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ორშაბათი | 05 ოქტომბერი, 2015

Think Tanks in Armenia: Who Needs their Thinking?

[Editor's note: This is the third in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone, and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia.]

By Yevgenya Jenny Paturyan


Think tanks are considered to be an important part of civil society: providers and keepers of expertise on important social, economic, environmental, political and other issues. Organizations like Chatham House and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace come to mind. In addition to ‘pure’ think tanks, there is a plethora of organizations that combine research with advocacy and action, Transparency International being a prominent example.

What does the think tank landscape look like in Armenia?

First of all, the term itself remains an alien catchword that has not taken root (and, frankly, perhaps it should not). Translated into Armenian (ուղեղաին կենտրոն) it sounds utterly ridiculous. Of the 11 Armenian think tanks mentioned by name in the Global Go Think Tanks Index Report 2014, in fact, only one describes itself as a think tank (in English, but not in Armenian). Some organizations prefer to call themselves research centers: a name that is easily translatable into Armenian. Others have broader descriptions corresponding to their general mandate (“an academic bridge between  diaspora [sic] and native Armenian scholars” or a “non-governmental organization … which aims to assist and promote the establishment of a free and democratic society in Armenia”).

Taking a closer look at those 11 organizations (supposedly the top Armenian think tanks as ranked by external reviewers) is an interesting reality check. As the 21st century saying goes: if you are not online, you don’t exist. How do these 11 names fare in a Google search? The table below summarizes the results.


Table 1. Online presence of Armenian entities mentioned by name in the Global Go Think Tanks Index Report 2014


*I did not search for a separate Armenian language web page. Instead, I simply noted if the main English web page has a link to an Armenian version


As a result of my little Googling exercise, one organization (Education and Training Unit) could not be found at all and another two are only mentioned on other organizations’ web sites but have no web sites of their own. Either they were active once upon a time, resulting in their names being listed in some databases, or they are very internet-unfriendly think tanks that prefer not to maintain their own web sites. (Let me clarify that at this point it is not my intention to engage in a discussion on how accurate the Global Go Think Tanks Rankings are, although this small experiment could be a starting point for such a debate. This was simply an empirical approach at trying to gauge the internet visibility of “top” Armenian think tanks).  Of the remaining eight organizations, two have not updated their websites since 2013. We are left with only six “finalists” that seem to be up and running. For those studying Armenian civil society this is no surprise. Many organizations in this sector are short lived or exist only on paper.

Who are the main consumers of those research centers’ outputs? Note that two of the six “finalists” (including the research center I work for) have no Armenian websites. This does not mean we do not produce Armenian language reports or policy briefs (we do), but it does tell you something about the main focus. Another interesting little experiment: of these four organizations that maintain both English and Armenian websites, if you just type in the ‘main’ website (like www.acgrc.am for our first example) it will take you to the English version in three cases; only in one case (http://ichd.org/) the first page you land on is the Armenian page. English language seems to be more important. This is no big surprise if you think where the main sources of funding are, but it does raise a question of how relevant think tanks are (and want to be) to the population of their own country.

One might argue that this is not a problem. Think tanks’ main “clients” are decision-makers. In the case of Armenia it should be the Armenian government and the international development organizations. Both turn to think tanks from time to time, but the outputs are produced for internal consumption, making it hard for the think tanks to establish themselves in the public eye, and to improve the quality of their products, as there is no equivalent of peer-review. As a result, Armenian think tanks remain virtually unknown to the public, including such important segments of the public as journalists, students, scholars, and others who would clearly benefit from think tank generated, systematized and stored information.

But is there a public interest in research and analysis produced by think tanks? Here is another little experiment: Civilnet (currently one of the leading sources of online news in Armenia) has about 30 articles in Armenian discussing research conducted by Armenian organizations or individuals: a simple search for the Armenian word հետազոտություն (research) returned 156 hits, out of which approximately every 5th was about research conducted locally. So, yes, there is some interest, and there are news outlets willing to publish think tanks’ stories. Of course researchers have to make an effort to translate their outputs into media- and public-friendly language (and of course, it wouldn’t hurt if it was also translated into Armenian).

