Armine Ghazaryan, psychologist, Armenian Center for National and International Studies, analyzed March 1, 2008 from a psychologist’s point of view
Four years have passed since the crime of March 1. You have repeatedly dwelt on this issue from a psychologist’s point of view. What happened in reality on March 1, 2008?
After the presidential elections of 2008, the dissatisfied majority became opposition and went on protest on Freedom Square which was followed by March 1 tragedy. For this crime, the strategy called “koltso” was used which had been tried out in 1991 in Nagorno Karabakh. The only difference was that in 1991 they were fighting for unification and independence. In February 2008, the authorities launched a psychological attack on the protesters, labeling them as drug addicts, offenders, which was followed by slaughter on March 1. The essence of the psychological attack of the ruling regime which lasted ten days was to denigrate and humiliate people to be able to do the relevant actions against them. In general, this psychological phenomenon works in the following way: the executioner needs to provoke, humiliate his victim to be able to use force against him. If it was admitted there were people on Freedom Square representing all the layers of the society, such as artists, scientists, intellectuals, workers, and generally citizens, “koltso” would not be adequate whereas in the case of drug addicts and offenders it is “justified”. By the way, the Zhamanak news program in Soviet Armenia and Haylur News on the public TV channel of Armenia have the same logic.
Armine, you have stated that during the operation koltso, the Armenian people called their “soldiers” “freedom fighters” while other called them “assailants”. Do you mean the labels reported by the Russian and Azerbaijani press? Are they present today in Russia?
Any phenomenon can be treated differently. One can be a hero for someone and a criminal for the others.
The image of militant Armenians formed in 1991 still exists in the consciousness of people though these activities of the propaganda machine stopped and the exact labels have been forgotten but the negative nuances have been preserved and are especially associated with the other Caucasian nations which are directly related to the Russian interests.
Most people consider Armenians followers of the Muslim religion. Regular surveys in Russia show Armenians are sometimes perceived as enemies. In 1990, the television of the post-Soviet Russia referred to the Armenian perpetrators of the 1976 Moscow metro blast in speaking about the Chechen terrorist acts. We can find the reasons of hatred for the Armenians in the propagated image of the enemy.
Armine, how can we overcome the psychological consequences and stereotypes of March 1?
Time helps to overcome them but there are stereotypes which are not as sensitive and negative today as in 2008-09. For example, there used to be a stereotype of “we and Karabakhi people”, while now, this is not as striking. Indifference and irony have replaced hatred in regard to Haylur News. While the step of the authorities to make a monster out of the police officers was a very wrong one because so far the citizens are afraid of those who were supposed to protect them.
As long as the names related to March 1 are not uttered “loud”, the psychological trauma will be awake in people’s mind. Nevertheless, after March 1, now we have a new quality of citizens and youths striving to form a civil society.