Armenia’s Fixation on the Past Blinds It to the Future

If your country exists purely to be angry at Turkey and at war with Azerbaijan, you’re doing it wrong.

Armenia has been on what passes for a charm offensive out of Yerevan these days, attacking Turkey for trying to say that the latter has moved past a genocide 100 years old, and Azerbaijan for allegedly breaking the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire in the same way Armenia does regularly. This has allowed most of the world to forget that these two imperatives have so blinded its leadership to growth and change that when Vladimir Putin instructed them to forsake a European future, they did so without hesitation.

Armenia, like many of the Central Asian “-stans”, is a country ripe with almost deliberately wasted potential. An intelligent and industrious people, if they spent half the time they do on telling the world about the evils of Turkey and Turkey’s cultural younger brother Azerbaijan instead developing a meaningful democracy and modern economy, they would rocket past their basement-dwelling economic peers in no time.

Instead, Yerevan is trapped by its occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh into being a permanent client state of Moscow; and is trapped by its people’s history into being a permanent enemy of Turkey, potentially an incredibly lucrative trading partner. The Armenian diaspora is, as with most things, something of an unfortunate weight around the neck; along with remittances, it also sends back the eternal grievance it bears against a people none of whom were alive in 1915.

This is a terrible shame, because that same diaspora shows us that these are a people with much to offer the world. An end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would end reliance on Russian military power; an end to blaming the grandchildren of the Ottomans for the sins of a long-fallen empire would allow new trading vistas and hope to open again. Its political class, no real fans of democracy, are not helping matters; but its people, resigned to fighting demons of the past, show only sporadic interest in throwing off the kleptocracy under which they live now.

Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan are prisoners of despotic political classes, climate, and their neighbors. Armenia is a prisoner of its own making.

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