Tracing the Revolution

Children celebrate in Yerevan’s Republic Square following Nikol Pashinyan’s election as prime minister (Photo; Sofia Manukyan/The Armenian Weekly)

Over the last few days in Armenia, I’ve searched to find the new, that New Armenia which we all so enthusiastically proclaimed and welcomed barely two months ago. More importantly, and even more vital for me personally, was the quest to identify traces of the Revolution as it began, that same Revolution without which – I’ve been convinced – the New would never surpass the limitations of a newfound, exciting fad which would then fast dissipate.

I sought, and still I seek, that revolution which for the likes of me is so much more than a romanticized fairy tale, a revolution which is the only means by which to liberate not only our country, but also the spirit of our Nation in the most patriotic, just, and democratic way possible. I am convinced that if the democratic movement which began in Armenia does not morph into a pan-national movement (which so far seems evident only tangentially), and if the Diaspora does not participate in a more direct and comprehensive way, and if this overall effort does not lead us to a place where pan-national priorities and values are protected and yet national input is re-assessed and re-organized, then we will certainly fail. We will fail because the anachronistic and inflexible conservatism which has gripped our nation for so long has created such a complex reality, that superficial adjustments become more damaging than beneficial. In order to keep pace with the global challenges of our time, it is necessary to review and revolutionize those approaches and methods which strangle all attempts to broaden our field of view and where any attempts to bring a new quality to this effort are seen as treasonous (and even foreign) conspiracies.

In reality, most here are convinced that things are in the process of changing in Armenia. Most importantly, there is hope everywhere, that capitalized HOPE about which we’ve spoken for so long and so often. Hope, which for our tortured nation, is as vital as air and water. Hope, which allows us to envision our future within the borders of Armenia, and not on foreign shores.

I sought, and still I seek, that revolution which for the likes of me

is so much more than a romanticized fairy tale, a revolution which is the only means by which to liberate not only our country, but also

the spirit of our Nation in the most patriotic, just, and democratic

way possible.

But at the same time, there are those who do not welcome all of the changes being implemented. There are fears, sometimes justified and sometimes not, and sometimes even artificially precautious. For those who had somehow found a way during the prior regime to adapt or even to become somewhat privileged, there is a tendency to foresee dark days ahead. Their doomsday predictions range from interpreting signs of impending war to forecasting the iron hand of Russian interference. These people who had long ago surrendered the political and economic independence of the country, and had delivered their own loyalty to foreign interests are suddenly fearful of foreign influence from other directions, as they warn us about supposed infiltration by foreign agents.

It is more than clear that there is what I deem to be a strategy amongst enemies of the Revolution which is developing in three directions: First, to try to emphasize in every way possible that the young leaders of the new government are inexperienced, unqualified and therefore incompetent to advance the serious work of the new government; second, to argue that these young leaders are devoid of Armenian national values and traditions and are therefore prone to importing foreign influences which are not indigenous and are destructive; and third, and perhaps the most dangerous, is the organized and well-financed effort to portray the new government as pro-Western and even anti-Russian. It is probably this last tactic that is the most rudimentary way to influence the Russian side, but with the passage of time, consistent propaganda on this front can easily endanger Armenia. Let us remember that this is how Armenia was lost in 1920-1921.

On the other hand, there are those amongst the down-trodden, the youth and the student population with barely anything left to lose, who now await eagerly for the new government to deliver on its promises and to show bold action. For many, there is also a level of incomprehensible impatience – impatience for a larger and more tangible procession of change. To be honest, I too am impatient.

The media, true to form, seeks out and disseminates news about sensational arrests, apparently trying to quench a natural but ugly public thirst for watching the recent wave of searches and seizures. The authorities seem to welcome this publicity, probably in their rush to prove that justice is being restored. Of course, there is danger in politicizing this publicity blitz, because no matter how important it may be to show justice being delivered, publicizing it also injects a negative psychological energy into the public psyche. Nothing in this realm will inspire a positive outlook. Arrests and seizures may be necessary to restore justice, but the new government must find a way to upgrade its efforts to foster a more a positive outlook and to secure an array of accomplishments in line with the mantra and message of the Movement.

We all remember how the former ruling elites would constantly express concern that critics speaking and writing about the negative in Armenia consciously or unconsciously foster despair amongst the people, leading to alienation and mass emigration. We recall how instead of improving the terrible conditions which gave rise to such criticism and opposition, the agenda had become one of silencing those critics and labeling them as enemies of the nation.

Today, the actors and roles are reversed. The former rulers and their supporters attempt to portray every single, albeit nominal slip or difficulty faced by the newly-born government as a sign of some impending grand catastrophe. Even the slightest error or inadequacy by a government official is touted as an effort to destroy the country, the nation and its values. I am truly concerned that the honest and sometimes tepid efforts will fall victim to shrewd strategies, and that the new government will be drawn into disabling difficulties.

But if we are going to accept democracy as an essential value, every opinion – whether fair, stupid, or ill-intentioned – must have an equal right to be heard. Patience is needed for reform to be felt and seen, but tolerance is also needed toward even those who have chosen not to exhibit patience themselves. This is, after all, the price of democracy.

