BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
Despite announcements by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s “My Step” Alliance that the issue of changing Armenia’s National Anthem is not on its agenda, one of its prominent members, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Alen Simonyan is determined to change the anthem anyway.
Simonyan began his campaign soon after being named deputy speaker of the legislature, saying that Mer Hairenik, Armenia’s National Anthem adopted during the first Republic of Armenia is “bad” and proposing to change it to the Soviet Armenian anthem, which was composed by Aram Khachatryan. Simonyan also has proposed adding a cross to the Armenian tri-color, presumably to reflect that Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as a national religion.
On Wednesday, the unrelenting Simonyan announced the formation of a commission and a contest on his personal Facebook page, calling for submission of lyrics to complement Khachatryan’s composition of the Soviet-era anthem to an obscure Gmail account.
In making this announcement, Simonayn vowed that one way or another the anthem would change, saying that while “It will not be included on the agenda of the National Assembly, but will be put for public discussion. When time comes… the issue will be discussed.” Earlier this month, Simonyan said that he was driven by patriotism to propose the change.
His initial proposal was met with opposition, as have similar efforts in the past to change the National Anthem. The difference, however, was that Simonyan personally attacked those expressing their opposition to his suggestion on his social media platforms, often labeling them as opposing the revolution.
The revolution that he was referencing, of course, was last spring’s popular movement that toppled the previous regime with welcome promises of large-scale reforms that would benefit the people of Armenia. The snap parliamentary elections held in December gave “My Step” the mandate to carry out those changes. Hence, it was puzzling that days after the convening of the new parliament, its deputy speaker would (ab)use his position by proposing—in a rather pedestrian manner—to change the National Anthem, causing an uproar on social media that drowned out the coverage of Pashinyan’s trip to Germany and his meeting with Chancellor Angele Merkel.
One would think that a political force that was elected to parliament with a whopping 80 percent of the votes immediately would use its mandate to advance issues such as judicial, socio-economic and legislative reforms, which were promised and pledged during the parliamentary election campaign. I was hoping that the very patriotism that drove Simonyan to marshal a change to the National Anthem would have propelled him to discuss Armenia’s national security, programs that would bolster our Armed Forces and whether Armenia finally will sign a military cooperation agreement with Artsakh.
The “Velvet Revolution” that freed our entire nation from the clutches of corrupt individuals who used their government positions to usurp the national wealth and deprive the citizens of Armenia from basic rights and liberties did not happen so that another set of individuals can impose their will on the people, by ignoring the issues that sparked the movement in the first place.
Armenia’s National Anthem, its flag and the coat of arms of the Republic of Armenia are emblems of our collective national identity—our homeland and our nation. They reflect our historic struggles and our national aspirations and victories. They are not vestiges of a distant past, fashion statements or top-40 hits that can be altered through individual whims via social media contests.