Velvet Revolution, Armenian Style
In April and early May 2018, a rapid mass movement, known as the "velvet revolution," took place in Armenia, leading to the resignation of the prime minister and the election of a new "people's candidate." In the context of independent Armenia, which had seen a stream of falsified elections and failed mass protests, the success of this revolution was a surprise for most of the populace and remains a riddle for analysts. We attempt to show how revolution might have come about in this authoritarian former Soviet regime, looking at how it differed from earlier mass protest movements, who carried it out, and what technologies they used. Our analysis is based primarily on anthropological fieldwork conducted during the revolution: participant observation, short individual and group interviews, and monitoring media and Internet framings of the events. As the revolution was spatially dispersed, the two authors could not cover all the events and protest actions; protesters' livestreams and digital broadcasts therefore filled the gaps.
To understand what happened in Armenia during the five revolutionary weeks in April and early May 2018, we need to appreciate what Armenia represented by this time and against what the protests were directed.
The social construct destroyed by the revolution, explains [End Page 509] macrosociologist Georgi Derluguian, "was a provincial-Komsomol restoration. They managed to construct something out of the post-Soviet planks."1 Before independence, second president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan and third president Serzh Sargsyan, who presided over this restoration had been Communist Party functionaries in Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous oblast, Kocharyan the Party secretary of a factory and Sargsyan a Komsomol leader.
This history evidently influenced the two men's behavior as president. Robert Kocharyan used Soviet-style methods of giving orders, especially at the beginning of his presidential career, and tough methods of suppression throughout his presidency. Allegedly, it was he who was responsible for the death of ten people during protest rallies in 2008 (in July 2018, he was arrested for interrogation in relation to that crime).
For his part, Serzh Sargsyan seems to fit Derluguian's definition even better. His ten-year presidency bore the hallmarks of Brezhnev-era stagnation, due not only to his communist revanchism, but also to his capitalist self-enrichment: his brother became a wealthy businessman renowned for his ability to racketeer any business in Armenia. This corruption was reflected in several jokes, which stated, for instance, that the moon became a half-moon after meeting him, night turned into midnight ("half-night" in Armenian), etc. In effect, Sargsyan was both using the elements of the Soviet bureaucratic system to which he was accustomed and acting in a non-Soviet way. To wit, his electoral campaigns and speeches were organized in a very recognizable late-Soviet manner but used various advanced falsification mechanisms.2 This combination of Soviet, pseudo-Western, and criminal components might serve as the basis for a dedicated study along the lines of Alexei Yurchak's Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation3: the situation [End Page 510] in Armenia was just like the late-Soviet foreverness and even more cheerless, since it was becoming more and more evident that nothing could be changed either constitutionally (elections were masterfully manipulated by those in power) or extra-constitutionally, through armed rebellions (such a failed rebellion in 2016).4 The foreverness of Serzh Sargsyan and his regime became such an indisputable reality that rumors circulated about his alleged deadly illness almost from the beginning of his rule. The new constitution, generally accepted to have been written for Sargsyan personally, turned the ruling Republican Party that he headed into an "eternally" ruling party in 2017—adding another Soviet feature, a single-party system, to the Armenian landscape. The new constitution turned the presidential republic into a parliamentary republic with a prime minister as the ruling figure. People were actively discussing the idea that Serzh Sargsyan had made these changes in order to remain in power as prime minister, since he was barred from standing for president for a third term. However, Sargsyan denied that he intended to become prime minister, leading people to suspect that he would find a compliant prime minister to rule, while he—as head of the ruling ("single") party—pulled the strings, just like the first secretary of the Communist Party in the USSR. We contend that his mimicking of the Soviet system was neither passive nor unconscious, but a conscious effort to remain in power.
Parallel to this "Soviet" restoration ran the restoration of a more ancient social structure resembling the medieval feudal one. A project that dated back to first president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrossian, it had transformed the 37 regions of the Armenian SSR into 10 provinces with names and boundaries approximating the provinces of medieval Armenia, with an 11th region—the capital, Yerevan—given status equivalent to that of a province. That it was a feudal trend was apparent from the fact that Minister of Interior Vano Siradeghyan (who has been on the police "wanted" list since that time) wanted to become mayor of Yerevan once it received its new status. However, even more feudal trends became visible during the presidency of Robert Kocharyan, which could be described, following Manvel Sargsyan, as "military-feudal."5 Although Armenia did not become a feudal republic like post-Soviet Turkmenistan, some of its regions resembled feudal principalities with feudal lords—the "feudal [End Page 511] lord" of the Ejmidzin region general, Manvel Grigoryan (currently under arrest), is a telling example. This archaization (counter-modernization) did not compete with the Soviet restoration, as the Soviet system itself had many archaic features, including feudal ones.6 The articulation between the two "restorations" became more pronounced during the rule of the second and third presidents owing to the fact that they were both of Karabakh descent (Nagorno-Karabakh's Soviet structure was very close to the feudal one).7
It was precisely this eclectic construct, expected to last forever, that was crushed by the revolution. The term "revolution" has been used so consistently by its initiator, Nikol Pashinyan, a regular oppositionist, Parliament member, and head of the "Civil Contract" party, as well as by his fellow protesters, that it has become the typical way for journalists to describe the protest movement. The terminology has also sparked debate among experts in different branches of the social sciences, as they have repeatedly been asked by journalists whether what has taken place could be defined as a revolution. The answers differed depending on experts' understanding of this term, ranging from simple state- and class-based conceptions to more flexible ones that considered any change to be a revolution. Thus, philosopher Markar Melkonian states that, "[w]hat has taken place in Armenia since Sargsyan's resignation is neither a revolution nor a counter-revolution; it is just a change of administration," since "[a] genuine revolution brings a new class to power," which did not happen as a result of the Velvet Revolution.8 However, we contend that even elaborate class-based theories of revolution9 are inadequate to explain the events we discuss. Instead, we need a broader definition capable of framing the non-violent protest actions in Armenia.
