural spheres, in scientific and innovative activities, in sports, tourism, etc. FAST can become one of the vivid examples of such activities.

Furthermore, I would like to note that the book is written in a very good language, which I am always sensitive to. Thus, one can only welcome the numerous calls in the book to raise the level of the Armenian language as a whole, including the one that can be heard today in the streets of Yerevan.

I also have a couple requests to the authors, possibly for the subsequent editions of their work: I don’t think there were enough references to Armenian authors (of different periods of time, including Soviet), including in Armenian. It seems to me that this would enrich and complement the discussion paper. Perhaps, in the preamble of the book it would be reasonable to briefly reflect the more ancient history of Armenia, starting from the time of Urartu, and not from the era of the adoption of Christianity. Since the latter, in its turn, rested on the rich past and deep roots of one of the most ancient nations of the world, and most likely, all this subsequently predetermined this most important event in the history of the Armenian people.
The book, of course, should be published and, preferably, not only in Russian, but especially in Armenian, as well as English and French.

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Sona Haroutyunian
Sona Haroutyunian
Professor, Ca’Foscari University of Venice, Italy
Ruben Vardanyan’s and Nune Alekian’s paper “At the Crossroads” aims at promoting a discussion and opening a thought-provoking debate among Armenians and non-Armenians, for the future of Armenia.

Being neither a political nor an international studies scholar, when I looked through the reviews of the specialists of the mentioned fields, I was surprised to read that some of them were criticizing the authors for the lack of the final answer. To my understanding, that is the real value of the paper. The authors are rather seeking than imposing a solution.

From my perspective, there can’t be THE vision towards Armenia’s Future or THE solution of its problems. There can be parallel or layered visions and, consequently, parallel or layered solutions. First of all, we need to take a metaphorical distance from our deeply-rooted stereotypes and issues to widen our vision and to re-approach them by passing this introspective view through the lens of the global positive practices, that of the countries where we reside, and to come to some commonly acceptable visions and solutions and to be able to think about long-lasting outcomes. Within this process of problem solving we have to understand what is our destination, as Mr. Vardanyan and Ms Alekian rightly notice by quoting Carrol and Seneca in the epigraph of the final chapter.

I’d like to briefly analyze the authors’ following sentence: “At present, we see ourselves not so much as descendants of the ancient people that contributed to world civilization but as a victim nation, capable only of sharing its pain with others and unable to devise a meaningful development agenda.” It comprises (at least) four ideas in it: a. We don’t see ourselves as an ancient civilization; b. We see ourselves as victims; c. We are capable only of sharing our pain with others; d. We are unable to devise a meaningful development agenda.

The point (a) is controversial: that’s partially true in an Armenian environment, while it is not true when the Armenians are within non-Armenians. In the latter case, we tend to emphasize (each of us with respect to their level of knowledge) that we are an ancient culture, that Yerevan is older that Rome, that we are the first Christian Nation, etc. The points (b)-(c) are strictly connected to the traumatic events at the beginning and at the end of the 20th century. I am referring to the Armenian Genocide, which is an open wound being not unanimously recognized, and to Sumgait. Hence, by sharing the trauma, psychologically we aim to increase the army of our sympathizers, to have them ‘by our side’ and not ‘to the other (Turkish/Azeri) side’. Finally, I have to agree with the point (d), which is sad.

One of the priorities of our national agenda is of course proper education. However, education alone within the “4 walls of the room” is not sufficient any more. It must be accompanied by the mobility of the younger generation. This is a real problem. Those of us who are in the academic system worldwide can bring a double contribution to Armenia: to share the knowledge through visiting professorships in Armenia and to contribute to students’ mobility through signing exchange programs between Armenian and their foreign institutions. One of the best examples of collaboration within recent years is the Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility. It is true, the coordinators have to go through a time-consuming paperwork which usually takes at least a year of preparation. But programs of this kind allow the Armenian students’ mobility with scholarships in the European Universities. Since 2015, Venice Ca’Foscari University has had a very successful exchange program with Yerevan State University. In Venice, we have already hosted 22 students for a semester and 4 professors from Armenia.

On the path of seeking a solution, the authors are individuating two parties: Armenia and the Diaspora. To my mind, without going through the definition of the diaspora – much has been written about it – we have to distinguish within the Diaspora at least two macro groups: post-Genocide diaspora and post-Soviet diaspora. In establishing a national agenda, a crucial role of moderator can be held by the post-Soviet Armenian diaspora as it has an in-between position between the Republic of Armenia and the post-Genocide diaspora. It derives from the first and is still firmly linked to it with the umbilical cord. On the other hand, it is transplanted and re-located within the second and tries to find its place within it. The newly formed Armenian diaspora consists of first- or second-generation emigrants and is in a position which can be compared to what the Indian American philosopher Homi Bhabha defines as Third Space, a place located somewhere between home and host countries, a space where you begin to be in contact with the new culture and to understand it but where your cultural diversity is not suppressed yet by the local culture and traditions.

From a linguistic point of view the book is written in a clear way. If the authors’ intention was to be understood also by the general public, they have succeeded in their task. If published, the Armenian text needs some stylistic revisions and there are some inconsistencies between Armenian and English texts.

In order to finish with an optimistic tone, I’d like to remind us about the Fori Imperiali of Rome, where one can see the maps of the Empire (II cen.) under Emperor Trajan. In contrast to its neighbors present on the map (such as Assyria, Cappadocia, etc.), the only country which both exists in the world with the same denomination and as an independent country, is Armenia. This is obliging but also encouraging to go ahead.

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Harutyun Marutyan
Harutyun Marutyan
Social/cultural anthropologist, Ph.D. in History, Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Foundation, Head Researcher of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia
Great work has been done by the authors, considerable efforts have been made to understand and re-interpret the Armenian past and present. It is appreciated, that a thorough analysis of the millennial path of Armenia and Armenians is being carried out in order to understand our today.

Once, Mr. Vardanyan and his colleagues introduced the project “Armenia 2020.” I listened to its clauses personally, if I am not mistaken at one of the conferences “Armenia – Diaspora”. It would be desirable to look at the previous one when outlining this new analysis, reveal the reasons for its implementation or failure, as well as the lessons learned. To what extent do the solutions proposed in such analyses become a guide, how much are they connected with reality? Yes, on the pages of the discussion paper it’s somewhat spoken about, but there is no answer to the questions mentioned above.

Below, I will try to evaluate only a few ideas and formulations that are most directly related to my profession.

Pg. 56. Not only Armenians, but also many other peoples and countries of the world are in the status of “a pawn in the geopolitical games of the great powers”. It is an objective reality. Its clear understanding, if it exists, should not be presented or introduced as a great tragedy. It is the reality of our times for many people, including Armenians. 

Yes, among Armenians there does exist a perception of being a victim of genocide. But that perception has undergone radical changes over the past century. It is the same for any other peoples: memory is not a static phenomenon; it is constantly changing. The situation is the same for the Jews. In our case those changes are relatively slow, but they exist. The acceleration tools are well-known, there should simply be state comprehension of using them, and steps should be taken in this direction. Moreover, it is necessary to clearly distinguish between the perception levels of the “victim of genocide” and the forms of its manifestation in Armenia and beyond, including in different communities of Diaspora.

I do not share the view that “we have nothing to offer and nothing to share, but our pain.” We have, and it’s quite a lot. And we do offer and share. Not always directed, but the process does exist. We can suggest foreign delegations to visit not only the Genocide Memorial, but also the Sardarapat Memorial or “Mother Armenia” Military Museum (its exhibition, of course, needs a change) and the Victory Park.

I do not agree with the definition that “seeing ourselves as victims, we let our destiny slip through our fingers and allowed others to determine our fate”. Peoples and states that have seen genocide at different times and in different ways try to use that fact to make important political, economic and civilizational decisions for them. And there is only a healthy approach to it. It is the question of how successfully or by what formulations the Armenian proposals are made. There are many questions to discuss in this regard – and concretely with professional circles.

Pg. 58: “(after 1991) for the first time in our history we have started living in a monoethnic country. Armenians were always a part of great empires and, as we have already mentioned, even at the time of Tigran the Great, Armenians accounted for only a fraction of the population of Greater Armenia”.

Here there are some inaccuracies: over the past 2,500 years, for almost 1,200 years the Armenians had state-formations: Yervandunis, Artaxiads, Arshakunis, Bagratunis, Rubenids, Hethumids, First and Third Republics. There were semi-independent governments and territories. I would say the opposite; where and whenever there was a small opportunity, the Armenians created a state or principality. I would say that the Armenians are a state-forming nation. At least, one thing is clear: they haven’t always been “part of great empires.” 

About the ethnic composition. It depends on what we understand under the term of “monoethnicity”. It is one thing if Japan is monoethnic - 99%, it’s another if we understand monoethnicity of 85–90%. I would recommend the authors to examine more closely the “National Atlas of Armenia”. Also, think about the causes of this phenomenon and not just write down the current situation in the different periods. And it seems that today’s European or American states do not consider it a tragedy to be multiethnic.

Yes, in the times of Tigran the Great, the empire was not monoethnic, which is typical of any empire. But the Greater Armenia, as far as we know from the history (according to Strabo), was pretty monoethnic.

Pg. 58: “How do we shed the self-perception of a victim nation? How can post-Soviet Armenians and members of isolated diasporan groups that are being gradually assimilated be brought closer together?”. I have also tried to answer these questions and have offered some solutions in my research papers and articles. In this regard, I do not particularly welcome the fact that the authors do not refer to the works of Armenian authors, which I consider as a big omission. 

Pg. 59: “We have gone through several stages in our perception of the Genocide and in our attitudes toward this tragedy. Now, one hundred years later, we realize that while the memory of the Genocide remains a most important linking element in the Armenian world, we cannot draw the strength and energy from it that will necessarily secure the unification and prosperity of the fragmented nation in the 21st century.”

I absolutely disagree with this opinion. On the contrary, I think that “for any ethnic or national community the memory of a past rich in challenges and adversities is not a burden to be cast aside at will, but rather an asset to be cherished.” (Harutyun Marutyan, “Iconography of Armenian Identity, Volume 1. The Memory of Genocide and Karabakh Movement”, Yerevan, “Gitutyun”, 2009, pg. 1). The Jews, well-known to the authors, think in the same way, or most of them, both in Israel and abroad. You just have to be able to see the vital force, especially the humanistic values in the memory of the Genocide, to raise them, to clean the centenary dust, to polish and to present to the people in a new, fresh form. This requires not a superficial political approach, but specialized research work. I, at least, think in this direction and try to take certain steps within my limits.

The “Evolution of attitudes toward the Genocide” passage, starting at the same page, contains exaggerated information. From the beginning, operation Nemesis was to eliminate at least 41 criminals (there was also a bigger list), but later only 9 were executed (Jemal and Enver’s murders were not the part of Nemesis). 

Pg. 62: “The young want to see themselves not as victims but as a victorious nation with a heroic past.” I agree with it and have suggestions for its implementation that have been published long ago.

Pg. 99: About the role of the Armenian language: I have publications with definite suggestions.

Pages 163-166, about the “Aurora Humanitarian Initiative”: I think there are other factors besides positive emotions, too. I mean the fact that “Aurora Humanitarian Initiative” is directed only to the outside world. When looking from the side, an impression can be made that the poor Armenians have been saved only by the foreigners, that the Armenians were so vulnerable that they did not take any steps to save themselves. However, that’s not the case at all. The Armenians were firstly saved by Armenians. It is necessary to remember and appreciate 100 years later to the Armenian families, Armenian women, Armenian orphans, Armenian benefactors, orphanage staff, Armenian schools and teachers, Genocide researchers, archives, periodicals that covered the Genocide, journalists, photographers, writers, cinematographers, ordinary and volunteer soldiers, self-defenders, and so on. It is this kind of steps that would raise the Armenian dignity, pride, solidarity and confidence in the future. Unfortunately, it was not understood.

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Hasmik Manukyan 
Hasmik Manukyan 
Head of Pan-Armenian programs department, Office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora affairs of the Prime Minister’s Office of the Republic of Armenia 
The authors of “At the Crossroads” open a public discussion on some crucial issues concerning the future of Armenia and Armenians.

The questions raised by the discussion are of vital importance to all Armenians; especially the following ones: 

- How to determine nationality today, of what elements does it consist? 
- Is there an idea of the “Armenian world”, and if so, what is the meaning of that idea? 
- What is a “networked nation” in the 21st century (as per authors description of the Armenians’ possible way of existence)? 
- How to make Armenia a center for the interests of the “global” nation? 
- How to turn Armenia into a prosperous country? 
- How do we want to see Armenia and the Armenian nation in the modern world?  
 
The attempt to call for such a public discussion itself is very welcoming.  
 
In this respect, the content of the book was conventionally divided into two parts: undoubtedly acceptable and textbook truths  (which, unfortunately, are not yet an element of the everyday thinking of an Armenian), and disputable claims. 

If the notion of “Armenian collective mind” exists, then the development of the proposed discourse and the participation of as many people as possible will guide the development of that collective thought and its implementation. 

This process is also a welcome experience in the formation of civil society and a civic initiative to influence the decisions of government officials. And if "the truth is born in disputes", then the public debate over the book may also give birth to the truths that concern us Armenians. 

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Vladimir Shakhijanyan 
Vladimir Shakhijanyan 
Psychologist, journalist, teacher, CEO of ErgoSolo 
The paper has turned out. It is smart, businesslike, accurate, with a lot of factual material. Sometimes, though, it seems that you are reading a doctoral dissertation, but a brilliant one. 

I did not like the title “At the Crossroads. Decision Time” (one of the initial options for the title – editor note). The paper speaks a lot about the crossroad, and this topic continues throughout the manuscript. But people have established associations: the crossroad is the road police, cities, cars, traffic lights. Rather, you are speaking about an intersection. Any time is decision time. You, the authors, as I understood it, meant the time of accomplishments, the time to act. 

The meaning of the discussion paper is to correctly use the chance that life gives. A human being is an opportunity, I read this in the subtext. And Armenia is getting the opportunity to become an independent state. How to dispose of it and how to use it? I wanted something like this also in the title: opportunity, chance, accomplishments, time for accomplishments, etc. 

After having read the book, when turning the last page, one thinks: “Maybe this is the book of the future president and future leader of the Council of Ministers? Maybe it is Ruben Vardanyan and Nune Alekyan who can lead Armenia to be ranked among the advanced countries?”. 

An association... Probably, it is out of place, but it came out, I can’t do anything with myself. I hate the saying “if you are so smart, why are you so poor.” I know a lot of poor people who are very smart and educated. Not to mention the classics: Mozart was poor, Dostoevsky, Pushkin suffered from the lack of money, Parajanov had no money, Leonid Yengibarov was seeking money for food, and I can continue this list ad infinitum. This refers not only to people, but often to countries. A rich country is not always the best country where people are being taken care of and developed. 

