Diaspora Ministry Official - Javakhk Faces Demographic Threat
Hetq speaks to Taron Shagoyan, Caucasian Regional Department Head at the RA Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. What programs is the Ministry conducting in Javakhk? Javakhk is an Armenian populated and Armenian speaking region, but it is another country. So whatever we do must be on a governmental level. Our relations are fine, but we face problems. Armenian language classes in the schools are decreasing yearly. If they are fine, what are the problems? It is their country. If we can’t collaborate based on international agreements then we have no other way to work; we can’t force them. We can only cooperate based on such treaties. We raised certain issues with the Georgians when our presidents and prime ministers met. What proposals did you make at these meetings? First, we pointed out the issues that exist. Their answers were of a general nature. Just like the rest of you, we get their responses at the press conferences held after these meetings. Last year, some 7,150 books were sent to Javakhk after our negotiations. Now, we are working around the clock to collect new tenders to send books again. We no longer have a school in Batumi. There is only a Sunday school next to the Armenian church. The school only has the 1 st grade. We want to add a second as well. In your opinion, what needs to be done to make Armenians remain in Javakhk? It’s primarily an issue of employment. The exodus was large even in the Soviet period; they left for work elsewhere. Javakhk Armenians always made a living by working elsewhere. Now there is little work to be found. The Georgians have started to develop Javakhk in a clever manner. The main highways to Javakhk are being repaired. Trade is now growing in the region; especially via Turkey and Azerbaijan. Turks are renting houses there. Is there a risk that in the near future Javakhk will tilt towards a Muslim majority? We see it happening now. Steps must be taken to prevent it. There is that demographic threat. If someone is carrying out a profitable business, then the next step is to buy a house and some land. And who will they buy from? The Armenians, naturally. So, you’re saying this is good? It’s good in the sense that jobs will be created. As I said, trade is being developed there. But who will benefit is another story. It’s still not clear. If the demographic balance changes, Armenians will lose out.