If you were so inspired by my last post to plan a trip to Armenia as soon as possible, you may now think – after some news reports – it might be a good idea to hit the pause button while Armenians sort out a newly-developed (but long over-due) critical matter in the country, like the relationship between the government and the people, otherwise known as “Revolution.” My message: Don’t put off your travel!
A trip to Armenia now is a unique opportunity to witness what could be The Perfect Revolution. And if you haven’t any travel plans to Armenia (yet) you should still follow this multi-generational, 100% grass-roots, peaceful movement because it’s inspiring. It is a truly organic revolution not fuelled with imported chemical fertilizers.
For all the drum-beating the U.S. media does about democratic movements in other countries, it has been strangely muted on the Armenian uprising. Only bare-bones information has been reported, sometimes two weeks late, and in some cases no reporting at all. CBS, for example, hasn’t reported anything on Armenia since Kim Kardashian visited Armenia three years ago.
The protests are about people power. Typical of most former Soviet republics, the riches went to a few who ruthlessly grabbed all they could following independence. Instead of moving forward, they reversed the country back to a feudal era. This inevitably led to large-scale social inequality which in turn caused massive emigration of thousands of Armenia’s talented and industrious citizens to other countries. If you didn’t have a connection or make the requisite “gifts” in the cascading chain-link, your prospects for a normal, fulfilling and prosperous life were snuffed out.
This untenable situation has been simmering towards the boiling point for many years. It was no secret. People openly complained. There were other protests in the past but nothing really changed. Why not?
Timing is everything.
When a straw finally broke the camel’s back, one courageous person stepped out with a simple message of how to change the status quo and the lawful way to do it: “Your government is YOU. It has to work for YOU, not the other way around!” The people were now primed to accept the message, not just hear it, and they jolted out of their post soviet-socialistic stupor while the bright, young generation that grew up in post-Soviet Armenia was already raring to go. Everyone united to catch the message and run with it. And so it started. So far it’s working. The protests have now morphed into a full-fledged revolution. A non-violent one. It could have gotten ugly, but it didn’t and that’s why this protest movement is worth watching.
Once they got past the first phase successfully, the entire population of Armenia celebrated continuously for days in one huge party all around the country. Well, almost. The ruling oligarchs may not be so thrilled, but they’ll get over it. It’s unlikely the people will back down now.
Friends from the U.S. who happen to be there visiting describe a jubilant atmosphere and so much joy. In true Armenian style food was everywhere, like a giant picnic with singing, dancing, playing and eating.
If it had to have a name, it could be called The Shish Kebab Revolution. Or maybe Shashlik Revolution? Restaurants and street vendors were booming with business. Some excursion tours for tourists were temporarily altered due to road blocks but they soon resumed. As of this writing the revolution is not over but on hold until the next phase and everything is back to normal, though not the kind of normal as before. There is hope for a better future.
The non-U.S. media such as France 24 (English), BBC and Al Jazeera have done a more thorough job of reporting on the Armenian protests. However……
if you want to keep up with The Perfect Revolution, I would propose a much more novel way: by following the dispatches of a highly professional cookbook research and photography team that happened to land in Armenia just in time for the protests. See my next post!
Featured photo by Dorothy Garabedian. Nocturnal water dances at Republic Square, Yerevan.
All other photos by Raffi Youredjian (Yerevan Protests) at Flickr