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.
According to 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.