Armenian Attitudes Toward Work and the Soviet Legacy

Work is one of the most important functions of human activity. In contemporary societies, if one isn’t employed, the ability to survive or accomplish significant achievements is severely restricted. The welfare of the state is also to a great degree conditioned by the ability and desire of the people to work, pay taxes and generate profits. Thus, one of the main functions of the state is to ensure dignified and stable work. 

The importance of work in Armenian society seems to be valued by everyone, and this idea is reflected in many folk sayings and fables such as, “Work beautifies the person” or “He who works eats.”

The concept of diligence or “ashkhatasirutyun” in Armenian (love of work) developed parallel to the notion of work and over time, has been used to describe not only an individual’s character but also that of states and nations. Stereotypes abound characterizing people of different nationalities as either hardworking or lazy; although, all nations consider themselves to be diligent.

Armenians also have their perception regarding ashkhatasirutyun. Besides the fact that former U.S. President Donald Trump was quoted as saying “The Armenians are very diligent people,” the industriousness of the Armenian people has also been mentioned throughout history by travelers passing through Armenia.

The popular opinion about the hardworking nature of Armenians changed after independence when Armenia was left to become the master of its economy and make its own decisions about which roads and bridges to build and how.

We came to face a reality where the nation that identified itself as hardworking was not living a dignified existence; its successes were not evident and day-to-day issues were not being resolved. The perceptions shifted and many, in moments of introspection, began to consider that we might not be as hardworking as we thought we were. Some went so far as to conclude that, not only are we not diligent, we might be lazy.

Toward a “Communal” Understanding

It is important to remember that these observations refer to societies with a free market economy. The Soviet system, which had a significant impact on Armenia’s social perceptions and characteristics, regulated labor issues in a completely different way. At the dawn of its creation, the Soviet Union was an economically weak and backward country, exhausted by civil war and utterly devastated by the enormous loss of population. Capitalist, free-market interactions were banned, and private owners were considered “enemies of the people.”

To resuscitate the country and, most importantly, to feed it, the Soviet system introduced universal labor duty, forming “labor armies”. In 1920-1921, labor armies, which built roads, worked in villages, on collective farms and construction sites, were created in Soviet Russia. Initially, they were reserve military units but, following the end of the civil war and an ebbing of external threats, some regular military units were also included. During the War Communism period, the units of the labor army were used for confiscating food in the fight against banditry.

In the early 1920s, crime, civil disobedience, and incidents of armed resistance increased in Soviet Russia. Later, during the collectivization years of the late 1920s and early 1930s, civil disobedience continued, often taking the form of bloody clashes.

Labor armies were later used to coordinate the labor activities of the infamous gulags (Soviet concentration camps) and the special contingents and prisoners of war (POWs). In the late 1920s, the USSR was developing its heavy industry on an unprecedented scale, which was accompanied by massive infrastructure projects. With insufficient human resources, forced labor or administrative means of enforcement were widely used. This likely also contributed to a more negative attitude toward state work. Understandably, a person exiled for their political views could not have a particularly strong desire to do high-quality work.

During World War II, this system was partially modified to incorporate the labor of POWs. There were also thousands of POWs in Armenia; to this day, people mention specific roads and buildings built by them.

The only period when the Bolsheviks were forced to allow private property and entrepreneurship to save the drowning economy was from 1923 to 1927, the years of the New Economic Policy (NEP). Due to its ideological contradictions, the USSR abandoned the NEP in 1928 and introduced a strict policy focused on a centrally-planned economy and “communal” property.

Within five years, collective farms were created throughout the territory of the Soviet Union and carried out the instructions set by the Communist Party and the government. In the initial period of collectivization, there was considerable resistance to the reforms, including peasant movements and even armed clashes and killings. However, the repression of the state apparatus was effective; by 1933, the process of collectivization had been completed throughout the entire country.

Collectivization certainly did not increase productivity. The people working on collective farms were simply not motivated. They slacked in their tasks or sometimes didn’t even show up. In 1933, even Stalin admitted that there was still much to be done on the farms.

