On Anniversary of Armenia’s Declaration of Independence, Pashinyan Criticizes the Document; Says it Sows Conflict

By Asbarez | Thursday, 24 August 2023

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan chose the 33rd anniversary of Armenia’s Declaration of Independence to criticize the document, which laid the foundations for the modern-day independent Republic of Armenia, saying that the document sowed conflict in the region.

On August 23, 1990, Armenia’s first post-Communist legislative body adopted the Declaration of Independence, which served as the basis for Armenia declaring independence on September 21, 1991.

The document makes reference to a 1989 unification act adopted jointly by Armenia’s Supreme Soviet and the legislative equivalent of the then Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, calling for the unification of Artsakh with Armenia—the spark that started the Karabakh Liberation Movement in February, 1988.

Armenia’s Declaration of Independence also calls for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in “the Ottoman Turkey and Western Armenia.”

It is unusual and frowned upon for a head of state to so openly criticize the founding document of the state. In his head-scratching statement marking the declaration’s anniversary, Pashinyan said that the document essentially was a vestige of the USSR and had made Armenia dependent on the Soviet system.

He made reference to his government’s “peace agenda” in the region saying that “as long as we do not have peace, the ghost of the USSR will haunt our skies.”

In May, Pashinyan pledged to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, which meant Baku would have sovereignty over Artsakh. He later declared that a peace deal with Azerbaijan would grant Armenia a “deed” to its territory. His statement on Wednesday signals that Pashinyan would prefer to have no reference of Artsakh or the Armenian Genocide as they complicate his “peace agenda,” which he called the only true path to independence.

“The Declaration of Independence is a crucial document, which laid the foundation for our current statehood. It was adopted during the culmination of the 1988 Karabakh movement, in conditions of economic, political and ideological crisis in the Soviet Union,” Pashinyan said.

“Before and especially after the 2020 war I have read and re-read the text of the declaration on numerous occasions. And I have to confess, my post-war interpretation, to some extent, has differed from the pre-war readings,” added the prime minister.

“An analysis of the text of the declaration shows that we had eventually chosen the kind of narrative and discourse which is based on the formula that made us part of the Soviet Union—a confrontational narrative with a regional outlook that would keep us [embroiled] in constant conflicts with our neighbors,” Pashinyan offered an explanation.

“With the Declaration of Independence, we set in motion the trajectory of leaving the Soviet Union, but also closed all roads to leaving the Soviet Union. In other words with the Declaration of Independence adopted in the end of the 20th century we adopted a formula which had already led us to lose our independence in the beginning of the 20th century,” said Pashinyan, saying that it was unclear what other options Armenia had after the fall of the first Armenian Republic. He said, however, that “analyzing and understanding the road we have traversed is our historical duty.”

“In 2018, before and after assuming the post of the Prime Minister of Armenia, I treated the Declaration of Independence of Armenia as a ‘biblical message.’ Nevertheless, as fundamental as it [the document] is, the declaration needed and needs a deep analysis, because it is a political document, with all its inherent consequences,” Pashinyan said.

“And now, on the 33rd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, I would like to underscore that the peace agenda adopted by our government is an agenda of independence, because we shall have independence when we have peace,” he said.

“As long as we do not have peace, the ghosts of the USSR will haunt our skies and the skies of our region. I choose independence, sovereignty and democracy. The citizen of the Republic of Armenia choses independence, sovereignty and democracy,” Pashinyan declared.