Ruling by Fear: Descent into Dictatorship and Rise of Resistance

David Grigorian, Atlantic Council, 7 August 2016

The events in Armenia from July 17 to July 31 in 2016 and what followed in the early weeks of August highlighted the deep economic, social, and political problems that are facing Armenia today. More alarmingly, they have confirmed without question the country’s slide toward dictatorship and authoritarianism.

Protester in Yerevan holding a banner suggesting a historical parallel between the treatment of 
peaceful civilians by the Ottoman empire in 1915 and Armenia's special police in 2016.

It all began with a takeover of a large police compound in downtown Yerevan—Armenia’s capital—by thirty-one civil activists and veterans of the Nagorno Karabakh war who called themselves the “Daredevils of Sassoun”—taking the name from a medieval Armenian heroic epic poem.

David Grigorian, Atlantic Council, 7 August 2016

The events in Armenia from July 17 to July 31 in 2016 and what followed in the early weeks of August highlighted the deep economic, social, and political problems that are facing Armenia today. More alarmingly, they have confirmed without question the country’s slide toward dictatorship and authoritarianism.

Protester in Yerevan holding a banner suggesting a historical parallel between the treatment of 
peaceful civilians by the Ottoman empire in 1915 and Armenia's special police in 2016.

It all began with a takeover of a large police compound in downtown Yerevan—Armenia’s capital—by thirty-one civil activists and veterans of the Nagorno Karabakh war who called themselves the “Daredevils of Sassoun”—taking the name from a medieval Armenian heroic epic poem.

Their demands were straightforward: the release of all political prisoners, including their leader Jirair Sefilian, who was arrested on June 20 of 2016, and the resignation of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. The timing of the capture is rumored to be linked with the outcome of the four-day conflict with Azerbaijan in April—which ended with minor territorial losses for Armenia—and the expectation of a Russian-imposed peace plan in Karabakh, which is seen as a defeat in the eyes of many Armenians. 

Serzh Sargsyan, a former chief of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS)—the successor of Armenia’s KGB—came to power as a result of two rigged elections in 2008 and 2013. Sargsyan singlehandedly controls the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government and oversaw the modification of the Armenian constitution in December of 2015 that allows him to rule the country as prime minister beyond 2017 without a term limit.  

The use of force by the Daredevils was not a mechanism for overthrowing Sargsyan per se, but instead was intended to spark a nation-wide peaceful protest as a way of replacing his regime, which has brought the economy to its knees and resulted in massive emigration. 

They have been at least partially successful in creating this movement, which is now led by a group of prominent intellectuals and opposition politicians. In a recentBBC poll, virtually everyone surveyed approved the actions of the Daredevils, calling them “heroes.”

The takeover brought interesting facts about Armenia’s law enforcement to the limelight. The search of the compound during the capture revealed a presence of a wide police informant network, pornographic materials, and evidence of a prostitution ring being housed on the compound. 

The Sargsyan regime’s meager and ever-declining social welfare and developmental expenditures are no match when compared to its budget for police and security. For a small country with an estimated population of 1.8 million, the government maintains a 20,000-strong well-armed and equipped special police force and a decentralized private army of 7,000, consisting of oligarch bodyguards, gangs, and other criminal elements. These plain-clothed individuals—often found to be armed with metal bars and clubs—lead the charge against civil protesters.

Since the takeover of the police compound, the regime has carried out mass arrests and detained individuals that they suspect as having ties with opposition elements—including peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional right to assemble. During the late two weeks in July, hundreds of people—including foreigners—were arrested and placed into large walled-in concentration areas for almost a day, deprived of any food or medical services. These instances are well-documented by independent media outlets.

Among the leaders of the opposition civil movement held by the police and the NSS for a two-month pre-trial detention are a former presidential candidate, a former member of parliament, a current member of the Yerevan city council, a board member of a think tank, and a blind Diaspora activist. Those detainees fortunate to be released from captivity complain of grave mistreatments and abuse. These allegations have been confirmed in a report published by Human Rights Watch that states: “Police beat many detainees, in some cases severely, and in some cases did not allow them to get prompt medical care for their injuries.”

Targeting journalists on July 29 by pro-government brigades was also part of the tactics to show that the regime knows no limits to what can be done to intimidate the population. The government has also pursued the family members of the gunmen who carried out the capture of the police station, used indiscriminate detention, scare tactics, and outright brutality. Since the surrender of the gunmen, following their laying down arms, the visits by defense lawyers and family members have been banned in many cases. 

There is no doubt that police brutality following the capture of the police station and the ongoing manhunt for peaceful protesters in Yerevan will expand anti-government action until a different societal equilibrium is found. A recent reportpublished by Freedom House expressed a similar sentiment: “The surprising public reaction to the takeover…has unhinged expectations about what is permissible in the realm of antigovernment mobilization.” The regime has lost the monopoly on violence.

