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Young Activists Electrify Armenia: Lessons Learned¦

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#1 Yervant1


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Posted 01 July 2015 - 09:31 AM

Young Activists Electrify Armenia:
Lessons Learned¦

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

When a group of young Armenians spontaneously gathered in Yerevan's
Liberty Square 10 days ago to challenge the planned increase of
electricity rates, no one expected their protest to reverberate around
the world.
To everyone's surprise, the small gathering mushroomed into several
thousand mostly young people who marched to the Capital City's major
thoroughfare, the Baghramyan Avenue, where the Presidential Palace,
the Parliament, and the Constitutional Court are located, and staged
an overnight sit-in. The protests quickly spread to major towns and
cities throughout Armenia.
Since the demonstrators refused to vacate the Avenue, the police
dispersed them with water cannons, injuring a dozen protesters and
arresting 237 others. The police also detained several journalists,
damaging or confiscating their cameras and tape recorders.
As images of these confrontations were disseminated through social
media and various websites, several thousand more protesters showed up
the next day, making crowd control practically impossible. At the time
of writing this column -- the evening of June 29 -- demonstrators were
still occupying portions of Baghramyan Avenue.
Who are these young men and women and what do they want? They are not
affiliated with any political parties or foreign powers, contrary to
baseless accusations, and have no agenda other than demanding that the
Armenian government rescind the 17% increase in the cost of
electricity, effective August 1. These activists believe that they are
legally and morally justified to block city streets because their
protest is peaceful and spontaneous! They have named their movement
`No to Plunder.'
The authorities made several attempts to persuade these young people
to abandon their protest. When President Serzh Sargsyan proposed to
meet with them, the protesters declined the request demanding that the
meeting be televised live to the public. The government's offer to
subsidize the higher cost of electricity by providing a corresponding
increase in aid to over 100,000 destitute families was also
rejected. Finally, the President's decision to freeze the rate
increase until an international auditing company reviews the financial
records of the Energy Networks of Armenia, a subsidiary of a Russian
company, to see if the new rate is warranted, was also turned down.
The first break in the tense standoff came last Sunday night when the
protest organizers accepted the police offer and moved back to Liberty
Square to avoid another bloody confrontation. They announced on Monday
night that they are ending their protest and will decide their next
move shortly. Most demonstrators, however, refused to follow the lead
of the organizers, spending another night in the middle of Baghramyan
Avenue, chanting: `We are the masters of our country.'
This new generation of men and women are disenchanted with both the
authorities and the political opposition. However, rather than giving
up and leaving the country like so many others, the protest organizers
took to the streets to defend the people's rights. These activists
showed that although they have no power, no wealth, and no official
position, they are capable of rising to the occasion when necessary
and rally the masses around them, commanding the grudging respect of
the authorities! One may disagree with the protesters' tactics, but
cannot help but admire their sincerity and commitment to the welfare
of their fellow Armenians!
There are three important lessons to be learned from these recent
1) The future of Armenia will be in good hands as long as there are
young people in the upcoming generation like those who appeared
spontaneously last week in the streets of Yerevan;
2) Opposition political parties in Armenia have little chance of
assuming power anytime soon, unless they completely overhaul their
policies, attract bright, committed and resourceful young men and
women to their ranks, and allow them to rise to positions of
3) The people of Armenia have had a deep-seated distrust of all
successive governments before and since independence. The leaders in
power are facing far greater problems than the price of
electricity. It is an existential imperative for Armenia to establish
a just and democratic society in which the citizenry can live in
dignity, prosperity and peace. Armenians would not need to protest in
the streets of Yerevan if there are effective mechanisms that people
can trust to defend their basic civil rights and secure their economic


#2 gamavor


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Posted 01 July 2015 - 02:09 PM

The Russian media finally realized that protests in Armenian capital are anti-Russian in nature, because protesters hold sings saying “NO TO PLUNDER” :)

#3 MosJan


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Posted 01 July 2015 - 04:41 PM

i can't make  everything out  of this.  news sits  like pan Armenia  and  some otter  Pro Garment sits  was PRO demonstration.


i just cat  take  anything  at the face  value anymore

#4 Yervant1


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Posted 01 July 2015 - 04:48 PM

My only wish is that outside agitators stays out of it and lets the people of Armenia decide for themselves. But I highly doubt that they will do so, when they pour millions into the hands of traitors who will do anything for money even at the cost of ruining their own Motherland. 

#5 Yervant1


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Posted 03 July 2015 - 08:56 AM


21:28 â~@¢ 02.07.15

In an interview with Tert.am, Anahit Bakhshyan, a member of the
Barev Yerevan alliance at the Yerevan Municipality, commented in the
protests against rising electricity prices held by the 'No to plunder'
civil initiative.

