When the pressure from the Soviet power eased
in the 1980s, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict came to the
surface. From 1990 to 1994, Armenia fought wars with
neighboring Azerbaijan and took control of the Armenian
enclave, which is located in Azerbaijan.
Nagorno-Karabakh has remained a subject of dispute in
the region, hampering Armenia's political and economic
The Soviet Republic of Armenia did not become a scene
of war during the Second World War. After the war, the
level of education was raised, and infrastructure and
industry were expanded. The emphasis was on light
industry such as the manufacture of food and metal
products. Industrialization never assumed such dramatic
proportions as in the Baltic, for example, and that
meant the immigration of Russian labor was very limited.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Armenia. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
From 1953, under Soviet leader Josef Stalin's
successor Nikita Khrushchev, Armenia was given greater
freedom to conduct its own business. Armenian
nationalism was reborn on April 24, 1965, when the 50th
anniversary of the Ottoman Empire's massacres on
Armenians was celebrated (compare Older History).
Memorial Day was accompanied by rattles in the capital
The memory of the 1915 massacres and the fear of
Turkey made the Armenians longer than most other Soviet
people accepted to submit to the Soviet system. Soviet
leader Mikhail Gorbachev's reform policy during the
second half of the 1980s, however, revealed a pent-up
The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is exacerbated
When the pressure from Moscow eased, the conflict
with the neighbor in the east, Azerbaijan, about
Nagorno-Karabakh also came to the surface (see
Conflicts: Nagorno-Karabakh). The Nagorno-Karabach
mountain area is completely enclosed by Azerbaijan.
Prior to 1990, 75 percent of the region's nearly 200,000
inhabitants were Armenians and the rest Azerbaijanis,
but during the 1990s almost all Azerbaijanis fled from
The conflict took off in February 1988, when
Nagorno-Karabakh's highest Soviet
(parliament) requested that the area be connected to
Armenia. Both the Government of Azerbaijan and Russia
said no. In Armenia mass demonstrations were held, and
close to one million Armenians demanded that Armenia be
allowed to take over the rule of Nagorno-Karabakh. The
demands were channeled through the Karabakh Committee,
led by Levon Ter-Petrosyan. The Committee was a broad
anti-communist movement that demanded democracy and
Azerbaijanis living in Armenia fled. In Azerbaijan,
rumors spread that the fugitives had been attacked,
after which a large number of Armenians were murdered in
the Azerbaijani city of Sumqayıt in February.
The Karabakh Committee was banned but continued
to organize demonstrations.
In December 1988, Armenia suffered an earthquake
which for a time overshadowed the Karabach problem. At
least 25,000 people lost their lives and half a million
are estimated to have become homeless. Armenia's
transport system was knocked out. All resources were
invested in the reconstruction.
In September 1989, Azerbaijan stopped all supplies of
fuel and other goods to Armenia. The blockade was a
severe blow, as Armenia's imports from other Soviet
republics to 90 percent went through Azerbaijan.
Independence and war
In December 1989, Armenian leadership declared
Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Armenia. Struggles followed
between Armenians and Azerbaijanis inside the enclave.
Before the election to Armenia's highest Soviet in
the summer of 1990, multi-party systems had been
introduced. The Communist Party lost
its majority. Instead, the largest individual party
became the Panarmenian National Movement
(HHS), which was a
transformation of the banned Karabakh Committee. HHS
leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan was appointed new President
of the Supreme Soviet, in effect President. A
declaration was passed that Armenia would become an
independent state with Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral
A failed coup attempt in Moscow in August 1991 paved
the way for Armenian independence. On September 23,
Armenia was declared an independent state. In October,
Levon Ter-Petrosyan was re-elected president.
From late autumn 1991, the conflict in
Nagorno-Karabakh assumed the form of open war. Sabotage,
murder and terrorism were carried out by semi-military
groups from both sides, and ethnic minorities living in
"wrong" places were forced to flee. Armenia supported
the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh but denied all
allegations of military involvement.
In Armenia, the lack of food and fuel became
increasingly evident. Armenian refugees streamed in from
Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan.
In 1992, the Armenian Parliament passed a resolution
prohibiting the country from concluding peace agreements
on Nagorno-Karabakh without the consent of the Karabakh
leaders. By conquering the Latin Valley from Azerbaijan,
the Armenians were able to open a land corridor from
Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. The following year, they
conquered the large lands around the enclave. In
mid-1993, the Azerbaijani resistance was weakened by a
military coup in Baku, and Armenian forces took control
Armistice from 1994
In May 1994, the parties entered into an armistice.
The war had then claimed at least 25,000 casualties and
made up to one million people in Armenia and Azerbaijan
Despite the successes of the war, mass meetings in
Armenia were held in protest of the government's way of
handling the conflict and, above all, of its economic
policies. The radical socialist nationalist
Dasjnak Party had since collided with President
Ter-Petrosyan on these issues since independence. The
president banned the Dasjnak for a time, which prevented
the party to stand in parliamentary elections in 1995.
The HHS-led alliance Republican block
won by a large margin and at the same time adopted a new
constitution in a referendum.