Lack of Western action 

While ostensibly critical of the actions of the gunmen, Western governments did little to ease the fate of the civil protesters—who were being crushed by the regime’s despotic police machine. The asymmetry between rhetoric and action was similar to that observed following the constitutional referendum in December of 2015 and during nation-wide elections prior to that—with no tangible action taken against the regime or individual election falsifiers. 

Despite consistent evidence of election fraud and brutal crackdowns of opposition protests that typically follow, Western powers continue to work with Sargsyan. In effect, they are allowing his government to get away with human rights violations, especially by depriving Armenian citizens their most fundamental right to freely elect a government. 

While Western governments have provided relatively little institutional support to Armenia’s civil society and opposition groups over the years, they have provided significant support to Armenia’s repressive police force through training and equipment. Regarding this, Transparency International has called on the international community to halt all foreign funding for the Armenian police.

The rapidly changing reality on the ground

The Sargsyan regime has made matters so much worse for the Armenian people, that a society which, by and large, condemned the shootings in the parliament on October 27 of 1999, now almost unilaterally supports the armed Daredevils.  

The geopolitical implications of the events taking place in Armenia today are difficult to understate. Turkey’s recent accusation of the Unites States’ complicity to topple Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government will likely push Turkey farther away from NATO and closer to Russia. Ironically, Armenia might be forced to enter an alliance with its historic enemy and an unreliable partner. Such a combination already played out very poorly for the country in 1920. Once Armenia is absorbed into the coalition, Georgia and its sovereignty will be at stake next. 

The West’s role in assisting Armenia’s civil society movement and uphold the country’s sovereignty might be the only chance left to weaken an impending Russian-Turkish alliance while have an ally in the region that will support Georgia and secure Iran’s access to Europe through friendly territory. 

The Russian plan to force Armenia to relinquish territories in Karabakh and to deploy its so-called peacekeepers in the region—expected to occur soon—will have grave and irreversible consequences for Western interests in the region and, therefore, should be prevented. This can be done by providing both moral and tangible support to those on the barricades in Armenia today. 

In a statement published on August 4, a number of Armenian diaspora groups and intellectuals stated: “…two decades is long enough to prove that corruption only breeds corruption, leading to a failed state and cynical society that has nothing left to lose. As John F. Kennedy wisely admonished, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

The international community should follow the lead of human rights groups and condemn the actions of Sargsyan’s regime. The West should distance itself from Armenia’s corrupt ruler as soon as possible and join progressive voices that are calling for his resignation.

Continuing to work with Sargsyan is not only morally wrong but risks alienating the citizens of Armenia. This would inevitably push them closer to Russia, a move that the West cannot afford in this volatile region and unstable times. 

David Grigorian is a co-founder of Policy Forum Armenia, a Washington-based virtual think tank.

  1. Pragmatism vs. Populism

    I am following the Policy Forum Armenia via Facebook and am often noticing false or deliberately exaggerated statements. This article is not an exception. Just as when Civilnet was created, I was hoping PFA to constitute a step toward a more mature and useful civil society that could be a means of pressure on our politics. Instead, like Civilnet, the PFA has a different agenda (foreign dictated?) which can be summarized as follows: incriminate the government for every single problem, request the government to step down and push the opinions of the West via dark public relations propaganda against Russia.

    Before going further I would like to say that I'm not Republican nor specially Russophile. I'm a pragmatic Fransahay living in Armenia for the past three years.  I was at Erepuni between 21 and 23 July and I only saw violence from the protesters. I don't refute that police may have gone too far on the 29th but I want to mention that this action lead to the death of three police officers, not the other way around. While everyone hoped for a peaceful settlement, the support for Dardevil action was far from unanimous. In my circle of relatives and friends the vast majority were very critical. The biggest protest hardly reached 10,000 demonstrators, despite the general discontent.

    One of the main arguments to justify the Daredevils action is: "Twenty-five years of corruption is enough". This eludes the fact that corruption boomed during the USSR and reached an all-time high in the '90s. This also eludes the fact that Sefilyan is considered to be one of the heads of the "Dro Group" which committed political assassinations in 1995 and was allegedly plotting a coup d'etat. Yes, Sefilyan is a hero but he is also a mad man. He was accused of the illegal retention of weapons and for allegedly planning to take over a public building. True or not, after the action of his comrades to force his liberation (taking a building they hadn't planned to with weapons they didn't have) we have reached an incredible level of absurdity, and Sefilyan cannot be considered a political prisoner anymore.

