By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Gayane Danielian
A senior member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) voiced on Thursday strong opposition to government plans to change Armenia’s current national anthem which was first adopted by the nationalist party when it ruled the country in 1918-1920.
The “Mer Hayrenik” (Our Fatherland) song had an official status until the short-lived first independent Armenian republic was incorporated into Soviet Russia. It was for decades banned by the Soviet authorities before being reinstated by Armenia’s first post-Communist government in 1990.
Many Armenian music composers and artists disapproved of the move, saying that the song’s uncomplicated theme is too simple for an anthem and calling for the adoption of a more solemn tune. The Armenian government heeded their concerns early this year, setting up an hoc commission tasked with suggesting alternative anthems.
The 22-strong commission, which consists of prominent intellectuals, artists and government officials, short-listed on Wednesday five out of 85 songs submitted by local composers. The short-list includes Soviet Armenia’s former anthem with changed lyrics that no longer glorify Soviet rule and the Communist Party.
The head of the commission, Culture Minister Hasmik Poghosian, said the contest will finish later this year. “It is very difficult to make the right choice,” she said. “But we must pick the best one.”
The song that will be chosen by the commission is expected to be submitted by the government to the National Assembly for approval.
Gegham Manukian, a parliament deputy from Dashnaktsutyun, said the party, which is represented in the government, will likely draft a separate bill that would uphold the status of “Mer Hayrenik.” “We hope it will pass,” he told RFE/RL. “Since there are no or almost no music composers in parliament, the vote will be more impartial.”
Manukian also dismissed the commission’s significance, saying that the Armenian authorities have not yet made a final decision on the anthem. “The ultimate decision will be a political one,” he said.