Readers’ reviews

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.
Souren Israelyan
Souren Israelyan
Attorney, Principal of the Law Office of Souren A. Israelyan, New York
The book beautifully encapsulates the rich history of the Armenian Nation, from its early times to the present, and in that exploration brings up the best characteristics of the national identity, and honestly discusses the shortcomings. It is a must read for every Armenian, and thus I shared it with my children and friends.

The last two chapters (The World in the 21st Century: New Reality, and Our Vision of the Future) – and the Afterword – give a rare glimpse into the minds, models and souls of highly successful glocal investors of our times. The lessons, experiences and analysis of the new reality and the future within and without grasp, which is shared in the book in an elegant yet straightforward manner, are invaluable.

The discussions of the optimal development models, the means and methods for achieving true success for one and all, the pitfalls to be aware of and avoid, the challenges and opportunities facing every Armenian, family, school, community, business, the nation, and Armenia in the constantly evolving world makes this book a genuine masterpiece of pragmatic analytical thought. It is engaging in the first reading and deeply thought provoking with each subsequent re-reading.

Rev. Paul Haidostian
Rev. Paul Haidostian
Ph.D., President, Haigazian University, Beirut
The text is dynamic, educated, and interesting. It touches upon a very wide range of matters of history, civilization in general, scholarship, ethnography, strategy, and of course matters of the local and global economy. This makes the matter very rich but sometimes dilutes the discussion.

The authors’ perspectives are quite clear, and the passionate dedication to the future of Armenia and the Armenians comes through strongly, and clearly. I did not appreciate those statements, here and there, where generalizations are made about the Armenians, “we are” like this or like that. For me personally, they weaken the solid arguments.

Of course, the text is a pre-Pashinyan revolution perspective, and it would be interesting what the authors’ think is already being addressed by the new leadership or the new approach.

If there is one key word that caught my attention, and something I also think is absolutely critical, it is TRUST. The text addresses that nicely in many places, and trust is the secret behind so much, nationally, religiously, economically, relationally, etc.

I generally agreed with the various descriptions of the characteristics of the Armenians from the earliest history to modern days.  These characteristics, if maintained, can help Armenia prosper, and what I mean is matters of quality, reliability, hard work, capitalizing on the heritage of the past, etc.

The hope that Armenians would find much common ground amongst each other is a tall vision, but not a bad one, of course. As long as a number of key characteristics or topics keep our passion alive together, we will be all in conversation with each other. Joint ventures, projects, etc., are positive. We can all learn from them, especially if they are developmentally driven in a holistic way. The danger is that they could be seen as economically driven.

With all humility, I say that no matter how many scenarios for the future we may foresee, we should be always ready for surprises and reversals of phenomena as well. So, what the text projects for the future may be overturned in various ways. What remains valid, if the highest degree of preparedness as individuals, as government, as an ethnic group and its global institutions, that is all our assets of all sorts. One of our strengths should remain to be realistically and relatively distinct from the global poles, if we can. Also, we Armenians everywhere, should know that what one does in one country, may have an impact on the other Armenian in very far places, and on Armenia as a country as well.

On a relatively critical note, as I read the text, I ‘felt’ that the Near Eastern Armenian ethos is not in it and its conclusions. Just as an example, a high percentage of Armenians in our countries grow up with a strong national connection and ‘spiritual’ connection with Armenia as well. This has decreased a bit over time, but our youth still show high degrees of involvement emotionally.

Also, if I were to read the text with an Armenian Protestant lens, I would feel that the 19th century and all the developments in many of which the Protestants were vocal and instrumental and they would have enriched the discussion are absent. Some examples of what I have in mind are: the education of women; the higher education of the Armenians in various colleges; the sending of many Armenians to the USA for higher education and the return of a some of them, at least; the change in the way the regular person saw the Bible, that is its translation into the vernacular, and its distribution in the homes and the impact of all that developmentally.

So, those are some of my reflections, even though not systematic. I thank the authors for having shared this with me.

Armen Mehrabyan
Armen Mehrabyan
International expert on agricultural crises, founder of “Armeniak” company and trademark, creator of
The paper is interesting, but amateurish, or rather, analytically unprofessional. I would say that all the mistakes of the Armenia-2020 strategy are not only directly repeated, but also linearly distorted.

The paper is interesting, but amateurish, or rather, analytically unprofessional. I would say that all the mistakes of the Armenia-2020 strategy are not only directly repeated, but also linearly distorted.

As an international expert and professional in the field of agricultural crises, I would emphasize that when identifying priorities for the development of Armenia, the tendencies of the harmonious development of global humanity were not considered. The world does not change by itself, the world changes because people and the social community change.

Who are we? What can we give to the world? How do we want to live? What is our place as an ethnos in the “beard of egregors”? Not the answers to these and other similar questions, but the real approaches and knowledge of their solutions can raise us to the next level of development. The harmonious development of the community, where social initiative prevails, where morality is the basis, and the basis of morality is love – that is the main driving force of the national motivation.

But just as a productive seed cannot sprout in degraded, depleted, barren soil, likewise talent cannot be embodied in an unfavorable environment. Today we have the issue of a favorable environment, the issue of learning to live together, that of loving one’s neighbor as oneself, the issue of self-giving for one’s own sake. Today is the time to act.

Hrant Bagratyan
Hrant Bagratyan
Doctor of Economics, Head of the Research and Education Center for Global Development and Megaeconomics, Russian-Armenian University, Yerevan
I read the discussion paper “At the Crossroads” with great attention. I think it’s a very interesting book. For the most part, I do not share the views of the authors. But one thing is certain: this is a good attempt to look at the past, present and future of Armenia and Armenians, putting forward certain behavioural norms and preventing future challenges.

I would like to divide my review into three parts. Firstly, the essence of the civilizational development, the general strategy of the dialectic of socio-economic structures and the evolution of social structures. Secondly, the essence of institutional development and the Armenian historical experience. Thirdly, judgments on the current text.

The Essence of the Civilizational Development, the General Strategy of the Dialectics of Socio-Economic Structures, and the Evolution of Social Structures

I call a nation a people or peoples that have a state. Any other definition pushes us into the abyss of subjective reasoning. From my point of view, every nation is just a contender for civilization. Following the logic of A. Toynbee and S. Huntington, the results of material and immaterial activities of the nations that were also used by others should be considered civilization. The most vivid civilization of nations is manifested in linguistics. The English language borrowed 34 thousand words from the Greeks and only a couple of dozen from the Armenians, ceteris paribus, this is the ratio of civilization of the Greeks and Armenians! After all, the word is the essence behind which there can be a certain material or immaterial product, institution, attitude, etc. The Armenians have created little civilization. The design of Christian churches around the world, the history of Khorenatsi are civilizational products. Many other nations could not do without them (however, our church architecture was adopted from the Assyrians, from Osroene, the first Christian state in the world). Thus, do not exaggerate the civilizational contribution of the Armenians. For the period of independence, in my opinion, the only partial civilizational contribution of Armenia is the land reform. So, by the decision of the meeting of the Intergovernmental Council on CIS Agroindustrial Complex dated July 25, 1995, 6 states (Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Russia) recognized the success of the Armenian land reform, the applicability of this reform at home. Our studies show that nations, as a rule, live in one civilization, and this is 1000-1200 years. After that, if they do not die out, drag a miserable existence. The Armenians so far have had one civilization - from the 4th century BC.  until the 5th century AD. The rest of the time, we did not create the values that other nations needed. There were separate contributions of individual talents based on the results of other civilizations (A. Khachaturian, Ch. Aznavour and others). But civilizations are being created on their own land, in their own state. In a foreign land it is impossible to create it! Moreover, if you create products that others need, then this gives you the right to use the products of the other civilizations. And that means economic growth, prosperity. According to my calculations, referring also to A. Manandyan and T. Avdalbegyan, after the 5th century, when the per capita GDP (without PPP) was 5,000 current US dollars, the Armenians did not have major civilizational successes. From this point of view, I would revise and edit such paragraphs of the first chapter as “The Shaping of Armenian Ethnic Identity” and “Pillars of National Identity”. Well, how can you prove that the strengthening of the Armenians was due to the "Proclamation of Christianity ..." or the partition of the country? The creation of the alphabet, yes, is a civilizational product. Later I will return to the topic of the Armenian church.

The dialectics of socio-economic structures is spiral-shaped. The mankind walked, alternately centralizing the resources and management, then decentralizing them. These eternal compressions and expansions provide development. The problem is that the civilized countries carry out these transitions evolutionarily, and the non-civilized ones - revolutionarily. The existence of revolutions is an obvious sign of the non-civilized state of the societies. In D. Acemoglu and D. Robinson’s book "Why Nations Fail ..." instead of the words "centralization" and "decentralization" the terms "extractive" and "inclusive" institutions are used. At the same time, an incorrect interpretation of “inclusiveness” is observed - such institutions stimulate the participation of large groups of the population in the economic activity ... Protected private property rights are necessarily part of inclusive institutions ... (p. 101). This is a very half-hearted interpretation of the processes. Enhanced extractiveness, according to Acemoglu and Robinson, is bad. Inclusiveness is good! In the meantime, centralization is regularly increasing in all countries, including Western countries, human progress requires a general increase in extractiveness. For instance, when the United States flew to the moon, there was a sharp increase in the centralization of management and resources. The question is that under centralization, civil societies smoothly, evolutionarily decentralize resources and management. Now, not the Moon, but to Mars are flying E. Mask’s apparatuses. This is the essence of the evolution of socio-economic structures! In this regard, it does not seem useful and appropriate to me to constantly mention the terms of inclusiveness and extractiveness. As we can see, the book of Acemoglu and Robinson is not flawless!

The Essence of Institutional Development and the Armenian Historical Experience

When we want to evaluate the effectiveness or the role of various institutions, we are obliged to compare their condition for the historical period under review with those structures noted by the institutions that, judging by the history of other peoples, at that time provided effective growth and proper level of competitiveness. In this regard, from the middle of the 5th century in Armenian reality, a discrepancy begins between the internal institutions and those reference ones that were supposed to be.

Firstly, Christianity, which initially ensured progress, became an obstacle to development. The tax of 7% or tithe took away from society all the resources for expanded reproduction. Because of this, church estates began to expand rapidly. First, the church went against the royal house, later - the nakharars (ministers). In Western Europe, which adopted Christianity 300-400 years later, this was quickly understood and steps were taken against such a development. The Swedes in their history 3 times took the lands from the church. Henry VIII refused the services and rules of the Vatican (divorce was just an excuse), Peter the 1st in 1702 actually nationalized the church and saved the country. Where the church and the Inquisition won (Spain, Italy and, in part, France), a sharp decline in the pace of progress, a lag began. Napoleon’s historical merit lies in the fact that he deprived the Catholic Church of the status of a large landowner and since the XIX century, widespread economic progress has been achieved almost throughout Europe. 

In Armenia, everything was different. The church gradually became a major landowner, took on the functions of education and health, negotiating in the international arena. From 428 to 652 in Armenia there was no authority other than ecclesiastical. It is our luck or misfortune that during this period no one attacked us. When the land reform was launched in the Russian Empire in 1861, there was nothing to reform in Armenia - all the lands belonged to the church. In Moks and Shatakh, the Armenians converted to the Muslim faith in order to avoid the economic oppression of the apostolic church. Well, the help reached us: Arabs. Fortunately for the Armenians, they captured the country, took away the lands of the Nakharars and Church, and gave them to the peasants in order to receive tribute from them. The economy revived! Soon, at the beginning of the VIII century, they killed all the Nakharar houses’ representatives. The Bagratuni escaped, which gave them the opportunity to recreate an independent kingdom (there were no competitors-nakharars, except for the Vaspurakan and Syunik governors). But they soon did a stupid thing: they began to nationalize the land. The productivity fell, the peasants began to migrate from Armenia (in particular, to Cilicia). The increased spending on luxury, an exorbitant number of churches built ravaged the kingdom. They had to gradually sell everything to the church so that there was money in the treasury. The richened church, naturally, began to search for a new, from its point of view, more powerful master. And found him in Byzantium.

Secondly, the strong church did not allow to destroy, crush large Nakharar, prince houses into the royalty. In the history of Armenia, the line has not reached the royalty. Ivan the Terrible through the oprichnina deprived concrete princes, in France Louis XI managed to weaken the dukes through knights, etc. The Armenian nobles, sepuhs, did not constitute a substantial estate. Vahram Pahlavuni with his army went to Georgia, and others to Cilicia. Therefore, the strong Georgian state of Tamara and David the Builder appeared. And the Cilician kingdom arose on the lands of the Byzantine Greeks, where the system of state ownership of land prevailed.

Thirdly, the Armenian statehood has ceased to exist 4 times in history (not counting the kingdom of Cilicia). Moreover, in the two cases (in 8 and in 1045) the end of the kingdom occurred due to the lack of direct male heirs. In Europe and Russia, this problem was easily solved: instead of a king, there could  be a queen. So here we are, and we dare to blame others for our troubles.

Now, will we continue to rely on the theories of I. Dyakonov or V. Bryusov that the reason for the cessation of the Armenian statehood is the poor geographical environment, the external enemy? The whole Armenian “historical science” is built on such a naive postulate. Are the Romans, Persians, Arabs, Turks, Russians to blame? After all, it is easy every time to explain your failures by an external enemy, to mention the poor location. Or maybe if there weren’t these external enemies, we would have completely disappeared from the face of the earth? In the 7th-9th centuries, when the early Armenian Reformation, the Tondrakians and Paulicians raised their heads, there was a need to move from large princely houses to the royalty, the Armenian church repeatedly called for help of the Byzantines and Arabs with troops. 2.5 million people were killed! So, would the Seljuk intervention be possible if these people remained alive and gave life to new generations?

From the point of view of the theory of civilizations, before the decline of individual countries as a result of an external invasion, a sharp decrease in the civilization of the state necessarily takes place due to the inadequate development of the social institutions in comparison with the requirements of the social structures. In this regard, I would completely edit the first chapter of the book. The discussion paper "At the Crossroads" aims to reload the Armenians, to make us a network nation. Our brief analysis showed that it is necessary to modernize the state, all the attempts to work on a nation mean failure. It is the Armenian state, social systems and institutions that need to be modernized. Do not invent anything supernatural. It is necessary here to apply what has already been achieved by mankind. Just let's first create a normal state, as in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Albania, Georgia, etc. Not to mention the developed states. In the book “The Caucasian Tiger” (2007), the well-known economist of the World Bank L. Freinkman wrote: the Armenian economic reforms of the early 90s (the first generation of reforms) exceeded all the post-Soviet countries, not only the USSR, but also the countries of Eastern Europe. Let’s at least repeat this before thinking how to become a world nation!

Judgments on the Current Text

p. 7 - The important idea that civilizational successes come to where there is a crossroads, trade routes. This is contrary to the "theories" of Dyakonov and Bryusov.

p. 13 - "By the very fact of their existence, Armenians refute Lev Gumilev’s theory of ethnogenesis, which contends that the life cycle of an ethnos does not exceed 1,600 years, and Oswald Spengler’s theory that the cycle is about 1,000 years." You are not right: one and the same people can have several civilizations.

p. 17 and further - The first paragraphs on the role of the church and family structures are not based on an in-depth analysis of the things.

p. 21 - The first paragraph is not very correct! The Arabs introduced a cash tax and did not interfere in anything else! This gave rise to private land ownership: the Nakharars leased land to the peasants. Armenia began to develop! Soon this development gave rise to Pavlikyans and Tondrakyans. Subsequently, the Armenian church strangled them in blood.

p. 26 - An unsuccessful explanation of the fall of the Kingdom of Ani: Hovhannes-Smbat died, and the emperor demanded the execution of the will. It can’t be like that. The Church and Petros Getadarz led the country to poverty. Obviously, people just wanted to get rid of them at least in this way!

p. 27 - I am sorry that the paragraph "Global Network" does not mention Vahan Bayburdyan and his magnificent book about the Armenian trading houses of the Middle Ages.

p. 35 - To talk about Lviv and not write about the 17th century Armenian bank of Yan Martirosyan is a crime. Perhaps this is the oldest commercial bank in Europe (opened earlier than the Bank of England or Riksbank in Sweden). It is located on the Armenian street, behind the Armenian church. There is currently a cafe there. But the owner carefully guards all the old bank furniture, wooden deposit boxes, 17th century bills and bills of exchange.

p. 52 - "Tigran the Great, an exemplary Armenian ruler" - no one even knows why he is great. He began the reign in 400 thousand square kilometers, and finished in 360. Lost Lesser Armenia, Sophene. I never understood the following paradox: the Armenians call him “the Great”, and T. Mommsen and, it seems, E. Gibbon “a coward”.

p. 55 - The conclusion about the disunity of the Armenians is not grounded! For the V – XI centuries, due to a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of Christianity, the Armenians moved away from the global social systems and institutions and paid a lot for it.

p. 57-58 - The monoethnicity of Armenia is a serious problem. Very right! But multinationality can be an even bigger problem. Yet, still it is needed. With such a strict monoethnicity, the nation will be genetically degraded.

p. 58 - It is very correct that the national identity is based on the victory in the Karabakh war. 

p. 64 - Outstanding personalities in the Diaspora are found less and less. Right! Because in the current situation of social institutions in a foreign land, it is impossible and not necessary to create  products of civilization.

p. 65 - “The world will become indifferent toward the Armenians”. What kind of a phrase is this? In a global world, everyone is obligated to think about themselves.

p. 69 - "However, the Diaspora elite, contrary to expectations, did not take part in resolving the fundamental issues of modernizing the state and economic institutions ...". Well, thank God! The source of the sovereignty of the country are citizens and only them. The smearing of civilian institutions in the diasporas will lead to the loss of the state.

p. 71 - The statistics given here regarding the comparison of Armenia and the RSFSR are completely absurd. At the time of the collapse of the USSR, Armenia was 1.5 times behind the RSFSR. Per capita income in Armenia was 2945 rubles, in the RSFSR - 4300 rubles, in Georgia 2760 rubles. and in Azerbaijan 2170 rubles. Among the 15 Soviet republics, Armenia was the seventh in this indicator. The fact is that the current head of the statistics service, moving from the indicator ND to GDP, reduced the data until the year of 1990.

p. 72 - For 70 years, the AAC was not destroyed! The lands, property, were taken from it and thank God! The Russians treated our church in the same way as their own. And it gave us a chance to develop. Remember the movie "Brothers Saroyan". Remember how an officer begs flour from a priest.

p. 78 - The paragraph "The Imperial Legacy: Opportunities and Obligations" is absolutely untrue. The Soviet economy began to plummet beginning in April 1989, when the foreign trade activity was liberalized. It turned out that the whole country was producing not what was needed. What did not we, then rulers, manage to do? The recession in the Armenian economy in the early 90s amounted to 47%, Ukraine - 59%, Azerbaijan 57%, Moldova 69%, Georgia 72% and Russia 44%. And meanwhile we won the war! K. Bendukidze said: in the early 2000s, we repeated the reforms that were carried out in Armenia in the early 90s. In 1994, the first among the CIS countries, Armenia ensured economic growth of 6.9%. I have already noted above the assessment of these reforms by the World Bank. And what happened in the late 80s in the USSR, can be found in Y. Gaidar, "The Collapse of an Empire."

p. 83 - I am sure we do not need comprehensive, nationwide projects. At this stage of development, we rather need not a goal, but rules of conduct.

p. 84 - To the first paragraph of the paragraph “Still the Periphery of an Empire?”: Whatever, the state of Armenia is the first soldier and defender of the new Armenian reality (which, if successful, will become civilization). Neither the Armenian nation, nor the Diaspora, etc., namely the state.

p. 85 - More could be said about the land privatization. For the first time in 100 years, Armenia has been a net exporter of agricultural products.

p. 86 - Don’t just compare the investments in Georgia and Armenia. The remittances are also partly an investment. The problem is also that the Armenian legislation does not establish what constitutes an investment. Part of the remittances, obviously, was spent on the creation of elements of fixed capital.

p. 87 - The third paragraph from above: you’d better find out how many successful farms have emerged over the past 26 years.

p. 102 - It is a shame to bring the WB Gini coefficient for Armenia. Everyone knows this is a mockery.

p.109 - Throughout the work, the words “inclusiveness” and “extractiveness” are mentioned appropriately or inappropriately. Even if I agree with the position of Acemoglu et al., and I as a whole do not share their point of view, only in the third chapter these words are mentioned 24 times.

p. 114 - The chapter "The World in the 21st Century: New Reality" is the most successful in the book.

p.115 - The paragraph "Nation States in a Globalizing World" did not work out. There is really no objective doubt that they will disappear. In the end, if 100 years ago there were 53 states, now it’s 208! In our theory of megaeconomics, where migration is assigned the main role in establishing equilibrium in the global economy, it is argued that only with a national state does a nation get the opportunity to create tangible and intangible assets of civilization.

p. 116 - Global migration is not correctly interpreted: if capital does not go to people, then people go to capital. That is the only way to maintain an acceptable level of economic growth. If not this, then war is inevitable.

p. 144 - I expected more from this last chapter. But the success of chapter 4 was not developed.

p. 145 - "To stop separating the Armenians of Armenia and the Diaspora." The source of sovereignty is citizenship. By what moral law do those who serve in the army, risking their lives, and replenish the country's budget, in their rights, be equated with those that have nothing to do with it?

p. 148 - "Meanwhile, our collective memory still retains the memory of those times when Armenia was experiencing rapid development in all areas of the economy, science, culture." But all this was developed for the USSR? Well, how much are we to cry about it? It was shown that the decline and economic destruction in our country were at a much lower level than in other republics. Why to discuss something that did not depend on us?

p. 149 - "Think to Connect" is an artificially invented paragraph.

p. 150 - "Think to Create" - incomprehensible! What is it for?

p. 154 - "Think to Act" - What is it for when you need to do simple things!

p. 157–166 - Two paragraphs in a row: incomprehensible, romantic, artificial!

p. 166 - "Armenia as a Hub" - half of the paragraph is interesting. Only at the end a lot of boasting!

p. 174–175 - We must learn to be honest about the consequences of the Genocide. There are 3 levels. The first level of recognition is normal. The second level is restitution. This is already difficult. If there is a demand for restitution, then recognition will most likely not happen. Perhaps, after recognition, there may be some restitution over time. The third level is land return requirements. Then we will need to forget about the recognition and restitution. We cannot become a national minority in a state where 22 out of 25 million people are Muslims!

p. 178–184 - An incomprehensible and unconvincing statement for me. I do not understand the arithmetic at the top on page 182. How did you calculate this? As a rule, in Armenia (observation data for 25 years), 2.4 units of investments give an increase in GDP per 1 unit.

And in the end.

I was interviewed by P. Gurdjian on the 2020 program. Now you start up 2031, etc. There is nothing to say, well, interesting. But in your programs, you confuse the macroeconomic policy of the government itself and the latter’s activity in creating tangible and intangible assets. Therefore, you should pay attention to the government reform program of 1992 and the “100 Steps” program of 2009.

Thank you in general for an interesting book.

Alexander Auzan
Alexander Auzan
Doctor of Economics, Professor, Dean of the Faculty of Economics, Lomonosov Moscow State University
The project “At the Crossroads” captivates with the greatness of the idea: an attempt to look at the development of a country and ethnic group as a long evolutionary development of values, state practices, economy, and all that matters to assess the past and try to look into the future.

It seems to me that the main success in this study is not only the collection of a huge and interesting material, but also the rigid formulation of the central problem. In the language of institutional economics, according to the authors, such a social contract took shape in Armenia in post-Soviet times – that is, an exchange of expectations between the authorities and the population regarding the basic property rights and freedoms, – which creates negative trends in the country’s development and a problem for the entire ethnic group as a whole. Having received a significant investment and innovative resource in the Soviet times, post-Soviet Armenia, having achieved national independence, does not make use of and develop this resource. On the contrary, a system has actually developed, where a decrease in the country’s population through assistance from the Diaspora contributes to an increase in the capacity of the Government of the Republic. This type of a social contract, of course, leads to a dead end.

In search of new models that Armenia could accept, the list of options that the authors have already found would be more interesting and convincing if it was supplemented with an analysis of two large cases similar to the Armenian in type. I mean the state of Israel with the Jewish Diaspora, and the Republic of Ireland with the Irish Diaspora. In essence, these states had to solve problems in many respects similar to those of the Republic of Armenia. 

