Diaspora Survey Provides Snapshot of Armenians in 21st Century

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LONDON — More than 1,000 Armenians in four cities in the Diaspora took part in a first-ever survey led by a team of academics, researchers and experts. This pilot phase of an ongoing larger project aims to provide a snapshot of the contemporary diaspora.

The Armenian Diaspora Survey (ADS) is a new initiative launched and funded by the Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and carried out under the auspices of the Armenian Institute in London.

“We have initiated this study to fill a critical gap in our knowledge of the Diaspora, to have evidence-based understanding of the multilayered and diverse aspects of diasporic life in our times,” said Dr. Razmik Panossian, director of the Gulbenkian Foundation’s Armenian Communities Department.

In May and June 2018 four teams conducted the survey and interviews in Boston, Cairo, Marseille and Pasadena. These cities were chosen to provide variety for the initial phase, as well as for their community history and characteristics. A set of other cities are in the process of selection for survey this year.

“We asked people about their thoughts on identity and related issues of belonging as Armenians and as citizens of different states,” explained Dr. Susan Pattie, who led the pilot project. An international advisory committee, a dedicated team and 12 field work researchers were involved in the project, which took about 18 months to develop the methodology, research tools, fieldwork preparations, survey administration and data processing.

For institutional and community leaders in the Diaspora, as well as policy-makers in Armenia, ADS provides valuable research-based information as to what the issues and thinking in the Armenian communities are today and how to serve their needs.

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The data and the knowledge gained from the survey will be available to scholars as a resource for further research.

Some initial findings stand out in the first stage of the research. These are only preliminary results from the pilot phase of the survey in four cities.

The overwhelming majority of the respondents consider the continuation of the Armenian diaspora as important and meaningful space — 94 percent marked as “fairly” to “very” important. Along these lines, 84 percent of respondents felt it was important to help diaspora communities in the Middle East. This is significant as traditionally the Genocide and the Republic of Armenia have been the focus of funding, study or discourse in the Diaspora. The respondents showed interest in all of these, but considered the diaspora equally important. Armenia is “fairly” and “very” important to 90 percent of respondents and 75 percent have visited the country at least once, while 93 percent intend to visit.

Respondents said that Armenian language, history and religion were important to themselves and to Armenian identity generally — but variations appeared between the cities and further questions revealed broad variations in practice.

Even as ADS respondents in the four cities seem to be more active than perhaps a broader population of Armenians, 73 percent claimed no active affiliation with any Armenian political organization. However a majority said they were active in other Armenian organizations such as the AGBU, Hamazkain and others.

Predictably, Christianity is considered an important part of Armenian identity — for Apostolic, Evangelical and Catholic respondents across the four communities. While only 14-16 percent attended church weekly or monthly, 70 percent felt it is important to be married in an Armenian church. Some 43 percent of respondents felt that women should be ordained in Armenian churches, while 30 percent had no opinion on the matter.

“Armenians in each community expressed the need to be listened to. They welcomed the opportunity to discuss their experiences, expectations and hopes as individuals and as Armenians,” explained Dr. Pattie. Many ways of being Armenian were reflected in the responses and for those who took part. “Expressing this diversity within a common bond was most important,” Pattie added.

The survey will continue in 2019 with a new set of selected cities. In the meantime, the results of the pilot survey are being studies and analyzed, which will be shared with the public and will be made easily accessible in the coming months. Further details are on ADS website: www.armeniandiasporasurvey.com.

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