Recently, we had a working lunch with a group of experts from one of the most influential European analytical centers with several Armenian experts, during which we exchanged thoughts on the latest regional developments and the impressions the group members received during their visit to Armenia.
During the discussion, one of the members of that expert group, who is a well-known theoretician of international relations, raised a logical question: why is there no visible dissatisfaction with the RA authorities in Armenia after the foreign political and security failures of this scale?
The most obvious answer to this question is, of course, that the parliamentary opposition is discredited and legitimizes the disastrous policy of the current authorities with its existence and with its unrealistic approaches. In the absence of a real political alternative, the passive majority of the Armenian society, which, according to various social polls, does not support any of the forces present in the political field, does not become an active majority.
However, this phenomenon, which surprises even foreign experts who have spent a few days in Armenia, has other reasons.
Months after the defeat in the 44-day war, the RA authorities began to think about the creation of a network of loyal experts and public figures, through which an opportunity would be created to control internal Armenian discourse. This idea was discussed for the first time months before the 2021 parliamentary elections.
However, it took on a more objective appearance during 2022, when a format consisting of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and various experts, journalists, public figures and Facebook activists was created, within the framework of which the head of the country presented to this group the ideas and approaches of the ruling power regarding the current processes.
Meetings with the Prime Minister in this format began to have a periodic character from some stage. In the course of them, Pashinyan and other officials presented various official messages to that group. A large part of the participants of those meetings later spread these stories through their interviews and publications. Of course, it would be incorrect to claim that all the participants of those meetings are engaged in spreading government propaganda, but it is obvious that a certain core has formed among them, which does not see any problem in performing such a function.
Over time, an informal network has been formed from figures performing such a role, through which the authorities are able not only to spread their own words in the media field, but also to successfully distribute the responsibility for their own failures among other actors. The government’s control over public television allows all those propaganda speeches to be delivered to the general public through this network of “independent” experts and public figures, controlling the public discourse in Armenia. These propaganda stories are also spread through these people’s social networks and their public speaking activities in other media.
This informal network created by the authorities succeeds in instilling in a significant part of the Armenian public the idea that the unprecedented foreign political and security failures of the last period were patterns that could not be avoided. Moreover, these groups create an illusion among the public that Armenia is achieving continuous foreign policy successes, weakening its dependence on Russia and strengthening the country’s sovereignty.
However, it should be noted that these figures who actually engage in government propaganda sometimes have different motives. Some are convinced that their ideas about the ongoing processes correspond to reality, others are convinced that with similar steps they are protecting Armenia’s sovereignty, rather than serving narrow governmental interests. However, many are consciously involved in these processes, expecting certain benefits from them (position, status, recognition).
However, figures with different motives are united by one circumstance. they create a distorted picture of reality, which does not allow the general public to correctly assess the ontological dangers threatening Armenia and the factors that aggravate them. In fact, the authorities have created an alternative reality, a bubble, with this community serving them.
In that sense, the establishment of a truly independent expert field and civil society in Armenia is a serious security issue. The above-mentioned formats and networks, which are useful for internal political purposes, are already becoming a serious problem for the existence of sober discussions about the security, sovereignty and future of Armenia within the country.