And the last one. The idea of using the existing historical values and development is very boundary for modern social economic theory. I would like to remind the authors that the socio-cultural economy is becoming not only a new field of knowledge, but also an area of fairly accurate knowledge. The World Values Survey, the European Values Study and numerous theoretical works allow us to more accurately describe the set of behavioral attitudes and values of certain groups (including ethnic ones) in order to understand what these characteristics correlate better with in the development opportunities.

I would like to wish further successful steps to the authors of the project and the implementation of these ideas in the practice of the Republic of Armenia.

Pedro Mouratian
Pedro Mouratian
Diversity Director of the Governance Study Center (CEG), Argentina
In the first place and beside the differences and coincidences we could have over all the addressed topics, which are a lot, I think the document is extremely interesting and bold. There is an urgent need of discussion about the future of Armenia and the world, and this a very good way to restart it.

Even when we share the necessity to redefine and discuss the essence, structure, functions, and performance of States and International Institutions mainly because the lack of responses to social and individual needs. I think the goal must be improving them, not replace them with private or particular initiatives no matter how good intentions they have.

The main structure that can guarantee the security and development background to any Nation is the State, and to do so, it should be an efficient one. But to achieve the goals demanded by the people and the new emerging world is necessary to build not only an efficient and top-notch public administration, but also new consensus that allow to settle the bases of any new development model. The key aspect of this consensus is, by far, politics. There can't be any development without the right management of political interests, like all the developed countries had. Political conflict shouldn't be avoided, at least not in its democratic form. There can't be no development if the benefits of it are only for a few. The collective action must be taken and valuated as the fundamental step to achieve a more fair distribution of resources that allows progress and future to the citizens. Armenia today can't provide this, which turns out the main reason of the migration problem.

This means we need an authoritarian government and State model? No, nothing alike either. The point I want to illustrate here is that to ensure the security, progress and a place of relevance in the upcoming new era there should be a State with strategic look, integrated citizens, a clear economic model and a full respect of human rights.

In that road, the private initiatives, new networks and the Diasporic Armenians can have a fundamental weight not only in the pursuit of that goals but also in the construction of an environment where Armenians and anyone who wants it find in Armenia a place to build a future.

Beside that first and complicated transformation, there are two fundamental issues that can't be ignored or relegated. Firstly, the Nagorno Karabagh conflict. The security and respect of our borders can't be negotiated and any attempt to develop must consider how to advance through this situation. The second issue is the Armenian Genocide, where no step back is allowed either.

Nowadays’ world is very different from the past and changes even faster than most countries are able to. Any economic model designed to achieve macroeconomic stability and human development of our nation, for those who live inside or outside its borders, has to consider these realities and be filled with creative thinking, commitment and integrity.

Romen Yepiskoposyan, Haroutiun Samuelian
Romen Yepiskoposyan, Haroutiun Samuelian
Romen Yepiskoposyan, cyberneticist, systems analyst; Haroutiun Samuelian, physicist, graphic designer
About the project. First. The authors of the project declare two objectives: 1. to initiate a discussion in society about the future of the country and the nation, and 2. to give an idea of their vision of this future and the development projects initiated by them over the past seventeen years that can bring this vision to life.

The energetic and wide-ranging initiative of the “At the Crossroads” group succeeded in engaging in an active, meaningful, and “global” discussion. Thanks to our relatively late connection to it, we had the opportunity to track a wide and varied range of responses to the authors’ call for discussion and to draw certain instructive conclusions.

First, about the second objective. It has been partially achieved, and the text presented is adequate to it. It covers a range of issues, to some extent explaining the foundations of the unique viability of our nation, while at the same time rightly pointing out some circumstances that impede the consolidation of the Armenians.

Let’s turn to a very significant issue for an adequate attitude to the subsequent discussion. In the Introduction, the authors of the discussion paper write: “we review the nation, the country and individuals at a crossroads in time: we analyze the past, look to the future and try to understand how to act in the present.” In order to effectively analyze the past, one must correctly evaluate it (as well as correctly see the future). And the roots of the present, in which the authors intend to act, lie in the case of the Armenians as deep as they are not traced on anyone on the planet (remember at least the 12,500-year-old Umbilical Mountain Portasar).

A significant part of the book is a historical review with numerous references (though not about all the most important) covering about 2000 years, beginning with the Great Armenia of Tigran II, limited only to the Christian period. The pre-Christian period, which is most essential for adequate understanding and largely determines the millennium, during which complex and important processes of the formation of the Armenian community and the system of its cultural and civilizational values, completely falls out. Without the understanding of the origins and prevailing value foundations, the role of Armenians (formed as a community of numerous tribal formations), it is impossible to understand the whole complex of what we call the Armenian World.

Speaking about the national identity and traditional values, the authors outlined many of their components but did not pay attention to the most important: determining for our people the aspiration and orientation towards the highest spiritual values, which fundamentally distinguished the Armenians from all the many neighbors and historical partners in the vast arena in all times since the formation of the entire complex of the Neolithic revolution on the Armenian Highlands and many millennia after. Without understanding this, “forgetting” about the exceptionally high assessments that other peoples have given Armenians as custodians, bearers, and distributors of spiritual values since ancient times, much will remain unclear in our historical destiny and distorted in our assessments. Thus, “The Proclamation of Christianity as the State Religion of Armenia”, “The Partition of Greater Armenia between Sasanian Persia and Byzantium”, “The Invention of the Armenian Alphabet by Mesrop Mashtots” could not have decisive significance in the formation of the Armenian identity.

In addition to this, the historical excursion set out in the paper is largely based on the system of theories and views on our history that have developed in the Soviet historical science, which are not least based on the works of the European scientists of the 19th and 20th centuries. All this is significantly outdated and needs to be substantially rethought, especially since a huge number of new scientific – historical, archaeological, ethnographic, linguistic, population-genetic, and many other data have accumulated. And most importantly, the work does not reveal (at least not to the necessary degree) those sides, pages and circumstances of our great history that carry a strong spiritual charge and could serve to awaken national dignity to a much greater extent than the authors managed. The shortcomings (including those not mentioned by us) of the historical excursion were also noted by some participants of the discussion.

The determining circumstance in the modern national “portrait” remained out of consideration: the attitude of each Armenian and the whole nation to the fact that a significant part of our Motherland was taken away from us, huge cultural, national wealth was appropriated by killers, rapists, robbers and their patrons, as well as many vulture marauders taking advantage of the “favourable” situation. The nation suffered incredible and irreparable population damage. And to not give to this extremely serious significance (the corresponding historical references do not change things), to put it mildly, is unconstructive. That not only tragic but also shameful stigma lies on all of us, without exception. And to limit the development strategy of the country and the nation to arbitrarily attractive cultural, educational, industrial, etc. projects means not to consider the main strategic factor that affects our future. Until the Armenian historical fair trial is accomplished until the Motherland is revived, we will not be able to regain our national dignity, and all the projects and programs – no matter how beautiful they maybe – will remain lower. Therefore, the stratagem for the restoration of our full-fledged subjectivity (in all senses) and the achievement of our integrity (territorial and spiritual) should be fundamental in any possible global national project. And its content should be the issues of in-depth analysis and awareness of the causes of the national Catastrophe and a proposal of ways to neutralize its consequences in full.

And, in direct connection with the above mentioned, this paper does not pay attention to the current conditions in which Armenia is found, “thanks” to some of our closest neighbours, with one of which we continue to be in a state – albeit of a “sluggish” – but fierce hybrid war.

The book is written mainly from the standpoint and within the framework of – let's say – a business project and related management (not only we noted this), and in this regard (the authors of “At the Crossroads” are aware of the possibility of other business concepts) it solves the problem. It is possible that speaking from such only one position would be sufficient for many, many other nations and communities, but it is completely unacceptable for our states and all Armenians.


The authors call for discussion of the proposed scenarios by the representatives of different sectors of society in Armenia and the Diaspora, including the so-called intellectual, political, business and military elites, and attract the attention of people of all ages, especially the youth. It is assumed that those endowed with the right to make decisions about the future of the country and nation, should be based on public consensus. Public consensus is an attractive institution. However, for the required consensus, it is not necessary to expect the required level of wisdom and special knowledge crucial for the country and nation from the majority of members of the society. This must be impartially and undoubtedly accepted. The problem of consensus is closely linked and brings to life the question of the need for a real, True National Elite. Further throughout our text, the term Elite (with a capital letter) will be referred to as the True National Elite (which does not exist yet), and the word “elite” with a small, lower case letter will be used in common usage for various professional and other elites, among which there are often unworthy people.

The book does not have a clear and convincing definition of the most important (the most actual) issue – what is the Elite and how can we, Armenians be able to form it. The second (or first) of the supertasks is completely absent: the need for a correct understanding of the world by the most prepared and receptive part of the society. Understanding of the World and the formation of the Elite are two interconnected and interdependent super tasks (hereinafter referred to as the Super Tasks), without which it is impossible to make the right and adequate choice of a development strategy for our desired future.

The authors rightly believe that their conception of the vision of the future and the ways to achieve it is one of the possible ones, and for many, by its certain sides, it seems quite reasonable, convincing, and attractive. But, we repeat, other, no less thorough and convincing approaches (even if they remain only in the material and intellectual planes of business projects) can (and should, and will appear) – and then the authority and wisdom of the Elite cannot be dispensed with. Without the determining presence of the Elite in the society, the contradictions and destructive disputes between successful and intellectually developed people are inevitable. The deplorable outcome is the continuation (possibly worse) of many of our troubles and tragedies ...

Yes, in the text of the discussion paper “At the Crossroads” you can find thoughts about the critical importance of the Elite, but, we repeat, it is not defined, and the mechanisms of its formation remain unclear. Judging by the opinions of the participants in the discussion published on the project’s website, the issue of the vital need of the country and the whole of Armenians in the Elite is not recognized, as it is not strange, by everyone. And those who still talk about it often misunderstand or incompletely understand it. There is a scatter in the attitude to the question of the Elite – from a misunderstanding in general to an almost adequate (unfortunately, rare) understanding.

Political, military, economic, religious, intellectual, and any other elite different from the Elite is inevitably prone to mistakes, errors, weaknesses. Only the Elite possesses the greatest strength, power, and wisdom possible on the Planet – the power of spiritual authority. And if (further the words of some participants of the discussion are in quotation marks) “the adaptive merits and major economic successes of the Armenian communities and individuals” were protected not by the elite, but by the Elite, for whom the "suddenly" emerged “hostile environment” could not come as a surprise and which would not throw itself in one direction or another, depending on the circumstances, then not only “the success of the communities and individuals” would be ensured, but also the necessary prerequisites would be created for the consolidation of the networks (and everything else) and the formation of everything necessary for national and state-building. And the Armenians would have avoided further troubles and tragedies... The hierarchical structure of the national ideology and its bearer – the Elite with its spiritual mission – is the guarantee of an effective, productive, and safe activity and growth of any and all networks. And then the political, intellectual and all other elites will match their purpose.

Yes, “a society ... needs to be headed and led” and there “needs to be determined a reasonable clear trajectory of movement...” (review by Hakop Mkhitaryan). But it remains unclear who, how and based on what can and should do this. And in a position to do this, and this is precisely its mission, is the Elite. An Elite that is united on the basis of an adequate outlook and a common goal. An Elite without an adequate outlook and a clear common goal does not exist. The other participants of the discussion write about the same thing, for example, “the strategy … 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.” (review by Sergey Sahakyan). Or “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.” (review by Karen Gevorkyan), etc.


The whole “Crossroads” is apologetics of networks and network organization of the Armenian space, for which relevant historical examples are presented. We join the assessment of the importance of the networks and network interaction, especially in the context of the modern globalization processes. And if in the past the large scale of the Armenian networks contributed to the development and well-being of part of the nation (temporarily), today, with their help, much more can be achieved. The network itself can self-coordinate and function within certain (and not established by the network!) frameworks and limits, but it is incapable of solving supersystem tasks. An instructive illustration is a quote from Hayk Balanyan’s text that deserves much attention: “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).” The authors of “Crossroads” themselves write about it!

H. Balanyan talks about the necessity (especially for the Armenians) of the dominance of the hierarchical principle of organization over the network and justifies this. For example, “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.” The review volume is large enough, and it’s better not to give some fragments of it, but to read the whole thing.

H. Balanyan’s justified fears on the issue of networks and centers of power are almost the only ones in the whole spectrum of opinions, which causes alarm and concern for our society: few people realize the necessity of the primacy of the principle of hierarchical vertical and subordination of network structures to it, who see the cardinal dangers associated with “network” to the detriment of hierarchy and with a corresponding loss of subjectivity, for whom the question of the main network hub is important...

One of the rare people aware of this danger is Hovhannes Sargsyan: “...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... effectiveness and self-sufficiency of the network is possible only if the “locus of power” is its own sovereign state."


Let us, partially and to some extent, generalize our reaction to the project “At the Crossroads”:

a) Incomplete, and if strictly formulated, then a completely incorrect understanding of our national identity, its structure and content, because:

b) It is not understood (or rather it’s absent) the role of the fundamental long initial (from the Neolithic sources) period of the history of our community and the whole complex of related characteristics;

c) The fundamental limitation of the essence of a “business project” following from the previous one, which is completely on the planes that lie outside the spiritual field that determines the world order; and after all, it is the initial orientation (to a greater extent than on the entire planet) of the Armenian community towards higher spiritual values that is the main characteristic, if not to say, the content (today, to a large extent, again converted into a potential form) of an Armenian;

d) From here, the main thing: ignoring the highest levels in the Hierarchy of values, reflecting the world order; having used (it seems, only once) the word “sacred”, the authors, however, do not say anything about the essence of this sacredness; while this is the defining one in the world ...

e) And most importantly: the authors do not set a goal (task) (nevertheless correctly stipulating the alternativity of their approach) of developing and proposing a mechanism for the most generalized decision-making algorithm, their systemic and comparative analysis, selection procedure and, most importantly, the implementation (materialization) of what has been worked out, with a definite and justified pronunciation of the subject of its execution. Simply put, they do not consider it necessary to concentrate their considerable resources on efforts to form the Institute of the Teacher, the national Elite.

One of the rare references to the Elite is in the Afterwords (p. 195), lost in the longest continuous list of issues that, in the opinion of the authors of “At the Crossroads”, could be the subject of discussion. We dare to say (and we had the opportunity to write to the authors about it) that clear answers to many of them (practically all the important ones) – short and preliminary or sufficiently comprehensive – are given in our book “Armenian Supertasks” (hereinafter – Book 1), and more detailed ones will find their place in the subsequent books of the series “Peace, Worldview and Armenians in the 21st Century” (hereinafter referred to as the Book Series), in particular in the forthcoming book “The Meaning of Life and the Development of the Nation”(hereinafter – Book 2).

And the fifth.

A political nation cannot get formed without ideology and without the Elite. Adequate worldview. National Elite. National mission, national idea, and ideology. Spheres of the spiritual. The determinant for our people orientation towards the highest spiritual values, which is an “implanted chip”, a cultural and civilizational marker of the Armenian identity. The understanding of this should underlie the national ideologemes. The neglect of the spiritual foundation will make it impossible to build a national Temple, no matter how sophisticated and attractive the plans, programs, projects seem. The World, the Universe is built according to the Spiritual Project and lives according to it, grows, develops, goes round and round on the spiral of its never-ending Evolution. So, Consciousness determines everything else, including people’s safety, material well-being and happiness... Truly: “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” (Seneca).

A remark not directly related to “At the Crossroads". In one – the rarest, fortunately, case – a “politically correct” tribute is given to far-fetched and for many fraught with obvious dangers such “universal values” as the gender issue sucked out from finger and humiliating for both men and women, and “smoothly” with it is the interlocking issue of the rights of the LGBT community. Here is the full relevant excerpt: “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.” The reviewer obviously does not realize how much such things, with well-defined goals, intentionally implanted in society, are alien to our (and indeed all of humanity) spiritual constitution, culture and norms of public life. He can be "justified" only by the fact that this gentleman (Simon Hasserjian) lives and works in Canada, far from Armenia and has already completely immersed himself in the "modern" Western mentality... Apparently, special public educational-wellness programs should be devoted to these and similar "politically correct" deformations...

And the last about the responses. The author of one of the reviews suggests, in his opinion, a better name for the project – “At the Intersection”. But everyone is at an intersection at any moment of life and anywhere on Earth, and this, generally speaking, is a common place. We, Armenia and the Armenians, have always been, are and will be at the Crossroads. This is our Cross, our Bridge to all four corners of the world, our Cross, full of difficulties, obstacles and dangers, but also oversaturated with inexhaustible, not yet fully understood, opportunities for growth, development and achievements. This Crossroads, which at the beginning of the Way was the Source of human roads, with the unfolding of History, continues to maintain its constructive, educational (by example), helping, protective and mediating role for all of humanity... And today, like many times before, It tells us again: the Time of Decisions and Changes has come. “And in this is constancy.”

Let us pass to the second part of our text.

“Great truths do not take hold of the hearts of the masses. And now, as the world is in error, how shall I, though I know the true path, how shall I guide? If I know that I cannot succeed and yet try to force success, this world would be but another source of error. Better then to desist and strive no more. But if I do not strive, who will?” Chuang-tzu, 4th century BC.

The Chinese sage said this at the beginning of the Dark Age – the Iron “Age”, according to Deep Knowledge (DK). DK is the collective wisdom of mankind (for DK, see book 2). Today we are at the very beginning of a new “century”, and the situation has radically changed. People who know the true path, as then, are negligible (of course, there are always many who think that they know). But, compared with that time, the people’s average level of consciousness has grown. And, most importantly, we are on an ascending arc of human development.

The right to express our comments on the “At the Crossroads” is given to us by the state of the world that we saw and understood based on the DK and the essence of the Armenian problems. It, this DK, also allowed us to develop a clear approach to their solution. Without the collective wisdom of humanity, we would not have been able to get any closer to the truth, no matter how talented, smart, or even brilliant we were.
The context of the discussion is not a private or personal affair of one or a group of people: it covers the entire – and not only Armenian – world and requires meaningful and responsible transpersonal joint activities. And we are obliged, rejecting the possible accusation of immodesty (we just realized that we need to climb onto the shoulders of giants...), to state our understanding of the problems.


1. The Statement of the Problem

Main chain: 1. The universal meaning of life – 2. The understanding of the world – 3. The mission (of the nation, person) – 4. The national idea – 5. The national ideology – 6. The nation’s ability of organization – 7. The practical actions.

Organization of the nation and Practical actions – Architecture and Construction of our national Temple (The Hierarchies of network nation’s organization – HNNO) – should be carried out on a solid soil, and not on quicksand.

The goal in relation to meaning is a means. The meaning justifies and explains why to set a goal and achieve it.

The main chain is “the goal, meaning”: 1. The purpose of writing the Series of books is the solution of Supertasks; the meaning of Supertasks is the formation in Armenia (and the diasporas) of a permanent and reliable system of ensuring wise power. 2. The purpose of the formation of a wise power is the restoration of the national Homeland, the meaning of the restoration of the Homeland is the effective implementation of the national mission. 3. The purpose of the mission is the phased implementation of the universal Sense of life, the meaning of the universal Sense of life is the conscious participation in the implementation of the plan for a person according to the Spiritual Project.

The implementation of the Main chain “goal, meaning” requires the formulation and execution of a huge number of various individual chains of the goal, meaning. The “individual” chains include the whole variety of personal, group and national goals, meanings: the racial solidarity of the Aryan nations, the formation of the world Elite, etc. For those unfamiliar with the essence of the General Chain, much – for example, the restoration of a national Homeland, or exemplary relations at the national (the more so international) level – is a fantasy, a pipe dream. With an adequate understanding of the world and appropriate actions, this is achievable.

The disclosure of the essences of the General and Main chains has begun and continues in the Book Series.

2. The Main Obstacle to National Consolidation

“The Armenians cannot be defeated; they can be divided.” This was said by the Persian king Darius I two and a half thousand years ago. “Armenia ended its political existence by suicide. It was defeated by the demon of feud and only secondarily by the external enemies. It destroyed itself.” Garegin Nzhdeh.

On the one hand, smart, efficient, talented people are a national wealth; and on the other, the irreconcilable differences between the smart and talented millennia destroy Armenia and divide Armenians. The time has come to realize the reality, deeply understand its causes, and overcome this Main obstacle to national consolidation.

3. The Main Reason for the Disagreements

“Ignorance is of two kinds: one, illiterate, precedes science; another, boasted, follows her. This second kind of ignorance is also created and generated by science, as the former is destroyed and eliminated by it.” Montaigne.

The ignorance of the first kind is “lower ignorance”, lack of education, underdevelopment of the mind. It is inherent in both a distrust of everything that goes beyond its perceptions, and, in other cases, a complete trust in that which is inaccessible to its understanding.

The ignorance of the second kind is "higher ignorance." It has a passion for explaining, teaching, insisting on its own or rejecting everything that does not fit into its picture of the world. It is typical for it to proceed (usually unconsciously) from, as a rule, unreasonable primary premises for proving and constructing its statements; everything that is not perceived by them is declared false and harmful.

In turn, the highest ignorance generated by science is destroyed and eliminated by DK. Thus, appears a harmonious person who, in the process of his development, grows into a Sage (for wisdom, see book 1). The organic part of DK is true science (without dubious hypotheses and theories).

Science, by virtue of its specificity, does not consider and therefore cannot answer the most important questions: “What should we do?”, “How should we live?”, “What is the purpose (mission) of a person, nations?”, “What is the universal meaning of life?” and many others. The difficulty in mastering the foundations of DK is that it requires a lot of internal work, the desire to see one’s mistakes, misconceptions, and pacify one’s ego; always remember: a) you can never get closer to the threshold of wisdom (TW) while you remain closed to everything that disproves your truth and b) higher knowledge – knowledge of your ignorance. The old paradigms, methods and concepts have exhausted themselves. It is naïve to think that without knowledge of the foundations of the DK, one can adequately understand and qualitatively improve the world, solve a global problem, and consolidate a nation.

“No man is engaged in a craft which he/she has not learnt at least a little; however, everyone considers themselves qualified enough to do the most difficult of all crafts – governing a state.” (Socrates). Moreover: everyone considers themself well-versed in understanding the world – the most complex (more than governing a state) not even a craft, but an art – science. In a world of higher ignorance, in which the vast majority of smarts operate, the “symptoms'' are well treated, but not the reasons. The misunderstanding of the causes often leads to the increase of the “diseases”. The reasons will not be understood until the “doctors” remain arrogant, confident in their – blinded with conceit – understanding of the world. Among them, of course, there are modest, honest people. But that is not enough. Until a person becomes harmonious, does not enter the world of harmony generated by the DK, in him/her, often subconsciously, deeply sits a sense of self-importance that does not allow leaving the world of higher ignorance.

Here is an example of fundamental ignorance of the smart people. A question often asked by children: “Why should one be kind and honest, and not a false egoist?” To such “children's” questions, not a single (!) smart person who has not learned the basics of DK is able to give a convincing answer. Since numerous whys and what-fors will follow. And they all need to be explained. After all, the outside world proves the contrary. A sound explanation of even children's questions requires an understanding of the universal Meaning of life. Modern education (upbringing) is deeply flawed, for its product are the inhabitants of the world of higher ignorance. The result is the state of our world.

Without knowing the convincing answers to elementary, “children's” questions, people always find “justifications” for their, to put it mildly, ugly words and actions (interests), and societies, by virtue of their ignorance, often tolerate it. The history of humanity known to science is the struggle between ignorance and injustice.

The main cause of disagreements is ignorance. First of all, the ignorance of the smart. The smart, successful, respected ones. Many of them are honest, decent and have good intentions. But they are the inhabitants of a world of higher ignorance. This is the misfortune of everyone who is smart, but not wise enough. This is our common misfortune. All the Armenian tragedies (and misfortunes of all nations) are from the ignorance (higher ignorance) of the smart. From the ignorance of the bearers of "talentism", the creative contribution of which the authors of “At the Crossroads” so confidently put their trust in.

“The Sleep of the Reason begets monsters. But the history of the last century shows that an awake Reason, free from the voice of conscience and moral restrictions, is able to generate monsters that are much more terrible and destructive” (from book 1). To clarify, even a talented mind with a conscience and morality, but ignorance of the DK, can give rise, from the best intentions, to terrible monsters. The reason is the misunderstanding of the true nature of conscience and morality. The history of mankind is the clearest illustration to what has been said.