When I read about Singapore, for some reason I thought about the meaning of life. Many Armenians saw the meaning of life in improving themselves and those around them. Not only it is about money or a good life, but about improving oneself, about moral improvement. 

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Boris Voskanov 
Boris Voskanov 
Deputy Chief Architect, Acronis 
What pleasantly surprised me when reading the paper was its consistency: the story moves from historical background to possible paths of development. It was pleasant and interesting to read. 

Several times during the reading I caught myself thinking: “Wait, wait, but how..?” – and literally on the following pages I found a mention or an answer. This was the case with the questions about singularity, the development of healthcare direction, the cultural acceptance of people of other views, and a few others. 
 
It is also surprising how detailed the authors describe the relationship and thoughts of several generations of the residents of Armenia and diaspora Armenians. It is about both the association of oneself with the diaspora, and about the difficulties of self-identification, the “belonging to two countries” and about many other things. 
 
After reading, a beautiful image of Armenia’s future is formed in mind, towards which the country is gradually moving. There are many initiatives that have been in place for several years now, and there is a strong impression that this is not a theory; a lot has been done. 
But how do you control that in your plans you did not extract from reality? I realize that with measurable/financial indicators, this is easy to do. But after all, much of the plans require cultural changes. How to make sure that after studying in TUMO or United World College Dilijan, the kid will not return home and will not try on the usual pattern of behavior? 
 
In one of the chapters, you briefly mention the issue of technological singularity. But if we consider the fact that the technological singularity may occur in the next 50–100 years, is is absolutely game-changing. This is the “black swan” that will completely transform the principles of human existence as a species, will change the culture. It may sound provocative, but don’t you think that in this context, the issues of self-identification, development and the path of one nation are private questions? 

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Tigran Khzmalyan 
Tigran Khzmalyan 
Co-Chairman, European Party of Armenia 
An Armenian Trap 
(Several observations about the discussion paper “At the Crossroads”)
The subject under study, as well as the format of the discussion led to several conclusions that I would like to share with the authors and readers. 

I’ll start with the latter. One of the most ancient problems of literature, whether religious, historical, scientific, or entertaining, is the selection of the reader: a follower, researcher, or a client. The peculiarity of the text being commented on is that it, in the person of its authors (and due to the openness of the format, it includes both readers and commentators), is at the same time the material, the potential creator of the discourse, the client, and the sought-for performer of the task. Meantime, it is necessary to demonstrate intellectual courage to overcome false political correctness and directly name the target audience of this text – it is the Armenian national elite: something that exists only by Kantian definition as a “thing in itself”, which is intended, necessary and is still to become “a thing for Others ", that is, to fulfill its mission and become itself.  

I will repeat the observation made when discussing the text on July 6, 2019 in the Matenadaran. It seems completely natural that both the founders of this project, Ruben Vardanyan and Noubar Afeyan, are prominent representatives of foreign elites (and precisely from two superpowers, Russia and the United States) who made an existential decision to transform into carriers and generators of new and genuine Armenian elite. In this context, it is needless to remind that the political, economic, military, and intellectual leaders who were governing Armenia in the last quarter of a century (as well as in the three quarters before that) were not at all a national elite. Moreover, they made considerable efforts to deform and eliminate positive mechanisms of the public selection of a genuine national elite. (I will allow myself to put my own non-academic definition of the described social institution in parentheses as a group of people whose personal interests and ambitions coincide with the state ones, and do not replace them, as it happened in Armenia.) 

The reason for this deplorable phenomenon is also not a state secret – it is that the power stratum was, and to a large extent still remains, the product and carrier of the ideology of the colonial dependence of Armenia on Russia in its tsarist, Soviet or present incarnation. Accordingly, the hostility and intolerance of this old “colonial elite” to the manifestations and needs of a genuinely national ideology (political, military, economic, linguistic) and its natural carrier – Armenian statehood – was, and remains, the inevitable consequence of its passive conformism, active collaborationism, and the instinct of self-defense and the mechanism of self-preservation accompanying them due to the destruction and/or repression of the true national elite. It is clear that the emergence of the latter is most conducive to the military-political crises of the metropolis. Thus, it is no coincidence that both attempts to restore Armenian independent statehood in 1917 and 1991 were the result of the collapse, first, of the Russian Empire, then the USSR. There is no reason to doubt that the third attempt to recreate sovereign Armenia will be associated with the current weakening and international isolation of Putin’s Russia. Therefore, the efforts of individual members of the national elite are especially important and valuable (especially since they emphasize their status not ABB, Armenian by birth, but ABC, Armenian by choice) to develop a national rescue program, to find ways of developing and preserving the statehood of the country in advance, before the onset of a critical situation of decay, as it happened in the previous cases. 

And here, after the forced digressions, let’s turn to the thesis of the “Armenian trap”, of which I would like to warn the respected colleagues and like-minded people. In this context, we call with such an incongruous term the mutual alienation of the nation from its elite periodically repeated in our history and the difficulty of their consolidation, which is not, of course, exclusively an Armenian phenomenon, but in our case it has an extremely dramatic character with tragic consequences. I’ll try to explain my vision of the causes of this phenomenon. As it often happens, the disadvantages are a continuation of the virtues brought to the extreme. The recognized characteristics of the Armenian ethnos from ancient times were its high adaptability to the surrounding socio-political environment and a tendency toward modernization – cultural and economic innovation reforms. 
In their extreme manifestations, these features, as we know, turned into mass assimilation in a foreign environment and a high degree of internal stratification of the Armenian society according to property, confessional, party and other differences. In principle, this is by no means an “exclusively Armenian” either, but if we compare our case with historically and geographically close and familiar examples: Jews and Georgians, it is the crisis of the national elite that can explain the phenomenon that we conditionally called “An Armenian Trap”. Like the Jews and unlike the Georgians, Armenians relatively early renounced feudalism and, by advancing urbanization of a significant part of the ethnos, moved to the bourgeois stage of national existence in the face of the loss of their own statehood. At the same time, the Armenians achieved outstanding success in the adaptive development of national diasporas and the rooting of trade and craft communities and industrial and financial capital in Constantinople and Moscow, Tbilisi and Baku, Kolkata and Julfa, Tabriz and Isfahan. The “trap” was set up in the Middle Ages and slammed shut in the early twentieth century, in a period of global crisis and the collapse of empires, world wars and genocide. Why, then, did not the adaptive merits and major economic successes of the Armenian communities and individuals been protected and accompanied by political and social mechanisms of the nation’s self-preservation in an environment that suddenly became hostile? The answer is harsh and simple: the reason is the weakness or lack of the only effective tool for self-defense – the Armenian national elite, which either switched to the side of the metropolis and the conquerors, or did not find the strength in itself to organize resistance. In both cases, we are dealing with the tragic discrepancy of the political, economic, military, religious, intellectual elite to its social purpose and spiritual mission – to be a leader, guideline, criterion and advocate for the nation in conditions of crises and disasters. 

Let us again turn to the comparison with the Georgian and Jewish experience, for by their examples one can trace the formation of two successful models for the creation and functioning of national elites. Our neighbors from the north used the unexpected advantage of having the remaining provincial quasi-aristocracy – seemingly an anachronistic relic of feudalism, an institution of property of small landowners – the independent princes and rural landowners. In the emerging vacuum of the collapse of the Russian empire, it was this stratum of educated aristocrats with a pronounced estate psychology and a sense of hereditary continuity that became the basis for the re-establishment of Georgian statehood. In a less operetta form, the same mechanism of responsibility of the elite for the fate of the country turned on in the late twentieth century, with the collapse of the USSR. The rootedness of the Georgian elite in their own land, often backed by and recognized by property rights continues to be an important anti-crisis potential at the present stage of Georgia’s development. 

Quite different are the mechanisms of the existence of the Jewish elite up until the creation of the state of Israel and even presently. Probably, the social institution of the rabbinate should be recognized as the main driving force of this process. The flexible network structure of the spiritual authorities of the nation, united by a strong tradition of confessional isolation, a sense of chosenness and a messianic orientation, created a completely unique structure of the national elite, permeating absolutely all strata of Jewish society: financial and industrial, scientific and literary, craft and agricultural communities. The rabbis had access and influence practically on all the classes of Jewry, and thanks to this intra-ethnic solidarity, and also because of the disastrous experience of the Holocaust, which cut off all other possibilities of survival, after World War II it was the national elite mobilized by religious rabbi teachers that became the strongest party and guarantor of the existence of the state of Israel. 

So, in the case of Georgia, we see an example of the re-establishment of statehood by the efforts and authority of the elite, formalized in part as an anachronistic feudal class – a remarkable experience, familiar to the world from the example of post-war Japan. 

In the case of Israel, we find another example of the creation of a state according to the project of the national elite, that was actualized by the spiritual authority of the rabbis and the national enthusiasm. 
In all the above examples, the elite began with the fundamental rejection of the advantages and benefits of comfortable conformism of the former metropolises for the sake of the political independence of the national state. It was the personal example and public service of the leaders that made the elite a moral authority and model for the nation. However, in all cases, the elites were created by the transition of spiritual, military, intellectual or economic leaders of society to the field of political resistance towards the colonial metropolis. It is this necessary and inevitable choice that the Armenian elite must make now, obliged to get out of the usual matrix of old imperial temptations and privileges and pass through the desert of anxieties and threats to the promised land of national independence. This path was shown by the authors of the book and the project, the outstanding representatives of the Russian and American business elites Nune Alekyan, Ruben Vardanyan and Noubar Afeyan. It remains that they themselves and their supporters in the business, political, and intellectual elites choose this path. There is no other way, all the rest is slyness, lies or illusions, which we have called the “Armenian trap”. 

In the case of Armenia, a way out is a breakup with imperial Russia, a way out of the Eurasian military-economic chains and entry into the European security system and the economic integration – into the EU and NATO. The European Party of Armenia is our political proposal for the national elite, choosing the path to the family of civilized countries, i.e. the ways of Armenia to Europe. The choice of Armenia, which is now at the crossroads or in dilemma – this is precisely how the name of this paper can be translated in a double-natured way.

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Dr. Ingrid Hamm
Dr. Ingrid Hamm
Ingrid Hamm Consultants GmbH, Germany
Let me share some thoughts I developed while reading “At the Crossroads”. I carefully read through the chapters 3–5 to grasp the most of your concept of developing Armenia and flipped through the first two chapters. Indeed, I learned a lot and would like to congratulate the authors for their thoughtful analyses and smart blueprint of a promising future for Armenians. 

I especially like the idea of Armenia becoming a hub and a global network nation. The discussion of possible models for this development in the book, namely those of Singapore, South Korea, and in some specific aspects dealing with persecution and modern-day diaspora also Israel, is very enlightening. 

Especially productive and fruitful scenarios and roadmaps appeared in the paper when the preconditions brought about by the situation in Armenia, its history and people are considered and later combined with the demands of the trends in global change. This holistic approach is unique, and I would like other authors to join you in dealing with their countries and nations in the same rigorous, analytical way, driven by the vision of change for a better future. 

I would like to especially underline the idea of talentism as the capital of the future, and as the concept of an inclusive ecosystem when developing the economy, but also the nation. The crucial insight to consider is that only an investment and not a transfer of alimentation leads to development. However, in the meantime, sustainable innovative investments need time to evolve. 

I do realize that the authors build on the diaspora as the driving force in developing Armenia and that this diaspora is the main target group of the discussion paper.

I hope the book will become a cornerstone for a worldwide discussion among Armenians around the world on why and how they will contribute to the development that clearly has to be led by the private sector and followed by the political partners when innovation and creativity are needed the most. 

Nevertheless, besides the core target group, “At the Crossroads” could become a precious document of what we should discuss when thinking of development in a globalized world, where cities may take the role of national governments and where we all have to constantly act globally and locally at the same time. 

I am a true admirer of the paper. Yet, there are two aspects the authors should keep in mind and include in the holistic picture in the future. One aspect is the question of how to create and sustain the needed political will, since all the mentioned models of Singapore, South Korea, Israel had been created and led by leaders with a real political will. 

The other aspect is peace. In the long run, a nation needs peace to flourish. Even the leaders of both Koreas are thinking of reconciliation and Singapore managed to get along with Malaysia. The Israeli situation is apparently different. In my opinion, the idea of becoming a hub requires sustainable peace in Armenia.  

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Dr. Hayk Kotanjyan 
Dr. Hayk Kotanjyan 
Professor of Political Science, Retired Lieutenant General, Founder of the National Defense Research University of the Ministry of Defense of Armenia, Full Member of the Academy of Military Sciences of Russia, Honorary President of the Political Science Association of Armenia 
I read the paper with great interest and even re-read its initial chapters, presenting the views of the authors on the dynamics of the life activity of the Armenians until the end of the 19th and in the 20th centuries. In my opinion, it will be extremely valuable to convey this information to the young generation both in Armenia, and in the diaspora, facing the challenges of globalization and the possibilities of preserving national identity.

The advantage of the text is that, despite the consideration of the distant and relatively close past, its narrativity does not disturb – it is an attempt to understand the approaches to the modern problems of the Armenians through interdisciplinarity and consistency. 
 
In the third chapter, the authors were able to convincingly substantiate the reality of the threats that stand indeed before the Armenian people: the depopulation of Armenia; the loss of national statehood; the disappearance of our nation as a result of assimilation.  
 
The reason for this all is seen in the extractivity of the model of the power structure and the absence of programs to promote an inclusive-institutional reorganization of the state and society as a whole, based on the systemic dissemination of real democracy. It is an extremely important thesis that if the extractivity of the institutions of power is prolonged under any banner, the country will remain an object of international politics, deprived of grounds for the reciprocal development of the national state and the diaspora.  
 
The best example here, in my opinion, is an effective dynamic system of reciprocal development of the State of Israel on the land of Zion and the diaspora on the scale of world Jewry, which I can judge based on the results of my six official trips to Israel. In this regard, it is important to take into account the specifics of the Israeli Knesset as a scrupulously modified model of the main fruit of the British Glorious Revolution – the parliament – carefully adapted to the strategic interests of the inclusive development and security of the State of Israel and society as a whole. 
 
A good supporting illustration of the ineffectiveness of the change of power while preserving the extractive nature of its model is the international plot about a hero transformed into a dragon, which he defeated. The wisdom of the parable and the fundamental importance of your conclusion is in the victory over the dragon in oneself. 
 
I believe, it is advisable in the text to turn to a real assessment of the program focus of the declared transit of power in Armenia from the point of view of the guaranteed overcoming of the reproduction of the extractive system and the exclusion of the manipulative use of network mobilization of the masses to impose a modified extractivity of the new authorities on them. 
 
Summing up, I would like to say that this is a wonderful work, orienting the best sons and daughters of Armenians to a professionally responsible comprehension of the future of our nation with a clearer strategy of inclusive management of the Armenian state and society, development of program-targeted anchor projects that unite the Armenian people in all of its diaspora-sub-ethnic, geostratic, economic and network diversity for the breakthrough development and security in the face of the ruthless challenges and great opportunities offered by here and now to our national state and the diaspora. 