In an interview on April 24, 2018, Georgi Derluguian called the processes that were taking place a revolution in the sense that they attempted [End Page 512] to change the existing regime with the participation of the masses.10 In this, he evidently followed Jack Goldstone's definition of a revolution as "an effort to transform the political institutions and the justifications for political authority in a society, accompanied by formal or informal mass mobilization and noninstitutionalized actions that undermine existing authorities."11 Harutyun Marutyan likewise uses this definition to discuss both "the first Armenian revolution" (the Karabakh Movement of 1988)12 and the second, the "velvet revolution" explored here.13
According to its initiator, Pashinyan, the protest movement evolved from original "civil disobedience" to "revolution," becoming the "Velvet Revolution" on April 17. Pashinyan borrowed this adjective from the 1989 revolution in Czechoslovakia, which was called "velvet" due to the bloodless end of the Communist regime in which it resulted. Interestingly, the 1989 revolution was called "velvet" a posteriori, as an evaluation of an event that had already happened, while Pashinyan added this descriptor a priori, anticipating the result of the revolution. On the one hand, it was a call to the protesters to remain peaceful; on the other hand, it was a call to the authorities and police to abstain from violence. This call, repeated [End Page 513] numerous times, turned into a kind of a magic spell, which, together with calls of "The police are with us!" was thought, at least by the protesters, to play a psychological role in the non-violent development of the revolution. However, the comparatively non-violent response of the police was the result of the lack of violent orders from Sargsyan, so it should be said that the revolution preserved its claimed "velvet" characteristic thanks not least to Sargsyan.14
Journalists and political scientists have analyzed this non-violence policy at length. Some claim that it was the result of personal traits: in his short and well-composed resignation, Sargsyan wrote that there were several ways to solve the critical situation but that he was not the man to do it. There was a widespread opinion that had Kocharyan been president during the 2018 revolution, it would not have remained a velvet one. Others have analyzed Sargsyan's non-violence in the context of Armenia's institutionalized authoritarianism.15 Still others believe that his behavior smacks of conspiracy—that Sargsyan actually supported the velvet revolution. Yet there were other important reasons to abstain from violence. The new constitution, which was thought to be written personally for Sargsyan, entrusted too many functions to the prime minister, from minor16 to crucial ones, creating a kind of trap. Sargsyan could not begin his tenure as prime minister, which began on April 17, 2018, by shedding blood. Bloodshed had overshadowed the first days of his presidency a decade earlier; moreover, April 24 was the commemoration day of the victims of another bloody event, the genocide of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915.
Nevertheless, the Velvet Revolution was not entirely peaceful. The police could be violent in arresting activists, and on April 16 used noise grenades against them, wounding several, although fortunately no one was killed or seriously injured. For their part, protesters broke down the door to the Public State Radio building on April 14, which was hardly a peaceful action. However, the "minor bloodshed" allowed for the legitimation of the term "velvet." This was a precedent set by Czechoslovakia, where the velvet revolution also experienced some initial clashes with the police. The "velvetization" of the revolution is observable in the video material shared on Facebook by the end of the revolution—the violent scenes of the first days of the protests were replaced by more peaceful episodes.17
In demonstration of their non-violence, protesters raised their hands [End Page 514] when approaching police cordons in order to show that they were not carrying weapons. This gesture had also been used by Pashinyan and his fellow protesters during their earlier actions, and by the rallies supporting Sasna Tsrer's military rebellion in summer 2016. In the latter case, Pashinyan wanted to mediate between the rebels and the authorities and used his now-famous gesture (raised hands) to demonstrate that supporters of the armed rebels had no arms. However, the militant rebels did not appreciate this gesture, considering it a sign of capitulation and rightly seeing in this peaceful gesture and Pashinyan's non-violent speeches a threat to the spirit of their armed rebellion. Rejected in 2016, Pashinyan and his favorite gesture—now imbued with additional peaceful significance—returned in 2018. On April 16, before starting the march toward the Parliament, which was blocked by a police cordon and barbed wire, Pashinyan called to the protesters to raise their empty hands, explaining, "In our hands there are no wooden sticks, in our hands there are no stones, there is no hate, there is no aggressiveness, in our hands there is only love, in our hands there is only respect, in our hands there is only… light is in our hands."18
"Merzhir Serzhin" (Reject Serzh"): The Magical Spell of the Revolution
On April 22, 2018, in Yerevan's crowded Republic Square, a former student of one of the authors (Levon Abrahamian) asked him, "Is there a hope we will win?" and he answered that he doubted it. Yet the next day, Sargsyan resigned. Like the authors, many people were taken aback by the speed of the events and the growing scale of the rallies. How could protest marches have grown so large—and, more importantly, have been crowned with success?
This was not the first protest movement in Armenia. In fact, protest rallies were one of the two democratic acquisitions of the Karabakh rallies of 1988.19 Nor was it the first civic protest movement.20 Some of these had likewise met with success, like minor ecological movements (Trchkan waterfall, 2011), the struggles to preserve the Mashtots public park (2012), the opposition to raising the public transportation fare (2013), and the protests against the rise in electricity tariffs (Electric Yerevan, 2015),21 although then-president Serzh Sargsyan had essentially allowed the protesters to win as his wise solution to the problem. Despite the stable [End Page 515] authoritarian background, these protest movements helped form the radical protesters of the velvet revolution.22 We would also argue that the experience of some of these movements helped the "velvet revolution" avoid repeating their mistakes. The Karabakh Movement of 1988, however, played a negligible role,23 whereas during the first decade of independence it had served as a kind of revolutionary myth or even model for organizing rallies.24
Here we come to an important specificity of the "velvet revolution": its core was comprised of young people who were born in independent Armenia and did not feel the weight of late-Soviet memories, including the heroic Karabakh Movement. More importantly, they had not inherited the feeling of fear instilled in the last Soviet generation. In addition, the young protesters were not carrying the trauma of March 1, 2008, when ten people were shot to death. It is symptomatic that after the failed meeting between Sargsyan and Pashinyan on the morning of April 22, when the newly elected prime minister said that Pashinyan had not taken the lessons of March 1 to heart and left the meeting place, a sizable number of those who had experienced the dramatic March 1—that is, people in their 30s and 40s—joined the younger protesters. That day, Pashinyan and two of his fellow protesters were arrested, which was generally accepted as Sargsyan teaching Pashinyan a lesson about March 1.
The starting-point and only formal reason for the protests was the former president's decision to seek a third consecutive term, now as prime minister of the Republic of Armenia. When he was elected by the Parliament, the process outlined by the new constitution, the aim of the protests transformed into demanding his resignation.
Sargsyan's possible third term was a topic of public discourse before protests had even been considered. The primary emotion expressed was [End Page 516] a feeling of hopelessness about having had the same authorities forever. Young people, the future protesters, did not participate actively in this discourse; indeed, they were surprised by the protests of which they became the core and engine. We have already mentioned the perception that Sargsyan could have installed a "tame" prime minister and enjoyed the position of head of the ruling party, which, owing to the new constitution, could become a new "foreverness." However, Karen Karapetyan, the former prime minister, who had a Gazprom background, was not considered to be such a tame figure. Moreover, when Serzh Sargsyan resigned on April 23, people said, citing "trustworthy" sources, that Karapetyan had celebrated this event as allowing him to assume office. It is symptomatic that this version was accepted without any doubts that Karapetyan could occupy the position of prime minister on account of not having lived in Armenia for the required number of years leading up to 2018, as such a violation of the constitution had taken place with the second and allegedly the current president of Armenia. We even registered a conspirological opinion, though not a popular one, that Sargsyan agreed to run for prime minister in order to save Armenia from Moscow's man, Karapetyan. In any case, it hardly seems likely that Pashinyan could have brought together such a mass movement had Karapetyan been the candidate for prime minister. As a matter of fact, the latter was also actively rejected, but after the second mass protest movement began.