In the fall of 1996, Levon Ter-Petrosyan was
re-elected president, but according to the opposition,
he won with the help of cheating. Security forces turned
down demonstrations, and Ter-Petrosyan also took the
help of Yerkrapah, the veteran
organization of the Nagorno-Karabakh war.
Robert Kotjaryan was appointed new Prime Minister in
March 1997. He was a former communist pump who was
brought in from Nagorno-Karabakh, where he had been
president since 1994; he was thus not an Armenian
citizen. Ter-Petrosyan hoped that the appointment would
facilitate contacts with Azerbaijan. Instead, it was
seen as a provocation.
Police killings shake the country
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE) presented a peace plan in the spring of
1997, according to which Nagorno-Karabach would be
granted a large degree of self-determination but
officially belonged to Azerbaijan. Highly pressured by
the mediators, Ter-Petrosyan accepted the peace plan in
the fall. Before the home opinion, he declared that
neither independence nor union with Armenia was
realistic for Nagorno-Karabakh. In addition, the
President felt that concessions were needed to break
Armenia's isolation and save the economy.
A bitter debate divided Armenia into two camps.
Yerkrapah turned against the president, and Prime
Minister Kotjaryan called him a traitor. In February
1998, Ter-Petrosyan resigned. The ban on Dasjnak Party
was lifted. In the March presidential election, Dasjnak
supported Robert Kotjaryan, who defeated the other main
candidate, Armenia's former Communist leader Karen
Demirtjyan. According to Kotjaryan's opponents, his
victory was based on cheating.
The May 1999 parliamentary elections brought the
Republican Party (HHK)
(see Political System) to power in collaboration with
the Socialist People's Party through
the newly formed Alliance Mjasnutiun.
However, the election did not go completely honestly, as
foreign observers pointed out.
Republican Party leader Vazgen Sargsyan was named
prime minister, while Karen Demirtjyan, who now
represented the People's Party, became president of
Just a few months later, on October 27, the country
was shaken when five armed men entered Parliament in the
middle of a session, killing Sargsyan, Demirtjyan and
six other people. The killers, led by a former activist
in Dasjnak, held a large number of people hostage to the
next day but gave up after being allowed to speak on TV.
They declared their deed that they wanted to save the
nation from corrupt officials. All were later sentenced
to life imprisonment.
The murdered Vazgen Sargsyan was succeeded as prime
minister by his brother Aram Sargsyan, but there were
almost immediately contradictions between him and the
president. In May 2000, Kotjaryan dismissed both the
prime minister and the defense minister, since members
of the government demanded that Kotjaryan himself
resign. New Prime Minister Andranik Markaryan, also he
from the Republican Party.
Robert Kotjaryan was re-elected president in March
2003. In the crucial round of elections, he clearly
defeated Stepan Demirtjyan, son of the assassinated
President. However, the result was met by protests from
tens of thousands of people who claimed that the
election fraud was obvious. Observers from the Council
of Europe and the OSCE also criticized the election.
Among other things, many ballot boxes contained far more
ballots than there were voters.
As expected, in the May 2003 parliamentary elections,
the Republican Party received the most votes. The two
presidential parties Rule of Law and
Dashnak also got a seat in Parliament, as did the
leading opposition party Justice Bloc.
Many independent candidates elected from one-man
constituencies later joined the major parties'
parliamentary groups. The Council of Europe and the OSCE
declared that the elections did not meet international
standards, but that there was, after all, less cheating
than in the previous presidential election.
After the parliamentary election, Prime Minister
Markaryan of the Republican Party formed a coalition
government with the rule of law and Dasjnak. A Supreme
Court proposal that a referendum should decide whether
there was confidence in President Kotjaryan inspired the
opposition to a series of protests in the first half of
2004. But the protests were hard-fought, the Supreme
Court changed and no referendum was carried out.
According to a constitutional amendment in November
2005, power would be transferred from the president to
the parliament, which until then had held a weak
position. The amendment had been proposed by, among
others, the Council of Europe and would also mean a more
independent position for the courts and stronger
protection of human rights. The opposition, however,
opposed the proposal for several reasons; among other
things, the opposition parties felt that it did not go
far enough in depriving the president of power,
pointing, among other things, to a clause that would
give the president prosecutorial immunity. In a
referendum, the constitutional amendment was approved,
officially by 93 percent of the voters. The turnout was
64 percent, but that figure was rejected by the
opposition, which urged the Armenians to vote no.
The Republican Party strengthened its position in the
2007 elections. A coalition government was formed with
Dasjnak and the newly formed Liberal Conservative
A successful Armenia, both of whom
supported President Kotjaryan.
When Kotjaryan's second and last term expired in
2008, he highlighted the Republican Party's leader,
Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan, as his successor. Quite
according to the calculations, Sargsyan won the
presidential election in February, but the election was
followed by vigorous protests with clashes between
government-critical groups and the police. The
protesters accused the government of electoral fraud,
but OSCE observers felt the election was fairly fair for
the first time.
The demonstrations also targeted poor living
conditions, abuse of power and corruption. In clashes,
eight protesters and two police officers were killed.
The president announced a state of emergency and many
were arrested. One year after the protests, new
demonstrations were held. A mass protest was issued for
those imprisoned the year before, but according to the
opposition, political prisoners were not released.
In the April 2012 parliamentary elections, the
Republican Party gained its own majority (read more in