    Talking about absurdity, the eternal motto of all the opposition forces in Armenia since independence has been "hoghere vajarvum en" (they are selling Artsakh) is again presented here as a justification for the protests. Without entering into the geopolitical details, this hysteria is proof of either the low level of understanding of the author but more probably it's the usual manipulation using the only argument that could lead to mass protest. 

    It's ironic to talk about rigged elections while asking the help of the West which confirmed that the presidential elections, although presenting irregularities, were legitimizing the president. The same applies for the constitutional changes which are real progress toward the independence of the judiciary and more democracy–the reasons why they were supported by the EU.

    Two of the gunmen were released. Yes it's amazing. Finally, the protests are unfortunately not only "Armeno-Armenian" issue. It's not a coincidence that the most virulent protesters and activists, including the author, are either openly pro-West or are at least openly anti-Russian. This, of course, raises the question about the financing and the agenda of the dozens of "news" website and NGOs which have suddenly appeared in recent years. Georgian and Ukrainian cases are the perfect examples of what shouldn't happen here: we cannot afford that "luxury". This country needs unity (Charents)- and PRAGMATISM. Pragmatism, unlike populism, does not imply magical change by simply removing the government. It requires day-to-day work, sweat and tears. And a pragmatic Diaspora which will finally take on its responsibilities not by barking but by being more concerned, informed and involved in local political and civic life.

    1. Let’s Get Pragmatic

      Let’s get pragmatic. Armenia has lost 1,000,000 people but we got at least one pragmatic Fransahay Bedo who was at Khorenatsi and did not enjoy the “firework” very much. He does not enjoy the eternal motto of opposition either and he wants to share with us his pragmatic point of view, built on his observations and analyses which are (i) the West has confirmed Serje Sargsyan's  presidential election (but don’t you dare, under any circumstances, listen to Civilnet and PFA because they might be foreign-dictated); (ii) 10,000 demonstrators are not big enough (it’s 1,000 times fewer compared to those who left the country and did not have enough strength to stand up for themselves and these humiliating conditions); (iii)  independence is a luxury for Armenia; (iv) and most important, those virulent protesters, activists and the author himself, have a very suspicious source of financing. What a genial analysis. It seems, even, as if this was a prayer for someone in this forum you gave Amen.

      Bedo does not forget to question the financial resources of the regime's opponent. Of course he does not. Because the regime’s primitive governance system (called the system of “manger” by people of Armenia) understands only one type of human behavior: when you behave, you will be allowed to come close to the "manger". The regime and its primitive (read "pragmatic" if you consider yourself to be pragmatic under the circumstances) thinkers understand only the language of consumerism. And Bedo makes his pragmatic suggestions to Diaspora to make a bold move and take responsibility: “don’t bark, Diaspora”. Did you hear, Diaspora? Don’t bark, just try to be as pragmatic as Bedo. His pragmatic experience shows that no barking will assure you a closer move to the "manger". Bedo, who do you think the Diaspora, that you are trying to offend, is? If you are talking to me or my friends, then I am telling you that I can be the guardian dog of my people. Yes, I will bark. I will grab at the throat of the regime that is oppressing my people. Regime, beware, I am a pragmatic watchdog.

      Չեմ հարգում շանն էլ, որին չար տերը
      Անտեղի տեղը որքան ծեծում է,
      Այնքան նա լիզում տիրոջ ոտերը՝
      Իրեն տրորո՜ղ-ջարդո՜ղ ոտերը,
      Եվ կծելու տեղ լոկ կաղկանձում է…

      Պարույր Սևակ

      1. Thank You

        Beautiful lines from Baruyr Sevag. Those of us who value the friendship of a dog, understand very well the desperation that must have forced Bedo to use words like barking in an attempt to offend fellow Armenians. Desperation in defending the indefensible. Desperation that Diaspora is waking-up; the truth is out, free money will be gone along with privileges for many. In the meantime Armenia is burning. What a pity.

    2. Dear Bedo

      We all mourn the death of those three Armenian policeman, the circumstances of which are yet to be clarified . We also mourn the death of 100+ Armenian soldiers  in the beginning of April during the Azeri attack. To remind you, most of these deaths occurred because of the unbelievable level of corruption in the Armenian army and its commander in chief Serge Sarkisyan who sent those kids to the front without proper equipment, food, supplies and logistics. They were the sacrificial lamb for the lavish lifestyle of the criminal elite of Armenia. The Daredevils of Sassoun  are fighting for restoring justice and morality in  Armenia. And more and more Armenians in the Diaspora are responding to their call.

  2. The basic fact

    Cher Bedo,

    Let us say as you say:

    Jirair is mad (In fact he is not.  I am a neurologist and he is my friend, and I tell you he is the most sane and most patriotic Armenian you would ever meet).