Interestingly, Serzh Sargsyan's consent to becoming a prime ministerial candidate did not seem to trigger the protests because it would be his third consecutive term (making him the eternal leader), although this was definitely understood. The general joy after his resignation and the radical language of the posters and chants demanding his resignation demonstrated that the people were decidedly against his regime. The real trigger was the fact that he lied, since he had previously promised not to become a candidate. In fact, Sargsyan had lied numerous times—it was arguably the hallmark of his rule, although it had never before been responded to with such mass protest. Even on September 3, 2013, when—after much discussion of Armenia's Western orientation—Sargsyan suddenly and without comment reoriented the country toward the East by joining the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, people accepted this "lying" without much fuss. Three months later, a 3,000-strong protest took place in Yerevan around Vladimir Putin's visit to Armenia and was severely suppressed. Yet in 2018, lying was no longer something that people were prepared to accept.
Sargsyan's lies were skillfully used by Pashinyan, who made them central to the protests. Sargsyan's recorded promise not to run for prime minister was even included in a rap popular during the first stage of the rallies. In short, Sargsyan was presented as a man who does not keep his [End Page 517] word—that is, he was rejected more on the grounds of common or even criminal law25 than civil law. Although his lying was possible within the framework of the new constitution, which also made possible many other undesirable possibilities, it would certainly not have become a trigger for the "velvet revolution" but for the rhetoric and organizational talents of Pashinyan, who made a complex issue simple and supported it with an appropriate slogan. The idea was rejecting Sargsyan, reflected in the slogan "Merzhir Serzhin!" (Reject Serzh!). The "weakness" of the movement's ideology was criticized both by the ruling Republican Party (its speaker, Eduard Sharmazanov, was taken aback by the "absence of any ideology" in the program of the people's candidate)26 and former opposition activists such as Soviet-era dissident Paruyr Hayrikyan (on similar grounds).27 We would argue, however, that it was precisely this initial "one-sidedness" that made the revolution a reality. Pashinyan soon demonstrated that this "single" aim was only the first in his proclaimed chain of aims for the revolution: the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan, the election of a "people's candidate" (that is, himself), the formation of a Temporary Government, the election of a new Parliament, and constitutional change. The latter aim, remember, had not been a powerful enough goal in itself to inspire mass protest, but coming at the end of this chain of events, it looks quite achievable. This shows that Pashinyan took a domino approach: your aim is fish number N but to reach it you need to first push the first fish in the row.28
It is difficult to say whether this was a cleverly planned revolutionary strategy or whether it adapted to the circumstances. The public discourse during and especially after the revolution showed that part of the public was inclined to see wise advisors behind the actions. Here we do not refer to conspiracies about foreign involvement, which swirled around this [End Page 518] revolution as they have around "color revolutions." Despite the Velvet Revolution's many similarities with color revolutions, including its possible developments,29 activists strenuously deny any foreign involvement.30 Some who suspected foreign influence did so on account of the effective organization of the revolution, which looked very different from typically disorganized events in Armenia. Others were suspicious of Pashinyan specifically, believing he was not smart enough to have orchestrated it. Still others extended this skepticism to the broader population, contending that Armenians are not so cute as to think up such a revolution, prompting them to look for the ringleader within Pashinyan's inner circle or among the lesser-known "wise persons" he had allegedly enlisted. The flames of this latter conspiracy were fanned by a series of somewhat misleading interviews with Pashinyan's fellow protesters. Only a few actively wanted to paint themselves as the "brains" behind the protests; the picture that emerges is that Pashinyan made the final decision, sometimes following the recommendations of his team and other activists. In informal conversations, activists described how happy they were when Pashinyan followed their recommendations and how anxious they were when he did not. This situation—in which there are many unseen actors—seems to be typical of post-revolution developments in general. On the theme of wise advisers, one of the authors (Levon Abrahamian) noted in his May 7 interview with Radio France Culture that he was glad that he was not an advisor to Nikol Pashinyan, since he would advise him to abstain from doing what he planned for the next step, and each time he would be wrong. In this sense, Nikol Pashinyan resembled a fairytale hero who was always making "wrong" actions that turned out to be the right ones.
The story of the main slogan is emblematic of the way decisions were made,31 as it combined the slogans of two civil initiatives. One initiative had previously had the slogan "We will change." Its Armenian original, "P'okhelu enq," did not sound very compelling and its members considered it too positive, so they changed it to the more radical "Merzhir Serzhin" ("Reject Serzh") during a protest action on March 24, 2018. Soon afterward, on March 31, Pashinyan and his "Civil Contract" party started their 13-day march from Gyumri to Yerevan. This initiative adopted the slogan "Qayl ara" ("Take a step"). At a mass meeting in Yerevan on April [End Page 519] 13, the two slogans were combined into "Qayl ara, merzhir Serzhin" ("Take a step [and] reject Serzh").32 People liked this rhyming slogan which had collective authorship and a "right etymology" focused on the first steps of the revolution and referencing its leader, Pashinyan's, poem "I am taking my step."33 Set to music, it became soon the hymn of the revolution; its words "Qaylum em, qaylum em, qaylum" ("I'm walking, I'm walking, I walk") became the main mechanism of the revolution, a call to move.
