“Velvet Revolution” in Armenia:
Potential, Gains and Risks of Political Protest Activity
The paper is focused on the public protests in Armenia in spring 2018 which caused the change of ruling elites. The new elite announced perspective directions of modernization, mostly in internal politics, including fight against authoritarian regime, corruption and economic monopoly developed by the previous government. It is demonstrated that the protests and slogans of spring 2018 are logically connected with accumulated culture and potential of protesting against institutionalized mechanisms of circulation of ruling elites inside the same political-oligarchic group and reflected public disagreement with situation in domestic economy and policy (which also caused mass emigration from the country). Comparably high level of freedom of speech in the country, critical public discourse on the lasting domestic issues, stagnation and on the failures of the ruling elites to tackle them influenced accumulation of protest potential, as well as accompanied public protests of the last decade, including the recent one. The arguments of the paper are based on author’s involved observations during mass protests in Armenia in April-May 2018, analysis of mass media and online publications, public discussions in social media, as well as interviews with Armenian experts – sociologists, political scientists, cultural anthropologists, historians and journalists. Along with that, secondary analysis of sociological and statistical data collected prior to the protests in 2018 and demonstrating the level of trust to political institutions, public perceptions on actual political and economic issues, as well as on participation in antigovernment protests, is implemented and serves as the context to demonstrate actual background for the recent protests. The paper represents an explanatory attempt to assess the causes of the protests and change of government in spring 2018 in Armenia, as well as to describe the forms of protest behavior, including communication and interaction models of the protesters. There is also an attempt to find out and demonstrate some risks and dysfunctions of the protest activities and especially post-protest political processes in the country, including construction and development of misperceptions and biased forms of framing of the mass protests in 2018 in the communication and media environment.
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