He framed it as a fight against former kulaks (wealthy or prosperous peasants) and counter-revolutionaries. According to the supreme leader, counter-revolutionary elements had established themselves in factories and collective farms; they were “meek” and “sweet talkers”, but they did not work well and subverted others.

Stalin declared: “They should not be sought far from the collective farms; they position themselves in the collective farms and occupy the posts of warehouse managers, managers, accountants, secretaries, and other positions. They never say ‘Down with collective farms’. They are ‘supporters’ of the collective farm. But they are doing such sabotaging and harmful work on the collective farms that the latter are not recovering.”[1]

The Soviet government blamed the poor outcomes on the collective farms on the negative influence of the kulaks, the monopolists, and other workers. They were the ones who were “spoiling” the collective farmers. It is worth mentioning that, in their speeches, party leaders and propagandists inadvertently let slip the real causes for the catastrophic condition of the collective farms. It was clear to everyone that people preferred to cultivate their land and manage the income from that land independently.

“When you see the land of a collective farmer, you immediately notice how its vegetable garden is wonderfully cultivated, yet the lands of the collective farm are often in a disgraceful state. Isn’t the class meaning in all this apparent? Isn’t it clear that the conscientious and efficient work of the collective farmer is the arena of fierce class struggle, where the kulak is trying to organize sabotage, to thwart collective farm-building?”[2]

The Bolsheviks were committed to their economic model: that public (collective) property was more effective than private property. However, efficiency was declining by the day, and labor discipline was becoming an increasingly important priority.

According to official data, 45-65% of villagers went to work on the collective farms every day. Getting ahead of ourselves, let’s point out that making excuses for being absent or late for work also had deep roots in towns, factories, industrial enterprises, and various offices. This phenomenon carried on in newly-independent Armenia, leaving its impact on our modern-day life.

“Soviet reality was essentially artificial, and that is why it collapsed. The attitude toward work should be considered within the context of that artificiality because people worked and were not rewarded proportionately. Thus, that work, in essence, was not adequate. It was a planned economy. People were obsessed not with the quality of work, but with achieving—and especially exceeding—their [quantitative] quotas,” says human rights activist Vardan Harutyunyan.[3]

The booklet entitled “Work Discipline” published in Yerevan in 1929 listed the main shortcomings encountered in Soviet labor: negligence, an unconscientious performance of duties, inaccuracy, and carelessness, all of which have not been overcome to this day. During those years, confiscation was considered the most effective way to eliminate shortcomings. A few years later, the mechanisms for punishment became even stronger, and poor performance at work was punished much more severely.

“The painful aspects of this poor labor discipline, of careless work that appear in this or that class of the proletariat, are particularly unbecoming when held up against the general background of the cultural level and raising awareness of the working class. We must try to influence these classes through administrative means—by confiscation.”[4]

Unexcused Absence

Unexcused absence from work (program)[5] was considered one of the major labor violations of the late 1920s. Voluntary absence was quite significant in Armenian enterprises. “As of April [1929], such unexcused pro guy accounts for 1.9% in nine main enterprises of Armenia. This percentage is about 10 times higher than normal. It has reached 3% in Alaverdi, and 3.5% in the HayTextile weaving mill. In April, when all the organizations started a campaign on this issue, we see that the percentage of unexcused pro guys decreased. However, come May, that percentage once again increased in a number of our enterprises.”[6]

Non-compliance with the instructions of production managers, various conflicts, disputes, and fights also provide evidence of the low level of discipline. “Some cases bear characteristics of hooliganism against the administrative staff. In the recent past, unacceptable incidents have taken place among the workers, like the beatings of the deputy’s head at HayTextile and the foreman in Alaverdi. In addition, aimless hooliganism, such as brawls between factory workers, hooligan pranks, etc., is a frequent occurrence.”[7]

Lacking adequate pay and motivation at work, workers often damaged the machinery and equipment, causing great material damage to the enterprise.

Problems in tlabor discipline had a great impact on meeting the quotas of enterprises and collective farms. In addition to the general damage, shortfalls accumulated as a result of idleness or equipment failure had to be compensated for by accelerating the pace, which of course impacted both productivity and product quality. This period can be taken as the beginning of the decline in the quality of Soviet-made products, which never caught up to global competitors, right up to the collapse of the Union.

