عنوان مقاله [English]
The impact of Diaspora on domestic politics and foreign affairs of homeland and the host country is a matter to reckon with in non-state-centered approaches to International Relations. Diaspora groups can play an important role in shaping domestic and foreign policies of their homeland and the host country. The quality and strength of this role are largely determined by the way they organize and mobilize resources. The attitudes of the governments of homeland and the host country are another vitally important factor. Diaspora may represent any of them while dealing with the other. Consequently both sides may take advantage of powerful diaspora communities. Diaspora communities can contribute to the economic development of their homeland. They also make considerable efforts to protect their cultural legacy, especially language, religion and social values. Armenian Diaspora has been traditionally an attractive subject for the researchers of Diaspora Studies.
Armenians have been one of the most influential ethnic groups in Russia over the centuries. Armenians emigrated to Russia over the centuries for different reasons and their lands had been incorporated into Russian Empire and the Soviet Union for more than 150 years. Now Russia hosts the most populous Armenian community outside Armenia. To some extent, Armenian communities around the world are usually well-organized and powerful enough to influence the policies of the host countries. Armenians of Russia are latecomers to the world of Diaspora politics. However, their potential is being mobilized gradually by the most prosperous elements of this community. This paper is the result of qualitative research about Armenians of Russia to find out their main features and to examine how they are involved in Diaspora activities in homeland and Russia. In other words, in the following pages this question has been addressed: “What are the main concerns of the Armenian community of Russia and how does this group affect the relationship between Russia and Armenia?” To answer this, the author has assumed that “Armenian community of Russia is largely preoccupied with protecting interests of Armenian businesses in Russia, preserving Armenian culture and language and helping newcomers from Armenia. This community puts an effect on the relationship between homeland and the host country by making efforts to gain a more prominent role in Armenia’s economy and to perpetuate strategic partnership of Moscow and Yerevan especially in the economic sphere”. In comparison with Armenian communities of Europe, U.S. and Middle East, this community may seem less organized and less cohesive, but at least its more powerful and wealthier elements have turned out to be stakeholder when it comes to relations with their homeland.
Armenians of Russia are not a homogenous group in terms of education and social status. In addition, they do not enjoy the same degree of involvement in the Armenians’ associational life. Some of them are among the economic, political and cultural elite of the Russian Federation. Some have become successful businessmen. But many of the newcomers have been employed as unskilled workers. The population of the latter group increases constantly as more Armenians leave Armenia to find a job in Russia.
Although still sending remittances is the most usual involvement of the Armenians of Russia in Armenia’s economy, a top-down mobilization to realize diaspora function has been going on for at least two decades. The organization of Armenian associational life began in late 1990s. Events of the final days of the Soviet Union and early 1990s led Armenians of Russia to pay more attention to what was going on in Armenia. Since then, the more eagerly support Armenian traditions, customs and language.
Armenian organizations in Russia often cope with problems of migrant workers who badly need support to survive in the host country. They also lobby to protect interests of Armenian businesses and companies in Russia. On the other hand, Russian government encourages Armenian entrepreneurs in Russia to make huge investments in Armenia. Armenian government copes with them more easily than their counterparts in the West. This easy interaction originates from shared experience of living in the same country for decades.
The fact that Russia is home to the world’s most populous Armenian community and the severe dependence of Armenian economy on the Russian job market seriously affects Armenia’s policy towards Russia. However, it must be mentioned that Armenians’ collective memory is void of hostility toward Russia. Thus, besides economic needs and security dependencies, positive attitude of Armenian community towards Russia contributes to a friendship between the two states.
Regarding the relations between Armenia and Russia, it can be said that without the presence of the Armenian community in Russia, this relationship would have been hardly different from what it is today. Just as countries like Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan- with strong security and economic dependence on Russia, Armenia with its small economy and security-military needs, has become strategic ally of Moscow not just for the presence of the Armenian community in Russia. Strategic importance of the former Soviet republics for Moscow and the ties and dependencies left over from the past are the most important factors influencing Armenian-Russian relations. In this context, it can be seen that the Armenian community in Russia is aligned with the Kremlin and can hardly be considered an independent actor when it comes to the Russian-Armenian relations. The Armenian diaspora functions of the Russian Armenians take two main forms: first, attempts to advance the interests of the host country in the homeland and gaining a share of strategic sectors of the homeland economy, second, playing a considerable role in bilateral trade on the one hand and supporting Armenians in Russia on the other. Therefore, it can be concluded that the Armenian community in Russia benefits from the strategic relations between Russia and Armenia, and therefore is one of the actors who will try to maintain the strategic nature of these relations as much as possible. Providing a platform for the strong presence of Armenian billionaires of Russia in the Armenian economy is one of the manifestations of the integration of this part of the Diaspora community in the host country.