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  • The Promise and the Perils of Dual Citizenship:The Case of Post-Communist Armenia
  • Anna Ohanyan (bio)


The politics of dual citizenship have been and remain a contentious issue throughout the world. Since the mid-twentieth century, dual-citizenship practices have evoked responses ranging from outright resistance to gradual liberalization in many countries, with the over-all trend pointing toward the latter. Increasingly liberal dual citizenship laws are experiencing persistent growth worldwide (Howard 719; Faist, Gerdes, and Rieple 913; Martin 4; Feldblum 475).

The highly uneven support for dual citizenship is manifest in the front lines of various academic and policy debates, which center around three main issues. Some point out that the forces of globalization have already undermined the state's full control over its domestic affairs, while others simply fear that dual citizenship may facilitate the erosion of state power. Still others argue that the loss of state power is already an empirical reality, but add that dual citizenship is one among many powerful instruments that nation-states can employ in order to remain relevant within an increasingly global politics and economy.

Territoriality is central to such debates. A "disconnect" exists between increasingly transnational bases of political and economic action and the territorially confined state boundaries against which transnational engagements clash; that disconnect is a frequently expressed argument for dual citizenship. In such a view, dual citizenship is an institutional vehicle that can curtail or limit that gap.

However, the ability of dual citizenship to limit such gaps is not a given and must not be taken for granted. Dual citizenship can be used in an expansive as well as a limited manner. A passive or limited approach to dual citizenship involves tolerating it by removing any legal stipulations or prohibitions against dual nationality; a more proactive and expansive approach requires building incentives into [End Page 279] the law in order to attract more prospective dual nationals residing outside of a home country. Such a stance actively encourages dual nationality as opposed to simply tolerating it (Martin 6).

These choices are largely contingent on the make-up of political forces within a given state. The impact of a particular dual-citizenship arrangement can also vary from country to country and from one political system to another. Its effects may be diluted in some countries and more explicit in others. Factors of proportion, such as the size, wealth, longevity, and institutionalized organization of a specific diaspora community relative to the demographic and economic strength of the home country, are always relevant. The degree of democratic consolidation of the home country, its socioeconomic condition, and the administrative prowess of its political institutions can all affect the nature and effectiveness of dual-citizenship arrangements in both the diaspora and the homeland.

While this study seeks to explore some of these themes within the specific context of Armenia, it also highlights issues that are highly relevant for other post-Communist countries with large diasporas and high levels of recent and current emigration. In the first part of this essay, I highlight the drastic retrenchment of the Armenian welfare state and the increased transnational mobility of labor, capital, and production as they affect the relationship between state and society in the post-Soviet Republic of Armenia. More specifically, I emphasize the role of the Armenian Diaspora community as it offsets the diminishing state involvement in the provision of public goods and social rights in Armenia. I also examine the role of this diaspora in facilitating global transfer of human capital, technologies, skills, business contacts, and foreign direct investment into Armenia. Both these factors influence state–society relationships in Armenia and shape the context in which dual-citizenship legislation will be introduced in that country in the very near future. At the time of this writing (January 2007), the Standing Committee on Foreign Relations of the Armenian Parliament is discussing various proposals on dual-citizenship law that are the overall backdrop for this article.

The second part of the article examines some of the dominant concerns and arguments in support of dual citizenship in general, and as stated in the debate over the Armenian case in particular. This discussion is followed by a...


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