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Armenia Data
Armenia Summary

Reports:
NCSJ report (below)
CIA World Factbook
U.S. State Dept. - background
U.S. State Dept. - Human Rights
U.S. State Dept. - Religious Freedom

Armenian Embassy
U.S. Embassy Yerevan

Visit to NATO by the President of Armenia, Robert Kocharian, Dec. 3, 2003: (l.-r.) President Kocharian with NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson (NATO photo)

 
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Population
: Population: 2.97 million

Ethnic Composition
97.9% Armenian, 1.3% Yezidi (Kurd), 0.5% Russian, 0.3% other

Religion: 94.7% Armenian Apostolic, 4% other Christian, 1.3% Yezidi 

Jewish population: 800
2009 Aliyah (emigration to Israel): 43
1989-2006 Aliyah: 2,147

Size: 29,743 sq km
Capital: Yerevan
Major cities: Yerevan, Echmiadzin, Gyumri, Kirovakan

Freedom House Rating
Partly Free


Currency
: 377.78 dram = $1 

GDP: $8.68 billion (2009 est.)
GDP per capita: $5,900 (2009 est.)
GDP Growth: -15% (2009 est.)

Head of State:
President Serzh Sargsyan

Head of Government
Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan

Foreign Minister
Edward Nalbandian  

Ambassador to United States:
Tatoul Markarian

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia:
Marie L. Yovanovitch 

Chronology of all U.S. envoys to Armenia


SUMMARY

Post-Soviet Armenia has struggled to overcome its share of challenges. The smallest of the Soviet successor states, this ancient, landlocked country has survived centuries of rule by the Persian, Turkish, and Russian empires, and the Soviet Union. This nation is now working to resolve the frozen dispute with Azerbaijan over the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, to redefine its complex relationships with its other neighbors and with Russia, to secure access to global markets and reliable energy supplies, and to realize its stated goal of becoming a Western-style parliamentary democracy despite its recent history of war, economic blockade, electoral irregularities and fractious domestic politics.

Multilateral peace talks continue on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, and the government continues to pursue much-needed economic and social reforms. Armenia has carried out significant structural changes in pursuit of a market economy in conjunction with international lending organizations.

The ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan acutely influences Armenia’s economic and political relations with its neighbors and the West. Armenia’s relations with Azerbaijan’s allies, especially Turkey, are strained. Relations with Washington are good and benefit from the significant encouragement offered by America’s vibrant ethnic Armenian community. Armenia is a major recipient of U.S. aid. The United States has hosted and participated in peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan, building upon efforts by international organizations and other states, including Russia.

Armenia’s Jewish community is small but deeply rooted. Relations with Armenia’s Christian majority are generally peaceful, and anti-Semitic incidents are few. Armenia’s relations with Israel are limited but cordial. Since independence, Armenia has received political support from Israel with regard to declaring the 1915 tragedy a genocide, and today remains one of Israel’s major trading partners.


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ARMENIA

INTRODUCTION
POLITICAL SITUATION
    Nagorno-Karabakh
    Israel
ECONOMIC SITUATION
JEWISH COMMUNAL LIFE & ANTI-SEMITISM
    History
    Community Development
    Anti-Semitism
    Community Relations
U.S. POLICY


Armenia, occupies a territory slightly smaller than the state of Maryland. The nation is located just south of the Caucasus Mountains between Europe and Asia, is completely landlocked, and shares borders with Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran.

Armenia is an ancient kingdom which predates the Roman Empire. Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301 C.E. It then spent the bulk of its subsequent history under various empires, including Rome, Byzantium, the Arab Caliphates, Persia and Ottoman Turkey. During the 19th century, Armenia’s territory and population were divided between the Russian and the Ottoman Empires. Rising political and ethnic tensions in the declining Ottoman Empire during the late 1800s and early 1900s culminated in the widespread destruction of Armenian communities by the hands of the Turkish authorities during World War I, when Turkish and Russian troops clashed over Armenian territory. As many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed as a result of starvation, deportations, and massacres. Many of the survivors emigrated, forming sizable communities throughout the world. The number of Armenians abroad today as a result of the Armenian Diaspora, approximately 8 million, exceeds the number of Armenians in Armenia proper, a population of about 3 million. Russia and the United States are each home to more than one million ethnic Armenians.

