The Velvet Revolution

Jason White

In the end it was a statement filled with humility that Serzh Sargsyan released, notifying the Armenian public and the watching global audience of his resignation as the country’s Prime Minister only 7 days into its tenure. He said: “I was mistaken… I am leaving the post of Prime Minister” he went on to say, concluding: “I wish peace and harmony to our country…”

This was in stark difference to his words 24 hours earlier when, in a hastily gathered press conference with the opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan, a protest leader and opposition MP, a clearly indignant Sargsyan had reminded him of the result of such
provocation through demonstrations where many Armenians had been killed back in March 1st 2008 at the event of the beginning of his presidency ten years earlier. There Sargsyan spoke out only to further antagonise the Armenian population and to further alienate and compound a situation that during the next 24 hours would see even more Armenians take to the streets and garner further support from servicemen in the military in direct contradiction to their superior officers.

YEREVAN, APRIL 22, 2018: Police officers detain a participant in a protest against the election of former Armenian President Sargsyan as Prime Minister

The fact that this turnaround had been achieved so rapidly and without any real violence was testament to the opposition leaders imploring the Armenian people that it was to be a peaceful demonstration, whereby it was duly named the Velvet Revolution. Even more amazing when one considers the provocative acts shown by the dictatorial strategy of the police who forcibly detaining protestors and initiating weapons, to further deter the hordes gathered in Armenia’s capital Yerevan. It appeared that Armenia’s protest could end in a bloody crackdown but thankfully events moved quickly and common sense prevailed.

No doubt, the swelling of the defiance reaching over 200,000 out of a population of 1 million led Sargsyan to quickly realise that the game was over, and so the end came quickly. This was in stark contrast to the previous two protests against Sargsyan’s government, where the Electric Yerevan protests and the protest against the constitutional change from Presidential to Parliament vote to assume who would be Prime Minister enraged so many of Armenians population but ultimately failed.

Armenia is indeed a multiple of paradoxes, a deeply historic Christian country introducing the Christion religion to the world in the 4th century, it has a global diaspora of over 11 million people dispersed far and wide across the globe; mainly due to the genocide that the Ottoman empire inflicted on its population that perpetrated over 1.5 million inexplicable murders to a nation that still to many people around the globe are unaware of. This is a country of intellect and innovation, maverick business leaders and brilliant minds. Sergei Lavrov is an Armenian descendant, the number of successful business owners around the world is beyond comprehension. The country has been enslaved almost endlessly by regimes so mired in corruption and collusion, of oligarchical control since its independence back in 1991 notwithstanding the countless wars and conflicts, its tenure within the USSR and the ongoing conflict it has had over the Nagorno-Karabakh region that still perpetuates with Azerbaijan, again another global event that few people outside the former CIS know little about or understand.

The coming days will determine what happens next in Armenia’ s future. There are two concerns that dominate the agenda. Firstly the internal concerns of the average Armenian individual so repressed and beleaguered these past years, and their desire for a true and just country fair and equal for all its people, and its desire to rid itself of elitist oligarchical controls that has made for such sufferance. Therefore it will be interesting to see how this will be engaged and how it will be administered especially since many of the oligarchs hold government positions where collusion between business cartels and governance has been allowed to fester these past years. The challenge of how a fair, strong, and ethical regime can be formed will remain the question. The other are global concerns now on how Armenia’s political alliance can switch to a more pro-American administration and what effect this may have on a country that is a key element of the Euro-Asian market where trade ties with Russia and Kazakhstan are just beginning to gain traction. There have already been worrying onlookers to this situation given the ongoing political and economic pressure the current American administration has been placing on the Russian government. Russia still houses its military in Armenia and Armenia also cooperates with NATO. The country’s programme of cooperation with NATO is set out in an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), which is agreed every two years.

No matter how concerning these past days have been to the Russian Government’s close and strategic relationship to Armenia, Sergey Pestov spoke with typical balance when stating it was a matter of internal decision making and had nothing to do with Russia. However this was not another Maidan or a desire from the EU and America to affect change and further pressure in Russia, this was simply an end to an elitist and corrupt administration where the people had become sick and tired of a leader and government not to care for its country and people.

Armenia is a deeply passionate country with high values of family ties and loyalty to its people. It won a war against Azerbaijan from an enemy with much superior weaponry and capability financed from oil and gas revenues that Armenian simply does not have, but has a passion and courage to beat any country globally. Armenia could certainly teach many a lesson to western countries all too consumed by broken values and broken cultures.

This was not a revolution initiated by the West or America this was an act of defiance against elitism, of a desire for a better country for one’s very existence and family. We hope that a new Armenia will prevail for all and not just for the few, where all can embrace its huge potential. We also hope that this is not just another false dawn and that the correct foundation and platforms are put in place to achieve this now and for the forthcoming generations of Armenians, and not suffer the economic problems and false dreams and promise that both the Georgians and Ukrainians are now experiencing in their own political environments. That balance and foresight means that common sense should prevail in Armenia’s strategic and economic relations with both Russia and America.

The world is watching. They say be careful what you wish when an old government is overthrown. The global audience also wishes for a new world order …we hope Armenia can help bring that and not further destabilise it.