Armenia: a safe country for foreigners?

S7001897 “Armenia is a very safe country, Yerevan is a safe place” I usually tell foreign friends and colleagues visiting Armenia and leave them free to explore it as much as they like, they are all grown ups, after all.

Latest crime figures released by Armenia’s Police for the first 9 months of this year will certainly make me think twice before I let my foreign guests walk free of my company from now on.

Police have registered 79 cases of criminal offences committed by local Armenians against foreigners who were in Armenia at the time this year so far. Meanwhile, foreigners are not behaving particularly well in Armenia either. 71 cases of criminal activities or serious violations of laws were committed by foreigners in Armenia.

I haven’t been able to find data from past years to compare with this year’s figures. Still, police officials have noted on several occasions, that crime levels have been rising, which, I suppose, means a deteriorating safety situation overall.

The police are blaming it on social pressures, economic crisis, unemployment. Whatever the reasons, I guess they’d better stop looking for excuses and do more to stop crime, especially against foreigners, tourists. This situation can prove utterly destructive for the fragile tourism industry that this country is hoping to cultivate…

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. Or maybe reporting of crime is getting better.

  2. I’m with Richard on this one.
    In fact, Armenian police crackdown hard on anyone who harasses foreigners/tourists. That’s one thing that the State makes sure of.
    Also, I remember a report stating that both crime and corruption have increased in numbers, but only due to an increase in actual reporting.
    By the way, I don’t think this type of reporting gives Armenia a proper image. I mean, I understand the importance in reporting on such issues, this however, is a touchy one. As you stated, “the fragile tourism industry,” this only helps facilitate its further damage. Armenia itself is barely supporting and developing this industry, it’s bad enough that we chip away at its image as well.
    Don’t get me wrong though, I see the obligation to report. This is just my opinion as an Armenian concerned about this specific issue when presenting it to the outside world, i.e. potential travelers… especially if it’s somewhat misleading information.
    On the other hand, Yerevan is considered the safest capital in the South Caucasus (I’m assuming Stepanakert was not included during this analysis).

  3. Bad things happen everywhere. 79 cases is not much and does not make Armenia an unsafe place. Plus, we don’t know how many of these 79 cases were against tourists, the types of the crimes, the outcomes, etc.

  4. I’m not agreeing with Richard on this one, especially as I was attacked and mugged about two months ago. In 11 years of living here I had always considered it safe (well, save for election time 😉 ) and would think nothing of walking alone late at night. Now I have had to reconsider that. So, it’s not better reporting at all. Crime is increasing.
    Then again, as Nazarian says, bad things happen everywhere. Crime is to be expected, and one supposes the only places where it’s not so open is in massively police-controlled states, so, I’d guess there’s going to be plenty more crime coming. It was never normal to consider Armenia “safe.” In fact, it was an artificial situation and one that too many people — including myself — became complacent about.
    Now it’s time for us all to wake up and smell the coffee. Incidentally, I didn’t report the attack as I wouldn’t expect much apart from a headache from the police I did and certainly not my wallet back. Meanwhile, this also means my case won’t be in the next statistics so let’s look at it another way.
    Rather than better reporting, a lack of confidence in the police might also mean under-reporting.

    1. Sorry to hear that, Onnik. And yes, counter to what Richard says – I don’t think reporting has become much better. I think it’s about the same always.
      As to what Andrearzoo Says – hinting,that I shouldn’t be publicizing such facts, I have to disagree. It’s better to have informed foreigners, who take precautions and thus, at least, help to reduce the number of criminal offenses against them. Moreover, I’d rather have fewer tourists, than many – going back home with lots of horror stories.
      After all – it’s not my fault that crime is increasing in this country in the recent years. I, for my part, am a law-obedient, tax-paying citizen, and I hope my children will be the same, because that’s what I teach them by my example and words.

      1. Oh yeah, and when I ran into one guy from the Diaspora a few days after the attack his response was “You too?”
        Basically, quite a few of his friends had also been attacked. Anyway, I have to say it could have been a lot worse.
        I only lost a wallet thankfully with just 5,000 AMD in as well as one of my fingernails.