While some Armenian think tanks are well established, there are many organizations (claiming to be think tanks) that are short-lived or active only from time to time. Their activity is mostly driven by external funding. They tailor their outputs more towards English readers. As a result, their public outreach and impact remains very low.

This short overview of the Armenian think tank landscape and their visibility online, leads to a number of questions:
1. Does Armenian public need to know more about the think tanks? Should think tanks prioritize public outreach more, or should they use their scarce resources to target donors and top decision-makers?
2. Do donors have a responsibility to share think tank outputs with the public in a language accessible to the public?
3. How can we ensure the quality of  Armenian language outputs, given that the circle of potential peer-reviewers is so small?

While these questions are beyond the scope of this post and are not likely to have simple answers, they are worth deliberating. What’s your take on these issues? Share your insights by tweeting at us here.
12.10.2015 | ორშაბათი

The development of Azerbaijani think tanks and their role in public policy discourse

[Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone, and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia.]

By Zaur Shiriyev

The development of local think tanks in Azerbaijan has taken a different route to that followed by most other post-Soviet states and Eastern European countries. In the Eastern Bloc countries, research institutes modeled on Western think tanks became increasingly popular following the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, in Azerbaijan this did not happen, largely due to domestic political developments in the early 1990s.
29.09.2015 | სამშაბათი

The lay of the land: An interview with Hans Gutbrod on think tanks in the South Caucasus

[Editor's note: This is the second in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone, and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia.]

Interview by Dustin Gilbreath

Dustin Gilbreath: You recently recently pointed out that think tanks in the South Caucasus have come a long way in recent years, but that they still face challenges on some of the fundamentals – quality of research, policy relevance, funding, and operational acumen.  At the national rather than regional level, what are the relative strengths of and challenges before the think tank sector of each country?
28.09.2015 | ორშაბათი

Thinking about think tanks in the South Caucasus

[Editor's note: This is the first in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone, and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia]

By: Dustin Gilbreath

Starting from similarly troubled slates at the turn of independence, the South Caucasus countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia – have diverged over the last 25 years, and the region is an interesting case of divergence despite similarity. While in Azerbaijan the government is squeezing the last bit of free expression from the country, Georgia is having its problems but is by far the freest place in the region. Armenia still has space for engagement, but it is not as open as Georgia.
08.08.2015 | შაბათი

What do CB interviewers’ ratings of respondents’ intelligence tell us?

CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer (CB) surveys regularly collect information about how the interviewers assess each of the conducted interviews – so called paradata that provides additional insight into the conditions surrounding the interviews (e.g., whether someone besides the respondent and the interviewer was present during the face-to-face interview), as well as interviewers’ subjective assessments of, for example, level of sincerity of the respondents.
15.06.2015 | ორშაბათი

Trust in institutions in the South Caucasus – generating a combined score

Trust in institutions is a widely studied subject in the social sciences – typing 'trust in institutions' into Google Scholar yields roughly 2.5 million results. It is generally believed to have multi-directional relationships with different aspects of social life, with high levels of trust associated with positive phenomena – acceptance of innovation and a good business environment just to name two.
28.04.2014 | ორშაბათი

Trust in Institutions in the South Caucasus

Trust in institutions has often been thought of as negatively related to perceptions of corruption in political institutions. Every year, Transparency International publishes a Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) which ranks countries from highly corrupt to very clean.
28.05.2014 | ოთხშაბათი

Smoking in the South Caucasus and tobacco policy in Azerbaijan

May 31st is World No Tobacco Day as declared by the United Nations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco usage is the primary reason for chronic diseases including “cancer, lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases” among other diseases.
21.07.2014 | ორშაბათი

