Anahit Sahinyan reveals the origins and nature of the Armenian Republic’s ruling elites
Armenian News Network / Groong
November 15, 2021
By Eddie Arnavoudian
Prominent Soviet era novelist Anahit Sahinyan’s (1917-2010) ‘Blowing in the Wind – Volume 2’ (2005, 460pp, Yerevan) throws a sharp and critical light on the origins and nature of the elites that are currently leading and destroying the Armenian nation and state. Herein is the enduring value of a book published 16 years ago! The volume is a collection of socio-political commentaries penned during the decade after the collapse of the USSR and the 1991 formation of the Third Armenian Republic. In all her commentaries Sahinyan is an uncompromising advocate for the common people against the brigandage of corrupt Soviet era elites and against the equally pernicious new ruling classes of the Third Armenian Republic.
Taken together through these articles the reader is pushed to an inescapable conclusion. The birth of the 1991 Third Republic was no crowning achievement of a popular democratic revolution. It was the triumph of a new usurping elite determined to ensure that it was now ‘its turn to gorge on corruption’. The so-called democratic revolution was in essence an expropriation of the entirety of the national wealth created by the Armenian people by a small proto-capitalist class born from the bowels of the disintegrating Soviet state bureaucracy. Party apparatchiks, segments of the intelligentsia and careerists all devoid even of a whiff of democratic morality and principle leapt onto the capitalist ship from a sinking Soviet one, there to make new fortunes. The masses, the people, were victims not beneficiaries of the Third Republic.
Exposing the old Soviet elites’ obnoxious parasitism, Sahinyan shows the new rising from the marsh as scum to the surface, seizing leadership of the mass movement, robbing aid intended for the impoverished, for the victims of the earthquake and for.
Armenian refugees fleeing Baku. These new elites began making their fortunes by theft, by stealing the people’s wealth created across the 70 years of Soviet rule (p330). Benefiting only the new elites, a so-called “democratic revolution” reduced the majority to penury and impoverishment.
The Armenian Church and its privileged clergy come in for especially sharp judgment. Enough of denouncing Soviet Church repression Sahinyan exclaims. The Armenian Church has now had 12 years of freedom. But what has it given except a multiplication of Churches and a rise in the numbers of clearly well-off priests (p339-340)!
Albeit scathing of Soviet era degeneration, by the turn of the 20th century witnessing continuing ceaseless dispossession of the people Sahinyan’s evaluation of the old order becomes more explicitly positive. Despite Stalin’s terrors, despite the tyranny of the state bureaucracy, Armenia in the Soviet era registered remarkable economic growth and a flourish of science, art, culture and literature (p294) that was available to all. Today, with the fruits of its labour stolen by a new ruling class, the people suffer not only material want but spiritual famine too (p292-294).
Despite Pashinyan’s so-called “velvet revolution”, corrupt and selfish elites still rule the roost in Armenia. They are in sum the inheritors of the early post-Soviet elites that Sahinyan so passionately opposed. They are in essence no different from the old elites in their complete disregard for the needs of the common people upon whom they leech.
Readers of all persuasions will find something to quibble with in a volume marked by often confused or contradictory arguments. But one thing is incontestable, in every one of her judgments in contrast to elites of all colours Sahinyan remained unwavering in commitment to the well-being of the common people.
If one is to talk of genuine, authentic patriotism then Sahinyan was one such patriot from whom we can learn today. Let us recall Mikael Nalpantian! No amount of nationalist rhetoric, no amount of glorification of national culture and history will ever approach genuine patriotism if it does not put the needs and interests of the common people at the unconditional forefront of its concern. Sahinyan did so, the Pashinyan revolution did not and does not!
Ending, let us recall Anahit Sahinyan the novelist. With their critical realist embrace of Soviet Armenian life from the 1920s to the early 1960s her trilogy (‘Crossroads’ 1946, ‘Thirst’ 1955 and ‘Longing’ 1974) are enduring artistic achievements, authentic registers of individual, social, political and economic relations of the times. These together with her voluminous non-fiction writing is a legacy to be treasured.
Eddie Arnavoudian holds degrees in history and politics from Manchester, England, and is ANN/Groong's commentator-in-residence on Armenian literature. His works on literary and political issues have also appeared in Harach in Paris, Nairi in Beirut and Open Letter in Los Angeles.