Armenia has had various firsts in its history -- from establishing Christianity as a state religion to setting up a winery -- but now, it has scored the lesser honor of being named in a Gallup poll as the post-Soviet country residents are most eager to leave.
Based on personal interviews with 41,072 people throughout 12 former Soviet republics between 2010 and 2012, the survey found that 40 percent of the Armenian respondents would like to move permanently to another country. (The number of respondents was not provided. Online data sets reflected numbers only for 2005 and 2006.)
Moldova, at 32 percent, followed in second place.
By comparison, Armenia's Caucasus neighbors, Georgia and Azerbaijan, were far less inclined to acknowledge their willingness to seek greener grass for good -- a mere 14 percent of the respondents in both countries. Respondents in Caucasus player Russia expressed the same level of wanderlust.
Armenia long has topped the charts for labor migration; most particularly to Russia, but also to Europe and the United States. After a brief economic rally, malaise set in for good with the 2009 international financial crisis. Despite various attempts by the government to kickstart the economy, unemployment, according to unofficial estimates, remains dizzily high, at well over 50 percent.
The Gallup survey reflects that trend. Fifty-two percent of the respondents polled throughout all 12 countries cited improving standards of living as their main reason for wanting to move abroad. At 13 percent of those interviewed, securing a better future for their children trailed far behind as a reason.
Armenia is well aware of its migration problem. It recently successfully pushed for the closure of a Russian migration program that offered applicants cash, citizenship, and accommodation to move for work to Russia, the destination of most Armenian migrants.
The easing of European Union visa rules, anticipated for 2013, though, could raise fresh concerns. The EU last month allotted 1 million euros (over $1.28 million) to Armenia for a migration program, which, among other aims, would further the "prevention of emigration," in the words of Armenian Deputy Labor and Social Affairs Minister Araik Petrosian.
Others, though, pointing at perceptions of rampant corruption within the country and scant signs of political change, believe that larger issues must first be addressed before more Armenians will agree that, east or west, home is best.