Following Russia’s Bolshevik revolution, Armenia declared its independence in May 1918 under a nationalist government (the Dashnaks) but was conquered by the Red Army in 1921 and became a Soviet republic within its present borders. In 1988, during the Gorbachev era, Armenians living in the nearby Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in neighboring Azerbaijan launched a mass drive to join Armenia proper. That effort ultimately drew both Armenia and Azerbaijan into a prolonged, violent conflict during the early 1990s that generated massive refugee flows in Azerbaijan and economic devastation in Armenia. In September 1991, Armenia became an independent state after centuries of foreign rule.

Shai Franklin

Director of Armenian Genocide Memorial



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POLITICAL SITUATION


The Armenian government, as established by the July 1995 Constitution and modified in a November 2005 constitutional referendum, consists of a unicameral parliament – the National Assembly (Azgayin Zhoghov) – a Prime Minister, judiciary, and a powerful five-year Presidency. Armenian domestic politics have been turbulent since independence. National presidential and parliamentary elections since 1991 have been marred by persistent accusations of electoral violations. Armenia’s presidential election in March 2003 was deemed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the United States to have fallen short of international standards. Likewise, the May 2003 parliamentary elections (which produced a victory for pro-government parties) were also strongly criticized by foreign observers. However, the 2008 Presidential Elections were commended by the European Union (EU) and the OSCE, and both organizations stated that they regard the result as broadly democratic. The U.S. government assisted Armenia in holding fair and free presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007 and 2008. Despite recurrent questions by international observers about the fairness of its past presidential and parliamentary elections, and allegations of sometimes heavy-handed government tactics towards the opposition and the media, Armenia has been recognized as one of the more consistently democratic former Soviet states. The creation of a Western-style parliamentary democracy is a stated goal of the Armenian government.

Nationalist leader Levon Ter-Petrossyan held the presidency from 1991-1998, though demonstrations after the 1996 presidential election led Ter-Petrossyan to deploy military into the streets to restore order. Two years later, Ter-Petrossyan was forced to resign after being deemed too conciliatory toward Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. Robert Kocharian, a former leader of the Nagorno-Karabakh independence movement and a harder-line nationalist, won the Presidency in the 1998 special election and served as President through 2008.

International observers concluded that the May 1999 elections met basic democratic standards despite being marred by serious irregularities. Shortly afterwards, Armenia was shaken by the October 22, 1999 murders of Prime Minister Vazgan Sarkisian, Parliament Chairman Karen Demirchian and six other Members of Parliament by five gunmen during a parliamentary session. This mysterious attack began a period of political instability in Armenia that gradually led to President Kocharian’s becoming more politically powerful which further led to opposition charges that the President and his inner circle masterminded the incident.

In October of 2000, thousands of people took part in a rally in Yerevan, organized by a coalition of opposition parties, demanding the resignation of President Kocharian due to his alleged involvement in the October 1999 attack and due to the government's alleged failure to turn around the country's economy. Kocharian was reelected in March 2003, but his presidential reelection was followed by widespread accusations of electoral irregularities and violations, and was described as falling short of international standards by the OSCE.

Shai Franklin

July 1999: Prime Minister Vazgan Sarkisian meeting in Yerevan with American Jewish delegation, shortly before his tragic assassination



The popularity of opposition-led street protests peaked in 2004, after their frequent and sometimes violent dispersion by police. In late 2005, a constitutional referendum decreased the power of the executive vis-à-vis the judicial and legislative branches, in line with Council of Europe suggestions, but was also criticized by foreign observers as falling below international norms.

