Sunday, February 24, 2013

Barevolutionaries and Dinosaurs

And so, it is taking off.  Or is it?  Since last Monday’s elections, and following his surprisingly strong showing at the presidential polls, opposition candidate Raffi Hovhanissian has been holding a series of rallies that have, over time, morphed into something called the ‘Barevolution’, an amalgam between ‘barev’ - Armenian for ‘hello’ - and Revolution.  What are this movement’s chances of success? Will the ‘barevolution’ really be able to topple Armenia’s current political system, based as it is on deeply entrenched patterns of patronage and clientelism, with a regular dose of authoritarianism on the side?  Unfortunately, in the short term, the odds are stacked massively against this movement sweeping away Armenia’s oligarchic elite; over the longer term, however, what is happening on streets and town squares throughout the country might form the basis of something entirely new in Armenian political culture.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Democracy, Beyond Elections

Compared to the previous elections in Armenia – when ten people lost their lives during opposition demonstrations - the 2013 presidential ballot was predicted to be a boring non-event. It had actually been decided long ago, when, following what appears to have been a highly convincing private meeting, Armenia’s wealthiest man, Gagik Tsarukian, decided not to put forward his candidacy to the office.  If anyone could pose a threat to the sitting president, Serj Sargsyan, in terms of organisational capability and financial firepower, it would certainly have been the richest of all Armenian oligarchs.  Over the past few years, Tsarukian had gradually built his ‘Prosperous Armenia’ party into the second-largest in the land, with the reserves required to counter-act the blatant disparities that accompany every incumbent’s re-election campaign in the former Soviet Union.  

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Aylisli’s Artful Challenge

Akram Aylisli, the eminent Azeri writer who has stirred up a hornets’ nest with his recently published novella on the Karabakh conflict - “Stone Dreams” - is evidently a courageous man.  A ‘People’s Artist’ of the Republic of Azerbaijan, a recipient of the country’s highest state honours, he has taken upon himself to do something extremely dangerous, reckless even by the standards of nationalist conformism that suffuse politics in the Caucasus.  It takes a lot of daring to break through the taboos and manipulated historiographies constructed by subsequent nationalist governments and their subservient ‘intelligentsias’, and place oneself in “the other side’s” shoes, even for one moment.  For this, Mr. Aylisli deserves respect and consideration, and not the relentless, apparently government-sanctioned harassment of which he has been the victim over the past week.