Friday, August 24, 2007
Declaration of Independence
On August 23, 1990 the Soviet republic of Armenia proclaimed its Declaration of Independence (here). On September 23, 1991 it offically became independent after 99 percent of the voters voted for it. This marked a landmark because for the first time voting meant something and actually reflected the will of the people. While this movement was a natural consequence of the disintegration of the USSR and was nothing like the independence movements in Yugoslavia or India, it still meant much for the Armenian people. Historically, always subjugated and oppressed by others, this was the time when it could assert its political identity.
However, the years after the independence proved not easy. A country with few natural resources and no energy supplies, it found itself without electricity or gas for almost a decade. Homes were dark and cold, the lines for bread (bread that reminded of the famine during World War II-- not eatable) were long. The inability to provide for rudimentary needs of life soon resulted in the mass exodus of Armenians-- to Russia, Europe and further to the US. The war in the neighboring Georgia, absolute lack of any relations with Turkey and Russia's 'shock therapy' were going to affect the Armenian economy the most. To add to the troubles, the war in Nagorno Karabakh with Azerbaijan. If it had not been for the war, the fate of Armenians in that area would have been the same as that of the Armenians in Turkey in 1915, only this time in the hands of Azerbaijan. In those conditions and with the help of the Russian military, Armenians were able to protect their brethren in Karabakh. Of course, this war did result in the rise of nationalism in Armenia-- inevitable.
Therefore, the independence was a bitter drink. Of course, no one can say with certainty whether remaining a part of Russia would have changed anything or even would have been feasible, given the geography and location of Armenia. I personally always thought that Armenia should always be a part of Russia, to survive against the encroachments of Turkey and Azerbaijan and to be part of a larger community. It should be noted that while Armenia is independent, it still has very strong ties with Russia...
Armenia that always had the highest standard of living in the former USSR by all accounts, plummeted to the lowest. It has suffered from a corrupt government (instituted after the war in Nagorno Karabakh), which erased all the political opposition in the country and has suspended all the individual liberties. Now it is completely dependent on the Diaspora abroad and is not any different from a Third World country, except for its very high level of education and spiritual and cultural proximity to European ideals. By its history and culture, it is very similar to Greece.
Its location has defined the fate: always insecure and fearful, it is truly a phenomenon that it has survived, by preserving language, religion and even political consciousness...