The attention of Armenians worldwide is focused understandably on Armenia and Artsakh’s tense relations with Azerbaijan at present. Markar Melkonian, with a book published in 2020 prior to the war, treats longstanding fundamental questions of economics and politics affecting Armenian society that also deserve attention. In The Wrong Train: Notes on Armenia since the Counterrevolution (Los Angeles: Sardarabad Press), he consistently argues that the post-independence choice of a capitalistic economy and neoliberal ideology continues to harm Armenia and Armenians.
The Wrong Train is a slim 186-page paperback volume bringing together articles published by Melkonian on Hetq Online, the internet site of the Investigative Journalists of Armenia, between 2010 and 2018, together with a new introduction. Seta Kabranian-Melkonian is the managing editor of the book.
The author received a doctorate from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1997, and is a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at California State University, Northridge. He has authored a number of books, including Richard Rorty’s Politics: Liberalism at the End of the American Century (Humanities Books, 1999), My Brother’s Road: An American’s Fateful Journey to Armenia, a riveting book about his younger brother Monte Melkonian (2005, 2007), and several college textbooks published in recent years.
Decline of Living Standards Post-Independence under Capitalism
Melkonian peppers his articles with a seemingly unlimited number of depressing statistics indicating the decline in the living standards of the citizens of the Republic of Armenia. In 2010, some fifty percent of the population lived in poverty, and poverty continues to be widespread today. Privatization of land depopulated the countryside while real estate speculation pushed housing costs in Yerevan beyond what many can afford. Women and children have suffered the most, points out Markarian, due to the dismantlement of public schools, clinics, childcare programs and in general a social safety net.
A UNICEF report on the 25th anniversary of the end of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic reported that 1/3 of children in Armenia were “poor and deprived.” More specifically, 1/3 of children five years old and under are nutritionally deprived. Oxfam’s Armenian office the same year reported that 60 percent of the Armenian population overall is malnourished.