The Internal and External Factors of the July Crisis in Armenia in 2016



The period from 17-31 July, 2016 was marked with another sensational event in the history of independent Armenia: on July 17 an armed grouping called “Daredevils of Sasun” seized the Police HQ and took hostages several members of police, among them one general and colonel. As a result of the capture and the subsequent events 3 military officials were killed, and there were injuries among the policemen, the grouping “Daredevils of Sasun” and civilians. The capture of Police HQ gained wide social sounding and was accompanied by crowded marches, demonstrations, different actions of complaint in defense of the members of the armed grouping and the goals pursued by them, came to their culmination on July 29, 30, when there was a serious confrontation between the police troops and the members of the march, as a result of which the number of wounded reached to 70. In the end, after the announcement of Varuzhan Avetisyan, the mediator of the group, the latter put their weapons down and surrendered to the authorities.

Theoretical Analysis of the Political Conflict

The political conflict in its essence is not a unique phenomenon of social life. Not only individuals, but also social groups serving the collective interests and demands become subjects of political conflicts, whose interests can collide because of the contradictions and inconsistencies between mutual demands and principles, in case of which the authority and the resources directed at its realization as a set of distributing and revisionary mechanisms, become pivotal object of the rivalry.

The detrimental causes become conflict-generating factors. It particularly refers to social-political factors, i.e. the peculiarities of political system and political relations, which have a significant impact on social tension and the level of conflicts in the society.

In order to form proper imagination about the real causes and goals of the given and any other conflict it is necessary to study the problem from three points of view: the disclosure of potential motivations for the emergence of the conflict, the analysis of the dynamics of the conflict, and revealing the logical sequence and relations preceding or following the conflict. From the perspective of conflict typology, the inner political crisis emerged as a result of  police HQ seizure can be classified as micro-conflict, during which the radically-minded group of people captured the base of power structure being under the control of state authority in order to put their demands into reality. Theoretically, the inner situation of Armenia could bring about armed rebellion. The improper social-political condition of the society, the migration posing threat to the national security, the monopolization of the economy, the significant corruption, injustice, the low probability of realizing political transformations have led to the degradation of the intra-state situation, the formation of gap in the relations between authorities and the society, and accordingly to the absence of the belief and conviction, in case of which the possibility of emerging radically-intended groups is very high. Their struggle against authorities is likely to gain social support, taking into account the urgency of problems and their condition of being worrisome for huge masses.

The dynamic of events

After the capture of Police HQ the dynamics of events demonstrated that the members of the grouping had no cultivated plan of the subsequent actions, strategic and tactical clear steps. It can be concluded not only from the long-lasting uncertainty during those two weeks and from the absence of clear and realistic road map, but also from the content of the demands from the authorities. Together with the demand of releasing Zhirair Sefilyan, the head of the Himnadir Parliament and other political prisoners, the demands of the president’s resignation and the conductions of extraordinary presidential and parliamentary elections show that the rebellion tended to exacerbate social moods, and to activate wide masses, and not to gaining concessions from the authorities through the rebellion. We should take into consideration the fact, that while demanding extraordinary parliamentary and presidential elections via the armed struggle a clear road map of the amendments as well as justifications should be presented to the society. It was aimed at making clear for the society, whether in case of coup d’etat the realization of their objectives would be effective, because if the extraordinary elections are held, it would not be effective and prospective to inspire the desperate society via propaganda and the presentation of programs, especially if the into account the fact that electoral campaigns last short periods.

