Is this a truce? It has only been two evenings in a row that the demonstrations on Republic Square in Yerevan have been interrupted. Since the exodus of Armenians from the region began at the beginning of the week, the political crisis triggered by the Azerbaijani offensive against the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh on September 19 seems to have taken a back seat, the time to in the face of the humanitarian emergency caused by the influx of tens of thousands of refugees into the country.
On September 27, there were only a hundred diehards left to come and protest in front of the government palace, protected by a cordon of police in riot gear. “The government has done nothing, nothing! says Artak, in his thirties, indignantly. Our children will curse us for having lost Artsakh (the name the Armenians give to Nagorno-Karabakh, Editor’s note), just as I curse my ancestors for having lost Mount Ararat! »
For Andranik Tevanian, one of the organizers of the demonstrations, this would never have happened if Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian had not recognized, in May 2023, that Nagorno-Karabakh was part of Azerbaijani territory. “This catastrophe is the consequence of his policies,” he said. We demand his resignation. »
No alternative to Nikol Pashinian
But this request is not unanimous. At least not in these terms. On September 22, during a gathering of a few thousand people in the same place, several demonstrators who came in support of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh confided to La Croix their refusal to be associated with the political activities of speakers shouting “Nikol , traitor! » at the podium. Several representatives of this opposition are seen as linked to former presidents Serge Sargsyan and Robert Kocharian, hated symbols of the political era before the “velvet revolution”, which brought Nikol Pashinian to power in 2018.
As during the previous political crisis opened by the resounding defeat of Armenia against Azerbaijan during the second Nagorno-Karabakh war, in the fall of 2020, it is the absence of an alternative which remains the best Nikol Pashinian’s life insurance. Faced with the political crisis opened by the fall of Nagorno-Karabakh, the government and the majority are currently adopting a policy of radio silence. Way to sit back while waiting for the dust to settle.
The end of an era
“Public opinion is in turmoil, it is still too early to know what will come out of it,” recognizes Sona Balasanian, director of the CRRC, an institute of polling and sociological studies based in Yerevan. Everyone understands that things will never be the same again, but no one articulates a vision of where Armenia should look in the future.”
A major unknown in this equation: the impact that the installation in the country of 100,000 refugees will have on Armenian political culture, many of whom feel like they have been abandoned or even betrayed.
The fall of Nagorno-Karabakh marks the end of an era for post-Soviet Armenia. It also opens up new risks for its sovereignty, as Baku now demands the establishment of a corridor crossing Armenia but beyond its control in order to connect Azerbaijan to its exclave of Nakhchivan, bordering Turkey.
“It is possible that these threats will spark a new period of national unity,” said Richard Giragosian, a specialist in Armenian politics. He does not believe that the current crisis is likely to threaten the Pashinian government in the short term.
The majority of the population remains faithful to the ideals of the 2018 revolution, failing to appreciate its former leader. According to the expert, only a split from the majority bloc would be capable of giving rise to a competing political movement capable of proposing a credible and constructive alternative.