Armenia’s latest parliamentary elections were held on May 12, 2007. The elections followed the unexpected death in March 2007 of Armenia’s long-serving Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, and the appointment in early April 2007 of former veteran Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian as his interim replacement. Although some observers predicted the elections would increase instability and change the balance of power, they instead produced a strong win for a coalition of pro-government parties, giving a large parliamentary majority to Prime Minister Sarkisian’s. International observers, including the United States, EU and OSCE, said the elections were, on the whole, free and fair, and represented an improvement over prior polls. After the vote, President Kocharian promised a thorough investigation into voting irregularities, following opposition allegations of fraud. The next parliamentary elections will take place in 2011.

Current President Serzh Sargsyan won the 2008 Presidential Elections with over 52% of the vote, backed by the Republican Party of Armenia. Having served as defense minister and foreign minister, Sargsyan has continued to normalize relations with Turkey and has asked for the United Nations to help bring an end to foreign conflict around the world, including in the Nagorno–Karabakh region.

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Nagorno-Karabakh


The dominant issue for independent Armenia has been the protracted and often bloody Nagorno-Karabakh dispute with Azerbaijan. Christian Armenians and Turkic Azeris have fought to control this border territory since the 19th century when each group claimed the land as theirs (many Armenians call the territory by its alternative Armenian name, “Artsakh”). After their conquest of the region, the Soviets made Nagorno-Karabakh an autonomous region within Azerbaijan, leaving a majority Armenian enclave in Azeri territory, angering both groups.


Shai Franklin 

Nagorno-Karabakh frontier


In 1988, emboldened by Gorbachev’s reforms, the Armenian majority voted to secede from the then-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan and join the republic of Armenia. The conflict escalated despite efforts by the Soviet government to resolve it, and tensions between Azeris and Armenians rose dramatically. In early 1992, a land war broke out following parallel declarations of independence by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh in late 1991. Ethnic Armenian and Azeri refugees fled in opposite directions to their respective home countries in order to escape heavy fighting and ethnic warfare. Although Azerbaijan enacted an economic blockade that crippled the Armenian economy, ethnic Armenians were able to consolidate their control over Karabakh and occupied large portions of Azerbaijan outside Karabakh that linked it to Armenia proper. Both sides employed foreign mercenaries and volunteers in the fighting, especially locally based Russian troops left adrift in the wake of the collapse of the USSR.

A cease-fire agreement was signed in 1994, granting Armenia control of Karabakh. However, ongoing border closures with Azerbaijan and Turkey have severely harmed Armenia’s economy since the fighting due to Armenia’s reliance on the importation of energy supplies and raw materials. Azerbaijan has frozen Armenia out of the potentially lucrative BTC pipeline now carrying Azeri oil through Georgia and Turkey to world energy markets.

Armenia supports ethnic Armenian secessionists in Nagorno-Karabakh who, since the early 1990s, have militarily occupied a significant portion of Azerbaijan. More than 800,000 mostly ethnic Azeris have been driven from the occupied lands and Armenia, and about 230,000 ethnic Armenians have fled from their homes in Azerbaijan into Armenia. Tens of thousands of Armenians have also immigrated, primarily to Russia, to seek employment. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan seeks a transit route through Armenia to connect the motherland to its Naxcivan exclave. Armenia’s border with Turkey remains closed over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. Perhaps encouraged by the example of Karabakh, ethnic Armenian groups in the Javakheti region of Georgia have also begun to seek greater autonomy.

The OSCE continues to mediate the ongoing dispute. The United States, Russia and France co-chair the OSCE’s “Minsk Group,” which has been leading the peace negotiations. Since 1999, the Armenian and Azeri Presidents have held direct talks on multiple occasions, including meetings in 2006 in France and in Belarus, and many other meetings have been held between lower-level Armenian and Azeri officials, with the encouragement and participation of European and American diplomats. The Armenian and Azeri Foreign Ministers met in Geneva in March 2007 and in Belgrade in April 2007 under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group to continue negotiations over the Group’s Karabakh settlement plan.

