Armenia and the New Constitution (Part 2)

Before talking about the new constitution and its implications, let me also briefly talk about the so called oligarchs in Armenia. It seems that, any person who is very rich, and have a fair size business in Armenia, is considered to be an  oligarch, and it is perceived that, they accumulated their wealth at least in part, by being well connected to the governing authorities.

The most prominent and richest of them is perceived to be former president Robert Kocharyan, along with others like, Gagig Dsaroogyan (ex leader of the Prosperous Party of Armenia, and the one who is known also for his charitable deeds), Hovig Abrahamyan, the current Prime Minster, and, Serj Sarksyan the current President.

There is hardly any factual information written or documented about the oligarchs in Armenia that factually shows, what wealth they own, and how they got it.There are no books, memoirs, biographies, or documentaries, about the oligarchs, that documents how this people grew up to become who they are and specially how they plundered Armenia’s wealth.

(It seems that, unlike the Western Literature, the biographies are not common in Armenian literature. The few biographies that I have read about past Armenian leaders, are mostly about the leader, the hero, the worrier, the dedicated public figure, but seldom about the man, the human being, their upbringing as children, the husband, the father, the grand father and their personal life as a person).

The best alternative sources for me to learn about oligarchs, has been to read English language books about the Russian oligarchy that gives some relevance to the Armenian oligarchy. Needless to say, it is a known secret that, Russia controls every thing in Armenia, both, economically and politically, and specially, the government and the oligarchs. I can name at least 2 books by highly experienced Canadian journalists with extensive experiences in Russia.

The first is Stephen Handelman’s 1995 book, “Comrade Criminal”, where he factually documents the “Vorey Zarqonies”. (Legal Thieves).  A long established and very powerful underground criminal organization that operated in the entire Soviet Union and was run from, jail. They controlled the underground “shadow economy” of the Soviet Union.

For many  Soviet citizens, they were perceived to be “Robin Hoods” through whom they purchased necessities that were considered to be luxuries available only to the privileged bureaucrats. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of the leaders of the “Vorey Zarqonies”  became powerful oligarchs.

In the book, there is a segment where he writes about Rafik Svo, “Raffi Baghdassarian” then the leader of the “Vorey Zarqonies” in Soviet Union. He was killed in the jail in Moscow in 1994, and his funeral in Yerevan was attended by not only many current and ex soviet criminal Mafiosi, (including some from  Azerbaijan) but also Mafiosi from Eastern and Western Europe as well.

The second is Chrystia Freeland’s 2010 book, “Sale of the Century”, that factually details how some of those former “vorey zarqonies”, powerful industry leaders, factory directors, and regional Communist party leaders etc, legally “bought” industries and natural resources through a program called “Loans for Shares”, without breaking any laws, and thus became legal thieves or oligarchs. (Currently Chrystia Freeland is the Minister of International Trade in Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet).

I will also recommend 2 other books that have relevancy to the emergence of the Republic of Armenia. Hedrick Smith’s 1990 book “The New Russians” (a sequel to to his famous book “The Russians”) where he, as an eye witness, and through interviews in Yerevan, describes the chaotic conditions in Soviet Armenia, just before the fall of the Soviet Union.

The other is Thomas de Waal’s 2003 book “The Black Garden”, where he writes in detail, the story of the  Kharabagh war, and the political turmoil in Caucasus.

Let me conclude by saying that it is time for the Armenian writers, intellectuals, investigative journalists, and specially the mismatched Opposition Parties to start factually documenting and exposing this perceived oligarchs, and their perceived criminal activities, if any.

Time is long passed for further lamentations and hollow rhetoric without the facts to prove it, specially so, for the Opposition Parties, and their leaders. It is time to pursue justice with facts and figures with determination and  persistence like a “thorn in their side”.

Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian



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