Notes From Hairenik
March 16, 2006
According to a recent report appearing on, apparently it is safe to consume Turkish foodstuffs as determined by a "State Quality Official." Thus even though Armenia has no diplomatic relations with Turkey, the country can apparently continue to illegally do business with its centuries-old adversary, even though people are complaining that Turkish products are inferior. Turkish products enter Armenia by road transport via Georgia, since there is of course no open border crossing to Turkey along the Arax River.

A State Quality Inspection official today published the findings of studies of 46 names of Turkish products imported and sold in Armenia, assuring the media that while some of them may fall short of certain requirements of Armenian quality standards, they are all safe for use and contain no threat to human life.

Thus, the Inspection responded to a series of recent "we-don’t-need-Turkish-junk" publications in the Armenian press alleging that products imported to Armenia from neighboring Turkey, in particular chocolate, put human lives at risk.

There is no mention of the fact in this article that Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic relations with each other, and that trade between the two countries contradicts this reality. Nevertheless, importing Turkish goods is OK by Armenian government officials. Just so long as they meet Armenia's quality standards and of course government officials get a slice of the pie.

In the recent period the Inspection has penalized entities importing or selling Turkish products that fall short of domestic quality standards for a total of 2,300,000 drams (about $5,100)...

As I have stated in this blog before, it is becoming impossible to not purchase Turkish goods in stores--whether they are domestic goods, construction materials, or foodstuffs. In my experience Turkish stuff is crap--I have had several problems with Turkish fuses and electrical sockets burning out in my rented apartment, and my landlord refuses to install anything made elsewhere because Turkish things are inexpensive. In some stores I frequent I have noticed that some Armenian brands are no longer being carried to make room for Turkish imports or even those from Eastern Europe. And I have also made the point that if the border with Turkey ever opens, the Armenian market will be totally saturated with inferior, cheap Turkish goods, thereby driving Armenian companies out of business completely. It will happen without a doubt. No one is foreseeing this and no one cares. In the mean time, Turkish sunflower seeds and chewing gum are proudly advertised on TV, and people buy it without questioning where it's from or even caring. "Vochinch."

It is completely hypocritical that while Armenians around the globe cry about Turkey not recognizing the Armenian Genocide, no one from the Armenian nation makes a peep about pressuring the Armenian government to ban the import of Turkish goods into Armenia, including Armenian nationalist political parties. Armenians still have a lot to learn.

Read the full article here.

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Anonymous nessuna said...
I remember last summer (?) there were announcements "Do not buy Turkish goods" and "Do not listen to Turkish music" all over the city. I think Dashnakcutjun was behind the campaign.

Yet, of course, it would have been much effective just to lobby for banning the import of Turkish goods altogether.

Blogger ayhan said...
the armenian diaspora is using this genocide story to unite armenians scattered all over the world so that they cannot be assimilated in countries they live in.. and this allegation only harms the armenian state. Turkey bordes with armenia is closed and this harms armenia economicaly. armenia state is as stupid as not to see that their economy is bad and they need turkey and azerbaycan for better conditions. the oil pipeline between turkey and azerbaycan has been constructed via georgia and a railway project is on the way which will connect azerbaycan georgia and turkey.and armenia has nothing. azerbaycan economy is growing about 15 percent every year and in the end armenia will realize that they wont be able to fight with azerbaycan again. and azerbaycan will take over all the occupied lands by fight or peace, soon or late.

there was a war in 1915-1922 in turkey and the world. many people died. some of them was armenian and some of them was turks, kurds and azeri people. but the west only see the armenians who were killed. are not the turks and kurds humans? if you are a muslim, you died in war, but if you are armenian or christian , you have been genocided.

no need to go back 90 years ago. in 1992 armenians killed 720 people in the hocali city of azerbaycan, mainly women and children. which western country said something about this? noone. because they were turk and muslim. so they can be killed by armenians.

I tell armenians here, you need turkey and azerbaycan to live on peacefuly and weathy in your country. armenia is
surrounded by turks both in turkey azerbaycan and iran. one day, azeri people in iran will have the right to announce their voices in iran and then you will be trapped by turks and your only door out will be georgia.
please give up dreaming and see the facts. your allegations will do nothing to turkey. turkey is a big and strong country with 75 millon people.

