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The pieces of Armenian revolution They were not famous, they were just spontaneously leading the protests

The revolution is the people, the revolution is the property of each participant.

When it became known that Republican Party of Armenia, which has been ruling the country over 10 years, intends to nominate Serzh Sargsyan as the head of the country for the third time, opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan initiated a march against Sargsyan’s third tenure. Pashinyan started the march on March 31st from the second largest city of Armenia, Gyumri. He together with his team marched through a number of Armenian towns.

After the 14-day march, on April 13rd, Nikol Pashinyan entered capital Yerevan, and thousands of citizens joined him. Starting from that day the civil disobedience has become more intense. People were staying in the streets overnight.

During 14 days Nikol Pashinyan together with his supporters walked about 200 km, made approximately 300.000 steps, visited Spitak, Vanadzor, Dilijan, Sevan, Hrazdan, Abovyan cities. And on April 13, at 6:30 pm a crowded rally started in Liberty square, Yerevan.

On April 17th National Assembly elected Serzh Sargsyan as Prime Minister. He would govern for the third term and people were struggling against that. Day by day more and more people were joining the civil disobedience protests.

On April 22th Pashinyan-Sargsyan negotiation failed. The next day Sargsyan gave in and resigned. On May 8th National Assembly elected Nikol Pashinyan as Prime Minister.

THIS STORY IS ABOUT YOUNG PEOPLE WHO WERE NOT FAMOUS BUT THEY HAVE BECOME THE FACES OF THE VELVET REVOLUTION. THIS REVOLUTION HAS OTHER SYMBOLS TOO.

REVOLUTIONARY GYUMRI

“On April 17 we left everything behind and went out for our motherland”

Albert Gevorgyan, 24, rapper from Gyumri, says that he is proud that the revolution started from Gyumri. But at first, like many others he did not believe in it. “At the begining, I didn’t take it seriously. Sometimes I was following Nikol Pashinayan’s live streams on Facebook, to know where he reached ... On April 17th we left everything behind and went out for our motherland.”

Albert Gevorgyan during marches, Gyumri
Theatre square in Gyumri is the place where the youth is gathering. According to Albert, the protests were not organized thus together with his friends Albert decided to take over the organization.
Gyumri during the days of the revolution
“We had not been eating for days, but we didn’t even feel hunger. We were just drinking water, and that’s it,'' Albert recalls.

“When they wanted to make me sit in the police car, some of the girls pretended to faint, some of them even laid under the wheels of the police car to distract the attention or not to let them take me, but anyway they took me away,” Albert recalls with humor his arrest during the days of revolution. He tells that during the revolution he had received 1.500 friend requests on Facebook, 1.000 out of them were girls.

On the morning of April 23, he had already recorded the song "Qayl ara" and he was going to perform it in the square, and his performance coincided with the news of Serzh Sargsyan’s resignation: “We were in the square, I have never seen so many happy faces. Residences of Gyumri had witnessed an earthquake (1988, with 25000 victims), their faces are always concerned and sad.”

Albert had not been that famous before the revolution, some people knew him as a musician. Now he is one of the heroes of the “velvet revolution”. He says that after the revolution when people meet him on the streets they say: “It’s Abo, that guy.”

Albert celebrates the victory in Yerevan.

Gharib Harutyunyan, lecturer, one of the organizers of demonstrations and civil disobedience protests in Gyumri, recalls: “At first we did not believe that something would change but anyway we came out to struggle.”

“When Nikol Pashinyan personally started to lay in front of busses and blocked roads, we got interested in it. That day my friend suggested to act, to do something, so we did it. After taking my children to kindergarten, with just two cars we blocked the road. In ten minutes, people joined us and the whole street was blocked,” Gharib tells.

Gharib recalls that the revolution started in Gyumri on that day when he together with his friends blocked a street. Then many streets were blocked and day by day more and more people were joining the civil disobedience protests.

“We were receiving calls and they were urging us to be careful because it would be bad for us. People were urging us about possible arrests, which happened,” Gharib tells.
“The head of police, the mayor, then the governor came. But we had decided that we will not give in. It is unbelievable that students came out to streets and the movement accelerated.” GHARIB says.
Gharib has been detained twice during the days of the movement – once in Gyumri and once in Yerevan. After being released he again joined the movement and led it in Gyumri.

“Despite the fact that poverty rates (46%) are the highest in Gyumri and Shirak Marz, people always complain and demand the change of situation, but during the revolution, the main fighters were the people who did not have problems, they were struggling for justice,” Gharib says.

Why Pashinyan started from Gyumri, not from his hometown Ijevan? Gharib explains: “Nikol didn’t have an alternative - the pledge of victory was starting from here - residences of Gyumri have always been rebellious.

