Content

Shushanik Minasyan, 8 The Velvet Revolution – A New Path for Armenia in:

Wolfram Hilz, Shushanik Minasyan (Ed.)

Armenian Developments, page 119 - 132

Perspectives of Democratization and the Role of the Civil Society

1. Edition 2019, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-4287-8, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-7197-7, https://doi.org/10.5771/9783828871977-119

Series: Bonner Studien zum globalen Wandel, vol. 24

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
119 8 The Velvet Revolution – A New Path for Armenia Shushanik Minasyan Armenia has long struggled to consolidate its democracy since proclaiming independence from Soviet rule in 1991. The civic action 1 organized in April 2018 by Nikol Pashinyan, an opposition figure and long-standing critic of the monopolized political scene in Armenia, transformed into a national movement uniting Armenians at home and abroad in their rejection of the existing neopatrimonial system. The world is now witnessing a peaceful revolution in a post-socialist country which constitutes more than a mere political transition. This is a revolution about values, about the values of Armenian society, its political awareness and maturity after 27 years of self-governance. The referendum held on a constitutional reform on 6 December 2015 declared Armenia a parliamentary republic and concentrated power in the hands of the prime minister.2 The switch from a semipresidential to a parliamentary system converted the presidency to a ceremonial position and concurrently increased the powers of the prime minister. Critics argued that the ruling Republican Party of 1 See Gabrielyan, Sisak & Kaghzvantsian, Satenik: Armenian Opposition Group Wtarts Walking Tour in Regime Change Bid, in: Radio Free Armenia, 2 April 2018, available at: https://www.azatutyun.am/a/29140104.html (27 August 2018). 2 See The Guardian: Armenia votes to curb presidential powers in disputed referendum, in: The Guardian, 7 December 2015, available at: https:// www.theguardian.com/wo-rld/2015/dec/07/armenia-vote-disputed-referen dum-president-powers (14 October 2018). 120 Armenia (RPA) laid the basis for its future domestic policy and subverted the center of power from the presidential palace to the parliament.3 There were fears that the RPA leader, Serge Sargsyan, then president of Armenia, who had already served twice as prime minister, would maintain his hold of the country by reclaiming the post of prime minister after his second presidential term expired in 2018. Sargsyan repeatedly denied that the proposed constitutional changes were intended to allow him to retain influence. He pledged that he would not become prime minister if the constitution successfully was amended.4 At the same time the referendum process did not run smoothly. Key opposition leaders witnessed widespread ballot stuffing, voter intimidation and even v pursuit of the requisite 25 percent of all registered voters for the ganization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) emphasized: “The conduct of the referendum reflected the absence of meaningful actions over the previous three years to address prior OSCE/ODIHR recommendations to improve confidence and public trust in the electoral process, including by improving accuracy of voter lists, preventing misuse of public resources in campaigns, and strengthening safeguards against voting day irregularities as well as the effectiveness of complaint mechanisms and accountability for electoral offences.”5 victories were heavily disputed by the public as well.6 On both occasions, a majority seems to have been 3 See Avedissian, Karena: No, Thanks. Armenia s Opposition Rallies Against Referendum, in: The Guardian, 5 December 2015, available at: https:// www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/05/armenian-constitution-oppositionelectric-yerevan (14 October 2018). 4 See Fuller, Liz: Can Armenian President Count on Russia s Support for his plan to Become Prime Minister?, in: Radio Free Europe, 30 January 2017, available at: https://www.rferl.org/a/caucasus-report-armenia-sarkisianrussia-support-prime-minister/28268041.html (14 October 2018). 5 OSCE: Republic of Armenia. Constitutional Referendum 6 December 2015. Final Report, Warsaw 2016, p. 1. 