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Ruben Arutyunyan
Ruben Arutyunyan
CEO, Henderson Russia
Many Armenians all over the world are worried about the prospects of Armenia, and in the foreseeable future want it to become a country that is an important factor in the international arena and its residents to start to live in a fair and prosperous society with clear and equal rules of the game.

I am assured that the publication of the book “At the Crossroads” can help attract the attention of Armenians in different countries to the issues of finding ways for the future arrangement and development of Armenia, its interaction with the Diaspora and other countries.

Since the paper was publicized after the change of power in Armenia, it makes sense to add a chapter or a short preface or afterword, where the authors’ expectations from the new government can be expressed, without any assessments. 

In the discussion paper, there are no direct references to the importance of creating a feedback mechanism between citizens of the country and the first person of the state (the ruling party), with the obligation for the first person to respond to any requests from citizens in a written form within a reasonable timeframe (e.g. in France it ranges from a week to four weeks depending on the complexity and importance of the appeal). I believe it would give an opportunity to keep abreast of the residents of the country in real-time: to understand what they are most concerned about, and, most importantly, to promptly propose solutions to problems strictly in accordance with the laws and mechanisms of the Republic of Armenia – and therefore improve the system of the state administration by identifying the bugs. Naturally, this is not about anonymous feedback, but about open and transparent communications.

Israel is described as a metropole in this paper, but at the same time the country creates many innovative products for the whole world. I would suggest revealing a little more the path of creation and development of modern-day Israel: what exactly led to the fact that the country developed so quickly and efficiently, given that, like Armenia, it is located not in the friendliest environment, and also that in the early 90s we had a similar demographic situation with Israel.
I propose, if possible, to write more about the development models of our neighbors Georgia and Azerbaijan, who for seventy years lived with us in the same country. What did they do well, what didn’t work out, what development path have they taken?

The issue of creating a new, effective and trustworthy system for monitoring water and food quality standards is crucial for the future of the country, all the citizens, and no less important for the tourists visiting the country. Perhaps, the best way to do this is to make the system transparent and open. It will surely require significant investment and quality management, and the best solution could be to create a company in the form of a public-private partnership. So, if there is high-quality water and food combined with favorable natural conditions and the right communication strategy, Armenia can become one of the world leaders in the field of ecotourism.

It is mentioned in the paper that there is a low productivity in our agriculture. However, there are serious studies based on statistics that indicate that per one hectare in Armenia we produce more than in Georgia, Azerbaijan and even Russia. This point should be clarified.

The paper has the following thesis: the basis of corruption erodes if “improving the legal and statutory frameworks that regulate the functioning of the state apparatus, enhancing its transparency, and establishing an institutional framework for interactions between civil servants and the public.” I would add here the possibility of a decent reward. If we talk about the young officials, then in principle they are ready to work for a small fee and gain experience. However, if we are to attract strong and experienced professionals to the state administration, then adequate wages and high standard of living need to be ensured for them. Georgia serves as a vivid example, where corruption is absent in many areas, and the officials value their positions greatly and are not willing to take risks, since they will lose not only high-paying jobs, but also a generous social package.

There is such a thesis in the work: “The Armenian citizens still see the state not as a shared home but as an institution of oppression, and the ability to cheat officials is still regarded as a virtue and proof of gumption.” Perhaps it makes sense to reveal the reasons. For centuries, Armenians did not have statehood. For economic reasons or due to pressure and violence from the authorities, they had to leave their countries of residence. Accordingly, the feelings of responsibility for own country, Homeland were not nurtured either, and, as a result, the Armenians were not eager to fill the budget of those countries.

The paper emphasizes the importance of preserving the language. The creation of a working structure responsible for the preservation and development of the Armenian language would contribute to this: now, unfortunately, such a function is practically not being performed by anyone. Here again the format of a public-private partnership would fit.

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Yaroslav Glazunov
Yaroslav Glazunov
Expert on the performance of CEOs and Boards of Directors, Head of Spencer Stuart, Russia 
This is an excellent analysis. What struck me the most was that despite the influence of the four civilizations with different religious, cultural, political views, by leaning on the genuinely traditional values, the Armenian people was able to not only preserve its national identity, but also to successfully assimilate in the different countries of the world thanks to the range of broad thinking, the competitiveness and its innate ability to maintain negotiations. 

I am impressed with the approach “Think to connect! Think to create! Think to act!” and the proposal to use the existing competitive advantage of the fact that the Armenian nation is global and mobile. One cannot help admiring a nation with so much zeal for life and love for its homeland. 

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Ani Karamyan
Ani Karamyan
IT Manager, Boston Consulting Group
“Crossroads” has never made it to my bookshelf. I’ve been sharing it with some interesting minds, as well as have been referring to it when I have a storm of questions after hearing about another new development in our homeland.

I wanted to say again that it is the first attempt that I have seen at such a comprehensive overview of us as a nation and at the most honest search of our truth, purpose and path forward. I particularly appreciated that it is neither excessively self- applauding nor self-loathing, and without pompous toasts that we are all so tired of. 
 
Since reading it, I’ve been looking at the Armenian life around me, or visible to me in one form or another, through the network recreation lens. I think this is an important mindset shift and I hope it will be a contagious one. 

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Eduard Nagdalyan
Eduard Nagdalyan
Editor-in-Chief, “Business Express” weekly, Yerevan 
The special merit of this work is the discussion of the project of Armenia’s future. The fact is that in the Armenian society, unfortunately, there is no discussion at all about the desired future. The Armenian people are mostly focused on the past – on the heroes of the past, on the former greatness, on the historical lands, on the historical memory, on their own uniqueness, etc.

In the meantime, a huge layer of mythology has been created, in which we endlessly boil, we argue, we all the time prove something to someone, present historical arguments, take offense when the world thinks differently and does not agree with our truth. That phantom pain and phantom anxieties greatly hinder the formation of the vision of the future, the desired future of Armenia. It makes everything even worse, when sometimes it seems that the Armenians aren’t interested in the future at all. We are the main champions of the historical justice on Earth. At the same time note: historical justice does not exist. But this “small” circumstance does not diminish our enthusiasm... I compare Armenia with the driver of the car, who constantly looks in the rearview mirror. You won’t go far that way. Thus, the emergence of any works and any attempts aimed at reorienting the public attention of the Armenians, the expert community to the future, to the scenarios of the desired future, is extremely important. 

Based on the above mentioned, I do not consider it appropriate to have a large historical excursion made in this paper, especially since the public does not perceive Ruben Vardanyan as a historian. In addition, there is a concern that the army of historians and pseudo-historians will join and again turn their attention to the discussion of the past, burying the essence of the book. 

The authors’ thesis about the individualism of the Armenians, which interferes with internal compromise, is a key characteristic that is still relevant. It is for this reason that the Armenians have always been successful at the individual level and always failed at the state, corporate level – up to our days. In my opinion, it is the ineffectiveness of the struggle of Armenians for sovereignty, the lack of interest in genuine sovereignty that explain the long absence of statehood among Armenians, as well as the current state of the Armenian statehood.  

The five stages that characterize the evolution of attitudes towards Genocide are set out most correctly and objectively. The section on the evolution of the attitude of the diaspora Armenians towards Armenia, about the diaspora’s fading interest in Armenia is very well written. Absolutely precise. But I would suggest strengthening the relevance of this chapter by adding a section on the responsibility of the Diaspora elite for non-interference in the process of degradation of Armenia. It is especially about the responsibility of the elite, who could not but understand what was happening with the country, how it was being robbed and raped. Could the world elite of the Armenian diaspora, possessing colossal financial and administrative resources, stop the process of degradation of the Armenian state? Definitely could. But did not. Alas, the Armenian statehood turned out to be less important for the Diaspora elite than the recognition of the Genocide.

Therefore, I am skeptical about the statement that “for seven centuries Armenians lived with the dream of Ankakh Hayastan (Independent Armenia)”. The reality proves the opposite. It is worth thinking over and analyzing. 

The scenarios of Armenia’s development listed in the paper strangely for me ignore the existence of the Karabakh conflict. Moreover, in the Singapore scenario, the transformation of Armenia into a “regional economic center” is considered. I also remember the plans to turn Armenia into a regional financial, medical and other centers. Alas, these are all illusions. Especially in the case of the financial center. A country that has a military conflict with a neighbor, cannot be a financial center by definition. This is nonsense. Thus, the word “regional” is not about Armenia. 

I fully agree with the authors that the ideal model of the desired future is the hub: the prosperous Armenia as the Diaspora’s place of power and a network nation relying on digital technologies to overcome disunity and preserve its identity. Thus, the authors have formulated a goal to strive to by way of laying brick after brick. But I consider it extremely important that the progress towards this desired future is based on the principles of realpolitik, on the attitude towards politics as an art of the possible, and not the desired one. This is an important condition for the success of a country project. Definitely, the hub model cannot be implemented in the ideology of the besieged fortress. Otherwise, it can be implemented in a truncated form, when Russia continues to cover our security, and we accept all the risks emanating from it. 

The “periphery state” model has already been firmly established in Armenia, and a full-fledged transfer of Armenia to another model is impossible without eliminating the reasons why this model has taken root. New approaches, new policies and non-limited mindset are required for success. 

In general, I believe that the collective responsibility of the authorities of Armenia and the elite of the diaspora for the country success through the development of specific institutional forms of this interaction is a necessary condition for bringing the country out of the crisis. 

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Simon Hasserjian
Simon Hasserjian
BASc, P.Eng, P.Mgr., General Manager, Rex Power Magnetics
1. The discussion paper is well written with clearly articulated ideas. However, because it is not concise it may discourage some individuals to follow through and make the effort necessary to fully appreciate the presented concepts. 

2. The idea of Anchor projects is well explained and the “Datev” project is an excellent example to explain the concept of transformative projects that have a vision and community impact far beyond the project. 

3. Some of the other concepts are not as clear, such as Platforms of Cooperation, Impact Investment etc. (examples of existing or envisioned projects may help). 

4. The vison for the future is well articulated but the concept of Global Network Nation needs more discussion to be convincing as a realistic future. Arguments need to be developed that can convincingly demonstrate that the divide between various Diaspora communities can be bridged. 

5. The diversity of the Diaspora is examined, however, the very significant development in the last 25 years is that two distinct Diaspora communities have developed in Europe vs. US and Canada. These two distinct communities are significantly different in nature and are experiencing difficulties to integrate to form a single community and become a cohesive and effective Diaspora Force. 

The first of these two communities was formed by Armenians emigrating from the Middle East while the second group includes Armenians settling in the West from Armenia in the last couple of decades. My experience in North America is that the two Diaspora communities formed by these two distinct groups have difficulties in integrating.  

Examining the differences and formulating solutions to the problem of the “two solitudes” may be an essential factor in mobilizing the Diaspora in the West to the common cause of securing Armenia’s future which is the main subject of “At the Crossroads”.  

6. The arguments presented to prefer the adoption of the Hub state model over the “capsule” or “peripheral state” model are well developed and convincing. The example of United World College Dilijan is a very good example that explains the concept. 

7. The paper emphasizes the importance of economic and social well-being as two important aspects for a secure future. This is a valid argument that should not overshadow the importance of Armenia correctly reading the trends and developments in our neighborhood and aligning our diplomatic efforts to intelligently execute a strategic political orientation within the competing East – West geopolitical interests that are determined to change the realities (and borders) in our region.  

8. Are we to consider Islamised Armenians within the borders of Turkey another component of a Diaspora that may play a role in the future security of our country? 

9. Last but not least, in our quest to educate and enlighten our population, the advancement of human rights, women’s rights, promoting gender equality, LGBT rights etc. are significant issues that need to be addressed.

We must recognize that a significant portion of our population is neither adequately represented nor participating in the efforts of advancing our goals. When designing projects, inclusiveness of gender must always be under consideration. As a small nation we must promote and insure the participation of all members of our society. 

In conclusion, please allow me to congratulate you and your team for preparing this thought-provoking discussion paper, which to my knowledge is a first in its kind, it is a very good honest discussion of the serious challenges facing our nation and an excellent attempting to formulate a way forward.  

I wish you success, your success will be our collective success. 

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Hakob Mkhitaryan
Hakob Mkhitaryan
Entrepreneur
This work is a symbiosis of history and risk management, but to a lesser extent – of proposals for collaboration aimed at reaching goals according to a certain plan. The paper is certainly very important and has every chance to serve as an offset for the formation of efforts. But it is precisely by this reason it seems to be more oriented towards scientific and analytical thinkers. However, this is what brings about appreciation and respect on the one hand, but also regret, anxiety and negative expectations on the other. I will not say futile, but concretely negative, because nothing is in vain. It just seems important to me that the goals are being achieved. Otherwise, it is likely to face opposition or the substitution of the setup.

The focus of the paper is to cause disputes and discussions within the diaspora, to call for development along a specific path, to foster and strengthen social responsibility and all that can be characterized as educational and enlightenment work, a preaching mission, a moral and ethical upbringing. Such an orientation is great and cannot be a subject of criticism in itself, unless it goes against the values. And the values indicated in the paper, for me personally do not even bring about any thoughts for dispute. Meantime, it is very correct that the authors show their own projects, so that readers understand, respect, want something similar, copy, follow that path, or simply are proud and happy for their compatriots.

But I’m not at all sure that by the means described in the discussion paper “At the Crossroads”, we will be able to achieve a change in the society, all the more so – a national reinforcement.

It seems to me that a society, even a democratic one, needs to be headed and led. Or, there needs to be determined a reasonable clear trajectory of movement to the light, without risks. By causing disputes, we are raising a wave of various uncontrollable events (reasoning, exchange of opinions, actions, inaction), positive and negative. But as long as the desired is unacceptable for one reason or another for certain economic and political circles inside or outside the country, such discussions will cause complex measures or preventive programs as counteraction. Something disadvantageous for someone was and will be a reason to be afraid of failure, to avoid changes, or simply to put obstacles unreasonably.

For this reason, I would prefer not to engage in mass discussions, but to think over developing a strategy in a narrower circle; create a society of like-minded people, develop a program, protection mechanisms, define actions, write down the functionality and implement it – in general, take the leadership and implement the goal and the dream of many. And to do it in a completely positive and open format.

I believe it is important in this case to rely on the society layer with secondary education and possession of own business. There are many such people, and their life culture is more creative, I think. They are ready to work pragmatically for the benefit of their nation. But they need a platform, system, management, clear and permanent rules of an open operation.

Of course, the basis for the long-term strategy developed as a result should and will be the values described in the paper – the pillars of national identity, invariable realia that do not change with the change of power, persons and circumstances.

Such kind of a strategy, written several decades in advance, will be the foundation for normative changes – the creation of a constitutional control body, the introduction of publicly controlled elections. Further, if there is a special institution that has the sole authority to evaluate the legislative acts for compliance with the national goal. The rest of our authorities and administration will implement their functions and duties in a completely normal mode, preparing the government’s programs for a shorter period of time, with clear, defined tasks for the given timeframe. 