The assumption of a new era of “talentism” is a forecast (again, good intentions...) of the death of mankind. Talents have always been, are and will be. Thanks to talents, our world has impressive material and intellectual achievements. And it is the talented people that brought our world to a deplorable state.

Many serious thinkers have been talking about the systemic crisis of our world, impending death, serious illness of the planet, damage to the human being, etc. Obviously, the reason for what is happening is in us, people. “We need to look for the root causes of the disease in the field of human values.” The book 1 says: “The only factor that has a fundamental and deep meaning – the principal difference of development of the internal nature of the people, nations and races – is least considered. That is the fundamental reason for the contradictions of the modern world, the main reason for the chaos reigning in the world.”

Isn’t it more correct to assume the onset of a future era of wisdom (“wisdomism”) – many people’s realization of their own ignorance and the desire to reduce it, understanding the need for a true world Elite. The era of awareness of the paramount importance of wisdom, the organic part of which is talent, is the only way to cure the serious illness of mankind. It will allow to cure the modern global abscesses and ulcers and will ensure the priority of intellectual and spiritual achievements.

4. The Consequences of the higher Ignorance in the Independent Republic of Armenia (RA)

“The Four – Catholicos, elected in 1999 under the pressure of the authorities, along with  the first three presidents of the independent RA, due to their ignorance (lack of wisdom required for serving in a high office) brought the RA to a grave state, which is a grave crime against the Armenian people.” This is from book 1. Often, a person of higher (or lower) ignorance, having received great resources, becomes a criminal (there are understandable exceptions – ofr instance, the current leader of the Republic of Armenia, despite his errors and mistakes, we wish him and us that he doesn’t become a criminal). “Non-wise mind divides and decomposes everything, but wisdom unites and synthesizes everything. It is the smart, but not wise people who have achieved great success and influence in life, that are the main source of the troubles and tragedies on our planet” (book 1).

5. The Levels of Consciousness

On the scale of “ignorance – wisdom” there are many levels, and at each group people who are close by the level of consciousness are grouped. There is a critical step – the threshold of wisdom (TW). The lower the critical level, the more dominant the lower nature of man. The higher – the more dominant the higher nature. The highest values of the lower nature of man – money, power, interests; those of the higher nature include Love, Truth, Justice. At the TW level, the worldview revolution in men ends. They have matured to realize the degree of their ignorance and adequate understanding of the world. The sufferings experienced and rethought by them and their people, helped them. At the TW, there is a transition from a world of higher ignorance to a world of harmony. Candidates for proto-Elite appear at the TW. Above the TW, are the candidates for the future Elite. Of all the nations of the Earth, by virtue of their origin, colossal historical experience (still not sufficiently thought-through), values and character of the Armenian, it is the Armenians who are able – for the first time at the present stage of the development of mankind – to form HNNO headed by the Elite.

6. How the Main Obstacle will be Overcome

The most valuable for a person is their own experience, own conclusions and understanding of what is happening, their understanding of the world, and not what is imposed on them from the outside. To think independently and make decisions – that is a feature, the individuality of an intelligent person. They will accept from the outside only that which corresponds to their understanding of the world. This is what the majority does. Rare smart people who are honest, courageous, and internally liberated at the same time, are able to doubt the trueness of their picture of the world. When a person, remaining an independent, free-thinking individual, sincerely wishes to understand what the deficiency of their understanding of the world is in, they will approach the TW. Those approaching the TW, being at the TW and rising above the TW are the worthiest, most high-quality people of the Armenian world. Let's call them the Best. Of the Best, the future proto-Elite and Elite will be formed. The organized, united Bests will overcome the main obstacle and ensure the consolidation of the Armenians. “Nothing in the world can resist the combined efforts of a sufficiently large number of organized minds.” Teilhard de Chardin. We believe that de Chardin had in mind the wise minds. 

7. The Identification of the Best

The most important task of the HNNO Information and Reference Service (see Book 1) is to provide information on the process of forming ISNO to as many people as possible. As a result of the reflection on the information received, the Conscious appear – those who realize that it is imperative for the Armenians to solve the Supertasks. In the three-level hierarchy of HNNOs, the first is the level of the Consciouses. Each HNNO level, in turn, consists of several stages. The second level is a Trial. The Conscious, sincerely striving to adequately understand the world, rise to this level. The third level is the level of members of the IG (Initiative Group aimed at the formation of the HNNO). Those who have achieved great success in understanding the world, transfer here. These are the Best.

8. The Culture of the HNNO World

A false understanding of the world leads to a flawed base on which relationships between people, groups of people, and states are built. “The uncomfortable, cold, cruel and deceitful world that we complain about is all we are for others.” Feliks Chwalibóg. Our earthly world is a school of relations. People must communicate, they cannot but communicate. Ignorance, the lack of a deep culture of relationships is the main reason for disagreements, hostility, hatred, and enmity.

In the HNNO world, the foundation has been laid for a new – exemplary – culture that is being formed and rooted as the HNNO develops. Its dominant principle is Love. “I love you” in the HNNO world means: “I am friendly to you and wish you well, respect you, trust you, you are interesting to me, I am open to you and absolutely sincere with you, ready to help you, feel free to contact me with any questions.” A loving person lives in a loving world.

In the HNNO world, IG members are constantly improving their relationships, building them on a solid, reliable foundation – the foundation of exemplary relationships (FER). The HNNO culture is based on open, friendly, trusting, sincere and impartial relationships. In the new world, which is initially formed in a small circle of people who see the future as a steadily expanding community of carriers of the new culture, there will be no place for a person unworthy to manifest their lower nature, all kinds of expressions of a disgusting self in all its variants. The IG, the personal example of its members and assistance to the participants in the process are the guarantors of the establishment and adoption of the HNNO culture.

Disputes, grievances, lies, intolerance, competition are typical in the familiar world and unlikely, ideally excluded, in the world of HNNO. An important characteristic of the HNNO culture is the understanding and acceptance of the dissimilarity of people and nations in all respects and, as a consequence of this fact, their fundamental inequality in a variety of ways. A meaningful dialogue can be conducted between people of a close level of consciousness, and there is no sense (and this is only harmful) to discuss with a person something that he/she is not ready for yet, not in that “class” yet. The HNNO world provides the most constructive discussion of any subject. The quality and content of the discussion in HNNO will be increasingly improved and self-consistent, lining up in a coherent and harmonious picture of the intellectual and spiritual building, the national ideology.

9. The Foundation of Exemplary Relationships

The following is the cornerstone of the FER in the HNNO world.

a) Moral guidelines – a Hierarchy of values directed towards the Highest.

b) The hierarchical-network structure of the emerging HNNO, headed by the Elite.

c) The important principles (see the same section of book 1).

d) The logic of the wise (see the same section of the book 1).

e) The rules of relationships (see the selected text on page 108 of book 1).

f) Open-free consciousness of the members of the IG (see the section "The Levels of Consciousness" of book 2).

g) The rejection of the maxims of world egoism (see the section “The World egoism” in book 2).

Rare people, only starting from the level of consciousness of the TW, are able to adhere to the provisions of FER in life. The combined efforts of just such people can “light the Light”. All the participants in the HNNO formation process accept FER and try to act on its basis.

10. More about the HNNO

All the tasks – from small and private to national and global ones – will find the best solution under a formed Elite, and the way to it is through the formation of HNNO. There is no other way and cannot be in principle: the key to solving everything lies in the spiritual realm, and it is the native environment of the Elite. From there, the energy and creative impulse descend into the field of mental and material, where they find their practical embodiment.

In the HNNO, the key (main controlling) hub can be located nowhere but in Armenia (including Artsakh). We believe that the rationale for this is obvious to most. The issue of the effective relations between the main HNNO hub and the Armenian authorities, for the benefit of the Armenians, has a solution, and it is not the most difficult one. The reasonable power of the state, naturally, is interested in the formation of the Elite. It is also obvious that the formed Elite with the help of the people will lead the worthiest people in the country to power. The relationship between the regional and local HNNO hubs in the diaspora with the authorities of the countries of residence can be effectively resolved in the mutual interests on the basis of the HNNO ideology, which is revealed in the Book Series. The useful provisions of the Network Nation Organization project (“At the Crossroads” project) should and will be used in the HNNO project because any serious global project is our common heritage.

“There are Armenians that are pure gold and there are Armenians – you need to burn them with a hot iron.” (Marshal Baghramyan). HNNO will not allow those who “need to be burned out with a hot iron” to approach the RA and diaspora control within “a firing range”. The formed HNNO, led by the Elite, thanks to its powerful force (it will be strong, with its authority, its dignity, its rightness, its will, and the trust of the people – that is the strongest power) will make fundamental positive changes in Armenia, the Armenian world and on Earth.

11. About Our Position.

We are not better, not smarter, and not more talented than many Armenians. But we consciously, in many ways forcedly, took up the extremely complex, over-ambitious task. We understand that no one has the moral right to do so if they are not, at least, at the TW level. We will be happy if someone refutes our “claims” and presents a national consolidation project that exceeds ours. Let us say with certainty: we do not claim, and cannot be part of the Elite, because we do not have the entire set of qualities necessary for this. But who undertakes the development of the HNNO project, they must have the minimum necessary level of consciousness, understanding of the world. Otherwise there will be one of the typical projections of the world of higher ignorance. In super responsible matters, like the process of forming HNNO, flirty modesty and swaggering conceit are inappropriate. Similarly to the role of coaches of a sports team, united by a high team spirit and the common goal of becoming world champions, we have a very important role: as much as our strength, experience and knowledge  allow us to organize creating an environment where the future Elite will manifest itself.

12. Conclusion

How did it happen that a smart, talented, energetic, high-quality nation, who made a great contribution to the formation and development of the civilization, world culture, were thrown out of their homeland and almost destroyed by an invader, at an incomparably lower stage of development? And the second important question: how can we return our homeland? It was necessary to understand, seriously and deeply sort out, get to the bottom of the truth, otherwise it is impossible to live in peace. Great pain and great love have become our strong motivation for many years. The insights of world wisdom tested by the experience of all human history are revealed to a sincere seeker of truth (this applies to us).

The protest, the outrage at the visible (seeming) injustice of our world leads to the search for means of its transformation. And the possibility of transformation lies in the DK, but to master it it is necessary to undergo profound changes, to live, to comprehend many truths, sometimes seemingly obvious. As a result, based on the Knowledge perceived by the seeker, a consistent and reasonable picture of the world is manifested and built for them. In the Book Series, we try to present the key provisions of the DK in an accessible form and consider the state of our world based on this Knowledge. At the same time, the solution of the most important national tasks is proposed. It remains “only" to have an appropriate level of perception of the information received (Knowledge). Our principled position: do not believe what we say, trust only when you yourself find the truth in our words. “There are too many people in the world whom no one has helped to awaken.” (Antoine de Saint Exupéry).

As it was defined above by the first point of the Main chain “goal, meaning”, our goal (the goal of our activity, including writing the Book Series) is to solve Armenian Supertasks, the meaning of which is the formation in Armenia (and the diasporas) of a permanent and reliably working support system ensuring wise power. And our practical actions are aimed at creating such an environment in which HNNO will begin to take shape with further crystallization in that Hierarchy of the national Elite. To do this, we use any constructive (promising, or capable of becoming such) opportunities. One of them is the discussion platform provided by the authors of “At the Crossroads”. We considered it useful to use its social and information resource for another opportunity to present our position and project to the responsible layer of society, and at the same time express our opinion about “ At the Crossroads”, based on our stated interest in exchanging thoughts. We welcome the initiative of Ruben Vardanyan and Nune Alekyan and are happy about the opportunity.

Rouben Indjikian
Rouben Indjikian
Ph. D. in Economics, Professor, Webster University Geneva
In general, this is a good and multifaceted book. It considers the evolution and prospects of being an Armenian as a national sociocultural phenomenon that is globally unique and local – in Armenia and Artsakh. The Jews and Greeks survived in the Middle East as well. The remaining civilizations disappeared into the brew of history, dominated by invasions of barbarians, and were ruled by the empires until the beginning of the 20th century. The First World War destroyed three empires, under the fragments of one of which we fell due to the collapse of the Ottoman imperial thinking and its replacement with Turkish nationalism and pan-Turkism.

The text frames’ system used in the discussion paper provides fascinating excursions into the history and various topics.

This work uses the Acemoglu-Robinson theory of extractive and inclusive institutions, according to which the latter can only exist in a democracy. In their book, Acemoglu and Robinson mistakenly describe China as extractive, although it is clear that, thanks to Deng Xiaoping, the country has become economically inclusive for the masses, creating the basis for China’s development and growth. In response, the masses agreed to leave the political control to the Communist Party. But the masses in the United States agreed also to a two- rather than a multi-party system, as in Europe. It is more important to understand the successes of Asian countries in creating a development-oriented state as a system of institutions and regulation encouraging accelerated industrialization and export.

The authors write that Singapore was not democratic at first. Well, we should rather talk about the literacy and patriotism of the elites and the political decision at the highest level to create a development-focused state. And then work on the application of the best practices and the creation of institutions, including private property, in such “communist” countries as China and Vietnam.

Democracy and determination came to Armenia to establish a rule of law and stop corruption. But equal opportunities and competition are not enough for the accumulation of capital and investment in an export-oriented growth. A development-focused state means an ability to successfully pursue industrial policy and carry out modernization in the wake of the 4th industrialization.

The opposition of “the Vardanyan system” to the state as a phenomenon for the people should be replaced with its ability to negotiate and receive privileges from the state, which made it possible to develop non-profit (IDeA, FAST, Aurora) initiatives and commercial interests (Ameria) that have already created significant economic activity in the tourism sector, education, and ICT. That is, we are talking about successful public-private partnerships. But at the same time, it would be nice to show (if that is the case) that Ameria provides loans to small and medium-sized enterprises on better terms than other commercial banks.

“Armenia 2020” had an impact as an important soft power and a trigger for the joint activities of the near and far diaspora for its more active involvement in the development of Armenia. But the subsequent actions were not sufficient for the implementation of the Singapore scenario. Per capita exports in Armenia do not exceed $ 1,000. In Singapore, they are $ 70,000 (though this is mainly re-export). The same indicator in Israel is very high and twice as high as in Greece. That is, we lag very much, including from Greece.

While reading the book, I also thought about the phenomenon of Vardanyan, who managed to complete his projects in Tatev, the international school, and the bank, and he is able to organize serious forums and initiatives that serve as catalysts for the development of possible breakthrough directions for and around Armenia. It is important that he thinks systematically when drawing his projects. I would call this phenomenon “the Vardanyan System”.

Nune Alekyan understood and talentedly helped her co-author describe this system. I even got the feeling that this was an endeavor of a unique one-person band. At the same time, Vardanyan managed to develop his system even though the rest of the economy bent under the yoke of Serzh Sargsyan’s extractive institutions. Well, perhaps such islands of inclusiveness will fit well into the new system of a more progressive and law-based state after the Velvet Revolution?

With all due respect for the role of the individual in history, I am convinced that although one person is able to unite the whole nation, as Nikol Pashinyan did in the hours of the revolution, teams consisting of the best theoreticians and practitioners should work further to implement the country’s development and find the right niche in the regional economy.

At the time, perhaps, more people like Ruben will come to Armenia and receive not exclusive but equal competitive rights to participate in country’s development, that is, more systems will appear, the coordination of which could be carried out by some new development agency of Armenia.

So, Armenia needs several Vardanyan systems that will act based on general rules and complement the state efforts for development (and not oppose to it).

At the same time, the question remains: could others be able to create a similar system of projects in Armenia. Well, apparently, the Vardanyan system significantly affects the development of tourism and, I hope, in the near future, also education and latest technology.

But mere multiplication of the Vardanyan phenomenon and coordination of efforts within the development-oriented state will help the Diaspora to invest in Armenia and Artsakh and facilitate the influx of foreign, non-Armenian, capital, as well as primarily direct investment for the implementation of a new, export-oriented re-industrialization and development of IT, financial and business services in Armenia as a hub for the CIS and the Middle East.

Now, I hope that the government will quickly and as conflict-free as possible do the homework of self-cleaning and turning itself into a motor and development magnet as a result of proliferation of the best global practices and rules of the game to all foreign and local investors who’ll prefer to invest in Armenia and not withdraw their capital from it.


Separate remarks

1. The title of the book might perhaps be changed to: “At the Junction: The Time for the Right Decisions.” Crossroads is a place to control oncoming traffic, rather than meetings. And for those living in Russia it can be associated with a supermarket of the same name.

2. On page 7 of the cover letter to first readers, the last paragraph should be amended as follows:

“... The resignation of the government during mass protests reflects the elite’s inability to understand in time the need for radical reforms and institutional changes, which led to the replacement of the old elite with a new one that does not yet have public administration experience, and that is one of the most important threats to revolutions. The correct reforms, changing institutions and creating conditions for the accumulation of capital and investment are the main tasks for solving and achieving success. The biggest mistakes of the old regime: expensive loans, corruption, and a parallel economy with illegal monopolies – must be corrected.”

3. On page 9: The Western Armenians are united by the struggle for recognition of the Genocide, and the Eastern Armenians – for the preservation of Artsakh under control of the Armenians. By and large, we are saved by the struggle for self-preservation in various manifestations, but mainly on our lands. The Diaspora in the developed countries assimilates faster. To what extent the memory of the Armenian roots is preserved remains an open question.

4. The Swiss Armenian community is rather weak and bitty and bears the memory of Turkish, Lebanese and former Soviet Armenians. It reflects the further collapse of the Armenian communities in the Middle East and the emigration also from Armenia. The orphans accepted into the country during the years of the Genocide have assimilated. The community itself is very fragmented. There is no coordination in the development of the relations with Armenia. The main rich people had their own relations with Yerevan. I wonder what will happen under the new Armenian government.

Andrei Sharonov
Andrei Sharonov
President, Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO
“At the Crossroads” is a very serious work that deserves attention, and not only from the Armenian community, although, of course, the target audience of the book is the residents of Armenia and the diaspora. I read it with interest. At some point, it seemed to me that some topics (for example, inheritance and successors) look non-harmonious with the main theme, but then I agreed with this when such topics are described as separate inserts. This does not break the general logic but adds useful information.

At the same time, I had several questions and considerations that I want to introduce.

1. I am confused by the idea of developing a mono-national state in the era of globalization. There is some contradiction here. 

2. In addition, there is almost a consensus that further development will occur in metropolises, which, to a large extent, will be (some have already become) cosmopolitan and non-national. I did not see any ideas about this in the work. 

3. The topic of Armenia as a mediating country is very interestingly revealed in a historical excursion, but I don’t understand how this can be realized now, when the spatial position plays a much smaller role in general, and even more so – as a “buffer between empires”. And if we keep in mind Russia, Turkey, and Iran, all of them are going through rather hard times. If we talk about the Armenians as mediators, then in the current situation it is not clear what this possible role is based on. By the way, it seems to me that Switzerland (as an example) is losing its role as a safe haven/mediator country for the world, since fundamentally different ways of preserving and increasing wealth arise. 

4. If we talk about the “new” attention of the diaspora to Armenia, then we need to answer the question, what the role of Armenia in the success of ethnic diasporas is (education, cultural code...)? It seems to me that the main success factors of diaspora representatives are significantly more dependent on their new countries or even are global in nature. In this regard, the motivation for the diaspora’s attention to Armenia may be a sense of duty, respect for traditions and culture, but not the search for success (all the more, there are currently no necessary conditions for success comparable to most places of their current habitat).

5. It seems to me a more realistic option when wealthy and passionate “global” Armenians, from philanthropic/business considerations (payback or sustainable philanthropy), begin to develop the country through very large national and supranational projects. In this regard, it is important to make Armenia “in vogue” in the world, and not only among Armenians, which can give serious economic and emotional impulses. It seems to me that now Georgia has succeeded in this more than Armenia. 

6. Regarding the right to vote for non-residents, here I see a great risk of irresponsibility, radicalism, lack of understanding of the internal Armenian context.

7. Several times in the text there is a phrase about “a conscious fear of assimilation.” Of course, I have no idea about the strength and prevalence of this feeling, but I venture to suggest that this fear is more likely to exist among people like the authors of “At the Crossroads” who think about preserving and reviving Armenia and consolidating the diaspora, rather than the majority of diaspora representatives who live in prosperous countries.  

8. Another phrase caught me: “the core of the network needs to offer obvious advantages both within the country and to the diaspora”. What are these benefits for Noubar Afeyan, for instance, inaccessible to him in the USA and other places (if we are not talking about nostalgia and other things, but these, as a rule, are not connected with well-being and everyday life)? How can this be combined/reflected in the well-being/attractiveness of Armenia for other nationalities (I do not believe in the long-term prospects of a mono-ethnic state, although Japan in fact lives quite well).

9. What to do with the fact that the most passionate representatives of any nation leave home for adventures and large projects? Apparently, this is a question of huge philanthropic-business projects and fashion for Armenia in the world that can return Armenian Colombuses to their homeland. 

10. And, finally, the Armenian government cannot have authority over Armenians abroad, this contradicts the nature of the state and international law. At the same time, there is a national practice (in Anglo-Saxon countries) when an unlimited circle of people (in this case, Armenians from the diaspora) join the lawsuit (in this case, the plaintiff is the Armenian government) in which they are interested (for example, on the Genocide). 

Alice M. Greenwald
Alice M. Greenwald
President & CEO, 9/11 Memorial & Museum
I have finally had a chance to read through the Crossroads document, which I found to be impressive in its scope, analytical approach, and not least, its aspirations. The vision of Armenia as a hub nation, re-invigorating a sense of national purpose through engagement in innovative enterprises that serve wider global problem-solving while fueling a sustainable economic engine to drive prosperity, is certainly ambitious and exciting.

As I read through the document, I was struck by what might be perceived as potential contradictions that will need to be clarified and resolved over time. These include:

  • The tension between the desire to restore a sense of ethnic identity and connectedness among individuals of Armenian descent living in the diaspora and those who reside in sovereign Armenia (which presumes an attachment to both a shared history and a physical embodiment of shared origins – the land of Armenia) and the forward-looking concept of Armenia becoming a “hub” nation that transcends the conventional idea of nation/state and inevitably brings with it diversity in the population. How will these two objectives be reconciled?
  • The deliberate decision to “stay away from politics” while advancing an ambitious vision for the future of a nation that can only be realized, ultimately, with political will and leadership that would, in turn, invigorate the kind of economic opportunity that might encourage Armenian youth to stay in Armenia and attract others to do business there.
  • The timeliness of this vision, which promotes and advocates for a global network and “glocal” citizenship at a moment when much of the world is veering towards a (dangerous) resurgence of nationalism, protectionism, and distrust of globalization and multi-national alliances and markets. Can the “hub” model succeed in this environment?

I find compelling the impulse to imagine and articulate an optimistic vision of the future for all Armenians, as the driver for a sense of common purpose that could unify Armenians, regardless of where they live. As a case in point, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative’s focus on identifying and honouring contemporary saviours – individuals who stand up for others in times of crisis and duress – as a way of expressing gratitude to those who came to the aid of others during the Genocide is a great example of building common purpose using an authentic point of reference that is undeniably rooted in Armenian history and cultural experience. Most importantly, it changes the valence of what defines Armenian identity from shared victimhood to shared values.

I commend your effort to advance the Crossroads initiative and thank you for sharing the document with me.

Boris Akunin
Boris Akunin
It was interesting to read “At the Crossroads”. First, the discussion paper is informative, and secondly (and most importantly), its message and motivation are close to me. The text makes a very good impression, with the right combination of restraint and emotionality, objectivity and understandable partiality.

The analytical part is quite effective and convincing. However, from the part of the “prescription” (“how to treat the patient”), I still expected from Ruben – taking into account his professional experience – something more accurate and concrete, something technocratic, if you’d like. Presently, the recommendations look somewhat in the spirit of “against all bad for all good”. That is, the pain points were convincingly defined, the “points of support” (strengths of the Armenian ethnos), too, but I personally did not get enough of a specific treatment program. 

Furthermore, for me (and, I think, for the Western audience), two huge cases of apophasis will be problematic. Namely, the issue of resolving the conflict with Azerbaijan and, of course, Russian postcolonialism. The reasons why the authors decided not to enter these minefields are clear to me, but without analyzing these two topics, any serious discussion about the future of Armenia is incomplete.