"Our young people are teaching us a good lesson with their slogan
'We are masters of our country'," she said.

"This slogan, especially by the architects of our 25-year-old state,
has made us realize we are masters of our country and you cannot make
any decisions behind us, which pose a threat to our independence,
security and so on. This movement has brought the authorities
and people to Freedom Square and, later, to Baghramyan Avenue,"
Ms Bakhshyan.

According to her, at one moment the authorities were able to apply
the "divide and rule" principle to the movement. However, it did not
last long.

Although Baghramyan Avenue is not full of crowds now, the people are
not forgetting the slogan. And both the authorities and oligarchs
have become aware of it because everyone sees their own interests in
the movement, which is only natural.

"The universal protest made our young people go out into the square.

It will not fade away. Although the young people continue insisting
on their demands, some of them see a different way - one of system
reforms. Others say they must stay in Baghramyan Avenue," Ms Bakhshyan

Both are necessary and important and they must inspire young people
for their movement to be of benefit to the state.

"And we can see it even now - civil society has shown teeth," Ms
Bakhshyan said.

As to signs of disappointment in civil society ranks, she said:

"No, I do not. I do not mean disappointment. Rather, I did not want
any split. I am a person who said that they must go to Freedom Square.

I think going to Freedom Square would have been a better step, but
a great part of the people insisted on staying [in Baghramyan Avenue].

They will finally draft an agenda and submit it to the government."

She has read a "so-called political scientific analysis" which claims
that the Free Democrats and Heritage parties are behind the protests in
Baghramyan Avenue only because the parties' members were present there.

"It is not so, but it does not mean the movement will not be
politicized. I am sure it will, and the authorities are well aware
of that. So they have to prevent it. If the authorities do not want
the movement to be politicized, they should make sensible decisions,"
Ms Bakhshyan said.


#6 Yervant1


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Posted 06 July 2015 - 09:40 AM

Young people show readiness to be masters of their country ` Ruben Babayan

15:45 ¢ 05.07.15

Numerous things need revising in Armenia, which requires system
reforms, Ruben Babayan, Director of the Hovhannes Tumanyan Puppet
Theater, told Tert.am as he summed up the current stage of protests
against an electricity price hike.

`The more the movement contributes to system reforms the more benefit
to both the movement and public. The more it focuses on the local
problem the sooner it will be less interesting,' he said.

Each phenomenon must follow its own course.

`One does not need to be too wise to understand that the planned rise
in electricity prices is not the first case. And it is not this
individual case that requires a solution. Rather, we need a solution
to prevent such recurrences,' Mr Babayan said.

The young people showed their readiness to be masters of their country.

`I think this is the most important factor.'

Mr Babayan advises against fear of the protests turning into a
political movement.

`I think it is senseless fear. If it is a democratic movement, each
person can voice his or her opinion.'

As regards the problem of few leaders, he said:

`In any case, it is the people leading the masses that ensure progress
by suggesting new ideas. The organizers are somewhat not sure of their
own strength because they often hear talks that they will find it
difficult to gather again if they break up now. I think each movement
has its stages.'

He pointed out different ways of resolving problems. The more ways the
sooner the aim can be achieved.


#7 Yervant1


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Posted 07 July 2015 - 12:56 PM


12:24 â~@¢ 07.07.15

Most social problems in the Armenian society stem from deviations in
the general set of values, an analyst said today, highly praising
the initiators of the Electric Yerevan protests for their attempts
to restore the society's trust.

Speaking at a news conference, President of the foundation Verelq
Artstun Pepanyan said he believes the Armenian society needs a
revolution of a set of values to reshape its mentality.

He said he expects a successful campaign to revolve the society
back into the situation it was facing in May (before the Electric
Networks call for revising the consumer tariffs of power). "I was
closely following the attitudes of people. They first developed a
trust in the young people's set of values; the wave later spread to
the diaspora, with all the Armenians coming to believes that they
can change a country," Pepanyan noted.

"A social movement sets a specific task which isn't absolutely a
life-and-death issue, as there are never winners or losers. All we
need to do is just tp urge the authorities to do this. If you manage
to, your should never turn around and say you are the winners but
instead agree that the authorities listened to you and met you demand
and thank them for showing good will," he added.

#8 Yervant1


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Posted 19 July 2015 - 07:28 AM

Dodging the Bullet

Editorial, 10 July 2015

The high and mighty fretted and fulminated, the punditocracy did its
high school turn with compare-and-contrast, and many Armenians
wondered: `Is this the beginning of the end for Serge Sarkissian?'