Despite ongoing talks, both sides have failed to reach basic agreement over the enclave’s future status,—Armenia favors allowing Karabakh residents to vote on their future, while Azerbaijan favors retaining the enclave while granting it the widest possible autonomy—and Armenian separatist troops still remain in control in Nagorno-Karabakh and portions of Azeri territory. Both sides regularly accuse each other of pursuing a weapons build-up and other bad faith tactics, and despite international efforts, the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh remains fundamentally unresolved after nearly 20 years of confrontation and violence all the while remaining one of the foremost issue in Armenian politics.


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Israel

While Israel and Armenia have diplomatic relations, neither maintains an embassy in the other country, though Armenia maintains an honorary consulate in Jerusalem. Israel’s ambassador is based in Tbilisi, Georgia, and visits Yerevan twice a month. Israel has recognized 13 Armenians as “Righteous Among the Nations” for risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. The high volume of trade with Israel is an important outlet for Armenian skilled labor.

Several Armenian officials have visited Israel in the last several years. President Kocharian attempted to strengthen Israeli-Armenian relations in 2000 when he met with former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The two sides pledged to strengthen relations and signed agreements on health and bilateral investment.

In May 2005, Chairman of the World Congress of Armenians, Ara Abrahamian, called for the development of Armenian-Israeli relations on the basis of their religious and historical connections.

On February 11, 2009, Shemi Tzur, the newly appointed Ambassador of Israel to Armenia, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, (with residence in Jerusalem), presented the copies of his credentials to Minister Nalbandian. Minister Nalbandian stated that Armenia is interested in the development of Armenian-Israeli mutually beneficial relations and expressed the hope that Ambassador Tzur would make an important contribution to the more expansion of the relations between the two countries.

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ECONOMIC SITUATION

Armenia developed a modern industrial economy under Soviet rule, but since 1988, its economy has suffered setbacks. A 1988 earthquake destroyed or damaged 30 percent of Armenian industrial capacity, killed 25,000, and left half a million homeless, and the 1998 financial crisis in Russia harmed Armenian export industries and expatriate remittances.

The ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh dispute has likely had the single greatest negative effect on the Armenian economy, due to the punitive economic blockades and closed borders imposed by two of Armenia’s four neighbors (Azerbaijan and Turkey) in the early 1990s. As a result, land-locked Armenia has found itself starved for fuel supplies and many raw materials and has had to develop new routes through Georgia and Iran, unstable nations themselves. Armenia suffered hyperinflation in its first years of independence, resulting in a catastrophic decline in GDP. Following the 1994 ceasefire, the Armenian economy began to recover, in large part due to successful domestic reform and liberalization and substantial economic aid from abroad. Privatization has also progressed, though real unemployment remained at over 30 percent in 2006 (official unemployment was estimated at above 7 percent) and imports still outweigh exports.

Armenia is part of the CIS-7 initiative, a plan launched in 2001 by international lending organizations to help the poorest of the Soviet successor states reduce debt and poverty and achieve sustainable economic growth. In 2001, Armenia and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to a $90 million loan, and in February 2001, Armenia also concluded a deal with the World Bank for a $50 million Structural Adjustment Credit covering just over half of Armenia’s anticipated 2001 budget deficit. Armenia acceded to membership in the World Trade Organization in February 2003. In 2005, Armenia privatized nearly ninety percent of its arable land and rendered land titles freely transferable. Homes and apartments are in the process of being privatized, thus drastically affecting the plight of Armenia’s working class and impoverished citizens.

In fiscal year 2006, an estimated $76.5 million budgeted by all U.S. government agencies for assistance programs in Armenia was allocated into democracy programs ($16.0 million), economic and social reform ($41.3 million), security and law enforcement ($12.2 million), humanitarian assistance ($1.6 million) and cross-sector initiatives ($5.3 million). In March 2006, Armenia signed a Millennium Challenge Compact with the United States that will provide $235 million to Armenia over five years to reduce rural poverty.

