I spent the entire month of June in Armenia. Back home, when friends ask me how I found Armenia, I cannot help but make an analogy by saying, “People are at the last dance on the Titanic.”
Before arriving there, I anticipated seeing gloom and doom all around, with some of the 5,000 losses not even buried yet, the other 10,0000 injured pinning their hopes on prostheses, and everyone listening to the news about daily incursions of Azerbaijani forces across Armenia’s borders.
However, the contrast was so bewildering that I could not come up with a rational explanation. Either people have become so fatalistic that nothing that happens scares them anymore, or they are so resilient that they are facing adversities with courage and hope. A third possibility is that they know something that we outsiders don’t, but it may also be any combination of the above.
Armenia’s political life, particularly within the parliament, reflects the very same divide, pitting domestic political unrest versus the reality right outside the country’s borders.
Polarization runs deep; objectivity has lost its meaning and relevance in Armenia’s political world. That polarization is also reflected when it comes to views of the diaspora. For example, you cannot congratulate Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on his reelection, wishing him and his team well in governing Armenia, and then dare to criticize him if he blunders in a foreign policy matter. If you are with him, or his opponent, Robert Kocharyan, you have to believe that your hero is infallible; in fact, politics have been transformed into a religion and anyone outside your faith is considered a heathen.
One may wonder how a country so divided can stand together and survive.