The formula rejecting Sargsyan had another advantage: it was flexible and open to semantic transformations. If necessary, it could read "Take a step [and do what is needed to do for the moment]"—for example, "Make a honk [and] reject Serzh" or "You are against Serzh? Honk" (on April 22, a great noise was initiated by "musically" honking the main slogan, "Ta ta-ta, ta-ta ta-ta," or just by long honks. The "rejecting" part of the slogan was also rather creative, for it was easily transformed into "Merzhir Serzhi Karenin" ("Reject Serzh's Karen"), meaning the former prime minister, Karen Karapetyan, during the few days during which he replaced Sargsyan following the latter's resignation. The rhyming formula "Merzhir Serzhin" also seemed to play a not insignificant role in consolidating the protesters. Actually, the aforementioned domino model would hardly have worked without it. In this sense, its effectiveness could be compared with the slogan "I like Ike," successfully used during the U.S. presidential election campaign of Dwight ("Ike") D. Eisenhower in the 1950s. This succinctly structured political slogan has been studied by Roman Jakobson, who used it as an example for his statement that it is impossible to separate the linguistic from the political in the present world.34
The Masses, Speed, and Revolutionary Technologies
In Goldstone's aforementioned definition of the revolution, the "formal or informal mass mobilization and noninstitutionalized actions that undermine existing authorities" is a significant element. How many protesters should gather to ensure such mobilization? That is, what is the "critical mass" of the revolution? Pashinyan articulated his own vision on April 16, saying, "If people will gather from this point [The Square of France] to the Closed Market [a market at the beginning of the avenue running toward the Square of France], then the revolution will take place. Otherwise, I will quit politics."35 The section indicated by him is a 1.4-km section of [End Page 520] a 16-meter-wide avenue. Using one of the authors' (Gayane Shagoyan's) method of calculating the number of marchers, this would have required some 30,000 people to turn out. In the end, an estimated 150,000-200,000 people turned out to evening meetings in the Republic Square—that is, many times the suggested "critical mass." It is no surprise that this figure far exceeded the daytime number of real participants, who were dispersed across the city during the day, as it included many middle-age and elderly people who gathered to learn the news of the day,
How was this "critical mass" ensured? Beginning with the march from Gyumri to Yerevan from March 31 to April 12, during which the initial small group of protesters covered 195 km and made an estimated 300,000 steps,36 and protest activities which started in Yerevan on April 13, Pashinyan declared the aim of the protests: to stop Sargsyan from being installed as prime minister on April 17. To this end, he called for people to block the streets—especially Bagramyan Avenue, where the Parliament building is located—in order to impede the deputies from voting.
Interestingly, this situation replicated the events of the beginning of the Karabakh Movement 30 years earlier. At that time, the Soviet authorities (militia) blocked the roads leading to Stepanakert, the capital of the Nagorno-Karabagh oblast, where the protesting deputies planned to vote for the severing of the oblast from the Azerbaijani SSR and its affiliation to the Armenian SSR. Now protesters were trying to block the roads and prevent authorities from reproducing the regime. Thirty years ago, the Nagorno-Karabakh deputies used mountain pathways to get to the place and vote—that day, February 20, 1988, is often considered the starting-point of the Karabakh Movement. On April 17, 2018, the deputies of the Armenian parliament likewise managed to vote. Nobody saw them enter the Parliament building through the main entrance—which the parallel rows of protesters and police were blocking—but the police also controlled the back entrance, invisible to the people, through which the deputies were able to enter and vote. A more popular version of the story has it that the deputies arrived a day early and waited for voting day.
The events of April 16 are important for understanding the technologies successfully used by Nikol Pashinyan. This was the day that he moved his supporters toward the Parliament building while two factions were meeting to discuss joining forces to propose Sargsyan's candidacy for prime minister the following day.37 Pashinyan announced an apparently [End Page 521] demagogical reason for the march: as a deputy, he wanted to meet the thousands of people he was leading inside the Parliament building. Naturally, the police who met them behind the barbed wire did not allow him to realize this provocative desire. Pashinyan tried to force the barbed wire but did not succeed. It was here that he wounded his hand, adding to his revolutionary image (camouflage T-shirt, knapsack, baseball cap, and beard) a bandaged hand. We think it was here that Pashinyan hit upon the tactics that would later be so effective. After a failed attempt to breach the police cordon, he had two options: to stay at Bagramyan Avenue with the people he had brought peacefully blocking the street or to look for another solution. In 2016, Electric Yerevan had already tried the first approach and failed: Sargsyan had used his favored tactic of waiting until the rallies slowed down and then easily dispersing the last few protesters. Pashinyan therefore rejected this static option, selecting instead a dynamic and mobile one: to block ("close") streets in different parts of the city, as he said, to paralyze the city and not allow the state machine to function. This option was actually already in use, as student activists had taken the initiative to block several streets. The choice of these streets was a matter of convenience: they were streets in the center of the city close to the university. For their part, Pashinyan's team also paid special attention to the two bridges across the Hrazdan River, seen as junctions through which the wealth of the oligarch deputies passed.
However, there were not enough protesters to block all the streets, leading to the mobile element of Pashinyan's tactics: protesters would block one of the streets, and when the police unblocked it, they would move to another street and block it, then return to the first street, and so on. This took place in different parts of the city. Every morning, Pashinyan would send a message indicating the quarter where street blocking would take place, but concrete actions were improvised by activists, often residents of the quarter in question. There was even a competition between quarters and streets as to who blocked better and more creatively. Benches and trash cans were typical tools: they were easy to use to block and could easily be removed. Another, more effective tool was cars, especially after drivers of big trucks joined the street-blocking activities early in May. The blocking cars were often abandoned by their drivers, or the drivers would say that their cars were suddenly out of order. In one case, a driver called his boss and said that he could not reach his office because the street was blocked. He was not lying—it was his car that blocked the street! Such cars were towed by police, but there were always many more "protesting" cars than vehicles to tow them away. In other cases, protesters played volleyball [End Page 522] in the street, danced national dances, held barbeques,38 or just constantly crossed the street from one side to the other at zebra crossings.
The most innovative element of the protest, Pashinyan stressed, was its network nature, in contrast to all previous protest actions in Armenia, which had been concentrated in the center of the city. Marches from the center that followed various routes back to the center were periodic manifestations of power, whereas the new network had no center, making it more flexible. In contrast to the former rallies, its marches were the moving power and main instrument of the movement, while the everyday evening meetings had, among other aims, the goal of demonstrating the power of the protests through their populousness, which was effectively presented by drone photographs. In sum, it could be said that while the former rallies accentuated the place, the "velvet revolution" emphasized the way.
As noted, previous rallies had tended to take place in the center of the city. During the Karabakh Movement, authorities several times proposed peripheral places for the meetings, but protesters always refused to leave the center, which most often was the Theater Square at the Opera building (renamed Freedom Square after independence).39 During the "velvet revolution," by contrast, the entire city—including peripheral areas—was involved in protest actions. During the Karabakh Movement and later rallies modeled on it, two central squares, Republic Square (the former Lenin Square) and Freedom Square, entered into a battle for power. The former represented the authorities, the official power, while the latter represented the people. Thus, during the 2007 presidential campaign, Levon Ter-Petrossian, the first president of Armenia, occupied Freedom Square, while Serzh Sargsyan, then-candidate for third president, organized his meetings on Republic Square, from where his "supporters," brought in from the regions on special buses, moved to Freedom Square to support the first president.40 During the "velvet revolution," Nikol Pashinyan, like other organizers of protest actions before him, started in Freedom Square on April 13 but soon moved to the streets. It is interesting that [End Page 523] when choosing the place for the evening meetings, he selected not the traditional Freedom Square, but Republic Square, again demonstrating that the "velvet revolution" was free from the influence of the Karabakh Movement.41 Though Freedom Square is located in the center of the city, it is quite isolated and protesters gathered there never hindered transport moving through nearby streets, whereas Republic Square opens onto six streets, which were de facto blocked during the rallies. That is, Nikol Pashinyan's choice was guided by his blocking tactics. The Square of France, located close to Freedom Square, which was occupied by protesters on April 14, is likewise a crossroads, an intersection of three streets.