    Let us say as they say:

    The Daredevils of Sasoun are Dzour (i.e. mad, which they are, and if you could know these people, as I do, and why and how they are mad you would not be so… I can't even find the right word, because I doubt you are really honest).

    The basic fact is that our precious country is (don't talk to me about the past) governed as an oligarchic kleptocracy (where elections and the people's resources are looted as a matter of routine course), which is utterly ruinous.

    The basic fact is that there is not a person in Armenia who thinks otherwise, except a tight circle of friends around the oligarchy, and a subgroup of diasporan tourists who are not affected by the rampant institutionalized corruption that characterizes our precious homeland.

    The basic fact is that you do not deny the above (see your third paragraph).  You just talk all around it.  And your empty talk is replete with these great conspiracy theories that the Dzrer and Jirair and the PFA, etc. are part of some Western-funded bla bla bla.  You don't know these people.  You don't know their finances.  You know nothing of the sort, but you bla bla bla because it suits your agenda of aman vay vay.

    The basic fact is that the corruption you flippantly pass over affects REAL lives of REAL people.  You and people like you should wake up to the realization that corruption is not merely some term.  It is real harm.  As just one example:  among the 1.2 to 1.8 million people remaining in Armenia, there practically no longer remains a proper neurosurgeon.  They're gone, along with the 50,000/year people who have left the country EVERY single year of the Sargsyan reign.

    The basic fact is that if Sargysan governed properly, there would be no Dzrer.

    If you want to swallow the corruption, shove it under the rug, or in any other way deny it, not speak about it, or speak against it, then you are going to have to deal with a proliferation of Dzrer.  Our nation is too ancient, too deeply rooted, to accept giving it all up.  We have too much history and experience.  They tried to annihilate us through genocide.  They will not succeed through theft.

    1. Berge, I’m surprised


      I'm surprised you're not saying that Armenia's population is around 700,000.  I know one thing, had we believed the population decline figures given by opposition sources in the last 10-15 years, Armenia's population should be at about zero by now.

      In other news from the dictatorship, the 2016 UN Global Innovation Index was just published today. In about 200 countries, Armenia takes the 60th place, past the "very democratic" , unblockaded, full of Turkish and Soros investments Georgia in 64th place, ahead of that beacon of democracy, the birthplace of the blessed "Maydan" , Ukraine (70th place) , and Azerbaijan in 85th place.

      But regardless, we need to do a revolution, kill policemen on duty, occupy government buildings, because that's the way to get rid of corruption and make Armenia a better country.

      1. One Way or Another

        Manuel Keshishian, who lives in Aleppo while his family lives in Armenia for obvious reasons, recently visited Armenia and wrote (in Armenian) the below on Facebook.  Here is the translation of a segment of his report.

        “I arrived to Yerevan on the evening of July 20-21. In the taxi, with a broken heart, I heard that a short while earlier, on “Khorenatsi Street” there had been a clash between the police and the demonstrators as a result of which 45 persons were injured. The taxi driver cursed the policemen. Why would he curse the policemen? Because he does not  support the government.

        The saga of “Sasna Dzrer” lasted fifteen days. During those fifteen days I attempted to understand as to why Artsakh freedom fighters had resorted to such extremism which is bound to have tragic consequences. Because it is time to draw a conclusion, I came to this conclusion:


        It has been 10 days since I have arrived from Aleppo. As a newcomer, do I have the right to make such a statement in capital letters? Let me immediately note that mine is simply recording… to record the conclusion that the people of Armenia have arrived…..”

        I noted earlier in a comment that we have come to a divide. Either one sides with the Sasna Dzrer or does not; or sides with the authorities or does not. None of the two choices one makes is in absolute. We have passed the point attempting to bridge the divide by ourselves through at attempt to make sense of the other. It’s the turn of events that will fill in the divide one way or another.

        1. Dzrer

          Dear Vahe,

          The BBC reporter who surveyed people in Armenia could not find a single person who was opposed to the Dzrer, let alone to their message.

          The Dzrer are called terrorists by the regime, yet there were massive demonstrations in their favor, and not a single demonstration of any sort against their action, let alone their message.

          Something's Dzoor here, and every honest person knows what it is.

          1. You’re Quoting the BBC?

            You're quoting the BBC? Seriously? The BBC is one of the most anti-Armenian news outlets. One of the very few media outlets in the world that still puts our Genocide in quotation marks or refers to it as alleged genocide. Aliyev practically buys news articles about Azerbaijan there. You just discredited everything you said.