If this isn’t done, we will not get a stability, continuity, we will also not be able to create a long-term system of upbringing and education, consider industrial growth, be ourselves and have a strong statehood. At best, even if the risks described in the paper do not come into reality, we will go with the flow in the most extreme ranks. In other words, if the government, the president, the authorities as a whole do not build their programs and action plans in relation to a very long-term strategy defended by the people, then from time to time we will at best vote and be upset that nothing works out again. In the modern world, to stand still, you need to run. These are not my words, but I would like to add to them that every day the speed of running should increase, sometimes even at times. This is today’s reality. There mustn’t be created a program for 5-6 years for the country, to look for reasons for non-compliance justification at the end of the term, and not for adjustments and changes, continuation and succession of the actions.

To sum up, I would like to express an opinion that it is precisely in the absence of concrete action plans and non-formation of the movement of like-minded people, that lies the ineffectiveness of the current strategy and the previous one, “Armenia-2020”, referred to in the third chapter of the discussion paper. Thus, I repeat: even if the power is now different than what used to be, it is also quite possible to expect direct rash counteraction from it. It is capable of fearing encroachment on its “independence”. And if so, then alas, we will deal with human destructiveness and the absence of an important factor for dialogue – minimal trust in the sincerity and rationality of the opponent.

In conclusion I will say: Thank you so much! It is fascinating – both the reading and thinking process, to which it pushes. I will definitely pass on the work to other people to read.

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Norair Tevanyan
Norair Tevanyan
Chairman, Armenian Community of Moscow
In the discussion paper “At the Crossroads”, the past, present and future of the whole Armenian nation are intertwined together. It is a storehouse of wisdom for the Armenian youth that will serve as an inspiration for the new generations. As far as the prosperous development of the Armenian state is concerned, the authors take responsibility for it. I am not afraid to make a mistake by predicting that this work will cause the most intense interest. 

The paper contains an almost complete chronicle of the Armenian people; it is filled with indisputable facts and moral principles. Ruben Vardanyan and Nune Alekyan have combined history and economics in one work in order to find the best development vector for our country, taking into account the experience of the past. They warn us that one of the worst consequences of the wrong policies of the government and diaspora leaders is the assimilation of our ancient biblical people, which entails irreversible changes to its integrity and its national state. After all, it is precisely thanks to their moral and ethical values that Armenians have survived for centuries, have not assimilated and not lost themselves despite, to put it mildly, the difficult history that they had to go through. 

The very fact of the emergence of such a book makes one wonder how badly our state needs reanimation. Fortunately, it is not too late to direct our history in the correct vector yet. The authors sometimes just marvel with their patriotism and firm confidence. This work can be safely called a guiding star because it is in it that the authors present us their worthy in all respects development path I support. I am sure it will unite the Armenian people to overcome internal and external obstacles and lead Armenia to a bright future. 

From the bottom of my heart, I am thankful to Ruben Vardanyan and Nune Alekyan for the great and so much necessary work they have done. 

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Sergey Sahakyan
Sergey Sahakyan
Advisor to the Director, MosTransProject Research and Design Institute, Russia
I am a typical representative of the “Soviet Armenians”. My dad was born in Georgia, mom – in Ryazan, Central Russia. Despite the fact that I was born and grew up in yet another Russian town, Yaroslavl, there was not a single Armenian peer around me, and I had never been to Armenia in my childhood, for some reason I always considered myself to be Armenian. This, I think, confirms the theory of the genetic connection, and in the discussion paper “At the Crossroads” is rightly referred to as a potential opportunity for the nation.

However, I never felt the need for reunion. This, I believe, is another direction that should be developed: the expansion of culture, faith, language in the major places of concentration of the Armenian diasporans – not by enthusiasts, but as a part of the state policy.

It was very interesting and informative for me to get acquainted with the chapters of historical analysis. Perhaps, for more deeply informed people the facts contained in them will not be something new, but I myself learned a lot. It is very well stated, not always structured, but definitely useful. It may even be worth publishing this part separately for people like me.

As far as the proposed strategy itself is concerned, “At the Crossroads” is a very good work, with clear analytics and calculations, a qualitative comparison with the world analogues. But, as it seems to me, the strategy described in it has few chances for implementation due to the lack of a specific action plan, just as it was with the previous work “Armenia 2020”. Concrete successful examples of the projects implemented in Armenia can hardly become drivers of development. The systems approach needs either a clear sequence of steps at the state level, or a strong leader who will promote this approach.

The questions asked at the end of the paper are no less interesting than the strategy itself, but the key question, perhaps, is how to engage the nation in the discussion of all the questions hanging over it? Finding the answers, in my opinion, can also become one of the effective tools for unifying. 

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Hovhannes Sargsyan
Hovhannes Sargsyan
Head of the Department of Political Science, Russian-Armenian University, Yerevan
The publication of this discussion paper will be a significant phenomenon, because the problem raised is super-actual, and the proposed solution is not only interesting and original, but also, more importantly, systemic.

The paper makes one think and contemplate a lot. Those who have already become thoughtful, it stimulates since it justifies that they are engaged in an important business and allows to see many things that they did not pay attention to. 

To understand our past, to comprehend the present state of affairs and design the future, we need to answer three questions: Who were we? Who are we? What we want and can be? Interestingly, not only the first two questions determine the answer to the last, but also the answer to the last affects the comprehension of the first. 

I am definitely convinced that Armenia and Armenians cannot have a worthy place in the future world without strategic long-term development plans. We have no time for a slow evolutionary development. For a quick breakthrough, it is necessary to mobilize all the forces of the Armenians and understand clearly who we want to be in the future. Unfortunately, during the years of independence, the state elites of the Republic of Armenia have failed to develop a more or less common systemic program for development. It was not the general development strategy that determined the state policy in various fields, but, on the contrary, specific events and situations that determined the policy. 
The private strategic initiatives are, of course, important. But without the presence of a common national development strategy, private strategies may lose their meaning, enter into conflict with each other, no cumulation and synergy effect will be produced. And to develop a common project, a pan-national institution is needed. In modern conditions, I believe, such an institution can only be the Armenian state, the role of which is underestimated by the authors, in my opinion. 

The authors often use the terms “behavior patterns”, “character traits”. To my mind, the term “identity” should be basic in describing national peculiarities. All the other concepts are either implied by this term or derived from it. 

In the understanding of the identity of the Armenians some stereotypes need to be overcome. First, it is necessary to overcome a kind of anachronism and apriorism that is present not only in the mass consciousness, but also at the level of works claiming scientific status; it seems that the identity of the Armenians was originally given, it does not change, and everything just boils down to its preservation. Identity is changing of course: spontaneously or strategically-programmatically, evolutionarily or revolutionizingly transforming. This is, let’s say, a “temporal” stereotype. But there is still the “spatial” one: modern Armenians are very diverse, today there is no standard average Armenian identity. There is a “layering” of identities (especially in different communities of the diaspora). Perhaps, it is necessary to recognize that the diaspora as a kind of unity, integrity does not exist at all – it is the conventional name for the communities of ethnic Armenians. 

The viewpoint of the authors on the “global network” of the Armenian merchants with a “locus of power” in New Julfa, in my opinion, is a bit idealized. Without belittling the position and role of the Armenian businessmen in the world trade, I still think that the network itself, apparently, was not self-sufficient (as a purely Armenian project). It functioned insofar as it could be combined with the interests of the great powers. From its experience it is obvious that the effectiveness and self-sufficiency of the network is possible only if the “locus of power” is its own sovereign state. By the way, the prominent representatives of the New Julfa network, for example, Shahamir Shahamirian, were clearly aware of it in the epoch of the network’s decline. 

The authors describe the ongoing projects of scientific and educational nature: TUMO, FAST etc. They certainly are extremely important. These initiatives are aimed at the formation of advanced technocrats and managers. But they influence the formation of a citizen and a patriot, at best, indirectly. In general, the trend of technocratization is important and very popular. But it is impossible to absolutize it one-sidedly. It is necessary to implement the technocratization and the formation of a business mentality program not at the expense of civil and patriotic education. 

In the context of the above, the implementation of projects in the socio-humanitarian field targeted at the population (especially the youth) of the Republic of Armenia becomes a top priority. Such projects should be directed to: 

- The development of civic consciousness.

- The most important component of civic socialization is the systemic civic education, which practically doesn’t exist in Armenia. 

Overcoming the closed ethnic mentality and extremes of ethnonationalism (which is a negative consequence of mono-ethnicism) and the formation of soft civil-state nationalism. A global nation implies not only the preservation of Armenian self-consciousness in the diaspora, but also the transformation of the Armenians’ closed consciousness in Armenia into an open, global one. 

Another possible project could be the project of creating the Armenian Cultural Diplomacy Institute. The uniqueness of this institution should have been that the Armenian communities should first of all be the object of its activities, and then through them – the societies of the countries where the communities live. Taking into account the enormous layer of the Armenian cultural heritage and the already existing extensive network of Armenian communities, the project implementation at minimal cost would have the maximum effect, contributing to the preservation and development of the Armenians’ cultural identity and to the formation of the cultural image of Armenia and the Armenians in the world. 

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Martin Essayan
Martin Essayan
Trustee, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation 
This is an important contribution to the discussion of how Armenians maintain their identity, ensure sustainability, and prosper.

I found the history interesting, especially the way that both the Soviet and non-Soviet aspects are covered in one book, but was most fascinated by the last chapter in which Ruben and Nune lay out their vision for how Armenia can develop. Ruben says he “lives in the future” and this future is 25 years away. He plots his way to it in a methodical and research-based manner with admirable optimism, drawing on a broad range of analogies and experiences. Everyone interested in the future of Armenia should read this. I felt the vision for the Diaspora was less compelling, especially for those who do not trace their roots or cultural references to the present Armenia, and it is good to hear that the authors plan to fill this gap. The book is quite long so, for those short of time, I would recommend reading the last chapter first, and then seeing how the earlier chapters lead to this.

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Gerard Libaridian
Gerard Libaridian
Professor
1. Problems with the history part. The very long segment on the history of Armenia and the Armenian people is very problematic.  

- It is non-critical toward many institutions/events /periods that should be looked at critically and too biased against others that should be looked at more objectively.  

- There are many institutions/events/periods that are relevant to the issues that are discussed that are altogether ignored.  

- There are many major factors that explain the dynamics in Armenian history and the changes that have occurred throughout, factors that are relevant to the discussion on hand, that have not been considered. 

- The citation of sources is too arbitrary and haphazard. 

This work produced bad history and bad histories cannot lead to proper conclusions.   

 

2. Problems with the arguments: There are too many problems with the arguments presented in the text to enumerate here. Some salient examples follow: 

- The text argues that we have not been assimilated when we have become a Diaspora. History shows, and present trends indicate, that in fact we have been assimilated, slowly in some places and times, faster in others.  

- The text argues that independence has always come to Armenia as a result of collapse of empires. That is true only in one case—the First Republic—but not historically or in the case of the Third Republic. The least one has to recognize is that Armenians had a lot to do with the weakening of those empires. That is particularly true of the birth of the Third Republic. 

- The text opines that Armenia does not need to have the Nagorno Karabakh conflict resolved in order to become a successful and ideal state. The last 30 years have shown that this thinking and policies based on it are not valid. 
 

3. Problems with assumptions underlying arguments: There are fundamental assumptions underlying the analysis and proposed program in the work that are wrong and that would raise doubts about the feasibility or implantability the proposed program. The work assumes that 

- We are today the same Armenians as Armenians were a 100, 500, 1000 or 2000 years ago. While there are some areas of continuity throughout and paradigmatic behavioral patterns, too much has changed in our circumstances and the circumstances surrounding us to be able to build a structure on that assumption. 
- All Armenians have been and are today the same as all others, that differences in class and cast have not produced different behaviors and often conflicting interests. 
- Being Armenian means the same thing for Armenians living in Armenia and those living elsewhere. 
- It is possible to build what the text proposes without assuring a viable degree of independence. 
- It is possible to build what the text proposes, essentially a superstructure, without first building a solid foundation, an infrastructure. What we see in the text is the substitution of an infrastructure with ostensible “family” and other values assumed historically present in our genes/culture. 
  
Here too it is possible to continue the listing. 
 
I am cognizant of the herculean labor that has gone into the writing and production of this work and I appreciate the underlying concerns. May I also comment on the excellent translation into English of the Russian text. 

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Robert Yengibaryan
Robert Yengibaryan
Scientific Director of the School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Doctor of Law, Professor, Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation, Honorary Doctor of several foreign universities, Foreign Member of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia 
I consider the book “At the Crossroads” to be a serious initial contribution to the future Europeanization or modernization project of Armenia.  Unfortunately, the general standard of living of the Armenian population, or the Human Development Index (HDI), as it is called by scientists, is rapidly decreasing. Today, the provincial type of Oriental culture with a distorted reflection of the Western kitsch swamps everything else.

Many things tend to alienate a significant part of the Armenian intelligentsia in the diaspora, who were absorbed into the Western culture through the Russian language: concerts that resemble rural weddings; the people’s everyday lives and, especially, those of the young men, their manner of talking and lexicon, including those of the political “elite”, and, finally, the so-called newly-made Armenian language of the provincial philologists.  

The local political “elite” is trying in every way to prevent prominent representatives of the diaspora from participating in the political process of governing Armenia, unlike what is happening in the neighboring Georgia, the Baltic states and other post-Soviet countries. As a result, our republic is very poorly represented at the international level, which is humiliating for the people of our ancient culture.  
Today, more than ever, the threat of a complete loss of sovereignty is hanging over Armenia. The political “elite” of the republic, instead of strengthening its foreign policy vector, is engaged in “resolving the internal issues” with the former country leaders, who, by the way, really participated in the Karabakh liberation process. This was the first incident in the post-Soviet political practice that was perceived in an exclusively negative manner by the international community. This precedent threatens altogether the possibility of democratic rotation of the leadership of the republic according to Armenia’s constitutional order.  

The people are suffering degradation and departing in droves. Unfortunately, the semi-literate leadership, armed with a few populist patriotic slogans, poorly understands the utter tragedy of the situation. Today’s Armenia is progressively losing its attractiveness as a cultural and spiritual center that could unite the greater diaspora. 

It should be noted that in the foreseeable future Armenia will remain in the Russian political and cultural arena, but of course, with a natural desire to go beyond the arena’s borders. As of today, there is no palatable alternative.  

The initiative of the authors of “At the Crossroads” will undoubtedly succeed if it is supported by television. They could start by launching a program, and in the future perhaps, it could be developed into a TV channel. This could be done both in Moscow and in Yerevan: like-minded people would be ready to help.

