About Presidents of Armenia
Yerevan’s Court of First Instance on 27th July 2018 satisfied a motion to arrest the second president of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan, (the president of Armenia from 1998-2008) for two months in connection with the March 2008 post-electoral turmoil. The ex-president is charged with breaching the constitutional order during the public protests.
The arrests of high-ranking members of the former ruling Republican Party were initiated by the new authorities as part of the anti-corruption campaign after the “velvet revolution” in Armenia. The fight against corruption is Nikol Pashinyan’s main program point, which allowed him to gain political points and support from a part of society. However, Kocharyan’s arrest caused resonance and polarization in society. Naturally, the supporters of the “revolution” are satisfied with the arrest as any sanctions against the representatives of the old government are perceived as a fair process for the implementation of Nikol Pashinyan’s anti-corruption program which was introduced during the spring protests in Yerevan.
The opponents of Pashinyan and his team, as well as those who cautiously accepted the “velvet revolution”, directly or indirectly condemned the arrest of Robert Kocharyan. The supporters of the former president and unwittingly sympathizers believe that “Kocharyan was not the worst president of the Republic: when he was the president, the migration from the country decreased, the economy began to grow. The one who deserves to be arrested is the first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan, during the reign of whom the country felt all the “charms” of the 90s. ”
Undoubtedly, there is something for which both Robert and Levon may not to be loved, but the supporters and the opponents of the arrest are biased, because they embellish both their achievements and the harm they have caused to the country. Unfortunately, the majority of the population doesn’t understand what happened in Armenia this spring and what the so-called “velvet revolution” is in fact. There is also no clarity about the old government, let alone the events of the 90s. The fact that the members of the ruling Republican Party created a corrupt system, and the 90s plunged the country into chaos is almost not a secret for anyone, but few people understand the socio-economic background of those events.
For convenience, we are accustomed to personify historical events and everything connected with them. The dispute over who has caused more harm to Armenia - Robert Kocharyan or Levon Ter-Petrosyan - is a bright example of exaggerating the role of the individual. It is a big mistake to put all the blame for the horrors experienced in the 90s on Levon as well as it’s a mistake to credit Robert for the economic growth in the beginning of 2000s. It is necessary to understand what really caused these events.
// The presidency of Levon Ter-Petrosyan
Levon Ter–Petrosyan was standing at the origins of the Karabakh movement, as did, by the way, two other presidents. Later, as head of the Armenian National Movement (ANM), he became the chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Armenian SSR. Under his chairmanship in 1990, a declaration on the independence of Armenia was adopted. The ANM is a liberal-democratic movement that proclaimed Armenia’s secession from the USSR, abandonment of the planned economy and transition to the market economy as its programmatic goal. The new state had to rely on someone, and for this a new class of proprietors was needed - the capitalists. This process was necessary to carry out as quickly as possible. Fortunately, the “bloody scoop” left behind an impressive material and technical base in the form of factories, research institutes, power stations, mining enterprises, etc. The ANM could not wait until the owner appeared himself: the only solution was to sell off all the former socialist property, which had been created by the labourers for the labourers themselves. Naturally, the former Soviet enterprises turned out to be owned by not the best people. Those who had acquaintances, administrative resources, brute physical strength, cunning - became the owners.
The majority of the population left with nothing; social stratification between the poor and the rich reached unprecedented levels. The workers of Armenia were so damaged that many of them never recovered. In addition, the predatory privatization caused tremendous damage to the industry, the education, the culture, and the demography. After this, people were not able to understand the true essence of the reforms, let alone the class struggle for their social rights.
So was the formation of capitalism in Armenia. However, any process ever ends. The process of the initial accumulation of capital at expense of the redistribution of the Soviet industry also ended. The economic system, established in the early 90s, stabilized, and there is no merit of any individual person in it.
// The presidency of Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan
Levon, who came out of the intellectual environment, could not compete with bite political opponents, and soon had to leave the post. Another group came to power which was also representing the interests of the bourgeoisie. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the advent of Kocharyan to power, the process of plundering the workers of Armenia did not stop, moreover, it entered a new phase - a softer one. Market relations still prevail in the country, the oligarchs own all the wealth of the country, they form political power, and the bulk of the population who could not leave the country, hardly survives in the new capitalist reality.