Igor Morozov, member of Russia's legislative upper house, said the
Electric Yerevan protests were carbon-copy of the Kiev maidan, and
would end in a coup if Sarkissian didn't learn a lesson from Ukraine
and draw the proper conclusions. Duma's Valery Rishkin advised
Sarkissian to keep an eye on US ambassador Richard Mills. Former Duma
member Alexander Babakov detected the fingers of US Assistant
Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland who had
helped engineer the maidan. Pro-Putin scientists Sergei Markov said:
`The attack on Yerevan was expected¦there are probably a lot of
fighters from Ukraine among the demonstrators and is being directed
from external headquarters and the aim of protest organizers now is
bloodshed.' Finally, Vladimir Yevsseyev, head of the Caucasus
department of the Institute of Post-Soviet States, had no doubt the
protests `desire to avenge Russia for the Donbass.' Other big names
politicians such as Konstantin Kosachev and Leonid Slutsky expressed
similar fears. The color revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia, and
Kyrgyzstan have ruffled the Russians.

They were all wrong, although their concern was not difficult to
fathom. Armenia, in the words of Kremlin spokesmen is one of the few
friends Moscow has in the region. A rare Russian cool head was Ismail
Agakishiyev of the Moscow University. He pointed that the maidan and
Electric Yerevan were different situations, different relationship and
in different economic and social contexts.

After two weeks there was still no evidence of a plot by outsiders or
locals being manipulated by anti- Russia forces. Paruyr Hayrikyan and
a few anti-Russian Armenians tried to hijack'farcically'the `No to
Plunder' protest but they were told to vacate Baghramyan Avenue where
the demonstrators had established their base.

>From day one the protesters had stressed that they had no hidden
agenda. They were not aligned to any political party. They were not
anti-Russian or pro-West. They became angry when the Russian media
drew parallels between the protests and maidan. They repeated they
were merely protesting the untenable electricity price hike.
Sarkissian, an old fox, played the game well, except for one stumble.
Aware that everyone was watching, he restrained the police,
particularly the voluble and quick-to-the-trigger Vladimir Gasparyan,
head of Armenia's police and his deputy Valery Osipyan. The
Sarkisssian mistake? He promised the state would subsidize the hike
for needy families pending an audit. The callow `solution' was
dismissed by the protestors: wasn't the state budget the result of
taxes? It certainly isn't Sarkissian private kitty.

The Russian-owned Electric Networks of Armenia will be investigated
and there will be an audit by international experts, Sarkissian said.
Corruption, nepotism, excessive salaries and expense accounts,
perquisites of the company executives will be investigated. As if he
didn't know that these were par for the course in a state where the
government has more holes than a slab of Swiss cheese. Sarkissian was
doing his usual imitation of the shady Capt. Renault in `Casabalanca'
who was `shocked! Shocked!' by the gambling going on at Rick's Café

At the end of two weeks the protestors, many of them professionals,
went home. They had made their point. Even if they wanted to achieve
more they couldn't because `No to Plunder' was unplanned. They had no
leaders, structure, mechanism or funds. They were also painfully
unqualified to run any country. Some had to return to work or to
school. And they were exhausted.

But despite their `weaknesses', they grabbed more attention and
international media limelight than the several mass rallies organized
by the opposition parties in the past few years which had attracted as
many as 10,000 people. Those rallies were `tainted' because they were
organized by pols that had lost the confidence of the people. As well,
they were mostly attended by pensioners who are nostalgic for the
Soviet welfare state. Electric Yerevan participants, who demanded an
end to the looting of Armenia, were young, often professionals, and
savvy about politics. They are the tomorrow of Armenia. Electric
Yerevan electrified the country for nearly two weeks. Clubs, bars,
cafes and stores shut off their lights and put up signs in support.

Sarkissian was lucky this time. What about next time, and the one
after? Political analyst Ruben Mehrabian of Armenian Centre for
National and International Studies was to the point: `The post-Soviet
system of vertical corruption does not work anymore.' Homo Sovieticus
Sarkissian is yesterday's man in capitalist-oligarchic suit. His days
and that of the 40 to 50 oligarchic families, who are choking their
countrymen and threatening the very existence of Armenia, will have
their hands full next time. The hike is a symptom of what's wrong with
Armenian governance. There are thousands of such daily injustices
being inflicted upon the hard-pressed (30% poverty and GDP per capita
of $3,500 annually) populace. The hike was a demonstration of the
government's institutionalized corruption and greed. It's just one
example of the lack of transparency and accountability in the

Apparently, Sarkissian and his oligarch acolytes live with the `after
me, the deluge' motto. The deluge might arrive sooner than they
anticipate. An observer quoted 19th century Russian writer Alexander
Herzen's words: `Activists operate on the principle of `we are not
doctors, we are pain.'' The next wave of protestors might replace the
`No to Plunder' signs with `Throw the Bums Out' signs, and have the
desperate population behind them. As the song says: `Freedom is just
another word for nothing left to lose.'

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