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Disturbing Digits: Armenia's Demographic Has Dropped Alarmingly

By Aris Ghazinyan

ArmeniaNow 09.02.12 | 14:48

The preliminary data on the 2011 census made public recently by the National Statistical Service state that as of October 12 last year there were 2,871,509 people who actually live in Armenia. The number of registered citizens makes 3.2 million, however some 400,000 simply aren't here.

For the Armenian nation spread around the world it's an alarming figure. For a long time Armenians residing on the territory of today's Republic of Armenia were aiming for the three-million index.

In 1926 the first pan-Soviet Union census was held, according to which the population of the Armenian SSR was 881,000.

By the end of 1930s the number crossed the threshold of one million (1,282,338) 83 percent of whom were Armenian, 10 percent were Azeri, and the rest were Russians and Kurds.

That one million of Armenians was "the contingent that had survived" and was meant to play an outstanding role in the national history - stand up for the "Armenian corner" in the Caucasus, as the majority of Armenians were exterminated or deported during the World War I (and in the 1920s), and the first generation of the refugees spread around the world was undergoing a process of assimilation.

Another strong blow at the country's demographic index was World War II. Almost half of the population of the Armenian SSR (more than half a million) went to battlefield, the majority of whom never returned. Hence, by the end of the war, the population of Armenia went back to the 1926 index (less than a million).

During the Potsdam Conference, when the issue of possible annexation of separate lands of historical Armenia to the USSR (Armenian SSR), head of the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, in a conversation with British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, noted that "the English government had spoken more than once in defense of the Armenian population under the sway of Turkey" and said: "There are only one million Armenians living in the Armenian SSR, and more than one million live outside of its territory. When Armenians' lands get bigger, those living abroad will try to return to their motherland. Armenians are very capable and energetic people, especially in household issues."

The last but one pan-Soviet Union census was held in 1979, according to which there were more than three million people (3,037,259) populating Armenia, 90 percent (89.7%) of them Armenians.

The last all-USSR census of 1989 held under most complicated circumstances (earthquake, war, emigration processes in Armenia and Azerbaijan), said the population of the Armenian SSR was 3,304,776 and 93.3 percent - Armenians.

And so now, when Armenia is independent, that index has again fallen short of the three-million benchmark.

It would seem that restoring Armenia's independence would create favorable conditions for the growth of population and repatriation of hundreds of thousands or even millions of Armenians. However, the complicated circumstances under which the new Armenian statehood was being born - total blockade of railway exits, war, and energy crisis - triggered mass migration from Armenia. The energy crisis was overcome and ceasefire regime established, the overall demographic picture, nonetheless, did not change, leaving a demographic index of Armenia today comparable with that of the 1970s.