Getting out of Freedom Square was a significant step for the "velvet revolution," a step without which the revolution would hardly have been successful. The choice of Republic Square also had a pragmatic reason: Pashinyan was anticipating a large-scale gathering and needed a more spacious place. A Facebook cartoon meme of those days showed the statue of the architect Alexander Tamanyan, who planned and built modern Yerevan, saying to himself, "I should have made this square larger," referring to Republic Square, which did not accommodate the gathered protesters during the peak of revolution.
The "network protests," key to the success of the revolution, were one of the elements the authorship of which was debated in activists' informal discourse.42 Their decentralized and penetrating nature, embracing the whole city, was thought to be traced back to the boycotting of the city transportation fare rise in 2013 ("We pay 100 drams"): like in 2018, the protesters, also mainly young people, were dispersed across the city and were acting according to a general plan but on their own initiative. However, this was the result of the object of the protests: the marshrutka vans had their itineraries for traversing the city, and protesters were waiting for them along these itineraries in order to boycott. In 2018, meanwhile, it was the protesters who created unexpected itineraries throughout the city. In any case, the experience of those activists, especially of the residents of peripheral quarters who rarely participated in civil protests, seemed to play some role in realizing the network activities five years later—fortunately, they had not grown up too much to forget this experience.
IT and the Revolution
The network principle of the "velvet revolution" also differed from the "100 drams" movement in one detail that approximates this new principle to the ones used in social networks. Although young activists five years [End Page 524] ago organized various boycott actions in different parts of the city, this depended on a group of like-minded persons who planned approximate directions and signed up volunteers for the next day's actions in the evenings at the general discussions in the Mashtots Park. However, in the recent revolution quite another principle was actuated: the principle of quick group forming and re-forming depending on the assigned task. This very much resembles the principles of communication in social networks. Just as each user of a social network can quickly and independently react to the actions of numerous strangers (comments, statuses, or memes), a protester could make a "post" by blocking a street or "comment" by standing with a fellow protester, even if only for a short time. It became like a social media newsfeed: if somebody reacted, an action happened; if they didn't, protesters moved on, "scrolling down" to the next action. This principle of Facebook communication given form in the non-digital space seemed to guarantee that the dispersed struggle worked—it was literally a "network" principle. When Pashinyan and other activists defined it as a "network," they did not accentuate the meaning of this term, but it was clear from the context that they meant at least two things: absence of hierarchy and horizontal ties, on the one hand, and dispersion and impossibility to prognosticate where the next crossroad, "post," or protest might appear, on the other hand.
These IT comparisons and characteristics of the "velvet revolution" are typological, but we think they can show the structural and functional peculiarities that contributed to the revolution's success. We will now briefly outline the actual contribution of information technologies to the revolution.43 Starting with the Tunisian revolution in 2011, uncensored social media sites began to play an important role in quickly mobilizing people for the series of revolutions that took place in the Arab world.44 Facebook is a key instrument for spreading information worldwide; no wonder it also played an important role in the "velvet revolution." One of the uses of IT was to engage with the leaders of the protests. Every day, Pashinyan informed protesters via the Internet and received feedback from them, which was often reflected in his speeches during the evening meetings in the square. There was too much feedback to respond to all of it—at the revolution's peak, Pashinyan said, he was receiving some 3,600 letters per hour. Nevertheless, there was a degree of responsiveness even under these conditions: Pashinyan managed to react immediately to some virtual messages. This eliminated any sense of distance between him and ordinary [End Page 525] Facebook users/protesters, as did his regular livestreams. During the revolution, Pashinyan entered the livestream from his car every morning before going to the next demonstration. Since being elected prime minister and moving to the former President's residence, he has continued this regular livestreaming from there. On July 15, when Pashinyan had to answer the questions of the populace, he, as an active Facebook user, wanted to do this via Facebook, but was asked to also respond on the radio for those who do not use Facebook. Symptomatically, radio channels regularly refer to or use recorded citations from his livestreams—that is, Facebook is used as a primary source. This well demonstrates that the often-declared "totally digitized" Armenian society is an exaggerated or even imagined reality, despite the growing practice of digital communication with relatives far away even in the most remote villages.
A concrete reality was that the group of activists was very mobile in both real and virtual spaces. High speed was the most articulated characteristic of the movement. People had no time to write texts, since they were out of date within an hour. This speed also meant that the power machinery was not able to keep up. Another significant point was that in the April-May events, virtual activity ceased to replace real-world activity and even began to invite passive users into the streets. This was facilitated by the protest organizers' commitment to non-violence, which made participation a relatively safe experience. Media (not the official ones, but a few 24-hour Internet channels)45 helped in the sense that parents could see what was happening in the streets and did not prevent even schoolchildren from joining the protests. A curious anecdote was told by a young woman from Gyumri. She witnessed how a policeman approached a teenager and told him to go home. She was indignant at this and said: "What do you want from my brother?" although she had never seen him before. The policeman was taken aback: "You are not his sister. He is my son. But as you defend him like this, you two go and do what you want."46
Despite some violent actions on the part of policemen and mass arrests of activists and often just passersby, young people seemed not to be afraid of being arrested. By the end of the rallies, a student of ours was half-mockingly distressed about not having been arrested during the protests and we "consoled" him by saying that at least he was among the small group of protesters who had been wounded by a grenade on his foot and had his shoes torn to shreds. Our colleague instructed his daughter, who was participating in the street protests, not to be afraid and how to behave in the event that she was arrested. Even police stations were [End Page 526] de-demonized to a certain degree. It turned out that these were ordinary rooms where it was possible to continue protest actions—for example, to throw the portrait of Sargsyan out the window and become a hero for the day. If you could shoot such action on your smartphone—or, better yet, livestream it—you gained instant popularity. This was not the least of protesters' reasons for participating in the protests and doing so creatively. Many protest actions looked like, and actually were, a kind of a carnival. The carnival aspect was even more articulated in the media space than it was in the streets, because people shot and uploaded the most picturesque photos and video reels. This made the "protest space" more attractive. The festival aspect of the protest actions and of the revolution in general needs a more detailed analysis. One of the authors (Levon Abrahamian) studied the Karabakh Movement in this perspective.47 But if in that case he had to analyze and reveal the festival nature of the events, now the festive nature was quite apparent on the surface.48 The festival was even used as a tool for realizing protest actions49—for example, mocking funerals or real wedding ceremonies.