Friends and Enemies in the South Caucasus

On 1 April, 2014 the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University (ISET) published a blog which described a future Transcaucasian Confederation agreement signed by the three South Caucasian states. Despite the fact that the blog was an April Fool’s Day joke, it provoked significant interest and reader response.
25.08.2014 | ორშაბათი

Emigration, Language, and Remittances in Georgia

As discussed in a recent blog post, household incomes in Georgia have risen steadily since 2008. The percentage of Georgians who have family or close relatives living abroad has also significantly increased from 37% in 2009 to 53% in 2013. 14% of Georgian households currently receive money from family members, relatives, or friends living in another country as an income source. This blog examines changes in interest in emigrating from Georgia over the last five years, while controlling for certain variables.
20.10.2014 | ორშაბათი

Do Armenians Still View Integration with the EU as Part of a Positive-Sum Game?

On September 3rd 2013 Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan surprised many observers, including some in his own government, when he announced that Armenia would sign an agreement with Russia to join the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU) and spurn a long-negotiated Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union. The move has been dubbed a “U-Turn” as well as a “sudden shift in policy,” although it was predated by landmark Armenian-Russian agreements in 1997 and 2006.
03.11.2014 | ორშაბათი

The recent history of the South Caucasus as seen by the world’s media – Part 1, Armenia and Azerbaijan

History has been a qualitative discipline and has often been considered part of the humanities, well, historically, but the emergence of big data is likely to extend the use of quantitative methods in historical research in the long run. Big data projects have aimed at everything from finding out where to pick fruit in your city to mapping the prevalence of AIDS in the United States, but a recent project, Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT) has compiled a massive database of print media coverage in over 100 languages including Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian. Originally created by Kalev Leetaru and Philip Schrodt at Georgetown University, the GDELT database contains about a quarter of a billion uniquely coded units starting from 1979.
06.11.2014 | ხუთშაბათი

The recent history of the South Caucasus as seen by the world’s media - Part 2, Georgia

In Monday's blog post, we looked at a snapshot of Armenia and Azerbaijan’s representation in the global media from 1979 to present. Today, we take a look at the third South Caucasus state, Georgia. What are the events that have popped up in Georgia and made international news over the last 35 years?
04.12.2014 | ხუთშაბათი

SME Performance in Georgia and Armenia: Part 2

As discussed in the first blog post of this series, the results of the CRRC Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey show that Georgians demonstrate higher levels of interpersonal and institutional trust than Armenians. These types of trust are important indicators of social capital, which is often taken as a necessary condition for the presence of a robust, productive entrepreneurial class and small and medium enterprise (SME) sector.
19.10.2015 | ორშაბათი

Do Think Tanks in Georgia Lobby for Foreign Powers?

[Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia.]

By Till Bruckner 

If you work on policy issues in a transition or developing country, you probably know the standard line on think tanks by heart. Local think tanks build domestic research capacity, improve policy formulation processes and outcomes, and enrich and enhance democratic debates, thereby contributing to the emergence of more democratic, wealthy, and equitable societies. (Yes, you may copy and paste this into your next fundraising proposal if you wish).
26.10.2015 | ორშაბათი

Common challenges, common solutions

[Editor's note: This is the sixth in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia.]

By Dustin Gilbreath 

So far, in this series think tankers working in the South Caucasus have reflected on the issues challenging their countries’ think tank sector. In many ways, some fundamental problems lie at the heart of the specific problems, and I think they can more or less be summed up as problems with language and audience; quality of research; funding; and transparency. This post takes a look at one of these challenges – language and audience – and considers some things that might nudge the region’s think tanks forward.
09.11.2015 | ორშაბათი

Household income and consumption patterns in Georgia

After the collapse of the Georgian economy in the 1990s, the country slowly started to recover, and between 2000 and 2014, the gross national income grew from $3.4 billion to $16.7 billion (in current USD). According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the official unemployment rate in Georgia was 12.4% in 2014, but according to numerous surveys the rate is much higher.
06.02.2012 | ორშაბათი

