Yerevan’s Mayor Taron Markarian said on Wednesday that he is ready to consider an opposition demand to rename streets and public schools in the Armenian capital still bearing the names of controversial Soviet-era figures.
The opposition Yelk alliance announced earlier this week plans to submit a corresponding bill to the city council in which it has the second largest faction. The faction leader, Arayik Harutiunian, said it will target Yerevan streets and schools named after ethnic Armenian Communist leaders who were involved in Joseph Stalin’s mass repressions in Soviet Armenia and other parts of the Soviet Union.
Harutiunian singled out Anastas Mikoyan, Stalin’s Armenian-born associate who for decades held top leadership positions in Moscow. “Having a street named after Mikoyan means recognizing that person’s negative contribution to our history,” he said. “As you know, thousands of Armenians were executed or exiled on orders signed by him.”
Markarian told reporters that his office has received no formal proposals from Yelk yet. “We will look into the proposals and definitely express our view after that,” he said without commenting further.
The Armenian government sparked vehement protests from human rights groups and civil society representatives when it attempted to erect Mikoyan’s statue in downtown Yerevan in 2014. The outcry forced it to give up the initiative.
Armenia was one of the first Soviet republics to remove the statue of Vladimir Lenin, the Soviet Union’s founder, from the central square of its capital in 1991. Most Yerevan streets with Bolshevik-related names were renamed in the following years.
Vahagn Khachatrian, who served as Yerevan mayor from 1992-1996, said his administration did not have sufficient time to change other controversial street names as well. Khachatrian emphasized the fact that those decisions were recommended by a special commission that thoroughly examined relevant particular Bolshevik leaders’ role in Soviet Armenian history.
Khachatrian, who is now affiliated with another opposition party, believes that the current municipal administration should tread just as carefully on the Yelk proposal. “There is no need to rush,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).