Think back to over twenty years ago; a lot was different in society and around the world. There was no Facebook, no smart phones, and no independent Armenia. It was not until September 21, 1991 that Armenia declared itself independent from the Soviet Union.
Since the emergence of an independent Republic of Armenia, the nation of three million has had its fair share of tragedy and triumph as it enters into its third decade of freedom. In the Diaspora, many watched the live festivities in Republic Square celebrating 20 years of independence. As we witnessed the beginning of the third decade of independence the small, but proud nation is proving itself spirited, despite the many hurdles it faces.
The early years of independence for Armenia were tough, the economy was faltering, and the nation was struggling to support Karabakh in their fight against Azerbaijan. Strained relations with neighbors Turkey and Azerbaijan added pressure on the already fragile economy and the nation barely made it through to the 21st century.
It is difficult to paint a positive picture of the Republic when the economic numbers show a fairly grim image. The near-collapse of the world economy in the late 2000’s weakened progressive steps Armenia had taken early on in the decade. Forbes Magazine rated Armenia as the second-worst economy in the world in 2011 due to a 15% economic decline.
Much of the downturn was due to a cutoff in foreign investment and a slow down in remittances, largely from members of the Armenian Diaspora, who were also directly affected by the global economic collapse. Many of the brightest minds left the nation to seek better opportunities abroad, and the brain drain has left a dent in the social development of the country.
While Armenia is still recovering from the pains of those early years and the decline of the world economy, there is still plenty to take pride in. A free market and strong relations with the West have helped increase trade and amicable relations with Georgia and Iran, bringing in much needed gas and oil to the landlocked republic.
Recent developments in education also paint a brighter portrait for Armenia’s future; the country boasts a 99% literacy rate, and chess has even become required in the classroom. The Armenian National Soccer Team beat Macedonia 4-1 and came one step closer to qualifying for the UEFA Euro 2012.
While independence has not proven particularly remarkable for Armenia, the fact is that the nation has seen darker days. For thousands of years the people have stood up against foreign invaders, have held on strongly to their Orthodox Christian faith and have maintained a rich history, culture, and language, unequaled by many others on this planet. After centuries of foreign rule under various empires, the fact that Armenia is now a sovereign nation is a testament to the persistence of its people.
Whatever troubles may be ailing the nation of Armenia, they are surely to be overcome. The Armenian spirit that has spread globally will always return back home and support the freedom of its motherland. Despite a difficult twenty years, Armenia will survive and hopefully thrive, as a player on the world’s stage.