Evaluating foreign trade influences, the countries of the European Union account for one-third of Armenia’s trade; trade with the United States, Russia, Israel and Iran is also considerable, followed by Turkmenistan and Georgia. By the end of 2004, Israel became Armenia’s third-largest trading partner as a result of joint diamond-cutting ventures. In June 2005, the European Union donated 100 million Euros to Armenia to help find alternative sources of energy to supply the country due to international pressure to shut down the Soviet-era Metsamor nuclear power plant. Armenia formally agreed to shut down the plant in 2007, and work on a new nuclear power plant maybe started in 2011 with an expected commission date in 2017.

A visit by Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov to Armenia in April 2007 focused on improving bilateral economic ties after the accession of Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian. Ivanov and Sarkisian predicted that bilateral trade will rise, and welcomed the April 10, 2007 inauguration of a rail ferry linking Russia, Georgia and Armenia, which Ivanov said would effectively end the ongoing blockade of Armenia by Azerbaijan and Turkey over Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia’s economic ties to Russia remain strong, as Armenia’s electricity distribution system was privatized in 2002 and bought by Russia's private energy utility RAO-UES in 2005.

A pipeline to carry Iranian natural gas to Armenia has been completed and was jointly inaugurated by the Armenian and Iranian Presidents in March 2007, who welcomed “a new page” in bilateral relations at the border ceremony. Begun in 2004, the pipeline was financed with an Iranian loan to be repaid by Armenia in the form of electricity supplies as part of Armenia’s strategy to diversify its energy sector, which is currently dependent on Russia and Turkmenistan for most of its oil and gas needs. This project has raised outside concerns about a possible increase in Iranian influence in Armenia. When fully completed, the pipeline is expected to pump some 1.1billion cubic meters of Iranian natural gas into Armenia annually until 2019, when 2.3 billion cubic meters will be pumped per year.

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JEWISH COMMUNAL LIFE & ANTI-SEMITISM

History


The Jewish community in Armenia dates back 2,000 years to ancient Armenia, but no continuous Jewish presence persisted into the modern era. Jews from Syria and Mesopotamia settled in Armenian cities (including Armavir and Vardges) during the first century BCE. Many of these earliest Jewish settlers later converted to Christianity and even joined local aristocracies. In the early 19th century, Jews began arriving in Armenia from both Poland and Persia, creating separate Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities in Yerevan. A number of displaced Jews settled in Soviet Armenia during and after World War II, raising the Jewish population to approximately 5,000, though subsequent emigration has reduced the Jewish community to fewer than 1,000. Another wave of Jews came to Armenia between 1965 and 1972. The Jewish population peaked at 10,000 in the second half of the 20th century.

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Community Development

In 1991, the government officially recognized the Armenian Jewish community. Despite a small Jewish population, high intermarriage rates and relative isolation, a number of programs and much enthusiasm exist to help meet community needs. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is very active in Armenia through annual community events, while the senior citizen community charity, “Orot Chesed,” which is located in the Yerevan synagogue. The charity provides seniors with food deliveries, heating fuel, medical equipment, and a daily hot meals program (in conjunction with the Yerevan synagogue) and supports 80 people.

The Jewish Community of Armenia (JCA), a member of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC) and the World Congress of Russian Jewry (WCRJ), sponsors advanced education classes, a children’s chorus, cultural events, and outreach work. The JCA began publication of a community newsletter in late 2002 with support from the EAJC.


Shai Franklin

Yerevan synagogue


While the regional office of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI/ “Sochnut”) is in neighboring Georgia, a representative in Armenia coordinates JAFI support for a Sunday school, an ulpan, a Chesed seniors’ center and several other Jewish clubs and community activities. A second Sunday school, run by the Religious Society of Armenia, also holds a summer camp. Cultural activities are conducted by the Armenia-Israel cultural group Menorah, which took a leading role in organizing a 1998 celebration of the 3,000-year anniversary of Jerusalem. The state university began teaching Hebrew in 1995, and the program has since grown from five to 34 students.

