Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The WikiLeaks files - Armenia: Post- 1 March middle class exodus

Below are selected extracts. US embassy cables in full.


For those Armenians who have long considered emigrating abroad to pursue a brighter economic future, the current political crisis appears to have finally moved some to action. Besides the twenty or so asylum seekers who approached the Embassy after the fatal March 1 clashes and state of emergency, an increasing number of intending immigrants from Armenia's middle class have also come to our attention, including one of the Embassy's GSO staff who abruptly ended 12 years of USG service to emigrate to the Czech Republic. These successful, middle class citizens tell us that the crisis has played a consequential role in spurring them to finally emigrate, saying it has dashed any remaining hopes they had for a stable, post-independence Armenia. Many say the political instability from the crisis has added yet one more disturbing element to their long list of concerns that include economic uncertainties and a worsening environment in which to raise their kids. Some also say they see an ongoing moral decay in society, where rich, well-connected, law-breaking elites run roughshod over ordinary Armenians' rights. In addition to these voices from the middle class, we have also begun to hear disenchanted officials contemplate emigration.

Emigration from Armenia is nothing new. It has been estimated that since its independence from the USSR, Armenia has lost 1,000,000 of its citizens to emigration -- almost one third of its 3.5 million pre-independence population. What appears to be a new development, however, is the hemorrhaging of successful middle-class citizens who decided to stick out post-independence growing pains only to see that their wait has been for naught. The loss of these individuals is significant: they would stay if they thought the country was headed in the right direction. But their decision to pull up their tent stakes now, after one of modern Armenia's gravest political crises to date, suggests that a serious malaise has taken deep root in society. Disillusioned, the once-committed appear to have lost faith that their government cares about improving their welfare or moving the country forward.

[By: Charge d'Affaires Joseph Pennington]

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