Top 10 the most failed leaders of the Armenian independent statehoods throughout history.
In this list, we take into account the situation preceding their governance, personal abilities, activities, and legacy they had left.
10) King Varazdat
King of Armenia, Arsacid dynasty, 374-378
King Varazdat, considering Moushegh Mamikonyan as a commander of conspiracy murder of King Pap and a supporter of making the Mets Hayk (Greater Armenia) a Roman province, organized his murder during the feast. However, after the murder of Moushegh, no actions were taken to prevent the possible respond of the house Mamikonian which led to the inevitable clash with one of the most powerful aristocratic dynasties in the country. In 377 King Varazdat admitted the dominance of Sasanian Persia and the country eventually lost its independence. In 378, defeated by Manvel Mamikonyan who was released from Persian detention, he was forced to leave for Rome.
9) Gi Lusinyan or Constantine III
King of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, 1343-1345
Constantine was initially reluctant to accept the prospect of ascending the Armenian throne, hoping to regain his power in the Byzantine court, becoming its Eastern part general. However, after the failure in the struggle against John V, he eventually agreed to become the king of Armenia. Throughout his reign, however, he was unable to stand indifferent to the Armenian throne, deepening pro-Western politics and earning reputation of a “Latin addict”. Throughout his reign, the internal contradictions were aggravated weakening the state inside. At the same time, contradictions with Egypt strained. The animosity of the surrounding Muslim States against the Armenian kingdom deepened. Under the conditions of internal and external uncertainties and contradictions, in 1344, the Armenian ruling class organized the murder of the king.
8) Constantine V
King of Cilician Armenia, 1362-1373
Constantine was one of the most monotonous kings in Armenia, who, according to historians, had set himself a task to save his own skin and possessions, as a result of which he often offered his throne to the king of Cyprus, one of the most famous Christian monarchs of that time, Peter I. The death of the latter in 1369, however, ruined Constantine’s plans, leading him to rely on the hope of finding peace with Egyptian Mamluks. Constantine, by fighting against the Mamluks for years and bearing the pro-Western reputation, then offered the Armenian throne to Egyptian sultan. Interestingly, if at other times the princes of the country sought ways to change the king and appealed to foreign states asking for a new king or eliminating the royal authority of Armenia, then at that time Constantine himself did so. This shows the king’s contempt, disaffection towards the Armenian royal throne, and the willingness to sacrifice independent statehood for his personal interests.
In contrast, the Cilician princes tried to find a leader who would be able to maintain and rebuild the Armenian royal authority. Under such circumstances, Constantine V was killed leaving the intensification of relations with the two major power centers and the strengthening of the internal centrist powers, contributing to the unprecedented acceleration of fall of the kingdom.
7) Serzh Sargsyan
President of the Republic of Armenia, 2008-2018
The years of Serzh Sargsyan’s presidency are marked by the apparent collapse of the economic and political life of the country. He came to power as a result of disputable presidential elections. During Sargsyan’s rule, the poverty rate increased by about 2%. Gross Domestic Product Index dropped, from $ 11.7 billion in 2008 reaching to $ 11.6 billion in 2017. However, the population decline can be considered as the stigma of his presidency when more than 350,000 citizens left Armenia forever. The public debt grew unprecedentedly from $ 1.9 billion in 2008 reaching to $ 6.8 billion in 2017, putting the country at a default risk. These unprecedented indices, by the way, were recorded in favorable conditions of global economic developments and in relative peace conditions of the region, which have rarely been encountered in the history of Armenia. Instead, pyramidal economic corruption in Armenia increased, becoming a key component of public life. With a steady increase in the shadow economy, small and medium-sized businesses began to leave the arena.
In internal political relations, the irreversible distortion of the electoral process had a particularly negative effect when electoral corruption became a publicly acceptable phenomenon. Many politicians were convicted on groundless charges. During his presidency, Armenia experienced the turmoil of political prisoners. Political opposition has become a marginal, with zero role in decision-making. The political system appeared under the full control of Sargsyan, excluding the change of power through elections.
