By Edmond Y. Azadian
Since the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine and “Revolution of Roses” in Georgia, pundits in the news media have been quick to assign a color to any social unrest in the former Soviet republics.
The recent demonstrations in Armenia did not attain the amplitude of a revolution to qualify for a color, although all the appearances were there to reach that level.
A country so distressed economically is prone to social unrest, which eventually may develop into a revolution. Inequality in Armenia and the disparity between the rich and the poor are the right elements to foment unrest. Just as there are “noveaux riches,” there are also “noveaux poors,” with the latter not poor because of a lack of education but because they are the victims of sudden reversals of fortune in the wake of the crumbling Soviet egalitarian society. The obscene demonstrations of opulence, as contrasted with the misery of the underclass, are heart wrenching. Former professors or scientists who were once assured by the Soviet system of a secure future have ended up in dumpsters, sorting through garbage to find food.
It was reported that the UASID provided $750,000 to the Armenian government to contribute to the campaign against corruption. To begin with, the campaign by the government to eradiate corruption is an anomaly. In a poor country, when the employees on all levels of the government are underpaid, they have to survive somehow, and to survive, they have to abuse their positions of power. The corruption there is like a pyramid and on all levels of government, the functionaries expect to receive their cut. The only time the campaign against corruption will succeed is when the top guy refuses his share. That will have a domino effect trickling all the way down.
Scarcity and deprivation will always fuel social unrest in a poor country and it will not be surprising to see people taking advantage of the discontent by assigning political complexion to any legitimate movement, like the one that took place in Armenia during this summer. Poverty is the tinderbox for social unrest.