In Yerevan, it’s quite rare to see a protest staged by the youth wing of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) without the participation and leadership of Kristine Vardanyan. The dedicated Central Executive member has gone toe to toe with PM Nikol Pashinyan over his administration’s anti-nationalistic educational reforms. She has camped out in the bitter cold on Baghramyan Avenue and stopped traffic as part of an impenetrable human chain, demanding Pashinyan’s resignation after the catastrophic conclusion of the Artsakh War. More recently, three days after her interview with the Weekly in fact, Vardanyan was seen protesting Pashinyan’s military reforms in an otherwise peaceful demonstration that was quickly escalated by police. “Who does this system defend, and what is this system for,” questioned an exasperated Vardanyan after witnessing, yet again, the forceful detainment of her comrades, “In all this time, people in Armenia have not been arrested for betraying the nation. The homeland no longer exists,” she stressed in her statement to reporters.
Now, on the heels of this decisive moment in Armenian history, Vardanyan has taken on the fight of her life as a top 20 parliamentary candidate on the Armenia Alliance (Hayastan Dashinq) electoral list. “We are tired of working constantly and seeing how the product of our work is nullified. We are tired of fighting and creating and seeing the destruction of our work,” she told a crowd of thousands at a campaign rally in Yerebuni on Saturday, alluding to Armenia’s state of despair and the undelivered promises of the current administration. This was Vardanyan’s first official campaign speech during which she felt inspired to pay tribute to the founders of the First Republic of Armenia. “The founders of this nation worked day and night, and their only driving force was their dedication to the homeland. [They] prioritized the homeland above all else, gave up what was most valuable to them to Armenia, so that the homeland may live. They gave their lives,” she said with eloquence.
Vardanyan spent six years in the Armenian Youth Federation before joining the ranks of the ARF in the fall of 2018. She grew up in Yerevan in a traditional Armenian household with parents who instilled the importance of doing good work for her nation, which fostered a selfless spirit and love of country that has continuously motivated her tireless community activism. “Nothing replaces the feeling when you know that you are working for your community and your homeland alongside your comrades,” she told the Weekly while describing her spiritually fulfilling membership in the ARF.
While Vardanyan continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with her lifelong comrades, she is preparing for the possibility of a far more active life in politics and the likelihood of serving in Armenia’s National Assembly following the June 20 snap parliamentary elections. “Perhaps I would not have been useful had I taken up arms on the battlefield, but perhaps I will be more useful in convincing the Armenian citizenry that now it is necessary to put everything aside and choose the future of Armenia, rather than the leadership that has brought Armenia to the brink of ruin,” explained Vardanyan of her responsibility in this critical election cycle.
Ever since Pashinyan’s ascent to power in 2018, Vardanyan says she has been helping lead an opposition movement against his administration’s unpatriotic laws and dangerous policies. But with the safety of the homeland at risk, expansive territorial loss from the Artsakh War and hundreds of POWs still in captivity among other domestic issues, Vardanyan believes that the existence of Armenia is at stake. In failing to defend Armenia’s sacred lands, Vardanyan believes the Pashinyan administration is squandering the sacrifices of Armenia’s martyrs. The Armenia Alliance, she says, will not only restore security, order and stability, but also help rebuild the dream of a country where every Armenian citizen will want to live and prosper. It’s also the only political force with a narrowly tailored plan to strengthen relations with the Diaspora and promote repatriation. “Armenia will be, as all of us in this alliance know and dream, a country where not only will I want to live and never emigrate, but where Armenians will want to return, because they will be able to build their lives and the lives of their children with dignity,” said Vardanyan. “If we do not do this, we will close the final page of our history.”
Editor’s Note: The June 7 interview with Ms. Vardanyan and her June 12 campaign speech were both translated by the Weekly’s Lillian Avedian.