In the mid-1930s, a provision was introduced to increase discipline on collective farms, according to which people could be fired from the collective farm for idleness and violations of discipline. This decision, which seems strange at first glance, was based on a clear logic: monopolists paid more taxes than collective farms. This and several other means were used to increase discipline, and to encourage people to work on collective farms.

All these work-related issues, including discipline and the uninterrupted operation of collective farms, were the focus of Soviet Special Services. The most influential Soviet ideological and punitive institution, the General Political Department (GPC),[8] reported incidents that occurred in villages, towns, enterprises and collective farms to party leaders. At the beginning of 1930, the GPC reported that there were many shortcomings in the collective farms of Soviet Armenia.

“In some collective farms, there are disagreements overwork; there are internal disputes and fights among collective farmers. Due to the insufficient level of cultural services for the collective farms, drunkenness is abundant, with several heads of collective farms taking part in it.

Presidents are often not fit for their position. The production discipline of some collective farms is falling because of weak management, and carelessness is shown toward the collective property. The head of the collective farm in Etchmiadzin region’s Molla Village is regularly drunk, neglecting the work of the collective farm. In Ashtarak, the head and other managers have misappropriated part of the collective farm’s money and property.

Relations between the members of the collective farm in the Armenian village of Zeyva are tense. Two groups are fighting for leadership, one of which is headed by the chairman of the collective farm. There are similar shortcomings in several other places.”[9]

As already mentioned, workers on the collective farms were often careless and indifferent toward the public property. The perception was that, since this capital did not belong to anyone, there was no one tasked with protecting it.

“District of Yerevan: As a result of the criminal inaction of the head of the collective farm and the agronomist in Etchmiadzin’s Red Army commune, 3,000 bushels of hay, 9,000 bushels of unharvested alfalfa and 1,600 rubles worth of unharvested grass have rotted due to being left under the rain. In total, the commune has suffered a loss of 14,500 rubles.”

GPC reported that those opposed to collectivization were spreading provocative and misleading information. Although these official communications had an ideological and propagandistic intent, they nevertheless betrayed the inherent flaws in the collective farm model.

Forced Labor

The Soviet Union made extensive use of forced labor. Hundreds of thousands of people exiled to remote areas were forced to work in mines and large infrastructure projects. The gulag economy was important to the Soviet Union; forced labor had never been used on such a scale before.

Historians and researchers conclude that the gulag economy was closely linked to industrialization. Industrialization aimed to rapidly develop the industrial potential of the USSR, including the exploitation of the country’s natural resources, which were concentrated in northern Europe, Siberia, the Far East, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia. These areas were sparsely populated, had harsh climatic conditions, and were almost entirely devoid of infrastructure. Therefore, the decision was made to use forced labor to exploit them.

A compulsory workforce did have some “advantages” over a free one. The workers were mobile; the state could move thousands of people from one construction site to another in a short time. But most importantly, this workforce was very cheap.

During those years, construction in the remote regions of the USSR was mainly carried out under the leadership of the GPC, and later by the USSR People’s Committee of Internal Affairs, which supervised the gulag.

Construction projects of this period include the Belomor-Baltic Canal, the Moscow-Volga Canal, the Baikal-Amur Railway, the nickel factory on the Kola Peninsula, and the nickel smelter in Norilsk, the copper smelter in Dzhezkazgan, and the deposits of non-ferrous metals, oil, coal and gas in the Kolyma Basin. From the end of the 1930s, the USSR’s camp economy took on a military-industrial orientation. Coercion and violence shaped people’s future attitudes toward work.

Fighting Off the “Parasites”

After World War II, when the spirit of freedom in the USSR was starting to grow, the government decided to “call society to order” again. On June 2, 1948, the “Decision to exile those who maliciously avoid agricultural work, and those who live antisocial parasitic lives, to the remote areas of the USSR” was adopted. It is noteworthy that, with this decision, collective farms themselves could exile the “parasites”.

