Armenia. At the beginning of the year, the political
opposition launched a protest campaign against the
government demanding the resignation of Prime Minister
Tigran Sarkisian and the release of imprisoned activists. In
March and April, thousands of people in the capital Yerevan
demonstrated in the square that was the site of mass
demonstrations in 2008, when several people were killed when
police opened fire. The square had then been closed to
protesters for three years. Now the riot police withdrew and
let the protests go on.
The Sarkisian government chose to partially meet the
opposition by releasing several political prisoners in May,
including leading opposition editor Nikol Pasjinian. He had
been sentenced to several years in prison accused of
participating in and organizing the mass protests after the
2008 presidential election.
Countryaah official site, Prime Minister Sarkisian turned interest from domestic
policy issues when he declared in June that Armenia was
prepared to establish diplomatic relations with the
arch-enemy Turkey without conditions. Closed borders are
nonsense in the 21st century, Sarkisian explained. Armenia
and Turkey signed an agreement in 2009 to establish normal
relations and open the border, but Turkey has since
stipulated that Armenia first resolve its conflict with
Turkey's ally Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
At the same time, the Sarkisian declared that Armenia was
ready to go to war again (as in the early 1990s) if
Azerbaijan were to try to take the enclave by force.
In July, human rights groups wrote an open letter to the
Armenian government demanding vigorous measures against the
emigration from Armenia, which it described as a national
disaster. According to the political opposition, almost
100,000 people emigrate every year to find work abroad, most
of them going to the Russian Federation and the construction
industry there. This means that it is almost exclusively men
who emigrate and that women must bear a growing
responsibility in Armenian society. The government denies
that emigration would be so great, but Armenia's population
has decreased from about 4 million at independence from the
Soviet Union to about 3 million today.
At the beginning of the year, archaeologists announced
that they had found what was considered to be the world's
oldest wine press, estimated at 6,000 years. The discovery
was made in a cave in the mountains of southeastern Armenia,
and the grape seeds found on the site came from the same
type of grapes still used in wine production in the area.