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Alan Whitehorn
Alan Whitehorn
Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science and Economics, Royal Military College of Canada
Armenia is indeed at a crucial crossroad. Old paradigms and assumptions are insufficient. What is needed is a major rethinking, with many prevailing assumptions questioned. Ruben Vardanyan’s and Nune Alekyan’s “At the Crossroads” provides a critical and constructive analysis and invites frank feedback.

The manuscript’s five chapters seek to explore Armenia’s past, present and future. While the goal is a prescription for the future, significant attention is paid to Armenian history as a crossroads nation.  

The review of the global literature on development is an important aspect of this manuscript. The authors recognize that a sound understanding of the complex concept of development is key to future prognosis. However, the manuscript is much stronger on economic analysis than on sociological and political development. This is a significant issue since the multidimensional aspects of development are very much also linked to social and political factors and measures.  

What is particularly striking about this manuscript to a senior North American academic is its insufficiently addressing of the key issue of gender. In many ways, much of Eastern Europe and Armenia are lagging on awareness of and citation of a feminist framework which is crucial given the key role of women to overall development. In fact, literacy rates of women is one of the strongest overall indicators of multi-dimensional development. This is in part due to the pivotal role of women in the socialization of the next generation of any society, the key place of women for up to half of the economic (both unpaid and paid) labour force and in contributing to a more equal distribution of literacy in a society. It is also germane for democratic theory. 

History in some ways (e.g. rise and fall of empires) is cyclical, but for the most part it is not. The technological revolution, modernization revolution, global urbanization, migration, etc. are not cyclical, but more linear than not. Of course, wars, depression, and disease can reverse past changes and gains. But out of WW I came the League of Nations, out of WW II came the United Nations, and these are historic and revolutionary political changes in global governance.  

Armenia’s links to Russia, Iran and Europe are key and worthy of more discussion. Given the ostracism of Islamic Iran in recent decades, its Christian neighbour of Armenia can be a networking locale for the West and Iran to engage in deep and careful dialogue. It is easier for Iranians to visit and spend a few days at workshops in Armenia than in many countries in North America and Western Europe. We should explore this important avenue of respectful, quiet dialogue for the sake of peace in the region and the world.  

On the question of having to choose alliances between Russia, Europe and Iran, the manuscript tends at times to zero-sum game thinking. Certainly Russia and the United States historically saw the Cold War in such conflictual terms. However, with détente in the nuclear age came the realization that there could be in selected, but important areas, a plus-sum game. Nuclear non-proliferation agreements were one set of such examples. Armenia should try to reassure Moscow that greater trade and contacts with Europe and Iran can help make Armenia a more economically and technologically dynamic society. Such a situation could also be of benefit to Russia, in that Armenia would not be in need of continuing long-term financial aid from Russia, but could instead be a stronger economic partner. The high rates of literacy in Armenia mean it could once again be more of a centre of high tech industry that would be of benefit to many. 

Of necessity, many in the Diaspora are exposed to other, larger cultures. By comparison, how diverse are the experiences within the Republic? It might be useful to do a comparative survey of Armenians in several of the larger Diaspora locations and the Republic regarding attitudes to other cultures, peoples and differences, particularly as they relate to tolerance and acceptance. On the gender issue, for example, there seems to be a considerable gulf between North American norms and views in the Republic. If dialogue is to occur within the complex and varied global Armenian nation, we need to know what attitudes we share (e.g. remembering the Genocide) vs on what we differ. Given the difference in per capita income of North American Armenians vs. those in the Republic, we would expect that Armenians would differ on materialist vs post-materialist values for obvious reasons looking at a hierarchy of needs fulfillment.  

One million Armenians have left the Republic over the last quarter century and this depopulation crisis constitutes a slow death. Can emigration and overseas assimilation be reversed? The dangers of a nation’s declining population raises the question of survival and need for new immigration. To accept more and diverse immigrants does potentially alter what it means to be Armenian. In so doing, it would transform Armenia from a relatively closed nationalism defined by race and ethnicity to a more open nationalism defined by living in the country and embracing the Armenian language and values. Armenians are increasingly citizens of more than one state is an important existential fact and worth exploring what it means for identity, loyalty and commitments. This is even more so for their children.  

Conceptually, the closed vs open approach to nationalism are central to the question of what traits make someone an Armenian. Is it blood lines, religion, language, race, or something else such as shared values? Stated bluntly, it may be implausible for Armenia to survive as a viable nation, if it defines itself in the future in narrow closed nationalism terms.  

The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative was a brilliant long range philanthropic vision. If funding and intellectual support continues, its role and profile will increase. The victims of an earlier genocide become the beacons of hope and assistance for today’s and tomorrow’s victims. This international project has captured the imagination of many in the world. We have a responsibility to pass on the good deeds elsewhere in the world. 

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Daniil Babich
Daniil Babich
Deputy chief editor, TV show host, RBC 
Thank you for the invitation to take part in the dialogue! For me, a person with no Armenian roots, but who has many friends, colleagues and like-minded people among Armenians, inclusiveness is a very important signal and an attractive feature of the community.

In my opinion, openness and sociability, along with a certain sense of humor, are the first things that catch my eye and make communication pleasant. Moreover, both the humor and other aspects of communication are filled with intellectual content, which gives communication sense and supports interest. Working on television we have never been failed by the rule: the Armenian name of a guest invited to take part in a live program is a kind of a seal of excellence. By the way, I really appreciate any feedback from Armenian audiences. Even the letters of criticism contain respect and politeness as indispensable attributes along with common sense and amiability. We are pleased, of course, to receive the letters of support too. It is however disappointing those viewers from Armenia, with all their interest in global events and processes feel themselves isolated, their pessimism concerning the economic situation and of their personal well-being are obvious. 

That is why I understand the essence of the problem and the question. The experience of communicating with representatives of the diaspora in Russia and abroad presents a very different, more optimistic picture. 

It so happened that my first contacts with Armenian people were of a business nature and such contacts started at the beginning of the 1990s. At that time, I had no idea about the Diasporas and the role they played but could not ignore the national specificity of business ethics. When dealing in industry with the old Soviet type directors of Armenian origin, I noticed that their business culture was always based on very high ethical standards. Initially I attributed their attitude to the fact that my business partner was also Armenian. Later I realized that it was not only this. Those directors profoundly understood, apparently relying on a long-standing tradition, how business relationships are built: You need to take care of your reputation, you are able to be flexible and to always take pride both in one’s self and as a professional; the process of building relationship also includes a system of priorities and mutual respect. People from the Diaspora in Russia, with whom I dealt, were following such principles. It was a kind of business school where, trusting my intuition, I took my first lessons. 

I have read “At the Crossroads” with great interest and was even, I confess, making notes while reading particular passages of this discussion paper. I’ve been interested in history since childhood, but this new perspective I acquired made me look at everything as if for the first time. Some facts had already been well-known to me, but I never considered them to be parts of an integrated structure. That is why the historical context of the discussion made a special, very strong impression on me. In addition, many wonderful chapters of Armenian Diasporas history had been absolutely blank to me. 

Now I’ll take a chance and share my thoughts with you on the sense and essence of the issue. Fears regarding the loss of identity are understandable especially against the background of a decrease in the cementing influence of the Armenian Apostolic Church, but still, in my opinion, are greatly exaggerated. 

I DO NOT BELIEVE in the ‘loss of the cultural code of the nation’, the nation that Herodotus, ‘the father of history’, referred to with admiration in the fifth century BC. 
This does not mean there are no problems; they are identified and analyzed in the discussion paper. The gap between the Diasporas and Armenia exists at the mental level, so the process of rapprochement will not start by itself. Armenia has far fewer opportunities than the Diasporas. Armenia itself is in need of more examples of how a private initiative works successfully on local grounds. If the participants of the process from both sides will be ready to accommodate each other’s views, then everything will go faster, but the question is how to get Diasporas (they have great potential, but with different priorities) interested and how to involve them? It may be that reloading the country’s image, while preserving the cultural code, but targeting the global audience, will serve as a powerful incentive for the Diasporas to pay attention to their historic homeland. I remembered a funny story told by an old friend of mine. Once, he was in India and on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, he decided to drop into a local Irish pub next to the hotel, the pub announced ‘Great All Night party’. In the afternoon there was not a soul at the bar, and there was nothing Irish on the menu! Not even Guinness! Only local drinks. 
“Is it an Irish pub?” 
“Yes, sir!”  
“And you have no Irish whiskey?” “No Irish beer?” “Maybe Irish coffee?”  
“No!” 
“Excuse me, is anything Irish here at all?” 
“Yes, sir! The atmosphere!!!” 

Amazingly, the barman turned out to be 100% right. The atmosphere in the pub that night was awesome! Generally speaking, the Irish were able to create a genuinely global phenomenon based on their national identity. Moreover, this is an example of inclusiveness, because the example is scaled up beyond the borders of the “Irish world”. St. Patrick’s Day is an inclusive global event; Irish, a global phenomenon, and Guinness, global brand. It may be that I’m mistaken or have not enough information, but globally scalable projects in various fields would be useful for promoting the Great Culture of small Armenia, since the reasons for which many of the Armenians’ achievements abroad were advertised reluctantly have now receded into history. Maybe now the time has come for business ideas, that would attract many people both within and outside of Armenia, to emerge. I am convinced that Armenia and its people will have a promising, interesting future, for all the necessary prerequisites are in place. I support your desire both to help people in Armenia and make the world as a whole a better place for living. 

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Alexander Iskandaryan 
Alexander Iskandaryan 
Director, Caucasus Institute, Yerevan 
I carefully read the discussion paper, some parts even not for once. Firstly, let me “propose a toast.” I read it not to please the authors. I know Ruben to say hello to, but I don’t know Nune at all, except for a single telephone conversation. Although, of course, much of what Ruben does in Armenia seems to me important and necessary, therefore, naturally, I could not refuse him.

However, my main motivation was that I sincerely consider important the conversation on the topic that is the central theme of the paper.  

Who are we, where are we from, where and why are we going, what is possible and what cannot be done? The comprehension from the “bird’s-eye view” is a rarity in the modern Armenia and the diaspora, and believe it is bad. Political elites think in terms of weeks, months; the prospect of a few years is already not frequent. Whereas our intellectuals tend to speak emotionally, their reasonings about the fate of the country are more often attitudes, not rationalities. Even short-term decisions fail without prospects, I constantly get convinced of this. Thus, texts of this kind, in my opinion, are necessary and useful – thanks to both of the authors for it. 

Surely, I will not refer to the specific sections of the text, that is the editor’s business. But I will express my views on the text as a whole, and, for God’s sake, do not judge me, I will be honest – I think that is why I was asked to read the paper. In any case, I see no point in writing a panegyric. 

What I write will mainly concern the style and structure, not the meaning. I agree with some of the conclusions of the authors (perhaps with the majority), but not with others, yet, it does not matter. Controversy, in my opinion, is the merit of such texts, and not a weakness. 

Now let’s turn to my claims, for which I hope I was asked to speak out. 

In my opinion, the style of the discussion paper is too didactic. The authors set forth their vision, but it seems to me that it would be a better read if the text were an invitation to talk. The paper directly states this for several times: anthropocentricity is declared as a merit of both the text and, more broadly, of the modern society, but the views of the authors are set forth rather as some kind of ready-made scheme offered to the reader. I personally believe that it would be beneficiary for the text to be debatable. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to turn to the reader more often – both directly and implicitly, in approximately the way it is done in the afterword. It seems to me that it’s right for the paper to be a question, not an answer, an invitation to discussion and not a pointing finger. This does not mean at all that the authors should not verbalize what they have obviously hard-won, but the form should be more “interactive”. 

I liked the historical inserts (highlighted in the text), but it seems to me that the reasoning about the history outside the inserts could be reduced. The history still plays a supporting role in the paper and, perhaps, somewhat overloads it. Among other things, the history, and historiosophy in particular, cannot be isolated. I think it is not necessary to describe separately some plots of the Armenian history. The Armenian history is not a completely separate and all the more unique phenomenon. Many plots have analogs, thus talking about them without a comparative aspect is methodologically incorrect, and this is the specialists’ business, and, in my opinion, this kind of a paper doesn’t really need it. It seems to me that the authors’ view of some problems in the history of Armenia and Armenians needs to be express, for it is interesting and important; but nothing more, since the evidence base in such a book is simply impossible and unnecessary; it is a task of historical work. 

I would remove all the references to Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, the “2020” program, or “Wings of Tatev” from the paper. It looks like an advertisement – in my opinion, completely unnecessary. There are few people among Armenians who do not know about Ruben Vardanyan and his activities, and the information on specific projects does not add anything significant to reflections of such a serious scale, and also makes the book heavier. It seems to me that it would be for the paper’s benefit to be more compact. 

Meanwhile, I would strengthen the personal element which occurs only once in the insert “My Three Lives” on page 146 of the paper. Several such inserts, not just describing the personal experience of the authors, but inscribing this experience into attempts to explain the reality and the stage of development of society where we are now – illustrations, if you like – would make this discussion paper livelier and closer to the reader, and also more similar to a personal conversation. For instance, the insert “My Three Lives” contains not just a personal story, but also an extremely valuable understanding of the interestingness, uniqueness and significance of the time in which we live. Most often, in social discourses, modernity is perceived exclusively alarmingly, even catastrophically, and the fact that we live in an axial time for the fate of our nation is not fully realized. Ruben reminds of this not even through his biography, but through the perception of this biography in the context of the history. 

The central part of the paper for me was the discussion of network forms of development, the institutional form of decision-making and planning. I would definitely strengthen these segments. The point is not only and not so much in the volume, but it would be of benefit to more clearly and not for once present the authors’ theses. This is practically the main thesis offered to the reader for reflection. 

I am aware that my wishes are probably difficult to fulfill, even if one considers them constructive. I hope that they will not be perceived as fault-finding. My comments are rather structural, but I personally believe that this is what is important for the book to be read and make people contemplate. 

Do not judge me for being too critical. I repeat, I liked this paper; my criticality is just the result of this. The conversation you begin and do not end, I hope, with this book, seems to me acutely necessary. 

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Anton Danilov-Danilyan
Anton Danilov-Danilyan
Co-Chairman, All-Russian Public Organization “Business Russia” (Delovaya Rossiya)
In the autumn of 2018, with great interest, in one gulp, without being distracted to do other things, I read the discussion paper “At the Crossroads” you have worked on. Usually, it is not typical of me to read likewise, and I was amazed. However, I could not immediately find the answer to the question of what exactly was so attractive in this book. After all, this is not fiction and not a light sci-fi publication.

It seems to me that it’s the pain imperceptibly seeping through the pages of the book that dragged me in. The more the authors posed questions, the more noticeable this pain became, and even confusion, maybe also the disbelief in the “bright future.” Even when relatively simple development recipes and powerful ideas for the new (“old”?) positioning of Armenia in the world economy or for the development of the country's own economic potential were found, there was a feeling of some kind of feigned optimism. Somehow it doesn’t go with the Wisdom and Knowledge that filled the first two chapters of the paper. 

