Marine Martirosyan

Analyst Stepan Danielyan: "I'd compare what Shant did with Pussy Riot'

A conversation with political analyst Stepan Danielyan on Shant Harutyunyan and the  November 5 “Revolution”

There have been different evaluations of what took place in Liberty Square on November 5 regarding Shant Harutyunyan’s proclaimed “revolution”. Some have derided it as foolhardy, while others believe there are no real alternatives in today’s Armenia. What’s your opinion?

To evaluate what Shant and his supporters did, we must first evaluate the political and social environment in which it took place. Only afterwards can we try to understand the impact of what occurred. The government faces very serious, I would even say doomsday problems, and they demand immediate solutions. The public must be mobilized to provide those solutions. The problems aren’t merely economic but touch on national security as well. However, the political mechanisms to resolve these problems are lacking.

State institutions are disintegrating and are essentially non-functioning. The electoral system does not work, and this was proven once again in the recent Ararat community election. Given the absence of the electoral system, political parties have also been demeaned, losing the public trust. The bulk of the opposition parties and those in power, are intertwined and equally corrupt.

International history shows us that a similar set of conditions is termed revolutionary. That’s to say, evolutionary paths of development are lacking. No one has an answer to this question. Some say the regime can change only under corresponding foreign influence, including a radical change of events regarding the Karabakh issue. Some are waiting for external influences from Russia, and others from the West. If we go back five, ten or fifteen years, we see the same analyses. Nothing has changed bit the last names.

These are the conditions in which Shant did what he did; an act which I believe was directed at society. Nothing more. Of course, we understand that the political parties find themselves in a tight spot. They speak of the impermissibility of using force, of regime change through constitutional means. But they fail to provide specifics. They say we must unite, that we should wait a bit more, etc. This is natural; otherwise the parties would have to dissolve. The former attempt shows that the consequence of such groupings haven’t been regime change, but rather palace revolts, resulting in certain sections of the opposition and regime switching places. But there has been no essential change for the country.

It’s not by accident that parties out of power have expressed themselves in more negative terms about Shant than even representatives of the ruling regime. The challenges were directed more at the former.

“If you don’t know what to do, at least don’t deceive the people. With your actions you are only assisting the regime.” This is probably the message Shant wanted to get across to the opposition. I would equate Shant’s act with the Pussy Riot incident in Moscow. A group of girls entered the church and danced for 40 minutes. The Russian authorities are still facing a major problem. Russia and the international community are now discussing the issue of state-church relations in Russia. The girls are locked away in high-security jails, and this, in turn, has opened up a hot topic of debate - the conditions in which hundreds of thousands of Russian prisoners are being held. To say it’s all theatrics isn’t correct. Those people risked their well-being for freedom. The same with Shant. It was a move designed to change the status-quo.

Do you see any prospects for the revolution declared by Shant? Today, it appears that many are pledging to continue what he started.

You’d have to be pretty scatterbrained to ask that fifteen people, armed with sticks and firecrackers, should go out and incite a revolution. It’s a fantasy. It was a staged act that should have led to serious discussion; and I believe it has. Being a staged act doesn’t mean it was a game.

Political processes are always accompanied by show-like antics. It’s always been like that, even in the days of Ancient Egypt and Rome. What do religious rituals, military parades and election campaigns represent? They too are staged performances designed to change people’s perceptions and values. It’s another matter entirely as to who wishes to exploit that act and for what aim. It’s a topic for another discussion and has nothing to do with Shant’s intentions.

Are you saying that Shant and his supporters were trying to awaken the public?

You don’t need a vivid imagination to believe otherwise. What else could what they did mean? I repeat – Shant’s intentions are one thing; those wishing to use them for ulterior purposes something else entirely.

If this was their aim, do you believe they succeeded?

I don’t believe my opinion is important in the matter. If the event has been hotly discussed and debated for several days afterwards, then it had an impact. At the same time, there are the unfolding discussions regarding the tragic events that have befallenVardan Petrosyan. I see certain similarities between the two events. Both reveal what type of country we live in and were we have reached. I believe that the public is changing.