Posted on 04/03/2019
Just yesterday, The Economist named Armenia, a small nation situated in the rocky South Caucasus, as “country of the year.”
For a nation that most people have trouble pinpointing on a map, this was huge.
Armenia wasn’t selected for its history — although it thrives as one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Nor was it bestowed with this honor for its cuisine, its beautiful landscape, or its diverse and storied tourist attractions. Despite an abundance of the aforementioned, Armenia earned its title through a rare revolutionary victory that shocked and rippled across the globe.
Earlier this year, Armenian citizens, as well as members of the diaspora, erupted in protests against a corrupt regime that held their livelihood captive for years. The calls for the removal of the Prime Minister, Serzh Sargsyan, were demanding, the shouts indignant and very telling of a people who were fed up with having their voices silenced and their dreams of a more democratic Armenia crushed.
As a member of the Armenian diaspora, I participated in the protests and remember feeling that the air was brimming with a positive force of energy. Armenians have protested their motherland’s government before, but it was evident that this time, things were different. The proud, hopeful smiles on the faces of older Armenian immigrants protesting alongside the youth and recording the demonstrations with their smart phones spoke volumes — this time, the voice of the people would not be smothered.
After ten years in a much-contested presidency, Sargsyan had secured the Prime Ministership. This came shortly after his second presidential term ended and the constitution was revised to take power away from the president and place more of it in the hands of the Prime Minister.
The citizens of Armenia were outraged at such a blatant move, sparking an 11-day protest led by journalist and parliament member Nikol Pashinyan. Yet, while the protesters advocated civil disobedience in the form of peaceful demonstrations, video footage showed them being dragged away and injured by police — a glaring display of oppression by Sargsyan’s government. On April 22, news broke out that Pashinyan had been arrested after a tense meeting with Sargsyan, during which he told the former leader: “You do not understand the situation in Armenia. The power is now in the people’s hands.”
Pashinyan had succeeded in mobilizing an entire country and rousing change peacefully, a feat acknowledged by The Economist.