According to most Armenians I have met, the political situation has always felt corrupt and the people have little to no say on the vision they have for the country no matter what the outcome of elections are. Many politicians and average working people hint at the possibility of elections being manipulated by the leading Republican Party of Armenia in order to retain its power. Armenia’s 4th president Armen Sarkissian assumed the presidency on April 9th 2018 from the previous president Serzh Sargsyan during a critical time in Armenian political history. Sargsyan was chosen by the Republican Party to assume Prime Minister, therefore giving him similar power as he had once had, however six days after taking office he resigned after large-scale protests. Sargsyan had a controversial presidency which coincided with the Great Recession and during his first term as president the poverty rate doubled to 32.4% by 2012. Sargsyan also had many controversial approaches to foreign policy in regards to Turkey, and the ongoing situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Velvet Revolution was declared by Nikol Pashinyan the opposition leader and leading member of the Armenian National Congress, and the political group called Civil Contract. Pashinyan stated “The women of Armenia – our mothers, sisters and daughters – are the driving force behind this movement and have a crucial role to play in building the new Armenia.” After 11 days of consecutive protests and civil unrest that continued to grow each day one of the demands was met, Sargsyan reigned from his new position as Prime Minister. Sargsyan stated on April 23rd “Nikol Pashinyan was right, I was wrong. The situation has several solutions, but I will not take any of them... I am leaving office of the country's leader, of prime minister.” April 23rd 2018 will be a day that goes down in Armenian history, the people clearly won however the victory is still ongoing with new elections set to take place on May 1st.
I have never seen or experienced such exuberance in my life as I did between April 13th and April 23rd. Usually with protests like those back in the United States begin large but each day grow smaller until reaching a point where people lose interest. The main difference I also noticed was that in the United States the protests usually divide people between two sides on issues like race, police, sexual preferences or gun control. Hardly ever do you see a protest that brings everyone together to protest against a single issue that affects the entire country equally. The protests in Armenia were not only peaceful but also done in a manner that involved the entire community and brought people together on one issue that affects the entire country. On April 23rd the day of victory for the people was like a war victory, something comparable to VE Day during WWII. There were people popping bottles of champagne, dancing to traditional Armenian music in the streets, flying flags from their cars and playing loud music, and hugging each other. I have never seen so many people out on the streets or gather at Republic Square. Below are some moments I captured with my Canon 5D MKIII up until the resignation of Sargsyan.