In other words, the members of the collective farm could convene a meeting and vote on whether their fellow villagers should be deported or could continue to live in the village. Based on the decisions of the collective farms, the executive committee of the regional councils examined the applications and instructed law enforcement agencies to fulfill the will of the collective farmworkers.

There were also cases where the executive committee rejected the applications. This too was a mechanism to regulate labor relations, to punish lazy people who did not work on the collective farm. Many such applications and decisions can be found in the National Archive of Armenia:

“The public verdict of the 2/7-48 general meeting of the collective farmers of the Shahumyan collective farm in Tumanyan village, on exiling Aramayis Muradyan (born in 1919) to the remote regions of the USSR. Comrades Janinyan, Harutyunyan, and Abrahamyan made statements.

It was decided։

To be justified and to approve the public verdict of the 2/7-48 general meeting of the collective farmers of the Shahumyan collective farm in Tumanyan village.

To exile Aramayis Hovhannes Muradyan to remote regions of the USSR for eight years, for not working for a single day on the collective farm from 1946 to 1948, for deliberately keeping his family members away from collective farm work, as well as systematically stealing property from the collective farm and leading an antisocial parasitic life.

Consider July 2, 1948, to be the start of the exile.”[10]

The case of Taguhi Eloyan, a resident of the village of Arpi who was sentenced to exile, is also noteworthy. She was guilty in that she had not worked on the collective farm and, together with her son, “was engaged in speculation.” The document stated that, in 1937, Taguhi Eloyan’s husband had been “sentenced to 10 years in prison for being a follower of Trotsky.”[11]

The attitude of the Soviet system toward work shines through in the decision to exile Barsam Hambaryan, a resident of the village of Akhuryan. Barsam, a non-party member born in 1894, had not worked on a collective farm since 1939․ “He had 3 cows, 15 pigs, and 15 sheep. He is engaged in speculation, has a plot of land near his house, and enjoys all the rights of a collective farmer.

He conducts anti-collectivist agitation in the village, trying to persuade others that ‘one can live better without working on the collective farm.’ His three brothers were convicted and exiled in 1937 for counter-revolutionary activities. The 670 collective farmers present at the meeting unanimously voted in favor of his exile.”[12]

The negative connotations associated with work that took root during the first decades of the Soviet Union persisted for many years afterward. The situation began showing signs of improvement after the 1950s, but the core problems persisted. The poor workmanship, incomplete and imperfect production, construction delays, and endless coffee break still lingered.

“During the reconstruction period of 1985-1986, when greater freedoms were extended, interesting articles and comparisons were published in the Russian-language press; for example, what work does a combine harvester do in Germany or the United States, and what work does a heroic combine harvester of the socialist labor movement do in the Soviet Union?

And it turned out that the ‘heroism’ was [an undeserved moniker]. It turns out that the Stakhanovite movement was all artificial. The worker would go to ‘kill’ their eight-hour working day, if possible maybe steal something from work and take it home, to gain their years of work experience and their salary of 60, 80 or 120 rubles, which was not enough to live a normal life,” recalls Vardan Harutyunyan.

The idleness of both people and entire enterprises, due to imperfect planning and a lack of accountability, continued to be a major problem in the 1950s. There were frequent cases where factories stood idle because the supply of raw materials, parts, or other necessary materials was delayed. Under these conditions, workers, especially laborers, were either paid without having worked or reassigned to do other things.

This led to a flow of cadres, which significantly affected the quality of work. To fulfill the quotas approved by the state, enterprises had to work at a “storming” pace at the end of the quarter or year. The term shturmovshchina, which can be defined as a storming, accelerated pace of work, was very common in the USSR․

As mentioned, the USSR was a planned economy, which means that every enterprise, collective farm, and community had a minimum production target that it was obligated to fulfill. Failure to meet the plan had serious consequences for both the production head and the political body responsible for the given sphere; they could be fired, reprimanded or, if it turned out to be intentional, they could be prosecuted. On the contrary, if the plan was over-fulfilled, people were rewarded and received banners, medals, and honors.

