The Wine Street and the velvet revolution – BBC publishes extended article about Armenia
YEREVAN, JANUARY 30, ARMENPRESS. BBC has published an extended article about Armenia, referring to the wine bars that opened in Yerevan in the recent years, the history of Armenia and the velvet revelation that took place in the country in 2018.
The author first describes the interior of the first wine bar in Yerevan, called In Vino.
Referring to the history of Armenia, the author wrote, “Armenia claims an enviable history. What are believed to be the oldest known traces of winemaking in the world have been found in the country’s south, at the 6,100-year-old Areni-1 archaeological site. Christianity first blossomed here. Literary, artistic, culinary and musical traditions pre-date many ancient civilisations. But modern times have been defined by struggle.
Ottoman occupation in the early-20th Century turned from oppression to mass killings, decimating the population and significantly shrinking borders in the process. Soviet rule, beginning in 1922, restricted opportunities and options – and independence in 1991 resulted in kleptocratic decisions where industrial assets were stripped with little investment to plug the gaps.
Additionally, territorial disputes became numerous. Borders with neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan remain closed, and swathes of land have been annexed. Successive autocratic regimes over the last three decades had given rise to endemic corruption, stunting the economy and limiting social mobility. An enormous diaspora now remains overseas, and on home turf, one third of the population is currently impoverished with 16% unemployed. Those with a job earn an average of £270 per month”.
Describing the main visitors of wine bars, the author noted that they are largely young, educated and employed but tired of the corruption in parliament – would not only support the revolution, but go on to produce the government of today.
“Right now, a lot of the people who are involved in the parliament are just like us, people who used to come to our wine bar regularly,” said Mariam Saghatelyan, one of the partners at In Vino. “They might not be very experienced in the field, they might not know that much about politics, but at least they have the same interests as me, and if I am against something they want to change, I can voice my opinion. I’m not afraid of them anymore.”
Saryan Street, where In Vino is located, is also now called the Wine Street, since a number of wine bars have opened since In Vino arrived. “The area caters to a new generation of drinkers, who prefer quality wines (domestic and imported), craft beers and spirits with traceable origins over the mass-produced vodka popularised during Soviet times – and a staple of more traditional haunts popular with the now-deposed political class. With the old regime disinterested, establishments such as In Vino became breeding grounds for progressive ideas. Frustrations, resentments and hopes were shared across tables, eventually boiling over into direct action”, reads the article, noting that domestic wine production has re-emerged, since during the Soviet years Armenia was instructed to focus on brandy production.
Speaking about the velvet revolution in Armenia, the author wrote, “The public, weary after years of administrative criminality, had finally had enough. Young activists mobilised, using social media to organise large-scale protests, bringing major roads and public realms to a standstill. Within weeks, the ruling Republican Party stepped down. Not a single shot was fired.
Elections in December 2018 then saw reformist acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who was a key figure in the revolution, claim 70.4% of the vote Many now believe major improvements are possible after seeing barriers between political class and population removed. As a symbolic gesture, the gates to the National Assembly and the prime minister and president’s offices were opened to the public in October to convey new governmental transparency”.
Edited and translated by Tigran Sirekanyan