Armen Zakarian in Yerevan, Harry Tamrazian in Prague
Armenia started today one month-long celebration that will end on September 21 with marking the 10th anniversary of its independence from the Soviet Union. Armenia won its independence from the former Soviet Union in a referendum on September 21 1991. But Armenia adopted its declaration of independence 13 months earlier, on August 23, 1990.
On that date, the first post-Communist parliament adopted a declaration of Independence, renaming the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic the Republic of Armenia. The declaration of independence was adopted under the pressure of the Pan-Armenian National movement (HHSh), which managed to win the majority in the last Soviet-era Supreme Soviet elections, which took place in May 1990.
Politicians and government officials gathered today in front of the old building of the Armenian Parliament, where the declaration of independence was adopted. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and Yerevan City Mayor Robert Nazarian unveiled the memorial plaque that was installed on the wall of the old parliament building.
The first chairman of the post Soviet Armenian Parliament Levon Ter-Petrossian and his deputies Babken Ararkzian and Gagik Harutyunian were conspicuously absent. Only a handful of former members of parliament was present at the celebration. The leaders of the current parliament were also not present.
A member of the first post-Soviet parliament, Aram Manukian, who was the first to read the declaration of the independence eleven years ago, praised the declaration, saying it was one of the most important documents in the history of Armenia. Prominent Soviet-era dissident Paruir Hairikian, who spent almost 17 years in Soviet camps for nationalist propaganda, also praised the declaration of independence, but he was not given a chance to address the crowd. "I used to speak about independence, when no one could speak. Let them speak as much as they wish," Hairikian said jokingly, adding that he is not sure whether the politicians present, some of whom are former Communists or former Komsomol members, fully understand what independence means for Armenia.