REVOLUTIONARY VANADZOR

Youth from Vanadzor (3th city in Armenia) was so inspired by the revolution that they couldn’t just follow. Vahe Khachikyan, 24, from Vanadzor says that despite the fact that he is very young he has managed to fight against injustice: 3 years ago he participated in “Electric Yerevan ” demonstrations in Yerevan and spent nights in the streets.

Vahe has not missed a single day of protests in Vanadzor. He together with his friends organized marches. He recalls: “At first when we were marching with few people, after a while we noticed a large crowd marching with us that we couldn’t see the end of the line. We were very young, we were proud and excited.”

Vahe tells that when Pashinyan wanted to march in Vanadzor, people started to gather in the square from the morning, there were so many people that Vahe with his friends had decided to book their places in advance.
We drew circles with chalk and wrote the place of Vahe, the place of reporters, as members of Serzh Sargsyan's republican Party of Armenia (RPA) were following us we also drew places for them and wrote the place of RPA, tells Vahe.
Vahe and Lilit mark their places in Hayq square, Vanadzor.
Vahe and his friends posted photos of the circles on Facebook. The responses were unprecedented. “Everyone was writing keep a place for us. That photo received 1000+ likes and shares,” Vahe says.
Anahit drew a place for her mother and her friends in Hayq Square.

VELVET VOICE OF THE VELVET REVOLUTION - Maria Karapetyan, Yerevan

Maria, member of another civic initiative, that was created against Serzh Sargisyan’s reelection and called “Reject Serzh”, says․ “We had decided that we need to change something in the country. “We are going to change” initiative was founded. On March 24 we marched to the office of the Republican party. On that day our group was spontaneously renamed to “Reject Serzh".

Maria decided to use the subway, but in the subway, she met young people who were laying in between the doors of wagons. She also joined them.
“There was a conviction that what I am doing is right”
“Hello, rebellious, free, peaceful, but disobedient citizens”, this way Maria Karapetyan was greeting the people who were gathering at the main square of Armenia.
“On April 17 when National Assembly elected Serzh Sargsyan as Prime Minister we decided to make a revolution.”
Every time Maria appealed to people with these words: “Be self-organized, from tomorrow on we are coming to revolution as we are coming to work.”
“At first there were difficulties as people were thinking that everything will end up and we are just postponing the process of getting to work. But gradually, both the regime and the police didn’t have immune against the methodology of the revolution.”
“When there were both women and people of different ages and when those people were raising their hands up there were disarming the police.”

Velvet revolution was also special because many women, young girls were demonstrating, mothers together with their children in strollers were blocking the streets: such thing has never happened in Armenia.

“Girls and women are courageous and brave, it has become more visible during the revolution,” Maria says.
“Women often were leading groups of people, they were suggesting creative ideas, some of them were guaranteeing the peaceful nature of the marches and demonstrations,” Maria tells.
“YOUNG GIRLS OFTEN WERE APPROACHING ME AND TELLING THAT I AM INSPIRING THEM, I WAS FEELING INSPIRED BY THAT.”
Then people remembered her velvet voice and influential speeches: “On May 8 when Pashinyan was elected as Prime Minister, my friends and I visited National gallery in front of which demonstrations took place. It was always dark during my speeches and often the faces of the people were not visible. When I was speaking in the gallery, one of the workers approached me and said you are that girl who perform in the square, I have recognized your velvet voice of velvet revolution. She hugged me and started crying,” Maria recalls.

REVOLUTION'S SYMBOLS

Pashinyan’s “revolutionary” hat and backpack, megaphone and drum which accompanied the movement, vuvuzelas, Armenia’s flag, and citizens, during and after the revolution were symbolizing Armenia’s velvet revolution.

Everything started with Pashinyan’s step and with a call “Make a step”
The demonstrations started from the square of France. Rodin's statue became a symbol of revolution.
People were staying in the streets overnight, they installed a wood-burning stove and they were frying potatoes
People were blocking the streets with urban benches
Mobile phones also symbolize the revolution: they gave an opportunity to express freely and to call people to the streets

Pashinyan’s “close friend” - the backpack is also a symbol of revolution.

People started to wear hats with “Dukhov” (Boldly) and “I am Nikol” phrases since Nikol Pashinyan’s arrest

“Chalo”, the dog who accidentally met Pashinyan’s team on the first day of the march, walked with them until the end

In the days of revolution women together with their children were blocking the streets with the strollers

The main square of Armenia during the days of the revolution.

Authors: Nelly Babayan, Gohar Hakobyan

Video Editor: Ruben Arevshatyan

Translator: Ami Chichakyan

Editor:՝Melanya Barseghyan

Photo credits: Photolure, SputnikArmenia

Video credits: RFE/RL, Factor.am, Tsayg TV

This production was supported by OPEN Media Hub with funds provided by the European Union

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