YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia on Thursday marked the ninth anniversary of its independence from the Soviet Union with modest celebrations reflecting its severe budgetary constraints. The government’s contribution to the low-key festivities was only 7 million drams ($3,400)–far less than last year when it defied criticism to hold a spectacular military parade.
Official ceremonies began with the traditional laying of wreaths at the Yerablur military cemetery in Yerevan–followed by folk and pop music concerts in the capital and other parts of the country. The celebrations ended with a fireworks show late in the evening.
"Nine years ago our people embarked on the difficult and sacred mission of building an independent Armenian statehood–making their choice of liberty–independence and democracy," President Robert Kocharian said in a congratulatory message to the nation. "I am confident that with joint efforts and a consistent work we will register serious successes."
September 21 has been a non-working day in Armenia ever since the vast majority of its citizens voted in favor of secession from the Soviet Union at a referendum in 1991. Armenia formally declared its independence several days after the referendum. It was the only Soviet republic to expedite the secession process in accordance with a corresponding Soviet law.
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Arkady Ghoukassian addressed a message of congratulations to his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian on the occasion of Armenia’s Independence Day.
In his message–the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President said:
"Let me congratulate you on behalf of the people of Artsakh and on my personal behalf on the occasion of the National Holiday – the 9th anniversary of the Declaration of Armenia’s Independence.
"Armenia’s democratic development and improved social and economic conditions are the best guarantee of the successful development of similar processes in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The stabilized political situation in Armenia and in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the availability of favorable conditions in the economic domain give reasons to look with optimism into the future. Stronger ties among Armenia–Artsakh and Diasporan communities are a guarantee of our future progress.
"I again express my congratulations to you on the occasion of Armenia’s Independence Day–and I wish the Armenian government every success in implementing the programs it has launched."
The Presidential press office told Armenpress that the Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Elisabeth II sent a congratulatory message to president Robert Kocharian on the occasion of the 9th anniversary of Armenia’s independence. The message reads as follows:
"I convey my warn congratulations to Your Excellency and Armenian people on the occasion of Your National Holiday wishing peace–prosperity and a happy future."