Here’s to The New Year: The Worst Is Yet To Come

Armenia -- Festive Fireworks on New Year's Eve in Yerevan's Republic Square, 01Jan2014
Armenia — Festive Fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Yerevan’s Republic Square, 01Jan2014

I’m the most optimistic person I’ve met in this world. And yet, when the lavish fireworks broke into Yerevan’s arrogant night sky on New Year’s Eve, my heart squeezed with sorrow.

The Armenian authorities are spending 20 milion AMD ($50,000 US) to celebrate the coming of a year, which in president Serzh Sarkissian’s words will see Armenia become a full member of the Customs Union.

“Armenia is creating a new reality which will make her more protected and more competitive,” Serzh Sarkissian went on to say defending  his sudden decision to turn away from the world’s biggest market and Armenia’s largest trade partners and side with the group of countries with some of the world’s most corrupt and autocratic regimes.

Sadly though, most people I talked to in the past few days are embracing the accession into the Russia-led Customs Union as the only salvation this country has. And they find amazing justifications too: “no more problems migrating to Russia”, “bringing more Russian troops to Armenia”, “no more rising of the prices for natural gas” and a personal favorite of mine: “Putin will show these bloody oligarchs how to behave, because he cares more about the people in Armenia than our current rulers do!” Yep, that’s a favorite one, except that I have a problem with every one of those perceived  benefits.

We have got to stop migration from Armenia, not encourage it by forging ties with Russia. Our brothers (and even my very own sister) are creating worth for the Russian Empire instead of staying home and developing our land.

More Russian troops? When we already have enough of them to invade Yerevan and other key cities in a matter of two hours if Putin decides he doesn’t like what the Armenian authorities are doing!

Not rising the gas prices? But this is also depriving Armenia of any rights to negotiate better gas deals with Iran!

I’ve been too unhappy with the developments in the country to blog for much of the past year. But looking at the pompous fireworks of the New Year makes me want to shut it down for good. Because this is a blog about the democratic, economic and human development of Armenia and I see none coming in the coming year.

I guess I should just sit back, relax and enjoy the firkin fireworks!

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18 thoughts on “Here’s to The New Year: The Worst Is Yet To Come

  1. ARTHUR!!! Thank you for this insightful and honest portrait of the disastrous changes coming to Armenia… IF… they are not reversed via MASSIVE street protests. MASSIVE. We are all working towards that. Ukraine’s people took the streets and forces a change away from Putin! Armenians must do the same to stop membership in a corrupt USSR2.

  2. Artur jan, to avoid this kind of feelings at the end of the year we all have to blog more often throughout the year:) About our country, society, economy, etc..

    I personally do not believe in protesting without alternative solutions offered instead. And all protests in 2013 (and earlier) were protests with no solutions. They had only one goal – killing the regime. That cannot be a goal, target or even idea. That is the idea of a teenager. We all know the regime is bad, there is no need to gather us in Liberty Square to remind us about it. I can put a daily reminder on my phone about it.
    Killing the regime can be just one small step of a long way to victory. And when you ask people to gather for making just one step, without seeing the whole path or final target – you always loose. Like Raffi, Levon, Vazgen Manukyan and many others lost during last 10-20 years.

    Offer solutions – and everyone will follow. Offer solutions to country’s top 10 problems. I don’t want to change Serge Sargsyan to a younger, better educated, great looking politician if s/he doesn’t tell me what is gonna happen to education, health, army, transport, pensions, economy, city, etc.. And it should be, again, not a kindergarten-level program like Raffi’s, or utopia and nonsense program like Dashnaks’, or no program at all, like Levon’s or Serge’s, or Obama-like campaign based on cool slogans with no real work behind, or Putin-like approach based on force demonstration and patriotic mottos. But it should be based on realistic, specific, achievable, ambitious, measurable, time-bound solutions. I want to see the difference between two leaders not on the cover of a magazine, but in my everyday life. And many other people want it too.

    Thanks again for this post. Hope someday you and I will witness someone offering solutions, finally.

    1. Levon, THREE things we KNOW will never bring changes are pessimism, negativity and lying!!! Please remember these protests ARE important AND DID, in truth, bring solutions (Trchan Waterfall, Mashtots Park, Transport Fare Hike)! Without protests, Armenia would be even WORSE off. Also, remember the huge protests in Ukraine that is pushing Putin away! We should be THANKING, INSPIRING and ENCOURAGING all brave concerned citizens who challenge criminals for their constitutional rights! Not mocking them. Each protest has become issue-based! Some (with LARGE numbers) win, some (with small numbers) don’t. I encourage you and all citizens to hit the streets, create huge numbers and demand changes on an ISSUE-basis one-by-one. This is one way to continue seeing change. All other ways, including YOUR positive ideas, are welcome, too! :) But, I will never mock the protesters. When I come in Summer, I will join them!

