By Armen DulianThe year 2006 was quite eventful for Armenia, even if it saw no elections and political upheavals. Below are the top ten developments which the RFE/RL Armenian Service believes have dominated the public agenda in the past twelve months.
1. The crash on May 3 of an Armenian airliner off the Russian Black Sea coast. All 113 people on board the Airbus A-320 were killed in what was the worst air disaster in Armenia’s history.
2. The ouster on May 12 of then parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian’s Orinats Yerkir party from the governing coalition.
3. The official disclosure in June of the international mediators’ most recent plan to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
4. The announcement on July 18 of Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s affiliation with the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The move was widely construed as a confirmation of Sarkisian’s intention to contest the next presidential election due in 2008.
5. The emergence and rapid expansion throughout the year of a new political party led by Gagik Tsarukian, the most influential of Armenia’s government-connected tycoons. The Prosperous Armenia party is now tipped to make a strong showing in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
6. The year saw more street protests by residents of Yerevan that were forcibly evicted from their homes as a result of the ongoing massive redevelopment in the city center. The evictions were declared unconstitutional by Armenia’s Constitutional Court.
7. A further strengthening of the national currency, the dram, that triggered fresh opposition allegations about exchange rate manipulation. One U.S. dollar is now worth roughly 360 drams. It traded at about 460 drams at the beginning of 2006.
8. An apparent rise in anti-Russian sentiment fuelled by continued racially motivated killings of Armenians in Russia.
9. The year saw a number of high-profile cultural events such as Armenia’s first-ever participation in the Eurovision song contest, an open-air concert given by Charles Aznavour and other famous French singers, and the annual Golden Apricot film festival in Yerevan.
10. The Armenian team’s victory in the 2006 world Chess Olympiad.