By Ani Mejlumyan
Russian-Armenian billionaire and philanthropist Ruben Vardanyan has announced that he is giving up his Russian citizenship and moving to Nagorno-Karabakh.
While he presented his move as a patriotic gesture aimed at bolstering the precarious Armenian control over Nagorno-Karabakh, some suspect that his motives may have to do more with the heavy financial sanctions the United States and Europe have imposed on Russia.
“Using myself as an example, I want to show how important Artsakh is for me and for all of us,” he said in a video he posted on his Facebook page on September 1, using an alternate Armenian name for the territory. “After the 2020 war, we Armenians around the world have an obligation to be together with the people of Artsakh. We should not just offer moral support, but concrete help.”
He said had “renounced” his Russian citizenship and “come to Artsakh as a citizen of Armenia.” He acquired Armenian citizenship in 2021. He has not offered more details about his relocation plans, except to say that he expects to now spend most of his time in Karabakh. It is not known if he owns a home there.
Vardanyan, a businessman and investment banker whose wealth is estimated at more than $1 billion, is well known in Armenia for his philanthropic efforts there. He founded the IDeA foundation, which carries out development projects and holds the high-profile Aurora Prize awards for humanitarians around the world. He is also a founder of the United World College in Dilijan, an elite school.