Author: Fuad HILALOV
The surge of euphoria caused by recent events in Armenia is gradually dying out and people are finally returning to reality, which is far from being optimistic. The change of power in the country only rips up old wounds of the distant past. The events of recent weeks, ranging from the appointment of new officials and their behaviour to civil confrontation and the frustration of popular representatives, show that Armenia and its people have tough times ahead.
It's the retinue that makes the king
Initially, Nikol Pashinian proclaimed himself the only candidate nominated by the people but then paralysed the life of the whole country through blackmail and threats forcing the parliament to elect him as a prime minister. Thus, Pashinian formed a new government in Armenia. Soon after the election however, it became clear that the majority of new ministers and officials might bring more problems and difficulties to the authorities and people than benefits.
A few reckless statements and careless decisions of new ministers have already caused heated public discussions, and they had no other way than either to apologise or renounce or rephrase their statements. Before going into details of these problems and difficulties, it is probably worth describing the new team of the "popular leader". During the protests and after the election, Pashinian has repeatedly declared himself as almost the most reliable friend of Russia and promised to change the relations with the Kremlin only for the better. However, a humble analysis of new Armenian officials reveals a completely different picture.
First Vice-Premier of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan is a thirty-eight-year-old coordinator of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) closely associated with the well-known American non-profit organisation National Endowment for Democracy (NED). According to American political scientist, economist and expert on "colour revolutions" William Engdahl, NED was founded as a project of William Casey, the former CIA director under President R. Reagan. In 2014-2017, Mirzoyan also worked as an expert on political parties and strategic planning at the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
Vice-Premier Mher Grigorian is a banker and oligarch. In 2002-2006, he worked as a consultant in the Yerevan office of the World Bank, an organisation strongly supported by various powers and states.
Yet another close associate of Pashinian is Vice-Premier Tigran Avinian. He is a graduate of the Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University considered the most anti-Russian higher education school operating in Armenia. This institution is famous for anti-Russian lectures given by American Sovietologists remunerated from Russian (!) budgetary funds and the lively discussions of Holodomor.
Defence Minister David Tonoyan has held various positions in the command of NATO operations since 1998. In 2004, by the order of the Armenian Minister of Defence, he represented the Armenian armed forces at NATO. According to Arno Khidirbegishvili, Georgian expert and the editor-in-chief of Gruzinform, Tonoyan has cooperated with the CIA and controlled the projects of American bio-laboratories in Armenia since 2005.
Minister of Education and Science Arayik Harutyunian worked for the Helsinki Association for Human Rights in 2005-2006 as program manager, and in 2010-2011 was responsible for the international department of the radical pro-Western news website 1in.am. Since 2011, he has been a board member of the non-government organisation HIMA. With a group of citizens concerned with the problems of the Armenian language, he established a civil initiative "We are against schools teaching in foreign (Russian, R+) languages." Since 2014, Harutyunian has been a member of the Transparency International, an international organisation combatting corruption. No comments...
Minister of the Diaspora Mkhitar Ayrapetian (28) is the president of the Armenian branch of non-government organisation Civic Education and Youth headquartered in New York. He has participated in a dozen international educational programs on non-formal education.
Minister of Finance Atom Janjugazian in 1996-2000 took part in various programs organised by the U.S. Department of Education.
Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian is a Master of Political Science at the University of Victoria in Manchester, UK. He is the former Permanent Representative of Armenia to the UN. In 2011-2014, as the Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia, Mnatsakanian was the main negotiator for the Association Agreement between Armenia and the EU.
Minister of Agriculture Artur Khachatrian is a graduate of the American University of Armenia and continued his studies in London. For several years, he has worked as a manager of various programs backed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Minister of Justice, Member of Parliament from the Elk bloc Artak Zeynalian directed the joint program of the Armenian Ministry of Health and MAKROinternacional (USA). In 2004, at the invitation of the International Visitors program of the U.S. State Department, Zeynalian took part in the U.S. presidential election campaign.
Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Mane Tandilian is also a graduate of the American University of Armenia. She was the Deputy Chairman of the Enlightened Armenia Party known for its pronounced Russophobic stance and advocating Armenia's accession to NATO and the EU.
Minister of Culture Lilit Makunts studied at the Fletcher School at Tufts University (USA) and worked at the U.S. Peace Corps.
Minister of Economic Development and Investments Artsvik Minasian is an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has lived in the U.S. for many years.
Another new character is the Minister of Nature Protection Eric Grigorian, who has spent most of his life outside Armenia with the support of various European and American grants. He received $273,697 through the Amnesty International for the development of the non-government organisation Civil Contract.
According to Nikol Pashinian’s first decree as the new prime minister, his relative Eduard Aghajanian was appointed the Head of the Administration of the Cabinet of Ministers. Aghajanian is one of the founders of Civil Contract, a graduate of the International University of Monaco (IUM), founder of the club B4, better known as DJ Ed Ward, and is also a member of the Council of Elders of Yerevan.
