Armenia Marks Independence Day Under Pandemic Protocols

YEREVAN—The 29th anniversary of Armenia’s regaining independence from the Soviet Union was marked with more sober celebrations this year, as the country continues to deal with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan attended a military ceremony at the eternal flame in Victory Park perched on the hill overlooking the capital. Su-30SM multirole fighters performed a flyover in a finger-four formation as government officials watched from below. Flowers were also laid at the graves of fallen heroes of the 1989-1994 Karabakh War. 

Pashinyan later met with Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan in his office. “This day holds special significance to the Armenian people,” Pashinyan told his Artsakhian counterpart. “It is our duty as a state to fulfill the promise that our people worked so hard for in 1991,” he continued.

President of the Artsakh Republic Arayik Harutyunyan and PM Nikol Pashinyan, September 21, 2020

Another notable event of the day was the unveiling of the government’s new long-term development strategy entitled Armenia Transformation Strategy 2050. In a TED-style setting, the Prime Minister described the new strategy to a selection of government officials. 

Women’s empowerment was among the more important priorities of the new strategy as presented by the Prime Minister. “Today, in Armenia, the potential of women is severely underutilized in every aspect of our society,” Pashinyan said. The proposed solution involves rehabilitating institutional mechanisms to ensure that more women can play a role in the Armenian economy, governance and defense structures. 

Other aspects of the strategy include developing a sustainable economy, an emphasis on renewable energy and more competitive government structures.

In honor of the 29th anniversary of independence, Pashinyan also received congratulatory messages from leaders around the world. In his message to the Armenian people, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “I am confident that the constructive dialogue, the multifaceted bilateral cooperation and the ongoing interaction in the frame of integration processes within the Eurasian space will continue to develop successfully.”

For his part, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Armenia’s track record for fighting corruption and other reforms in the two years since the Velvet Revolution. “The United States welcomes Armenia’s continued commitment to strengthening the rule of law, establishing an independent judiciary, and increasing economic and investment opportunities,” read Pompeo’s statement. The US government recently hiked its annual assistance budget to Armenia by 40-percent, with most of the $60 million going to efforts to modernize government structures and reduce corruption-prone bureaucracy.

Due to the coronavirus, all official public celebratory events were cancelled for the occasion. Sites like the National Assembly and the Presidential Palace, which had in recent years begun the tradition of holding events for children and a barbecue, remained closed. With military parades usually timed for each fifth anniversary of independence, none were scheduled for this year. Next year’s 30th anniversary military parade is expected to take place unhindered. 

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Raffi Elliott

Columnist & Armenia Correspondent
Raffi Elliott is a Canadian-Armenian political risk analyst and journalist based in Yerevan, Armenia. A former correspondent and columnist for the Armenian Weekly, his focus is socioeconomic, political, business and diplomatic issues in Armenia.

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