There have been many discussions on the Armenian blogsphere recently as well as some information revealed in news reports regarding the reopening of the Turkish Armenian border, which has been closed since 1993. The basic arguments for opening the border are that it will open Armenia’s marketplace fully to that of Europe, it will further develop Armenia’s economy since a direct link for the import of Turkish goods will be created rather than an indirect, yet efficient route through Georgia, and that exports from Armenia will increase once investors from other countries start opening factories there. Although I do believe that Armenia will become better integrated with European markets, I am very skeptical about Turkish-Armenian long-term relations—economic and, more importantly, cultural. Nevertheless, the border eventually opening is a reality, whether sooner or later no one knows. I have expressed concerns about the border issue on this blog and as comments on others, but I have not been able to generate as much debate on the topic as I hoped.
When the Turkish-Armenian border opens, most likely within the next three years (by 2010 the very latest in my opinion), I imagine the following future scenario for Armenia:After five years:
The Armenian economy seems to be developing at a significantly faster pace than it was when the border was still closed, but not as much as many predicted. Turkish goods, including foodstuffs, construction materials, domestic goods, and clothing—which were all in plentiful supply before the border opened—are available in every shop throughout the capital city and in every region of Armenia with virtually no shortages. In regional towns spacious modern markets have been built, selling exclusively Turkish products at low costs, lower than they have ever been. The prestige surrounding anything produced or designed by German ingenuity has been replaced by Turkish import power as well as consumer confidence. Most consumers regard Turkish goods as being of exceptionally high quality, although they are still inferior to European products, now in short supply due to their higher prices. After seven years:
Armenian companies producing foodstuffs are rapidly shutting down. Those that stay open only produce goods for export to primarily to Russia and countries in the West as highly affordable Turkish goods have now completely saturated the domestic marketplace. Armenian companies simply cannot compete with the costs of goods produced by their Turkish counterparts. Even bread is being produced just over the border, as manufacturers understand that they can save up to five drams or more per piece regardless of transportation costs. After 10 years:
Turkish foodstuffs are found in all Armenian homes, and occasionally European delicacies like biscuits and chocolate are also consumed. As many Turkish goods as well as those coming through Turkey from the West are laden with artificial ingredients, fillers, and chemicals, an unprecedented amount of serious health problems including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even cancer can be found throughout the Armenian population. Although extreme poverty has decreased because extremely cheap foodstuffs are everywhere, such medical problems are appearing in remote places where they didn’t occur before. No food products are made in Armenia any longer aside from processed sunflower seeds.After 15 years:
The costs of inflation are hurting consumers. Prices have increased sharply over the last few years, as much as 10 percent, and in some cases even more. Most everything that Armenians need for basic survival—food, clothing, and construction materials—is coming from or through Turkey. Armenians who still smoke enjoy Turkish cigarettes, as Armenia’s tobacco companies were long ago bought out by Turkish investors and their operations were either shut down or converted to produce Turkish brands. Anything made in other European countries—Turkey by now is a member of the European Union—costs nearly twice as much as Turkish, or rather domestically produced goods. There is a considerably large working class, and they toil in newly constructed Turkish-financed factories producing similar goods Armenians can buy at market but made for export only.After 25 years:
By now Turks and Armenians have thoroughly integrated with one another in society. Turks once again after being away from their native homes in Yerevan for well over 100 years have returned and have bought homes throughout Central and Greater Yerevan for virtually the same price or in some cases far less than their Armenian owners paid for them in 2005 to 2008 (between $60,000-300,000).
There is little to no distinction between Armenian and Turkish music aside from the language in which songs are sung. Occasionally debates arise as to what constitutes pure Armenian or Turkish music, but no one can really decide. Sayat Nova has been proven by historians to be of Georgian descent. The duduk is widely accepted to have ancient Azeri Turkish roots, although Armenians still hold wavering claim to the instrument. Several mosques have been built throughout the country—at least one in all major cities and towns including Gyumri (highly populated by Turks), Vanadzor, Alaverdi, Ararat, Kapan, and even Meghri. Mosques are commonplace in Nagorno Karabagh as it is inhabited primarily by Azeris, most Armenians having left long ago. St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral was sold and converted into a mosque a few years after the border was opened—the Catholicos of All Armenians purportedly made millions in the deal.