            If some people supported this criminal act at the time, they did it because of euphoria. The protesters on that best day of euphoria numbered less than 0.8% of the population of  Yerevan. And now, if you call a demonstration in support of the criminal group, in Yerevan: Less than two hundred will show up. In the next week four additional members of the group will be released from jail, the ones who didn't even know they were part of a terrorist attack. Soon enough they will start to "sing", and the ugly truth will come out. Will these 4-6 members immediately become traitors? Probably, and that's exactly what's dzoor in the minds of the "revolutionaries". Your support is only in your wishful thinking.

          2. I’m Quoting BBC

            Yes, I'm quoting the BBC. I did not want to get into an East-West discussion because it is irrelevant to me. My only problem is that I am fed up with your thieving friends. I don't care which way an elected government of Armenia leans. We've been hurt by East and West alike. But if you insist that we engage in an East-West aspects of the situation, I will point out few things:

            1) There is a huge emigration from hyper-corrupt Russia… to the West;
            2) None of the countless refugees from all the current wars go East. They all go West;
            3) It is Russia, more than any other country, that has armed Azerbaijan to the teeth;
            4) It is Russia which recently became best friends with Turkey.

            Don't quote me the West when they tell you that an election was fair, and then unquote the West when the BBC reporter roams Yerevan streets and cannot find a single supporter of the regime.

            As for the numbers of demonstrators, your statistics are inaccurate: while you claimed you watched the live stream of the events you would have seen that the numbers peaked at close to 20,000. At the same time, you deny how much the population of the country has shrunk.

            Your ridiculing of our heroes is what troubles me most. If you cannot see how committed patriots they are (even if you disagree with their approach or message), then you're heartless, or worse.

            Yes, your Serge won this pyrrhic battle. Go revel in that.

            You keep challenging me in a triumphalist tone. You fail to see that if I 'win', you win. If I 'lose', you lose. 

          3. It’s a Matter of Choice.

            I sympathize with the cause you espouse. I became more convinced that when nepotism reigns in the governance of the country, it affects all aspects of society, including the army. The state of Armenia’s young conscripts at the border has been reprehensible as the four-day war of April made it amply evident to my utter disappointment in the government headed by Serzh Sargsyan. The well-equipped, the well-trained, the well-dressed, the well-fed police and their plainclothes equally well-fed enforcers in Yerevan made it also evident where the interests of the ruling elite (who are the heads of the government of Armenia) lie, to protect the sources of its income.

            And when it comes to East and West, my choice there also is the West with all its problems. It is in the West that I opted to settle and raise my family and who in turn now raise their own families in the West.

            My ties with Armenia are sentimental. That might be why that I cannot attest to fair governance in Armenia even when its only handful of selflessly dedicated persons who resort to such acts of desperation and it’s only 10,000 Armenians who demonstrate in Yerevan for a a dignified living in the Armenia that my parents, teachers and the community at large instilled in me.

            It’s a matter of choice.

          4. BBC Doesn’t Represent

            Thankfully, the BBC doesn't represent the West, because the West is far from being homogeneous. I found it funny that you quote the most anti-Armenian and pro-Azeri news source to justify your cause. This goes hand in hand with Azeri news source quoting Jirayr Sefilian's foolish claims after the April War.

            Berge, I'm not here to convince you: we're past that. I am here as an observer, to confront, with facts, misinformation based on hysteria and euphoria. I am here to confront the anger and hatred you and your group espouse against anything good that comes out of Armenia. I'm here to negate the naivete that by changing people at the top by any means possible, including violent revolution, by offering chaos instead of stability, you will magically improve Armenia. 

            You might as well say that there were 150,000 at the rallies, because your only guide is euphoria and wishful thinking. Thankfully, scientific methods like Jacob's Method have also reached Armenia, and easily calculating the 3D aerial images. Crowds at their peak never reached 9,000, give or take a thousand. Less than 1% of the population of the capital.

            Lone wolf Arayik Khandoyan has decided to run in the election to become mayor of his village. Yes, that same person who was proclaimed (as did his comrades) that elections will never be fair in Armenia, and the only way is revolution. I guess jail does put some sense into the minds of  some people?

            No Berge, as a neutral observer I say that if you win, chaos wins. If chaos wins we definitely lose Armenia just like in 1920. Serje might not be an angel, but what he offers is much better than utter chaos, political experimentation and a leader with barely a grade nine education.

          5. Are we getting somewhere?

            BBC does not represent the West and the West is heterogeneous.  Therefore, nothing reported from the West would have any value, and whatever other Western news agency I quote would fall in your grab-bag of heterogeneous and thus subject to your discrediting because you don't like the reality that practically everyone in Armenia knows that the country, including elections, is run by crooks. 