And a question arises: why didn’t the authors immediately release the book in French? In France, it is to find a wider response than anywhere else.

Thanks to the authors, this was a useful read.

David Akopyan
David Akopyan
Former UN official
In the discussion paper “At the Crossroads” Ruben Vardanyan and Nune Alekyan present an excellent analysis of Armenia’s history and what the nation takes to the 21st century after surviving through many challenges century after century, and propose a very inspiring vision for the way forward.

What should additionally be appreciated is that it is not just a paper on offer, but a platform where our collective mind can continue brainstorming and creating a vision for the future, building on ideas and expanding on scenarios. It was also great to review so many comments from people with such a diverse background and interest in Armenia, and I want to add my input as well. Herewith below my comments and some more elaboration on various ideas.

No coincidence that while the paper was being written, the Velvet Revolution in April 2018 brought a major change in Armenia, and this is an indication that the nation reached an important tipping point/crossroads looking for a change. Hopefully, both this discussion and broader national search for a better future will unleash the creative potential of the Armenian nation to make Armenia more prosperous, developed, and the Armenians a happier and more advanced nation contributing to making the world a better place for humanity.

In my 26 years of UN career I dealt with state and nation building continuously in all the 15 countries I worked.. Reading the book offered a refreshing look on many known facts and revealed also a lot of new perspectives for me. The authors’ reflections on what makes Armenians special are very interesting: respect for creating and sharing knowledge, nurturing and using talent, self-organisation for centuries without state, dispersed eco-system of mutually reinforcing communities and businesses, etc. There are a number of good observations on the Armenian character: a)a subtle understanding of the differences between civilizations (master other cultures but also retain their own), b) a desire for wider horizons; c) competitiveness but also flexibility/adaptability. It is important that this is also an effort to search beyond the standard recipes of macroeconomic modeling and this focus on history, culture, individual and collective behaviors adds many colors to the complex mosaic. On the role of the state and what the state could do for Armenia and the Armenians around the globe, will need further elaboration. 

Reflection on the past. The past is important but it’s not the only determinant for the future. North and South Korea are striking examples on how trajectories could split with little chances to reconcile after 1000s years of common history. The decisions we make to design the future are critically important. And this platform can serve as an excellent venue to shape ideas, thinking and approaches.

Being at crossroads implies that we could turn to a better future but may also take a turn for the worst. As was said “Unless the situation is changed, it is highly likely that in 2041 we will not be celebrating the 50th anniversary of independence”. In the modern world, the states don’t disappear easily, however the compound impact of brain drain, migration, low reproduction, economic stagnation, chaotic leadership, weak institutions, low trust, all may lead to a deteriorating state, and in the geographic neighborhood of Armenia the worst cannot be excluded. 

The diaspora has its own set of challenges. In a number of countries with considerable diaspora history, assimilation is real. In many diaspora centers the erosion of the Armenian national identity is happening and now probably a smaller percentage only associates themselves with Armenia or being Armenian.

Both Armenia and the Diaspora need each other to be strong and mutually reinforcing. The network in this context implies a strong central state and strong periphery/diaspora units connected all for the common cause. 

Contributing to humanity. Ruben and his colleagues with Aurora Humanitarian Initiative probably did more than anyone else. The idea itself is unique and positioned Armenia in a special league of advanced countries. This is a first step in this important direction to lift Armenian thinking above the national horizon aiming to contribute globally and more could be done in science, art, education, nature protection, etc. Another out of the box initiative was the Armenian humanitarian mission to Aleppo in Syria with 100 sappers and medical doctors. I was the head of UNDP in Syria when they arrived. The decision by the Armenian government was not an easy one, but in all my interaction with theSyrians there was so much appreciation for this. The same is true for the Armenian troops in northern Afghanistan for almost 10 years now, helping peace and reinforcing security under German umbrella.

How are we known? I spent years in the Middle East and in every country the first reaction after they learnt I am Armenian is an appreciation for many Armenians they had known-hard working professionals, well respected in their communities- tailors, doctors, jewelers, architects, engineers, lawyers, scientists and craftsmen.

On the main conclusion of the paper and proposed vision for reactivating the networked nation concept in the 21st century for Armenia and Armenians, I am in full agreement that this is the key comparative advantage we as a nation have and this approach is very relevant for the way forward, the question is where to start and how to do this? 

Two cases of networked nations I know well, and I want to elaborate on to also help to draw lessons/actions- Lebanon and Israel. Lebanon is not much discussed but is worth a comparison. 5 million inside, 15 million out. A long history from the Phoenician time of traders, networks of cities (Cartage and more). In the 21st century the richest man in Mexico is of Lebanese origin Carlos Slim, or Carlos Ghosh, who is back in Lebanon and many successful businesses and politicians in Latin America, Asia and Africa I met on my tours. They are well-networked, successful and connected with homeland, however all that did not bring transformative change to Lebanon. Lebanon has many challenges - fragmentation by religious lines, civil war that lasted decades, difficult neighbors. What importantly was missing in Lebanon is the long-term vision for a networked nation and how the state and nation with the Diaspora can contribute together for a bigger good.

Israel comes next. A comparison on the population growth in the 20th century for Armenia and Israel was made in the paper, not much in our favor, but differences are more. Israelis lost statehood almost 2000 years ago, and in the early 20th century very few Jews were living where today’s Israel is. Large Jewish communities were in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Americas, about 10 mln worldwide. When the first Armenian republic was created despite all the horrors of the Genocide, we got a territory equal to Israel with almost 1 mln population. Both nations had genocides in the 20th century with Armenians losing around 1.5 mln and Jews more than 6 mln. At the time of the UN decision on establishing the state of Israel in 1948, we were in many aspects in similar positions. The same size of population, territory and economy. Now Israel has 9 mln population against Armenia’s 3 mln, Israel’s national GDP is USD 400 bln (GDP per capita is higher than in France or UK) compared to Armenia’s USD 14 bln only. Both have major disputes and military conflicts with neighbors, however Israel managed to build one of the best armies in the world, plus modern defense industry not only producing for its own military but acting as one of the major export sectors. Without Russian support our ability to stand against the Turkish military is limited, while Israel managed to win 3 major wars against the combined effort of all the neighbors with a total population of a few hundred millions. Interestingly also, Israelis were never known as good warriors in history. They were traders/merchants/bankers, but, as the discussion paper also mentions, nations sometimes change their course of development and move from one model to another.

Reasons for those differences are many and they require more detailed and contextual analysis but visionary leadership, long-term planning and an effective and functioning network between the state and Diaspora working together is the key. Israel now has next to USA number of companies listed on NASDAQ;the business links with the Diaspora led businesses in Silicon valley or New York played not the last role. Important achievement was also the ability to bring so many Jews to Israel - in the 60/70s from the Middle East and Ethiopia almost 800,000 and in the early 90s almost 1 mln from the Soviet Union. Despite many cultural differences they are amalgamating together in one culture, nation, state. Our Armenian migrants in the 90s from Azerbaijan did not stay long and moved to other locations, the same happened later with the Armenians from Syria; after the civil war erupted, not many moved to Armenia. Partly this was caused by the limited opportunities the Armenian economy has to offer but it is also a lack of state led policy to absorb and accommodate. 

Looking forward, the aim should never be to have all the Armenians in Armenia and the same was never the case for Israel, still 7 mln Jews live in the USA, millions in Europe and Latin America, etc. But, at least, for those not finding enough opportunities in the countries they are living in, Israel has an open door and there is a constant inflow of organized immigration. If well managed, immigration could contribute to economic growth and this growth will further attract more immigration. There is an excellent book written about Israel “Start-up Nation”. And my overall take is- the solution for Armenia is the Hub, but it is not just a regional or physical hub for trading, or transport, it is a global Hub networked with the Diaspora, a hub for knowledge and technology sharing, connectivity between cultures, economies and regions. Our role in the region also could be more proactive, much was said from landlocked to land bridge, but more could be done. Expanding on the missions in Syria and Afghanistan, but also acting as an honest broker between Iran and Europe, or providing a trading corridor for Iran, Georgia, and Russia, etc. Positioning ourselves as a soft power for peace and security in the Middle East and beyond will further help to firm our role as a player in a league above our weight in the complex geopolitics of today.

Our recent history has many good stories supporting this. In the Soviet Union, the Armenians were just after the Russians and Jews in science, the republic was among the most technologically advanced. Historically, according to family traditions, we always value education, we had medieval universities: Gladzor, Tatev at the times when there were not that many in the world. The first phrase written in Armenian quoted in the review also “To know wisdom and instruction …”

We have now AUA and UWC in Dilijan, both excellent Diaspora initiatives adding to the networked nation concept. Some wonderful new initiatives like TUMO bring new qualities, but none are at scale to transform the society. 

In full agreement with the main conclusion of the discussion paper, the 21st century can become our century, if we mobilize the intellectual and other resources of the nation, building upon our roots, and realizing the best traits of our national character. 

Shakeh Kaftarian
Shakeh Kaftarian
Ph.D, Co-President of the Armenian American Mental Health Association of Southern California
Thank you for including me in the review of this seminal paper, which is a thoughtful, informative, and well-written piece of scholarly work with practical applications. It is a concise yet comprehensive analysis of the journey of the Armenians through the Millenia, in the context of the world events, all of which have helped shape the modern Armenian ethos, with the possibility of a path into a bright future. 

This paper patiently explicates the roots of our national identity, and how this identity has served us over the Millenia. It acknowledges complex and painful subjects that continue to hinder our existence, wellbeing, and progress – as a people and a nation. It assigns significant value to education, innovation, and most importantly talent. I agree that innovation based on talent translates into wealth, which is exponentially more valuable than any other form of wealth. You also explain how private initiatives of outstanding heroes in our history have mostly happened in the context of our rich cultural heritage. This paper describes the role of the elite in making informed and courageous decisions at different points of our history. It presents an astute vision of how Armenia can draw from its past, and capitalize on its talent, to break into a leadership position in the 21st Century global economy and politics. 

You have put forward a vision that is informed by not only the lessons from the history, but also the realities of the present-day global society. It reflects on the "…remarkable ability of the Armenian people for rapid economic, cultural, and demographic revival, given favorable circumstances." One is left with the impression that now in another one of those opportune moments in time, which should be capitalized on by the Armenian collective. I commend you for your overarching vision of addressing the diaspora and homeland together, and for wanting to conduct frank discussions based on historically documented strengths, while staying away from the destructive weaknesses of our people. 

Commentary 1: Women and inclusivity 

This paper emphasizes at length the value of "inclusivity." Somehow the reader is left with the expectation that the authors would also address the importance of the full participation of men and women alike – since girls and women are for the most part marginalized in the Armenian society. One is left wishing that a paper of this weight and caliber would address the importance of infusing the future with the talent and potential of men and women in an equitable manner. 

This paper will be significantly strengthened if it explicitly emphasizes the significance of a dual-gendered and equitable approach to social and economic participation and progress in Armenia. It should clearly and explicitly explain how without the full integration of girls and women of cities, towns and villages in all arenas of education, training, professions, and leadership the country will fall short of its ultimate potential for a powerful and 21st century-worthy future. Frankly, the concept of "inclusivity" will be rendered obsolete in this paper without the inclusion of a significant discussion of the participation of girls and women in a meaningful manner. 

Commentary 2: An epigenetic explanation for the trans-generational transfer of Genocide trauma. 

It is a fact that the collective Armenian "we" has gone through many phases of silence; denial; quiet pain; some level of acceptance and normalization; revenge; lobbying and demands for "recognition" in a serial fashion over the last century. It is also true that there is a "waning" in the interest of the world community in the Armenian Genocide. However, there is not yet a significant "waning" in the trans-generational transfer of trauma, because such trauma has not been treated appropriately, nor is it completely healed. 

It is a fact that "…the true significance of the Genocide as a tragic rupture in the natural succession of generations is not yet fully understood." However, I would like to invite the authors of this paper to consider explanations for our continued feelings of victimhood through a newly evolving area of science called epigenetic (i.e., nexus between neuroscience and genetics). According to an epigenetic explanation extreme trauma leads to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and turns the function of selected genes (e.g., genes for anxiety, depression, vigilance, etc.) to an "on" position. Epigenetic studies (i.e., the Holocaust, 9/11, etc.) indicate that in the absence of significant intervention (e.g., recognition, validation, reparation, personal psychotherapy, etc.) the genes which haven't turned "off" are passed on to the next generation(s) in their "on" position. Thus a plausible explanation is that the feelings of victimhood may be inherited, and may persist even a century after the trauma. 

I agree that it's our common wish that our younger generations would see themselves not as victims, but as offspring of a victorious nation. However, given the epigenetic explanation, we should find not only a science-based understanding for this lingering trauma, but most importantly science-based methodologies for its healing process.  

Once more I would like to point out that the review of this seminal paper has been a privilege. Many of my own thoughts and worries were articulated eloquently, and confirmed systematically. Your gentle suggestions of plausible paths to solutions were credible and impressive. I sincerely hope that this thoughtful analysis of the past and informed synthesis of the future will be seriously discussed by the political, civic and economic leaders of Armenia and the diaspora alike, hopefully in an "uncharged" and methodical manner. 

Congratulations for having the ability and the resolve to rise above what is comfortable in life, in order to make a significant positive change in the lives of others. 

Nikolay Melkumov
Nikolay Melkumov
CRM Project Head, Philanthropy Infrastructure Project (PHILIN)
Sometimes comments on a particular work are born easily and quickly. Sometimes they are not born at all. I tried to search for the reasons for this in myself, but I did not reveal the system. Perhaps this is due to the work that needs to be done to comprehend the text: what is easier to learn, is also faster to comprehend and evaluate.

What was Difficult for me While Reading?

The main thing is the sequence of sections and their volume. What do I mean? For my taste, it would be logical to start with a historical overview, then provide an analysis of the current issues, selected (possible) areas of development and relevant projects that, to one degree or another, work to achieve these goals. In the text, all this is present, but not always consistently. Sometimes, after some theses already stated, there is a return to some previously discussed topics. This complicates the perception.

In general, simple and transparent theses are easier to grasp. We are not talking about Trump-style populism, of course, and not about the Bolsheviks’ slogans “All power to the Soviets, factories to workers, land to peasants,” even though that extremely simplified rhetoric was the key to certain successes.

To the same glut of the text, I would include the inserts made on the basis of, as I understand it, previously published articles, interviews, etc. The most redundant fragment that caught my eye was the story of asset succession, and charity (pp. 139–141).

In addition

There is one observation and a point that has concerned me for a long time.

The openness and democracy of Salvador Allende ended with the Pinochet junta. Lee Kuan Yew and the Singaporean miracle, as noted in the discussion paper, also have a complicated relationship with democracy on the flip side of the coin. Peter the Great dragged Russia into Europe and pulled it to the advanced world at that time, but it was an absolutely undemocratic model. Although it used the methods of creating new institutions to the fullest extent, involving the most energetic layers of society and youth in the construction of a new world, teaching advanced knowledge, European education, etc.

Yes, success was achieved in these cases. But at the center of success was a personality (leader) and a tough, and sometimes cruel, model. And this is a risk. What to do with this aspect?

And one more thing. Following closely various IT projects, taking part in many of them, I came across one peculiarity. It is sometimes very difficult to reproduce the success model of predecessors or other successful companies/persons, since any new project, a new place of application of effort is new circumstances, new conditions; you do not enter the same river twice. And to achieve a successful result by the same methods is often impossible. But the problems are often reproduced. As a result, knowing what were the reasons for the failures on other projects is no less valuable than the learned success scenarios.

An Important Emphasis

In today’s supersaturated information space, for every hypothesis, idea, opinion there are always many opponents with their extremely weighty grounds and arguments. In particular, on the topic of the Genocide of Armenians by Turkey, the number of opponents and the counter-arguments presented by them is very large. Among other things, opinions are heard about the commonness of such repressions, excursions to the history of religious wars, from the times before Christ, the Crusades and even to the Stalinist national purges are conducted. A usual thing in the historical perspective is the opinion of the opponents.

The book, certainly, is not about it, or not so much about it. But the emphasis on this is very necessary and important. Including in terms of ideas of unification and development.

A Question to the Authors

In the section on the Genocide in the discussion paper, there is a very clear description of the process of evolution of attitude towards the topic of the Genocide. The farther from the event, the weaker the memory. But why then do you need this memory? Why lobbying for the recognition of the fact of the Genocide? With what precise emphasis can one single out the main thing, what topic from today's removed ones can be? I didn’t get enough of this very detail.


At first, I thought that I could formulate my comments quickly enough. As a result, the book stirred up quite a few layers, which were accumulated over the past thirty years. From perestroika and the first assembly of national deputies, the wind of changes of those years, ideas, hopes/illusions. The waves of information and knowledge that came in those years. Conversations with my comrade in the early 90s that Armenia was embarking on the path of creating a new state, and how and what could be built and implemented there. The story of my ancestors, my grandfather, who left Karabakh in his youth, his father, who was already born in Turkmenistan in 1930, relatives, who once lived in Baku. And Taghlar village, about which an old man I met once, said only a few words: “There is no one else left.”

Thank you so much for your work!

John Harker
John Harker
Chair, Independent Advisory Panel of the Development Corridors Partnership
Having read, with interest and care, the English version of the paper from cover to cover, I first have to congratulate the authors on what is clearly a labour of love, and of scholarship.

The choice of Crossroads as the title of your discussion paper seems very apt, from all sorts of perspectives but particularly in light of the recent political changes in Armenia. Armenia does face challenges and choices, as actors are forced to face realities, and not ignore them, not let inertia triumph.

I must say, I don’t know Armenia well enough to generalize much, but I have spent a life grappling with complex situations, and I have been drawing on my lessons learned as I’ve been studying your paper.

I will offer here a few comments and most of them will relate to points made in the later pages of the paper, which is not to say that I did not find the early ones to be compelling.

For example, just a few paragraphs in you introduce “the very concept of the Armenian nation”, encompassing both those Armenians living in the country today and members of the numerous diasporan communities. And, much later, on page 173, you assert that independent Armenia has not become a focus of vital interest for the Diaspora. Between these two references, much has been said which warrants commentary, and I will turn to this shortly.

I was pleased to note that, on page 8, you refer to the serious crisis in the “world order”, pointing both to the declining trust in global elites, authorities, and key public institutions, and the shifting concept of national identity.

Armenia is not insulated from any of this, of course, and I can well understand your compulsion to stimulate or engender serious discussion of the “horizon of possibilities” facing Armenia.
The Canadian poet Louis Dudek wrote that Canada’s future need not be a dark prospect but a broad horizon of possibilities, and I think your paper should encourage Armenians to think the same of their country.

I won’t comment on Chapter 1, mostly because I knew very little of the history of Armenia, though I now know a lot more!

I gained a useful appreciation of the origins of the various diasporas, and was pleased to see that you ended the chapter with a series of questions. This itself reinforced one conclusion I reached when I had digested the paper as a whole.

It is not a stretch to say it is magisterial, and should be widely read, but it should, I think, also be seen as a primer, a backgrounder to a much shorter prospectus for Armenia’s future, built around your questions.

This is not to say that the thrust of the early chapters is in any way unnecessary. I would argue that in their later school years, Armenian children should encounter this paper, and teachers be encouraged, and trained, to use it as a tool.

I thought about this when I flicked through a book I recently bought for an Armenian friend. It is written by Avedis Hadjian, and its title is Secret Nation: The Hidden Armenians of Turkey.
It contains a few photographs, and the first shows residents in an Armenian village in Sasun, Turkey. It was taken in 1973, and the villagers asked the photographer to advise the Armenian king that there are still Armenians in Sasun.

Apparently, they did not know, as I do now, thanks to Avedis Hadjian, that the last Armenian king, Levon V, was overthrown in 1375!

I was glad to see that you are, in fact, concerned about how the young see things. I note your observation, on page 62, that the young want to see themselves not as victims but as a “victorious nation with a heroic past.”

Yes, perhaps, but hopefully balanced somewhat. Being born and raised in the UK, I find myself these days really regretting that too many Britons of my age think only of a “victorious nation with a heroic past”.

It seems to me that how Armenian children come to know their country, with its history and its diasporas, is vital, and challenging. I note that on page 69 you assert that Armenia is no longer of interest to the majority of diasporan Armenians.

Obviously, I accept this, though I recall that when I first flew from Canada to Armenia via London, I went to the Air Canada lounge, and the agent asked where I was flying to. When I said Yerevan, he said he was Armenian though he was born in Britain and had never been to Armenia. Not uncommon, I guess.

The matter of Diaspora is, of course woven completely through the whole cloth of your stimulating paper.

While appreciating all of the complexities, I have to face my own realities.

Earlier in life, I was much involved in ‘conflict resolution’, and ‘post-conflict reconstruction’—of values, practices, and so on, not roads or buildings.

And I closely followed work being done by the UNDP and other elements of the UN system which suggested that countries with large diasporas were more likely to be re-drawn into conflict than those without.

Another dimension, which may have little to do with Armenia but a lot to do with me, relates to my work, some twenty years ago, on Sudan and its civil war. On behalf of Canada, I led a team to undertake a study of the impact on the war of Canadian oil investments.

On my return, my report was tabled in Parliament and discussed widely across the country. I remember being accosted at one public meeting by diaspora Sudanese who felt I had paid too little attention to their diasporan community or tribe, and too much to some of the others.

So I am of mixed views concerning Diasporas, but I impressed at how you both are focused on all aspects of this Armenian reality.

And this obviously relates to something very necessary to address—your point on page 89 where you say that “Today, it would seem that two different Armenias exist.” I take your point that islets of creative innovation are insufficient for a change in the overall paradigm. But they can impact in ways we might be surprised at.

When I arrived at the university I was to lead, I quickly learned that the prevailing culture, on campus and even more so beyond it, was one of traditional ways, and traditional expectations. I fought against this, often by stealth, and by exhortation. I was often heard to say we had to “Sustain tradition and Foster innovation. I think this gained traction, and led, in turn and time, to a broader commitment to necessary innovation.

I think I recognize your problems, and have, indeed, discussed these issues with Daron Acemoglu, whose “extractive” notion you have built strongly into your paper.

Maybe this is the crux of the matter for Armenia. And for you in your determination to have Armenians share perspectives and make choices for sustainable futures.

I confess, I don’t really know how things worked, or did not, before the ‘Pashinyan Spring’, but I suspect you are more right than you would like to be when you assert, on page 97, that “today’s Armenia appears to be a country detached from the world and withdrawn into itself.”

Actually, the focus on a new kind of nation-state, resident and diasporan, where blockchains and all manner of new technologies might be a force for good, is the necessary one. Though stating it could annoy many people.

You discuss fears and what can be done, admitting that you particularly fear the cultural extermination of Armenia, the triumph of an existing systemic threat.

I was interested in your presentation of the mechanisms that transform a society, concluding that neither revolution nor reform can guarantee prosperity for Armenia, all the while recognizing that prosperity is not enough.

I was interested in seeing that this is what lead to your taking up the presentation by Daron and James of the ‘Glorious Revolution’.

I have always identified with this event but not because of any awareness of ‘extractives’ or ‘elites’. For me, the great achievement of the age was the Mutiny Act of 1689, “Whereas the raising or keeping a Standing Army within this Kingdome in time of Peace unless it be with the consent of Parlyament is against the Law.” A world-first, I think.

But in your situation, different needs must be addressed, as you demonstrate on page 113, asserting that Armenia must connect and unite the Armenian world through a multilateral creative partnership of all its parts. Maybe this is now possible, if these parts understand the need.

You devote much space to the technologies which might enable the transformation, and rightly, through looks at other societies, including Singapore, show readers what might be possible.

Some of this is both salient and appealing. ‘Glocalization’, dealt with on page 131, is one such item. But I wonder if this section could be reduced in size without detracting from the paper as a whole. However, if it is your intention to produce a slimmer “Action Plan”, I withdraw this observation.

If you do produce such a plan, I certainly hope you emphasize the point you make at the foot of page 143, when you ask “How can we integrate the nation and the country into the global environment, where competition is extremely intense and not lose our national identity in the process.” Actually, you will be re-defining it.

This re-definition is clearly important to you, existentially so, witness the passion you have put into page 145, where you urge on your compatriots a shared and optimistic future. This is key to creating a network nation which you describe on page 157.

This, of course, you will all have to build, together. You are right, of course, to stress, as you do on page 149, the principle of maximum inclusion.