After receiving the necessary inputs, the factory had to work at a “storming” pace to fulfill the plan. In a time crunch, workers and other specialists worked overtime, which increased the price of the final product, caused overspending, and, most importantly, affected quality. This was prevalent in the field of construction as well. The supply of the necessary building materials was often delayed. As a result, buildings were constructed hastily, often deviating from the design so that quality suffered.

“Even today, we still see the quality of work that existed in those years; we see the buildings of those years. We live in those buildings, we see the Ajapnyak district built during those years and all the other residential areas—not to mention the mentality. Even today, at least the older generation often approaches work as it did in the Soviet era when there was no interest in the result of the work,” says Vardan Harutyunyan.

The economic history of the USSR has thousands of such episodes. The phenomenon, of course, was widespread in Soviet Armenia as well. For example, the construction of a new tram line in Yerevan in 1932 was incomplete due to delays in the supply of timber sleepers and rails.

Another example is the construction of the Hoktemberyan (Ghrer) canal, which was also completed with great difficulty, endangering the irrigation of about 3,000 hectares of cotton fields. The official opening of a large project would often be announced in advance in the Soviet press and through other official channels; however, those dates would still be delayed for various reasons.

There were so many shortcomings in the work environment that they were regularly covered by the Soviet press. Hundreds of articles on work-related oversights can be found in the official party organ Soviet Armenia (Khorhrdayin Hayastan), Avangard, and other newspapers. Idleness, being late for work and low-quality work were the subject of constant ridicule and criticism in the pages of the satirical periodical Hedgehog (Vozni).

Another law on “parasites” was passed in 1956, according to which people who did not work were exiled or not allowed to reside in big cities. It soon became apparent that this law was a good opportunity to punish not only those who were lazy but also political and ideological opponents—the dissidents.

“The article on parasites also envisaged imprisonment. Every society has people who do not work; it is natural. This law was probably originally intended to punish such people because work in the Soviet Union was mandatory. The USSR stated that it provides everyone with a job; therefore, everyone should work. But later, this article was used against dissidents, especially those who were convicted and returned after imprisonment.

So imagine: they would return, but with no possibility of getting a job. On the one hand, they had to have a job because [not working was a crime] in the Soviet Union; on the other hand, no one would hire them. They found themselves in a vicious circle. And when authorities considered it necessary, they would arrest the individual for being a parasite and convict them.

The purpose was to isolate that person from society, as well as to force them to renounce their views. I do not remember people being convicted under that article in Armenia, but dissidents faced big problems when trying to find a job.

In Russia and the other bigger republics, it was also forbidden [for such dissidents] to live in the capital cities [of the Soviet republics]. But taking into account the small size of our republic, that law was not applied in Armenia,” says Vardan Harutyunyan.

Independent Armenia

After the declaration of independence in 1991, attitudes towards work changed. Under the new embrace of capitalism, personal effort and diligence are important preconditions for prosperity and personal growth. However, the free market, in turn, posed new challenges. In particular, an irregular work schedule, low pay, and unregulated exploitation significantly impair diligence and reduce the motivation to work.

On the other hand, a conviction in success through work had not yet been internalized in newly-independent Armenia, and many looked for easier ways to succeed. In the opinion of journalist Karpis Pashoyan,[13] work has been considered a damning occupation in our society. “Hard work is viewed as naivety and mental work as ‘nerdiness’.

Social mechanisms have degraded human labor. Instead, our youngsters thought it more fashionable and were more impressed with getting rich and achieving prosperity by completely different means. Corruption, becoming an oligarch, and the embezzlement of state property were glorified, while the working man was not perceived as an example of prosperity,” he says.

In the film “Mechanics of Happiness”, shot by the HayFilm film studio toward the end of the Soviet period, one of the protagonists asks the other whether he had “extra income”. The portrayal reveals that non-state, non-salary income (often illegal) was acceptable to society, and the attitude toward those who did not have such an income was markedly negative.

Pashoyan points out another important phenomenon, which he formulates as a “cult of work”: “An individual works like a slave for many years but does not get rich, and the cultural environment places the responsibility on the individual. This legitimizes all the injustices of capitalism: if you are not getting rich, then you are to blame, you are not doing something right, you are not working enough, you are to blame.”