            This reminds me of the ARF position on the whole matter.  Faced with the massive national support to the Tsrer they have been trying to defend their alliance with the regime.  Their reasoning, published in their media openly, is that the regime is corrupt, elections are rigged, but that their way to change this is to join the regime and fix the country one ministry at a time?!. 

            If you dared, even you would talk this way.  The number of times you have said you don't like Serj and that he's no angel make it clear that you latently know the truth.  You are just trying to defend the regime, at best because you worry about the alternative.

            I will skip over the remainder of your points and see if we're getting somewhere.

            This is what I see:

            An entrenched oligarchic system controlling economy and elections.  This needs to be wiped clean wholesale and clean elections with dedicated patriots brought to power who would govern the country for the people and not their own pockets.  By the way your ugly accusation that any of the Tsrer wants power is nauseating, but again you don't know these heroes.

            I believe the following is, at best, what you see:

            An oligarchic system controlling economy and elections (unlike the ARF you are unable to voice this, because you see the absurdities that follow), but that Serj is as good as it gets for Armenia and Armenia gets what Armenia deserves (you have actually said this).  I guess this means that the Armenian nation is too developmentally backward and that anyone who replaces Serj would be equally crooked… at least Serj has managed the country well enough, your thinking goes.

            Here is therefore where we diverge. 

            I believe this nation, like any nation, HAS the talent (we are not genetically defective, nor are we morally backward, that is a fallacious myth) and the love of country to bring forth excellent leaders.  To me, the key element in the leader is dedication to the benefit of that which he or she is leading, i.e. a true patriot.  Mine is a message of hope, courage, and trust in our people.  Yours is a paternalistic fear-filled view.  I would tolerate such a view were it not so blatantly clear how history is repeating itself in Armenia, how the History book of Acemoglu on How Nations Fail (I wish you would read it) is happening before our very eyes, how we are losing our country bit by 50,000/year bit with this sort of politics of "vay zouloum vay". 

            Someone quoted Sevak in a recent message.  Let me quote him from Anlreli Zankagadoun.  Maybe Sevak can make the point much than I can:

            Արդեն ո՞րերորդ անգամ
            Նորից տեր դարձավ նոր Դավիթ մանկան,
                     Որ – ինչո՞ւ սակայն –
                     Կոչվեց… Անդրանիկ:
            Ահեղ ջարդերի ճարակող բոցում
            Ամեն սասունցի դարձավ Սասնա ծուռ,
            Սասնա տուն դարձավ ամեն ընտանիք,
            Սասնա դյուցազուն՝ թե՛ մեծ, թե պուճուր,
                     Որ – բավակա՜ն է –
            Քառսունծամ կույսեր, հարսներ արմաղան
            Օսմանցու համար էլ երկանք չաղա՛ն,
                     Որ – բավակա՜ն է…

            Խանդութ խաթունի գովքի փոխարեն,
            Սասնա զմբզմբան ջրերի նման,
            Հնչեց սարերում, ճամփեքում ոլոր
                     Աջ ու ձախ հորդած
                     Երգը քաջորդաց
            «Վայ զուլում-վայ»-ը մի պահ խեղդելով…

          6. Oligarchy is…

            Oligarchy is inseparable part of the growing pains of democracy in the former Soviet Union. It is also an absolute reflection of the mentality, behavior, discipline, values and the geopolitical situation of the particular nation. That's why the evolution towards an oligarchy-free society happens more easily in the Baltic states than in Armenia.

            You call it fear, I call it caution. In 1920 the revolutionary Bolsheviks also promised the world to the people of independent Armenia, and look what happened. Before that the revolutionary Young Turks had promised a better life for the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. We know what happened.

            Change through revolution, especially in the 21st century is equal to destruction, resulting in worse conditions than before. Recent events in the Middle East, North Africa and Ukraine are the best testament to that. Berge, you and your group will never succeed in making revolution a reality. Not now, not in a hundred years. Not because Serje is too strong a political chess player, not because the Armenian police has gotten much better at dispersing crowds without a single fatal casualty. But mainly because the Armenian nation is too smart to fall for your empty revolutionary promises. The Armenian nation knows its history too well. It also knows its neighbors to the east and the west. They might complain against the government or admit that they hate oligarchy, but 99% will never participate in chaos and destruction in the name of making Armenia a better place. That's why you will always be stuck with the same 8,000 to 9,000 people as your support base.

            The trials of the armed group will start soon. Too many embarrassing truths will come out, and I assure you, you will be ashamed that you have praised this criminal group. The transformation of Sassountzi David to Katch Nazar is only one step away. I'm afraid they've already taken that step by their foolish actions.

