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#ElectricYerevan: Lessons from the Armenian Summer

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Old 21 Aug 15, 17:15   #1 (permalink)
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Post #ElectricYerevan: Lessons from the Armenian Summer

After occupying a capital avenue for two weeks earlier this summer, Armenias #ElectricYerevan protest against an electricity price hike dissipated without declaring victory. But it still managed to achieve more than its stated goal.

Thanks to protesters who acted more like investors than gamblers, the Armenian Summer boosted sovereignty, democracy, and civil society in what once was the smallest of Soviet states. Protesters remained peaceful, persistent, and realistic, even after police used force to remove them on June 23.

‘Thanks to protesters who acted more like investors than gamblers, the Armenian Summer boosted sovereignty, democracy, and civil society in what once was the smallest of Soviet states.’

The evening before, thousands hadmarchedtoward the Presidential Palace on Marshal Baghramyan, the Yerevan avenue that honors a World War II commander and houses all branches of government. After the police stopped the unsanctioned march, many protesters decided to stay on the street until their demand was met.

The next mornings use ofwater cannons and forced detentionsbackfired, promptingthousandsmore to join the protest. For two weeks theydanced, debated,swept the street, andrefuseda meeting with the president. Most importantly, they stayed true to their message.

Within days and despite theprime ministers announcementthat the rate increase was inevitable, President Serge Sarkisian suspendedthe Russian-ownedpower suppliersrequestedprice hikeuntil an audit could be performed by an independent firm. While the populist action elicited neither surprise nor praise, Moscows unprecedented pandering to Armenian protesters became the most unexpected development.

After initially signaling displeasure over thesomewhat anticipatedprotestsas evidenced byRussian TV reportsaccusing protesters of violence and mimicking Ukraines pro-western movementMoscow took a number of initiatives that gave a rare boost to Armenian sovereignty. However, the concessions only came after protesters consistently challenged Russian journalists narrative;confrontingone, givinga compelling accountof economic injustice to another, anddemanding a haltto comparisons between #ElectricYerevan andUkraines Maidan.

Within days, Russias minister of energy traveled to Yerevan and publicly accepted proposalsfrom Armenias president on auditing the Russian-owned electric provider. As an additional boon to Armenian sovereignty, Moscowagreedto let Yerevan authorities prosecute an Armenia-stationed Russian soldier, who is accused of massacring a Gyumri family, despite having previously ignored suchdemands. Soon thereafter, the Russians alsogranted a large loanto Armenia, aCSTOmilitary ally, for the purchase of new weaponry amidongoing concernsover Moscows arms sales to Armenias archenemy Azerbaijan.

In short, Armenian protesters compelled Russian President Putin to respect Armenias sovereigntysomething that even Washingtons sanctions have been unable to achieve vis-?-vis Moscows treatment of other post-Soviet countries. This was achieved not by calls for regime change or global realignment, but through adamant yet peaceful opposition to a price hike stemming from factors like corruption, mismanagement, and devaluation of the Russian ruble due to Western sanctions.

The protestersoften young, educated, and middle classclearly realized the futility of vague anti-government protests, as well as the geopolitical risk of directly challenging Kremlins tight grip on Armenian politics. They also demonstrated what democracy looks like. In response to police demands, #ElectricYerevan initiators, who refused to be called leaders, consistently stated that they would only make decisions afterconsultingwith protesters. Nevertheless, solidarity was not always solid. Going into the second week of protests, there weredisagreementsover the future of #ElectricYerevan.

Despite expected shortcomings in sustaining a populist protest, the Armenian Summer brilliantly demonstrated how ordinary citizens could give unaccountability a cold shower without jeopardizing stability. The faded movements message that tolerance for corruption is limited continues to reverberate. In an unprecedented slap to a government loyalist, Armenias authorities recentlyarrestedthe son of an appointed governorinfamousfor violent behavior.

Whether the wave of change prompted by #ElectricYerevan will positively impact the economicmonopoly,elections, orjustice systemis yet to be seen. However, even as it stands, the Armenian Summer is an inspiring example of how issue-driven civil resistance can transform politics.



The post #ElectricYerevan: Lessons from the Armenian Summer appeared first on Armenian Weekly.


After occupying a capital avenue for two weeks earlier this summer, Armenias #ElectricYerevan protest against an electricity price hike dissipated without declaring victory. But it still managed to achieve more than its stated goal. Thanks to protesters who acted more like investors than gamblers, the Armenian Summer boosted sovereignty, democracy, and civil society in what once was the smallest of Soviet states. Protesters remained peaceful, persistent, and realistic, even after police used force to remove them on June 23. ‘Thanks to protesters who acted more like investors than gamblers, the Armenian Summer boosted sovereignty, democracy, and civil society in what once was the smallest of Soviet states.’ The evening before, thousands hadmarchedtoward the Presidential Palace on Marshal Baghramyan, the Yerevan avenue that honors a World War II commander and houses all branches of government. After the police stopped the unsanctioned march, many protesters decided to stay on the street until their demand was met. The next mornings use ofwater cannons and forced detentionsbackfired, promptingthousandsmore to join the protest. For two weeks theydanced, debated,swept the street, andrefuseda meeting with the president. Most importantly, they stayed true to their message. Within days and despite theprime ministers announcementthat the rate increase was inevitable, [...]

The post #ElectricYerevan: Lessons from the Armenian Summer appeared first on Armenian Weekly.


After occupying a capital avenue for two weeks earlier this summer, Armenias #ElectricYerevan protest against an electricity price hike dissipated without declaring victory. But it still managed to achieve more than its stated goal. Thanks to protesters who acted more like investors than gamblers, the Armenian Summer boosted sovereignty, democracy, and civil society in what once was the smallest of Soviet states. Protesters remained peaceful, persistent, and realistic, even after police used force to remove them on June 23. ‘Thanks to protesters who acted more like investors than gamblers, the Armenian Summer boosted sovereignty, democracy, and civil society in what once was the smallest of Soviet states.’ The evening before, thousands hadmarchedtoward the Presidential Palace on Marshal Baghramyan, the Yerevan avenue that honors a World War II commander and houses all branches of government. After the police stopped the unsanctioned march, many protesters decided to stay on the street until their demand was met. The next mornings use ofwater cannons and forced detentionsbackfired, promptingthousandsmore to join the protest. For two weeks theydanced, debated,swept the street, andrefuseda meeting with the president. Most importantly, they stayed true to their message. Within days and despite theprime ministers announcementthat the rate increase was inevitable, [...]

The post #ElectricYerevan: Lessons from the Armenian Summer appeared first on Armenian Weekly.


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