Armenian Opposition Promoting Racism?

According to UN International Conventions, “the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.” [1]

I am by now sick and tired of speaking about the negative effects of inciting division and hatred in the society with phrases like: “Karabakh clan”, or speaking about “Karabakhgtsis” taking over Armenia.

While I deeply condemn the actions of the authorities who detained opposition activists Narek Galstyan, chairman of “Sargis Tkhruni” Youth Student Union of “Hnchak Social Democratic Party” and Eduard Makaryan, member of the party a couple of days ago for distributing leaflets, and then, in an apparently related incident, got the young activist Narek Galstyan beaten, I cannot refrain from commenting on the content of the leaflets: “An Armenian will deny Serge Sargsyan” («Հայը կմերժի Սերժ Սարգսյանին») as reported by A1plus, especially after this discussion held on Onnik Krikoryan’s blog. As Onnik has rightly formulated:

The translation printed by A1 Plus, ““An Armenian will deny Serge Sargsyan” just sounds to me to be implying that the prime minister is “un-Armenian.” Given the fact that some will vote against Sarkisian because they dislike the “Karabakh clan” this only reinforces my fears about what was the intent of that message.
It wasn’t “someone who cares about their future will vote for Levon Ter Petrosian” or something similar, for example, which is what you would consider to be normal in a democratic election, it was the same type of simplistic and less than sophisticated tactic used by the radical opposition to cause division and conflict within society.

This is no way to do campaigning in a democratic society. This is simply unacceptable, and if the radical opposition continue their policy of promoting racial hatred, they risk coming under legal action, as the Armenian Constitution guarantees protection of human rights and denounces racism.

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. it’s not only about Serge being non-Armenian,
    it’s also about other Armenians residing in or even originating from
    a region other than Yerevan,
    well, that’s a common problem, let’s put it in-state regional discrimination
    would be useful to make the following motto a ring and hang it from ear
    “united we stand, divided we fall”

  2. As a guy from Gyumri, I’m especially sensitive to the “Yerevan” people talking about everybody else, and I have to say again and again – when this gets into politics, we get into dangerous waters.

  3. […] is a point made on my last two posts, and one also made by The Armenian Observer. I wish both sides would stop this now, but I have to say that I consider the radical opposition to […]

  4. What is really messed up is that this sort of nationalist-racist rhetoric is coming from a Hnchak party – a party that is supposed to be “socialist”. As a reminder, let me just say that Socialism rejects nationalism, racism and all these empty sentiments, choosing instead an ideology grounded in a concrete material analysis. Yet this is not something that I see too often coming out of the dominant “socialist” forces in Armenian politics. Instead, they too fall prey to the oversimplifications of the national discourse.
    What is also messed up is that by choosing such a nationalist-racist form of rhetoric they are also highlighting what kind of politics flies in Armenia and what the popular Armenian political mentality is composed of: “If you want to grab their attention, then make it about the Nation”. Even the bloody Communists are formulationg their claims in explicitly Nationalist terms. A political force that would openly reject nationalism and racism on Armenian political tribune is yet to be seen. From what I see, our small circle of Anarchists and Libertarian Socialists is the only such voice so far.
    What is really messed up, however, is that Socialist voces are so repressed in our society that one risks to be beaten up and be seriously injured just for distributing leaflets. Let me remind you that this is not the first time that this happens. A couple of years back, some anarchists were also severely beaten up by the KGB officials while distributing leaflets urging the public to reject the new Constitution.

  5. The irony of the whole thing is that if these people get prosecuted (quite justifiably) for racism or inciting racial hatred, lots of people will start shouting that the goverment is prosecuting the opposition.

  6. I dont see anything racist in that. I even think it is paranoid to find racism in these words. I am even surprised that Ditord’s words were taken as a maxim.
    I explain:
    This motto targets the Armenian voters who are probably 99% of the population. It says that an Armenian will reject Serje that is, not vote for him. In Armenian it is ” Hay@ kmerji Serjin”.
    The words rhyme and give a revolutionary feeling to it.
    Nobody would deny that Serje is an Armenian. All the Karabakhtsis are Armenian. Even to go a step further he was born and spent his childhood in Goris, Syunik region.
    I think it is paranoid to find racism in everything or follow that Politically Correctness bullshit which suppresses the freedom of speech as people increasingly become afraid of expressing themselves. Of course I am not saying that the racism doesnt exist in Armenia however I dont see any hint of it in this motto or whatever you would like to call it.
    And isn’t beating this guy to death because of his views fascistic?