            Do you want change? Then offer something less populist than "let's get rid of Sargsyan first, and then let's think about what we'll do next". Offer a comprehensive, feasible,all-encompassing plan which is much better than what Sargsyan offers. Participate in the 2017 elections. You're not sure that they will be fair? Get those 5,000 observers in every polling station throughout Armenia. And all the power to you if you win. But please get rid off the inferiority complex of "If I don't win the election, that means it's rigged". Poetry and emotions, however noble, have no place in modern politics. Chess, cold calculation, manipulation and pragmatism are the pillars of success for politics, especially for a country like Armenia which is in one of the most difficult geopolitical situations in the world. Fortunately ( unfortunately for you) in Sargsyan, we have a leader who has mastered the dirty game, the dirty game that you need to keep pace with the likes of Putin, Erdogan and Aliyev. 

          7. We ARE Getting Somewhere

            Dear Artur,
            Note the 'dear' is back. Since I do not know you, and given your position on the issues, I have not been sure whether you are a regime propagandist or an honest Armenian. I will default to the positive and consider you the latter, hence apologizing for the times I addressed you as the former. So let's delve into your last note, my friend (honestly).

            You start out by agreeing that Armenia is governed as an oligarchy. Next you indicate that there is a much better mode of governance. Your position is that we have to live with the oligarchic system right now. Let's dwell on this for a moment. When Diasporans speak of oligarchy and corruption, they do so in abstract terms.  The fact is this is REAL suffering of REAL fellow Armenians. There is no room here to go through the innumerable small businesses and lives affected by this, but a thoughtful person who would make the mental effort can easily see. Whole chapters of [Daron] Acemoglu''s book lay this out in great detail. Anyone seriously interested in this discussion MUST read that book. As an aside, it is an easy read.  The effect of an extractive (oligarchic) regime of governance is also immense on the institutions that determine whether we advance in leaps and bounds (as we need to in our geographic environment) or we regress. This is documented in exhaustive detail in 'Why Nations Fail'. I was just another Diasporan till I experienced the consequences of this in my field of expertise. I have given examples on this forum and will not dwell too long. Just to say that the University Hospital, which is supposed to be the best hospital in any country, its pride and joy, was decimated by the friends and in-laws of the president before the medical Diaspora's eyes, it turns out for the purpose of removing competition from the hospitals owned by the friends, in-laws, and party members of the president and the flip side of his coin the Kocharyan/Zarukyan party. The sum of these effects of the oligarchic system so devastate the economic underpinnings of the country that even this creative nation depopulates. The real rate of depopulation HAS BEEN 50,000/year through all the Sargsyan years, and the real population of Armenia IS, as a result, at best close to 1.8 million.  Now, you may squabble with the numbers, but I return to your own words, that we ARE governed as an oligarchy. The reality is that all the threads of this oligarchy trace right back to the president, his friends, and the Zarukyan/Kocharyan side of the syndicate. It can, of course, not be any other way. There has never been an oligarchy (which is what you say we have) in history in any country where the oligarchy is not part and parcel of the power ruling the country. Now to my key question to you, as a friend. If one knows the above, should one not speak up against it?

            Your next point I quote verbatim: "…it is also an absolute reflection of the mentality, behavior, discipline, values and the geopolitical situation of the particular nation. That's why the evolution towards an oligarchy-free society happens more easily in the Baltic states than in Armenia." My dear friend, this is an old myth. It is an understandable confusion, because it does appear so on the surface. But if you read Acemoglu you will see through the lens of history that this is ABSOLUTELY not the case. I would need to rewrite his book here, which I obviously can't. I invite you kindly to READ IT. This section is so crucial that the whole book opens with it. DO ME THIS FAVOR. Once we shed this latently racist, self-degrading, notion (I am not calling you a racist, because this is such a common misconception), we become free. You become free to speak against the abuses, because you would change your mind from the notion that we have to be screwed, we have to have extractive rule, etc. It is untrue that the "Baltic states" must do better than us somehow defective Armenians. Again, this is proven without a shadow of a doubt in Acemoglu.

            Your examples of Bolsheviks, Young Turks, etc. are irrelevant… what I called fear-mongering in my previous communication with you. Do you not claim that we have an independent Armenia? Is this not our country, our supposed leaders?  Should we not demand the BEST governance, not the one associated with Banana Republic states and status?

            To your final point: Election versus Revolution.
            Firstly, change through elections in Armenia is impossible. I don't care how many observers there are. The system IS rigged. The number of 'electors' is immensely inflated and controlled by the regime. As a crucially related matter that ties the oligarchic system, the depopulation, and the elections together, I invite you to read Jirair Sefilian's article in Keghart.

            There has been much debate about the elections, and rather than re-engage into the debate, I ask a simple question: What is the regime afraid of? Why does it not open the election rolls to independent investigative journalism scrutiny, to settle matters once and for all? It doesn't because, as you say, we have an oligarchy.