6 See Tavernise, Sabrina: Thousands in Armenia Protests Results of Presidential Election, in: The New York Times, 21 Februar 2008, available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/21/world/europe/21armenia.html (27 August 2018); Lorusso, Marilisa: Presidential Elections in Armenia and the Op- 121 reached through voter intimidation, corruption and the inappropriate use of administrative resources. Public discontent with the 2008 results culminated in mass protests on 1 March, which the authorities subdued by crushing the participants and using fire. At least ten people were killed, with more than a hundred hospitalized.7 Over the past decade, no one has been held accountable for the disproportionate use of force. The RPA-governement did not show willingness to allow transparent legal investigation.8 After winning a majority in the parliamentary elections of April 2017,9 Serge Sargsyan did not address the question of who will lead the next government. In spring 2018, the RPA party council nominated Sargsyan for the post of prime minister. The announcement of generated widespread anger, and led to street protests. On 31 March 2018, Nikol Pashinyan and his supporters initiated a political response in the second largest Armenian city, Gyumri. Taking a break from his parliamentary duties, the former political prisoner walked from town to town, reaching out to people, spending the night in tents, blogging about his experiences and encouraging Armenians to join the democratic upswing of their country. On 13 April Pasharch, in: IAI-Working Papers, No. 13-14, 2013, available at: https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/163368/iaiwp1314.pdf (27 August 2018). 7 sputed 2008 Presidential Election, Post-Election Violence, and the One-Sided Pursuit of Accountability, in: Human Rights Watch, 25 February 2009, available at: https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/02/25/democracy-rockyground/armenias-disputed-2008-presidential-election-post-election (27 August 2018). 8 See Tert: Today Marks 10 Years Since March 1 Tragic Events, in: Tert, 1 March 2018, available at: https://www.tert.am/en/news/2018/03/01/march- 1/2626806 (14 October 2018). 9 According to the election results, 58 from the overall number of 105 mandates were won by the Republican Party of Armenia. The partners of the governing party and members of the coalition government, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and Tsarukyan Alliance held 38 mandates. The opposition Way Out Alliance , held just 9 mandates, which was not enough to exert significant influence on key issues in the parliament. 122 inyan finally returned to the Armenian capital for a march10 that .11 After returning to Yerevan, Pashinyan headed straight to his alma mater, Yerevan State University, encouraging students to engage in acts of peac take a st . Students turned out in large numbers and with the enthusiasm that has been witnessed often in recent years in Armenia.12 Antigovernment protests have not been uncommon in the country over the past ten years: Since 2008, there has been a palpable civic energy of expression and participation in response to unfair elections, corruption and the kleptocratic, oligarchic RPA regime. The main Te 2009-2010, Mashtots park protests in 2012, Electric Yerevan in 2015 were comprised of students and young people.13 By the Velvet Revolution the young people became the driving force of the movement. Pashinyan was able to mobilize a large 10 See Aslanyan, Karlen: Thousands Rally against Armenian Leader, in: Radio Free Armenia, 13 April 2018, available at: https://www.azatutyun.am/a/291- 66311.html (27 August 2018). 11 See MacFarquhar, Neil: He Was a Protestor a Month Ago. Now, Nikol Pashinyan leads Armenia, in: The New York Times, 8 May 2018, available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/world/europe/armenia-nikol-pashinyan -prime-minister.html (27 August 2018) PM, in: The Guardian, 8 May 2018, available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/08/ hes-not-a-populist-hes-popular-nikol-pashinyan-becomes-armenian-pm (27 August 2018). 12 See Sanamyan, Emil: Saint Nick of Armenia: How Protests Leader Nikol Pashinyan erry, in: Open Democracy, 05 May 2018, available at: https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/emilsanamyan/saint-nick-of-armenia-how-nikol-pashinyan-rescued-armenia-andmade-it-merry (30 September 2018). 13 See Paturyan, Yevgenya Jenny: Armenian Civil Society. Consolidated but Detached from the Broader Public, CIVICUS Civil Society Index, Policy Action Brief, Yerevan 2014, available at: https://www.civicus.org/images/Civicus-Armenia-Policy-Brief.pdf (27 August 2018); Matosian, Maro: The Development of Grassroots Activism in Yerevan and the Role of Political Parties, in: Hetq, 29 March 2012, available at: http://hetq.am/eng/news/12533/the-development-of-grassroots-activism-in-yerevan-and-the-roleof-political-parties.html (30 September 2018); Avedissian, Karena: The Power of Electric Yerevan, in: Open Democracy, 6 July 2015, available at: https://www.opendemocracy.net/karena-avedissian/electrified-yerevan (30 September 2018). 