Simply put, to revolutionize does not mean to merely replace the old with something slightly better or more youthful, or to offer the same thing in a better light. To revolutionize means to secure basic, deep and fundamental change.

In reality, the record of accomplishments must be exhibited by the authorities themselves, by their programs and deeds. If they succeed in converting words into action soon, then any lingering criticism will become irrelevant. I have no doubt that this will happen, because I see the effort, the diligence, and the willingness to learn. But if accomplishments are too slow, or sporadic, then the people will be uncompromising and the future will be merciless. It was after all Nikol himself and his team who labeled their journey as a “revolution.” They did well, as we all believed in it and joined it. But today, both Nikol and all of us face the challenge of being true to our word.

Revolutions differ from conventional (though resounding) regime changes with their spiritual charge, their depth, and also the wide breadth of their goals. Though regime change is an essential and logical element of any revolution, true revolutions require more than just superficial or behavioral changes. This is precisely why efforts through former Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan were rejected, because the plethora of issues to be addressed and the need for fundamental change was such that superficial and technocratic efforts were simply not enough. Indeed they were too little, too late.

A true revolution must clearly be able to evaluate what it is right and wrong, what is acceptable and unacceptable. Here delays and mistakes are not permitted, and this “black and white” approach is what engenders the revolution’s unique ability to work in a fearless and daring manner. Bold and foundational reforms are what give revolutions their depth. Boldness here is not tantamount to adventurism. Delays and timidity are not reasonable qualities for revolutions, and short deadlines and boldness in action are necessities. At even the slightest hint of distraction or error, neither internal nor external enemies of the Revolution will hesitate to take their predatory steps.

And if the momentum slows down, or if, for whatever reason, the internal discipline of the new government is compromised, then it will stray from its own revolutionary goals, and unfortunately it will fail in its mission. Simply put, to revolutionize does not mean to merely replace the old with something slightly better or more youthful, or to offer the same thing in a better light. To revolutionize means to secure basic, deep and fundamental change.

In the case of Armenia, it is this ideal which was expected and which led to such unprecedented solidarity and enthusiasm by the people, by us all. The support was not based on a fascination with Nikol as an individual or on an appreciation of his abilities as a potential leader. History presented the right time and the right circumstances for those who wanted change, and who believed in the message and in the boldness of the message they were hearing. We all believed in the promise for foundational, systemic and deep change, and that change would be audacious and uncompromising.

There can be no room to bargain away principles, and keeping a balance between right and wrong only means lending credence to the wrong. In politics, caution is a welcome tactic so long as it remains a tactic and does not become a strategy in of itself, which could then lead to the end of the anticipated revolution and New Armenia.

Since our hope is still alive today, and we still have great expectations that the Movement will actualize tangible revolutionary changes, we continue to demand action in the name of our nation and our national dreams. And even more than being demanding, we remain committed so that we see the Revolution succeed, so that the skepticism fades away, so that negative assessments give way to positivity.

In a word, all of us together, with our expectations, our demands, our intensity, and our criticisms must call for the new government to remain vigilant and true to its promises. Moreover, each of us with our efforts, our work, our input and our participation ought to see the success of our input… and for our national movement to be truly worthy of being called a revolution, and a victorious one at that.

Perhaps unexpected, perhaps in an unlikely form, the Revolution has come and found us. Perhaps some of us are still in a state of shock, but that has nothing to do with the reality on the ground. I myself saw the traces of a Revolution, and I recalled those lessons of history where it was optimism and decisiveness in revolutions which guided their victory. Throughout history, true revolutions have not come frequently; but when they do come, they do not wait around for very long.

In a word, all of us together, with our expectations, our demands, our intensity, and our criticisms must call for the new government to remain vigilant and true to its promises. Moreover, each of us with

our efforts, our work, our input and our participation ought to see

the success of our input… and for our national movement to be truly worthy of being called a revolution, and a victorious one at that.

I have a feeling that the people started a movement, and now we are all tasked with taking it to the next level, and with decisively transforming it into a Revolution. Over these past few days, I have indeed found the traces of our Revolution; I am convinced more than ever that if it succeeds, then the Nation and the Homeland will benefit from its victory. But if it fails, then it is not only Nikol who would have failed, but rather each one of us, all of us.

I have no doubt that as a nation we will succeed to bring this nascent revolution, this source of immense national pride, to a victorious culmination. We will succeed in forging this path, and we shall make of it our nation’s bright and unequivocal Armenian victory.

Viken Hovsepian

Viken Hovsepian

Dr. Viken Hovsepian received his Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Southern California. Hovsepian has been in various positions in our national and community life. From 1992 to 1998, for three consecutive terms, he has been elected a member of the ARF Western US Central Committee and its Chairman. From 2000 to 2011, for three consecutive terms, he has served on the ARF Bureau. Professionally, he serves as the Executive Vice President Golden State Bank.
Viken Hovsepian

Latest posts by Viken Hovsepian (see all)

2 Comments

  1. Very well articulated. Insightful, thought provoking and soul searching.
    The reality is that the country faces numerous challenges.
    What are needed are patience, focus and most importantly unity of vision and purpose to achieve the deep and fundamental change.
    Without unity, the “revolution” cannot be successful.
    Vart Adjemian

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*