By Astghik Bedevian
Paruyr Hayrikian, a prominent Soviet-era Armenian dissident, poured scorn on Armenia’s leaders on Friday, saying that they have turned the country into a “Russian outpost” and must be removed from power.
Addressing a congress of his National Self-Determination Union (AIM), Hayrikian called for broad-based political support for his stated efforts to thwart a handover of power from President Robert Kocharian to Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian. He claimed that failure by Armenia’s mainstream political groups to rally around his small party will mean that “one pro-Russian ex-Communist party boss who is proud of his Bolshevik past will be replaced by another former party boss who likes the status of Russian concubine.”
“The current level of Russian-Armenian relations shows that for Russia’s current rulers Armenia is merely a small coin that can be sacrificed if the situation requires so,” he said.
Hayrikian spent 17 years in Soviet labor camps for campaigning for Armenia’s independence and was a major actor in Armenian politics during the 1990s. His political star has faded since then.
Still, Hayrikian’s past and his role in Armenia’s post-Soviet political life were lavishly praised by representatives of several major parties, including the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), and other prominent individuals that addressed the AIM conference. One guest went so far as to compare him with a rare “museum artifact.”
The gathering was timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the United National Party (AMK), a Hayrikian-led clandestine group that operated in Soviet times. It also came ahead of the official celebration of the 15th anniversary of a referendum that was followed by the declaration of Armenia’s independence.
Hayrikian complained that he is not being honored by the Armenian government for his contribution to the independence and was understood to lay the blame on Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, also a former member of the AMK. “Apart from the known former KGB agents, who will be against letting the Armenians celebrating the 15th anniversary of the independence referendum pay their respects to the architect of that event?” he said.
Markarian spent two years in a Russian prison for agitating for Armenia’s secession from the Soviet Union during the early 1990s. Hayrikian has claimed in the past that Markarian was set free after “repenting” his activities and agreeing to collaborate with the KGB. But other former dissidents, who are now members of Markarian’s Republican Party, have denied the allegations.