123 number of Armenian students within a few hours. As most of the universities ceased functioning, laborers and community members joined the protest to challenge the ruling political elite. Pashinyan also tried to contact those groups, whom he could not reach on social networks when he broke into the Public Radio of Armenia building, demanding an opportunity to speak live on air.14 Although his request was turned down, Pashinyan nevertheless spoke in front of the other media outlets that did provide live coverage of his speech and the events inside the building.15 Pashinyan called on Armenians to come onto the streets of Yerevan and join the demonstration at Freedom Square in the city center. He asked people to and go on strike to paralyze the country. At the same time, he called on people to remain calm, committed to the principles of nonviolent disobedience and respectful of the police. The protest wave intensiand elected Serge Sargsyan as prime minister,16 which provided a catalyst for a new wave of demonstrations. Activists blocked the entrances to government agencies, streets, highways, and underground stations. As both tensions and excitement about the movement grew, the police tried to suppress the upheaval using heavy- ncluding Pashinyan, were detained to weaken coordination within the movement.17 However, these actions implied that the bond between 14 See Movsisyan, Hovhannes: Opposition Protesters Seize Armenian Radio Building, in: Radio Free Yerevan, 14 April 2018, available at: https://www.azatutyun.am/a/29167494.html (28 August 2018). 15 See CivilNet: Nikol Pashinyan and His Adherents in the Public Radio, in: CivilNet, 14 April 2018, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v= FpMsNSwZJ-VY&t=496s (28 August 2018). 16 See Danielyan, Emil & Aslanyan, Karlen: Serzh Sarkisian Becomes Armenian PM Amid Protests, in: Radio Free Yerevan, 17 April 2018, available at: https://www.azatutyun.am/a/29172834.html (28 August 2018); Aslanyan, Karlen & Lazaryan, Tatevik: Pashinian Vows to Keep up Protests, in: Radio Free Yerevan, 17 April 2018, available at: https://www.azatutyun.am/a/2917- 3294.html (28 August 2018). 17 See Aslanyan, Karlen & Muradian, Anush: Police Thwart Opposition lo uilding in Yerevan, in: Radio Free Yerevan, 19 April 2018, available at: https://www.azatutyun.am/a/29176387.html (28 August 2018); Aslanyan, Karlen: Armenian Protest Leader Detained, in: Radio Free Yerevan, 22 April 2018, available at: https://www.azatutyun.am/a/2918- 4904.html (28 August 2018). 124 the Armenian citizens and their political representatives had become strained since 1 March 2008, when ten protestors were killed. The regime was oblivious to the civic emancipation and internal transformation. When the police arrested Pashinyan and other opposition members for a day, the acts of civil disobedience turned into massive, unprecedented protests.18 Armenians marched es, bringing citizens onto the streets.19 supporters marched through the capital chanting his name. On 23 April, under the growing prospect of massive civil unrest, the police released Pashinyan and Serge Sargsyan tendered his resignation.20 across Armenia. Tens of thousands of people flocked to Republic Square to dance, cheer, and celebrate their triumph over the regime until the late hours of the night.21 Indeed, the RPA attempted to maintain its influence by denying nomination after the first parliamentary election on 1 May,22 arguing their responsibility to the citizens had been satisfied with the resignation of Serge Sargsyan. It was clear, however, that Sargsyan could operate in the shadows, and that neither he nor his 18 See The Washington Times: 40 Resignation, in: The Washington Times, 20 April 2018, available at: https://www.washington-times.com/news/2018/apr/20/40000-gather-in-armenia-to-demand-leaders-resignat/ (28 August 2018); Aslanyan, Karen: Huge Crowds Keep up Pressure on Armenian PM, in: Radio Free Yerevan, 22 April 2018, available at: https://www.azatutyun.am/a/29185545.html (28 August 2018). 19 See Vestnik Kavkaza: Velvet Revolution Reaches Armenian villages, in: Vestnik Kavkaza, 5 May 2018, available at: http://vestnikkavkaza.net/news/Velvet-revolution-reaches-Armenian-villages.html (30 September 2018). 20 See Sargsyan, Serzh: Armenian PM Resigns after Days of Protests, in: BBC News, 23 April 2018, available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe- 43868433 (28 August 2018). 21 See Radio Free Yerevan: Serzh Sarkisian Resigns as Armenian PM, in: Radio Free Yerevan, 23 April 2018, available at: https://www.azatutyun.am/a/291- 87178.html (28 August 2018). 22 See MacFarguhar, Neil: Denied Power, Armenian Opposition Leader Urges Nationwide Strikes, in: The New York Times, 1 May 2018, available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/01/world/europe/armenia-primeminister. html?action=click&module=RelatedCoverage&pgtype=Article®ion=Foot er (28 August 2018). 