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
You make some good points about Armenia and Turkey needing to find common ground with each other in order to coexist socio-economically as well as diplomatically. But there's one thing that needs to be made clear--the Armenian Genocide happened, it is a well-documented fact by historians and more importantly eyewitness accounts. The number of deaths has been debated for decades, but the estimated and accepted number is 1.5 million Armenians killed. Yes it is true that Turks died during World War I, most of them on the battle lines. If any Turks died in what is now Eastern Turkey where millions of Armenians were living at the time on their ancestral homeland, it was from self defense on the Armenians’ part, on the rare occasions when that was even possible. Let me point out here to be fair that Turkish families who protected Armenians in danger were victimized themselves by Turkish authorities.

But I am a descendant of genocide survivors. The only reason why I was born in the US was that my grandparents fled for their lives from what is now Elazig, aka Harput or Kharpert. They lost family members as a result of the policies being enforced by the Young Turk regime at the time. I do not blame the Turks as a nation for this, I blame the hatred that existed at the time against Armenians--who coexisted normally with their Turkish neighbors--on policies of the past. Until that happens, and until Turkey and Armenia develop official diplomatic relations, Armenians should boycott purchasing Turkish goods. But my opinion is not shared by the majority of Armenians living in Armenia.

The Armenians naturally need to develop peaceful relations with its neighbors. But Turkey needs to officially come to terms with its past in order to move on. And Azerbaijan needs to understand the fact that it lost Karabagh in a war it initiated, and it's not getting it back anytime soon.

I want to make clear that I am not antagonizing you. Rather I just wanted to share my own viewpoint in response to your comment, Although I do not entirely agree with it, I respect it nevertheless as being your opinion, which you have every right to express here. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Anonymous Onnik Krikorian said...
i agree with elements of both what ayhan and garo have said. it is true, for example, that armenia is becoming more and more isolated in the region. at the same time, a question needs to be asked.

why hasn't georgia been swamped by cheap turkish goods when it already has an open border? another point would be that armenian manufacturers needs turkey, georgia etc for exporting goods because the market here is too small.

anyway, i think economist know more about the answers to these questions than us.

As for the Genocide, it is considered by many human rights activists in Turkey that the massacres should be recognized as such if there is to be real democracy, respect for human and minority rights in Turkey. As a result, some very courageous Turks have done that, some of whom I knew in London.

The issue is with regards to reparations. To be honest, it is almost impossible to consider that land would ever be relinquished by Turk and as Ara Sarafian once joked, it would mean that Armenia would become a Moslem country overnight unless Armenia planned to ethnically cleanse the land of Kurds and Turks.

Not going to happen.

However, financial reparations, perhaps some concessions on customs duties etc as well as return of church property might be possible.


Anonymous Onnik Krikorian said...
btw: re. boycotts of turkish goods, the kurds have always launched campaigns like this in the UK, including boycotting Turkey as a tourism destination. I suppose it is strange that most Armenians don't as well, and it does seem a logical step in any campaign for Genocide recognition.

On the other hand, as Garo points out, officials are making money from this trade and also, when people are poor, boycotts of cheaper foreign goods are perhaps a luxury they can ill-afford.

Anonymous nessuna said...
There are people who boycott. My dad, for one, always refuses to buy Turkish goods not because of quality issues, but as a matter of principle.

By the way, speaking of blocade let us not forget that it had a good side to it. Were it not for the blocade Armenian economy would have been less developed now.

Anonymous Onnik Krikorian said...
Nessuna, some parts of the economy, but not very important parts such as industry and manufacturing that requires export. Instead, most economic growth is concentrated in unsustainable areas such as construction or sustainable areas such as diamonds. Tourism is another are, but I think that if the border were open tourism to Armenia would sky-rocket.

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
Well first and formost I also do not purchase Turkish goods as a matter of principle. But helping to strengthen Armenia's economy and thwarting Armenia's increasing dependence on Turkey for survival are equally as important for me.

In terms of opening the border, I have heard at least one good arguement that Armenia's economy would be boosted at an extremely fast pace. However, the current construction boom and extraordinarily high, unrealistic real estate prices plus the amount of cars on the roads suggest that Armenia's economy is already booming. There are several factors at play to demonstrate this. But I have yet to be convinced that opening the Turkish border will further develop the economy in Armenia. Unless a flood of Turks start crossing the border, I don't understand where the increase in tourism will come from.