It is not uncommon or unnatural for Armenian woman to marry Turkish men and become Muslim, as it has become the fashion to do so. The second language taught in most schools nationwide is Turkish, preceded by Russian. Armenian schools still exist but are not common. Most people, especially the youth, speak a mixture of Russian and Turkish, although many people considered purists and who are occasionally mocked by society still speak Armenian (although sprinkled with Russian words—some habits die hard).
Few Armenians have resettled in their historic “Western Armenian” lands, aside from in Trebizond and along the Mediterranean coastline, as they have become prestigious hot spots for living and vacationing. Some Armenian businessmen are making millions in those areas in real estate and by selling used German or French automobiles. Yachts are also being sold in high numbers.
Turkey has total influence on the government of Armenia, now considered to be a puppet state. Armenia long ago abandoned economic and military dependence on the old, matted-furred Russian bear. The Russians have sold their interests in Armenia’s energy sector to the Turks. Many parliament members are of Turkish decent—some claim to be ethnically Armenian as their ancestors supposedly were born in Eastern Turkey centuries ago. Armenian political parties are very few in number. The ones that had endured decades or even more than a century in leading their dedicated life-long supporters have long ago died out, when the Armenian Genocide was finally officially acknowledged by the Turkish government just days before the border opened, and their party members no longer had anything else to do.After 50 years:
Turkish troops occupy Yerevan. Armenia is under complete, strict Turkish military control. The Armenian government is forced to succumb to Ankara’s pressure to fall. Armenians nationwide are ecstatic, praying that the day would come. Pro-Turkey fanatics begin to burn the Armenian tri-color flag on the streets of Yerevan, predominantly in Republic Square (now called Ataturk Square). The Republic of Armenia is no longer. After 75 years:
The Turkish Federation stretches from just beyond the Bosporus Straits to the Caspian Sea. Most South Caucasian regions, including Armenia, Nakhichevan, Karabagh, and Azerbaijan, have united to become a part of the great emerging power (Georgia had already become a commonwealth of the United States after a decades-long power struggle with Russia). Armenians are a predominantly Muslim people who speak fluent Turkish, some also speak Russian and English, while older generations still remember how to read and write Armenian. Most Armenian churches have become converted into luxury homes and barbeque restaurants, but freedom of religion exists and some still attend the few churches that remain. Armenians and Turks live very happily and peacefully together, like centuries-old allies. Everyone is thankful that the border between Armenia and Turkey opened 75 years beforehand, and their lives are much better now that they are Turkish citizens. Opening the border paved the way for that to happen.After 100 years:
The words “Armenian” and “Armenia” are chiefly found in history textbooks in schools and universities throughout Europe as well as around the world, not to mention on the Internet. The Armenian language has become defunct, although it remains spoken in a few sects and obscure villages. However, Armenian culture still thrives in parts of Georgia, notably Tbilisi, where it has undergone a renaissance, although Armenians speak English there. To distinguish between various Turkish peoples, there are now Armenian Turks and Azeri Turks, although those classifications are becoming obsolete. There is no such thing as an “Armenian Diaspora.”
This may sound like a demented fantasy to most readers, but there is a chance that a few of these things I described may happen at the rate things are going in world politics. I am especially concerned about the current trend in the melting of cultures and that Armenians run a great risk of loosing their own identities, the same they have been fostering for centuries. I doubt that Armenians really weigh scenarios about what could occur in their future very much, probably because it doesn’t matter to them per se. They generally do not have a long-term vision as a nation about where they should go in terms of achieving a lasting statehood. The focus has been on the present, and not on finding the means to face the difficult challenges that lay ahead.
But come on, really, why oppose the border with Turkey being opened? There is plenty of money to be made. Let it open. A free, open border will be good for Armenia’s economy, as a common land link will be established for trade, imported stuff will be cheaper, tourism will increase, etc., etc. It will be wonderful, just wonderful. At last Armenians will truly be able to call Mount Ararat their own….
Labels: Thoughts and Musings