Nikol Bonaparte: Tragedy or Farce?

Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan pictured inside the National Assembly on the day opposition deputies demanded his resignation, May 4, 2022

On the Eighteenth of Brumaire, Napoleon Bonaparte I declared himself First Consul of France. Five years later, he crowned himself Emperor. If you’re wondering what the Eighteenth of Brumaire is, it is the second month of the now-obsolete French Republican Calendar. When converted to our Gregorian calendar, the date corresponds to November 9, 1799. Some 220 years later, November 9 is the day Pashinyan’s guise finally – but inevitably – shattered for the world, as the Armenian Prime Dictator signed our sacred Shushi away.

The similarities between the Bonapartes and Pashinyan are extensive. Napoleon I came to power after a surprisingly tame revolution without any bloodshed. Louis Bonaparte, Napoleon I’s nephew, was France’s first democratically elected president. However, he refused to give up his power after his term. As a result, he arrested opposition leaders and attempted to bribe members of the National Assembly (NA). Eventually, he decided that arrests and bribery weren’t sustainable, so he dissolved the NA and reestablished the French Monarchy for the last time, all while rationalizing his failed attempts at democracy. We are now in Nikol’s second “democratic” empire, full of censorship, false idolization, lies, corruption and treachery – hiding power-hungry intentions from the world under cloaks of nationalism and circumstance. Very à la mode.

In many ways, the Armenian nation still lives in the 19th century and Pashinyan is our modern Louis Bonaparte, a hideous stain on a disastrously long page of our history. As a trans-temporal nation, our ideas of state and individual liberty are disconnected from those of the modern world. However, we are lucky enough to take an example from the Frenchmen of the 1800s and learn some lessons from their mistakes. Hopefully we won’t get to relive the plot of Les Misérables.

Though the Bonapartes had been exiled from France, during politically trying times Louis-Napoleon swerved in and dangled shiny new rights to the masses and was elected Prince-Président, the leader of common men. Although the voters did not recognize it at the time, French political strife was mostly related to class struggles, not so different from today’s internal Armenian political kerfuffles. Whether you were a Pashinyan supporter during the Velvet Revolution or reluctant and wary from the beginning, I hope you have arrived at the conclusion that the brine in which we’re pickling was soured by one man who has found a way to bamboozle the working class. For some, understanding the reasons for supporting the current Armenian administrator is difficult. While it is exasperating, I’ve found relief in a sort of Marxist analysis of our situation.

Our path out of this anarchic present is through resistance.

Who are the Nikolites? Are they not the overworked and underpaid masses who have seen so much pain for generations that they have given up the dream of the homeland in exchange for food and comfort? Laboring under an illusion that they are not a class, and making individual decisions. When taken out of context, these choices seem logical – but from the Armenian perspective, making individual choices holds no virtue. The sanctity of nationhood has been put aside by the majority of resident Armenian laborers who, ironically, have not begun raising any suspicion of class consciousness. Modern Nikolites don’t recognize their class interests, and prioritization of short-term and minuscule economic improvement over long-term, meaningful connections to their compatriots will be the downfall of our nation. The only solution to our humiliating political impotence is a collective realization that we are not represented by one man. Our path out of this anarchic present is through resistance.

I have a lot of hope for my nation’s future. Yet, the possibility of that future seems to be getting fumbled by our “leaders.” The fate of the Bonapartes (i.e., exile – avoiding the cliché guillotine) seems to me, the most progressive way to deal with our situation; though some might argue this notion is a tad outdated. When possible, I like to contribute to the betterment of my nation’s conditions on the ground and in a virtual capacity and encourage others to do the same. In the diaspora, these changes often include social media activism and contributing to the conversion of a few Nikolites. The constant defense of a national traitor from my compatriots does not discourage me at this moment; we have transcended incompetent political eras before, albeit barely, but we have. I do not expect the vast majority of any nation to comprehend complex nuances and engage in political discourse.

The 19th century saw the making and breaking of many nation-states; but it also witnessed the birth of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. I lay my hope in this organization as the vanguard who will lead my people to freedom, as they did in the past, and optimistically, I lay my hope in the intellectuals who oppose the idiocracy of my homeland. I’m a resident of the 21st centurya century during which I am certain I will see not only a liberated Shushi, but an Armenia that can be a safe haven for its children, rather than a constant worry. As November approaches, I will not be mourning the loss of my country, but I aspire to celebrate the start of new beginnings. Vive La Révolution.

Karin Kassabian

Karin Kassabian

Karin Kassabian is a graduate student in anthropology at the University of Toronto and an alumna of McGill University where she served as president of the Armenian Students’ Association. Karin is a former ANCA intern. She is a folk music aficionado and a lover of theater. Her graduate research tentatively focuses on the semiotics of diasporan folk art production.
Karin Kassabian

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  1. Do you mean 2018 “velvet revolution” when you say Vive La Révolution?
    Hope, no!
    I am for insurrection, rebellion, uprising!!! Basta! And your comparisons of nikol and Napoleon are not valid, since Napoleon was thinking about his country and nation along with his own power, but this undereducated parvenu cares only about his own power and wealth.

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