1598) From Ter-Petrosian To Kocharian: Leadership Change In Armenia, Stephan H. Astourian

Winter 2000-2001
Stephan H. Astourian is the William Saroyan Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of California, Berkeley . .

Berkeley Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies, Working Paper Series

The Berkeley Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies (BPS) is a leading center for graduate training on the Soviet Union and its successor states in the United States. Founded in 1983 as part of a nationwide effort to reinvigorate the field, BPS.s mission has been to train a new cohort of scholars and professionals in both cross-disciplinary social science methodology and theory as well as the history, languages, and cultures of the former Soviet Union; to carry out an innovative program of scholarly research and publication on the Soviet Union and its successor states; and to undertake an active public outreach program for the local community, other national and international academic centers, and the U.S. and other governments.


The forced resignation of Levon Ter-Petrosian as Armenia.s president on 3 February 1998 came as a shock to the western media. Portrayed as an introverted intellectual, a democrat, and certainly a moderate, Ter-Petrosian contrasted favorably with most leaders of other Soviet successor states. His resignation, which an Armenian deputy described as a .velvet coup., carried out by the president.s one-time colleagues, was also seen as a blow to Western hopes of settling the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Mountainous Karabagh.1

Thus, a New York Times editorial stated that the event was .a disturbing development for peace and ethnic harmony in the Caucasus.. The resignation formalizes, it continued, .the increasing grip on power of an unsavory band of military and security officials..2 Little did it matter that those unsavory officials had been the main pillars of the Ter-Petrosian regime for many years and had kept him in power after the fraudulent presidential elections of 1996.3 A Los Angeles Times article entitled .Armenian Hard-Liners Consolidate Control.

reinforced the main point implied by its title by asserting: .Those opposed to Karabakh compromise force out another moderate leader..4 Among major American newspapers, only the Washington Post offered a more subtle interpretation of the events. On the one hand, it too claimed that Ter-Petrosian.s relatively dovish stand on the Karabagh conflict had been the main reason for his forced resignation, and it concluded that .his downfall has strengthened most of all a party of war veterans who show little inclination to compromise..

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From Ter-Petrosian To Kocharian- Leadership Change In Armenia Stephan Astourian


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