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First Global Survey of Armenian Opinion 05/22/2003

First Global Survey of Armenian Opinion
Presented at Futuristic Conclave in Athens

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

More than 70 bright young men and women of diverse backgrounds from Russia,
Armenia, Europe, and North and South America gathered in Athens, Greece,
during the past weekend, to take on the challenging task of developing
alternative scenarios for Armenia's future until the year 2020.
These Armenian professionals, including a few non-Armenian experts, prepared
seven different models ranging from the gloomiest to the most optimistic. A
preparatory meeting was held in Prague, the Czech Republic, last July. The
third and final meeting will be held in Yerevan later this year.
A professionally conducted survey, prepared by the Aslan Group and Arlex
International specifically for the "Armenia 2020" Athens conference, was
presented to the participants. This is probably the first such survey of
Armenians in both the Diaspora and Armenia. It explored the attitudes,
values and beliefs of Armenians worldwide from all walks of life. Close to
1,000 individuals were surveyed earlier this year in four Armenian cities
(Yerevan, Gumri, Yegheknadzor, and Vanadzor). The ages of the respondents
ranged from 18 to over 50. About 500 Diaspora Armenians from North and South
America, Europe, Russia and other countries were also surveyed at around the
same time.
Not surprisingly, when the Armenians in Armenia (Hayastantsis) were asked to
name the top challenges for the country, they said jobs, the economy and
poverty, whereas, the Diaspora Armenians listed in addition to the economy,
corruption and the lack of confidence in the government of Armenia.
More than 85% of Hayastantsis said they believe that "the government should
own or directly control certain companies," whereas less than half of the
Diasporans surveyed found such a thing desirable. In addition, nearly 80% of
Hayastantsis think that "international recognition of the genocide should be
one of the top priorities for Armenia's leaders." Only 70% of Diasporans
think so. These figures finally put to rest the oft-repeated false notion
that only radicals in the Diaspora keep pursuing the genocide issue. Those
who entertain such erroneous thoughts forget that a large number of the
survivors of the Genocide fled to what is today the Republic of Armenia.
Close to 90% of Hayastantsis believe that "corruption is the main reason
Armenia is not prosperous," followed by "bureaucracy and confusion over
laws." Striking a healthy note of optimism, almost 75% of Hayastantsis
expressed the hope that "in five years, the majority of Armenia's businesses
will be much more competitive than they are now."
Around 80% of both Hayastantsis and Diasporans believe that "Armenia should
aggressively pursue membership in the European Union." More than 75% of both
groups suggested that the "Diaspora should organize itself and be unified."
They also think that the "Diaspora is a positive force for change in
Armenia." In another interesting revelation, more than 90% of both groups
believe that the average citizen in the homeland has "too little influence
over Armenia's future."
The survey results showed that Hayastantsis fall in five distinct cluster
groups. The survey-takers named them: Discouraged Capitalists;
Don't Worry, Be Happy; Corruption Fighters; Hard-Working Statists; and
Confident Partners. The most promising group to work with in Armenia is the
"Confident Partners" who have high levels of trust and belief in government
In summary, the survey showed, not surprisingly, that the most prevalent
thing on Hayastantsis' mind is jobs. While initial promising contacts could
be made with "Confident Partners," Diasporans should make every efforts to
empower those segments of society in Armenia that have given up and see n o
point in trying to improve their lot. These are some of the most destitute
and desperate people who could pose a potential danger to the country's
stability and progress.
This three-day conference that I was invited to attend was both challenging
and rewarding. I met many Armenian professionals from around the world for
the first time. The serious discussions contemplating Armenia's future held
by these innovative young men and women remind us that there are thousands
of other bright Armenian professionals whose skills remain untapped by the
existing Armenian organizations.
If we ever hope to be able to turn Armenia's economy around in the
foreseeable future, we need to involve such talented people in our efforts.
Of course, one of the quickest ways to double our forces in this regard is
to recruit and actively engage Armenian women who constitute fully 50% of
our people, in the nation-building process.
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