The French Senate Bill and Armenian Perceptions on Turkey

As the New York Times reports, on January 23, 2012 the French Senate “approved a bill […] criminalizing the denial of officially recognized genocides, including the Armenian genocide begun in 1915.” The bill has fanned tensions between Turkey and France, emphasizing the complexities of politics and perceptions.
03.03.2011 | ხუთშაბათი

Armenia Civil Society Index | 2009 Findings

In 2009, Counterpart International Armenia was given the rights by CIVICUS to use their methodology to conduct a public opinion survey and measure the Civil Society Index (CSI) in the Republic of Armenia. On February 22nd, Counterpart International Armenia presented the respective report.
24.03.2011 | ხუთშაბათი

Conference Summary | "Building Turkish Awareness of Armenian Genocide"

By Ben Bronstein

On March 15th 2011, the ‘Yerkir’ Union and the Caucasus Institute held an international conference on Building Awareness of Turkish Society Regarding the Armenian Genocide. Speakers included Armenian experts as well as Cengiz Aktar and Ali Bayramoğlu, two Turkish experts who initiated the ‘I Apologize’ campaign in Turkey. The ‘I Apologize’ campaign was launched in 2008 by a group of Turkish intellectuals, allowing Turks the opportunity to personally apologize for the Armenian Genocide by signing an online petition. At present, approximately 70,000 people have signed the petition.
13.04.2011 | ოთხშაბათი

Internet Penetration in Armenia

Scholar Katy Pearce recently published an article on Epress News (http://www.epress.am/) revealing some interesting points about internet penetration in Armenia. Using information from CRRC's 2010 Caucasus Barometer, Pearce writes that internet penetration tripled from 2009 to 2010 within Armenia. According to Pearce, the most likely reason for this is increased access to mobile internet.
07.07.2011 | ხუთშაბათი

Carnegie Research Fellowship Program | Winners Announced

Six scholars from the South Caucasus have been selected to join a prestigious program administered by CRRC and the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research (NCEEER). Carnegie Research Fellowship Program (CRFP) offers local scholars in the social sciences non-degree research opportunities at universities and institutes in the United States.
28.07.2011 | ხუთშაბათი

Upswing of Transition in Georgia

This past summer, Freedom House launched the 14th edition of its Nations in Transit (NIT) report. The publication comprehensively monitors democratic developments in 29 countries from Central Europe to Eurasia, amongst them Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. CRRC is represented in the report with data from the 2010 Corruption Survey in Armenia.
29.09.2011 | ხუთშაბათი

Is the South Caucasus a homogenous region?

In a recent datablog, the Guardian published a map visualizing how the former Soviet countries are doing 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. The map compares the 15 former Soviet countries in terms of economic development, demographics and democratic transition. It also divides the countries into five regions: Russia, the Baltic countries, the EU borderlands, Central Asia and the South Caucasus.
13.10.2011 | ხუთშაბათი

Armenian attitudes towards opening the border with Turkey

During the 20th anniversary of Armenian independence from the Soviet Union on September 21, 2011, the Armenian news service Hetq reported that the organizers of celebratory events were delivering commemorative T-shirts made in Turkey – which has had closed borders with Armenia since 1993. Despite the fact that trade between Armenia and Turkey flourishes via Georgia, the border between the two countries remains closed. What does the population of Armenia actually think about opening the border with Turkey?
14.10.2011 | პარასკევი

Fancy Living Abroad? 39% of Young Armenians Say "Preferably Forever"

Last year, Ani Navasardyan asked, “Why do so many Armenians leave Armenia?” Migration is also an issue in Georgia and Azerbaijan. Data from the CB 2010 reveals that around half of the respondents in Georgia (47%) and Azerbaijan (52%) are interested in temporary migration. Still, Armenia stands out since 64% of the adult population is open to the idea of temporarily leaving the country.
26.12.2011 | ორშაბათი

Boy or Girl? Child Gender Preference in the South Caucasus

Survey data shows that there is a strong preference for male children over female children throughout the South Caucasus. As mentioned in the March 4, 2010 edition of The Economist, after 1991 there has been an increase in the ratio of boys to girls in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The sex ratio rose from 103-106 boys to 100 girls in 1991 to 115-120 boys to 100 girls by 2000. The 2010 Caucasus Barometer (CB) indicates that gender preferences in the South Caucasus remain skewed in favor of males with 54% of Armenians, 27% of Azerbaijanis and 46% of Georgians prefer to have male children if given a choice.
25.05.2012 | პარასკევი

Women in Parliament: How Do Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan Compare to Other Countries?

