By Ruzanna Stepanian
Hundreds of Armenians flocked on Tuesday to the home of the deceased Prime Minister Andranik Markarian to pay their last respects to the man who headed their government for nearly seven years.
Security forces had trouble controlling a crowd that filled the courtyard outside Markarian’s second-floor apartment in the city’s northern Avan district. His body lay in state there in a private ceremony which was supposed to be attended by his relatives, friends and colleagues.
The incessant stream of people turned it into a public event, even though not everyone was able to enter the apartment and offer their condolences to the family of the deceased. Many silently stood in the courtyard for several hours.
Among the visitors were Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, other senior government officials and senior members of Markarian’s Republican Party, and the leaders of virtually all other major Armenian parties, including those opposed to the government. President Robert Kocharian was expected to visit Markarian’s home later in the day.
Ordinary people will be able to bid farewell to the Armenia premier, who died of heart failure at the age of 55 on Sunday, in larger numbers on Wednesday when his body will be taken to Yerevan’s Opera House before being buried in the national Pantheon. Kocharian has declared Wednesday a day of national mourning.
Meanwhile, messages of sympathy continued to pour in from foreign leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Also sending their condolences were Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, whose country has no diplomatic relations with Armenia. The Armenian government said Turkey’s ambassador to neighboring Georgia is among foreign dignitaries who will arrive in Yerevan for Markarian’s funeral.