After having flipped through the paper again during these May holidays, another perspective appeared before my eyes. For many people who have not studied in Armenia, the paper is of particular value because it contains a variety of historical, factual and prognostic material, presented in a highly concentrated form. For those seriously concerned about the future of Armenia, the paper is a very convenient platform for discussion, since it has already absorbed the necessary number of alternatives, hypotheses, cause-effect relationships, motivations of driving forces and characteristics of the subject. 

Some of its sections are not homogeneous. For instance, having unfolded in detail the motives of actions of the elite representatives (including the means of transferring the assets) in relation to other social strata, and especially the ordinary residents of Armenia, the paper has more questions raised than answers. There is a lack of another “author from the inside and from the bottom” of the country. However, in case of proper management, the last two chapters of the paper can be complemented with each subsequent reissue. 
You have already done and continue to do a very important job. Thank you. May God help you! 

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Christopher Patvakanian
Christopher Patvakanian
Undergraduate student at Harvard University, President of Harvard Armenian Students Association
Crossroads provides an interesting overview of the Armenian Diaspora and contemporary issues of the Armenian people from the perspective of an outside observer.

Ruben Vardanyan and Nune Alekyan do an excellent job of showing that the priorities of Hayastan (Armenia) and the global Armenian community are not mutually exclusive. The outlined projects and main concerns are important starting points to opening a broader discussion of the future of our homeland. 

I have hope Crossroads will not only help Armenians to better recognize the potential we hold as a global nation, but also inspire action and personal investment for the advancement of Armenia.

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Narine Abgaryan
Narine Abgaryan
Writer
Thank you to the authors for their tactfulness: they managed to identify the problems of the Armenian nation without offending its dignity. The state of society, the crisis of national identity, the issues of elites are recognized honestly and consistently. We need to learn to voice our misconceptions, failings and shortcomings. The discussion paper “At the Crossroads” is a huge step in this direction.

On a separate note, I want to mention the language, which is accessible, neither heavy, nor pressing – this is very important and is a confirmation that the authors have a sincere desire to reach out to the reader.

Taking care of Armenia is a great privilege and responsibility. We will not have another homeland, another set of genes or other ancestors. There is nowhere to retreat. On our side we have wisdom, patience, and loyal people who will be with us to the bitter end.

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Levon Yepiskoposyan
Levon Yepiskoposyan
Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor, Head of Laboratory of Ethnogenomics, Institute of Molecular Biology, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia
I have read the book with great interest. My review will be focused on the challenges related to the diaspora, science and education. However, I would like to start by discussing a global challenge – and to overcome this challenge is the highest priority for Armenia.

Our population is dramatically decreasing, approaching the limit below which it is impossible to successfully reproduce ourselves and to pass on our genetic diversity to the next generation. When a particular threshold is crossed, the population degenerates irreversibly and ceases to exist.

A large population has higher potential for bringing into the world more individuals possessing intellectual and spiritual uniqueness, ability for creative thinking, capable of generating innovative ideas and offering novel ways to address challenges. Only a critical mass of such people could generate and maintain the necessary intellectual, creative and spiritual energy in the society, without which reforms are impossible.

Emigration from Armenia is not random in terms of its social and psycho-typical profile. People, who leave their homeland, are confident that they will be quickly able to get their feet back on the ground, solve professional and household problems, and take care of their children’s future. Those who in terms of physical and mental health parameters, generally exceed the average population indicators.

This “brain drain” segment sadly comprises young talented scientists, representatives of creative professions who are in high demand abroad. Over the past decade, all my male graduate students left for the Western countries after defending their scientific dissertations. I did not hinder their departure; I helped them build rewarding careers abroad. Free movement of scientists is the most important stimulus for their professional growth and a necessary factor for the development of global science. Armenia today is just a donor, not a recipient in this process.

Emigration has left a deep scar on the age and gender structure of the Armenian population. A significant portion of migrants are young and unmarried men who go for seasonal work to Russia. Many of them acquire a home and family in a foreign land and do not return to their homeland. The resulting demographic gap makes itself felt by the “freedom of morals” and a disproportionally low birth rate – for the lack of men of marriageable age.      

The population, enfeebled in terms of these circumstances, is not able to implement the proposed program of transformations. It is necessary to significantly improve the demographic situation – to attract young talented Armenians from the diaspora, as well as representatives of other nations, for whom Armenia should become a desirable country for living due to a range of amenable characteristics.
What can be offered to young people from other countries that are significantly ahead of Armenia in terms of social and economic development?

First, is a new non-state university that meets high international standards. (The authors of “At the Crossroads” have extensive experience in this field, bearing in mind the UWC Dilijan international school. The apparent success of the project inspires optimism regarding establishment of a similar university in Armenia.) If the idea of such a university comes true, hundreds, and then even thousands of young people from various countries will be staying in Armenia for four to six years or even longer; some of the young people will start families and settle in the country. In addition, young Armenians from abroad will help strengthen Armenia’s ties with the diaspora.

Second, is the establishing of a pan-Armenian foundation to support local scientific teams conducting research at the international level. Armenian foundations located abroad allocate miserly grants to scientists in Armenia and do so very reluctantly. New grants, comparable with national grants in industrialized countries, could become a powerful impetus for productive research groups that would be able to invite foreign postgraduate students and those who have achieved Ph.D. status. Armenian science needs to become part of an international postgraduate education network and participate in the exchange of experts. We have options to offer young people from different countries in several areas of expertise.

The country needs a sensible repatriation strategy (at least a psychological and spiritual repatriation strategy, in cases when physical repatriation does not take place) for bringing back fellow countrymen into the Armenian unity. The recipes should be proposed by experts, since amateurs would only aggravate the situation.  

Twenty-five years ago, Armenia and Artsakh supported by the diaspora successfully started “collecting domains” of Armenia. However, after the country became independent, we failed to unite around a nationwide idea. One could condemn the former authorities of Armenia for this, but not only they are to blame for the disastrous result. To entrust the solution of this important task to the state, including present day officials, is extremely naive and an unforgivable error of the intellectual elite of the nation. The Jews, for instance, owe their great sons and daughters, born on different continents, the creation of the ideology of Zionism and the rebirth of Israel.

I am strongly against the term “ghetto” for diaspora-confined groups. It is perceived as painful, since people are most sensitive to it. This term harmfully affects our enfeebled national self-identity. This “labeling” of Armenian immigrants in Russia was recently voiced by an editor at a Russian TV channel, who is our compatriot, and immediately acquired super-negative connotation.

I would hope that the authors will continue their development; gain ardent followers, active supporters and implicit adherents! Otherwise the program will turn into another still-born ‘pie in the sky’ that will frustrate our expectations and further aggravate the crisis in the Armenian world.

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Armenak Antinyan
Armenak Antinyan
Associate Professor in Behavioral Economics, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, China
As a book, it was a fabulous read. I really enjoyed the detailed discussion of our past, present and the authors’ vision of the future.

Nevertheless, we need hard work and concrete steps to make the future happen! In my view, this is the most challenging part of the story.

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Hratchya Arzumanyan
Hratchya Arzumanyan
Director of the Center for Strategic Studies “Ashkhar”, Artsakh
The work done by the team of authors deserves great admiration. Moreover, as of today, this is the only elaborated project I know of that considers Armenia and the Armenians’ civilizational models of development as a global phenomenon.

Putting aside positive assessments, of which I am sure there will be in plenty, I would like to offer a couple of comments.

The authors of the book reasoning the need for an integrated approach to assessment of the current status, in addition to the future of the Armenian statehood and the people, deliberately exclude from consideration the challenges associated with any war. Consequently, the resulting models of development turn out to be purely theoretical, since the world has clearly entered the era where war, understanding of its notion and its interpretation determine the specificity of the emerging global world. The 21st century again is the world of Heraclitus, where “war is the father and king of all things.”

What has been said is pertinent regarding Armenia and the Armenian people, since the need to prepare a response to existential military threats will guide the development of Armenian statehood. Consequently, a meaningful discussion on the future of Armenia should include consideration of the challenges associated with military and national security of the Armenian people. The models of Armenian development proposed in “At the Crossroads” are feasible provided they are based on the “Fortress Armenia” metaphor, which describes the secure environment of the Armenian statehood most accurately. Sustainable development of Armenia in the 21st century is possible, in my profound conviction, precisely within and around such a fortress.

Supposedly, it might be worthwhile if the authors would consider a notion that has recently come into use and start discussing hybrid development models for Armenia. Armenian development models should, apart from all other parameters, include components of military and national security system, as  parameters of a special status.

I would like to mention something else. Designing the future of Armenia and the Armenian people requires the creation, on the platform of Armenian statehood, of the environment enabling professionals to conceive and design civilizational models. Creation of such an environment is undoubtedly a difficult and ambitious task. However, a breakthrough into the future must be carefully prepared and thought through in advance, since after the Mets Yeghern the Armenian people do not have a right for yet another catastrophe. Purposeful efforts are needed for such environment to germinate in Armenia in course of time. Unfortunately, the potential of the Armenian statehood is currently limited, while creation of conditions for such an environment to emerge should be considered as a duty and obligation of the Armenian world as a global phenomenon, which is able to concentrate the necessary experience and knowledge within and for Armenia.

Thus, giving credit to the authors for their strivings and work done, it would be advantageous, to consider the book as the first iteration and to start thinking of preparing a new edition. Perhaps even considering a new book would be reasonable.

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Vahagn Vardanyan, PhD
Vahagn Vardanyan, PhD
Founding Vice Principal, Han Academy, Hong Kong
The book is a successful attempt to address the development perspectives of Armenia, following the path the Armenian people have passed despite standing at the edge of survival many times in history. The authors raise thought-provoking aspects of Armenia’s current and future development by igniting the flame of interest in the areas of national development, economic prospects, and identity formation the work is centred around. As it is stressed, probably the key attribute, which has led to the survival of the Armenians and, as such, has provided the nation with an opportunity to revive again and again, is its ability to create and maintain an ethnic-religious path, not assimilated with other Christians.

On the other hand, the barriers the Armenian nation has built, as the authors emphasize, not only have limited the potential of building strong nationhood, but they can also be seen as the solution keys, provided the nation is united in its determination to overcome these obstacles. Relying on its own strengths, utilising the potential, and transformation of disadvantages into opportunities are seen as the philosophical foundation for the nation’s future development, second to none. To be open for learning from experience and history, own and of others, is probably the main lesson to gain for the Armenians, a lifelong lesson, the tests of which the nation has failed several times in its history. 

With the younger generation of Armenians becoming more open-minded and interconnected, the nation and its state are acquiring a unique chance to become a bridge connecting different civilisations through linking transnational projects, being a mediator in conflict resolutions and international trade, becoming a global accumulator of brain power the suggested ‘talentism’ approach can uncover. Being lifelong learners themselves, Ruben Vardanyan and Nuna Alekyan brilliantly highlight the role of education and its potential for attracting and developing the talents, which will meet the needs of Armenia, its broader region and the world, and will ensure coherent progress for the global Armenian nation.

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Gor Nakhapetyan
Gor Nakhapetyan
Honorary Professor, Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO
“At the Crossroads” helps to structure your own thoughts and generates insights. The key insight for me is the concept of the interpreter nation – a mediator. At one time in Armenian history, our nation already had this role: in different countries we were united by a trade network, while the Church and our mother tongue delivered a stable communication channel.

In the modern world, where we come across fake news and non-constructive communications all the time – all this leading to uncertainty and the accumulation of stress – the skill of interpreting and conveying meanings becomes in high demand. 

Today, we have a unique advantage being a nation, which can translate from different languages – from the language of art into the language of business, from the language of love into the language of poetry and so on – and serve as a bridge between nations. However, we are still to learn how to become such a full-fledged interpreter nation. The discussion paper “At the Crossroads”, which is an invitation to a discussion, encourages such approach. I am sure that a nation that understands others and can communicate efficiently transfering meanings across generations and borders will definitely become a center of attraction.

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Artur Alaverdyan
Artur Alaverdyan
Serial entrepreneur, investor, co-founder and chairman of the Board of Trustees of FAST Foundation
“At the Crossroads” is one of the few discussion papers offering us a holistic approach to our model of existence as a nation and a state. The paper is holistic in the sense that, through a look into the past, it realistically describes the present and analyzes the possibilities for the future in a global context, offering challenging scenarios for choice. The development model suggested as the most attractive scenario is, indeed, the only alternative for the nation and the country today. It will allow to use the advantages of the fourth industrial revolution, and thus the 21stcentury to become the Golden Age in Armenia’s history. 

The authors pragmatically assess the realities of the Armenian world and Armenia, its existing economic model and bring arguments to justify the futility of such a model. No doubt, Armenia needs to shift to another model – an inclusive one – allowing to ensure the progressive development of the country and make as many residents of Armenia as possible, the large Armenian diaspora and the foreign investors the actors and co-participants of creating the new Armenia.

At this stage, we – the Armenians and Armenia – need a new idea, the vision of the future in which Armenians all over the world will want to believe. An idea of a country where people will not only feel comfortable but where they’ll be able to realize full potential, earn good money, maintain traditional values and pass them to their children. The shared belief in the prosperous future of their country will become a platform for Armenians from all across the globe to engage in cooperation and joint participation in the building and maintaining of a common home for all Armenians. That belief will give the Diaspora Armenians a powerful incentive for pride and preservation of their own identity. The results of the previous, 2018 year give grounds for optimism and hope – we’ve got the chance to change the existing system and I’d like to believe that we’ll be able to make use of this chance. 

Among the industries and sectors of the economy that can become drivers for the development of the country, I would like to emphasize the role of science and high-tech. Technology gives us a unique chance to achieve a breakthrough in many fields within a short time, develop products and services that are to occupy unique niches in the world markets and become a part of the emerging new industries of the global economy. Armenia must be able to make full use of an important post-industrial world trend: shift of the value added from production to R&D centers, development and marketing. In the future, the country should become one of the world’s leading R&D hubs. Meanwhile, without serious support to and investments in science, no development of technology can be expected – the science should regain its leading role in the country’s life.

The discussion paper raises many justified questions which have no straightforward answers; but as a nation, we will still have to somehow find answers and make a choice. A thoughtful reader will find a lot of food for thought, and hopefully, the discussion paper will encourage a dialogue and discussions thanks to which the solutions will be generated. 

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Samvel Avetisyan
Samvel Avetisyan
Technical Director at Yablochkov
It took me several weeks to read the discussion paper thoroughly. I pondered over it for quite a time and returned to read certain paragraphs again and again. Thank you for this paper and for analyzing in detail the current state of affairs in Armenia and its development trends, as well as for taking a journey into its history. I, for example, did not know about a sales network with its center in New Julfa.

I will write about what disturbed me and got me excited in particular. As for everything else, I side with the authors.