Expanding on the topic of a previous blog, this post compares statistics on the number of women in national parliaments in the South Caucasus and other areas of the world. The countries of the South Caucasus rank low on women’s participation in parliament compared to many other countries.
19.03.2010 | პარასკევი

Gender imbalances | The South Caucasus on the top of the list

Earlier this month The Economist published two articles (article onearticle two) on imbalances in gender. In all societies there is, at birth, a sex ratio slightly biased in favor of boys: 103-106 boys to 100 girls. The number evens out later on as male babies have a higher mortality rate than female babies. In some parts of the world, however, there currently is an abnormally high number of boys being born.
02.07.2010 | პარასკევი

Post-Soviet States’ Democratic Decline: Results from Freedom House Report

Freedom House has just released its Nations in Transit report for the year 2010. The report attempts to quantify democratic development in Central European and Eurasian states by observing 8 separate factors – for instance, Electoral Process and National Democratic Governance - which affect the level of democracy in a given country. Each category is graded on a score of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress, and 7 representing the lowest. Much of the media attention has typically focused on Russia.
22.07.2010 | ხუთშაბათი

Attitudes toward the West | Caucasus Analytical Digest

Following an article on Georgians’ attitudes toward Russia, CRRC Fellows Therese Svensson and Julia Hon have written a new piece for CAD, entitled “Attitudes toward the West in the South Caucasus”. Their article looks at citizens’ views on three areas of relations — political, economic and cultural — between the South Caucasus and the West, in particular NATO, the US and the EU. The data were derived from the South Caucasus–wide 2007 and 2008 Data Initiatives (DI), as well as from the 2009 EU survey that was conducted in Georgia.
29.10.2010 | პარასკევი

Small changes in corruption rates in the Caucasus

On October 26 Transparency International released the results of the 2010 Corruption Perception Index (CPI). The CPI is a measure of domestic, public sector corruption in 178 countries, rating them on a scale from 10 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt). Nearly three quarters of the countries in the index score below five and the South Caucasus countries are no exceptions.
05.11.2010 | პარასკევი

Overcoming Negative Stereotypes in the South Caucasus

CRRC hosted a presentation on October 27 by Onnik Krikorian, a British journalist of part-Armenian descent and the Caucasus editor for Global Voices, entitled “Overcoming Negative Stereotypes in the Caucasus: New and Social Media in cross-border communication and conflict reporting.”
14.11.2010 | კვირა

The Media in Armenia and Azerbaijan: Effective or Affective?

Many academics argue that the influence of the media is especially strong in environments where citizens depend on a limited number of news sources. In contrast, when citizens have alternative sources of information they are less subject to the potential effects of media.
10.12.2010 | პარასკევი

Policy Attitudes towards Women in Azerbaijan: Is Equality Part of the Agenda?

By Yuliya Aliyeva Gureyeva, Baku

The paper published in the 21st edition of the Caucasus Analytical Digest presents an account of how two competing policy approaches coexist in the policy attitudes towards women in Azerbaijan. 
21.01.2008 | ორშაბათი

The Global Broadband Speed Test

According to CRRC's 2007 Data Initiative 2007 (visit www.crrccenters.org), around 3% of the population have Internet access at home in Georgia; nevertheless, we were curious to know how fast these people’s Internet speed is across the Caucasus.
22.02.2008 | პარასკევი

Bertelsmann Transformation Index | Using a New Interactive Tool to Analyze the Caucasus