As we mentioned above, the new members of Pashinian's team have already made some unambiguous statements and actions.
For example, the following statement made by the new Minister of Culture Lilit Makunts immediately after her appointment astonished the Armenian public: "I am the Culture, for it is inside of me!" The next day however, Makunts said that her words were misinterpreted.
The new Secretary of the Security Council Armen Grigorian became famous after he accidentally displayed classified documents during a live broadcast on Facebook. In general, it should be noted that many of Pashinian’s nominees including himself have a weakness for online communication. Live broadcasts allegedly for the demonstration of transparency of public activities seem awkwardly unnatural. Perhaps, the twenty-seven-year-old minister of the Diaspora, Mkhitar Hayrapetian, beats the lot. Thus, he has introduced new rules in his department, according to which his friends can visit the minister in his office, drink whiskey, dance with him and then publish the photos on their Facebook accounts. Hayrapetian is proud that according to his last decree, "from now one, a glass of water will be available not only for the minister but also the other participants of ministerial meetings and the ministry will never be the same again." It looks like this eccentric young minister will continue shocking the Armenian people with his antics. For example, he has announced the need to form a two-chamber management system in Armenia, one of which would include the representatives of the Diaspora, since "compatriots from the Diaspora should be involved in the decision-making process." It is strange that such a “wise” decision as to involve non-citizens in the domestic political process has never occurred to Jews, of which only a minority lives in Israel, or Greeks.
The new Minister of Health Arsen Torosian also made an absurd statement after his appointment. Not only did he call Armenia a "wretched country", but he also replied to parents protesting against vaccination as follows: "Making small coffins is a very profitable business." However, the new Minister of Education and Science of Armenia, Araik Harutyunian, can be safely assumed a champion of tragicomic howlers for this particular gem: "All school principals are wives and mistresses of government officials." Since Armenia is an oriental country, the new minister ought to know the consequences of his statement. But it is doubtful that Mr. Harutyunian really understands these subtleties and the mentality of the people, whom he should serve?.. It’s the misunderstanding and lack of sympathy between the upper and lower classes (in other words, snobbery) that can be a real cause of tragedies of the Armenian people in the future.
Snobbery as a tragedy of the people
Snobbery is a claim to a higher intelligence, exquisite taste and competence in any sphere. In reality however, a snob is an inane person void of unique knowledge, intellect, taste, and, as a rule, elementary education, who is good at feigning such abilities only. One of the main traits of his character is a categorical intolerance to dissidence, because he considers himself the rightest and wisest of all.
The snobbery of Armenian political "elites" (or the powers that present themselves as "elites") is not a new phenomenon in the history of Armenian people. More than a hundred years ago, the snobbish Armenian elite in the West and the Russian Empire was used as a tool against the Ottoman Empire. They were not interested in the fate of Armenian peasants or craftsmen, who had lived together with the Muslim population of Anatolia for centuries and lived even better than other ethnic minorities. They did not care that under the auspices of the Seljuk Turks, and then the Ottomans, the Anatolian Armenians could make a good career and live carelessly. Armenian elites, stupefied by adventurous ideas, were leading their people to slaughter. The consequences are well known: riots, terrorist attacks, revolts against the state and massacres of Muslim nations by Armenians, which forced the Ottoman authorities to expel Armenians. Now the same snobbish elite is trying to make the world community recognise the act of deportation as a "genocide of the Armenian people".
History repeats itself first as a tragedy, then as a farce.
Today, after the change of power in Armenia, we are witnessing the apotheosis of snobbery in this country; the same signs of alienation, unconcealed enmity towards the own people, confidence in own exceptionality...
Perhaps the only characters of this drama required to repeat the century-old historical events are… terrorists. Hence, on May 22, terrorists and war criminals from the Sasna Tsrer group, namely Shant Harutyunian, Samvel Babayan and their spiritual leader, the ASALA member Zhirayr Sefilian, who are serving sentence for attacking a police patrol station in Yerevan in summer of 2016, which resulted in the death of several people, demanded that they be released immediately because they are political prisoners. For several weeks, demonstrations have been held in Yerevan demanding the release of the Sasna Tsrer members.
Apparently, Pashinian fell into the trap of his own populism. After assuming the power, he promised to release all political prisoners. Now, if he fails to decree to review all court verdicts concerning the above-mentioned individuals, he’ll certainly face great difficulties such as new demonstrations of protest and even terrorist attacks. Those who know the fighting methods of Sefilian and Sasna Tsrer also know that the heavy death toll of the own population means nothing to them. On the other hand, if Pashinian "obeys" and frees the people, whom the European Union does not even consider political prisoners, he will incur criticism regarding the independence of the judiciary under the new government. Last but not the least, given the experience of political struggle of these prisoners, Pashinian himself will soon or later become their victim.
Either way, the new government of Armenia will announce its program at the parliament in June. According to Pashinian, he and his team will need only a year to implement the reforms before the early parliamentary elections, if the parliament approves the program. Let's see how Armenia survives until the next year.