Armenia: Song And Dance, Not A Revolution by EuraisaNet
Many eyes, especially in Moscow, are on Yerevan for hints that the resistance to higher electricity prices will turn into another post-Soviet revolution with geopolitical implications. But the wait for Molotov cocktails to start flying is proving meaningless.
Rather, now that the risk of police intervention has faded, the mass protests are again looking like a national festival, with the mostly young demonstrators breaking into song and dance on Yerevan’s central Bahgramian Avenue that they have blocked for days now.
The choice of weapons includes the traditional Armenian circle dance, Kochari, performed to the pounding of drums and shrieks of the zurna, a folk oboe. Others do a bit of sports. One morning earlier, protesters used the space between a line of police and a barricade of recycling bins as a soccer pitch. The demonstrators also worked together to keep the avenue clean.
The government, in some ways, also appears to be performing a circle dance of its own. Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian on June 30 said that the state would use extrabudgetary funds to cover the August 1 price-hike for consumers, but claimed the explanation would come later, RFE/RL’s Armenian service reported.
Contradicting earlier indications, however, Abrahamian said on July 1 that the government is not considering nationalizing the Russian-owned power distribution network, Electricity Networks of Armenia. The outcome of the audit, which could take three to four months, is anybody’s guess, though, he added.
Yet attention still focuses on whether or not the government will try to pass off the heavily indebted, Russian-owned Armenian power distribution network to some other company with less of a taste for luxury cars and more of a taste for making money. Armenian-Russian businesspersons could be among the potential buyers, media have claimed.
Whatever its ultimate impact on the government or power prices, the ENA crisis already appears to have prompted one other utility company, the French-managed Yerevan water company, to rethink its own plans for a rate increase. After reducing the role of electricity in water distribution, the company now says it can make it just fine, RFE/RL’s Armenian service reported.
Meanwhile, the police, who reportedly have left Baghramian Avenue, appear to be still doing their darndest to try and show that they’ve really just got the kids’ best interests at heart. Tough-talking Armenian police chief Vladimir Gasparian gained widespread online mockery after suddenly advising on June 30 that “a little bit of craziness” is good for preventing young Armenians from developing “chubby hands.”
The protests’ original organizers, No to Plunder, already think it’s time to figure out a new approach for ElectricYerevan, however. On June 30, they announced they’d join the protests as citizens, but not as leaders.
So far, the protest’s leaders appear changeable, and their agenda general.
But at least one protester had a plan for Tuesday night. “Bring your favorite books, and we’ll read excerpts from all of them,” she urged on Facebook, epress.am reported.
If that’s a revolution, it’s at least one of a different kind for the Caucasus.