Moreover, the existence of the protest in two spaces—real and virtual—meant that no participant was alone, even if they stood on the street by themselves. Everyone had his or her portable Facebook auditorium, where his or her actions could be watched or commented on by anywhere from a few to a few thousand Facebook friends, irrespective of their physical whereabouts. If needed, the livestreams could also be used as evidence to defend oneself against the police.
As we see, transfers from virtual space to the real space and vice versa were maximally facilitated. Another expression of this phenomenon was that cartoons of professional artists and calligraphic texts could easily turn into posters, while posters created by protesters were quickly replicated in the virtual space. This openness between the two spaces played a significant role in the development of the "velvet revolution." To wit, when insisting on the open transmission of his negotiations with Sargsyan, Pashinyan practically deprived the pro-government media of its usual leverage. The two-minute-long negotiations with Sargsyan showed clearly that the authorities cannot survive in an open media space without "their" [End Page 527] journalists and prearranged questions.
We have mentioned many times that this was principally a youth movement. It was mainly youth in the streets, as the protest format—based on moving quickly to block and unblock streets—put certain age limits on participation. (There were also cultural stereotypes about age-appropriate behavior.) Yet the protest as a whole embraced all ages: during the regular gatherings in Republic Square (the second-largest behind the 1988 rallies), older people could participate. From the earliest meetings, disabled people in wheelchairs, including decorated veterans of the Karabakh war, occupied privileged places in front of the tribune. Starting on April 22, the virtual presence of housewives could be heard every day at 11 p.m. through previously agreed action: from all the windows and balconies, women who could not participate in the mass meetings and marches beat their pans with ladles. The virtual presence of people at all the protest actions can be seen from the following episode. At one of the mass meetings in Republic Square, when the issue of the police's attitude was raised, people in the square began to chant "Ashot!" (the name of an imagined policeman whom a protester addressed while standing in front of the barbed wire and police cordon on the Bagramyan Avenue; this video was quickly disseminated on social networks). It turned out that only the speaker, Pashinyan, knew nothing about "Ashot," having no time to follow the memes and demotivators.
Society hardly noticed the absence of TV reports.50 The seizure of the Public Radio in the initial stage of the revolution was a symbolic action rather than being rooted in the need to address large audiences. The symbolism was drawn from the fact that Soviet films and history textbooks accentuated the capture of telegraphs and post offices as the first actions of the Bolshevik revolution. However, considering that Pashinyan was later asked to use the radio to answer the questions of those who were not on Facebook, seizing this official information source may be less anachronistic than it seemed to many. Nevertheless, the openness of the digital space and the possibility of sharing videos via social networks meant that any TV-based censorship would have been pointless.
Here we would like to note that although most analyses focus on Nikol Pashinyan (the present article not excepted), a fairly large group of young people actually stood behind the protest, drawn from at least three initiatives (one party and two civil initiatives). These initiatives account for some 30 active digital sources, each with tens of thousands of users, as well as Pashinyan's own Facebook following. For Armenia, which has a population around two million (the official figure is three million), this is [End Page 528] a defining factor. The small size of the country, combined with its social structure and specificities of its power institutions, mean that it would be difficult to export this model of revolution.51
What we have tried to outline in this article is the rapid progress of the "velvet revolution." But the current situation seems to be just the first step. Although the executive power has been changed, the judicial system (the court) is in a somewhat indefinite situation, while the legislative power is still mostly represented by the de facto rejected, but de jure active Republican Party.52 This situation was well illustrated in the posters reflecting Pashinyan's failed election on May 1, 2018: "55 against, 3 million in favor" (55 voting against Pashinyan in the Parliament and 3 million ordinary Armenians "voting" in favor). This balance—or rather misbalance—of forces is fraught with possible new revolutions, not necessarily "velvet" ones. Pashinyan's declarations at the mass meeting of August 17, 2018, about his plans to form an institute of transitional justice and make changes in the constitution allowing the auto-dissolution of the Parliament were seen by many as risking dictatorship.53 The Temporary Government, starting the promised struggle against corruption, also faced a difficult problem. After a number of celebrated arrests and cases, it becomes evident that the country is literally impregnated with corruption at various levels. Until the prime minister finds a compromise solution, the National Security Service (the presently immaculate inheritor of the Soviet KGB) will continue its checkups and arrests, which carry the possible danger of developing into an institution of repression, as many revolutions have found.54 The rapid changes aragi mej ("within quick") of the "velvet revolution" have seemed to slow down, and this pace will hopefully be picked up by the new (revolutionary) political elite. [End Page 529]
Levon Abrahamian is Head of the Department of Contemporary Anthropological Studies, Institute of Archaeology & Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Georgi Derluguian. "Barkhatnaia revoliutsiia. Skazhu, chto budet potom" [Velvet Revolution. I Will Tell What Will Happen Later]. Interview given to Lratvakan Radio, FM 106.5, April 24, 2018. Earlier, he tried to analyze the possibilities for Armenia to step out of post-Soviet restoration without a revolution—see Georgi Derluguian. 2017. Armenia na vykhode iz postsovetskoi restavratsii: analiz vozmozhnostei [Armenia Stepping Out of the Post-Soviet Restoration: An Analysis of Possibilities]. Moscow: Russkii fond sodeistviia obrazovaniiu i nauke.
2. On the history of electoral fraud and concrete mechanisms of falsifications in post-Soviet Armenia, see Levon Abrahamian and Gayane Shagoyan. 2011-12. "From Carnival Civil Society toward a Real Civil Society: Democracy Trends in Post-Soviet Armenia." Anthropology & Archeology of Eurasia 50: 3: 11-50. For the rhetorical differences in the speeches of the third and the first presidents of Armenia, see Ruzan Amiraghyan. 2010. "Miferə hayastanyan qaghaqakan diskursum" [Myths in Political Discourse of Armenia]. In L. Abrahamian, A. Tadevosyan and T. Hayrapetyan (eds.), Avandakanə ev ardiakanə hayots mshakuyt'um [Tradition and Modernity in Armenian Culture]. Yerevan: Gitutyun, 134-145.
3. Alexei Yurchak. 2005. Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Russian expanded edition published by NLO in 2014.
4. On the specificities of this rebellion, see Levon Abrahamian and Gayane Shagoyan. 2016. Imeia gosudarstvo, ne imeem gosudarstvennosti [Having State, We Don't Have Statehood], At http://hamatext.com/interviews/item/159-imeya-gosudarstvo-ne-imeem-gosudarstvennosti-1 and http://hamatext.com/interviews/item/160-imeya-gosudarstvo-ne-imeem-gosudarst-vennosti-2, accessed July 30, 2018.
5. Manvel Sargsyan. 2018. Hayastani hasaraka-qaghaqakan iravitchaki dinamikan [The Dynamics of Socio-Political State in Armenia], At https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayZ27ArZqVA, accessed August 10, 2018. The author called it also "military-oligarchic," which after 2003 developed into "criminal-oligarchic."
