The Applicability of Nonviolent Struggle in Armenia


The thesis that the change of power in Armenia is possible only by means of street struggle and especially in a revolutionary way has become widely considered recently. Skipping the chosen strategic and tactical nuances of political processes I would like to talk about the political instruments which will be implemented to realize this or that political strategy and tactics.

The article series consists of several parts where the applicability of possible options of political/civil disobedience in our country, as well as the reasons of failure of the means chosen by political forces so far will be discussed in detail. The article series is based on the study of international experience, as well as the scientific literature available, and as in many cases it is impossible to overlook the Armenian reality, I have tried to keep within the scope of the suggested theory.

Within the criminal case of the group arrested in November, a number of freedom fighters have also been arrested recently. Especially among the friends of the arrested freedom fighters is emphasized the idea that any citizen is more than sure today that the fall of the regime can be realized only by means of force. The idea is not far from the reality so far as today a large number of citizens is inclined to believe in the inevitability of the change of power by violent means. Though a situation like that does not foresee any positive development, it has its objective and subjective reasons often mentioned by me. In this case the worst thing is that the above mentioned opinion of the ordinary citizens is shared by many political forces and currents. Actually, even the amendments realized by force suggest great intellectual work which today lacks the opposition of our political system. At least during this period witnessed, that any extreme call to fight has had only a declarative nature and lived a fairly short life.

Despite the fact that even the extreme methods of struggle offered by the opposite powers have contained nothing but elements of populism, I would like to make a few considerations concerning the forceful solutions of political processes. Firstly, refusing to accept the forceful solutions of political processes doesn’t necessarily mean to refuse the idea of street struggle, on the contrary, any political struggle should be of public nature and of course be accompanied by street struggle. It is of foremost importance to note that despite the inevitability and possible ”achievements” of the above mentioned form of political struggle often emphasized by the supporters of the violent struggle it is obvious that by placing confidence in violent means these people choose the type of struggle where the superiority is almost always on the side of the rulers.

Even when successful, violent struggles often have significant long-term negative structural consequences. Most importantly, violent struggle results in the complete destruction of the bodies that are vital in establishing and maintaining a democratic society. The removal of particular persons and cliques from the governing positions makes it possible for another group to take their place. Theoretically, this group might be more democratic and open to reforms. However, the opposite is also likely, when after consolidating its position the new clique may turn to a more ruthless policy than the old one. Consequently, “the national salvation front”, in which hopes had been placed, will be able to do whatever it wants without concern for democracy and human rights. Thus, we can note that taking the power in the so called revolutionary way is not a solution to the existing political reality either.

Elections as a mechanism of significant political changes

Within the current political system the results and the process of elections are completely controlled by the government, and in order to change the status quo about the above mentioned it is necessary to examine in depth and identify the reasons for it. The most evident and irrefutable reason is that the opposite pole of the power is in no way able to give a systemic nature to the irrational political behavior accumulated over the years. Among the subjective reasons of foremost importance is the fact that the majority of the citizens in the Republic of Armenia is not an active beneficiary even during electoral processes, which is again the result of the political system’s failure. By now all the active political powers have disappointed and eroded the citizens having put confidence in them. It is proved by the absolute lack of confidence in the elections on the side of the citizens, which today prevails in our country and as a result of which the desperate citizens start collaborating with in its opinion the lesser evil government, or as it is more typical to the Armenian reality take the way of exile in the confidence of not being able to achieve anything on their own. The vast majority of the migrants also tends to the idea that ”nothing will be changed without violence” or believes that people can succeed only by means of foreign intervention. They believe that only foreign intervention can be strong enough to succeed.

Foreign “Saviors” or nothing can be changed without foreign intervention

Examples of different countries show that the mentality of the population in transitional democratic countries or the ones with totalitarian and authoritarian political systems is generally identical. Actually, a stagnant society to political processes is unable to act effectively on its own, but this option is accurate only for a certain time period.

As noted, often the society with limited political and civil freedoms is unwilling and temporarily unable to struggle because they have no confidence in their ability and no known practical way of effective struggle. It is therefore understandable that many people often place their hope for liberation in external forces. This outside force may be “public opinion”, international economic and political sanctions and finally, the military or political intervention by a particular country. There are many similar examples in history, but in most cases the effects of such interventions have recorded negative dynamics rather than positive ones.

In the specific case of our country by saying foreign intervention all the existing political factors unequivocally mean the expected intervention by the Russian Federation. The fact that during the whole history of the Third Republic both our officers and opposition have placed their hope in the “expected approval from the Kremlin” is a proven fact. Another political reality in the RA is its being considered a zone of Russian influence. A vast majority of our society is also filled with obvious reverence towards the Kremlin, which is the reason for the two poles of the political system to make the question of being more pro-Russian the number one question of the political agenda. The effects of the Russian influence are seen everywhere; from the economic field to the political one.

Four basic requirements for starting a nonviolent struggle

Analyzing the current political situation it can be noted that for the sake of democratic society, values, creating and maintaining a necessary level of human rights protection and for conducting an effective political struggle there are four basic requirements to be followed;

  1. strengthening society’s determination, self-confidence and resistance skills,
  2. strengthening the social groups and institutions relatively independent from the existing political situation,
  3. creating a stable and structural internal resistance force,
  4. developing a wise grand strategic and tactic plan for the effective political struggle and implementing it skillfully.

The fact that today our society needs an increase of self-confidence and determination is undeniable. It can be proved by the low level of citizens ready to struggle for their rights. There are problems concerning the social groups and institutions relatively independent from the existing political situation too, but this problem can also be solved on the condition of retaining and developing whatever we still have. However, everything is obvious regarding the third and the fourth points; currently our country lacks political and/or civil groups or associations to comply with these requirements.

However, it should be noted, that nonviolent struggle meeting the above mentioned requirements is just the period for rising the courage and the internal capacities of the fighting groups. Such a political struggle suggests brave, disciplined and well-designed set of actions displayed by the fighting groups. It is important to keep in mind that effective political struggle depends on the capabilities of the citizens directly involved into the struggle. The existing examples of successful nonviolent disobedience prove the fact that there are really quite peaceful and effective methods of struggle which are still not well-developed. Important to note that nonviolent disobedience is a complex political combination and realizing it is somehow incompatible with the political behavior of the powers existing in our country nowadays.

To be continued…

Narek Samsonyan