I find it very hard to agree with how the traditional values and national features of the Armenian people are described. My own multinational family and growing up in Russia taught me that a person’s character is shaped by family and environment, rather than his or her ethnic background. I noticed the specific features the paper describes in people of different nationalities. If I were asked about the typical features of Armenian people, I would not name those mentioned in the paper. I even asked my family members what they thought were the typical features of Armenians, and they all said different things! I also found it weird that conclusions about the national character were drawn based on history. This looks like what scientists sometimes do – they adjust a theory to experimental results.

Yet, I totally agree that Christianity, own alphabet and the existence at the junction of civilizations have shaped the modern Armenian people as an ethnic group.

I believe it to be a very strong conclusion that the genocide of the Armenians has not been entirely realized as a tragic break in the natural succession of generations. I agree that “we see only rivers of blood, suffering and injustice rather than feeling the healing effect that the continuity of collective memory passed from one generation to the next.” I believe that the current situation in our country resembles a genocide in its consequences: people die younger due to bad healthcare, the population of Armenia decreases annually because people are leaving the country, and so on. The same break in the succession of generations and families is happening again.

I thank the authors for the concept of the “Soviet Armenian people.” It struck me that I actually don’t know any other Armenian people except the Soviet Armenians. The nation is really becoming increasingly fragmentary. This is probably why I disagreed with the generalizations regarding the features of Armenian character.
The paper cites the words of Confucius that any nation and country will succeed, if their leader is committed to noble and high goals. The history of civilizations rising and falling has often proved these words true. I believe that such a leader is what our people need now.

My special thanks to the authors for:

- Comparing the personal apprehensions of Armenian people with the existing system-based danger – this part has a robust disillusioning effect.

- Acknowledging honestly and straightforwardly that Armenia has not become a safe and flourishing homeland for all Armenians.

- The conclusion that by simplifying the environment we are devaluing it, which is profound and very concise.

I agree with everything in chapter five. I am ready to support you in turning your vision into reality.
 


 

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Georgi Derluguian
Georgi Derluguian
Professor, New York University Abu Dhabi
Who the authors of this discussion paper are, is, in fact, the least important question one could ask. Both of them are quite well-known. But the discussion paper is not at all about them. Why they feel more at ease with the business school and consulting language is simply not a question. This results from their professional background.

If one rightfully asks what political goals they might pursue (apart from those openly stated), it could be countered with a simple question: Do only poets, philosophers and Yerevan taxi-drivers have the right to talk about our nation’s destiny? Obviously, not all business leaders consider buying superyachts and villas a proper self-fulfillment. Some of them are more ambitious than that.


On the other hand, the key question our authors raise is indeed the most important one: What do we do next?


In the 19th century, the Armenians faced the issue of how to become a modern-day nation on the world arena. In the first half of the 20th century, they were faced with the problem of survival. Further, there came up an issue of preserving national identity throughout very intensive modernization across both the Soviet Armenia and the Western Diaspora. At the end of the century, the Karabakh issue seemed to overshadow every other.


And today, the 21st century is here for the Armenians. What next? The past issues have been more or less settled; the present-day Armenian nation has made it and has survived. But never before have there been so few Armenians left in their historical motherland, and never has the Diaspora (which includes the now-foreign Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan etc.) been so strong in numbers. The objective reasons for assimilation have never been that strong either, as we see globalization at work not only at the world economy level. This includes PC games, studying at global universities and inter-ethnic marriages. So what will happen next to Armenia and the Armenians on a world scale? How is it possible to maintain the national language and culture legacy in the 21st century? How to strengthen and protect the piece of mountains which is now recognized as the platform for Armenia and Artsakh sovereignty?
This is the essence of the question Nuna Alekyan and Ruben Vardanyan pose before us. And they deserve the right for a serious discussion.
 

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Dmitry Falaleev
Dmitry Falaleev
Founder of U Skillz, serial entrepreneur, ex-Deputy Chief Editor at Harvard Business Review Russia
It is difficult to summarize this discussion paper without retelling the story, but I’ll try to do that. The paper is an interesting read, even if you don’t have a drop of Armenian blood. It is very ambitious, which makes it thrilling. From the very preface, the authors up the ante of your expectations. Let us create a model, a concept of the future for a whole nation, country, world, they suggest. And they lead the reader – very conclusively – through this nation’s history showing both its difficulties and unique features. Then they bring you to the modelling itself when you are ready to understand and accept both their logics and motives. 

The paper is indeed very modern. Like in the real world, the “Armenian World” in the paper is alive and is not at all archaic – it is, like you are, here and now, and not just on the pages of history. The authors know how to deal with today’s realities and trends: from the high-tech trends to talentism and many others. You will be delighted to read your own thoughts in the paper: the future is people and everything related to them. It’s not oil, or resources, or even technologies. 


The paper is indeed honest. The authors feel proud about, and value, their people, their country and ethnos; yet, they are not afraid to write about the difficult pages in its history, as well as about difficult external circumstances. This is how the paper wins the reader. It is, in a good sense, very pragmatic, which sets it apart from others. You are not urged to rely on the state, or even the society or Diaspora (which is often the focus of discussion). All of these parties are positioned as unique actors having their own goal and function, with no full-scale change being possible without each of them. They all have much to do – all of them acting together. 
The paper offers a global perspective. We observe the Armenian World, it’s the Armenian World’s book and a book about the Armenian World; however, being an integral part of a bigger World, this World is ready to contribute a lot to the latter. Maybe that’s why the paper thrills, even if you are not an Armenian. The paper is visionary. It’s more than a set of historical facts and theories. It is a large-scale contemporary model – the authors invite you to put together a huge spaceship (for the first time in history!) and launch it into space. They are not afraid to speak globally – the states are important actors for them, but they are not the only ones, because it is clear that the Armenian World is, of course, a major archetype. As an intelligent thinker, you’ll find lots of things to indulge your brain with while reading. 


The paper and its authors help us understand the nation’s unique qualities rooted in centuries before, but it’s not a historical documentary. A few chapters after they have convinced you of this uniqueness, the authors remind you of it and offer building the new world generally on this basis – and you understand why. Network structure, a mediator nation, a hub country, special learning capabilities – and you feel all of this is true.


And, perhaps, the most important thing: the task the authors are trying to solve is conceptual and serious, but it is still a live task and a roadmap, to a certain extent. You believe that you can do it the way they describe, that by adopting this logic and this plan you can really make happen the changes the authors are talking about and answer the questions they ask at the very beginning. It is a very important feeling in our world where there are so many words, but not always room for action, especially such a thrillingly major one.

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Atom Egoyan
Atom Egoyan
film director
A comprehensive and thoroughly researched study of our history, as well as an urgent and passionate exploration of our present and future.

In particular, the discussion paper’s presentation of the corrosive effects of an extractive approach to Armenian economic and political health is illuminating and disturbing. Things must change, and this discussion paper is clear-sited about presenting possible solutions. The authors explore an array of existential questions about Armenian identity and have done a remarkable job providing some answers and ways of moving forward. This is a rousing call for unity and reconstruction in the face of an uncertain road ahead.

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Sergei Guriev
Sergei Guriev
Chief Economist, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
At the Crossroads discussion paper reveals a deep understanding of the Armenian history and culture, while also demonstrating the authors’ sincere affection for their home country.

At the same time, the authors speak openly (as loving children would do) about the problems their home country faces and focus not only on its today’s strengths, but also on the weaknesses. Their analysis – based both on the data and on modern institutional development theories – exposes an urgent need for serious changes. The paper will definitely play a key role in promoting a discussion about the vision for the future of Armenia.”

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Karen Gevorkyan
Karen Gevorkyan
film director
At the end of the 1990s – early 2000s, in my documentary “Crossroads” I asked people of various professions, background and age one and the same question: “Who is an Armenian?” (“Ov e hayy?” in Armenian). One of the responses I got at the time and included in the film struck me as both colourful and precise. An old, well-educated and seemingly not very well-off man answered: “Armenians are a nation of Davids of Sassoun and Nazars the Brave… There are few Davids and many Nazars, but nothing in the middle (“Isk michiny – chka”).

This was the time we indeed were at the crossroads. The people and the state who won the war faced the question: who do we want to be and where should we go?

At that time, blinded by the victory, the young Armenian state under the leadership of its first ‘highly educated’ president chose the path of profiteering on the vast ex-Soviet state-owned property and indulging in wild capitalism. This is how the nation’s neck was broken. Our ‘smart’ president did not (or did not want to) understand a simple truth that the nation which had survived the Genocide must have its own national concept of individual and public Revival and Recovery from the historical trauma. This could lay ground for new quality-based growth. 

This signalled the sad end of the ‘smart’ guy’s political career.

Our two following presidents were by far less sophisticated and, while having the right and the possibility to leave their names in history as national heroes for their people, preferred business and money to this higher purpose. As a result, Armenia lost a third of its active and capable population. And again, the simple truth was ignored that the dramatic social disparity and the loss of any beacons the society could go by would result in the state collapsing as such. Today these followers of our first president, the ‘smart guy’, have also gone into oblivion.

The result of their activity was the April war – a warning of the possible future catastrophe.

Today, we are at a crossroads again. Yes, there is a new government, there is a social demand for Revival and for the Development to begin at last. But the government is only a tool to carry these processes out. Without the National Revival Concept this tool in itself is useless.

The base value, therefore, is a National Concept of quality-based national and state development which must be clearly messaged to the public. The same old question rises again: do the new leaders feel the need? 

A fundamental multi-year study by Ruben Vardanyan co-authored by Nune Alekian, which reflects on our historic legacy and, from there, everything that’s happening to us now, is an important and valuable message to our society. This research stems from the authors’ sincere concern about the vicious circle Armenia found itself in. In their study, the authors suggest the ways in which our country could overcome the economic and moral deadlock Armenia is facing. I would hope that this research will be welcomed by our society as an invitation to a nation-wide discussion of important issues determining our destiny. The study lacking the ideological component (which I personally believe to be very important) can be explained by the economic mindset of its authors, their reliance on the transformational leverages which they know and understand well. Anyway, the authors suggest that we stop and think in the face of the trying times which await us in the future.
 

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Hayk Balanyan
Hayk Balanyan
Political commentator
The book by Ruben Vardanyan and Nune Alekyan “At the Crossroads” did not come as a surprise. Mr. Vardanyan in his interviews and speeches has repeatedly expressed the thoughts which have eventually shaped into a book. Those thoughts have been repeatedly criticized in public debates, including by me. They represent an example of the outdated Armenian public thinking, that is, how it is impossible to solve the problems the Armenian nation faces today. 

In short, the main idea of the book is as follows: instead of concentrating on the formation of national state and political nation, it is necessary to focus on building a global network-nation, with Armenia not being the center of this network. 

This position is being justified by the fact that such was the matter of facts before the restoration of independent statehood, that this way the potential of the diaspora would be used more effectively, and that to have one center is dangerous, because if you lose that center, the network would also be lost: “Today, as was the case in the Middle Ages, for a global network nation to prosper it needs several powerful clusters interconnected through common activities.” (pg. 177). 

The so-called network is not an invention. Security agencies, revolutionary movements, religious structures, trading companies are all networks. The issue is not the network as such, but its members, subjects, its control center and, of course, the purpose for which it is created. 

The model proposed by the authors includes individual colonies, the elite and the Republic of Armenia, which should jointly form the so-called Armenian World, and the network should serve that Armenian World. 
It seems to be a good idea if one forgets about the very clear and real circumstances, neglecting which will lead to an irreversible catastrophe for our national statehood. 

Let’s begin by asking, what are we doing now, and what is our present situation? Armenia is currently in the process of becoming a political nation and building a national state. The formation of a political nation is possible only within the borders of the Republic of Armenia and under the Armenian statehood. 

In the model proposed by the authors, the issue of national statehood/political nation is not put forward, nor it can be, because in Vardanyan’s network, the Armenian members of other political nations – Russian, American, Iranian, Czech – can act exclusively as representatives of the community, millet, and, consequently, the population of Armenia is also perceived as one such community. 

The idea that the population of Armenia needs to be transformed according to the requirements necessary for cooperation with the diaspora and other nations, runs through the book and is repeated more than once. Thus, based on the objectives, a historically unknown subject is created – a network-nation, in the case of formation of which the internal structure of this subject will determine its functions and objectives. 

An established political nation will not tolerate being controlled; it will dominate with its institutions, and, therefore, will become the center of the network, turning it into just a tool for its own purposes. Ruben Vardanyan does not need such a network, he needs a network where the state is an ordinary member of the network, a network which is not subordinated to our National Security Service and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but constitutes no more no less a network-nation with a horizontal structure without the predominant role of the state, and which stands higher than our official institutes; a network which is a separate subject of history, instead of a nation-state, a nation-network. 

This network operates independently of the state and territory; therefore it is not obligated to constrain itself with the protection of this state and territory or deal with the problems of the country. 

According to authors, it is the network-nation, separate from the country of Armenia and not limited by its state territory, that forms the Armenian World, and the country of Armenia and the Armenian state are ordinary members of this horizontal network. The authors avoid disclosing the predominant, hierarchical role of this Armenian World in relation to the country of Armenia, letting the reader be filled with unbounded enthusiasm by the idea of the Armenian World. 

In such a horizontal network, the worldwide network is larger and more important than each member of the network. This brings up a question, can the interests of Armenia be subordinated to the interests of the non-existent Armenian World or the interests of the network leaders? If the Armenian World is subordinated to Armenia, there is no need to create such a world, our world is Armenia, but according to the authors’ suggestion, our world is not Armenia, but the Armenian World. 

Vardanyan needs a horizontal network, without the dominating position of Armenia, where he and large capital outside of Armenia will enjoy an elite status and will have their own state for their own needs, regardless of the elections in Armenia, state institutions and the will of the political nation. 

To this end the idea of a national state is diminished, and for that purpose the book discusses nationalism in negative tones. 
This is clear. Nationalism creates national states and political nations, and the community form of a people’s organization, under the control of out of the state and outside of Armenia bigwigs of the Armenian colonies, cannot tolerate the people’s politicization and growth of civil mentality. 

Considering the examples of different countries (Singapore, Costa Rica), the authors diligently and remarkably skip the closest and most relevant model which is in front of our eyes – one of a militarized country in the hostile environment, Israel. 

The foundation upon which Israel stands is the Jewish nationalist movement – Zionism, and not the status of a hub for earning money. 

This fact and example worthy of imitation are ignored for a very simple reason: R. Vardanyan and many other Armenian entrepreneurs, mostly from Russia, have understood how vulnerable they and their capital are without the protection of their own state, but instead of politically repatriating, for the protection of their assets they have decided to acquire their own state, which should serve their interests, while, of course, subordinating the interests of the state and the people living in that state to their business interests. 

Vardanyan’s statements about inclusive and extractive development models regularly cited from Acemoglu’s book, actually confirm the reality that political system dominates the economic one, that the state is the main player and the subject of history, which can in no time make bankrupt and eliminate any amir of Constantinople or the wealthiest resident of Moscow and Tbilisi. The authors write: “As a rule, ‘verticals of power’ take the upper hand in confrontation with horizontal networks. The fate of the network set up by New Julfa merchants who did not have the support of a sovereign state provides a good illustration of this conclusion drawn by Ferguson.” (pg. 31).  