6. Levon H. Abrahamian. 1993-94. "The Secret Police As a Secret Society: Fear and Faith in the USSR." Anthropology & Archeology of Eurasia 32: 3: 12-31.
7. Levon Abrahamian. 2006. Armenian Identity in a Changing World. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 182-188. On different transitions from Soviet to post-Soviet, see Katherine Verdery. 1996. What Was Socialism, and What Comes Next? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; Victor Zaslavsky. 1992. "Nationalism and Democratic Transition in Postcommunist Societies." Daedalus 121: 2: 97-121; and Alexander Fisun. 2007. "Postsovetskie neopatrimonial'nye rezhimy: genesis, osobennosti, tipologiia" [Post-Soviet Neo-Patrimonial Regimes: Genesis, Peculiarities, Typology]. Otechestvennye zapiski 39: 6: 8-28.
8. Markar Melkonian. "Armenia: No Organization, No Real Change." Hetq. May 25, 2018. At http://hetq.am/eng/news/89359/armenia-no-organization-no-real-change.html, accessed May 26, 2018. The Karabakh Movement of 1988-90 and what followed he classifies as a counter-revolution, since it "removed the last few vestiges of workers' power from Armenia" and brought "an exploiting class back to power."
9. Cf. Theda Skocpol. 1979. States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia and China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
10. Derluguian, "Barkhatnaia revoliutsiia."
11. Jack A. Goldstone. 2001. "Toward a Fourth Generation of Revolutionary Theory." Annual Review of Political Sciences 4: 139-187, 142. The author's perception of revolutions is generalized in Jack A. Goldstone. 2013. Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
12. On the Karabakh Movement (KM), see Mark Malkasian. 1996. "Gha-ra-bagh!" The Emergence of the National Democratic Movement in Armenia. Detroit: Wayne State University Press (on the initial stages of KM and social aspects of Armenia's politics); David Furman. 1993. "Kul'turnye i sotsial'no-psikhologicheskie osnovy sovremennogo armianskogo national'nogo dvizheniia" [Cultural and Social-Psychological Foundations of the Armenian National Movement]. Moscow: Gorbachev-fond, At http://dmitriyfurman.ru/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Furman-Armianskoe-dvizhenie_1.pdf, accessed June 20, 2018 (on KM in the context of Armenian history, focusing on the genocide of 1915); Harutyun Marutyan. 2009. Iconography of Armenian Identity, Volume I: The Memory of Genocide and the Karabakh Movement. Yerevan: Gitutyun (on the visual anthropology of KM and KM and the genocide); Levon Abrahamian. 1990. "The Karabagh Movement As Viewed by an Anthropologist." The Armenian Review 43: 2-3: 67-80; Levon Abrahamian. 1993. "The Anthropologist as Shaman: Interpreting Recent Political Events in Armenia." In Gisli Pálsson (ed.). Beyond Boundaries: Understanding, Translation and Anthropological Discourse. Oxford/Providence: Berg, 100-116; Levon Abrahamian. 2001. "Civil Society Born in the Square: The Karabagh Movement in Perspective." In Levon Chorbajian (ed.), The Making of Nagorno-Karabagh: From Secession to Republic. Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave, 116-134 (on anthropological aspects of KM); Georgi M. Derluguian. 2005. Bourdieu's Secret Admirer in the Caucasus: A World-System Biography. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 185-197 (on KM in the Soviet and Caucasian context); and Ashot Sargsyan. 2018. Gharabaghyan sharzhman patmut'yun, 1988-1989 [The History of the Karabakh Movement, 1988-1989]. Yerevan: Antares (a detailed history of KM).
13. Harutyun Marutyan. 2018. Haykakan arajin ev erkrord heghap'okhut'yunneri himnakan arandznahatkut'yunnerə [The Main Specificities of the First and the Second Armenian Revolutions: Preliminary Observations], At http://boon.am/armrevolutions/, accessed August 22, 2018.
14. Cf. Grigory Golosov. "Tri uroka armianskoi revoliutsii. Pochemu vlast' otkazalas' ot nasiliia?" [Three Lessons of the Armenian Revolution. Why Did the Authorities Refuse to Use Violence?]. Republic, May 3, 2018, At https://republic.ru/posts/90707, accessed May 4, 2018.
16. Even the ceremonial duty of presenting awards was taken from the President and ascribed to the Prime Minister.
17. We are grateful to Satenik Mkrtchyan for this observation. However, after the victory, the violent scenes could compete with peaceful ones, probably as documents of heroization.
19. The second acquisition was the institution of elections—see Abrahamian and Shagoyan, "From Carnival Civil Society."
20. For civic initiatives since 2007, see Yevgenya (Jenny) Paturyan and Valentina Gevorgyan. 2016. Civic Activism as a Novel Component of Armenian Civil Society. Yerevan: Turpanjian Center for Policy Analysis and American University of Armenia.
21. See Derluguian, Armenia na vykhode, 28-67.
22. An interesting characteristic of these movements was their active participation in any protest action (for example, of the Mashtots park activists), which is a theme of special interest for analyzing the development of civic society in Armenia (the phase of social responsibility of one or few groups as an initial stage of involving various groups united through specific group interests). Cf. Armine Ishkhanian. 2008. Democracy Building and Civil Society in Post-Soviet Armenia. London and New York: Routledge; Marlies Glasius and Armine Ishkanian. 2014. "Surreptitious Symbiosis: Engagement Between Activists and NGOs." International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 26: 6: 1-25. It is symptomatic that the same Mashtots park activists are preparing to form a new political party.
23. This might indicate that the "velvet revolution" was not a revolutionary experience of the type Hannah Arendt interprets as a kind of restoration of the old order that was believed to be disturbed and violated by the despotism relevant to each case (Hannah Arendt. 1965. On Revolution. London: Penguin, 44). Only participants from the older generation said they experienced the feeling they had during the rallies of 1988, but as a by-product of the revolution.
24. See Levon Abrahamian and Gayane Shagoyan. 2013. "Rallies as Festival and Festival as a Model for Rallies: Armenia 1988 and 2008." In Stéphane Voell and Ketevan Khutsishvili (eds.), Caucasus, Conflict, Culture: Anthropological Perspectives on Times of Crises. Marburg: Curupira, 65-90.
25. Following the Russian expression "zhit' po poniatiiam" (literally "live by the concepts"), meaning "live by the rules of the underworld."
26. Eduard Sharmazanov's speech at the debates in the Parliament during the failed first election of Nikol Pashinyan to the position of prime minister (May 1, 2018). As for the ideology of the Republican party, it is based on the essentialist propositions of Garegin Nzhdeh, the early 20th-century military leader and nationalist philosopher (see, e.g., http://www.hhk.am/hy/program/, last accessed August 20, 2018), although the vast majority of the members of the party—who were involved in the party only because of their political and business career or as a result of manipulative arithmetic during elections—were unaware of the ideological core of the party.
