Where there is a revolution there is an attempt at counter-revolution. It would be rather naïve to think that after the revolution in Armenia, the forces who still have much to lose from the popular uprising and shift in the power balance would submit without resistance. What Armenian society witnessed immediately after the revolution was the show of a reluctant white flag of peace and temporary surrender by the old regime, an ingenuine and cynical: “We were wrong; you are right.” The translation: “We’ll see and good luck (with a fearful, evil smirk)!” What the old regime did wrong, when or how, would still be a mystery if we were to wait for a voluntary admission of guilt, a frank sense of accountability, or a smidgen of repentance.
Witnessing the popular sentiment, the old guard eventually chose to cooperate, albeit reluctantly. For a period of few short months, these forces, fearing the unknown chose to keep a relatively low profile and go with the flow. This should not be confused with benevolence or a favor, as the representatives of the old regime like to repeatedly remind people, but a clear understanding of the people’s will, the result of the popular sentiment that in many cases can only be described as repugnance for the old guard. Imagine the house of parliament surrounded by a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people demanding justice for the wrongs of the recent past. Fear of retribution and the unknown from the people had a lot to do with the eventual cooperation and the short-lived docility of the figureheads of the old regime.
Despite popular anger toward the old regime, it is credit to the forces of the revolution that there has been a commitment to bringing about change through legal and constitutional means. Naturally, this process of change has dictated a slower movement forward compared to drastic and haphazard changes seen in conventionally violent revolutions. As a side effect of this peaceful process, the ‘good fellas’ have smelled an opportunity to regroup and re-strategize. Within this context, it is not surprising that the spokesmen and surrogates of the old regime and the oligarchy have gradually re-emerged from the woodworks with an unrepentant confidence, displaying a complete lack of remorse for planting the seeds of the revolution. It would be naïve, and perhaps adolescent, to think that a soft counter-revolution is not in the planning stages. The famous words of the now recluse Armenia’s former president, “Nikol Pashinyan was right, I was wrong,” now ring more cynical and hollow than ever.
The revolution in Armenia has not been classic by any means. Despite unfounded claims by the old guard that the new apparatus is pursuing an agenda of vengeance, one would be hard pressed to find incidents of illegal arrests and acts based on pure reprisal in post-revolution Armenia. Show me a post-revolution period that has been as peaceful and bloodless than the Armenian revolution and I will show you a demagogue, or, at best, a genuinely oblivious individual. The revolution in Armenia has also been unique in a sense that there has not been a transformation in a traditional sense of a class revolution. Anyone can cry wolf, but the fact remains that the oligarchy is still in place with cash in hand, for now. Yet, there is a more important revolution that has taken place, and that change has been in the hearts and minds of the people of Armenia. There was and still is a sense that the people are the catalyst for change. The people have been empowered against corruption and oppression and they have come to believe that they can dictate their destiny. This is the most important legacy of the revolution, a sense of empowerment that if rooted deeply in the character of the people, can be the platform for positive change in the coming years.
While this sense of empowerment and positivity is clear and present, it would also be naïve and utopic to think that this single event in Armenia’s history has forever uprooted and erased all insecurities and fears from the Armenian psyche. Just about three decades of imposed servitude combined with almost a century of centralized Soviet rule and centuries of Ottoman colonization cannot be erased with a magic wand. And this is exactly what the forces of the counter-revolution are counting on.
If the revolution happened first and foremost in the minds of the citizens of Armenia, the only way a counter-revolution can successfully be launched, is if the old guard can succeed in manipulating and capitalizing on the unburied fears and the insecurities of the same populace. To this end, the forces of the counter-revolution have launched a campaign to represent themselves as the only force that can insure Armenia’s security against arch-enemies on the western and eastern borders. This cynical and transparent campaign of instilling fear is manifested in statements claiming that without the ‘old boys’ Armenia is an orphan in the region, defenseless against Turkish and Azeri invasion. “Putin is our friend, and without us you are lost” is the clear message. Yet, regional strategic alliances are rarely based on personality cults. Moreover, the old guard has attempted to present the emerging political forces in Armenia as a threat to ‘traditional Armenian values,’ propagating the farce that the revolution is the catalyst for Armenian society to embrace the values of the ‘degenerate West,’ conveniently forgetting the fact that polices of the past three decades have done more harm to foundations of Armenian society than any imaginary external force. This strategy has a two-fold purpose.
First, to get under the skin of the traditional segment of Armenian society and plant the seeds of suspicion and distrust against the new order, and second, to falsify the nature of the Armenian revolution as ‘anti-Russian’ and ‘pro-Western.’ This is rather a desperate attempt to bring in Russia to the side of the counter-revolution, or at least to create the impression among the people that Armenia’s military ally is on the side of the old guard. Lastly, the representatives of the old regime have attempted to represent any call or act for accountability of the past wrongs as a move toward totalitarianism and anti-democratic tendencies of the new order. This is probably the weakest link in this reactionary campaign, as only the most gullible and misguided would buy into the idea that the old regime is the vanguard of democracy and free speech. The danger here is for the self-proclaimed neutral forces to be dragged into this campaign, lose sight of constructive criticism and get absorbed into self-serving agendas.
The Armenian revolution could not have happened if a revolution was not born in the minds of the citizenry, without a release from age-old fears from external and internal threats, and without a liberation from the idea that destiny of the Armenian people is pre-scripted. At the same time, a counter-revolution, albeit soft, will only be likely if the people of Armenia give in to the campaign of fear-mongering and manipulation unleashed by the representatives of the old regime and the oligarchy.
The choice is still for the people of Armenia to make. The revolution was only a beginning and a historic chance that cannot be squandered. In life, second chances don’t come easy, and sometimes, they don’t come at all.
Patrick Azadian lives in Yerevan, Armenia and works as a Branding and Marketing Director as we all as a columnist.