I can only ask the authors: if you have decided to diminish the Armenian national state to the level of the network so that it will be safe and manageable for you, what will happen to our country, to you and your capital at the next stage when that network is confronted by other national states? There is no answer to that question in the book, which resembles a business plan. 

It is high time the Armenian business class decides which passport and flag it is faithful to. Those who want to live in their national state, must decide and choose the flag to which they are going to serve. A flag which serves the business class, will ultimately serve those, to whom the business class representatives serve. National state cannot be someone’s property, it is for all. 

Armenian big business has not managed to become national yet, but it is already transnational, and its business interests and centers of vital interests are outside Armenia. Those ties grow faster than the ties with Armenia and play a crucial role in the behavior and decisions made by the business class. This brings up a question: how will the members of the network act if their business interests in Russia and the USA demand steps that are against the interests of the Republic of Armenia? 

More importantly, what will happen to Armenia, when in the absence of dominating position of a strong national state, different members (centers) of the horizontal network, for example, Moscow and London, begin solving matters in the interest of their patrons and resident countries on Armenian soil and contrary to Armenian interests? 

Ruben Vardanyan writes that dying diaspora can be useful to Armenia, but there are no checks and balances in the suggested network. What will happen to our country if diaspora’s influence becomes harmful, and the representatives of different centers of power, members of the network, make Armenia the stage for settling scores – what will be left from Armenia then? 

We can be sure that no network member, who has influence in Armenia through the network, will escape the attention and guidance of the local special services. Is this the “bright” future pursued by Mr. Vardanyan? This would not even be the status of a foreign-controlled neo-colony, which under the monopoly of a powerful state can afford to avoid the fate of becoming an apple of discord among the great powers. Vardanyan’s network will undoubtedly turn our country into a battleground for the new Byzantium and Persia lovers, whom the author does not mention in his extensive historical excursions. 

What the authors offer us is a perfect political regress to the pre-Soviet state, hoping that the security in the region surrounded by wolves and the non-national business-state could be bought by rendering services to others, by not interfering with anyone, by avoiding political struggle and neglecting Armenian agenda, by bringing the internal structure of the nation in line with the objective of well-fed capitulation. 

However, in modern conditions it is impossible to recreate the network that we had in the past and which was destroyed. In this regard, the damage from Ruben Vardanyan’s book is decreasing because it sets impractical goals. In the 21st century communities do not sustain – mixed marriages, socialization and assimilation happen at such pace, and the national states are so powerful that it is pointless to dream about having some centers outside Armenia. 

The authors emphasize that fact: “Over time, Armenian communities will finally disintegrate and be assimilated.” (pg. 63). So, it turns out that the book is not about the Armenian World, but a very limited number of people, who will decide the fate of the nation equally with the Republic of Armenia. 

There are so many mixed marriages in the Armenian business community, that one may ask in astonishment: what would be the motive for the people, who are cosmopolitan, who have no ties with Armenia and don’t know Armenia, to deal with Armenian issues. To what kind of “sterilization” does Ruben Vardanyan want to subject the Armenian nation so that the Armenians within the nation-network would tolerate the cosmopolitan elite which has little to do with the Armenian identity. Do the authors think this problem is truly solvable and don’t they see the future confrontation and threats? 

Historical excursions are generally interesting if they help us to avoid making old mistakes in the present. Mr. Vardanyan, referring to the Armenian history, has not made the main conclusions. 

The reason for the loss of the Armenian statehood was exactly the creation of network oriented towards foreign centers, where the divergent tendencies ruined the common state, and the national ideological axis, which the authors do not like so much, was weak and did not secure the accumulation and concentration of national resources around the idea of the state. R. Vardanyan wants to reproduce the same mistake now; to avoid the concentration of power in order to preserve the privileged and dominant status of himself and of his class. 

Later, in the absence of the Armenian statehood, Armenian merchants created commercial networks under the patronage of one or another empire or power and perished when these empires decided to hand over the businesses of their loyal subjects to the representatives of the titular nations. 

When writing about the Genocide, the authors do not mention the important cause which falls within the logic of the book and which, in my opinion, played a crucial role in the defenselessness of the Armenian people. 
The Armenian urban population, the elite, the money, the skilled workers, and the substantial part of material and non-material resources were accumulated outside Armenia, in Constantinople and in Tbilisi. These centers had nothing to do with the country and with the common people, they lived separately, following their own agendas, and, as a result, the Armenian people did not have an elite, a thinking and governing body that would be able to organize resistance. 

The separation of the elite from the country and the people made these two parts helpless and led to the destruction of the Western Armenian population and elites living in the different parts of the Ottoman Empire. The elite (network centers) had their own concerns and agendas, and the protection of the country, territory and population was not part of them. The most important thing was to maintain trading network and interests in London and St. Petersburg, whereas the concerns of the people were ignored at best and, at worst, became bargaining chips for the pimp elite, when national interests were traded for personal gains. 

This situation. when the elite does not bear any responsibility for its nation, when there are no direct connections and relations between the elite and the nation, when the nation’s so-called select circle (“gentlemen”) live in the capitals of different states, and the people (the “commons”) live in the country, should never be, and will never be, repeated in Armenia again. 

Mr. Vardanyan, only those, who have chosen which flag they are loyal to, will be bestowed the status of the Armenian elite. Everyone should choose to which political nation they belong to, because the Armenian people will not be a community, it is becoming, and will eventually become a political nation. 

When speaking about the Genocide, it is important to underline the poor intellectual capacity of the Armenian elite of the time. The Armenian commercial elite was lacking political thinking and did not realize that in the new era the time of empires is coming to end, or that they morph into other forms, and the political nation becomes the form of organization of peoples, where the empire’s millets, communities are subjected to a slow assimilation or destruction. Therefore, no one in Constantinople, Tbilisi, Baku, Moscow and other places would have allowed the non-titular community to have structures higher than those of the titular nation and would not have allowed to build Armenia within a foreign country, and the policy was going to change dramatically. The citizens of an empire do not have nationality, they are only subjects, but in the era of national states there is no need for subjects – citizens of the state are needed instead. Many Armenians then and even now are ready to be subjects within bigger powers, but not citizens of their own country. 

No titular nation will tolerate in its national territory the growth of another nation to a point of having its own institutional structures and scale, i.e., according to the terms of the book, the existence of the nation-network, and one of the reasons of the Genocide and our defenselessness was the fact that we were such a nation-network. To organize resistance what we needed was a hierarchical structure that would have concentrated resources, would have implemented a common policy and could have predicted and faced the dangers. 

What we had instead was a horizontal network in Russia-Europe-Constantinople-Ottoman Empire outskirts, which did not have policy as such. The dominance of commercial capital which belonged to a different ethnic group during the upraise of political nations was a direct challenge to the Turkish national state; it constituted the same challenge for Georgians in Tbilisi, for the Tatars in Baku. This situation had to be dealt with and it was. It all ended in deprivation of property and massacre. 

There was no ability for resistance; the political nation was not established, and the elite, instead of guiding the people during this time of transformation of empires, dreamed of blessed sultans under whose protection they could live and make money as a loyal millet, a hub, failing to understand that established political nations do not need mediators to build relations with the world. 

Let me state this again, we have already had the network suggested by Ruben Vardanyan and it has proven its political bankruptcy, its inability to solve the issues of the nation, and that model of political organization culminated in a national catastrophe. 

The authors ask: “The question therefore arises: can we still argue that today’s Armenians are a network nation?” (pg. 158). My answer is: fortunately, we can’t. Armenians worldwide are members of the political nations of their countries of residence, and the attempts to create a global network nation, that is, the failure to shape the proper Armenian political nation will only lead to the loss of the state. 

The authors come to a stunning conclusion: “The Republic of Armenia is one of the most monoethnic countries in the world since the main ethnic group comprises about 98% of the population. Over the last 27 years we have for the first time in the past seven centuries lived in a sovereign national state. It is both a huge advantage and a drawback. In the past, Armenians were a bridge between civilizations, whereas now in their own country they not infrequently display a considerable lack of tolerance toward people of different culture, skin color, religion, or views.” (pg. 97). 

Dear Mr. Vardanyan, the Armenian people used to be a bridge between different civilizations not because they lived alongside Turkish robbers, oppressors, murderers and rapists, but because the Armenians lived in Madras, Cairo, Rostov-on-Don, and London, and if we are not carrying out that function today, the reason is that other nations have made a great leap in development and do not need us to go to London, and our multi-million diaspora simply lives its own life, and the influence of several thousands of patriots is not strong enough to make a small country such as ours become a mediator between bigger players. 

Whatever the reason, the blame for low tolerance toward minorities is only a means to ensure conditions for the external governance of our country. 

It is interesting that the authors, comparing different developmental models (166-167 pgs.), are afraid of the “capsule” status, but have no concerns about the status of a “far province of metropole” which is much more probable for us in the present and future, and they do not address the issue of strengthening national identity so that the country could be ready for its third and preferred way. The authors do not see the danger of neo-colonization at all and do not propose to set built-in mechanisms of checks and balances against external influence. On the contrary, they propose to legalize and legitimize the mechanisms of external interference, to introduce these mechanisms into the very flesh of the nation, using which various Migranyans, Kurghinyans and other figures will not fail to impose their ideas upon the Armenian people. I can only hope that the authors truly do not see this threat. 

Ignoring the risk of neo-colonization, the authors consider the hub to be a preferable status and use the example of Switzerland, a country under no military threat. I wonder how the authors would describe modern day Israel. 

And how do the authors envisage the hub status of Armenia in an uncompromising confrontation with the two neighboring states? Can a country which lives in such military and political reality be a hub, or this model implies political and therefore national development outside of such reality? Or what country could be the military and political sponsor of such a hub and what it would demand in return for protection, because protection implies dominance? I did not find answers to these questions in the book, and silence raises doubts about how readers will understand the book without such explanations. 

A nation-network that surrenders its political ambitions in order to avoid political issues and struggle could be named a nation-bartender or a nation-waiter, taking the word “nation” into inverted commas, of course. 
It is unclear what the authors mean saying; “Of course, it would preserve our distinctiveness, but this very distinctiveness is at this point problematic, given today’s identity crisis in a closed, monoethnic country and the gaps between Armenian ethnic groups elsewhere. (pg. 167)”. There is no identity crisis in Armenia, the community is becoming a political nation, and it remains unknown to me who the Armenian ethnic groups are. 
In this regard, I would like to remind the authors “The Transportation Theorem” of S. B. Pereslegin and use it for the case of network-nation. The theorem states that the province will separate from the state, if the information and transportation communication between the center and the province, or between provinces, becomes significantly weaker than the communication between the province and a foreign center of power.  

If the time of the exchange of information between the center and the periphery exceeds the time of development of processes which must be managed from the center, then, in our case, the horizontal network will collapse. 

If the speed of information, transport and economic development between the periphery and the center begins to fall behind the speed of the economic development of the periphery, then, in our case, the horizontal network will collapse. 

The connections of the Armenian diaspora, including the Armenian business community, with the world develop fast, and the relations with Armenia are problematic enough as they are, and no national degradation, no reduction of the state in the interest of the business to the level of an ordinary member of a network will help closing this gap. 

Our country's issues require quick responses and concentration of forces according to the current agenda. Working out joint decisions on our national agenda with the centers of the network in Moscow and London (as well as with the local special services) would require so much time (if such decisions would be achievable at all given differing interests of the centers) that this continuously delaying and failing process will start talks about national identity crisis in the ddiaspora, but not in Armenia. 
It’s time to choose a flag. 

The book is overwhelmed with questions, but one of the proposed solutions is particularly problematic. Apparently, and fortunately, Armenia will not be able to choose between Iran, Russia and the European Union, as the authors suggest.    

We will continue the policy of complementarity, as any choice between the three mentioned or other centers will lead to serious problems. Considering our geographical position, Armenia will remain an independent actor between these and other centers of power. By the way, the authors’ suggestion that Armenia should become a hub contradicts their prediction that Armenia will move towards integration with one of the three mentioned centers. The European Union means NATO and a tough confrontation with Iran and Russia, while deeper integration with Russia will cause problems with others, and integration with Iran is a pure fantasy. And so on. Armenia has no alternative to the policy of independence and complementarity. 

There are many other big and small topics in the book that are worth talking about, but in that case my note would grow to a size of a book. But one question I cannot ignore: yes, civil servants, state officials must be fluent in Armenian. 

There can be no room for doubt or preferences in this question when state officials are concerned, because if a person is really worried about Armenian issues, they should at least express their patriotism by learning Armenian, being able to read and write and even teaching Armenian to his children. Moreover, if Mr. Vardanyan believes that there are people who are patriotic and worthy of an official position, it is difficult to imagine how such valuable individuals could fail to see that in order to know and understand Armenia it is necessary to read in Armenian, read Armenian literature, media, social networks, and that without this it would be impossible to make sound judgments about the country and the people. And I have no doubt that a worthy person who aspires to enter the office would be smart enough to be able to within one year learn Armenian better than the author of this note. 

If Armenians who live outside Armenia, are not loyal to the Armenian flag and do not know the Armenian language, why do they seek a position (that is the right to make decisions)? Can’t they be useful in some other capacity? 

In the light of this simple explanation, the authors’ attacks on the language, their judgements hinting at certain negative traits supposedly typical of the Armenian nation, their continuous questioning of national values creates the impression that the authors, having no understanding of the systemic, social, and political causes of our national issues, have found these in national peculiarities. 

The book is overburdened with unnecessary information. The number of questions potentially exceeds the volume of several books. Notwithstanding this, the questions do not help the reader think, but confuse him; instead of explaining the points of the book, they offer the reader different approaches which generally lead to one primitive conclusion: Singapore or not Singapore – an alternative which has become a negative meme in the current Armenian public debates.  

Concluding my notes, I will try to answer one of the questions asked in the conclusion of the book: “How can a responsible national elite be formed?” (pg. 195). 

Our way of doing this is to create a political nation, where the status of the national elite is given to the people who have chosen the Armenian flag, where the elite is bound to its land, bears responsibility for its decisions and can be deprived of the elite status – and not only of the status – if it acts against the national interests. 

It is clear that we should seek and find a new model of a political nation, but I have to disappoint Mr. Vardanyan: with current developments in the world, it will be even more cohesive and less inclusive, it will shape an elite, who will talk with the network from the position of the owner and will not tolerate manifestations of external governance and political influence detached from the will of voters, as well as attacks on the political monopoly of the state. 

The offer to replace classical feudalism with network feudalism might have been of interest to some naïve under the previous regime, but after the April revolution the chapter on feudalism in the Armenian history was closed once and forever. All attempts to reopen it will end in the same way as in May 2018, when the efforts to bring Karen Karapetyan back were crowned with a public disgrace. 

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