The struggle for the redistribution of the former socialist property is over, the horrors of the 90s are over, the country is divided between the oligarchs, so it's time to start strengthening the economic system created after the destruction of socialism. During the presidency of Kocharyan, the economic situation in the country improved, the emigration from the country decreased significantly. This fact is often to the credit of Kocharyan, but the improvement of living standards and the economic growth were due to objective reasons:
At the beginning of the 2000s, the rise of the entire global economy took place; prices for many minerals exported from the republic, such as aluminum and copper, increased; oil prices increased, which significantly affected the growth of the Russian economy. This fact had a favorable effect on the Armenian economy, since Armenia still had economic ties with Russia. The majority of the population who had left the republic under Levon, settled in Russia. Respectively, with the improvement of their living standards , remittances to Armenia also increased.
The growth of the economy under Kocharyan resulted from the monetary policy and the quantity of private transfers received from abroad. In the period 2004-2008, over USD 5.3 billion was received through the banking system of Armenia.
Since 2000, begins the expansion of Russian state and private companies in Armenia. The expansion continued under the presidency of Serzh Sargsyan. Under Robert Kocharyan, they began to implement the “debt-for-investment” program. As we noted earlier, when the price of hydrocarbons increased, Russian companies obtained additional funds that needed to be implemented as investments. Armenia became one of the countries where Russia started investing the profits from the sale of oil.
By 2000, Armenia’s foreign debt reached about $ 900 million, the country was experiencing difficulties in paying its debt. The Armenian bourgeoisie, represented by the political leadership of the country, could not think of anything better than to transfer the ownership of Armenian enterprises to the Russian capitalists in exchange for writing off debts. The country's leadership got rid of enterprises burdening the state, in exchange received cash transfers and the debts were written off.
During the presidencies of Kocharyan and Sargsyan, in addition to the Russian capital, the Western capital also permeates into Armenia: in 2006, the shares of the “ Nairit” factory were sold to a British company; in 2015, the American company “Contour Global” acquires the Vorotan cascade of hydropower plants; the French company “Veolia Genereala des Eaux” is a monopolist of water supply in Armenia. In addition, various Western companies own shares in the mining industry.
The Economic growth under Kocharyan was driven by inflows from the outside, and that “economic bubble” had to burst sooner or later - as happened in 2008.
The global financial crisis of 2008 fell on the presidency of Serzh Sargsyan, which negatively impacted on the Armenian economy. In 2008, the economic growth slowed down, and in 2009 there was a fall of 14.1%. From this point on, the public debts start increasing again. At the end of 2017, the national debt amounted to over 6.7 billion US dollars. The government solved the problem of the public debt in this way: it amended the law “On the budget system” to take even more debts.
The policy on the sale of state property did not end with the rule of Levon Ter-Petrosyan. Later, under Robert Kocharyan, in the period 1998-2000 and 2001-2003, the privatization programs were implemented. The last privatization program for 2017-2022 was approved under the rule of Serzh Sargsyan. We see that the second and third presidents continued the destruction of the former Soviet industry, begun in the 90s.
// About reasons of Robert Kocharyan’s arrest
Most will agree that the arrest of the second president is justified, because during the administration of the Republican Party, its leaders and those close to them were becoming rich meanwhile basic social and demographic problems were not solved in the country. Of course, there is no doubt that the top leaders of the RPA were using their posts for personal enrichment. However, this is not the whole truth. Firstly, he was charged with breaching the constitutional order in 2008, but in 2008 the president was Robert Kocharyan himself, and the actions of the authorities were fitting into the state’s policy – that is to protect the ruling class by any means.
This is not an attempt to whitewash Kocharyan, it is a statement of fact: any bourgeois state, if possible, does so. Yes, Kocharyan used force against demonstrators in 2008. However, in 1996, Levon Ter-Petrosyan did the same, however, Pashinyan never initiates criminal charges against him.
If you look objectively at the events of March 1, 2008, the actions of the opposition were more like an attempt to overthrow the constitutional order. They are trying to prosecute Kocharyan on trumped-up charges, and not on real crimes, but there are undoubtedly such ones - it is impossible to accumulate such wealth by legal means. These facts indicate the desire of the new authorities of Armenia to take revenge on Kocharyan for the events of 2008, that is, this political persecution – something that the opposition allegedly was fighting before coming to power.
Secondly, if you look at the events of the velvet revolution and the subsequent arrests of RPA members through the prism of class struggle, the real reasons for the arrests appear. Previously, they wrote in detail about the “revolutionary” events in Armenia: not a revolution occurred in Armenia, but a bourgeois coup, when one bourgeois-oligarchic group, using the justified discontent of the masses, shifted the other bourgeois grouping. The purpose of the coup is not to increase the welfare of the citizens. They only cover up their true goals – enrichment through the exploitation of the employee. To do this, they need political power and control of the state apparatus.