In the period of Sargsyan’s rule, Armenia continued to isolate from regional integration processes, especially by not using the real potential of deepening relations with Iran. After nearly 3.5 years of negotiations, not only did he not sign the Association Agreement with the European Union, but also in one night spent in the Kremlin he decided that Armenia should join the Eurasian Economic Union created by Russia. The “Football diplomacy” initiated by him ended in failure, the result of which was not only the Armenian-Turkish border which stayed closed and diplomatic relations unrestored, but also he decided to create a commission of historians investigating the Genocide issue. On March 1, 2018 the Armenian-Turkish protocols were terminated, re-complicating the process of Armenian-Turkish reconciliation and making it even vaguer.
During Sargsyan’s presidency, Four-day April military operations took place, as a result of which the Armenian side had territorial losses. The total area of the two Armenian States dropped from 41743 square kilometers to 41735 square kilometers. The convenient moment was not used to put Nagorno-Karabakh to the negotiating process. Moreover, the precondition for introducing the mechanism of investigation of the border violations was promptly forgotten as the result of the Armenian side’s precise inconsistency.
Serzh Sargsyan’s presidency undermined the country and made it more vulnerable for its opponents. Armenia fell behind from its neighbors and competitors in almost all indices. Sargsyan is undoubtedly one of the most disappointing leaders in Armenian history, who did not occupy a higher horizontal place in this list just because he did not bring the country to a literal decline.
6) Hamo Ohanjanyan
Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, 1920 May 5 – November 23
Hamo Ohanjanyan became the Prime Minister of Armenia in May, 1920, as an answer to the Bolshevik Revolt and in order to suppress the latter. A bureau of government was formed, that is, the Armenian government was fully supplemented with members of the ARF (Armenian Revolutionary Federation) Bureau and, in fact, served the interests of the party. If at the time of the rebellion that policy might have been somehow understandable, then after repression of the rebellion, the bureau-government showed that the party no longer distinguishes between itself and the Armenian government. And Ohanjanyan was a typical party figure whose task was to serve the party and defend its interests by identifying them as state interests.
One of its obvious manifestations was the indifference shown by Ohanjanyan in relations with Turkey. Responding to Kemal’s proposal to normalize the Armenian-Turkish relations, Ohanjanyan connected normalization of the relations with the European countries. He was one of the defender of relying on the third force, without noticing that third force in the Armenian-Turkish relations first of all had to satisfy its own interests, at the expense of the hostility of Armenians and Turks. The narrow and party-centered policy of Ohanjanyan’s government ignored the principle of balanced foreign policy, leading to the Turkish-Armenian war in autumn. Until the last moment Ohanjanyan’s government did not want to resign, until it was too late and the Turkish armies entered Alexandrapol (Gyumri). Ohanjanyan was unable to distinguish between party and state interests while being a supplier of party bureau’s interests and exclusively serving them.
5) Robert Kocharyan
President of the Republic of Armenia, 1998 – 2008
Robert Kocharyan became godfather of systematization and crystallization of criminal oligarchic orders in Armenia. He came to power as a result of disputable elections.
During the years of Kocharyan’s presidency, for the first time, economic quotas were divided, oligopolies and monopolies were set up, internal criminal rules of the pyramidal system were developed and practices of electoral frauds were categorized. The fundamental failure of transitional processes and democracy are under his personal responsibility.
Kocharyan was the author of “Property for Debt” transaction, as a result of which Armenia transferred a number of national-state-owned enterprises to Russia for debt of $100 million, including the Mergelyan Institute, Hrazdan TPP and the Mars Factory. Through his persistent efforts, almost the whole system of Armenia’s energy independence appeared in the hands of Russia, depriving Armenia of the guarantees of energy security and independence.
Kocharyan’s presidency started from taking Nagorno-Karabakh out of the negotiation process, making Armenia more vulnerable to international actors and depriving Karabakh of being an independent factor. During his presidency, with the deepening of the deadlock of the Armenian-Turkish relations, Armenia became totally out of the regional integration.