125 party were willing to relinquish the reins of power. Protestors responded with a total lockdown of Armenia. The main transportation arteries in Yerevan were shut off one by one: Checkpoints sprouted on every road to the airport, airport workers went on strike, the metro was shut down as well as railways, the roads leading to the Iranian border were blocked in addition to those to Georgia.23 The struggle for the survival of a ruling regime ended in defeat and the RPA declared its support for Pashinyan, who was elected prime minister on 8 May.24 Armenia's intensive street mobilization during Spring 2018 took many by surprise. The chain of events in April was so rapid and profound that many Armenians have come to believe that the longstanding fight against corruption, nepotism, subservience, violence and intolerance which began in 2008 can effect change. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians felt themselves empowered with a voice, as history makers and owners of their country. All eyes were set on the new government that now had to meet the demands and expectations of citizens who wanted to build a real democracy. Although the revolutionary euphoria has since waned, a revolution continues. Armenia is still undergoing a risky transformation phase. The old guard is still present in the new political apparatus. Pashinyan has pushed for early parliamentary elections. Under the Armenian Constitution, snap elections can be called only if the prime minister resigns and the parliament fails to replace him or her with someone else within two weeks. Following its second failed attempt to elect a new prime minister Armenian parliament was dissolved on 2 November.25 was the second step in the process of triggering snap parliamentary elections which has been the main item on Prime Minister Niko 23 See Grono, Magdalena: Unprecedented Uncertainty ahead for Armenia, International Crisis Group, 3 May 2018. 24 See Stepanyan, Ruzanna; Aslanyan, Karlen & Danielyan, Emil: Armenian Free Yerevan, 2 May 2018, available at: https://www.azatutyun.am/a/29- 204756.html (28 August 2018). 25 See Radio Free Europe: Armenia Parliament Dissolved, Early Elections Set for December, in: Radio Free Europe, 2 November 2018, available at: https:// www.rferl.org/a/armenian-parliament-forces-new-elections/295770-63..html (11 November 2018). 126 since gaining the post following the Velvet Revolution.26 Pashinyan hopes to form a National Assembly that is more in line with Armenew political reality. His political team is tipped to win the upcoming snap elections by a landslide which will take place on 9 December 2018. The move is a major victory for Nikol Pashinian, however there is a lot of risk for the political stability. As political columnist Patrik Azadian stated, it would “[…] be naïve and utopic to think that this single event in Armenia’s history has forever uprooted and erased all insecurities and fears from the Armenian psyche. Just about three decades of imposed servitude combined with almost a century of centralized Soviet rule and centuries of Ottoman colonization cannot be erased with a magic wand. And this is exactly what the forces of the counter-revolution are counting on.”27 A sustainable political transformation needs time, but one thing is unquestionable: the Velvet revolution transformed the lives of Armenians and the remarkable aspects of this movement that led to its perceived success deserve particular attention. The movement was characterized by a high degree of organization and professionalism, exemplified by the broad coalition Nikol Pashinyan and his team, consisting of numerous civil actors. The cooperation was initiated in 2013 with the Dem.em civil movement, the Civil Contract Party, the Pre-Parliament Civic Initiative as well as student civic groups28 and ensured a unique partnership network of different social groups. Protests were directly controlled by Pashinyan and his team through regular access to activists and citizens via Facebook29 as well as in person. Thus increasing the transparen- 26 See Mejlumyan, Ani: Pashinyan Sets Date for Parliamentary Snap Elections, in: Eurasianet, 11 October 2018, available at: https://eurasianet.org/pashinyan-sets-date-for-parliamentary-snap-elections (11 November 2018). 27 See Stepanyan, Ruzanna; Aslanyan, Karlen & Danielyan, Emil: Armenian Parliament Majority Signals Support id to be PM, in: Radio Free Yerevan, 2 May 2018, available at: https://www.azatutyun.am/a/ 29204756.html (28 August 2018). 