      To keep informed of coming protests: http://www.facebook.com/ArmenianActivistsNOW

      1. RDavideo, I thought we talk about political protest, but you talk about social protest, and then again you talk about Putin and Ukraine….

        I don’t know where you were at the time of those social protests you mentioned, but I was very active in all those social protests. I am still active in some of them. None of them had anything to do with politics, Putin, Ukraine, etc. none of Armenia’s political leaders was involved in those protests. Lots of Putin lovers and pro-Russian activists were very active in all those protests too. It’s not about politics. If you are going to come to Armenia and join people who are against Putin or Russia – you are very welcome. Those protests have nothing to do with Trchkan, Mashtots Park or Transport Fare.

        I already expressed my views about political protests, so I am not going to repeat.

        P.S. I don’t know what you know about Ukraine, but I have been there for some 5-6 times in last 3 years and I am going to fly there very soon too. Those protests in Ukraine are not against Putin. Putin is the president of another country.

        1. As for viable alternatives…

          You know how disillusioned I have been with various flavors of the Armenian opposition. However, this past year has been yet another year, when genuine civil society in Armenia has been taking shape and developing. I am sincerely hoping for a viable political force springing to life from that.

          I have been watching cautiously the “Civil Contract” political force taking shape with the initiative of opposition MP Nikol Pashinian. Let’s see what comes out of it.

          There are also interesting young people in the Armenian National Congress (HAK), Heritage (Zharangutyun) and Free Democrats.

          And than there’s always a chance of a new Bidzina Ivanishvili appearing in Armenia and putting things right.

          But this is all so vague that for now I’m sticking to what I said in the main blog-post above

    2. Levon jan, thanks for the comment.

      In a heated debate with my two uncles over the New Year table, I said I am strictly opposed of Armenia joining the EU. And I have no high opinion of the Association Treaty either. For one thing, Algeria, Tunisia have such treaties… what good has it done to them?

      One thing the EU approach was doing however, was that it offered “More for More” — its approach was a conditional one — more assistance for more democratic reform, human development, paying attention to the Civil Society, etc.

      Another valuable thing was that EU was pushing the Armenian authorities to listen to the reform suggestions developed by the Civil Society Forum (CSF) which my organization — The Media Diversity Institute was a part of. This forum was a great tool which was taking the huge potential of the Armenian civil society and getting them to work on creating a development agenda for Armenia. And the EU was also providing the tools to make the Armenian authorities pay attention to that.

      The Russian approach, on contrast, is to call the civil society “foreign agents” and raid their offices and shut them down.

      And so I really hated to see, that over the past three years me and my colleagues from the Armenian civil society have dedicated our valuable time and resources to created development agenda and priorities, to hundreds of meetings with the Armenian and European officials… and all in vain.

      Time is the most precious capital I have and I take Serzh Sarkissian’s move as a personal insult to me… what a waste…

      1. Indeed Artur jan,
        It’s not about who is better, EU or CU.
        I also worked in an initiative to adapt our legislation to EU legislation. And I feel myself cheated too.

  3. Dear Artur jan, thank you for pouring your heart out on paper, I relate to your feelings hundred percent. I was disgusted with all the festivities of Yerevan 2795. I spent the many years traveling through villages and I know what $59k or $200k (for Yerevan Festivities) can do for people who struggle to survive without running water. I am a very positive person myself, that’s why I moved to Armenia, I believe the country will have to go through the worst before it gets better, that’s the normality. The problem with our people is noone wants to step up the plate with a good strategy and as Levon said.. ENOUGH OF SLOGANS AND constructed speech to brain wash people with what they want to hear with no back up plan, no strategy, no action put into words. I have seen daily protests in Yerevan with NO ACTION….at the end of the day, my Armenian compatriots should face the reality that “GOVERNMENT DOES NOT GIVE A DAMN about people”.. so, take control of your life and make the changes. All these festivities are for a reason to distract people and give them a fake happiness which will last few minutes. What is sad is vast majority of people prefer to live under the soviet regime than the current administration. This regime is a growing disease which needs to be stopped only through PEOPLE… but who will leave his/her comfort zone and make a change. I admire people like you and Levon for your willingness to make a dent…please keep on writing and spread the word. I can’t wait for a change and I will be on the front line.

    Many thanks, Shenorhavor nor darin
    H

  4. Oh, Levon, we see it differently. I believe all these protests are related; they all have to do with the economy of Armenia in it’s future. People want more opportunity, not more corruption.

