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). 


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