For a while, it had become a trend to use the hashtag #գործկա (“there is work”) when sharing job opportunities, especially on Facebook. It was a jab at those complaining about a lack of job opportunities in Armenia, implying that the issue was really that the individual did not want to work.

Although accusations of laziness were in some cases fair and called for; however, it is also worth noting that the work being offered is often at such a low wage that it genuinely undervalues the person’s time and dignity. “For example, a person does not want to go and do hard, arduous work for 80,000 AMD/month [$160/month], but the capitalists or propagandists depict it as laziness,” says Pashoyan.

In the last couple of decades, the connection between diligence and personal success has often been discussed in Armenia. Simultaneously, the rhetoric of explaining poverty as the outcome of laziness has also taken root. “If you are poor, then you are to blame. You don’t work enough, you are lazy. Some research has been done on this issue.

The roots of shaming and discrimination against the poor in Armenia go back to the Soviet era, when although the official ideology did not view poverty as shameful, in everyday life it was considered dishonorable and humiliating. There was also discrimination against the poor, which led people to hide their poverty.

Moreover, in Soviet times, although a significant portion of society lived in need and poverty, it was widely believed that the condition of the majority was not to be considered poverty; it was viewed as normal or average. People who could not provide for their family’s minimal needs, including quality food, were the ones considered poor.”[14]

In his research, cultural anthropologist Aghasi Tadevosyan also mentions that poor people are stereotyped as stupid, while rich people are viewed as smart. At the same time, society strives to imitate the rich and achieve wealth at any cost.

“It is considered that the poor are poor because of the stupid decisions they make, or that the poor do not like to work and prefer to take handouts than to be proactive and hardworking. That is, a poor person is guilty of their poverty and is condemned for it.

At the same time, this approach was also clearly reflected in interviews with representatives of the former ruling elites. Moreover, such an approach is also noticeable in the period following the Velvet Revolution in 2018, especially in the approaches of the new liberal-minded government members regarding tax and social policies,” he writes.[15]

The comparisons and parallels with the Soviet social system are understandable; we bear and will continue to bear the marks of that country for a long time. However, in Karpis Pashoyan’s opinion, it is not worthwhile to make comparisons with the USSR in issues about work, as the latter was also built on fear and coercion.

“Later, after Stalin’s death [in 1953], that fear was replaced by some kind of robotic system, where a person had to live in forced legal, political, and social structures from birth. Whereas, a person also needs other motivation for work, so that they can manage the fruits of their labor freely and independently,” Pashoyan notes.

Labor was always at the center of attention during the Soviet era. Photographs of good workers were published in newspapers and magazines, broadcasts were made about them, and labor was praised everywhere. It cannot be said that people did not work in the USSR, but it should be noted that there were always redundant positions, people who did not work and just “kept their head above water”.

After independence, we often talk about the organized work ethic of the Western model, but to what extent are we ready to be overloaded? Pashoyan believes that remuneration is a critical factor. “Our employers often think that they can be demanding, but pay little; however, demands and remuneration need to correspond to one another,” he says.

Vardan Harutyunyan thinks that, after independence, our state is not able to create the conditions necessary for an individual to manifest themselves, work well and achieve prosperity. “In many cases, we go to extremes. Our society and reality are not at all people-centric. There are many poor people, and I do not agree that poverty is in the minds of those people. I think that the state is not able to create conditions for those people to manifest themselves. The people are much more established than the state,” he says.

We often say that we are hardworking people that construct and build, which of course is not far from the truth. However, we also hear the opposite view. “I am against such formulations; they are mythical. You cannot describe a large collective with a single adjective. This is not a scientific approach,” says Pashoyan. At the same time, he finds that we often overestimate our strengths and capabilities; we set ourselves tasks and demands that are actually beyond our abilities:

“We also put a great burden on individuals. To ensure the creation of an individual, you have to shape that environment, institution, and system. An Armenian scientist who has succeeded in America cannot have the same success here, because that academic environment, that system does not exist here. We attribute that individual’s success to their nationality.”