    Also, Putin has everything to do with the Ukraine protests. The people were mass protesting Ukraine’s president because he attempted to do an about-face after years of negotiating closer ties with the European Association. When he suddenly turned towards Russia/Putin, the people became very angry and hit the streets in mass!

    Sounds exactly like the situation in Armenia! Mass protests are working in Ukraine and can work in Armenia, too. I believe it will, soon, if people really want it!

      1. Haha, very funny. No, the protests Armenians have the power to make are related directly to Artur’s above article: Armenia’s presidents disastrous signing of the Customs Union Agreement.

        1. Just as I mentioned in my first comment, I see no solutions offered in any of your comments. And I am not surprised. There are tons of anti-Serge preachers in Armenia, just like you. Offering nothing instead.

          1. That’s the thing, nobody has an instant solution. I see MASS protests like happened in Ukraine, to pressure the government to rethink their decision like happened in Ukraine, to actually announce their decision NOT to go towards the customs union like happened in Ukraine as a possible solution. You might say NO WAY! Armenians will never protest like happened in Ukraine. If that’s true, then your attitude of negative hopelessness will prove true. But I know it IS possible – when people become angry enough with all the corruption and injustice, large numbers will hit the streets. Don’t ask me when that will be. No one knows.

  5. Speaking about solutions. I am pasting a link for all those who speaks Armenian.
    This guy has developed tremendously during last 5 years. Today he speaks only about solution-oriented approach. 5 years ago I would not even greet him. Today I like him. Tomorrow I will follow him if he keeps going like this. http://youtu.be/Yd-FjMNYz-M

  6. YES, Nikol and his group are for exactly what Raffi was for: Rule-of-law. I am sorry, Levon, I cannot understand Armenian. If you would like, please explain to us what impressed you about him in this interview. Thanks!

    1. I guess Pashinian’s new initiative, Civil Contract deserves another post. Will try to come up with something like that pretty soon.

    2. Robert, if you allow, I’ll answer your pervious comment here along with this one.

      As I have already said, I was and I still am protesting in Yerevan for every reasonable cause. You still talk about my hopelessness and negative attitude. I don’t know what makes you think I am against protesters, when I am one of them. If I do not agree to protest following your agenda or your views – it does not mean I am bad, or I am “mocking protesters”. If I am not with you – it doesn’t mean I am against you. You have your way of thinking and I have mine. I am simply telling you about how I see it.

      I could not register any result in Ukraine so far. Except mass protests. Yes, Ukrainians are stronger and more than Armenians in their protests and they have success registered before. They changed the regime once. But the one who came into power as a result of those protests transformed into corrupt government and lost power in next elections. So, success registered before became Ukraine’s biggest failure and disappointment. Comparison between Armenia and Ukraine is initially wrong for so many reasons. I am not going to list them now, but these two countries have more differences than similarities. By the way, I understand Ukrainian, so I follow some Ukrainian news too.

      I am so sorry you do not understand Armenian. I hope you understand that you miss some 90% of local Armenian information not translated into any other language. I am not surprised you are confident you know what’s best for Armenia, and you probably think you know it better than me. Well, I don’t blame you. Simply imagine someone knowing what’s best for USA or UK but understanding no English. And calling US and UK citizens to organize mass protests. But again, I will never blame your honest and sincere call.

      Now, Raffi. Raffi was the one who strongly believed his victory in presidential elections depends on Putin. In the middle of mass protests in Yerevan he announced that he was going to fly to Moscow and “bring our victory from Mr. Putin”. And he flew to Moscow the day after. Needless to say no one met with Raffi in Moscow. Raffi’s protests started with some 50,000-70,000 people (officially he gained 0,5 mln. votes) and ended up with 23-26 people in some 20 days. No one could lose supporters so elegantly and quickly as Raffi. If you ask an average Armenian today “who is Raffi Hovhannisian?” – 9 out of 10 people will say “a clown”. Raffi is a brilliant an example of pointless mass protests, i.e. protests “to change the regime” and no other specific solution offered in the agenda. Similar protests have been taking place in Armenia from 1992. No success, as you may know.

      Nikol. Well, he basically says what I say in my first comment. He believes protests should be solution-oriented, but not merely demanding resignation of current government. He says those solutions should be put on paper and mathematically calculated, so every protester knows what’s next, when, how. He also says he is not going to start something he is unable to finish. And once he starts something and fails – he says he’ll be the first one to resign.
      Living in Yerevan I could literally witness his transformation from a street protester, fanatic Levon supporter into individual and mature political leader. His today’s views are so different from his views 5 years ago. If he continues like that – I’ll support him. Looking forward to see another post about his new initiative and brainstorm around that.

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