With protests against Armenian PM Serzh Sarkisian escalating, here is all you need to know about the country's troubled history

Armenia is facing a deepening political crisis, after talks between Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian and protest leader Nikol Pashinyan failed.

Published: 22nd April 2018 05:35 PM  |   Last Updated: 22nd April 2018 05:35 PM   |  A+A-

Armenian PM Serzh Sarkisian, left, with protest leader Nikol Pashinian (AP)


YEREVAN: Armenia is facing a deepening political crisis, after talks between Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian and protest leader Nikol Pashinyan failed and riot police clashed with demonstrators on Sunday.

READ HERE | Armenian PM Serzh Sarkisian storms out of talks with opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan

Here are some key dates in the country's recent history:

Independence from USSR

  • On September 23, 1991 Armenia declares independence from the crumbling Soviet Union after a landslide referendum. 

  • Former dissident Levon Ter-Petrosyan goes on to win the country's first presidential election

  • Two months later, Armenia becomes a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) before being admitted into the United Nations in 1992.

  • In the early days of its independence a revolt breaks out involving the ethnic Armenian population of Nagorny Karabakh, an enclave in neighbouring Azerbaijan.

  • The resulting war claims more than 30,000 lives before ending with a ceasefire in 1994 but the region's status remains unsettled, despite years of diplomatic talks.

  • Isolated in his attempts at finding a resolution to the conflict, Ter-Petrosyan resigns in 1998 and is replaced by Robert Kocharian.

Contested elections

  • In 1999 gunmen storm the parliament building and kill nationalist prime minister Vazgen Sarkisian and six other politicians.

  • The killings are criticised by the authorities as an attempted coup and generate several months of political crisis.

  • Kocharian is re-elected in 2003 for a second five-year term in a vote marred by irregularities, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

  • In 2008 the pro-Russian and former army officer Serzh Sarkisian wins the presidential election in the first round, which the opposition denounces as fraudulent. 

  • Bloody clashes between police and supporters of defeated opposition candidate Ter-Petrosyan break out at the start of March the same year, leaving 10 dead and hundreds injured.

Turkey stalemate

  • In 2009 Armenia and Turkey sign an agreement to normalise relations. 

  • The so-called Zurich protocols would lead to the opening up of the border between the two neighbours, still haunted by the massacre of Armenians during World War I.

  • The massacre of some 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman forces between 1915-1917 is formally recognised as genocide by some two dozen countries including France and Russia. Turkey rejects the description. 

  • The Zurich protocols are never ratified and in 2018 the government issues a decree to ditch the process.

Controversial reform

  • In 2013 Sarkisian is re-elected, after a crushing victory by his party in legislative elections a year earlier.

  • Two years later daily protests paralyse the capital Yerevan for two months after the government's controversial move to hike electricity prices.

  • In December 2015 a constitutional referendum transforms the country into a parliamentary republic, a reform disputed by the opposition, calling it a move by Sarkisian to remain in power after the end of his term in 2018.

  • The constitutional amendments transfer governing powers from the presidency to the prime minister. 

Protests against new PM

  • In July 2016 pro-opposition gunmen seize a police station in Yerevan, taking police officers and medical personnel hostage, which leaves two officers dead and triggers mass anti-government protests.

  • The following year Sarkisian's republican party overwhelmingly wins legislative elections in a disputed vote.

  • In March 2018 lawmakers elect Armen Sarkisian, no relation to the outgoing Serzh Sarkisian, as the new president, a now largely ceremonial role under the new system.

  • On April 17, 2018, despite days of protests gripping Yerevan, the parliament elects the former president Serzh Sarkisian to become prime minister.


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