Staunton, April 25 – The events in Armenia are proceeding at such a dizzying speed and involve ever more issues that it is easy lose sight of their complexity and uniqueness – and how important they are not only for that republic but for other countries in the former Soviet space and for relations between and among them.
Five key insights from the last day or so include:
1. The Armenian Revolution is Not Over. The resignation of president-become-prime minister Serzh Sargsyan did not end the revolution; it simply changed the nature of the conflict from one about a hated individual to one about a hated system of entrenched power. Thus, the new protests are not about individuals but about replacing the existing party system Sargsyan and his cohorts had used to run the country in an increasingly authoritarian way. This second stage of the revolution is likely to be more difficult but the opposition has shown it can bring out the population against what is the real target of their anger (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5AE033A548D75, rbc.ru/newspaper/2018/04/25/5adf21a09a7947cd56f6dccd, and dw.com/ru/саргсян-ушел-что-будет-в-армении-дальше/a-43512745).
2. Armenia an Unlikely Model for Other Post-Soviet States. Many opposition figures in Russia and other post-Soviet states have been encouraged by the Armenian protests and their success, but Russian analyst Andrey Illarionov reminds that Armenia is different from Russia and most of the others in 15 important ways making the adoption of the Armenian model extremely unlikely. Just as Armenia is not Ukraine and Ukraine is not Georgia, so too the other post-Soviet states aren’t Armenia (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5ADEF96B2271B).
3. Armenia has Long Tradition of Mass Protests. One of the most profound differences is that Armenia has a tradition of mass protests extending back into the 1980s and therefore what has occurred there in the last few weeks is less the invention of something new but the continuation and expansion of that tradition (afterempire.info/2018/04/25/armenia/).
4. In this Revolution, the Armenian Young are Defeating a Gerontocracy. Many observers have been struck by how young the crowds in Yerevan are in comparison to those around Sargsyan and his regime, a regime that consists largely of those who came to power after the killings in the Armenian parliament in 1999. Revolutions are typically carried out by the young, but this influx of a new and rising generation is striking and gives hope that the revolution will continue rather than be deflected or defeated (chaskor.ru/article/armeniya_pobeda_molodezhi_nad_gerontokratiej_43432).
5. Armenian Revolution has Been Peaceful Because Armenians are an Armed Population at War. Sargsyan resigned when he saw that portions of the Armenian army had gone over to the protesters. That is a typical sign of imminent regime collapse in all revolutions, but there is one detail that may explain why Sargsyan went so easily and why the Armenian revolution so far has been peaceful. And that is this: the Armenian people have been at war for 30 years, many have passed through the military, and many are armed. On the one hand, that means the difference between the siloviki and the people are smaller in Armenia than they are in places like Russia. And on the other, it means that anyone – the regime, Moscow, or the opposition – who began acts of violence might see Armenia descend into the kind of chaos that its neighbors would surely exploit. Thus, perhaps counter-intuitively, the military experience of the Armenian people and their possession of weapons may serve as a kind of disciplining factor keeping the situation from getting out of hand (snob.ru/selected/entry/136768