Monday, 1 September 2008

Armenia: 'Political dissent and alternative culture'

*From One Week in Yerevan: Art, Politics, and Sexuality by Pawel Leszkowicz

Pawel Leszkowicz is a curator and lecturer/writer from Poland ,specialising in contemporary art/visual culture and sexuality/queer studies. He curated the exhibition of contemporary queer art "Love and Democracy" (2005/2006) and wrote with his partner Tomek Kitlinski the book "Love and Democracy. He intends to develop an international perspective and contacts in this field, particularly in Eastern Europe. In Poland he teaches at the Department of Art History at the University and the Department of Intermedia at the Fine Arts Academy.

[...] At the same time the streets of Yerevan are bursting with another kind of dissent – the mainstream political one. In the evening of the 1st of August thousands of people gathered in front of the legendary Matenadaran Depository of Ancient Manuscripts with a collection of thousands of ancient and medieval manuscripts from many cultures. Today the male leaders of the opposition speak in front of Matenadaran addressing the crowds holding Armenian flags. In March 2008 during another similar oppositional rally ten people were shot by the police and many others arrested. There are still memorial posters with photographs of the victims located on main streets and people protest around them. The 1st of August march is the biggest since the tragic Spring events. Thus there is a tension on the streets and a lot of police and military patrolling the city. We hoped that this time the demonstration would be peaceful - and it was!

The leader of the opposition is Levon Ter-Petrossian, the first president of independent Armenia who seems to be a national hero. The strange coalition of parties from far left to the right that he represents is called the Armenian Congress. They revolt against the current president Serge Sargsyan and the Republican Party in power. The local artists’ community supports the opposition and argues that it is a movement towards democracy against the corrupt government with a dictatorial strain. People that I know from the Utopiana and the Meline’s are among the protesters that march through the city in the night. I wonder if this would be a democracy also for them and not only for the class of ruling men?

*photo - by

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