I hope that this can be reflected in local meetings as well as elite gatherings, meetings looking at the broad outlines and others focused on the narrow specialities. These can be organized through, delivered by, all kinds of entities, including your own initiatives, and those open to embracing the challenges you have articulated.

And these are rightly understood, in the paper, as platforms, and through them many visions can be aired or expounded. It seems to me essential that the vision of a ‘global network nation’, figures strongly, and this also speaks to the imperative of reaching school-age children, now.
They deserve better than they are getting. I was disturbed by the World Bank picture you resent of page 178, showing how poorly Armenia fares on important indices such as Happiness or Income, indeed, on the Human Development Index reproduced on page 179.

It is right to worry about systemic threats, for sure, but a better deal for today’s children should get their parents exercised, not to mention engaging the children themselves. A children’s strike for climate change AND a rally for Armenia becoming a global network nation!

Dr. Ashot Seferyan
Dr. Ashot Seferyan
Ph. D., Director of Executive MBA program, Institute of Business Studies, RANEPA, Moscow
“Armenia 2041”, the prepared strategy for the next 20 years, seems very interesting and reasonable. I believe, for the successful implementation of this strategy it is necessary to clearly rely on the two provisions mentioned in the manuscript. 

The first provision is largely ideological. It refers to the urgent need to reformat the national strategy and decisively move away from the prevailing image of the victim nation. This change in consciousness does not at all imply any oblivion of the tragedy of the people that occurred more than a hundred years ago or the abandonment of the legitimate requirements for the recognition of the Genocide. However, focusing on mental traumas, constantly turning to our tragic past does not help us to be integrated into the new digital and innovative global world. Today’s world is very pragmatic and less sentimental. It loves those in success! Fixing the attention of the global community on our achievements and successes makes us attractive in all aspects.

The second provision, closely related to the first, has a geopolitical character. Armenia, obviously, is a small and isolated country, which in the near future cannot hope for good neighborly relations with practically none of its neighbors. The lack of significant natural resources in the country only exacerbates this situation. We are an “island”! And this “insular” philosophy should be settled in the mind: we have nowhere to wait for help, and all our hopes are connected with internal resources. This means that human capital should become the basis for the development of the country. Which, in turn, implies paramount attention to the development of human resources – that is, the development of education! 

These provisions are to some extent reflected in the work. However, it seems to me that an effective optimization of the educational process and content is required, on the one hand, and widespread use of the scientific and educational opportunities of the diaspora through modern digital educational technologies, on the other.

Annie Demirjian
Annie Demirjian
Director, Glendon School of Public and International Affairs, York University, Toronto, Canada
I read the document with great interest and made extensive notes – from academic and diaspora perspective who has worked, on and off in Armenia, the past ten years.

I would like to congratulate the authors for initiating this badly needed and gargantuan research paper that addresses many questions, answers, reflections, while providing factual, thoughtful analysis and recommendation for the future of Armenia and Armenians.

The document is well researched (chapters 1-5), methodically presented, provides thoughtful analysis (chapters 2 and 3), excellent practical and original thinking (chapter 4) and recommendations (chapter 5) to build the Armenia which all of us, diaspora and nationals, will be proud to call home.

Perhaps, this is the only document that I have read that didn’t deal with the issue of the Armenian Genocide – and that is totally my fault. This document captured my attention and provided me a better understanding of our history, but I found most interesting where We stand now and where We are going as a people and a nation.

The authors are the experts and investors in Armenia and I really cannot intelligently comment on their clear analysis and direction. I know Armenia having worked and lectured there on and off but that doesn’t make me a knowledgeable person. I worked at the highest public offices on corruption, public management and institutional development. Your reports highlight the challenges of Armenian institutions.

But allow me to make few suggestions.

  • The report can benefit from an Executive Summary with focus on Our Vision of the Future. Most professionals are busy and won’t do justice to your excellent work. And late feedback will not serve your purposes. Short, focused feedback will still engage dialogue and discussion among your key audience.
  • I teach a course on ‘Why Nations Fail’ and I am familiar with the definition of ‘extractive’ institutions and industries. I wonder if most people get it. Some additional paragraphs on the definition/explanation of ‘extractive’ is welcome. 
  • The report can also benefit from research on the strengths and weaknesses of Armenian institutions, private, public and other as well as capacity of human capital.
John Guyatt
John Guyatt
Governor, United World College of Dilijan
I am very impressed by the range, depth and coherence of this paper: its analysis and prognosis are at once disturbing and hopeful. Thank you for allowing me to read and review this important work. 

May I identify those parts that provoked strong interest… and in some cases disagreement; also those parts that triggered questions to which I would welcome answers? 

Overwhelmingly I agree with the key thesis that Armenia must find the means to modernise its institutions, foster inclusivity, strengthen ties with the Diaspora, attract back the best brains and talents, and create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that can make Armenia a regional hub. 

I note that the development model widely referred to in the paper is drawn from Acemoglu and Robinson’s “Why Nations Fail”? This provides a sharp tool for distinguishing between extractive (plundering and exploitative) and inclusive (institutionally transparent and accountable) states – with obvious relevance to Armenia. But it is at the centre of some debate and not universally accepted: perhaps this should be acknowledged. 

Chapter 1.
The historical summary is extremely useful. Some points:

Page 19. Why have Armenians “rarely dreamed of a return to their historical motherland”? This seems unusual amongst Diaspora communities.

Page 49. The second formula for a developed national existence is that “Armenia should be a vital element in the regional balance of power, a unique intermediary that neighbouring antagonistic states find useful, retaining some of the functions of a buffer state”. While I readily see that in the Eighth and Ninth centuries CE the balance between the Byzantine Empire and the Caliphate allowed a degree of independence, the present configuration looks rather less promising.

Page 53. “…grounded in the veneration for education instilled within the family”. Is this significantly more so than amongst other peoples – and if so, why? I think it is – but what is it in Armenian history that has brought this about?

The overarching conclusion of the chapter that Armenians have always shown exceptional skills as intermediaries and creators of constructive compromise strikes me as entirely true. The point about networking, so central to the entire paper, is something that might be illustrated through present or past examples of innovation spreading throughout the global Armenian Diaspora. For instance, the first newspaper printed in Armenian, Azdarar, was published in Madras in 1794… and was copied elsewhere in the Diaspora soon after. (I visit Chennai/Madras frequently and the memory of the Armenian presence is strong: Armenian Street, Armenian Bridge, the Armenian Church.)

Chapter 2.
There is nothing I wish to comment upon here – other than to agree with all its main conclusions.

Chapter 3.
Page 83. The Singaporean scenario talks of a new transport network that will in time overcome regional enmities and tensions. The covering letter makes it clear that these interstate issues will be dealt with separately – but until then the likelihood of an East-West axis, as opposed to Georgia-Iran, seems slim.

Page 86. The comparative figures for Georgia and Armenia are disturbing but not surprising. In a recent conversation with an executive of a major UK company, I was told that their investment plans were focussed on Georgia and not Armenia, overwhelmingly because of corruption issues.

Page 88. Have the quality and distribution of schools and healthcare facilities deteriorated significantly since 1991? I recognise the dilemma of maintaining standards with reduced resources but comparative statistics from India show where the local state spends generously on health and education, as in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, productivity and economic growth are amongst the highest in the subcontinent. Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen in their “An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions” (Allen Lane 2013) suggest the relationship between productivity and social welfare is a two-way process. The book is important since the dismantling of the “license Raj” quasi-socialist centralist economic model in the 1990s has some parallels with what happened in the CIS. 

Page 88. Is Schumpeter’s concept of creative destruction wholly compatible with the inclusive institutions favoured by Acemoglu and Robinson? It is not only the elites of extractive institutions that fear disruptive innovation but also workers in decaying industries. It may thus be that transformation has to take place against not only elite opposition but also that of a broader section of the population. Hence for countries attempting rapid modernisation there are considerable risks of popular resistance e.g. the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877 in Japan, the standout example of a country forcing through super-fast economic transformation without inclusivity. The Brexit backlash to the EU has been largely fuelled by communities that suffered during the Thatcher/Blair modernising years, and who blame their misfortunes on distant wealthy elites. And the gilets jaunes movement in France is surely a revolt against Macron’s attempts to accelerate the creative disruption of the French economy. A final point: Armenia and other CIS countries suffered so much “uncreative destruction” after 1991 one wonders how resilient they might be in the face of yet more.

Page 96. The issue of corruption. Why and how has Georgia been able to tackle corruption and Armenia apparently not? On the Corruption Perceptions Index Georgia is well ahead of Armenia and apparently improving – while for the last few years Armenia is going backwards. Dreze and Sen have an interesting chapter on Accountability and Corruption; amongst the measures taken by the Indian government has been The Right to Information Act of 2005: “one of the strongest in the world… it has led to fairly radical changes in terms of building a culture of transparency in public life and curbing abuses of state power”. Needless to say, corruption remains universal… if somewhat moderated.

Pages 105/109. “Among the many external risks (is) the likelihood of a full-scale war with Azerbaijan…”  “Some discussion of the advisability of reaching a deal on Artsakh…” To an outsider some resolution to the issue seems a precondition for any hope of Armenia becoming a regional hub. The comments are well made on Page 169 about using all possible non-governmental agencies to make contact with (for instance) Turkish exiled groups. 

Chapter 4.
Page 116. The point about the two-edged nature of new technologies (enhancing both the potential for authoritarian government control e.g. China and transparency) is well made. I am not sure why it is believed that the outcome will be beneficent; it might be – again, southern Indian states such as Karnataka have indeed digitised and made their administrations far more transparent and accountable. But not only the panoptical methods used by Beijing in Xinjiang but also the data harvesting and electoral manipulation practised by Cambridge Analytics in the UK suggest a darker potential.

Page 125. I agree with most of the comments on the problems in global education, in particular the dangers of narrow specialisation. However, in addition to a more holistic approach, we need to identify what exactly we mean by a “good education”. The OECD data has Singapore coming out with the best results, along with Japan and Finland; Shanghai usually also scores well. But whether PISA tests actually identify the kind of agility, originality and lateral thinking we associate with true innovators is open to doubt.

Chapter 5. 
There are two paragraphs of particular importance: the final paragraph on page 177, Inclusive Ecosystem, and the first on page 184. Both highlight the need for institutional transformation. For an outsider it is impossible to disagree, but they also raise the issue of what the present state of those institutions is. Armenia has inherited a centrist top-down system of government from Soviet time… and the question to be asked, as of any organisation: “How does it look from the bottom up?” How do the ordinary men and women in Armenia interact with the government and authorities? Who are the officials with whom they have to communicate? How well trained and efficient are they? 

It would also be useful to know how recruitment to all branches of government service is conducted. Is there, as in India, significant cronyism and nepotism at state and local level? Again, a comparison with India is useful: whatever the limitations of its local administration, the Indian Administrative Service, inherited from the British Raj, is of the highest quality and is mainly responsible for ensuring the country remains a “functioning anarchy” – as it has been described. Trainees are recruited through tough examinations and Selection Boards, and have to serve as “apprentice administrators” in remote parts of the country to understand the realities of government for ordinary people. 

How much responsibility and power do local governments, either village, municipal or provincial, have? Generally speaking, people deal mostly with the police and tax authorities as well as educators and health professionals. Any proposed integration of Armenia into a developed international order must surely be based on these becoming efficient, transparent and incorrupt. 

How developed is civil society in Armenia? In Russia, before, during and after Soviet times, the state has regarded autonomous citizen associations with suspicion; I presume this has also been true of Armenia? Michael Burleigh’s “The Best of Times, The Worst of Times: A History of Now” (MacMillan 2017) compares Saudi Arabia and Iran. Whereas there is a near total absence of civil society in the former, the much richer tradition in Iran paradoxically explains the periodic outbreaks of popular discontent, the answering repression and, ultimately, the grounds (perhaps) for optimism in the longer term. In the Czech Republic the rapid re-emergence of functioning institutions in the 90s was due to the strong traditions of civil society going back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the interwar period. The active promotion of autonomous citizen associations and initiatives would seem to be an essential task.

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. 

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.

Hrachya Arzumanian
Hrachya Arzumanian
Doctor of Political Science, Doctor of Technical Science, expert on military and national security issues
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.

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. 

Lilit Galstian, PhD
Lilit Galstian, PhD
Publicist, former deputy of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia 
First of all, thank you for initiating a discussion-analysis so important from the point of view of the prospects for the development of Armenia.

First of all, thank you for initiating a discussion-analysis so important from the point of view of the prospects for the development of Armenia. The idea is especially important against the background, on the one hand, of almost no such concepts in our national discourse, an analysis of our national agendas, and on the other, the “storms” taking place in the global context. The central question is the correct juxtaposition of these two vectors (national and global), the ability to assess the risks and results, and choose the right path. I agree with you that several prerequisites are needed to get out of this “storm” as winners.  

You emphasize that you deliberately distance yourself from the political field. And I understand you. However, I want to assure you that the quality of the country and the political climate are decisive for choosing a development model or country vector. It is necessary to objectively consider this factor – at least not to lose sight of it. The adoption of a long-term and in a good way ambitious plan and its implementation require a conscious will and determination of the political elites.  

And not only political. The position of the business, cultural and academic elite is just as important. It is crucial that they also agree to talk about the problem in the same vein and take responsibility for reassessing the paradigm of the nation state. We have a lot to do in strengthening national and state identity. Unfortunately, the current level of development of the state and public institutions can also be included in the list of obstacles, but this does not mean we should not dream, plan ahead and move forward.  

Now Armenia is in the process of searching, as well as building of a national state. Let us hope the option that assumes the greatest upheavals is not chosen, otherwise it could jeopardize solidarity, unity of the community or the sense of security. These obstacles are destructive prerequisites that can weaken the nation-wide vision of the future, the social contract or the consensus around it.  

On this path, education (formal and informal) remains one of the most important tools. Investments in education, although paying off slowly, are always justified. You know this and act accordingly. The introduction of any development model requires constantly improving competitive knowledge and skills.  

The issue of Artsakh is not raised in this work, but this is the aspect that is present at all levels. At the same time, Artsakh is not a verdict, although it carries a serious resource for uncertainty. Artsakh should not only be a source of national pride and responsibilities. People should be assured that Artsakh is not an obstacle, that it is possible and necessary to develop also in the name of Artsakh. We do have resources for development. And Artsakh is part of our future, of the chosen model.  

It is a clear fact that we are not making good use of the potential of the Diaspora. It is also obvious that for the Armenians of the Diaspora, the motherland, and not the state of Armenia, is a great source of inspiration. This is a purely emotional approach, the capitalization of which is weak. We need to ensure that among the Diaspora Armenians a sense of belonging to the Republic of Armenia grows.  

This process is interconnected with the presence of an attractive, competitive state, it serves as a resource and component of national security and is among political values and beliefs... At present, we are allegedly in a pause mode.  

In the matter of model selection, it seems that the choice is not objectively large, and you offer the most acceptable option. This, of course, does not mean that, based on the requirements of the time, temporary hybrid solutions cannot be found.  

However, the first thing you need is a quality state, effective governance, political power that can lead the nation to consensus, responsible elites... I believe in individuals, in their talent and talentism: a lot can be changed with this. It is vital to start a search among global Armenians or to contribute to the formation of them – individuals to act. You modestly did not include your name on this list... 

In the future, I am convinced that these peculiar oases will join each other and give a result. 

Sirak Martirosyan
Sirak Martirosyan
President of Tavush Development NGO
Being deeply partial to the fate of our nation, having read the book “At the Crossroads” of the esteemed Ruben Vardanyan and Nune Alekyan, I immediately enter discussion with my thoughts.

Having experienced many ups and downs, the Armenian nation has now come to the frontier and is facing the choice of a development vector, clearly realizing that it bears responsibility for future generations.

The content of the book is the result of tremendous work, covering all aspects of the life activities of the Armenians and Armenia.

Today, talking about the future is all the more important, since due to the level of confidence in the authorities in Armenia, a new reality has been created: fragile due to novelty and promising in spirit. I agree with the authors that a bold step, without fear of change, has been taken, but I believe that it is important to avoid dizziness from success, to comprehend the reality, carefully and slowly gather the potential of the nation. I share the opinion of the authors: it is in the 21st century that our nation is going to face assimilation, and the country – possible loss of independence, that is, its subjectness in the global world. 

I absolutely agree with the statement that the Armenians, in particular those living in the Republic of Armenia, are not ready to patiently discuss poignant topics, and we need to learn the culture of discussion and communication in different languages. 

Presently, in order to find its place in a turbulent global world, to grow and prosper evenly, Armenia is obliged to take the rails of a rapid economic recovery, based on the increasing inclusiveness of its political and economic institutions. 

The book interestingly and convincingly describes the nature of Armenian resilience, based on an understanding of universal interests and world history: “Armenians have thrived when they have had access to life on a larger stage”, because we are in a difficult region. But a breakthrough can take place in the global world thanks to the readiness for change and competition, the guarantee of which is also the individualism of the Armenians, although if lessons are not learned from its history, this trait can become our evil fate. 

I will try to answer the question raised in the book: “Does culture determine the nature of political and economic institutions (extractive or inclusive) or, on the other hand, do well-established institutions change cultural matrices?”. It is clear that they influence each other, and they must also be developed jointly. However, I take the liberty of asserting that there are negative aspects of the institutions that are more understandable for the Armenian society, therefore, in the calculation of inclusiveness, it is necessary to put emphasis on the improvement and revolutionary transformations of those institutions.  

I share the point of view of the authors of the book in their vision of the prosperity of Armenia, that is, the coverage of the entire nation in its integrity and diversity with a planning horizon of 25 years or more. 

The conclusion that Armenia is governed by hopeless “personalized micromanagement” is controversial. After all, a country in a hybrid war is forced to replace the long-term prospect by the medium-term one, as evidenced by the agreement with Russia, state programs, including demographic ones, by the previous government, associative agreement with the European Union. 

The criticism of the initiative of the Armenian government aimed at taxing the companies established in the Russian Federation is also unconvincing. The programs of the “Tashir Group” alone can serve as a positive example of creating the conditions for “creative destruction”.  

A sore point is corruption. I agree with the authors that it is impossible to defeat it with the laws and efforts of law enforcement agencies. The “maturity” of a society can sooner lead to an understanding of the meaninglessness of corruption and to its elimination. 

Convincing indications of sources of productive motivation are such as love, fear, and shame. Fear that we can lose everything and disappear as a nation, turning from a subject into an object. 
The book thoroughly describes the new reality of the twenty-first century: in conditions of deep transformation of the world order it is important not to stay overboard and become the subject of “technological colonialism”. I agree that in the context of Armenia with limitedness of traditional institutions losing confidence, the need for actors from the diaspora comes to the fore, to which can contribute the true democracy and harmony in the society (which is absent and will have to be awaited for a long time), as well as the network and the real relationship of Armenia – Diaspora with mutual benefit. We have passed the mode of survival, now we are in the mode of preservation, and we need to make a breakthrough and go into the mode of prosperity. We need to stop dividing in our minds the citizens of Armenia of two “sorts”), Artsakh and the Armenians of the diaspora in order to determine a common optimistic vision of the future, otherwise it is fraught with assimilation and disappearance. 
There are convincing arguments about the likelihood of world disasters that can wipe out the Diaspora and Armenia from the face of the earth. This can only be avoided by uniting a disparate nation and reviving the global network based on the principle of maximum inclusion and making the life order of a hub state. For this purpose, it is necessary to expand the composition of consultants of the Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology by the representatives of different countries. 

The capsule as a model of development of Armenia is unpromising since isolation from the outside world is inevitable. Despite the temptation of the hub state, closer to me is the model of the periphery of an empire, namely Russia, and Iran – in the event of Armenia and Russia moving to Europe, and Iran to the Eurasian Economic Union. The solution to the Armenian issue and the non-return of the lands claimed by Turkey and Azerbaijan is so long-term that the development of Armenia, although not as fast as we would like it to be, is relatively safe to be seen precisely within the Eurasian Economic Union, which has the tendency to expand. 

The technological level and standards in force in Armenia, the slow involvement of the Diaspora, the mentality of the Armenian population and immaturity of the political field, the behavioral manifestations of the elite – namely, oligarchs, the low demand for intellectuals in resolving national issues, the closeness of the views of Russian and Armenian societies, Russia's interest in relations with diaspora Armenians make my point of view more pragmatic for at least 20-30 years. The further fate of Armenia and our entire nation will depend on how fruitfully will the intellectual forces be mobilized and to what extent it will be possible to create an atmosphere of national harmony. 

An invaluable merit of the book is that it provides answers to all possible questions that may arise among the common men, active citizens, representatives of the elite and business, youth and students, farmers, scientists and the officers. Of course, not all conclusions are indisputable, however, I believe it is necessary to consider all the pros and cons with the same thoroughness, as the authors did, to abandon privacy, refuse the temptation of momentary achievements. The attractive idea of a hub country should start after the mobilization of internal and diasporan forces and creation of an inclusive ecosystem with the emergence of leaders who are trusted by the Armenian world, and this should happen evolutionarily and in a short time, since neither Armenia, nor the Diaspora are ready for the full-scale involvement of the diaspora in the life of Armenia, for ensuring inclusion, at least in terms of participation in referenda, whereas making Armenia prosperous is possible only if this task becomes a universal national project, and Armenia – the focus of the life interests of all Armenians. 

I consider the leader’s factor extremely important. Just a comparison of the governing and executive elites led by a leader and a musical orchestra with a chief conductor, suggests that talented performers without a talented conductor (leader) are not able to give the expected result. 

I agree with the authors who believe it’s important to conduct in-depth studies of diasporan communities regarding their expectations from Armenia. 

In my understanding, one of the stages on the way to the hub model should be the establishment by referendum of criteria for an Armenian citizen (faith, language, sense of belonging, mixed origin etc.). 

I would include the military-industrial complex in the modified list of the priority sectors. 

In order to achieve an inclusive ecosystem, i. e. the foundation of a hub-country, first of all (although all the projects for Armenia are urgent) there’s a need to change the education system so that enrollment in schools and universities is conducted selectively and graduation – only on knowledge. All the collateral schools, colleges and other imitators of the educational process should be carefully revised and reduced, because ballast in this case harms both the progress and motivation of an educated person. 

In my opinion, Armenia’s current government in its strategy is guided by the concept of Armenia, expressed in the book “At the Crossroads”, partly declaratively, i. e. there are many deviations in the approval of national consent and the paths to inclusion. 

I am optimistic about our future (the key to this is this BOOK). After all, we live in an era of “talentism”, and the Armenians have repeatedly come out of hopelessness thanks to their TALENT. 

Lord Ara Darzi
Lord Ara Darzi
Chair of the Selection Committee of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London
Ruben Vardanyan and Nune Alekyan present an excellent analysis of the challenge facing Armenia.  The central question, as they express it, is: “How can our ancient nation, which is dispersed all over the world and has only recently regained statehood, restore its vitality and achieve a breakthrough so that it plays a meaningful part in the development of civilization?” 

In answering this question they rightly say that prosperity, security and preservation of Armenia’s national identity must be the priorities. “We want our nation to move from preservation mode to prosperity mode,” they say. A prosperity in which all can share. 

Vardanyan and Alekyan are surely right also to express the hope that the “surge of public energy” unleashed by the Velvet Revolution in April 2018 which propelled Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to power, provides a unique opportunity to bring about meaningful change. It must not be missed. 

Prime Minister Pashinyan faces challenges on many fronts – navigating the tricky relationship with Russia, resolving the festering conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and tackling the poor economic growth and corruption that laid the seeds for his rise to power. 

In my response, however, I want to focus on what I believe to be a key factor in achieving the goal set out by Vardanyan and Alekyan – the digital transformation of Armenia. 

In my 30-year medical career I have overseen advances in digital technology, launched the first digital academy for the NHS in the UK and pioneered digital innovations that are helping to transform the practice of medicine. 

Over the same period we have seen how digital advances have transformed the world for everyone – from New York commuters wanting the quickest route to their destination to Malawian fishermen seeking the best price for their catch. In Armenia, the use of social media was a key factor in mobilising the thousands of supporters who might not otherwise have joined the protests that brought Nikol Pashinyan to power. 

Armenia’s Digital Transformation Agenda 2030, published in November 2017, is vital to its future. The Government plans to reach 100 per cent digitalisation in relations with the business community and 80 per cent in social services by 2030, by which time it expects to save 50 per cent on government administrative expenses. 

