Mouradian: The Sultans of Swindling

“To dispossess the people unyieldingly, the government has created monopolies (tobacco, salt, railroads, mines), that aim at snatching from the worker’s pocket a part of his earnings and handing it to European or local capitalists.”

More than two decades after regaining its independence, Armenia is witnessing a protest movement gaining momentum with every battle, while it seems that the political parties are laying low.
More than two decades after regaining its independence, Armenia is witnessing a protest movement gaining momentum with every battle, while it seems that the political parties are laying low.

Contrary to what many readers suspect, this diagnosis was not written with the Armenian government in mind.

Far from it!

These lines, published in 1892 in the official organ Droshak (Flag) of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (at the time called Federation of Armenian Revolutionaries), are part of a description of the Ottoman Turkish government’s modus operandi.

In the late 19th century, the Ottoman Armenian workers had very few, mostly unappealing, options to avoid humiliation, subjugation, and dispossession. While many Armenians left for the U.S. and other countries to make a living and support their families in the homeland, a very small proportion took up arms. Revolutionary parties like the ARF were born to support and direct that struggle. Most Ottoman Armenians however remained unwavering in their insistence on laying low and hoping for the best.

The rest is history.

Today, in the tiny Republic of Armenia, erected in 1918 on the ashes of the Armenian Genocide in large part due to the efforts of the very same people who wrote in Droshak and swore by it, the Armenian citizen is faced with similar options: To emigrate—as most Armenians already have or hope to be able to one day— or to fight.

The grassroots activism that has emerged and matured in recent years, from Teghut to Mashdots Park to the “I will not pay 150 drams” movement, is the product of the few who decide to stay, decline to lay low, and struggle against all odds. They are bullied, threatened, beaten, imprisoned, and sometimes even killed, while the regime continues “snatching from the worker’s pocket a part of his earnings…”

More than two decades after regaining its independence, Armenia is witnessing a protest movement gaining momentum with every battle, while it seems that the political parties are laying low.

Over-promising and under-delivering has become a staple of politics-as-usual in Armenia. Unfortunately, this also includes much of the opposition, which has thus far failed to muster the strength and ingenuity to tackle the profound economic and social challenges the Armenian citizen faces.

The same Droshak article argues: “To liberate the people from this unbearable situation, to create circumstances for it to enter humanity’s path to development, is only possible through revolution….” In today’s Armenia, such a revolution could only be waged through a robust movement that harnesses grassroots activism and civil disobedience.

One could already discern the contours of such a movement in the “I will not pay 150 drams” initiative.

Yet it seems political parties haven’t gotten the memo about direct action and bottom-up protest movements. This is to their detriment. In these challenging times for the Armenian nation, state, and church, their political reflexes must change. Otherwise, loyalties will begin to shift, and those who fail to step forward may well be forced to step aside.

Dr. Khatchig Mouradian

Dr. Khatchig Mouradian

Khatchig Mouradian is the Armenian and Georgian Area Specialist at the Library of Congress and a lecturer in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. He also serves as Co-Principal Investigator of the project on Armenian Genocide Denial at the Global Institute for Advanced Studies, New York University. Mouradian is the author of The Resistance Network: The Armenian Genocide and Humanitarianism in Ottoman Syria, 1915-1918, published in 2021. The book has received the Syrian Studies Association “Honourable Mention 2021.” In 2020, Mouradian was awarded a Humanities War & Peace Initiative Grant from Columbia University. He is the co-editor of a forthcoming book on late-Ottoman history, and the editor of the peer-reviewed journal The Armenian Review.
Dr. Khatchig Mouradian

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  1. How terrible what is going on in Armenia;why is it we never learn!!!How greedy do leaders get!!!!!!do they want to repopulate Armenia by turks???once every hard working armenian has fled???do they want history to repeat itself????

  2. In a short and concise article Khatchig Mouradian has ably presented a superb summation and a timely analogy. It was a pleasure to read it in one short breath.

  3. “…those who fail to step forward may well be forced to step aside.”

    Population loss is the most sercious problem facing our nation today, and it must be addressed. It’s urgent, not optional. It can’t wait. Let those in power who refuse to act quickly, get out of the way.

    Perfect last sentence.

  4. The Armenian diaspora does need to engage with the savvy, courageous and determined protestors in Armenia… not in terms of political party affiliations and ideologies, but in terms of commitment to a vision of Armenia where everyone has equal opportunity and access to education, health care, clean air and water and transparent government. It is a long term challenge that requires the diaspora to unlearn some of its thought patterns as much as it seeks to change Armenia.

  5. It is crucial that the Armenian diaspora engage with the savvy, courageous and committed protestors in Armenia…. as they pursue a transparent government with equal access to education, health care, clean air and water and the opportunity to earn decent wages that can sustain a vibrant economy…. not short term goals for sure.

    The challenge for the diaspora is to engage sans some of those legacy party affiliations, open to learning with rather than dictating to new generations in Armenia.

  6. One thing the diaspora must do is having demonstrations in front of the Armenian embassies and the consulates world wide in a stong show of support for our people in Armenia.An Armenian American students group must be form to back up the student and youth movement in Armenia.And as far as our clergy in Armenia ,they are the worse rip off and greedy people.They all have to drive a mercedes ,a BMW or a Bentley.Jesus Christ use to drive a donkey ,what s the problem with our prists ? are they better then Jesus Christ?

  7. It surprises me everytime I read comments like the ones above, how little people really know in this day of information overload. Even though knowledge and information is gushing out of the internet, (it is literally at one’s fingertips), it is as though for most people ignorance is bliss. Someone once made a very meaningful statement: “By their FRUITS you shall know all about them”. Not by their words, who they are, nor by their high-standing, knowledge of history, level of education, the image they project through their public persona, nor anything else. The root cause of this and other similarly self-destructive problems is simple; today the highest echelons of all governments (including the government of Armenia) are members of secret societies, chiefly freemasons, and operate according to a different agenda from the ones announced, and understood by the populace (sheeple = sheep + people). For further answers and/or understanding you will need to do some research of your own on your computer. The answers are at your fingertips.

  8. Tamar,

    Sadly our so called church leaders are a bunch of crooks,only interested in their long fat pockets, have a read in Keghart website,unless and until there is radical change of leadership in the political and religious fields nothing can and will change,the children of these corrupt politicians/oligarchs will be even worse than these lot.

    If the diaspora does not take collective action to sort this mess out there wont be many left in Armenia,the population will drop to 1.5 million in 7 years,people are voting with their feet for gross injustices which are a daily occurrence under these crooks,not to mention the rampant corruption in all fields of the regime.

    Keep clapping and receiving their devalued state medals which are been give out just like confetti in order to shut the mouths of the diaspora.

  9. The only real hope is from these grass-roots prtoest movements which can bring change in the way society thinks and acts. Political parties have failed terribly so far in Armenia.

  10. The monkhoodness should be changed…If any man wants to be monk he is free but if he wants to act as married let him announce…instead living in secrecy until things are discovered…

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