Anush MuradianYEREVAN — In Yerevan, April 24 is a day when the country mourns the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians under Ottoman rule during World War I.
This year, coming just one day after the resignation of Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian after 11 days of mass demonstrations, the somber mood of the traditional march to a memorial on Yerevan’s Tsitsernakaberd Hill was also mixed with a sense of confidence on the part of opposition supporters.
That’s because, for the first time, many were commemorating so-called “Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day” as victors rather than as victims.
“Victory is now in the hearts of the people,” said Ruzanna Hakobian, an opposition supporter from Yerevan who spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service while marching uphill to the Armenian Genocide memorial complex.
“We are coming here in a heady mood,” Hakobian said. “Although today is the day to remember the genocide victims, yesterday’s victory for us is the beginning of a new life in Armenia.”
Opposition supporter Anna Barseghian told RFE/RL that April 24 will have “a different meaning” in Armenia than in years past.
“It will not be the same April 24 that it used to be,” Barseghian said. “We feel liberated. Something good has happened.”
Speaking on the eve of the uphill commemoration march late on April 23, protest leader Nikol Pashinian said Armenians were going “together to tell our martyrs that the people have won and that the genocide of our people is in the past.”
During the march, some of Pashinian’s supporters who had faced off defiantly against Armenian riot police during the previous 11 days suddenly found themselves being escorted politely by the same police.
Instead of the defiance sometimes shown in recent days at protests, the opposition supporters on April 24 respectfully obeyed police requests for them to move to one side of the road.
But the commemoration march fell short of being a display of unconditional unity among Armenians.
Pashinian and his supporters did not start their hike up the hill until acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian had already completed the climb and had paid his respects at the memorial.
Karapetian, who served as the previous prime minister under Sarkisian and is a member of his ruling Republican Party of Armenia, had called a day earlier for all Armenians to show the world that they “can unite in critical times, hold negotiations, and find logical solutions.”