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Armenia Modern History

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 development.

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.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: 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 Yerevan.

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 dissatisfaction.

Contemporary History of ArmeniaThe 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 there.

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 national sovereignty.

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 part.

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 of Nagorno-Karabakh.

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 to refugees.

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 parliament.

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.

Criticized choices

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 Current Politics).

 
 

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