During Kocharyan’s rule, the unprecedented crime of October 27, 1999, took place resulting in the murder of National Assembly Speaker Karen Demirchyan, Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan and 6 other statesmen. So far, the chief client and organizer of terrorism is not known, and the case actually is not disclosed. The oppositionists blamed Kocharyan for directing the case investigation, and the unlawful dismissal of proceedings for organizers. Whereas, in the broad public circle, there is conviction that Kocharyan was the real organizer of the murder, with the Russian sponsorship. His presidency was full of murders of many high-ranking officials (RA Deputy Minister of Defense, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Deputy Prosecutor General, etc.). The pinnacle of the bloody events of his presidency was March 1, 2008 when police attacked about 700-1000 demonstrators, who protested against fraudulent elections in the tent camp of Liberty Square, violently dispersing the peaceful strike. On March 1, the army was involved in internal political processes, and 10 people were killed and hundreds were wounded by gunfire. A state of emergency was established, alternative sources of information were blocked, and prisons were filled with political prisoners.
Kocharyan’s “organizing economy” format, which was nothing but a neo-Soviet economic practice, led to the collapse of the country’s economy by the first shock. The years of his presidency are linked to the problems of constructional economic balloon and violation of foreign policy neutrality. During his presidency, Armenia was deviated from the way of building a modern and democratic society.
4) Artashes IV
Armenian King, Arsacid dynasty, 422-428
According to historians, Artashes IV, being an inexperienced and debauched person, caused dissatisfaction among the princes. The latter demanded from the Persian court to dethrone him. Although Artashes denied the accusations against him, he was deprived of his throne, which resulted in abolition of the kingdom in Armenia, instead of that becoming a province, and confiscation of royal treasures of Arsacid dynasty. Because of this young and inexperienced ruler’s mistakes and improvidence, Armenia lost its recent state independence elements that continued to be long preserved in neighboring Georgia.
3) Arshak III
King of Armenia, Arsacid dynasty, 378-390
Till 384 AD, the kingdom of Arshak III was in name only: it was Manvel Mamikonyan who had ruled the country. However, before his death, with a special note he inherited Armenia and King Arshak to the Roman Emperor (negotiations on the division of Armenia had already begun between Rome and Persia). In 385 Arshak, being unable to organize a serious rebellion in the country and being unaware of its political life, had to leave for Roman Armenia. After 387, when Armenia was divided into two pieces, in the Roman part he reigned being perfectly dependent on the empire and at the same time not being involved in administrative issues. After his death, the empire had crowned no king anymore.
2) Hetum II
King of Cilician Armenia, 1289-1296, 1299-1306
Hethum II did not manage to decide between the “crown and the monastery” repeatedly ceding the power to his brothers and constantly returning the power from them. Hethum’s governorship was triggered by considerable loss of land in Cilicia, leading to major government dissatisfaction and disintegration. To comprehend the crackdown policy of Hethum II, it is enough to say that he ceded his power to his brother Thoros for three times. The king’s changeable policy and constant unsteady behavior led to the rebellions by his own brothers and the overthrow of the throne, significantly weakening the state administration apparatus. It is important, however, to note that Hethum II did not renounce the royal throne, but merely temporarily yielded the right of the power to others which may had further weakened the country by the attacks of the Mamluks. He became the founder of the futile policy to be sponsored by the West for religious concessions, wrapping it in the neck of the Cilician Kingdom, which destroyed the Armenian statehood like cancer. Because of him, the public-political unity of the country was violated, and the Cilician kingdom lost its once-powerful identity. The political short-sightedness became the tombstone of Hethum and Levon IV, killed by a commander of ally Mongols’, Bilhari.
King of Armenia, Bagratid royal dynasty, 1020-1041
Hovhannes-Smbat was a weak-willed, improvident and flabby king who was generally not skilled in managing the country. The latter, despite the fact that he inherited quite powerful country from his father, Gagik I, did not manage to maintain it, leading to the fall of the Bagratid Kingdom. The internal fights for the throne, rebellions, emigration, deadlock of economic life, treacheries, and unconscious foreign policy are all the content of his reign, which in a few years brought the flourishing kingdom to a decline. After the fights for the throne, by consolidating the power in his hands, upon Vasil II’s demand and under the pressure the Catholicos, Hovhannes Smbat signed a scandalous will that after his death his domains and crown had to belong to Byzantium. After the latter’s death, Emperor Constantine Monomachos of Byzantium demanded the legacy of the will, attacked Armenia, and in 1045 captured it by putting an end to the Armenian statehood.
Author: Areg Kochinyan © All rights are reserved.
Translator: Anna Arushanyan