  7. I have to agree with the previous comment that your suggestion, ditord, that this leaflet contains “racial hatred” is way too far a conclusion, in my opinion. I am very sensitive to racism, nationalism, I dismiss it and cannot stand people or organisations who promote it. However, when I first learnt about this leaflet and read a content of it, even for a second it did not come out to me as something promoting “racial hatred”. We may agree or not with the content or design etc of the leaflet, but to see “racism” here??? I was surprised to read that discussion in Onnik’s blog and even more surprised to see this post here.
    Just one recent example. During last presidential elections in France, a country which has big problems with racism and nationalism, there were similar slogans and leaflets there – something like “French will deny Sarkozy” [Sarkozy – son of Hungarian immigrates]. However, no one saw there anything but the call for French voters to reject his candidacy. The similar situation is with that Serj leaflet.
    Of course, there are problems of racism, nationalism and localism in our society, and we should fight it. But if we go that far as this post suggested to “see” racism when in my opinion there is none (I am referring to the leaflet) may be pretty dangerous in itself. Because from now on any criticism from people (who happened to born in Armenia) towards Serj may be considered a reflection of “racism”. I will never agree with it. Lets fight racism, nationalism and localism, but for real.

  8. Well – I guess nobody noticed that little question mark in the title? What I’m saying – is not a maxim, a set-in stone definition. What I’m saying is (and I’m deliberately exaggerating facts to leave greater impact), what I’m saying is – cut the crap! Stop promoting divisions between Kharabakh and Armenia. And even if it is not quite racist at this point – believe me, it’ll grow into it pretty soon.
    I remember only too well a video distributed via the YouTube, which I deliberately avoided mentioning on my blog, because I consider it unethical and inflamatory, in which LTP speaks to Robert Kocharyan, sometimes back in mid-90’s, asking if he knew the Lord’s prayer, and when the latter responds, that he doesn’t, Levon jokes, saying – didn’t I say Kharabakhtsi’s are not Armenian, to which Kocharyan responds – I’m Albanian.
    The whole video stinks of racism. I’m sorry to everyone, who doesn’t think this leaflet was racist, because if it seemed anything remotely racist to me, or to any single individual in the society, than it is indeed racist. And I’d better be on the safe side and risk being called paranoid, than seeing more of this crap turning up. In fact, if the opposition continues the policy of attacking Serge Sargsyan and Robert Kocharyan based on their Karabakh origin, I am ready to get quite vocal, and as a representative of the Media Diversity Institute, publicly call for legal action against such attempts.
    Our politicians MUST learn to do politics, not idiotic personal attacks. And that is all and everything I have to say on this matter.

  9. Artmika – France is a bad example, in my opinion, because it’s one of the increasingly racist societies in Europe, and the last country which I’d like to have Armenia look at as an example in this case.
    Also – the previous Armenian Constitution was based on the French one, and while it somehow works in the Secular French Republic with its monolinear Presidential powers, petty little powerless Senate and Parliament which is there only to make scandals, it turned into a disaster in the Armenian reality, especially as in the Armenian experience we even eliminated that “Senate” thing. So France is really a bad example.

  10. Observer, that was not my point. Of course, I consider France a bad example. That’s the reason I bring it here and specifically put in my comment that racism and nationalism is a big problem there. Certainly I would not like Armenia to move towards that direction. What I wanted to say that even in France where racism is a big issue, and human rights organisations are very sensitive and vocal in protesting against any such evidence, similar slogans were not considered racist (and in my opinion, rightly so).
    I have no doubts for a moment of your good intentions in bringing up that issue here. But we do not need to create racism or hate evidence from (you would probably agree) at least highly questionable case. Otherwise, my worry is that it would eventually lead to another extreme – limitations in freedom of speech under the cover of fight against racism. This sort of worries are very real. In Britain, there is increasing trend of self-censorship, because many media representatives (and not only) are afraid of speaking about problems in specific religious or ethnic communities for the fear of being accused in racism. I do not want Armenia move towards that direction either, we have plenty of other self-censorships. Importantly, we have real evidences of racism and nationalism which we should fight, like hate graffiti, Armenian Aryan Order & co and so on. Also, Armenians from Armenia vs. Karabakh and similar confrontations, which you mentioned a number of times in this blog. That was my point.
    Btw, in relation to that video, I’ve seen it quite some time ago. There are now various copies of it in YouTube. Interestingly, the intention of a person who originally uploaded that video was to show that current Armenian President Robert Kocharyan does not know Hayr Mer (!). I told him that no one should blame Kocharyan for not knowing Hayr Mer, because luckily our country is secular. And of course, that remarks on Karabaghtsi/Albanians are racist and disgusting.
    As for the leaflets, I would rather prefer if they are “vote for” instead of “vote against”.