27. Paruyr Hayrikyan. 2018. T'avshya heghap'okhut'yan ev 37-i mijev [Between Velvet Revolution and (19)37], At https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzD5HBw9-kg, accessed August 3, 2018. Paruyr Hayrikyan's ideology, based on the idea of Armenian independence, lost its main core after Armenia gained independence in 1991.
28. Sona Adamyan. 2018. Interview of Levon Abrahamian: "Nikoln əntrets mi kargakhos, vorə dardzav dominoyi arajin fishkan" [Nikol Chose a Slogan Which Became the First Fish of the Domino]. Hraparak. April 28, At https://www.hraparak.am/posts/5ae41dbf6f331d-06c5917f1f/nikoln-entrets-mikargakhos-vore-dardzav-dominoyi-arajin-fishkan, accessed August 30, 2018.
29. See Goldstone, Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction, 104, 116. On color revolutions in general and in several post-Soviet states in particular, see Lincoln A. Mitchell. 2012. The Color Revolutions. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
30. As one of the activists, Arsen Kharatyan, noted, this was a "home-made" and not a color revolution: 2018. "Heghap'okhut'yan t'avshya uzhə" [The Velvet Power of the Revolution], At https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2kwJUJpXS8, accessed May 3, 2018.
31. 2018. "'Merzhir Serzhin!': inchpes tznvets kargakhosə" ['Reject Serzh!': How the Slogan Was Born]. CivilNet. May 10, 2018, At https://www.civilnet.am/news/2018/05/10/«Merzhir-Serzhin»-inchpes-tsnvets-kargakhose/336579,, accessed August 3, 2018.
32. In the posters, the two parts of the slogan are usually placed on two lines without any punctuation between them, but in its chanting a specific Grammar mark (but') is "heard," which means that the second part is invited/proposed by the first part.
33. Although the poem was written in 2008, it became widely popular ten years later.
34. Roman Jakobson. 1960. "Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics." In T.A. Sebeok (ed.), Style in Language. Cambridge, MA: Technology Press of MIT; New York and London: John Wiley & Sons, 350-377, 357. We are grateful to Khachig Tölölyan for this note.
36. Stepan Grigoryan. 2018. Armianskaia barkhatnaia revoliutsiia [Armenian velvet revolution]. Yerevan: Edit Print, p. 60.
37. One of them represented the ruling Republican party, which gathered two days earlier in the resort town Tsaghkadzor, far from the revolutionary Yerevan, to nominate Serzh Sargsyan. The other was the traditional party Dashnaktsutyun (Armenian Revolutionary Federation, revived after independence), which later, during elections in May, supported Pashinyan, but in August seemed to be inclined to support second president Robert Kocharyan, the revolution's undisguised opponent, who declared his return to major politics.
38. During the "Electric Yerevan" protests in 2016, when protesters and police were standing facing each other for days and nights on end, a photo circulated on Twitter and Facebook showing protesters roasting barbeque in front of the row of police shields. It was a humoristic fake produced with the help of Photoshop, but in 2018, this fake came to life in the course of the dynamic street blocking.
39. On the Opera Square in the context of the Karabakh Movement, see Levon Abrahamian. 1990. "Archaic Ritual and Theater: From the Ceremonial Glade to Theater Square. Soviet Anthropology & Archeology 29: 2: 45-69; Levon Abrahamian. 1990. "Chaos and Cosmos in the Structure of Mass Popular Demonstrations (The Karabakh Movement in the Eyes of an Ethnographer)." Soviet Anthropology & Archeology 29: 2: 70-86.
40. On the competition between the two squares, see Levon Abrahamian. 2012. "Yerevan: Memory and Forgetting in the Organization of Post-Soviet Urban Space." In Albert Baiburin, Catriona Kelly, and Nikolai Vakhtin (eds.), Russian Cultural Anthropology after the Collapse of Communism. London and New York: Routledge, 254-275.
41. It is symptomatic that those who insisted on the necessity of using the experience of the Karabakh Movement—like, for example, Manvel Sargsyan—were the older participants in the movement. Nikol Pashinyan, for his part, was 13 years old in 1988.
42. We are grateful to the anthropologist Hamlet Melkumyan for this and other informal information.
43. For a more detailed analysis, see Gayane Shagoyan. 2018. Skorost' dvizheniia [The Speed of Moving], at http://hamatext.com/interviews/item/203-skorost-dvizheniya, accessed August 1, 2018.
On different uses of Facebook in different countries through an anthropological lens, see Daniel Miller. 2011. Tales from Facebook. Cambridge: Polity Press.
44. See Goldstone, Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction, 117-130.
45. This practice began in 2015, during Electric Yerevan.
46. Ekaterina Fomina. "'Oni postupaiut tak, kak tridtsat' let nazad postupali my'" [They Act As We Acted Thirty Years Ago]. Novaya gazeta. May 7, 2018, At https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/05/07/76396-oni-postupayut-tak-kak-tridtsat-let-nazad-postupali-my, accessed August 10, 2018.
47. Abrahamian, "Chaos and Cosmos"; Abrahamian, Armenian Identity in a Changing World, 217-43. On the festival aspects of other mass movements and revolutions, see Padraic Kenney. 2002. A Carnival of Revolution: Central Europe 1989. Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press.
48. Mikayel Zolyan. "Is 2018 the New 1988? Some Thoughts on the Karabakh Movement and the 'Velvet Revolution.'" EVN Report. April 30, 2018, At https://www.evnreport.com/politics/is-2018-the-new-1988, accessed August 1, 2018.
49. The manifestations of folk festivals at the "velvet revolution" were discussed at the narrative sessions "Cultural Heritage and Armenia's Revolution" organized and participated in by the authors in the framework of the annual Folklife Festival at the Washington D.C. National Mall (June 27–July 8, 2018).
50. On August 17, at the mass meeting in Republic Square called by prime minister Nikol Pashinyan to report on his first 100 days in office, people were pleasantly amazed to see the broadcasting vans of the always pro-governmental First Channel.
51. By May 5, toward the end of the "velvet revolution," oppositional marches under the slogans "We Want What Armenia Has" were organized and suppressed by police in Russia. A Facebook meme commented on this with side-by-side images of Navalny, the organizer of the protest marches, and President Putin. Navalny was accompanied with the movement's regular slogan "Putin is not a tsar for us!" while Putin's inscription read, "I am not Serzhik for you!" (Serzhik being the diminutive of Serzh, often used to refer to Serzh Sargsyan in protest slogans and posters).