Many of our readers know of both our quibbles with indexes, but also our steadfastness when it comes to posting about them. The Bertelsmann Foundation released its trademark index, the Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) (PDF), which according to its producers, is "the global ranking of the quality of democracy, the market economy and political leadership in 125 developing and transformation countries."
27.02.2008 | ოთხშაბათი

Inflation in Armenia? | Lecture by IMF Representative

Readers here may not be aware that actually our Armenian CRRC also runs its own blog, to announce and describe CRRC's events. One of the most recent events was a lecture by the IMF Resident Representative in Armenia, Dr. Nienke Oomes.
31.03.2008 | ორშაბათი

Brookings Index of Regime Weakness | State Rebuilding or State Collapse in the Caucasus | The Annals of Data

Yet another index was released recently -- Brookings Index of State Weakness in the Developing World. One professor of mine in graduate school, who was a veteran hot spot worker, related that all of the conflict professionals keep their eye on this map to see where they are going next. In this year's version of the index, however, it's where they already are: Somalia, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq top the list.
11.04.2008 | პარასკევი

Armenia and Azerbaijan’s Performance | Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Meta-Index

A previous blog entry on Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Meta-Index, as you may recall, presented Georgia’s performance. For those who do not know, Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) uses data from the research of various organizations such as the IFC, the World Bank Institute, UNESCO, Freedom House and others. Millennium Challenge Corporation recently released an assessment through its annual scorecard, which has three main policy categories: Ruling Justly, Investing in People, and Economic Freedom.
22.07.2008 | სამშაბათი

Caucasus Data: Tolerance towards Others

The CRRC Data Initiative (DI) gives people an opportunity to do interesting cross-country comparisons of the South Caucasus (SC) people’s attitude toward their neighbors. This subject is quite sensitive and complex when thinking of the fact that the SC stands out for its sequence of ethnic conflicts.
30.07.2008 | ოთხშაბათი

Cuil for the Caucasus? A quick test!

As many of you may have heard, this week saw the launch of a competitor to Google. Cuil, which apparently is an old Irish word for knowledge, has been set up by several former Googlists and promises a search that's more oriented on content, and says it can do a more comprehensive job in the ever-expanding worldwide web.
17.09.2008 | ოთხშაბათი

What do Russians think about the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia? -- Data Snapshot

How do urban Russians view the conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia? From September, 5th-8th, 2008 the Analytical Center of Yuri Levada conducted a survey in ten big cities of the Russian Federation, interviewing 1000 Russian respondents. We have translated the results into English here, as they are only available in the original Russian on the Levada website.
23.10.2008 | ხუთშაბათი

McCain vs Obama: Caucasus preferences


So here's something that we are a little puzzled about. The Economist is undertaking a poll to see which American Presidential candidate is favored by the world. In a very blue worldwide map, rooting for Obama, two noticeable yellowish spots, Macedonia and Georgia. McCain, of course, is popular in Georgia for having said "Today we all are Georgians" during the recent conflict.
13.11.2008 | ხუთშაბათი

World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index | a few surprises

Indices are engaging and instructive, but some really baffle us. The World Economic Forum (WEF), the organisation that organises the annual high-profile Davos meetings, has come up with a gender index, and the Caucasus is featured. The index is intended to measure how the world is closing the gender gap in education, health, and political and economic participation. In principle, this is a great idea, since there are significant challenges and discrepancies (as our data itself shows).
06.11.2017 | ორშაბათი

Taking partly free voters seriously: autocratic response to voter preferences in Armenia and Georgia

Do voters in less than democratic contexts matter or are elections simply facades used to create a veneer of democratic accountability for domestic and international actors? Within the Autocratic Response to Voter Preferences in Armenia and Georgia project, funded by Academic Swiss Caucasus Net, CRRC-Georgia and CRRC-Armenia aimed to help answer this question, at least for Georgia and Armenia. On October 27, Caucasus Survey published the results of the project in a special issue, available here.