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Intersections: The challenge of returning home

July 06, 2011|By Liana Aghajanian

The collapse of the Soviet Union, an energy crisis that followed, a devastating earthquake and a war with neighboring Azerbaijan has driven more citizens out of Armenia than officials would probably like to admit.

While the waves of emigration continue, with more ethnic Armenians making up a worldwide Diaspora than actual citizens of the landlocked country, a small minority are answering the call, and “coming back home” from all around the world — Toronto, Jordan, London, Beirut, Boston and even Glendale.

Intrigued by the dream of repatriation, Vicken Arabian left Glendale for Yerevan six years ago to start a new life with his three boys and wife after the romance of repatriating became a reality when he purchased a home and started a business. A descendant of genocide survivors, living in Armenia was always at the back, or perhaps forefront, of his mind. Now a general contractor who builds condominiums in the city, Arabian's dreams have come full circle.

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“I'm enjoying my life,” he says. “Life here is more comfortable, more carefree, despite the fact that there's a lot of hurdles.”

Comparing it to the states, Arabian says the social environment is easier to adapt to, having made the same number of friends in just a few years in Armenia as he did after two decades in the Glendale area.

Despite the idea that people think it's a sacrifice to live in the developing South Caucasus country, he says he never thinks he's sacrificing anything, but leading a more simplistic life that's allowed him to look at what defines quality of life for him.

“People were just too dependent on their daily routine and here it's not like that,” he says. “Not everything is planned. We don't have to make an appointment to see each other, people think Armenians in Armenia are complex people, but it's just the opposite, I think.”

Living in post-Soviet Armenia, as the country faces numerous political, economic and civil challenges — Freedom House, an international organization that conducts research on democracy and human rights, ranked Armenia in its 2011 report as “partly free” — does come with difficulty.

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