As it has stated, digital solutions can increase administrative efficiency, develop transport, improve the environment, save energy, boost public safety, and grow agricultural production. The Digital Transformation Agenda 2030 outlines six key elements: digital government, digital skills, infrastructure, cybersecurity, private sector and institutional basics. 

It needs to progress these without delay. But it also needs to do more to boost the IT sector. 

As well as a cost-saving efficiency, digitisation of Government is an equalising force. It allows for the creation of a borderless country, if everything is digital and location-independent. In Estonia the Government launched a digital “residency” programme which allowed foreigners to log in and use some services, such as banking, as if they were living in the country. Other measures allowed start-ups to put down virtual roots. They were so successful that the e-residency application rate exceeded the birth rate. 

For Armenia, whose population is declining and whose citizens are widely dispersed, with seven of its 10 million population living abroad, the increased connectivity that can be achieved through digital advance could be transformative. It could provide the diaspora with an increased opportunity to reconnect with their roots, open up new avenues for investment, and stimulate innovation. 

As populations become increasingly transient, the idea of nationhood is being redefined. An article in the New Yorker imagined a future in which nationality is determined not so much by where you live as by what you log on to. Once, that would have been thought science fiction. No longer. 

Of the multiple options for Armenia’s future, Vardanyan and Alekyan propose the hub model, as adopted by South Korea and Singapore, with the aim of developing the country by using the contacts and resources of the diaspora to attract capital investment, advanced technology, and highly qualified specialists. 

In this, Armenia can build on one of its great strengths – its tradition of networking, a vital skill in the modern world. But it cannot be achieved without the digital tools that, today, are essential to successful networking for a global mobile population. 

The authors refer to the age of “talentism” and the vital role of education in creating a skilled workforce of individuals with the creative potential to improve their world. As workers become more mobile, competition for their skills will increase. Armenia must speed the development of the necessary digital infrastructure to train and employ the most highly skilled workers. 

This is not about creating an Armenian equivalent of Silicon Valley. Digital technology is often seen as having a value of its own. That is a mistake. It is not the technology that is important but what it enables. 

As a hub with contacts across the world, offering skilled specialists and advanced technologies, Armenia could grow from a small fragmented nation to become the sovereign core of the diaspora whilst helping to maintain the regional balance as a buffer state, thanks to its geographical location. 

For decades Armenians have been united by the memory of the 1915 Genocide, and the pain and suffering it caused. As the authors say, today they need “modern objects of shared pride,” and a sense of optimism about the country’s future. 

Noubar Afeyan has offered a positive vision focused on creating a “global network nation” centred round the hub country of Armenia which would become a locus of power, a generator of ideas and an incubator of innovation. 

Digital transformation is vital to achieving that vision. It must be a priority for the country’s future.

Lyudmila Ulitskaya
Lyudmila Ulitskaya
I read the book with great interest. The whole part devoted to the Armenian history is remarkably well written. It was very interesting for me, as a Jewish woman, who used to be well immersed in the history of the Jews, to single out numerous parallels.

The concept of survival, the global network – everything is clear to me. Unfortunately, various excursuses into the economy, with all their thoughtfulness, come into conflict with those thoughts that have occupied me lately. There is a remarkable English scientist Martin Rees, probably the greatest world expert on the processes that take place in the Universe as a whole, and on the Earth in particular, who strongly doubts that humanity will survive the 21st century. I can add to this that, as a geneticist in the past, I have been thinking for a long time about a new round of human evolution, which is no longer purely biological. In it, firstly, the selection follows the line that is called “talentism” in your book (it can be named otherwise as well), and, secondly, there is a fusion of the human and the computer that has already begun. This is evidenced by anyone who has a heart stimulant. There are many such people. And this is just the beginning. All this I write to the fact that your ideas regarding the revival of Armenia and the Armenian people may already get belated. The lid will be put on everyone at the same time – both the advanced and the most backward. 

Secondly, a new “subrace” – or I don’t know what the person whom I call “planetary” will be called – is actually being created right before our eyes today. These are the very best talents who receive education as a rule not where they were born, speak many languages, and choose a place of residence depending on the place of work they are interested in. Generally, they are alien to any national interests, little attached to the “hearths”, and at best come to visit their parents who speak Armenian, Yiddish, Russian, Spanish in the places where they were born. And this process is crucial. All national cultures are shrinking, becoming gradually the supplier of exhibits for museums, where the bast shoes, moccasins and sandals of the ancient Greeks are approximately equivalent. 

Culture itself has a tendency toward planetarization (this is not assimilation!) – I will not bring a large number of examples: “The Lion King” film, produced in 2019 with incredible skill and technical sophistication, was watched almost simultaneously by people in all the countries of the world where there is a cinema and computers... 

My grandchildren, who have recently come to visit me from London, are a little less than half Jewish, and also have a share of Russian, even noble blood, a little Finnish (Ingermanland) and a quarter of Ukrainian.

They speak English to each other. And this, I suppose, is the fate of our children, whose parents have three generations of university-educated ancestors behind them. I do not think that the children of our janitor Bayram, a Tajik, a man of ancient Oriental culture, will have the same chances as mine. Although I sincerely wish it to them. There is no justice in the world by the will of our Lord God, who with the help of remarkably invented cunning biological laws did not provide neither for justice, nor for equality. 

I sincerely wish you, the authors, that your efforts to turn Armenia into a modern hub-state be crowned with success. 

Hayk Sargsyan
Hayk Sargsyan
Professor, Dean of the YSU Department of Economics and Management, Director of the Scientific and Analytical Center for Constitutional Economics 
The project “At the Crossroads”, dedicated to the future of Armenia and the Armenians, will undoubtedly take a special place in the 30-year history of independent Armenia.

It originates from the project Armenia 2020, the discussion on which took place with the participation of lecturers and students of the Faculty of Economics and Management of Yerevan State University (YSU). 
I believe this new initiative, which has an excellent ideological base and conceptual provisions, needs some additions so that it can be implemented. In particular, it is necessary to add the economic and legal element of setting goals.  
We express our willingness to contribute to this process with the involvement of the YSU Scientific and Analytical Center of Constitutional Economics of the Faculty of Economics and Management. 

Raffi Bedrosyan
Raffi Bedrosyan
Author, Canada
Your paper is extremely valuable to anyone interested in Armenian issues of the past and present, but particularly essential and thought-provoking for anyone interested in getting involved in the future of Armenians in Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora. I am sure you have heard from hundreds of readers deservedly praising and complementing your work, but I believe you would be more interested in hearing comments which may help improve the paper to be even more comprehensive and objective.  

While I agree with all of the valid points raised in the paper, I believe there is one critical issue missing. I apologize in advance for pointing out that the Armenian world and realities presented in the paper lacks one critical component of history and even more critical component of the future – which is the reality of the forcibly Islamized ‘hidden’ Armenians in Turkey. These people are the third and fourth generation descendants of the Armenian orphans who survived the 1915 Genocide, the living victims of the Genocide, forcibly Turkified and Islamized in Turkish orphanages, Turkish military schools, or taken into Turkish and Kurdish homes as maids, servants, adopted children, wives, mistresses or worse. It has now become apparent that most of these people never forgot their Armenian roots despite the horrible conditions that they endured, and secretly passed on the Armenian identity to the next generations. Certain events in Turkey in the 2010’s, in particular the reconstruction of the Surp Giragos Armenian Church in Diyarbakir (Dikranagerd) gave these hidden Armenians the courage to ‘come out’ and declare their Armenian identity, expressing their desire to return to Armenian roots, culture, language and in some cases, convert back to Christianity. This phenomenon, and the events that triggered it (and my role in these events) are explained in detail in my book ‘Trauma and Resilience. Armenians in Turkey – Hidden, not hidden and no longer hidden’. 

As described in my book, I have triggered some of the events helping the hidden Islamized Armenians return to their Armenian roots, by organizing Armenian language classes for them in different Turkish provinces, and by organizing trips to Armenia for hundreds of them from Diyarbakir, Van, Mush, Dersim, Sasun, Antep, Urfa and the Hamshen Region of northeastern Turkey, where the hidden Armenians continue speaking a dialect of Armenian even though they were Islamized several centuries ago. I have established a vast network called Project Rebirth, through which tens of thousands of hidden Armenians are in constant communication with me and more critically, with one another, cooperating, coordinating and organizing activities. I believe these efforts to organize the hidden Armenians should be expanded and structured beyond my individual means, by support from Armenian NGOs, cultural/political organizations and perhaps, even the Armenian government.  

I would welcome your comments, advice and further dialogue on raising awareness of this issue in your paper.

Vahagn Sargsyan
Vahagn Sargsyan
Screenwriter, director
A hub, a capsule or a periphery? The hub, and the capsule, and the periphery.  Below, we will as briefly as possible present the comments of the Religa Research Center on a number of extremely important issues raised by the authors of the discussion paper “At the Crossroads”.   

We believe that the three models under consideration can be combined and applied, trying to use the capabilities of each and at the same time minimizing the threats that may arise when each of the models is used separately.  

Though fully agreeing with the vision of an inclusive state and society, at the same time, we believe that the state cannot completely abandon extractive institutions.  

Sharing the idea that we need a new social contract, we believe that it should be sought in the area of balance, complementarity and mutual deterrence between the inclusive and extractive natures of open-network and closed-capsule institutions.   

A few comments on the hub model proposed by the authors.  

To begin with, in our opinion, the Republic of Armenia is simply destined to be the nodal center of all Armenians. At the same time, however, Armenia is not able to completely transform into a hub – but it may include the functions of a network hub. And these functions can be implemented only by one aspect of the state as a multifunctional institution.  

I’d propose to be guided not by the examples of Singapore, Israel, Ireland and other similar countries, but rather pay attention to the relationship between Italy and the Vatican, Great Britain and London City, China and Hong Kong.  

As a result of a deep and comprehensive analysis of these examples, we believe it will be possible to find an all-Armenian nodal center - a model of a hub which is to be as inclusive as possible and able to unite all Armenians around itself regardless of place of residence and citizenship, faith and worldview.  

Figuratively speaking, the model of a Pan-Armenian Vatican, London or Hong Kong will allow us to be as open as possible to the global world, and at the same time not to jeopardize the institutions of the Republic of Armenia – those existing or being in their infancy and only emerging; explicit and hidden.  

As an option, we propose creating a city-state somewhere near Yerevan or Zvartnots airport, which will serve as an autonomous hub for Armenians around the world. Unlike theocratic Vatican, it will be “neocratic”, and its governance will be carried out using innovative digital blockchain-based technologies. It will have its own currency (in the form of some sort of “stablecoin”), own administration, budget, banking system, police, and passports.  

We suggest creating direct transport links, infrastructure, between this autonomous hub and Zvartnots international airport so that people arriving in the autonomy by air have the opportunity to get there without crossing the borders of the Republic of Armenia. A person without a visa to enter Armenia should be able to get into this autonomy, for example, using a special terminal at the Zvartnots airport and a separate road leading from the terminal to the autonomy.  

Here we confine ourselves to what has been said, while remaining open to further broader and more detailed discussions.  

A few more comments regarding the dilemma between the capsule and the periphery of a powerful state. If generalized a little, then the capsule can be considered a kind of a periphery of and empire. If we look at North Korea as an example of a classic capsule, then upon closer examination in a wider chronological range, one can see that at the initial stage of its existence, it depended largely on the Soviet Union, and with a number of reservations, it could be considered the periphery of the Soviet empire, and now it is largely dependent on China, both economically and politically. Again, with a number of reservations, it can be considered the periphery of China.  

Moreover, we believe that in the context of intensive global and regional integration, the capsule model has become obsolete, and the existence of a state of this type is fundamentally impossible. The only way out in this situation is, along with integration processes, to strengthen certain capsule institutions within the country: the national church, language, traditional institutions, and special security services.  

In a word, we do not see an alternative to integration. The only question is the choice of a supranational structure with which we want to integrate. And it’s just here that we propose a flexible integration policy. Namely, to recall our historical past, in particular the Ani kingdom mentioned in your book, our role as a mediating nation between different civilizations, and try again to take on our role and mission to combine the unconnected, and masterfully synthesize.  

As a conclusion, we propose to try to combine the hub, periphery of the metropolis and capsule models into one common system using bold and innovative structures based on complex symmetry, the effectiveness of which can be several times higher than that of the simplified systems, which in turn will allow us to ensure not a quantitative, but qualitative breakthrough for the benefit of Armenia, all Armenians, and the world.  

Arthur Martirosyan
Arthur Martirosyan
Senior Consultant, CMPartners, USA
The authors have undertaken a very timely intellectual enterprise. This is exactly what one would expect from political parties and/or their think tanks in the well-developed democracies. Unfortunately, the weak political system of Armenia failed to produce systematic analyses and competitive visions even in the last electoral cycle. I've placed your text in that lacuna. 

Overall, I found more arguments and points in the text that deeply resonate with my own reflections on whither Armenia. I particularly appreciated excellent questions you pose as they are conducive for critical thinking. 

Still, I read any text from a process perspective that is to say I want to understand how this text is going to help you achieve your goal, assuming it is building a sufficient consensus among members of “the fragmented nation” to inspire actions; and what kind of communication/dialogue processes will be necessary for that end. Here are my succinct comments. 

Understanding the audience (you have defined it too broadly) and its preconceptions and barriers that might prevent it from accepting the message is key here. For it is not so much the message itself as the reactions that you want to elicit that matter. If you are targeting the Armenian policy-making community, you are likely to lose their patience as most historical information is likely to sound redundant to them. Although I do understand why you need historical excurses in your analysis of the identity, I'd keep them shorter. 

The title itself suggests that we as a nation need to make the choices sooner rather than later and complacency is not among the options. Yet the sense of urgency is communicated quite convincingly well into the first quarter of the text. 

Intuitively, you are very close to using what in our trade is known as the problem-solving tool (PST). However, a more rigorous application of a structure, not necessarily along the lines of the tool I’d recommend, could allow you to avoid repetitions of arguments and/or points.  

Your text should inspire a process of brainstorming and dialoguing of specific actions on the part of a large number of players. But a transformation of the scale you are proposing will require that you develop a guiding coalition (broader than your impressive Board). It is therefore critical at this stage to employ process tools of relationship mapping and strategic sequencing of moves among “influential” to make sure that your messages produce resonance. It is an act of reverse engineering where you first visualize the desired outcomes and map the process backward to your starting point, i.e. the discussion paper. 

There are some substantive arguments that I found challenging to accept. For example, you offer a comparative analysis of Israel and Armenia demographic data starting in 1955. Here is why I think this comparison is somewhat misplaced: 

1) As you yourself argue, Soviet Armenia was not a sovereign independent state. Decisions on migration were made in Moscow from a completely different foreign policy agenda as was the case in 1946–1948. Whereas in Israel the Alia was the part and parcel of the nation-building agenda and vision. 

2) The graph shows that Armenia’s demographic line went in parallel and not on a significantly different trajectory from that of Israel from 1955 to 1991. Given that the male population of Soviet Armenia was decimated in WWII, this was a remarkable achievement. 

3) The major diverging point is at Armenia’s independence. Seven years after independence for Israel in 1955 must correspond to 1998 for Armenia. The initial strong ethnic mobilization fizzled out by 1995. There can be many different explanations for this development – the quality of leadership, trust as social capital, lack of organic vision, to name a few. But the most salient one in my book is axiological. The Israeli founding fathers had a clear blueprint for nation-building driven by the sense that it was the only option after the Holocaust and continued persecution in Eastern Europe after WWII. That blueprint was based on the ideology of Israeli leaders with the premium on such values as the dominance of the common good (kibbutz), long-term thinking and homeland, to name a few. Armenia by 1998 was in an entirely different place in terms of dominant values deformed in the Soviet period – private material interests, instant gratification, a superfluous formal sense of homeland (որտեղ հաց՝ այնտեղ կաց). 

Andreas Heinecke
Andreas Heinecke
CEO & Founder, Dialogue Social Enterprise
General Observation 

Singapore is the Holy Land for lots of us, as, under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew and his family, they succeeded to build a modern state with an amazing infrastructure. Singapore -small, not blessed with natural resources- had to overcome colonization and occupation. It’s the only state I know that has two ministries for education; this demonstrates impressively the importance of education for the government. Singapore created a syllabus on character building for primary and secondary schools, and it’s certainly worthy to analyze how this approach is relevant for Armenia.  

Another Holy Land besides the real one, Israel, is certainly Rwanda. All the three nations: Armenia, Israel and Rwanda, have the post-trauma of the genocide in common. It’s interesting to see how these relatively small countries, and especially Rwanda, flourish. It is like a miracle. It’s amazing to see what has been build up. Paul Kagame is like Lee Kuan Yew, an autocratic leader, and the country is strictly controlled in order not to endanger the bigger plan to overcome the humanitarian disaster, mitigate the gaps of former enemies, work on their reconciliation and tighten the bonds among the survivors, while also being able to build up a national identity. If you are looking for benchmarks in building a nation, Rwanda is certainly a source of inspiration.  
What’s the current situation? 
Armenia is a unique country. More people live abroad than in the country itself, and it’s a great challenge to keep a national and cultural identity for those who live in the Diaspora. Armenians, who remain in their homeland are tempted to immigrate, because life perspectives seem to be more attractive outside the borders. The country has inner-political challenges to master, there is the big issue of corruption, and it is in a geopolitically difficult location with neighboring and nearby countries like Iran, Russia, Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Armenia is ranked the 121st among the 156 countries of the world by the level of happiness, and the 107th among the180 countries by the Corruption Perceptions Index. The average income of 24 USD a day indicates the economic challenges for the vast majority of the Armenians.  
Hence, the four major challenges Armenia is facing today: 
— Lack of cultural, spiritual, historical and national bonds, especially among the youth 
— Brain drain of young talents and lack of attractions to return to the homeland 
— Linguistic genocide as the language is threatened by extinction 
— Political instability in a volatile geopolitical setting 
These are challenging prerequisites, and it’s a big endeavor to build a global nation, preserve the language, assure a peaceful coexistence with the neighboring states and to be a desirable place to live for those who want to leave or return.  
Armenia is unique, as it succeeded despite a century-long suppression to survive and remain as an important contributor for the world’s sake. It’s a proud nation with a strong cohesion and high self-esteem, resilient, national and international at the same time. A well-known sociological theory explains that outer pressure strengthens the inner link. There is a strong bond, but it’s in danger to erode under the current premises of globalization.  
Some Suggestions 
Learn from the Past to Save the Future 
George Santayana says wisely: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The genocide coins the mind and soul of the Armenians. To belong to a nation of victims is psychologically difficult to handle. It is a shame that only a minority of the UN member states officially accepts the genocide. Turkey as the main perpetrator still denies their responsibility and has not officially apologized. 
It is important to keep the memory alive. Projects, which witness the genocide are important to overcome the collective trauma, and to give a voice for those who were murdered. Approximately 1 million Armenians were killed. The task is to collect 1 million voices for each single victim. This can work with social media to attract foremost the younger generation, and is a purely communication effort. The model of the German stumble stones in remembrance for the Jewish victims of the Shoah can be updated with modern technology. At all places where Armenians lived sensors can be installed and via an app an interested person can learn more about the person that dwelled there. The process of coming to terms with the past happens not only at memorials. It happens where the crimes took place. To mobilize memory is of utmost importance for the identity of the Armenians, and appealing ways especially for the youth need to be found.  
The experience of the genocide and the strength of the Armenians to endure as a peace-loving nation can become one facet of the nation’s brand. Armenia is relatively neutral in politics, and can become a hub for peace building and reconciliation. It is predestined to play this role in the region. A peace building center can be set up like the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue in Norway. Especially the Turkish – Armenian relations need to reconcile, and people from both nations should work together on models to maintain peace and coexistence. Jean-Paul Samputu, survivor of the Rwandan genocide comes to my mind: Forgivness is for you, not for the offender. 
Build a Brand 
Armenia – The Global Nation. That’s a strong brand. The brand stands for certain values, which need to be worked out. A widespread basic research needs to be facilitated to learn especially from the young Armenians in the diaspora, what Armenia actually stands for. At least 500,000 voices must be heard to create a movement to build up the nation’s brand. That’s a scientific process. 
Global – Local 
Like the Jews, Armenians are scattered around the world. In consequence they have access to a broad spectrum of resources and knowledge as insiders of the hosting countries. These sources can be utilized for the sake of Armenia’s future. The question to be answered: How to assure that the information flow of knowledge and skills can build intellectual capital in the homeland? 

Akop Gabrielyan
Akop Gabrielyan
Political scientist, PhD
The book both raises many issues, and makes one ask a lot of questions about the fate of the Armenian nation. The work should be interesting to the representatives of other nations as well, since the topics discussed in it equally apply to all the civilizations that are, recalling the wonderful work of A. Toynbee, “on trial” of history today. 

It seems to me that the approach and message of the book are extremely important for all Armenians, who are used to passively remembering the great past and terrible tragedies, instinctively often rallying around them, but not generating state-level innovative ideas to create a national welfare. At the same time, it is necessary to state that the Armenian culture is not expansive in itself, it is turned “inward”, to self-preservation, which allowed Armenians to maintain their identity for centuries, but no more than that – not to develop their cultural code for spreading externally. Thus, if the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian nation as an original culture want to survive in the age of the greatest challenges, when threats of physical annihilation exist simultaneously with the threats of absolute social and ethnic assimilation, it is necessary to develop the habit of looking not only at the past, but also get used to generating the future. Here and now. Right now.  

That is why the book has every chance of becoming not just a “reading material”, but an incentive to act. Presently, there are many pessimistic forecasts regarding where Armenia is heading. Is it even moving anywhere? Or is the nation doomed to fade away? If moving, is it inert, along a predetermined path or based on the independent and rational choice of the people? The identity of the Armenian diaspora with each new generation less and less connects Armenians with caring for their historical home, which fits into the logic of the objectively existing socio-economic and cultural processes of the glocalization. In a few generations, this connection will probably be lost forever, while the diaspora in today’s paradigm plays a key role for the Republic of Armenia itself (imagine if at least some of the prominent figures of the different Armenian diaspora cultures existed in the past and present, who have made a huge intellectual contribution to the development of their country of residence, generated and implemented their ideas in favor of the Republic!). How to respond to this trend?  

Another major issue is to understand the role and place of the church as an institution of faith in the life of the modern Armenian man. It seems that in today’s reality, the church no longer has a mandate to preserve the Armenian identity, to realize the enlightening mission that it possessed during the previous eighteen centuries. How to make the Armenian Church not a formal-declarative, but an active institution of the spiritual consolidation of the Armenians around the world in the 21st century?  

The modern Armenia and Armenians do not have the luxury of time that existed before, which is primarily in the view of the acceleration of the historical process itself associated with socio-technical and technological innovations. How can we not become history ourselves, but make one? How to not only theorize about the state and civil society of a fundamentally new type, but also create them? This field of the most important questions remains open, and “At the Crossroads” invites everyone to its constructively meaningful filling.

Hrant Sahakyan
Hrant Sahakyan
Budget Controller, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva; Board and Executive Committee Member, Switzerland-Armenia Chamber of Commerce
First, I would like to join the others to congratulate you both, for the great work; this is indeed a complete and high-quality work. Relevant and in-depth analysis, very pertinent comparisons, objective and thorough appreciation of the situation, very impressive, indeed.

I have two modest comments. 