28 See Aslanyan, Karlen: The Pre-Parliament Civic Intitiave Will Base Open Council [Nakhakhorhyrdarany Himnadir Khorhrdaran kstexci], in: Radio Free Yerevan, 13 December 2013, available at: https://www.azatutyun.am/ a/25199749.html (28 August 2018). 29 See The Official Page of Nikol Pashinyan in Facebook, available at: https://de-de.facebook.com/nikol.pashinyan/ (12 August 2018). 127 cy and accountability of their action, Pashinyan frequently discussed their plans with activists on the eve of a protest.30 The general inclusiveness of these mechanisms was previously unseen in the Armenian reality and enabled people to participate in political processes. The underpinning of deliberative democracy elements was Harutyun Voskanyan, an Armenian analyst, states: “The well-organised road map of the protests with apparent decentralised forms of civil disobedience in Yerevan expressed the national features of the young, new generation of Armenia. The hiking demonstrations, midnight car signals, beating of metal dishes from apartment balconies, high-spirited dance, music performances and open-air barbeque parties combined Armenia's distinct national tradition of hospitability with people's wish to act rationally in the scope of existing legal barriers.”31 Pashinyan and his cohort acted as initiators and coordinators of the protests, but unlike in previous iterations in Armenia, he avoided a hierarchical structure of civil disobedience. This strategy offered a layer of complexity to the already sporadic, networked nature of the protest. The virtual communication and joint participation in the urban space conjointly forged a collective identity, manifesting itself in a new rule of managing social space, democracy and politics. As previously mentioned, all segments of Armenian society actively supported the protests.32 People from all socio-economic classes, 30 See Arka News Agency: Nikol Pashinyan about Likely Scenario of Velvet Revolution Development in Armenia, Arka News Agency, 20 April 2018, available at: about_likely_scenario_of_velvet_revolution_development_in_ armenia_/ (30 September 2018). 31 evolution hase of Democratic Evolution, IfA, 23 April 2018, available at: https://www.ifa.de/de/themen/dialog-der-zivilgesellschaften/velvet-revolution-in-armeniathe-next-phase-of-democratic-evolution.html (30 September 2018). 32 See MacFar from the Teach Sector, in: The New York Times, 19 May 2018, available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/19/world/europe/armenia-revolt-tech-sector.html (28 August 2018); CivilNet: Civil Disobedience Paralyzes the Armenian Capital, in: CivilNet, 16 April 2018, available at: https:// www.civilnet.am/news/2018/04/16/April-16-in-Yerevan-Civil-disobedience- 128 walks of life, and political or ideological persuasions were united in their rejection of the Sargsyan regime in what was the most genderbalanced protest in Armenian history. Women were at the forefront of the Velvet Revolution. While past protests in the country had been dominated by young men, and the gender component largely undocumented, the Velvet Revolution was different: almost as many women flocked to the streets as men and even outnumbered them in certain areas33 (especially given that men were more likely to be detained or beaten by the police). Armine Iskhanyan, an associate professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, explained that inclusion and tolerance were the movepeople, but also homosexuals faced discrimination, marginalization and violence.34 Indeed, RPA adherents used the involvement of feminists and gay-activists to attack Pashinyan .35 Armenian protestors, however, held banners embracing hate and revenge . During the protests, doctors and lawyers in suits rallied alongside young tattooed hipsters, bearded old men and young vocal feminists to promote an atmosphere of peace, joy and tolerance.36 The newfound solidarity was accompanied by the building of a civic consciousness. The key slogans of the Velvet Revolution, alongare the owners of paralyzes-the-Armenian-capital/333854 (28 August 2018); Ferris-Rotman, harismatic Opposition Leader Whips up Pressure after Talks Break of, in: The Washington Post, 25 April 2018, available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/armenias-charismatic-oppos ition-leader-whips-up-pressure-after-talks-break-off/2018/04/25/e1-58f47a- 488d-11e8-8082-105a446d19b8_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=. 0d694b803cd7 (28 August 2018). 33 See Roach, Anna Bianca: Heard but Not Seen: How Women Became the Unrecognised Architects of the Velvet Revolution, in: OC Media, 23 May 2018, available at: http://oc-media.org/analysis-heard-but-not-seen-howwomen-became-the-unrecognised-architects-of-the-velvet-revolution/ (29 August 2018). 