Independence between the fear of Scylla and the Charybdis of hope


On August 23, 1990, with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Supreme Council  of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) and the referendum on 21 September 1991, the republic seceded from the USSR and proclaimed its independence on September 23. For many people these textbook lines are just dates and chronology, whereas a huge amount of work has been done on the basis of these numbers and facts that began in the 1990s and reached its logical conclusion by the start of the Karabakh Movement and finally the proclamation of independence.

A little about the road: the desired and the real one

Speaking about the national awakening of the 1960s, the events of the 50th anniversary of the genocide and their public and political reactions are considered to be the basic and important factors. The main result was the erection of the monument erected by the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide and a certain change in the internal autonomy and public mood of the Armenian SSR. It is important to remember that no matter how important and pivotal the public participation was, the self-sacrificing dedication of different groups and individuals to the cause, the USSR was interested in it.First and foremost it was Khrushchov’s “Thaw” then, the atmosphere of the Cold War, and before that, during the Second World War, there were quite realistic rumors about a possible collision between the Turkish Republic and the USSR. Later, in 1955, Turkey became a NATO member and faced a problem of strategic concern to the USSR.It was then the Caribbean Crisis (1962), the reason for which was the installation of Jupiter missiles at the Turkish Republic (under the auspices of NATO) against the USSR. Here is a few other political and geopolitical conditions that made possible the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide by the USSR authorities and its political abuse on the international arena, serving the international political interests of the USSR. Importantly, the situation in Armenia was also of vital importance. The Great Repatriation of 1940-50s was an important stimulus for the involvement of active, free and informed young people in public policy. Public activism and generally wanted for 2-3 people were considered by the USSR authorities as a direct threat to the security of the state and were nipped in the bud. For example, the incident in 1965, in the area near the Opera and Ballet Theater, when a group of people broke through the windows of the Opera House with iron and stones at the same time when the country’s top leadership commemorated the victims of genocide, it was qualified as hooliganism and violation of public order.Similarly, in 1966, when a group of young men decided to pay tribute to Komitas in the pantheon of Komitas as a hooliganism of the collective image of the genocide and was kept in a cell for 1-10 days.All this is the evidence of the fact that the events of 1965 and the opening of the 1967 memorial were absolutely profitable for the USSR central authorities and were mainly directed by them. It was oriented that some liberalization of the public sphere following the thaw period at least in the Soviet Union could be dangerous and infectious and, accordingly, it would be easier to direct that movement to the meaning of the “national, past” and the immanent and impotent field, to dispel the possible wave of protest and control its developments. In order to understand what has had an enormous social and political influence on these events, it is necessary to touch upon some aspects of the Karabakh movement:some prominent actors of the Karabakh movement, as well as their elder generation, have been participants of that movement. Later, the Karabakh Movement has become a school and a probation period for the political actors of the time to come to the “new people” scene to create an independent state with many advantages and disadvantages.

Ideological and political bases. From alternatives to clarity

A. Unlike the Eastern European political movements (Hungary, 1956, Prague, 1968), where the issue of national sovereignty (from Moscow) and the moral axis of the nation were initially established, the Karabakh movement was somewhat different on its basis and developments. Eastern European movements initially proclaimed their indisputable sovereignty and emphasized that it could not even be subjected to minor speculations. Political and public personal freedom had no alternative. In contrast, the Karabakh Movement did not have that problem from the very beginning. The key point here was the unification of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR) with the Armenian SSR.

B. The issue of the moral character of the individual and its cleanliness: What do you mean? The well-known dissident poet, the first Czechoslovakian and the last Czech president, Vaclav Havel, in his political stance and essays emphasized that truth and honesty had no other choice that the totalitarian system could be won except in the case of preaching the absolute truth. (In reality, this problem was later criticized on many occasions because of the lack of one-sidedness and logic of intellectuals). One of the prominent figures of the Karabakh Movement Vazgen Manukyan, for example, in one of the interviews with “Mardu Zhamanak” (Human Time) TV program, mentions that he and his supporters were ready to say that 80 percent of the truth was not just marginal faces and would not be among the dissidents. This can be interpreted as a political pragmatism. This example is neither absolute nor universal, but it is a very good example of the difference between political thought and even contrast.

The problem, however, is that the half-truth’s way gives you half-fruits. The leaders of the Karabakh Movement wanted to kill birds with one stone and maintain close relations with the USSR central authorities and stay in its composition and join the NKAR. Then, the Sumgait events, the tough stances of the USSR central authorities and Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic will bring him to change the political agenda and the only alternative will be independence from the USSR and solving the problem by their own strength.

Fears of the past and their overcoming stage by stage

As Winston Churchill  said, success is the ability to move from failure to failure, without losing enthusiasm. These lines perfectly characterize the path of the Karabakh Movement and the psychological and moral characteristics of its actors.If we recall the conditions under which the first Republic of Armenia became sovereign, we will see that in the course of the struggle for independence in the future, this situation was raised in the form of phobias. The first issue was the physical security, the second one, as many people like to mention, is the issue of impossibility of the future sovereignty of the first republic (the Theory of Impossibility of Sovereignty of the Small State, Turkish genetic hostility) conditioned by internal and external terrible circumstances: economy, war, demography, etc. and geopolitical situations (two years of war against the three neighbors, a huge number of data, corrupted economy, inactivity of political sponsors, the threat of complete destruction by the Turkish troops and so on. Under these circumstances, the power has changed and the Soviet order has been established. These narratives became active during the Karabakh movement and caused numerous clashes. Some of the public and political groups pointed out that the independence would bring a new war against Turkey and again bring about a physical destruction problem. The main defender of this thesis was the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and it was strong in the psychology of the people who survived the genocide. The other part completely excluded the possibility of sovereignty as a small state and the underlying skepticism of the possibilities of organizing its own forces, material and intellectual potential.But the further course of the events, the path of independence showed that there is nothing impossible and immutable, and everything depends on the political will. The Karabakh war has already demonstrated that the authorities of the time managed to create a persistent governance system for winning the war, able to organize and manage all kinds of resources and eventually achieve temporal victory.

The end of the war and the future situation

The liberated homeland has no value at all if the citizens of the country do not want to live and create in that homeland. It is one thing to create and organize a system in which the priority is to achieve military superiority over the enemy, and hence to achieve victory and another problem is the reformulation of the system aimed at organizing public interest and creating public goods for the sake of citizens. This is the problem that has been put on the shoulders of these 25-year-old governments, which they have perfectly failed. After the ceasefire of 1944, it was extremely important to overcome the post-war syndrome and to carry out the transformation of a “warring society” into the social circle of “creating society” or the organization of peaceful life of the “evident characters” within the public circle, the realization of the idea of warfare, in which the honor of victory should be put on the people’s shoulders rather than the criminal rebels and opportunists. All this was not done or done improperly, resulting in the use of a «military» factor and resource in future political events, for the sake of political this minute interest. Finally, it is necessary to clarify what problems the system had in 1991 when the “New Forces” unleashed the old one[1], ignored the conflict of interests and solved their minor problems, and what problems has the current system when the situation is diametrically different, key and priority issues have become secondary but never less important.


[1] A brilliant example is the victory of LevonTer-Petrosyan in the elections of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia in three stages, when the communists became the sponsors of the victory, which, in the future, were justified under the logic of the time system.


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Author: Gor Madoyan ©All rights are reserved

Translator: Anna Ghulijanyan