Armenia in the 1990’s

By | June 6, 2022

Former Soviet Socialist Republic of. (the smallest of the states of the USSR, which arose in 1936 from the break-up of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federative Republic), became the Republic of Armenia on 23 September 1991 following a popular referendum. The first years of independence were conditioned by internal conflicts, in particular on the adoption of the constitutional charter and on the privatization policy undertaken by the head of state, L. Ter-Petrossian of the Armenian National Movement (MNA), and by the conflict with Azerbaijan for Nagorno-Karabah.

Nevertheless, unlike the other two Caucasian republics, Georgia and Azerbaijan, the Armenia it continued to enjoy relative political stability, favored by a partial economic recovery starting in 1994.

According to Homosociety, the Nagorno-Karabah issue, an Armenian enclave on Azerbaijani soil, remained at the center of the Armenia’s foreign policy, with significant repercussions on the internal situation, even after the signing of the ceasefire agreement in July 1994. Despite successive exchanges of prisoners in the course of 1995 and 1996 and the signing, in April 1996, of an agreement between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia for the pacification of the region, the two fundamental problems of restoring the Azerbaijani territories in hand remained outstanding. to the Armenian army from 1992 – 93 and status to be granted to Nagorno-Karabah. In fact, the Azerbaijani government opposed the granting of ample administrative autonomy to the request for full independence of Nagorno-Karabah by the Armenia However, the republic of Nagorno-Karabah (self-proclaimed in 1991), despite receiving Armenian military aid, continued not to be recognized by Yerevan in order not to compromise negotiations with Baku and not to deteriorate relations with Moscow, the balance in the group of Minsk, established in 1992 within the CSCE (Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe) to resolve the issue diplomatically. Ter-Petrossian’s moderate political line, hard to reconcile with the Armenian occupation of a fifth of the Azerbaijani territory, aroused the discontent of the internal nationalist opposition, which did not even share the government’s choice to approach Turkey to break the axis Baku-Ankara diplomat strengthened after the Armenian offensive in Azerbaijani territory, without first asking for recognition of the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Turks in 1915.

A further element of contrast between the government and the opposition forces was the adoption, in November 1994, of a liberal reform program based on the liberalization of prices, the reduction of the public deficit and privatization. If these measures promoted the revival of the Armenian economy, they did not prove sufficient to substantially improve the living conditions of the population, already tested by the military effort, by the massive influx of immigrants from Azerbaijan and by the ongoing energy blockade imposed by the latter, only partially resolved through trade agreements with Turkmenistan and Iran.

Faced with the growing opposition, Ter-Petrossian made an authoritarian change in his government, banning nine parties, including the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the main opposition formation (again legalized in May 1998), challenging in particular its support for terrorist organizations. The first political elections of the post-Soviet era, held in July 1995, thus recorded a predictable success of the Republican Bloc (multi-party alliance dominated by the MNA) which obtained 119 seats out of 190. At the same time, a popular referendum approved a new Constitution (replacing the Soviet one of 1978) which greatly increased presidential prerogatives.

On the basis of this, the President of the Republic, elected by direct and universal suffrage for five years, appoints the head of the government and, on the latter’s recommendation, the Council of Ministers; moreover, it has the power to dissolve Parliament and to appoint the majority of the members of the Superior Council of the Judiciary, of the Constitutional Court, the governors of the regions and the mayor of the capital. Legislative power is entrusted to a single-chamber Parliament of 131 members (59 fewer than the one elected in 1995 according to the electoral law prior to the adoption of the new Constitution).

The opposition denounced numerous irregularities during the conduct of the elections, which were described as unfair even by international observers. Similarly they were denounced intimidation and vote rigging in the presidential elections of September 1996 which saw confirmation of Ter-Petrossian with 51, 8 % of the votes against 41, 3 % of V. Manukian, leader of the National Democratic Union. The replacement, in March 1997, of the head of the government Armenia Sarkissian with R. Kocharian, former president of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabah, provoked the protests of the Azerbaijani government, further hampering the ongoing negotiations. At the same time, nationalist opposition to Ter-Petrossian grew, more and more clearly oriented towards a compromise solution with Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabah issue. Heavily weakened by the defection of numerous deputies of the Armenian National Movement from the parliamentary group of the republican bloc, in February 1998 Ter-Petrossian resigned from the post of President of the Republic. Kocharian’s victory in the presidential elections, held amid allegations of fraud and intimidation, in March 1998, confirmed the further strengthening of nationalist positions.

Armenia in the 1990's