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#1 Yervant1


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Posted 13 September 2014 - 10:27 AM


12 September 2014 Last updated at 00:29

By Russell Padmore Business reporter, BBC World Service

President Serzh Sargsyan wants to raise Armenia's profile Continue
reading the main story

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Where in the world is Armenia? It's a question that the country's
President, Serzh Sargsyan, is hoping to get more people around the
globe to answer correctly.

He wants to mobilise the 10 million Armenians living abroad for a
global internet publicity campaign to boost tourism and influence
foreign investors.

Entitled the One Armenian, One Article campaign the idea is to get
expatriates to write positive stories about the country.

President Sargsyan and others behind the publicity drive say their
country needs a higher profile, because many people struggle to recall
anything about the nation.

So just what do people know about Armenia?

'We never hear about it'

London in the summer is full of tourists so it was easy to conduct
an impromptu series of informal interviews, ambushing dozens of
unsuspecting strangers from around the globe to get their views.

A couple from Saudi Arabia had heard of Armenia but only knew it was
in Asia, while a Danish woman told me that "we never hear about it
in Denmark."

But the most amusing was a man with his family from the United States,
who could only tell me that "all the people's names end in '-ian'."

His wife was quick to tell me he based that on the celebrity Kim

The socialite Kim Kardashian is one of many who have family roots
in Armenia

Only one of the people I spoke to knew much about Armenia, and that
was a woman from Paris who had been to the capital, Yerevan, and said,
"It is a small country and its people have suffered a lot."

My questioning was strictly informal, but it does suggest the size
of the challenge facing President Sargsyan and his compatriots.

'Soft power'

Enlisting people around the world who have Armenian roots to raise the
country's profile could prove effective. Famous people with connections
to Armenia include the singer Cher, tennis player Andre Agassi,
billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian and the late Steve Jobs of Apple.

"The Armenian diaspora sees itself in many ways as the second army of
the Republic of Armenia," says Aram Suren Hamparian, executive director
of the Armenian National Committee of America, based in Washington DC.

"Armenians spread around the world and prospered wherever they went,
and they haven't forgotten their roots and they try to stay connected -
and that is part of the soft power of the Armenian nation."

Armenia's ancient culture survived decades of Soviet influence before
independence in 1991. But despite its independence, the country still
has significant economic ties to Russia.

Next year, the government in Yerevan plans to join the common economic
zone of the Russian Federation, alongside Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Armenia relies heavily on loans from Moscow as well as the World Bank,
the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank.

Armenia: Key facts

Size of economy: $10.4bn (£6.3bn) Economic growth: 3.5% Population:
2.9 million Proportion of population below poverty line: 32.4% Life
expectancy: 74 years

Sources: World Bank and CIA World Factbook, 2013

Closed borders Continue reading the main story

"Start Quote

Opening the border with Turkey will really be a game changer"

End Quote Teresa Daban Sanchez IMF representative in Yerevan

Money sent home by expatriate workers is also a major driver of
economic activity, and accounts for one-fifth of Armenia's economy.

"Remittances from Armenian workers living abroad are very important,
it provides resources, US dollars, to fund imports in Armenia and
to fund consumption," says Teresa Daban Sanchez, the IMF's resident
representative in Yerevan.

Yet "90% of remittances come from Russia," she adds - underlining
the country's trade links with Russia.

However, Armenia's economic development is hindered because its
borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey are closed.

Being blocked from trading with Turkey, one of the region's biggest
economies, is a big barrier to growth.

Reopening the borders would transform Armenia's economy, says Ms
Daban Sanchez.

"Opening them, especially the border with Turkey, will really be
a game changer, because Turkey's a large diversified economy with
access to European markets."

Being landlocked presents a "huge challenge", says the IMF's Teresa
Daban Sanchez

The reasons the borders are shut lie in two 20th Century conflicts.

During World War One, between 1915 and 1917, hundreds of thousands
of ethnic Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Turks.

Yerevan wants Turkey to recognise the deaths as genocide and some
countries have done so, but Ankara insists there was no genocide and
that the dead were victims of the war.

It remains a highly sensitive issue.

Expatriate Armenians provide significant "soft power", says Aram
Suren Hamparian

Meanwhile, a fragile ceasefire is in place with Azerbaijan on Armenia's
eastern border, over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

In 1988, towards the end of Soviet rule, Azerbaijani troops and
Armenian secessionists began a war that left the region in the hands
of ethnic Armenians when a truce was signed in 1994.

Negotiations have so far failed to produce a permanent peace agreement,
and the dispute remains as a so-called frozen conflict.

Tourism potential

Yet even if Yerevan and its neighbours do reopen their borders, the
IMF's Teresa Daban Sanchez cautions that the country still faces the
more basic challenge of its location.

"Armenia, remember is a landlocked country, so even without these
geopolitical problems Armenia has a huge challenge."

If Armenia's expatriate community can effectively be mobilised for
an online public relations offensive then the country could attract
more visitors and perhaps more business for travel agents.

"People will get an idea of what it's like," says Gillian Leaning,
marketing manager at the UK travel company Regent Holidays.

"They'll see images of the ancient monasteries and they'll hear
about the rolling valleys of the Lesser Caucasus, or what it's like
to taste the country's brandy in Yerevan.

"So they'll be far more likely to choose it as a destination for
their next holiday."

In addition to boosting tourism, positive stories online could also
catch the attention of possible foreign investors and to quote an
old Armenian proverb: "Whatever the eye sees, the heart won't forget."

Listen to more from Russell Padmore on Armenia's publicity drive on
BBC World Service's World Business Report.


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