  5. It’s very nice to know a bout Armenia and their people. I come from Kenya and I have been living in Denmark almost 15 years. I have Armenian friends here in Denmark . He told me that he had never seen Armenia, because he was born in Germany.
    I’m African and I visit his family and they welcome me very nice, but it is different what I have seen in this website and many websites who are giving warning tourist. I didn’t know that Armenian are so racist and they don’t like foreigners people who visit their country, it is something that make their country shame and shame.
    How many Armenian are living in abroad, if you look Germany and etc Thousands of Armenian, you Armenian you are sending bad image about your country and people.
    Armenia is a practically mono-ethnic state, with very few instances of mixed marriages, which makes those who do make inter-racial matches stand out all the more.
    “I bring up my children in the spirit of Christianity and I tell them that all people are equal, regardless of the colour of their skin and their faith,” said Anna, who lives in Yerevan with her Nigerian husband Michael and their two small sons Joseph and James.
    The two dark-skinned boys do suffer racial abuse in their kindergarten or on public transport. “I just get furious when they call my children ‘negroes’,” she said.
    “I don’t feel comfortable in Yerevan,” added Michael, who despite owning his own business, an Internet café, wants to take his family away from Armenia to a more multi-racial society.
    Despite living in Armenia for nine years, Michael has not integrated well and speaks only a few phrases of Armenian.
    Michael and Anna’s was the first marriage officially registered between an African and an Armenian, more than ten years ago and it is still a very rare case in Armenia.
    Ethnographer Hranush Kharatian, who heads the Armenian government’s department on national minorities and religious issues, notes that Armenians comprise 97.8 per cent of the population and that they have little experience of interacting with other nationalities.
    She also said that an ancient tradition of self-preservation and of fostering national identity in the face of adversity had served Armenia well but carried with it suspicion towards foreigners who wanted to marry ethnic Armenians, both in Armenia itself and in the worldwide diaspora.
    Yet this attitude, she said, is prevalent in a society, which suffers from huge migration problems.
    “I think foreigners in Armenia will definitely encounter problems,” Kharatian went on. “Our state does not have an active immigration policy, there is no discussion of attracting new workers or stimulating population growth. We don’t have gaps in our workforce, on the contrary we don’t have enough jobs.
    “A person who has an unusual appearance or whose skin is a different colour tries to lead the life of an ordinary citizen, but the extra attention he gets from society makes his life public property.”
    According to official statistics, in the 18 months between January 2005 and the end of June 2006, there were 864 marriages between Armenians and foreigners out of a total of 20,000 unions overall.
    “I think any of our women who marry blacks are our enemies,” said a middle-aged man with higher education questioned by IWPR on the street in Yerevan. “Armenian blood should not be mix with the blood of blacks. If you marry a foreigner then he should at least be white.”
    His view was typical of many ordinary Armenians asked to comment on the issue.
    Murtada came to Armenia from Sudan nine years ago as a tourist and married an Armenian named Naira. They live in Yerevan and Murtada, who trained as an economist, works as a driver.
    “I’m not concerned by the extra attention that gets paid to us, but I worry about Murtada,” his wife told IWPR. “He is a very sensitive person and he can be insulted by a sideways glance.”
    “I can’t hide the colour of my husband’s skin,” she went on, expressing hope that their son Bashir, who speaks Armenian like a native will not suffer from the same problems as his father.
    Mira, who is Korean, moved from Moscow to Armenia with her Armenian husband Ashot. She said that the two of them, both artists, had encountered few problems and had had more trouble in Georgia, where they also lived for several years.
    Ashot acknowledged that it was easier for his wife, an Asian, to fit into Armenia than for an African to do so. But he said he was worried by the country’s intolerance towards foreigners. “The more developed a country is the better it treats its foreigners. Poorly developed countries put obstacles in the way of foreigners,” he said.
    “We need time to live together so that Armenians get used to the idea that black-skinned people can adapt to our way of life, speak Armenian and live like Armenians,” said Vladimir Mikaelian, a psychologist.
    He argued that Armenian ignorance about foreigners stemmed from lack of historical experience rather than sheer prejudice. “We know the customs of Arabs, Turks and Persians,” he said. “And we get our ideas about black people from the media and ascribe to them traits which we learn about second-hand.”
    Mikaelian also mentioned a good example of racial prejudice being overcome: the popular black television performer Hrant Hovsepian, known as Blond, who has an adoptive Armenia mother.
    “If Armenia wants to develop then it ought to understand that, one way or another, foreigners will keep on coming here,” said Elza Guchinova, who is herself an ethnic Kalmyk and is doing comparative research on the mono-ethnic societies of Armenia and Japan. “[Urban centres] all over the world are ethnically diverse and it’s impossible to stop this process.”
    Nune Hakhverdian is a reporter for 168 Hours newspaper.

  6. Most Armenians Are Conceided And Think they are better that everyone else. they all come into this country ( talking about 90%) to get into the government system. Talking about Welfare and Food Stamps.

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