The Jewish Religious Community of Armenia, a Chabad-affiliated group established in 1992, operates both a Sunday school, called Torah Or, and a Community Center. The Yerevan synagogue holds Sabbath services and holiday celebrations, and houses a multi-lingual Jewish library. The group has published its newsletter, Koelet, since 1997. The Chief Rabbi occasionally travels to a second synagogue in the town of Sevan to lead services for the small community there.

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Anti-Semitism

Historically, Jews and Armenians have had good relations. Both are ancient peoples with rich cultural and religious traditions that have helped preserve their identities amid statelessness and modern persecution. However, along with other non-ethnic Armenians including Russians and Poles, Jews are widely considered ‘guests’ in Armenia.

While not virulent or frequent, anti-Semitism does exist in Armenia. In February 2002, an anti-Semitic book, National System, was published and distributed by author Romen Yepiskoposyan. It describes Jews and Turks as the biggest enemies of the Armenian nation and claims the Holocaust to be a fabrication. Jewish leadership used this as an opportunity to meet with the Armenian President, who stated the need to vigilantly counter rising anti-Semitism. Still, officials remain reluctant to comment on the book and the presence of discrimination in the country, even in the wake of further anti-Semitic publications and incidents.

The cooperative relations that Israel and the United States have with Turkey and, to a lesser degree, with Azerbaijan also help foster Armenian anti-Semitism. Some Armenian nationalist circles believe that the Jews were responsible for the 1915 tragedy. Others insist that Jews have not been active enough in protesting the 1915 tragedy, even though prominent Jews, such as U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau and Austrian novelist Franz Werfel, advocated for Armenians at the time. Nonetheless, there are still groups that preach Jewish responsibility and refuse to acknowledge the state of Israel. However, recently, there has been a widespread movement in Israel do ensure that the 1915 tragedy is declared a genocide.

On January 25, 2005, the General Prosecutor's Office in Armenia announced the arrest of the chairman of the small ultra-nationalist Union of Armenian Aryans, Armen Avetisian. Avetisian was charged with ethnic intolerance for anti-Semitic statements in an interview with the weekly IRAVUNK, branding Jews as enemies of Armenia and calling for their expulsion from an ethnically purified Armenia. Avetisian was given a suspended three-year prison sentence by a Yerevan court, and spent two months in prison in pre-trial detention. His brand of Armenian Aryanism appears to be a fringe phenomenon. Also in 2005, a Holocaust memorial in Yerevan was vandalized. Again in 2007, a Holocaust memorial was vandalized, this time with the carving of a swastika and the splashing of black paint into the monument.

The 2000 reburial with state honors of the ashes of General Dro Kanajan, an Armenian anti-Bolshevik leader who cooperated with the Nazis during World War II and the creation of a youth leadership institute in his name have also marred the Israeli-Armenian relationship.


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Community Relations

Armenia's small Jewish community, currently estimated at less than 800, has divided into two opposing groups, the Jewish Community of Armenia (JCA) and the Jewish Religious Community of Armenia (JRCA). Although there are very few recognizable differences in the teachings of the two groups, the organizations’ rivalry over funding has spiraled into heated opposition, and each group accuses the other of failing to observe the fundamental teachings of the Torah. Also, each claims to be the only official representative of Armenia's Jewry in the international arena. As a result, Jews in Armenia must ally with either the JCA or JRCA. The division causes public confusion, and may accelerate the shrinking of the already small Jewish community in Armenia.

The 1991 Armenian Law on Freedom of Conscience, amended in 1997, establishes separation of church and state, but grants the Armenian Apostolic Church special status. In 1996, the state registration agency, a division of the Ministry of Justice, toughened communal registration requirements, a potential difficulty for the small JCA community. The Jewish Religious Community of Armenia is registered with the Committee on Nationalities.