You know, sorry to say, but the two of the way-forward models cannot be relevant to us. I mean the Capsule model and the Periphery of an Empire. Periphery of an Empire de facto means losing our sovereignty (in all terms); I don’t think it’s an option to consider. Especially as you said (and as we have experienced), it will give nothing, just an illusion of security. The Capsule is even worse; who wants to become a country like the North Korea, in order to save identity? With all the respect to our Georgian-Armenian Community, but we cannot sacrifice the future of our country to save the identity of the Georgian-Armenians. I think the identity also will die in that capsule. For me, all the three options should be called Hub (Hub 1, Hub 2, Hub 3, etc.). There might be different types of hubs (technological, financial, tax heaven, general and so on), but it has to be a hub, we cannot hide ourselves in this world like an ostrich in the desert. Who can say that identity is at risk in a Hub? I think it’s the other way around, the national identity gets stronger and more promoted through hubs, than in capsules. Who says that Switzerland or Lebanon have lost (or reduced) their identity? One man, Roger Federer, has done so much for his nation’s identity that a whole country could not do. Swiss quality mark, Swiss technology, Swiss healthcare, Swiss tourism… aren’t these better ways of expression of their identity? Or who mixes up Lebanon with Libya or Syria? No one. Lebanon’s name is heard in the world (in the peaceful world) more than any other country name of the Middle East. This (hub) is the way to promote culture, language, kitchen and other components of identity – through inclusion, interaction and adopting of world standards as targets (and not regional standards). So, I am fully in support of you.
My second comment is about the implementation. I see it as a big concern. How to get there? Where to start, who takes the lead, what’s the State’s involvement? Do you think efficient connecting is a possible task? And so on and so forth. Well, I think at least big adjustments have to be made (political decisions, legislation, infrastructure, mobilisation of human and material resources, time and timing, etc.). I am sure another great paper has to be written (as “At the Crossroads” that you did), and it (The Roadmap?) will be even harder to compile. 
You know last year, when the Velvet Revolution happened, the first reaction of many of us was to think on how to mobilise the Diaspora for the rebuilding of our country. The enthusiasm was just great. We had some discussions/meetings, and… stopped there. My surprise was even greater to see that the State is not pursuing (anymore, or doing very little) to involve Diaspora’s potential into the Rebuilding. 

The last but not the least, I was also expecting you to ask such a question – if somehow, and sometime our way-forward model (Hub) is chosen, who can make herself/himself available to be involved in the implementation in one way or another? I think it is important to check the pulse of the Diaspora. 


I would like to give you some more modest feedback in relation to the Implementation (paper). 

It is true that you have put on the table a kind of an impossible trinity (national identity, security and prosperity). Whatever combination is privileged as a way forward, it should go with a lot of mitigation for the others (the ones that may seem in weaker positions). As far as the national identity in a capsule, I compare this with a precious gem which we keep away from everyone, no one can see it, no one will know about it, then as French say “ça sert à rien” (this brings nothing). Take an example of an international school: all the kids are very happy and proud of their own national identities, because that is what the school is promoting for. The Hub country also can have a policy of promoting and reinforcing the national identity of the host country. Of course, it is left to precise what does it mean a national identity; this is open to wide interpretation. What I mean is simply about the language, literature, history, culture, heritage, religion (in our case), Mount Ararat (in our case), legacy of our ancestors-heroes, know-how, comparative advantage, nowadays heroes etc. 

Security in a Hub country: if we speak about prosperity, that brings in capital flows, then it creates welfare. Welfare means social security and also physical security (internal and external). Plus, ample interaction, inclusion and integration into the world family brings more frankness and stability in everything. However (a big however), we are out of any classical context, we are in a unique (Armenian) situation, which means that transforming ourselves into a Hub country is a unique challenge (that’s why I gave absolute importance to the implementation-roadmap). Which is possible if we, as you say, make a proper inventory, mobilise Diaspora (or let’s say all Armenians, maybe Diaspora is not anymore a good word), resources and the right Policy (policy, policy). 

Thanks for mentioning the grassroots movement, I think this is the right way to start. All the previously done direct chasing for mobilising billions (through few) either have failed or have not created material impact to change lives. 

Hambardzum Kaghketsyan 
Hambardzum Kaghketsyan 
Partner, SmartGateVC, Armenia 
Tremendous work and great start. It seems we have a baseline now! 

An important further addition would be to have more research about Network Manifesto (shared and voiced up vision, values, strategy etc. of the network). Maybe in further editions authors can analyze and introduce what is “a successful manifesto” for a network-nation, what were the successful manifestos for Armenian nation in the past (non-network too), and what could be the framework of successful Armenian Manifesto in the 21st and 22nd centuries. 

Shant Shekherdimian, MD, MPH, FACS, FAAP 
Shant Shekherdimian, MD, MPH, FACS, FAAP 
Associate Professor of Surgery, University of California, Los Angeles 
First and foremost, I’d like to express my profound gratitude for this initiative. A small thank you for the invitation to read this document, a bigger thanks for taking the initiative to think, research, discuss, analyze, and write up all these thoughts which will undoubtedly have their lasting impact on our collective history. But the biggest thank you for not stopping at the concept development stage and actually leading by example and practicing what you preach. 

I’d like to start off by saying that I am a huge fan of the approaches proposed in this document. I agree 100% that we need to try things differently. Will this be enough to steer our collective ship into a bright future, I don’t know, but what I am convinced of is that the status quo will definitely not.  
Here are some thoughts that crossed my mind as I read the document.  

1. As an Armenian born and raised in the diaspora, I didn’t find myself fitting in the some of the categorizations described in the earlier chapters, specifically the “pillars of Armenian national identity”. I would say that this is all but a tiny observation, and probably speaks to the even more heterogenous nature of the diaspora than many of us imagine.  

2. I would be curious to hear whether the authors think the recent developments in Armenia’s governance last year would change any of their thoughts or approaches. How, and do these developments change Armenia’s prognosis in the author’s opinion? How and do they impact the approaches proposed by the authors? 

3. One of the things I didn’t hear the authors talk about and what I think is a critical component of successful implementation is dissemination of this thought process and approaches. I think that in order for these approaches to work, we need to reach a “critical mass” of people that believe in it and that are willing to contribute to it. The current document is thorough and elaborate, but not a lot of people are likely to read through it. I think the thoughts should also be tailored to different audiences in Armenia and the diaspora as well. I would imagine that something resembling a “campaign” will be needed to disseminate these ideas globally.  

4. Perhaps the part I felt most uncomfortable with throughout the document is a separation between these approaches and state structures. I believe that in order for these approaches to work there should be greater involvement, collaboration and building of state structures that will then serve as the backbone for further development. We need a better education system in Armenia. Developing centers of excellence such as Slavonic University and UWC Dilijan can definitely serve as examples and set a higher bar for education at large in Armenia, but they are not likely to result in drastic improvements to the entire educational system unless active interventions are made into the system directly. Perhaps this concern is less relevant in sectors such as tourism, banking, agriculture and more relevant in the social sectors such as education and health, where ultimately it is inevitable that the majority of these goods will be delivered by the state to the people. And undoubtedly, we need an educated and healthy population to be the backbone of all other development.  

There was a line in the manuscript that says “unlike businesses, the state is not an institution that creates added value”. Is this really true? Ultimately doesn’t the state provide guarantees to the people and the nation that then allow all of us to develop and invest in Armenia? Doesn’t the state vaccinate children so they live to be adults that can then work and take part in these projects? Doesn’t the state educate children? Is this not added value? Don’t businesses rely on the Human Resources and consumer base protected by the state? Will we (non-state actors) ever be able to replace all of these functions of the state? If not, don’t we need the state to do these functions and do them well, particularly given the fact that we are a very small nation? 

Once again, congratulations on this fantastic work. I look forward to further discussions and wider dissemination of these thoughts.

Henri Arslanian
Henri Arslanian
President, Armenian Community of Hong Kong and China
This paper not only provides a good summary of the relevant Armenian history and geopolitical considerations but also lays the foundation for a broader discussion on the future of Armenia and the Armenian nation considering the new realities of the 21th century.
Vardan Harutyunyan
Vardan Harutyunyan
Human rights activist, publicist, political prisoner of the Soviet period
I read the manuscript with great interest and share most of your assessments. Even if I have any disagreements with the authors, I will refrain from expressing them: the authors are free to express their thoughts and draw conclusions based on their own research. One thing is obvious: the attitude to history in the work is pretty original. In the sections “Global Network Nation”, “Diasporan Communities”, “Ethnic Minority Within an Empire”, there are some interesting conclusions that can be considered innovations. I completely agree with the authors concerning the latter. 

Looking ahead, I want to note that the chapter on the Soviet period very well describes the impact of Sovietization on today’s people in the context of the contemporary views of the world and the state.  

I saw a problem that I would like to draw attention to. The manuscript emphasizes that the Armenians have always been driven by a desire to have their own state. The authors rightly point out that, at all times, certain individuals were involved in solving this important task. But when it comes to the Soviet period, not a word is mentioned about it.  

The book does not say anything about the struggle for their own state and independence in the Soviet period. It would be surprising if during the years of Soviet rule there were no certain individuals who worked on the development of such programs.  

Few studies and documents have been preserved about the people and organizations that prepared such programs in the period of 1920-1953. But those people did exist. They just disappeared into the dense ranks of the repressed, and a serious research is required to identify them. 

In the meantime, the people who dealt with this same issue from 1953 to 1988 are known. There are well-known organizations that developed their programs in the underground, and the names of the individuals are also known. In 2014, I published the book “The Dissent in the Soviet Armenia,” which is currently being translated into Russian.  

In the years 1953-1988, 168 people were convicted of anti-Soviet activities. Most of them were the supporters of an independent state. These are approximate numbers. Only the known names are listed.  

In 1963-1988, 34 high-profile political trials were conducted in Armenia, as a result of which 91 people were convicted. The overwhelming majority were supporters of independence. 
It would be correct to have this mentioned in the work.  

I am sure that this book will receive a great response among the readers and become an interesting topic for discussion. 

Nicholas Koumjian
Nicholas Koumjian
Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, United Nations 
I am struck by the paradox. The authors of “At the Crossroads” note that for decades Armenians feared the group would disappear through assimilation in foreign lands and, of course, thought that an independent state would alleviate that existential threat.

However, with the rapid decline in population of the Republic of Armenia due to emigration, paradoxically, it seems the assimilation threat has grown since independence.  

Reversing that worrisome trend is therefore paramount. Obviously, the need for economic development, the growth of job opportunities in Armenia and security will, as the authors very skillfully explain, play an important role in reversing the process.  

One area I felt was not given sufficient emphasis in the discussion paper was the need to develop a system for fair, predictable and merit-based resolution of economic and political disputes – the development of the rule of law.  

Inspired individual leadership is not as important, in my view, as building reliable institutions. Whether discussing taxes, business licensing or elections, it is critical that citizens grow to trust that court decisions will be based on merit and not influence. 

Thanks for writing and sharing this thought-provoking work. 

The views expressed are those of Mr. Koumjian and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. 

Sassoon Grigorian
Sassoon Grigorian
Author of “Smart Nation: A Blueprint for Modern Armenia” 
“At the Crossroads” is a timely publication at a critical juncture in Armenia’s history.

It provides practical examples of how to advance Armenia’s future and economy. Armenia needs to move beyond survival mode and be a truly global competitive economy and player. Armenia has no time to waste, it’s time for implementation.

Armen Urneshlian, PhD
Armen Urneshlian, PhD
Principal of the Armenian Evangelical College, editor of the Haigazian Armenological Review, Instructor in Haigazian University, Beirut, Lebanon
The work “At the Crossroads” by Ruben Vardanyan, Nune Alekyan and their partner Nubar Afeyan is a result of anxiety and a search for how to tackle it. Anxiety comes from pain, and the pain is caused by the negativity of the current state of things in Armenia and the uncertainty of the future. The present is difficult to change, because it becomes the past in a second. Thus, it is the future that needs to be changed.  

It seems that the authors firmly believe in the principle of “learning from the lessons of the past.” This is the right approach if the past, in this case history, and in particular the Armenian history, is studied without emotions and peacockery, substantively and with scientific analysis.  

A third of the book is devoted to the history of Armenians and Armenia until 1991, which may seem a little strange for a book aimed at the future, but it clearly shows the authors' confidence that it is impossible to plan the future without analyzing the past. And the past consists of victories and defeats, which have internal – internal Armenian – and external – international causes. Therefore, according to the authors, in this past not only lessons should be sought, but also the foundation for building the future. Analyzing the centuries-old history, the authors identify those periods that have already become turning points in our history. Moreover, the authors have tried to consider the collective behavior of our people in various crucial situations in order to analyze it and learn lessons. There are many such lessons, but I will mention two. 

Lesson one: the flexibility of the Armenians, the ability to protect their interests in a conflict of interests of the larger forces in order to preserve their own identity. History testifies to this truth. But I don’t know whether our ancestors used this skill consciously or spontaneously (as they would say in Armenia, by inertia), which would mean that this flexibility is our innate talent. Now, when we are at a point of conflict of interests (this time it is not war, but economic, political interests, skills and scientific competition), how much have we preserved our flexibility to maintain our identity in the conditions imposed on us?  

Lesson two: considering the various stages of emigration, from the 11 to the 20th centuries, the authors make useful comments and conclusions. Needless to say, emigration has long been destroying the demographic picture of Armenia, and this is still happening. Having studied the different stages of emigration and the actions of emigrants, who again and again showed their previous skills of preserving their identity, the authors came up with the idea of a network nation, which in the absence of statehood is a unique kind of a state model. The authors believe that this idea can work today as well, if studied properly. 

Exploring the present, the authors attach great importance to the establishment of independent statehood as a guarantee of the long life of the nation, not forgetting the church, culture and education. The authors note the causes of the main problems of our time, and among others, dwell on two: the corrupt system of Armenia’s state institutions (they use the term “extractive”), which not only destroys, but also splits a very important system – the principle of inclusiveness, when a citizen or representative of a nation can have active and decisive participation and say in the state and national institutions. The authors consider the aforementioned, interrelated situations to be the root cause of, or the most important one of our present deficiencies, which leads to a split in the society, and this can cause serious threats to the future of both statehood and society, national institutions and systems such as church, culture, language, school... 

Future: The future. How far can we predict the future? Much is beyond our ability and is tied to world events. However, we also have a lot to do. The authors are sure that in the context of the growth of the Diaspora, it is necessary to ensure the participation of all Armenians in the development of the homeland. This will be possible if Armenia becomes and is perceived by the Diaspora as a single or major center of a large national network, from where all the paths come and where lead to. 

The authors have answers, they have their own alternatives or perceptions of the continuity of the nation and the homeland. The book also raises many questions – directly or indirectly. However, it is not written as a commandment or an order. On the contrary, believing in the principle of inclusiveness put forward in the work, the authors made the book public before publication, putting it up for public discussion, which is a very commendable and exemplary approach.  

Sossi Boladian, Ph. C.
Sossi Boladian, Ph. C.
Pharmacist and healthcare consultant, Head of Health Committee and member, National Commission of Lebanese Women
The Armenian young generation is quite smart, honest, talented and eager to learn and to grow, therefore we should, by all means, support them in any possible ways, providing them with scholarships, certificates, linking them with international universities, involving in exchange programmes – in short – we should support them morally and materially to achieve their goals.

The Armenian young generation is quite smart, honest, talented and eager to learn and to grow, therefore we should, by all means, support them in any possible ways, providing them with scholarships, certificates, linking them with international universities, involving in exchange programmes – in short – we should support them morally and materially to achieve their goals.

According to my observations, where to see Armenia in 2041, I prefer to think it’s the second scenario of a peripheral state and it is closer to the current situation.

After the velvet revolution, Armenia looks like a toddler, who tries to stand and walk for the first time relying on the backers. Being a powerful Christian country, Russia should always be in the list of our supporters and friends, of course, by keeping our Armenian identity. Let’s also remember that other neighboring countries of Armenia, though not being enemies, anyway, can at some time harm us, that’s why powerful Russia is a big support for our country.

In this case, the diaspora should invest in the Armenian economy in different regions, hence, serving an example for foreign investors, so that the country achieves some economic heights. And let’s not forget that keeping our Armenian identity is every single Armenian’s duty. By saying identity, I mean:

– Armenian upbringing and the native language
– Armenian history
– Christian church history

These 3 points are the main criteria for injecting love and affection in the future generations towardsthe maintenance and development of our motherland. However, еducational tools should be focused according to the demands of our country. It’s difficult to spread the knowledge throughout the regions. The current need in new technologies and the abilities of the younger generation can push Armenia to the field of IT. If nowadays many Asian countries could succeed, why can’t the Armenian specialists do well? 

Confidently, specialists in Armenia are skillful, diligent and their abilities meet the high standards set in the world, and by uniting their abilities with nowadays technologies we can reach achievements in the field, for instance, by opening the factories that are the primary tools in making auto mechanical and electrical machines (refrigerators etc.). Worldwide famous companies, such as Nissan, General Electric, are involved in such projects in different favorable countries. This will provide Armenia with new vacancies, economic improvement and achievements. 

The same success story is in medication industry, where again the worldwide companies have their factories in different countries, such as India, Africa, the Arabic countries. All these ideas will help Armenia to achieve an economic upsurge. 

However, let us keep in mind that gender equality plays a big role nowadays. Positions, salaries, rights and job responsibilities should be divided equally between a man and a woman without any discrimination․ Furthermore, women have equal rights to participate and make decisions in high-level discussions and meetings. “Gender Equality” is found in the goal list (N5) of the United Nations 2030 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). However, the rest of the list can also help Armenia in reaching its goals:

– No poverty
– Zero hunger
– Good health and well-being
– Quality education
– Clean water and sanitation
– Affordable and clean energy
– Decent work and economic growth
– Industry innovation and infrastructure
– Reduced inequalities
– Sustainable cities and communities
– Responsible consumption and production
– Climate action
– Life below water
– Life on land
– Peace, justice and strong institutions
– Partnership for the goals

Artur Bakhtamyan
Artur Bakhtamyan
TV journalist
Dear authors, thank you for sharing with me this meaningful and multifaceted work. I spent the best hours of the 2019 New Year holidays devoting myself to reading, mental dialogues, disagreeing with some views, editing, reconsidering and refining my own thoughts and desires, to get rid of the nightmare of annual identical thoughts, vague wishes of good things, and of an exhausted triangle of dishes for the season’s celebrations. I would especially like to mention the competent and intelligible Armenian translation of the paper.

Overall, this work is a very important landmark, a beacon that has never been illustrated with such solid milestones. The Armenian millennial civilization has been limited to the personal achievements of individuals (starting with the Empire of Tigran the Great and ending with the Armenian capitalists, and of course your favorite network traders), whose work was not continued by even their sons. The dreams were limited to becoming a military commander, minister, courtier in an empire. And even the Armenian dynasty seated on the Byzantine throne was anti-Armenian. Here also let’s remember the not so distant past and the high-ranking Armenian officials of the Soviet Union.

Now we are not talking about them, but about the ways to get out of that repetitive cycle, to ‘infect’ with persistence and ideas and to attract new people. By the way, the main process of Armenian everyday life mindset is limited to the existence of grandchildren: mature, experienced people are isolating themselves saying, “Now, I am bringing up my grandkids”. In fact, the joy of this bliss is a deceptive retreat, a victory of the marginal thinking. How to make your approaches effective, I will suggest at the end of my review, now I would like to draw attention to some editorial slips in the work. 

Page 13: while comparing the populations of Anatolia and Rome, I think by saying Rome one should understand not the city but the Roman Empire, especially when the mentioned source itself refers to the empire. 

Page 20: In the name list of the increasing cities of Armenian communities in the Diaspora, it would be desirable to mention Constantinople instead of Istanbul, or both together, the latter one in brackets.

Page 72: Also Artem Alikhanyan (Yerevan Physics Institute) and Viktor Hambardzumyan (Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory) were prominent locomotives of the technological advancements in Soviet Armenia. I mention this not as a fact but as a testimony to the reality that becoming a physicist back then used to be a dream; many young people even from remote mountainous areas of Armenia saw their secure future in this sphere. A huge engineering and technical potential has been formed over the decades. Today, that potential has been dispersed, institutions are inactive, and regional communities have been deprived of their dream. Once many Armenians went to the Lazarian Seminary in Moscow to get an education, but few of them returned, and the returnees could not “find” themselves in the province of the empire.

Page 143: Here you point out the Armenian cuisine (ghavurma, basturma and so on) as an expression of the survival mode of the Armenian people. I think this is not just a survival mode, but also a creative approach, the ability to reproduce, to get something new from one product. In my opinion, if one could come to the idea of the car’s internal combustion engine logically, then besides imagination, we could hardly find logic in the invention of making a tasty preserve from the unripe and bitter walnuts. If Columbus didn’t have a large amount of jamon on his ships, it would be difficult to cross the Atlantic Ocean. During the expeditions, the Mongols were drying horse meat under the saddles, which allowed them to feed themselves on horseback and ride hundreds of kilometers without interrupting the invasions. And many believe that the success of the British Navy was not only thanks to the latest light cannons, but also due to the main ingredient in the sailors’ meal – oatmeal porridge. From this we can make a conclusion that success depends on what issues are in the nations’ focus. 

As I mentioned at the beginning of my review, many of the ideas discussed in the work are against yesterday’s and today’s Armenian stereotypes, the dogmas of national mentality, the unwillingness to build the future on their own, and the expectation from the God, a godfather or a kind master. Those who are not free are always looking for the one to blame, ranging from the geographical location to the unfavorable weather. Our nation that strives for education has never stood out as a leader and has survived successfully on the network of the established systems without a long-term action plan. 

A counter example is Colonel Mustafa Kemal, who appeared on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century and declared a clear blueprint for a future Turkey. We were satisfied with the leftovers thrown by the Soviet Empire and named the new districts of Yerevan after the names of our historical Homeland: Arabkir, Zeytun, Marash, Cilicia, Aresh... And what do you think? Have we become closer to our Homeland? I think we turned away. 
We do not read, we do not analyze, our general education and university system is a poor copy of the European ones, non-competitive and useless. The consequence is the revolutionary generation of the new millennium (the millennials), who are still unable to formulate their vision of the future.

– To make this work reach its target quickly, to create a short question and answer section on the internet platform, Q & A.
– The questions raised in the work should be addressed by experts of different nationalities in different languages (it is clear that translation is to be provided).
– Involve the broader public in the platform.
– I am ready to lead this process so that the dream does not become a constant frustration again.

P. S. There are several quotations in your work from Gostan Zarian, one of the rare Armenians known in the world literature of the 20th century. In his novel “The Traveller and His Road” he writes: “We have sought Armenia like a moth seeks the light that will incinerate it”. 

I think there is no one left to burn.

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). 

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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? 

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.

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.  

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

Hakob Mkhitaryan
Hakob Mkhitaryan
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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

Gerard Libaridian
Gerard Libaridian
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. 

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.

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?”  
“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. 

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. 

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! 

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.

Narine Abgaryan
Narine Abgaryan
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.”

Oleg Gabrielyan
Oleg Gabrielyan
Doctor of Philosophy, Professor, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, Vernadsky Crimean Federal University
In my academic experience, a new genre of reading comprehension appeared, which I designated as a ‘review of a book as destiny’. These were always reviews of the fate of the author of the book, that is, the book itself was only the starting point of reflection on the life of a person who splashed himself out in the Word. Let us remember how Boris Pasternak wrote: “A book is a cubic piece of a hot, fuming conscience – and nothing else.”

In my academic experience, a new genre of reading comprehension appeared, which I designated as a ‘review of a book as destiny’. These were always reviews of the fate of the author of the book, that is, the book itself was only the starting point of reflection on the life of a person who splashed himself out in the Word. Let us remember how Boris Pasternak wrote: “A book is a cubic piece of a hot, fuming conscience – and nothing else.”

This is the feeling about the book “At the Crossroads. Time for Decisions”I developed while reading it. But in this case, my reasoning itself will not deal with the fate of the authors which is, I am sure, interesting and successful, if they managed to write such a book. The focus is on the fate of Armenia, since it is precisely what is the main subject of a research that is an intelligent to the point of being intellectual, honest to the point of being harsh, and objective to being impartial research.

When reading, I had to overcome two emotional impulses. The first, like a negligent student, is the desire to look into the answer of the problem book and not take on the trouble of reading the entire book. I must admit, the amount of printed waste paper is so huge that over the years, a professional alertness has developed towards all kinds of project books, how to build a paradise on Earth, in Russia, in Armenia and further down the list. I glanced at the end, skimmed several pages, and realized that I had to not only return to the beginning, but also read everything with a pencil in hand. Before the reader is a book-project, and each part of it is a propaedeutic to the main thing – to the project of the future of Armenia and the Armenians in general.

The second impulse, which also had to be extinguished, was provoked by the content of the book, when you recognized not only the questions that disturbed you, but also the answers you had thought out, be stated simply, clearly, deeply, and reasonably.

Ruben Vardanyan mentions three periods of his life in the book. In one capacity or another, as a child of the Soviet era, I also lived through them. But in life I had to face not only the triune chronological allocation of fate, but also its triune allocation in the lasting post-Soviet time, when I simultaneously had to engage in professional activities, community affairs and social and humanitarian projects. I note this only in order to emphasize the not idle curiosity of the Armenian to the book about the fate and future of the people, but that of the researcher who is in the space of the subject of his analysis, who had and still has the possibility of included observation. This allows reading the book and checking it on the authors’ knowledge of the subject of research, its scientific consistency and practical feasibility of the proposed solutions. The book meets all the noted requirements. Moreover, its advantage can be attributed to a clear and accessible language of presentation of very difficult topics and problems.