At the moment, in the confrontation between Nikol Pashinyan and his group with the RPA, interclass clashes are clearly visible. Now there is a redistribution of spheres of influence in the economy, in order to weaken its competitors and thus not give them the opportunity for political revenge. With the removal of Serzh Sargsyan and his group from power, the intraclass struggle does not end, as Pashinyan achieved political power, but economic power is still in the hands of a rival group (RPA), which means that financial flows will pass by the new authorities. The fight against corruption, monopolies, tax crimes – is a good reason to weaken the position of competitors of the Republican Party of Armenia, and, a possibility to redirect cash flows to the state apparatus, which is already controlled by Pashinyan and his people.
Now, they are suspending people who are a danger to the new authorities. To this end, the head of the paramilitary organization of the Union of Volunteers “Yerkrapah”, General Manvel Grigorian, was arrested. Plus, imitation of the fight against corruption is necessary to show the population new authorities’ work.
The process of robbing the citizens was initiated under the rule of Levon Ter-Petrosyan. Modern fighters against corruption are somehow silent about the consequences of criminal privatization, they like to breed demagogy about usurpation of power and corrupt officials. Of course, one can say as an excuse that, the worst times fell on Levon’s lot: the earthquake, the collapse of the economy, refugees, etc. But part of these problems were created precisely by his party, and with his participation. Could the country's economy collapse by itself? By initiating the secession of Armenia from the USSR, the dismantling of socialism - did Levon really not think about the consequences? The consequences of the earthquake were catastrophic, but, first, the tragedy occurred when Armenia was the part of the USSR, hence the Armenian SSR was assisted by all the republics of the Union, plus substantial assistance from the Armenian diaspora from abroad, which also came during the reign of the first president of Armenia. The fact that financial and humanitarian aid was being plundered, the problems with refugees remained unsolved - the responsibility can be assigned only to the then leadership of the country.
The mistake of the opponents of Levon Ter-Petrosyan is that they place all personal responsibility for the events of the 90s on him, and in the light of recent events, they are trying to whitewash Robert Kocharyan by comparing the reigns of the two presidents. This is а wrong formulation of the question. The wine of Levon and his role are great, but the events of the 90s are a natural result of the destruction of socialism and the collapse of the USSR. In all the republics of the Union, similar processes took place with similar consequences. So, regardless of who was in power in the 90s - the result would be the same, since the formation of capitalism and the emergence of the class of owners could happen only in that way. Consequently, the crime of Levon Ter-Petrosyan and the ANM in that they took advantage of the political disorientation of the society, hiding behind patriotic slogans, and restored capitalism without thinking about the consequences. If there were someone else instead of Levon, the result would be the same.
The next mistake of the ANM opponents is that they separate Robert Kocharyan from the events of the 90s. What did Kocharyan do that time to prevent the impoverishment of the people and the destruction of the industry? Maybe he criticized privatization and market reforms? He not only did not mind, he himself became part of the new Armenian bourgeoisie, which was formed under Levon. Moreover, if , not the destruction of the Soviet system, people like Kocharyan and Sargsyan would never occupy such high positions, let alone acquired capital.
Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan are people from the 90s: the first was the Prime Minister under Levon, and the second was Armenia’s Minister of Defense. They are also responsible for the collapse of the industry, the outflow of the population, the stratification of the society. If for some reason Levon did not manage to stay in power and make a fortune, then the two other presidents earned their capital due to the impoverishment of society. To evaluate the activities of the presidents according to the size of the stolen is wrong; Levon did not rob or did not manage to rob a fortune, but this fact does not justify him. It is not even so important. Of greater importance is the fact of enrichment of the oligarchs under his rule. He himself wasn’t awash in luxury, but he contributed to the creation of the conditions for the plunder of the people.
There is no need to try to understand who is better or worse. Under Levon, capitalism was restored, and the other two presidents developed and strengthened it. The economic growth of the 2000s is due to objective reasons and debts. All presidents and the newly elected prime minister are representatives of various bourgeois groups, their goal is the exploitation of the rest of society, therefore they are the enemies of the working people: any political or state leader loyal to the existing economic system is a class enemy. The working people of Armenia should understand that nothing will change from changing one person to another, even criminal prosecution of individuals will change little: it is necessary to get rid of the bourgeois class which has been robbing the country since 90s. Only with the destruction of the political domination of the bourgeoisie, the problems that cause our society will disappear.