Daredevils of Sasun as intra-political presentation

Let us observe the events preceding and following the conflict, attempting to reveal their logical connection. The military actions of the April, 2017 resumed by Azerbaijan in the Karabakh-Azerbaijani border, as a result of which the Armenian part suffered 100 casualties, and the loss of armaments and 800 ha territory,  made some problems of the defense system apparent, which boosted wide social discussions leading to the decrease of the authorities’ legitimacy. The extreme tension of the military clash and the dictation of the Russian party forced two sides of the confrontation launch negotiations. After the resume of the talks the intention of the authorities to concede  territories became widespread in the society, which according to the author was not only a demonstration of a social opinion conditioned by the developments of the events, but also somewhat reflected some attributes of the ongoing political processes, particularly the pressures posed on the Armenian party.  Proceeding from the logics of the cause and effects relations of the unleashing of the military actions and the accompanying political developments, it appears realistic the suppressions on the Armenian party to make territorial concessions in the resumed negotiations. Parallel to it, we should emphasize, that the Armenian authorities recognized that it would be impossible for them to remain incumbent if they make concessions after the April military actions. Taking into account the mentioned fact, it can be concluded that the inner political crisis stemmed from the capture of the Police HQ could be implemented by the inner actors as a specific political action directed to the outer community in order to demonstrate the tough and uncompromising position of the society on the issue of the concessions and to annul the possible compulsion of concessions. The mentioned arguments can be substantiated from several perspectives. Firstly, there were no official stance or readiness of making territorial concessions, and the Armenian authorities did not take any practical step which would provide weighty argument to implement preventative actions via such radical steps.

The content-analysis of the announcements made by the armed grouping during the seizure of the Police HQ states about their obvious anti-Russian messages, such as emancipating through pan-national struggles and preventing the country from becoming a Russian province. One of the crucial demands that were advanced by the group was the uncompromising and sharp position not to make territorial concessions in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It is worth mentioning that the main actors of the Police HQ seizure were mainly the freedom-fighters of Arstakh war, whose military experience and their popularity in the society could gain popular support and approval, which is one of the important components of supposed political message. The members of the grouping presumably had real imaginations and predictions on the possible rate of the active involvement of the people (there were cases, when especially during the post-electoral period national movements initiated by different political forces did not succeed, that is why social skepticism and the hope of achieving changes in the political spheres have gradually reached their lowest degree).

Proceeding from the above-mentioned, we can underscore that after the implementation of the steps bringing about intra-political shocks and unpredictable developments, it would be illogical and not serious to present the military officers on duty and the aim of preventing the bloodshed as a justification for the surrender of the grouping. This was in the situation when as a result of the seizure of the headquarter and the subsequent military actions there were casualties among police officers. According to the members of the grouping it would not correspond to their objectives to put off the weapon.

Another remarkable fact revealed during the preliminary investigation, was that there were 31 people involved in the groping, who were armed with 14 machine guns and other weapons.

It was disclosed in the preliminary investigation, that besides 31 armed people, 2 people with two machine guns took part in the seizure of the Police HQ. These two people unnoticeably left the territory of the HQ, taking with them two “Makarov” guns that were gripped from the armory of the HQ.  It would be possible to clarify during the further investigation what were the intentions connected with the above-mentioned two members, who left the territory of the headquarter after the seizure, whether it was a tactical step, or there were other messages.


There are five months left to the transition of Armenia to the parliamentary system. After 5 months Armenia is going to face parliamentary elections, after which the transition from the semi-presidential system to the parliamentary one will be activated. In the eve of elections the legitimacy of the authorities is as low as ever under the influence of socio-political reality. That’s why is has become pivotal for the regime to initiate effective actions in order to improve their authority and legitimacy. The reform of government can simultaneously serve the mentioned objective. From this perspective, it has become typical to appoint non-partisan and not famous people in the posts of ministers, who do not have problematic and negative past, or the society is not informed about it, thus creating positive inclinations and belief that there will be improvements. As a result of organizing positive changes in the socio-economic sphere until the parliamentary elections the authorities hope to create positive inclinations towards them among the members of society. The main goal of this is to conduct elections smoothly compared with previous elections in order to implement their reelection in a legal and democratic way. 


  1. Ланцов С., Политическая конфликтология, Питер, 2008, c.
  2. Коваленко Б., Пирогов А., Рыжов О., Политическая конфликтология, Москва, 2002

Author: Hayk Sahakyan: © All rights are reserved

Translator: Khachik Makyan