In 1999, the JCA planted 12 trees representing the 12 Tribes of Israel at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, and erected a commemorative Holocaust memorial stone. When the original stone was stolen, the Mayor’s office arranged for an even larger replacement.

The Jewish community has strong contacts with the government, and the state channel broadcasts a prime-time television show featuring Jewish and Israeli culture. Attempts have been undertaken to retrieve Torah scrolls and other religious items from state collections. But, Jewish conversions to Christianity in Armenia have increased in recent years due to high rates of intermarriage.

In May 2005, the Magen League organized a two day seminar, “Missionaries Against Jews: How Do We Protect Ourselves?” The seminar was held in Yerevan and Vandzor, where the participants learned how to resist missionary activities aimed at converting Jews to Christianity.


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U.S. POLICY


Defense Department photo: R.D. Ward

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld meeting in Pentagon with Armenian Minister of Defense Serchik Sarkisyan, March 2002


Relations between the United States and Armenia are positive. In 1992, the United States became the first country to open an embassy in Armenia. The United States has a large ethnic Armenian community, and the U.S. government has been satisfied with the overall progress of Armenian democracy.

The United States provides Armenia with substantial assistance. Since 1992, Washington has invested over $908 million in aid and support programs to Armenia. In December 2001 and January 2002, Congress and President Bush approved the creation of an annual waiver of Section 907 of the FSA, which prohibits military assistance to Azerbaijan, except for disarmament-related assistance (pending “demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.”).

In FY2006, overall U.S. assistance to Armenia was estimated at $76.5 million, budgeted for democracy programs, economic and social reform programs, and security and law enforcement assistance. In March 2006, the Millennium Challenge Corporation signed a compact with Armenia for $235.65 million over a five-year period; this will be allocated for infrastructure rehabilitation and improvements in the agricultural sector. Additionally, since 1993, the United States has funded the travel of over 4,627 Armenian citizens to the United States on academic and professional exchange programs. There are 90 Peace Corps Volunteers working in Armenia.

Following September 11, 2001, Armenia condemned the attacks on the United States and called for collective international efforts to fight terrorism. Armenia implemented UN Security Council Resolution 1373 to freeze bank accounts and assets of terrorists and their supporters, and joined the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the Council of Europe’s anti-terrorism conventions. Washington imposed sanctions on several Armenian firms in May 2002 for allegedly providing nuclear weapons-building assistance to Iran.

While its close neighbors, Azerbaijan and Georgia, voiced their support for the 2003 U.S. effort to overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Armenia remained in favor of Russia’s anti-war policy. But in January 2005, despite national opposition, the government sent forty-six military personnel to Iraq, although in December 2004, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian called Armenia’s presence in Iraq purely symbolic and for political purposes.

On April 5, 2005, Tatoul Markarian, Armenian Ambassador to the U.S., met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the Armenian Embassy in Washington to discuss U.S.-Armenian bilateral relations and regional developments.

In May 2006, the State Department asked United States Ambassador to Armenia John Evans to step down after he publicly referred to the World War I Armenian atrocities as “genocide”; the U.S. government officially uses the term “tragedy” when referring to this historical episode. Members of Congress accused Evans of imparting his personal views and Evans later reissued his statement, insisting that his use of the term “genocide” did not reflect or change U.S. policy toward Armenia. Since the controversial recall of Ambassador Evans, which was condemned by Armenian organizations and activists, members of both Houses of Congress have raised serious concerns about the State Department’s decision.

In June 2006, hundreds of Armenians protested the recall of Ambassador Evans by holding a candlelight vigil as part of their “Yellow Ribbon Campaign.” Earlier, in April 2006, Evans had joined thousands of Armenians in wearing yellow wristbands as a symbol of honor and remembrance of the Armenian victims. The current United States Ambassador to Armenia is Marie L. Yovanovitch.


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