With incredible skill, the authors managed to fit, in principle, three different formats into a small volume of the book: a short history textbook, a roadmap for the project of the future of Armenia and Armenians, and samples of various platforms for business projects. Moreover, all this works for the reader, not allowing one to postpone the book if concerned not only with the fate of one’s fatherland, but one’s family and one’s own.

I would not like to look like an enthusiastic, exalted reader, but what to do if you understand that an extraordinary book-reflection, a book-project, has appeared that answers the main question of all modern Armenians: “What to do?”

Of course, there are points methodologically vulnerable and ones in need of discussion. For instance, the excessive self-confidence in assessing the Soviet past from our present. To put it bluntly: “In hindsight, we are all smart.” Moreover, some assessments are very controversial, as if the authors have opened a storehouse of truths accessible only to them and do not notice that they themselves are in captivity of stereotypes and disputable statements. But all this does not compare with what they managed to do.

The authors quite rightly state that the time of an ideal storm and a crisis of the world order is not only a time of losses, but also a window of new opportunities opens, and it depends on the Armenians themselves whether they can use them. Will they restore their subjectivity, which they possessed even when they lost their statehood, sovereignty in historical lands? The history of the nation-mediator, interpreter convincingly proves that success is possible. Having lost their statehood, the people found their place in the world thanks to their openness to it. Merchant entrepreneurship and the network structure of the Diaspora were perfectly used in that historical period. But from the middle of the 18th century, it began to lose its subjectivity and has not been able to restore it by now, despite the fact that it acquired statehood.

Bitingly, in order to cut to the quick, the authors make a very serious diagnosis to the whole nation and every Armenian: our present has no future. I do not consider it possible to argue with this. Following the authors of the book, I propose to accept this as a fact. “But all our personal fears pale before the fear of a more general, higher order.” The authors of this book are afraid at the thought that in one or two generations we may disappear as a nation. The likelihood of such a sad outcome is high: our Diaspora is assimilating, our culture is withering, and our national identity is being eroded. And the danger of the physical annihilation of Armenians today is no less than a hundred years ago, since we still live in a zone of geopolitical instability, neighboring with unfriendly states. It is scary to think that we can lose our historical lands, we can lose Artsakh — then our long-suffering nation will lose its political sovereignty. It is scary to imagine that someday we will have to ask forgiveness from our children and live with a sense of guilt before future generations, since we did not do everything possible to preserve the Armenian heritage and the continuity of the generations.

No need to blame or, even more, accuse the authors of dramatizing the situation. I myself lulled myself with the thought that if one door closes, another opens. I found an excuse for myself that the German officers in Germany in May 1945 were shooting themselves in vain, and the Japanese samurai were doing hara-kiri, since those and others did not see their future and the future of their country occupied by the enemy. Yet, it was overcome!

The authors of the book convincingly show that for us the situation is existential and much more complicated. Over the eight years of leadership of the Crimean Armenian community, I still not only clearly understand this situation, but also experience it. By the 2014 census, the degree of interethnic marriages (in fact, assimilation) among Armenians reached 60% among men, and 40% among women. This should alert not only the Diaspora, but also the state itself, since a blurred identity is not a new, consciously accepted identity.

Without opening up to the world, finding our own place, that is, our own subjectivity in it, without a breakthrough towards inclusive development, neither the country, nor the Armenians, nor the Armenians as a whole have any prospects. This important thesis runs like a red thread in the thoughts of the authors. The book’s special significance is that it does not remain at the “technical assignment” or project level, but shows the spectacular, and more importantly, effective results from the implementation of various business plans, which in fact deploy pre-designed platforms. In turn, their peculiarity is in multiplicative efficiency, when, starting with charity, the project enters the stage of venture support, and then, on an increasing basis, various resources, including human resources, are involved in an increasingly expanding cluster-type project (implemented projects: in the field of financial services – Ameriabank, in the field of tourism – “Tatev Revival,” in the field of high technology – FAST, in the field of education – a college in the UWC system in Dilijan). The cooperation is acquiring a public-private character. Moreover, the projects can be carried out in a system of horizontal cooperation; by and large they do not need hierarchical management, and have a high degree of transparency.

The book is an example of how the global thinking of the authors is coupled with local transformations. Glocality is a key concept for them. It was nice to recognize the same methodological approach that I have been using for many years. The method of local transformations should be preceded by a strategy. The absence of any of these components turns any project into a “projection”.

In my opinion, it would be wrong to analyze every chapter of the book, all its main ideas. The purpose of my notes is different. To draw attention to an outstanding book, the Book – Manifesto. For nearly three decades we have been wandering in the darkness of our statehood and Diaspora disunity. A guidebook has appeared that should help us all.

As I was reading it, I sketched out a plan of action for myself. As the chairman of the “Luys” charitable foundation, I will propose it to my colleagues and community leaders. Perhaps we will start with a small step, for example, with a summer school for young people at the Surb Khach monastery. It is necessary to deliver the ideas of the book to the Diaspora, to the youth environment, to create a Diaspora network. There’s a need to look for new people, new ideas, a new present, so that we have a worthy future for a nation with a thousand-year history. In practice, this means creating a network structure of the people using the invaluable experience of Diaspora existence.

From a nation of victims of genocide, we must become a nation of victors. We have had victories in the past, and we have them in the present. Having lost the Avarayr battle, we were able to turn it into a Victory over the enemy, as we defended our Armenian being: the faith, language and unity.

Who is the Armenian to whom not only the book is addressed, but on whom is the hope for the salvation of Armenia and the creation of its future placed? The authors clearly answer this question: “We do not divide people by ties of blood or language, religion, or citizenship. We believe that to be an Armenian today is first of all a manifestation of an individual’s free will and a conscious choice, a willingness to identify with the nation and to go beyond the narrow boundaries of private interests. We firmly believe that joint activities by such people, who strive to make a reality of their vision of the future, can kick-start the process of unifying Armenians who are disunited today.” In my turn, I gave the following definition for it: “An Armenian is the one who does everything in his/her power to preserve what makes an Armenian.”

It is difficult to disagree with the authors of the book: “We have nowhere to run and no one will defend us. We cannot just sit and wait for our destiny to be determined for us. That has happened more than once and we know what a heavy price we had to pay. Yes, we are not a numerically large nation, but during an ideal storm it is not the strongest but the best prepared who survive – and this does not depend on population size or GNI per capita”.

Before us is a book-call for a new Avarayr, and everyone must make their choice – on the battlefield, in their company or enterprise, at a university or in a scientific laboratory, at home in Armenia or far beyond its borders... – are they ready to create the future of Armenia as the future of their children?

If the Lord saved us, then for some kind of a mission.

Vardanank, in order to make it real, while creating the Armenian world.

Levon Chookaszian
Levon Chookaszian
Doctor of Arts, Professor, Head of Chair of History and Theory of Armenian Art, Yerevan State University
“At the Crossroads” is the most interesting paper of all that I have read in recent years, be it historical, fictional, or any other literary genre. I was doubly excited as I was also thinking a lot about the issues raised by the authors and the solutions found in the paper. While being abroad (in Diaspora) and communicating with other nationalities, I tried to find the answers to those questions. The topics you covered in the paper are very close to my heart. At the same time, I have discovered new realities.

“At the Crossroads” is the most interesting paper of all that I have read in recent years, be it historical, fictional, or any other literary genre. I was doubly excited as I was also thinking a lot about the issues raised by the authors and the solutions found in the paper. While being abroad (in Diaspora) and communicating with other nationalities, I tried to find the answers to those questions. The topics you covered in the paper are very close to my heart. At the same time, I have discovered new realities.

Currently, I am doing research on the works of the Armenian jewelers, dispersed all over the world. I have seen jewelry in many countries, including Poland. While reading through the paper, I suddenly realized that the export of gold from the Carpathians was in the hands of Polish-Armenians for several hundred years. This fact slipped my mind.

Now I would like to present my views and make observations on the paper.

Let us start with migration flows of the Armenian people. I would like to mention that the Eastern European route of the Armenian emigration extended to Hungary, rather than Romania. Three out of five leaders of the Hungarian Revolution against the Austrians were Armenians. Monument dedicated to them is erected in front of the Hungarian Parliament.

I would like to make an observation: in 1965 “Pravda” newspaper (“Truth”, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union – editor’s note) was issued in two versions. The first one included an article on the Armenian Genocide and was issued for Armenia, while the second one, without the article, for the other Republics of the Soviet Union. I would like to mention that “Pravda” had always been published in two versions with substantive differences. Ordinary people just were not aware of that, until the fact eventually got revealed.

You state that from generation to generation young people become more and more indifferent to the Armenian Genocide issue. Psychologists say that one hundred and fifty years after great cataclysms, the catastrophes get faded away and forgotten. Given that, we have little time left.

The paper refers to the fact that the first (partially also the second) generation of the Armenian Diaspora, having realized the importance of the preservation of their national identity, opened Armenian schools, churches and centers (scientific, educational, cultural, etc.). This was not the case in America. The first generation of the Genocide survivors donated all their money to the Armenian schools and orphanages in the Middle East. The children of the first generation (my relatives included) had no command of the Armenian language. The closure of Melkonian Educational Institute and Murad-Rafaelian college was due to the fact that the children of rich Armenian families of the Middle East (Iran, Lebanon) used to study there, but when the things went awry, they left their countries or lost their wealth. In general, I think the recent breakup of the colonies in the Middle East was a major tragedy.

As the paper rightly points out, one of the most crucial issues is the involvement of the Diaspora Armenians in the revival process. At present, barely one million of seven million Armenians are involved in the Armenian affairs. How can one engage and involve them? The statue of David of Sassoon by sculptor Varaz Samuelian is located in front of Fresno County Hall of Records (California, USA), and is considered as one of the most prominent symbols of the Armenian identity in the United States. The concept behind the statue is interesting. David of Sassoun astride his rearing horse, barely holding the sword in his hands, resists the dreadful assimilation force. He gets strength from his feet – from the Armenian culture (symbols of Armenian cultural history are carved in the base – editor’s note), rather than the Armenian land. He draws his strength from the Armenian alphabet, the Holy Cross Church on Akhtamar, and miniatures. It is the Armenian culture that gives him strength to fight. That symbolism is very essential and is of primary importance to us.

Repatriation is yet another major topic I want to cover. The “At the Crossroads” paper states that “tens of thousands of Armenians from Greece, Syria, Egypt, Iran, France, and the US relocated to Soviet Armenia as a result of <…> targeted policy of repatriation”. After World War II, people came to Armenia from Romania and Bulgaria. There were many Romanian Armenians and Bulgarian Armenians in Armenia, and they still live here. Very few Romanian Armenians returned to Romania, as to Bulgarian Armenians almost everyone remained here. With the launch of the targeted policy of repatriation J. Stalin pursued several objectives. One of them was to invade Turkey, and it was not a coincidence that propaganda campaign was launched with calls to return historical lands from Turkey. However, Stalin’s second goal was to weaken the Armenian Diaspora. His Armenophobia knew no boundaries, and he succeeded to some extent. Soviet Armenians spoke poorer Armenian over time, which was fraught with challenges. In this context, the reinvigoration of Grabar (Classical Armenian language – editor’s note) is of utmost importance. I emphasize this because Grabar in its beauty can revive the culture. Religious education is taught in schools, but it is not enough. Religious education can be taught in Grabar, thus a whole new level of quality education will be achieved. Without speaking fluent Grabar, without learning it in schools, we just cut off and lose connection between our past and present, lose touch with our roots.

As the paper rightly points out, Sovietization, along with the ideological confrontation of the Cold War, hindered the rapprochement of Echmiadzin and Cilicia Catholicosates. That is a good point. I have always been interested in this matter. I remember expressing my indignation to one of the members of the Supreme Spiritual Council in the 1980s (who was a dear friend to my father) at the fact of existence of two Catholicosates. In response, he told me that it was a necessity, as Catholicosate of Cilicia has its “unique” contribution in the resolution of some issues. It seemed we had no alternative.

I believe Mount Ararat and the architectural ecology were worth mentioning. Unfortunately, many in Armenia have not even heard about that concept. The construction boom of ugly tall buildings destroyed natural beauty of the landscape. Mount Ararat cannot be seen anymore.

Reading through “At the Crossroads” paper, I realized it was written before Nikol Pashinyan came to power, because after the Revolution Armenia has seen some repatriation. I have been repeatedly told by Armenians that they do not come to Armenia because they do not identify themselves with the ruling elite.

In fact, very few people in Armenia understand what the Diaspora is. In general, only a handful of representatives of the Armenian intelligentsia or elite, who have visited our Diaspora communities, may claim they understand what Diaspora represents. For example, I have visited twenty-two US states many times; I have been to Armenian communities in Europe, Canada, Turkey, and Lebanon. I have visited our communities not just to give lectures, but to get acquainted with Diaspora. I have lived with Armenian families abroad, observed their lifestyle, heard topics they discussed, and seen the attitude of children towards their parents. I am often asked why I not move to another country, and I keep saying that having lived in the United States for about nine months and traveling from state to state, I realized that I do not like the lifestyle.

Development of a hub country model is a very interesting concept, which I will cover later. But in this regards I would like to mention that China and India are key countries to cooperate with.

Armenia positions itself as chess superpower. However, Armenia is not only a chess superpower, but also an art superpower. People do not talk about that as they are not aware. Right now, we have hundreds of artists, namely painters in Armenia.

I had an opportunity to be in a studio of an Armenian painter. He showed me masterpieces by contemporary Armenian artists. If I am not mistaken, I discovered five thousand paintings that day. Who should stand for that heritage, where should the paintings be displayed? In my opinion, exhibition halls should be built, Armenia should be flooded with paintings, the way Paris is with contemporary art.

Even one miniature book is enough to learn about 600 names of the Armenian miniature painters. Another two volumes of works by anonymous miniature painters exist; not to mention the names and number of masterpieces lost in the margins of history. We had thousands of khachkar (Armenian cross-stone – editor’s note) makers. More than 400 buildings, churches and chapels remain in Turkey. That is to say, Armenia was always known for its architects, sculptors, painters, not to mention carpet waivers. We have found tombstones of hundreds of women carpet weavers in Isfahan and cemeteries in the vicinity. Where are their masterpieces now?

Most likely, Armenian merchants sold the carpets in the European countries. Polish princes were bribed with Isfahan carpets. There is even a record on how much each of them was given and for what favors. This was a huge “invisible factory” that was out of our sight. I currently prepare my students to become experts in gravestone interpretation to learn what Armenia can offer in this regard. Turks and Azeris say that Armenians do not have carpet weaving tradition, and state that along with other museums, there is no carpet museum in Armenia. Unfortunately, all the carpets were looted at different stages of history. Thirty carpets stolen by the Germans during the war are exhibited in the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin alone. They plundered not only the carpets, but also many other valuable items.

After World War II, as the Allies in their turn plundered Germany, all the works were dispersed around the world. There was an idea to open an Oriental Museum in Danzig to display works looted by the German soldiers from Turkey. Though, the course of World War II prevented the implementation of that idea. Danzig became part of Poland, and the city was renamed to Gdansk. Today it is not clear where exactly the works got lost. My colleagues revealed that to me when I was in Gdansk.

There is yet another issue I would like to address, that is the importance of souvenir industry. Developed souvenir industry fosters tourism sector to grow and prosper. We need to position ourselves with new brands. For instance, when one enters Vienna, the spirit of Mozart is in the air; when one enters Poland, the spirit of Chopin is in the air. We also have huge cultural heritage to be turned into brand, but we need to get to the essence of our art and ornament art to properly “sell” it to the world. Some of my students have already started to make souvenirs, such as bags decorated with jewelry, etc. I follow their activities and guide them if need be.

Referring to the “Asset Transfers and Charity” section, I would like to mention that Alexander Mantashev paid for the education of the Armenian students in Germany. Lack of interest in charity today presents a grim picture. Many generations of the benefactors do not continue charitable activity of their grandparents. For example, 8,000 Georgians study in Germany today at the expense of Germany. This means Tbilisi will make significant progress in the future, as it did in the 15th century. I cannot but mention that the Armenians are also heading to Germany to pursue their studies. In general, this critical issue should be under our attention. I encourage my best students to study abroad, and sometimes assist them using my personal connections.

Talking about the vision of the future, we come back to the most important question, “what will unite us”. It is the language only that unites us, not the country. Once we lose our language, we lose it all. It is important to teach the language correctly. Learning the language without the culture is useless. Music is the most spiritual component of the culture, a bridge to the human soul.

The importance of the art of singing is high in Armenia. One hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Komitas has been celebrated. Komitas is neither Hovhannes Tumanyan, nor Levon Shant or Yervand Otyan, whose anniversaries have been also celebrated. The Armenian nation has the greats; three of them are Mesrop Mashtots, who created the Armenian alphabet, Mkhitar Sebastatsi, who made the printing process accessible to Armenians, and Komitas. Komitas, like Mashtots and Sebastatsi, unites the Western and the Eastern parts of the Armenian nation. Thus, when we teach art, we also instill dignity through art. Dignity is a very powerful call to action. The pain of the Genocide is related to the dignity. One can overcome the pain through art. Aram Khachaturian talked about it as well. I learned it when I was very young. Unfortunately, today our art is neglected, no one stands for it. The art has power to present country to the world, attract foreigners, and create financial flows. Our works of contemporary art should be sold to attract large investments to Armenia.

As to the elites, I would like to mention that the existence of the Armenian nation (as the existence of any other nation) depends on that critical two percent, which an elite constitutes. However, there is a need for transformation. In other words, we do have the elite, but it is small and should be transformed. Six hundred Armenian intellectuals deported and exterminated during the Genocide is a critical number, as many families could have been started with their gene fund. Were it not for Stalin’s repressions, many more families would have been started from the repressed people. I have relatives, many of whom have lost their way today. For example, a grandson of a Sorbonne professor, whose wife is a granddaughter of a German nobleman, is a store clerk now. This means we are experiencing significant regress.

As to “Think to Connect: Networking Principles” section, I would like to talk about the role of television, and satellite television, which was mostly used with the purpose of bridging the Armenian Diaspora with Armenia. Unfortunately, “garbage” is on TV in Armenia today. People in Diaspora keep saying that they do not allow their children to watch those horrible soap operas and violent scenes. However, some people watch them. Our major challenge here is to change the content completely. We need to understand how to work with this segment. Such kind of intervention is necessary but not sufficient on the way towards the creation of a network nation. After all, people surf the net and use the phones. And we need to act having this in mind.

While talking about satellite television, we must keep in mind that Armenians, residing in different countries, have dual identity – a topic properly covered in “At the Crossroads”. Any Armenian, who lives in Russia, is partially Armenian, like us, and partially Russian. This is as an advantage. This advantage became even more visible once the repatriation started. Repatriates brought with them the “taste, flavor” and customs of their former countries of residence. I remember Yerevan at that time. I lived in those good times, saw the benefits, saw those people, and talked to them.

As to “Think to Create: Anchor Projects” section and projects being implemented all over the globe, I would like to say that I have chosen five students from my Chair, who have been recording the Armenian artworks in different parts of Romania for six years. We have reached even Transylvania, where Armenian Catholics no longer speak the Armenian language, but are very enthusiastic about Armenia. Different structures and donor organizations contributed to the implementation of this project. Together with the Romanian Academy of Sciences, we held two major conferences. We keep working together.

The second group works in Isfahan. The Parish Council of the Holy Savior Cathedral in Isfahan asked us to modernize the museum of the church. Two more students went there to study ancient manuscripts. Five more went to New Julfa, two went their own way, one of them, my daughter, is studying mural paintings, the other one – contemporary art. Those are different groups; never has such a systematic work been managed before.

Romania and Iran are not the only countries we cooperate with. We are implementing projects in Poland in collaboration with universities in different cities. The Poles themselves have been holding international conferences, dedicated to the Armenian art in Diaspora, for six or seven years.

I bring these groups together during various conferences dedicated to Eastern Europe. Years ago, in collaboration with the Moscow Institute for Art Studies, we held an event, entitled “Armenia-Russia: Dialogue in the Field of Culture,” followed by a conference in Poland. Armen Khechoyan (Head of the Foundation for Development and Support of Armenological Studies “Aniv”), who has also attended our conference, decided to hold one in Minsk. Later, he organized two conferences there, and one in Moscow. Our objective is to raise the same issues through chain of conferences, exhibitions, and events, and to convey clear messages. Then we held two conferences and an exhibition in Poland and Hungary, entitled “From the Carpathians to Ararat.”

In collaboration with UCLA, we held a major event in the USA. Eleven people from my team participated in the event (they came from Romania, Poland, and Hungary). My objective is to attract foreigners, as we do not have sufficient financial means and time to study and record the Armenian artworks in Eastern Europe. With that in mind we organize international conferences, meet people, and get new contacts.

In fact, we do everything you offer in the “Anchor Projects” section, also in terms of involvement of the foreigners in our projects. Today, young Italians, young Poles, even assimilated Romanians, and representatives of other nationalities come to Armenia.

As to “Think to Act: Platforms for Cooperation” section, I would like to talk about the part that art and visual culture play in social-economic development of the countries. Unfortunately, this is not the case with us. Visual culture is important, as it nourishes thoughts. Especially now, at a time when everyone is online. Hence, it is essential that the phones contain all the visual culture that is important to us. The phones should spread the Armenian culture and “sound” Armenian. We are proud of Charles Aznavour and Komitas. We have already translated Aznavour’s songs into Armenian. But how is it possible that a nation which gave birth to Aznavour, for so many years remained indifferent to his music and did not translate his songs into Armenian? His songs influence and improve the quality of the Armenian song. Who knows, maybe eventually contemporary songs that are meaningless and sometimes consist only of a couple of words will be replaced with meaningful ones. After all, it is the words that define the song. It is important to change the content in the phones, so that it reflects the Armenian culture.

Along with restoration, preservation, and modernization of rich cultural and historical heritage of Armenia, registration of the artworks is essential. Thousands of Armenian artworks are now owned by other nations. For instance, for over six hundred years jewelry market was in the Istanbul-Armenian hands. We have known Armenian jewelers by name since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Hence the record that we do in Romania and Poland should also be done in Hungary and Bulgaria, the countries we are just starting to explore. Considerable work lies ahead in Moldova, as Manuk Bey (prominent merchant and diplomat) lived there. For more than ten years we have been working in Ukraine and have discovered hundreds of works of art.

I think the field of art should be included in the framework of the Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST).

I do agree that instead of the Ministry of Diaspora we should have the Ministry of Repatriation. I agree that one of the major issues we face today are environmental issues (exploitation of mines among them). I welcome the establishment of such an infrastructure that enables young people who speak many languages to collaborate, to get well-paid jobs, and thus to become role models for others. I have encouraged about forty students to study in different countries, and thus to learn foreign languages. I believe the mentality needs to be changed. One should explore the world and understand the logic behind the development.

In 1987, the Jews organized several exhibitions in Moscow, which led to the emergence of wealthy elite, able even to claim power.

As to “A Harmonious Environment” section, I would like to say that people in Armenia will not be valued until they learn what the insurance is. Only when people realize that human life has supreme value, that their bodies have value, will their attitude to life change. Hopefully, they will quit smoking (smoking is common in Armenia) and break other bad habits.

There is no need to merge Eastern and Western dialects of the Armenian language, as it is not an obstacle to national unification; moreover, each dialect is unique. However, restoration of the original orthography is the issue on the table. Not only will it enable us to maintain connection with the past, but also provide solid basis on which to move forward. After all, original orthography is a sight for sore eyes.

And finally, I would like to make two more observations on how to get people involved and who to learn from. In 1946–1947, when repatriation began, repatriates were given money to build houses; without that financial assistance they will not be able succeed. An adult ant takes care of its pupae by bringing wheat stalk to feed its pupae, which is yet weak.

We should learn from Israel and Ireland with their ancient cultures, from Switzerland with its nation-army model, and from Singapore with its remarkable development path.

Levon Chookaszian

Doctor of Arts, Professor, Head of Chair of History and Theory of Armenian Art, Yerevan State University

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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