That's entirely another issue to address--where Armenia will be headed 50-100 years after the opened border as a viable nation-state with the ability to protect its heritage and culture once Turks start crossing and even start settling. Armenians have an uncanny knack for becoming assimilated with the overwhelming culture surrounding them. Open the border and you risk destroying Armenian identity once and for all. Armenians living in Istanbul for example are loyal to their country and are perfectly happy. You can't count on the mountains to protect Armenia any more.

Anonymous Onnik Krikorian said...
Sorry, a corruption-driven construction boom that occurs only because of the violation of the law does not indicate a long-term sustainable booming economy. Diamonds and IT are sustainable and genuine areas for growth, but construction only in the center of Yerevan I don't buy into.

Regarding tourism, the numbers for tourism are still very low, but could be increased due to the long term growth area being in attracting non-Armenian tourists to the country. Then, tuch tourists like to take in more than one country.

And as Turkey has an astonishly high level of tourism, especially among backpackers and not just Europeans who want to laze on Turkey's beaches, I do believe that they would cross over into Armenia and vice-versa.

Georgia-Armenia, Armenia-Iran, and Armenia-Turkey are all viable tourism packages.

As for Turks annihilating Armenian culture, I don't think they need an open border for that. Firstly, if they want to do that they via Georgia, and secondly, Armenians are pretty good at doing this themselves.

Plus, there's still this question regarding the importance of a closed border in safeguarding Armenia. That is, why hasn't Georgia become swamped with Turkish goods, and why aren't Turks moving en masse to Javakheti (Javakhk)?

Anyway, we'll see what will happen, but Armenia currently faces the prospect of being outpaced by regional developments and projects that will see it become more and more isolated from everywhere.

Until that changes, we have what some people call a "Serbian mentality" among nationalist Armenians. That is, that the whole world is out to destroy Armenia when regional isolation will probably do that first.

I mean, Armenian don't like the Georgians, Azerbaijanis and Turks. Great. That's three borders we'd like to see closed, right? Two of them are, yet ironically, much of the areas on borders that are open (Georgia and Iran) are inhabited by ethnic Azeris.

By some accounts, for example, there are more than 12 million Azeris on Armenia's southern border in Northern Iran.Even so, there are no problems there, and everyday, Armenians, Georgians, Azeris and Turks work quite well together in the two market towns of [Georgian] Sadakhlo and [Armenian] Bagratashen.

What does logic say about that?

Anyway, as the Georgian economy has not been crippled by an open border with Turkey I can only conclude that the issue is not the border being opened or closed, but rather the economic policies of the Armenian Government. If there's a good one, there's no problem. If there's a bad policy, there may be.

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
I would argue that none of the peoples of the South Caucasus like each other very much. They of course tolerare one another when it comes to business. Armenians forget about everything when it comes to trade. But again, Turkish goods already enter Armenia through Georgia. Their stuff is everywhere, and I mean everywhere. You can't get away from it. So why import even more? And what does Armenia have to export to or thorough Turkey? The answer is nothing. Opening a border will not develop industry by Armenians--it's not happening now. I really doubt it will happen once the border opens, even by foreign investors who have already invested their industrial capacities in China and throughout Asia. Then again, there are no economic forcast studies to prove that I am wrong, because no one seems to take the open border issue very seriously. So like Onnik said, we'll see what happens. But Armenia needs to stand on its own two feet economically before the border opens. I would say that it is using a crutch now, perhaps two. It also has blurry vision.

Anonymous Onnik Krikorian said...
Well, it's a chicken and an egg situation. Real foreign investment can't occur here until investors can export their goods which means open borders and lower transit fees.

Also, the Armenian economy is too small for most companies and they are already looking to expand into new areas. Georgia is one, but the big prize is Turkey.

Anyway, European countries have open borders and are not flooded by each other's goods so I can only suppose that the issue is the local economy in Armenia, a lack of competitive alternatives and the inability to export most types of goods that are produced.

As for studies, there have been many. Some say that there will be a long-term gain for the Armenian economy but it the short term while Armenian companies try to compete there will be problems. Others say a lot of other things.