34 See Iskhanyan, Armine: A Revolution of Values: Freedom, Responsibility, and Courage in the Armenian Velvet Revolution, LSE-Analyses, 3 May 2018, available at: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2018/05/03/a-revolutionof-values-freedom-responsibility-and-courage-in-the-armenian-velvet-revolu tion/ (29 August 2018). 35 Ibid. 36 Ibid. 129 been used in Armenia for nearly a decade by different civic movements ranging from the youth-led Occupy Mashtots Park protest in 201237 roup, which captured and held a police station in Yerevan in 2016.38 Yet the Velvet Revolution propagated the image of Armenians as active citizens rather than silent bystanders. Civic consciousness referred to an individual perception of civic rights and o process of raising consciousness was enormously important because 39 and encouraged the people to fearlessly express their dissatisfaction.40 The themselves. It helped promote an active and responsible citizenry by reducing the sense of estrangement from the power-center or political apathy. In the midst of the Velvet Revolution, people grew aware of their own power and agency. This was apparent not only in the concrete acts of civil disobedience, but in the aftermath of the protests as people turned up on the following day with brooms and bin bags to clean the debris from the previous night.41 People not only felt responsible for their own actions and assumed responsibil- 42 Armenian citizens also demonstrated a high degree of political maturity when Nikol Pashinyan and other leaders were arrested on 22 April, but the civic movement remained dynamic and disciplined. Leaderless citi- 37 See Tert: Environmentalists Continue Struggle for Mashtotc Park, in: Tert, 5 March 2012, available at: http://www.tert.am/en/news/2012/03/05/environmentalist-statement/452775 (28 August 2018). 38 See Harutyunyan, Sargis: Armenian Government Still Committed to Peaceful end to Hostage Crisis, in: Radio Free Yerevan, 21 July 2016, available at: https://www.azatutyun.am/a/27871712.html (29 August 2018). 39 ia: The Next Phase of Democratic Evolution, IfA, 23 April 2018, available at: https://www.ifa.de/de/themen/dialog-der-zivilgesellschaften/velvet-revolution-in-armeniathe-next-phase-of-democratic-evolution.html (30 September 2018). 40 See ibid. 41 See Iskhanyan, Armine: A Revolution of Values: Freedom, Responsibility, and Courage in the Armenian Velvet Revolution, LSE-Analyses, 3 May 2018, available at: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2018/05/03/a-revolutionof-values-freedom-responsibility-and-courage-in-the-armenian-velvet-revolu tion/ (29 August 2018). 42 See ibid. 130 zens marched on the streets to demonstrate a strong collective organizational consciousness and a new political culture.43 ization has made positive strides, especially in the light of the recent events. New steps and mechanisms combatting corruption, bolstering the rule of law, and promoting democratic development are currently being introduced. In the past four months, a number of prominent officials have been arrested. The case of Manvel Grigoryan, retired general and hero of the Karabakh War, was the object of public attention in Armenia and the Diaspora in July. Grigoryan was suspected of illegal arms possession and embezzlement of army supplies.44 Former president Robert Kocharyan was also arrested in August and charged with overthrowing the constitutional order during demonstrations that followed the 2008 presidential election.45 In addition, the National Security Service of Armenia has initiated investigations regarding cases of higher mismanagement and corruption.46 Democratic consolidation is of course a long and complex process. One factor is very promising though. Opposition political elites may have served as catalysts for the Velvet Revolution, but self-aware citizens were instrumental in framing its norms, values und ideologies. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called the transformation: “It is true, we see authoritarianism being on the rise. And it is important to transfer into civil society. It’s important to have 43 See Kucera, Joshua: Armenien Opposition Leader Arrested, but Protesters Rally, in: EurasiaNet, 22 April 2018, available at: https://eurasianet.org/s/armenian-opposition-leader-arrested-but-protesters-rally (29 August 2018). 44 See Papazian, Taline: Manvel Grigoryan, from War Hero to Prison, in: CivilNet, 5 July 2018, available at: https://www.civilnet.am/news/2018/07- /10/Manvel-Grigoryan-From-War-Hero-to-Prison/341181 (29 September 2018). 45 See Sanamyan, Emil: With Ex- -Sovjet Precedent, in: CivilNet, 28 July 2018, available at: https://www.civilnet.am/news/2018/07/28/With-Ex-President%E2%80%99s-Arrest-Armenia- Sets-Post-Soviet-Precedent/342283 (29 September 2018). 