An estimated 60,000 Armenians are leaving their country each year in search of a better life, and the mass exodus has caused a startling new trend: whole villages populated almost entirely by women.
While many men are leaving the former Soviet nation to go to Russia to earn enough money to support their families, women and children are usually left behind to work in the fields, the BBC is reporting.
One mother-of-two said that many women fear their husbands will set up second families in Russia, which has happened often. As Milena Kazaryan, a resident of Dzoragyugh, tells the BBC:
"All of the women are really scared. We phone every morning and every evening, to find out what our husbands are up to. It's always really stressful wondering whether he'll come back or not. A lot of the women here worry because they think that in Russia all the girls are beautiful. And the problem is that the men work very hard so of course they also want to relax. That's why they're scared.
It's really tough because the whole family is just waiting and waiting for the men to come back. All we want is jobs in Armenia so that our families can stay together and so that fathers can see their children grow up. A family is more than just the mum. We need the dads here too."
As one human rights activist writes, the lack of men is starting to be felt throughout Armenian society, and the birthrate is already starting to be affected. "There's a new generation of girls growing up who have no chance of getting married because all the boys are leaving the country," Karine Danelyan wrote in a letter to the government, according to the BBC. "So birthrates here in Armenia are now too low to keep the population stable."
Meanwhile, Armenia's prime minister recently tried to downplay speculations about the mass exodus, and said the government has had success in promoting the nation's birthrate. "Today we have 3 million permanent residents in Armenia, and twice as many Armenians living outside the country," Tigran Sarkisian is quoted by the Arka News Agency as saying. Noting that migration was not as large as has been previously claimed by the media, he added, "This reflects the mobility of our nation, that is, our citizens can move freely, since there are favorable conditions for it."
Many of those migrants, Sarkisian said, were seasonal workers who eventually return home, according to Radio Free Europe. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Armenia had an estimated 4 million residents, at least one-quarter of which have since emigrated for employment abroad.