            I hate to diverge, but it's so closely related and relevant to the Diasporans, that I will. Why does the All-Armenian Fund (AAF) never do a proper audit? Yes, of course the AAF projects help Armenians, but do we know whether 50% of the costs are inflated and go to the pockets of the oligarchy? Do we know whether these monies are not partly what translates to the police, which scares and beats up peaceful demonstrators? By the way, why does a country (a family really) like Armenia need per capita the biggest and strongest overt and covert police force in the world?…  while the soldiers at the front are poorly armed and hungry as a result of  institutionalized corruption? The way for us to be reassured that our dollars sent through the AAF are properly managed and really go to the projects, a proper audit is required. Why isn't it done? Because, as you say, we have an oligarchy…

            The Dzrer are a wake up call. They lay their lives down for us as a bridge to cross.  This bridge is for all of us, including Diasporans. This bridge is a psychological bridge before anything else. It is a rejection of anything but the BEST for our country. No more excuses, no more obfuscation. A thief is a thief. Plain and simple. We cannot have a band of thieves running our country. No chief robber will do what's best for us. If he wanted to do that, he would start by dismantling the oligarchy which you say we have.

      2. 60th place


        I told you before:

        You may go ahead and be satisfied with 60th or whatever'th place, deny the reality that elections are wholesale stolen, deny the pervasive and leaden corruption in Armenia, deny the (non)-existence of empty villages everywhere in the country, put words and numbers in my mouth, fear-monger by throwing names around like Soros, Maidan, Lenin and Goebels, praise Zaroukian (Kocharyan), Sargsyan, and their rotating perpetual regimes, deny that the latter killed 10 demonstrators on March 1, 2008 with no one brought to justice, in short be satisfied with state of our democracy and country, delude yourself with ideas that the Tsrer sacrificed their lives not to make Armenia better but because someone was paying them to do it, or because they were confused in believing that the cancer eating away at our nation is bringing us to the brink of collapse.

        Your may believe all these things.  The thing is, I don't believe you really do.

  3. Big Amen

    Dear Bedo,

    May I say a big AMEN to what you wrote? But as you see, the trend among the PFA, Renaissance and the Founding Parliament "revolutionaries" is to immediately jump and accuse you of being Serj's slave, part of the oligarchy accompanied with the now famous but rather boring and repetitious "corruption is real", " Armenia is being destroyed", " mah rejim-in", etc. This small group will immediately attack anyone who speaks well of Armenia, and any good news coming out of Armenia will enrage them. 

    Berge, who lives in Canada, wants to teach you about what's wrong with the homeland you lived in for the last few years.

    Absurdity takes another level of definition with the "revolutionaries". Everything is a lie, 99% of population agrees with them, and that's why they're right. Two other people in history come to mind: Lenin and Goebbels. Propaganda and populism are old practices, but they fail miserably at the end. The latest example? Armenia won its first gold at the Olympics in twenty years, alongside three silvers. A great accomplishment celebrated by the majority of Armenians. Yet the "revolutionaries" were almost in mourning yesterday. Because the Olympic team, mostly financed by Gagik Tsarukyan and under Serj's presidency, should have failed. They're worried that social media attention is being taken away from their "heroes". Pathetic, any way you look at it.

    1. Regime’s Twists Seem Unstoppable


      Artur Alexanyan is my distant nephew. Levon Julfalakyan (Arsen Julfalakyan’s father) is my friend. I am telling you this to say that I am proud of them but also to show how well I know the reality of the current situation in the Armenian Graeco-Roman wrestling federation. Our guys' accomplishments completely rely on their own resources. This fact alone (which you are desperately trying to twist) exposes your ignorance and arrogance. You portray yourself as the all-knowing and all-understanding guru, while the rest of us are isolated from reality.

      First and foremost, we are all very proud of our champions. And the more I read of your efforts to credit the success of our guys to Serge Sargsian and Dodi Gago, the more ridiculous you seem. Have you seen the conditions in which these Olympic champions are training? Have you read how Artur Alexanyan and his brother were treated (threatened by a gun) by Gyumri’s drunken chief police officer? Do you want to know his personal story? Do you know how the regime treats our athletes?

      Enough with the falsehoods you are spreading. Why trying to make people here think you know everything about Armenia, and we know nothing and are wrong? Gyumretsi call it զոռբության սկզբունք: Very typical of Sargsian. ինչքան ուզենանք էդքան էլ կխփենք (quoting Sargsian's infamous speech in Gyumri before the election).

      P.S. Houry Gebeshian’s story proves that our sports community, as every other national program in Armenia, is left to fend for itself or is in the hand of klepto-oligarchs. 

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