In Harutyunyan’s opinion, although we inherited these negative connotations with work from the Soviet system, over time, they will fade. “Yes, we inherited it from the Soviet Union. That legacy will leave us, but it takes time. It was not possible to change it in 10-20 years. Our older generation carries it in full and so do their children; it is an upbringing, an approach, a worldview,” he says.

On the whole, when discussing issues about work and diligence, we often draw parallels between wealth and poverty. As already mentioned, it is commonly thought that the poor themselves are to blame for poverty. We often hear the view that laziness is the cause of poverty.

However, our observations also show that hard work is an important but not sufficient condition for achieving prosperity. Perhaps this is why the concept of work efficiency is used in parallel with diligence.

The higher the scientific basis of the work, the more innovations, and successful experiences are applied, and new and knowledge-based modern technologies introduced, the more the efficiency of the hours spent increases.

In addition to diligence, it is important to consider the country’s natural resources, communication channels, and infrastructure. Of course, Armenia still has work to do to develop the culture of work and increase efficiency. However, the difficulties of land communication with the outside world must also be taken into account.

In Armenia, the transition from the Soviet planned economy to the free market was accompanied by many difficulties, both objective and subjective. The entire economic and scientific system of Armenia was closely connected with the other republics within the USSR, primarily with Russia.

The collapse of the Union, the destruction of decades-old relations, regional wars, and blockades certainly impacted Armenia’s economy. Among the tens of thousands of people who emigrated from Armenia in the early 1990s, many were skilled workers, who took their skills and knowledge with them.

On top of that, the collapse of the financial system led to mass deprivation, which hobbled business growth. Equally negative was the instability of the legal system, due to which labor relations were not regulated, leading to the exploitation of workers and a decline in work initiative.

Equally problematic was the process of land privatization, which was accompanied by the fragmentation of production and the supply chain. Some of the privatized technical equipment was sold off due to a lack of fuel and limited markets, as a result of which the industrialization of agriculture became significantly more difficult, reducing labor efficiency.

It should be noted that Armenian society has a pretty good grasp of these issues. For years, the state has provided significant resources, privileged credit terms, and assistance to increase the efficiency of agricultural work. The importance of the human factor—human capital—is also evident in the planned public and private programs in the field of education.

The issue of developing people’s professional skills and bringing them in line with business requirements is a priority in the government’s “Program for Development of Education in the Republic of Armenia until 2030”.

In the long-term, a generational change is likely required to eradicate decades of baggage and the Soviet legacy. A commensurate public attitude, healthy discussions, and the exchange of successful practices will also help of course.


[1] L. P. Andreyev, “Strengthening labor discipline on the collective farms/Ամրացնել աշխատանքային կարգապահությունը կոլտնտեսություններում”, Rostov-on-Don, 1933, p. 6.
[2] Ibid, p. 8.
[3] The interview with human rights activist Vardan Harutyunyan was done on February 4, 2022.
[4] “Labor Discipline/Աշխատանքային կարգապահություն”, Yerevan, 1929, p. 12.
[5] From the Russian root прогул, прогулять, which means absenteeism, skipping work on one’s own accord.[6] “Labor Discipline/Աշխատանքային կարգապահություն”, Yerevan, 1929, p. 14.
[7] Ibid, p. 18.
[8] Russian: Главное политическое управление, ГПУ.
[9] Советская деревня глазами ВЧК-ОГПУ-НКВД. 1918-1939. Документы и материалы., т. 3, стр. 206-209.
[10] ՀԱԱ, ֆ. 113, ց. 29, գ. 161, թ. 36։
[11] ՀԱԱ, ֆ. 113, ց. 29, գ. 161, թ. 40։
[12] ՀԱԱ, ֆ. 113, ց. 29, գ. 161, թ. 40:
[13] The interview with journalist Karpis Pashoyan was done on January 31, 2022.
[14] A. Tadevosyan, “Poverty and the Policy of Social Assistance in Armenia/Աղքատության հիմնախնդիրը և սոցիալական աջակցության քաղաքականությունը Հայաստանում”, Yerevan, 2018, p. 17.
[15] Ibid, p. 18.

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