Episode 269 | Recorded: July 17, 2023
Earlier this week, several days after Aliyev unexpectedly praised Pashinyan, saying that he’s happy with everything that Pashinyan has publicly declared and now he just needs to put all that on paper, we got a surprise announcement that Aliyev and Pashinyan would meet in Brussels on July 15, almost a week earlier than planned earlier. This is all while Artsakh remains completely blockaded.
After the meeting, Charles Michel, president of the European Council and the moderator of the meeting between Pashinyan and Aliyev, made an announcement saying that the negotiations were “very efficient”.
In the end, Michel invited Aliyev and Pashinyan to a discussion again at the end of the summer. In the meantime, there may be a 5-way meeting that will be joined by Germany’s Olaf Sholz and France’s Emmanuel Macron.
The reaction from Artsakh didn’t take long. Davit Babayan, advisor to Arayik Harutyunyan, called the announcement from Michel as “humiliating”.
Meanwhile, Stepanakert is fighting! Despite the brutal complete blockade instituted by the Azerbaijani regime, a new national movement was announced. It kicked off with a huge rally in Stepanakert, as tens of thousands of people flooded the renaissance square in Stepanakert on Friday in response to the call from Artsakh authorities.
The speeches and actions of the protest seemed to be aimed at all international players who have a stake in Artsakh, including the Red Cross, the Russian Peacekeepers, the Armenian government, the Armenian people collectively including the diaspora and of course other major international players. The protesters then set up tents in the Renaissance square and geared up for being there long-term.
While the protest on Friday was attended widely, even by opposition members in Artsakh, it was apparent that the main driving force for it were political forces associated with Arayik Harutyunyan, whose party is the ruling force in Artsakh. The protest also was welcomed by Ruben Vardanyan. In fact, Vardanyan issued a public statement that most directly accused Armenia’s government, and specifically Nikol Pashinyan for the current situation.
Opposition forces were not visible prominently and some have criticized the rally because there was not enough direct criticism of Pashinyan and Armenia’s policies that have made public statements unequivocally recognizing Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan. Other elements of the opposition criticized that the protest was effectively anti-Russian in nature.
It should be noted that a day before the protest, hero of Artsakh, General Vitaly Balasanyan, who has been constantly vilified in Azerbaijani propaganda, was arrested along with his son by the authorities in Artsakh. He was released today, Monday.
It has been 10 days since Armen Grigoryan has been in Washington DC for “intense negotiations”. This is a week after Ararat Mirzoyan was there and met with the same officials.
Grigoryan’s formal statements about the meetings say “challenges in the region and the wider region” and “closer U.S.-Armenian cooperation on energy, economy and democracy” were discussed. Jake Sullivan’s office has not commented on the meetings.
Background: Unconfirmed Russian telegram channels report that Washington and Baku have the following “demands” of Armenia:
Zakharova issued a statement:
At the same time, Aliyev over the weekend in Brussels sharply criticized Russia for not keeping to the Nov. 9 agreement, and allowing Armenians to send arms to Artsakh.
First, this is either fake news or political jousting. But it seems like both Azerbaijan and Russia are preparing some sort of a status change in Artsakh, as regards to the Russian peacekeepers.
On July 5th, Pashinyan gave a Constitution Day address. In it he mentions the health system, pensions, jobs, etc. He said:
According to the Constitution of our country, Armenia is a social state. Since 2018, the minimum pension has more than doubled, the average pension has increased by 22 percent, and the basic pension has increased by 50 percent. Since 2018, 170,000 jobs have been created in Armenia, the salary fund has more than doubled, the average monthly salary has increased by about 57 percent, the minimum salary has increased by more than 36 percent, and the number of health services provided to citizens by state order has doubled.
He said Armenia is a social state, and Pashinyan says “health services provided to citizens by state order has doubled.” Yet, recent reports indicate that maybe the government is not adequately funding these social services.
Pashinyan says that pensions have more than doubled, average pension has increased 22% and basic pension has increased 50% - and everything is measured against 2018. The latest pension raises took effect a couple of weeks ago on July 1.
Not everyone shares this optimism. Our calculations show that just in monetary terms, the total inflation from 2018-2022 has been about 23%. That doesn’t include increases in cost of living. For instance, former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan, says that almost all of the growth can be attributed to inflation and cost of living changes.
For reference, the average pension is now 50,000 drams per month. The average salary is 256,000 drams, and the so-called “consumer basket” is 80,000 drams.
Pashinyan says since 2018 170,000 jobs have been created, average monthly salaries are 57% higher, and minimum salaries are 36% higher.
The Pashinyan government has consistently favored the IT sector, and disregarded the agricultural sector. This year the IT sector was the beneficiary of extensive tax credits, while Armenian farms have been hung out to dry.
USAID stats on the Armenian economy.
In two month’s time, Yerevan will be voting to elect a new mayor. These are indirect elections, people vote for political parties, the parties nominate to form the new city council, and the city council appoints a new mayor.
If you ask me, it’s a travesty that people don’t get to vote and elect who they want for president, or prime minister, or mayor, but that’s what it is.
Anyway, last week we discussed where the parties and their candidates stand per the latest MPG poll results. We’ll put the slide in the show notes, but to summarize the poll:
Q9: Which party would you vote for in the September Yerevan city council elections?
It has been nearly 3 years since the signing of the November 9-10 statement that ceased the hostilities in the 44-day war of 2020. The Armenian government has not officially released the specific names of the dead from the war. In fact, we don’t even know the exact identity of the deaths from the mini-war of September 2022.
In the absence of official information, various estimates have been made by academics and analysts. The most recent study, published this week by Ariel Karlinsky from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem & Orsola Torrisi from the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) campus, and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), uses an interesting methodology, focusing on excess deaths reported by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Artsakh.
According to the results of the study, the number of excess deaths of 18-49 year old males in three countries are approximately as follows:
We continue to remind that if you’re a citizen of Armenia and eligible to vote, then there is a citizen’s initiative that is worth your attention and signature. It’s called HayaQve.
According to organizers, in two weeks, the movement has been able to get 25,000 signatures.
Find out more at:
We hope you found our Week in Review helpful. We invite your feedback and your suggestions, you can find us on most social media and podcast platforms. Thanks to Laura Osborn for the music on our podcasts.
Hrant Mikaelian, a political scientist and multidisciplinary researcher in social sciences based in Yerevan. He is also a senior researcher at the Caucasus Institute.
Hovik Manucharyan is an information security engineer who moved from Seattle to Armenia in 2022. He co-founded the ANN/Groong podcast in 2020 and has been a contributor to Groong News since the late 1990s.
Asbed is founder of Groong and co-founder of the ANN/Groong podcast.