There's also a Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council with their take on things. It's headed by Armenians and Turks:

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I am an Iranian whose father is an ethnic Azeri from Hamadan Province. My mother is Persian. I have very mixed feelings vis-a-vis Armenia. First of all let me say that I grew up next to Armenian kids in Tehran. You know Tehran has the second largest Armenian population outside Armenia after Moscow, and Beirut comes third. I had many Armenian friends, and we would play with each other, laugh and joke together. One summer all the Armenians in the neighborhood were celebrating this crazy holiday where everyone would splash water on each other and get each other wet, and I joined the Armenian kids doing this and we all had fun. I knew I was half-Azeri back then, but I mainly identified myself as an Iranian, and these kids were just fellow Tehranis and Iranians, even though they were Armenians. I am an adult now, and the Qarabag issue has made me pull away ever so more from my maternal Persian side and made me gravitate towards my paternal Azeri side. I love Iran, and unlike some Iranian Azeris who favor secession and want to join the Republic of Azerbaijan, I will always remain loyal to the Iranian state. However I hate Iran's foreign policy vis-a-vis Qarabag. I have nothing against Armenians as I said, and I have cherished memories of Armenian friends I had as a youngster...Onik, Harmik, Tigran, Harout, the list could go on. Also, as an Iranian I admire the loyalty Armenians have had to Iran since the day set foot in the country...just as Lebanese Armenians have shown their loyalty to Lebanon, Syrian Armenians to Syria, etc., Iranian Armenians have always been among the most patriotic of Iran's citizens. But I cannot and will not deny my paternal heritage. Armenians must understand one thing: Qarabag is the heart of Azerbaijan...just as Serbs claim Kosovo is the cradle of their culture (rightly or wrongly), the Irish claim Tara to be the same thing, and Jews say the same thing about Jerusalem. No self-respecting Azeri will EVER accept Dagliq Qarabag being separate from Azerbaijan. I may be Iranian, but I am an Azeri too, and the Republic of Azerbaijan is the nerve center of our culture and identity, since neither can be expressed freely under the current Iranian government (I favor autonomy for Iranian Azeri provinces, not secession, but Azeri provinces must be culturally and linguistically free of Persianization...and my other half is Persian by the way). Jews sang for two thousand years, "If I forget thee Oh Jerusalem...", and we Azeris sing, "Seni Unudsam, canim Qarabag...". I do not think there is a single Armenian who can imagine for a moment what Qarabag means to us...a land that produced some of the most notable Azeri poets, writers, religious figures, etc. Funny that the best friend of the first country in the world to make Christianity the state religion, is none other than the Islamic Republic government of Iran and its mullahcracy. The same mullahcracy that did nothing to protect their fellow Shi'ite Azeris in Qarabag. Armenians must understand the mullahcracy will not be in charge forever, and the U.S.A. is doing a good job of isolating them in the international arena, and soon a new Iran will emerge that will adopt quite a different policy, even if it to appease 35 million ethnic Azeris living within her borders. That leaves the 45 kilometer border with Iran (Khosravi border accross Meghri) quite one side is Azeri Naxchivan, the other side Turkey and the other side the Republic of Azerbaijan proper. Georgia is adopting a cautious approach vis-a-vis Armenia, because Armenians in Javakheti have once before indicated they want to do to Georgia what Qarabag Armenians did to Azerbaijan, and Georgia may soon reassess her relationship with Armenia...right now it is based on a common Orthodox Christian faith, and other factors that are economic. By the way, I am an Orthodox Christian too, a convert in fact. But that will not change my position on Qarabag. We will never capitulate on Qarabag, and it is we say in Azeri, "Qan tokulen torpaq satilmaz" for which blood has been spilled will not be sold.

I hope my Armenian friends understand that for me this is simply a territorial dispute (one I feel very strongly about) but that it does not change my views about Armenians, whom I think of as hard-working, good people...the few that have bought into the Dashnak mentality and brought about misery to this part of the Kavkaz and to Qarabag Azeris cannot be seen as representatives of all Armenians.

Blogger sarcastictothebone said...
i guess we diaspora armenians are more fanatic and more dedicated to the armenian cause , maybe we long so much for recognition of the armenian genocide and thats why we are against encouraging turkish economy or culture or the whole package, maybe it's because we are far from the actual field where people don't have much choice rather than have peace and do some affiliations with the neighboring countries residing next door even if it has to be turkey.....

not just me i even impose my non-armenian friends not to encourage turkish economy by not buying their products, but what am i in the whole wild jungle ........

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
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