46 See Lragir: Supplies at 10 Billion: New Scandal Revealed by National Security Service, in: Lragir, 9 August 2018, available at: https://www.lragir. am/en/2018/08/09/68875 (29 September 2018). 131 people and namely young people that are able to come together and to show that democracy, freedom, human rights are extremely important for our societies. We just had, recently, a fantastic example of a peaceful transition that was led by youth, Armenia. There was a peaceful governmental transition led by a youth movement and these are fantastic examples to show that there are reasons to hope that the youth generation would be able to do better than my own generation.”47 In the end, civil awareness is the quintessential force to promote a high degree of civility and advance Armenian democracy and equality within society. During the City Council elections on 23 September 2018, Yerevanians once again demonstrated their will to preserv overwhelming majority, receiving 81% of the total vote.48 This electeam, as it represents a clear mandate for the new government. The new prime minister needs this support also for the early parliamentary election, which is expected to take place in 2019. Pashinyan highlights, of the mechanism of holding free, fair and transparent elections to 49 relations with both the East and the West by maintaining a security alliance with Russia and securing aid for democratic reform from the post-Soviet space. 47 CivilNet: in: CivilNet, 24 September 2018, video available at: https:// www.civilnet.am/news/2018/09/24/UN-Secretary-General-Calls-Armenian- Revolution-%E2%80%9CA-Fantastic-Example%E2%80%-9D/345445 (30 September 2018). 48 See Hakobian, Arus & Stepanian, Ruzanna: Yerevan Vote Hailed as Democratic by Dashnaktsutyun, in: Radio Free Yerevan, 24 September 2018, available at: https://www.azatutyun.am/a/29507224.html (30 September 2018). 49 Lragir: Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan Explained Why Early Elections Must be Held within a Year, in: Lragir, 7 June 2018, available at: https://www.lra gir.am/en/20-18/06/07/38589 (30 September 2018). 132 “Pashinyan is an entirely new type of a leader, one that Russia has never dealt with before. No matter how often he reiterates the importance of the Russian-Armenian friendship, he is likely to remain suspicious to many in Russia’s elites. At the same time, members of his team have qualities that are raising the eyebrows of those within the Russian elites: some went to Western universities, some belong to Western countries’ diaspora communities, and some previously worked in NGOs, including international organisations that are viewed in Russia with extreme suspicion. Considering also that many Russian elites have connections to either the former Armenian government or – more dangerously for Pashinyan – the Azerbaijani government, it becomes clear that Pashinyan’s team faces major challenges in building relations with Moscow.”50 50 Zoly isentangle Democratic Change from Geopolitics?, in: OC Media, 25 July 2018, available at: http://ocmedia. org/analysis-can-new-armenia-disentangle-democratic-change-from-geopoli tics/ (30 September 2018).

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Abstract

The development of societies during and after periods of authoritarian or totalitarian rule is among the most interesting research topics in social sciences. On the one hand, the analysis is directed at why, when and how societies resist tyrannies and what ultimately leads to the downfall of seemingly invincible regimes. On the other hand, once such authoritarian regimes unravel, it is important to comprehend how societal groups organize themselves and how they try to influence political processes. In the case of the former Soviet republics, this transition was a complex and incalculable development that led to very heterogeneous political and societal situations. Due to the territorial situation of Armenia – wedged between the predominantly hostile neighbors Turkey and Azerbaijan, in the shadow of hegemonial Russia and Iran – the domestic Armenian development options seemed limited for decades. However, the transformation of the civil society in the Republic of Armenia finally paved its way slowly but constantly in recent years. The aim of this volume is to shed light on the ongoing discussion on civil society in Armenia in the context of democratization and to examine its potential for democratic consolidation. The perspectives recount diverse facets of the Armenian civic landscape, as well as the recent processes of democratization. The contributions from predominantly Armenian experts focus on the necessary structures and important actors for an understanding and characterization of the current situation of the Armenian civil society.