  11. Artmika – we’re back to common ground I see, and all your points are taken of course :)))

  12. […] men while distributing anti-Sarkisian leaflets in a district of Yerevan. The Armenian Observer decried both the beating and the nature of the leaflets. Pro-Ter Petrosian and opposition activist Aramazd even reported that some leaflets advertising the […]

  13. Racism is an attitude that highlights divisions (usually racial, regional and national) as if they were the most important factors in understanding what is at stake politically.
    Imagine Labour Party in Britain distributing a leaftelt that says “An Englishman would reject George Galloway”
    (George Galloways is a very outspoken and controvercial Trotskyist MP in Britain. He is of Scottish/Irish descent. But his descent is never an issue because of the volume of criticism that he raises every time he gets the opportunity)
    Even though UK is a country that has a huge problem of racism, imagine what would happen if susch a leaflet would be distributed by Labour Party. This would cause an uproar in the media!!! and that party would be in a very bad light and would loose a lot of credibility. Yet, in Armenia a Socialist-Democrat party chooses this slogan because they know that this is something that people will comprehend, and that this would make them more popular rather than have an opposite effect.
    So, despite the despeacable actions against Nareg, I’d say Observer has a very good point!!!
    What is even more absured about the scenario that I mentioned is that that kind of leaftelt “An Englishman would reject George Galloway” is something that would be expected from BNP (British National Party, who are the Nazis), but hardly from a party that parades itself as “Social-Democrats”.
    This is not just a question of racism, but also a question of phoney pretences!

  14. The very fact that a political party would choose this form of rhetoric over many possible others, speaks volumes about our society itself.

  15. What in the world is this? What racism? If the original alleger of racism bothered to do any research he/she would come to the conclusion that the Social Democrat Hunchak party (residing in Erevan) has individuals that are from Karabagh in its international central committee, as well as the SDHP central committee of Armenia. Furthermore the SDHP has time in and time out stated that Karabagh is a part of Armenia. It is far more than paranoia that one would think ” Hay@ kmerji Serjin” is geered towards putting a wedge between type of Armenians, to suggest that in esence means that the person accusing the SDHP of racism believes that there DOES exist a deffirence between Armenians from different regions. WE ARE ALL ARMENIANS. WE ARE ALL THE SAME. WE ARE ALL HUMAN. We all want democracy with social and civil rights for the welfare of the Armenian nation along with social and economic responsibility by the Armenian government. Thus ” Hay@ kmerji Serjin”!!!! Enough of this oligarchy or any oligarchy ruling Armenia.

  16. SevKhatch – politics is no game. SDHP should be careful as to what type of messages they project to the public. It doesn’t matter if there are Kharabakh Armenianians in the party or not. What matters, is the strategy chosen for talking to the public – and it is a negative type, instead of an assertive type. Why coudn’t you write An Armenian will Vote SDHP? Instead the party decides to dwell in highly controversial messages like “Hay kmerji Serjin”. No need to say, that if our first reaction here was that of racism, I’m sure, that the people who were in charge of preparing, printing, distributing the message, must have received such responses at one point or the other, even if that wasn’t their original intention. I think it is non honest to campaign like this.

  17. What are you talking about? Where is the racism??? For there to be racism one of the two, (the person passing the flyer, or the person named in the flyer) must be of another race. Both are Armenian. Second there is no evidence of racism in the flyer. It is like saying Russians will deny Putin, or Americans will deny Bush, where is the racism? To claim racism is ridiculous, what should be pondered in this blog is why are we continuing to loose freedom of speech and worse yet why are people being harassed, beaten and more unfortunate murdered without any recourse by the government. On some instances the governments hand is as dirty as the criminals dealing in this activities. Some might say it started with the previous authority, that does not dismiss the fact that the intensity of criminal activity has grown termoundously, and become an institutional part of the government body, and the nations psyche.
    So once again, there is no racism involved in here, and to speculate there is dilutes the actual factual actions. A 20 year old was arrested, warned not to be political (actions against his political freedom) or publicize his arrest and released for passing out flyers(against freedom of speech), 2 days later that same 20 year old is beaten cruelly and told next time he speaks to the media he will be killed. Hmmm coincidence? I think not.

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