|Languages||Armenian, Russian, English|
Executive Director of Repat Armenia Foundation
Vartan Marashlyan was born in Armenia but lived in Moscow for over 25 years. He has since moved back to Armenia in 2010 and lives in Yerevan with his wife and two children.
Vartan Marashlyan has more than 18 years experience working both in public and private sectors. Before the establishment of RepatArmenia Foundation Mr. Marashlyan was the Deputy Minister of Diaspora and responsible for developing programs with Armenian communities in CIS countries, organizing of pan-Armenian professional forums, creating programs to train young leaders and journalists of the Diaspora. Vartan also worked as Economic Advisor to the British Department for International Development and assistant to the Prime Minister of Armenia. His private sector experience includes real estate development and banking working with Severstal Group, Promsvyazbank and Gasprombank and Norman Asset Management.
Vartan continues to be committed to the Armenian national cause. He was an active member of Moscow Armenian community, Board member of Moscow Armenian Young Professionals Organization (SIVAM) and Advisory board member of the Armenian Students Association of Moscow State University.
Vartan graduated from the Financial Academy under the Government of Russian Federation with a degree in International Economics in 1997. In 2000, he received his PhD in Economics from Moscow State University.
Repat Armenia article
Vartan and Emma Marashlyan moved to Armenia in 2010 from Moscow where they lived for over 25 years. Today, Vartan is co-founder and executive director of RepatArmenia Foundation and Emma is the founder and photographer at Foto Atelier Marashlyan.
In 1980, Vartan’s family moved to Russia. He was 5 years old at the time and didn’t know a single word in Russian, but in a year he excelled in the language. He went to school there and had no problem in terms of integration. There was a period when Vartan communicated with Armenians only, but upon entering college (either by his sophomore or junior year), he had no Armenian friends. But Vartan has always been in touch with Armenia. He graduated from the Finance Academy, and shortly after was accepted to Moscow State University for his PhD. “In 1998 while doing PhD I moved to Armenia to live and work and this was my first attempt to return when I got extremely valuable experience and deep understanding that I must do my best to return to Armenia for good when I’m ready. It was the time when I understood that Armenia is much more than just your family, relatives and friends.”
Emma recalls that her family moved to Moscow, Russia when she was ten years old. “The beginning was incredibly difficult. I had always kept the idea of returning home in my mind; I remember viewing those first four years as a critical period. My mother had a red suitcase that we had brought and the story related to it is still vivid in my memory. Several times each year, we packed all our belongings and she would tell us, “We’re going back, we can’t continue living here.” But in fact, our situation never changed, and we were stressed.”
When Vartan felt ready to marry, choosing someone who would be ready to move to Armenia with him was a very important point. Shortly after he met Emma and together they stared a family. “I am so happy that we’re on the same path. Repatriation became the next step in our lives” says Vartan, “ I remember once when we came to Armenia, we attended the match between Armenia and Portugal and a few journalists approached us, asking what we’d do if the national team won the game. Emma quickly replied we’d stay in Armenia. The match finished in a tie and although we wanted to return home, I asked Emma what if our national soccer team had won what would we really do?” The couple came to Armenia two years later in 2010 where Vartan worked in Ministry of Armenian Diaspora for two and a half years.
With the help and support of his like-minded friends, Vartan decided to build a professional organization to support the repatriation process. “We founded the Repat Armenia Foundation in August 2012 – an organization ready to support repatriation on an individual level with the support of a thriving repatriates network.” Throughout this process many people surrounding Vartan and Emma are surprised to know why people move to Armenia. They converse with many people throughout the day, and explain the reasons for their decision. “It’s interesting that no matter where people come from, the motives for the choice are somehow the same. It is true that careers in big cities are considerably more developed, but you spend most of your time driving cars while your children are growing older, missing the opportunity of parenthood.” Vartan goes on to mention that the most important thing in the life of a parent is that short time they have to spend with their children and that family structure is truly lacking in bigger cities.
Emma is very optimistic because when she sees the new generation of Armenians. “I can imagine a great future, because they feel a strong sense of independence and they want to change things. They are also aware that these changes won’t take place overnight. I can see that we’re already changing a few things gradually. Armenia is not known to be a country with a high level of physical safety.”
The couple agrees that one must have a dream in order to reach it. Most projects in Armenia do not work out because people do not dream of them. They do not dare to start and work on a new project. “Our project started from a very basic idea” Emma recollects, “We got married wearing those ordinary white costumes, but looking back we wish we could have worn traditional Armenian costumes. We hardly managed to get in to the Teryan cultural center.” Thus, Emma’s photography project started when she saw a series of Armenian family photos on Facebook where they had used Armenian elements in their costumes. She liked the idea and wanted to open a photo studio where people could have family photos wearing traditional Armenian garments. “When I began my career, Vartan assured me that I’d have a huge audience base. I was doubtful in the beginning, but Vartan turned out to be right. Locals were the first who desired to take the photos. I have many customers now who want to have various types of photos with families. With my small idea, all I did was fill in a blank that Armenia had and that’s an example of the type of impact you can have here.”
Vartan insists that when you move from Moscow where financial advantages are much better than in Armenia, a small adjustment is all that’s needed. “You just have to get used to it. It’s true that from time to time you ask yourself about your decision: What if I was still in Moscow? How much more money could I earn? In this case the most important thing is to appreciate the privileges that you have wherever you are. Of course there are moments that you get angry, but there’s one simple solution to it: go travel somewhere outside of Yerevan, and in four days you will miss the city and crave to come back.” Vartan is aware that as repatriation is being discussed, simultaneously there are large amounts of people leaving Armenia, but nevertheless he continues to address the issue because of its importance. “We have to stop the emigration, but not physically, we should create conditions in order not to let people leave the country especially now when a new Diaspora has formed basically in Russia, where they create transformations in order to transfer their families and relatives. That’s why shaping new ideas both by locals and repats is so important.”
Vartan’s personal and work experience have lead him to believe that through the past ten to twenty years, issues related to integration have changed for the better. It would not be a correct statement to assert that integration issues today are in a poor state. “The remaining issues are not related to discrimination, they are merely daily issues that we face each day. People must believe that it will be much better for our country if diasporan Armenians or even foreigners to come Armenia and put their innovative ideas into practice.”
“We are from this land, our parents are from this land, so we must offer help when it is needed. I would rather help my country than to demand something from it. I am the one who tries to change it, but I also want to convey the optimism that I have to my friends that everything is going to work out. There are times when I need to recharge myself, so I leave Yerevan for the countryside. I stand on the mountains, open my arms and get that energy back from nature to get involved in Yerevan’s daily life,” Emma mentions.
“We have a very beautiful country and I can’t stand it when people call it “Little Armenia”” Vartan affirms, “We cannot move forward while believing in this concept. We have 42.000 km of space which is equal to that of Switzerland or Holland. We are also experiencing various changes, for instance—from emigration to monopolists in various fields. But we can overcome them, the important thing is the desire to do so.”
Video article is prepared by Shoghakat TV
Text edited by Alice Ananian