Markarian Discusses Custom’s Union, Hovhanessian Ambassadorship

In an interview recently with the “Yerkrin Hartse” program in Armenia, Hrant Markarian, the chairperson of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Bureau, presented the ARF’s stance on various problems facing the Armenian Republic.

Since Sept. 3, he said, when Armenia decided to join the Russian-led Custom’s Union, most of the discussions and debates in the country have revolved around this issue. The public reaction against the move has been strong, since it was seen as an unexpected and bizarre declaration by the government.

It is not a secret, Markarian explained, that our defense structure is based on a Russian system. This is why changing it requires a long time. This problem is independent of our will, he said. However, if we take into consideration that the main problem in Armenia is that of energy conservation, we can easily see which possibility or option is in our best interest. Thus, our position is not driven by our desire; we should certainly take into consideration what is possible. If we are to consider this issue from an emotional perspective, and ignore the fact that we are still in a war, or ignore the geographical location of Armenia and the features of our defense system, it would be easy to choose Europe over Russia. Therefore, addressing this problem from a similar viewpoint is wrong. The primary concern for us is not the emotional aspect of the problem, but rather the responsibility with which we should deal with it. Yet, he went on, what was the shortcoming of this decision was the fact that the Armenian authorities did not create possibilities for establishing a unified government position on this issue, which is why the public and the other political parties were all surprised.

Regarding the negotiations with the European Union, Markarian stated that the whole process was not useless. Adopting European values and making our country conform to them is the main goal that we should pursue, he said. In other words, we must seek European values without necessarily joining the European Union. We believe in the right of the people to choose their representatives, he explained, and therefore we do not need the intervention of the Europeans in establishing democracy in Armenia. By not refusing Europe completely on the one hand, and choosing the Russian direction on the other, we have brought relief to our people, soldiers, and army, he said.

Markarian also talked about Armenian foreign policy and explained that while the ARF’s problem with the Armenian authorities is internal, it shouldn’t come at the expense of Karabagh, or the right of future generations, or the campaign for genocide recognition. That which strengthens our state and economy must not be a victim in this internal conflict, he underscored. Regarding ARF Bureau member Vahan Hovhannesian’s ambassadorship, Markarian made it clear that it does not mean the ARF is sympathetic to the foreign policy of Armenia; rather, Hovhannesian was the best candidate they had. Markarian believes that this is a positive if rare move on the part of the authorities, for the ARF, and for Hovhannesian himself. He made it clear that Hovhanessian is the kind of political figure who would resign immediately if he were made to work against his principles and beliefs.

Markarian stated that Hovhannesian will be sent to Germany, and that he is looking forward to the strengthening of Armenian-German relations, especially before the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, which would counter-balance the Turkish lobby there. The Armenian authorities assigned a political mission to Hovhannesian, he said.

He concluded by emphasizing that just because the ARF opposes the current president of Armenia, it does not prevent the party from accepting offers that would benefit the republic in general. The ARF clearly differentiates where the homeland begins and where the government does, and where statehood and homeland end, he said.

Varak Ketsemanian

Varak Ketsemanian

Varak Ketsemanian is a graduate of the American University of Beirut (AUB) and the University of Chicago’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies (2014-2016). His master’s thesis titled “Communities in Conflict: the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party 1890-1894” examines the socio-economic role of violence in shaping inter-communal and ethnic relations by doing a local history of the Armenian Revolutionary Movement in the Ottoman Empire. Ketsemanian’s work tackles problems such as the development and polarization of mainstream historiographies, inter-communal stratifications, nationalism, and the relationship of the Ottoman State with some of its Anatolian provinces. He is currently completing a PhD at Princeton University, where his doctoral dissertation will focus on the social history of the National Constitution of Ottoman Armenians in 1863, and the communal dynamics/mechanisms that it created on imperial, communal, and provincial levels. Ketsemanian’s research relates to the development of different forms of nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries, revolutionary violence, and constitutional movements.

1 Comment

  1. an excellent interview: well worth listening to in its entirety.
    a very rational man.
    good to hear an RoA-ARF leader express the reality and stark choices RoA faces so well.
    good to hear an opposition leader who is able to separate politics from what’s best for the Nation.

    [the Barevaleader, on the other hand, is still running around, trapped in a time warp, making his usual declarations completely divorced from reality: {“Decision to join Customs Union “threatens Armenia’s independence and freedom” – opposition leader…”Armenia’s “independence and freedom is threatened”, therefore it is necessary to find the way out of this situation.”}]

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