By Emil Danielyan
Ever since independence, Armenia has been one of the few former Soviet republics whose ruling elites did not emerge from the Communist nomenklatura. For more than seven years, the country was ruled by an anti-Communist political force which advocated liberal ideas and values.
Conventional wisdom in the West would assert that with virtually no Communist opposition in its way, a center-right government would be bound to have spectacular achievements in managing the transition to capitalism and democracy over such a long period of time. And indeed, Armenia started off having one of the most reform-minded governments in the former Soviet Union. So positive was its initial record that in the early 1990s, Armenia was described as an “island of democracy” in the Transcaucasus.
But as time went on, it became clear that the reform process (except for economic deregulation) had stalled, and in many areas, had been pushed back. Very little had been done on the institutional level. Virtually nothing had been done in the last eight years to establish a democratic framework for political competition. Principles of liberalism [here, and throughout this essay, the word is used in the classical, European sense — Ed.] have dominated only the government’s macroeconomic policy. They are mostly absent in entrepreneurial activities on the microeconomic level.
When examining the Armenian case, political analysts will deal with a new phenomenon: a transition process strangled by a rightist regime which prided itself on its hatred of everything socialist.
THE ARMENIAN RIGHT: HEIRS OF THE 1988 KARABAKH MOVEMENT