Explaining #ElectricYerevan
1 July, 2015

What You Need To Know:

✓ Thousands turn out onto the streets when police claimed they would disperse the protesters
✓ Armenian government came to a deal to avoid an electricity increase - by paying for it with taxpayers dollars, but the uprising rejected it
✓ It remains unlikely that #ElectricYerevan will turn into an anti-Russian protest
✓ "This is really a protest against the lack of government accountability, corruption and this feeling of exploitation."

In Yerevan, Armenia and other towns thousands of people have come out to protest the government ruling of a 16% increase in electricity costs. This protest has taken on many different dimensions with the electricity company being wholly Russian owned, well-known mismanagement of said company, as well as this latest increase in price representing the corruption and pillaging manner of the Armenian government.

And on June 28th, the Armenian police claimed that they would forcibly disperse protesters at 9:30pm local time, which only prompted more people to take to the streets.

“The protests for the last couple of days has been joyous… with a carnival like mood,” reports Karena Avedissian, Global Voices Contributor and Journalist.

“Now the mood of the crowd is very vigilant, people do not plan on leaving. It’s quite confrontational, quite tense.”

The Armenian government came to a deal where they would bear the burden of paying the funds that the electric company owes. “But the overwhelming consensus among the protesters is that this is not a solution,” Avedissian added.

“Its almost insulting… this compromise is something that affects the Armenian state just if the electricity hike had been raised because if the government pays this, it comes out of taxpayers pockets in the end anyway.”

Avedissian does not believe that the protests would be as large as they are if they were just about the electricity hike. This electricity hike represents the problems with Armenian government – and this has brought people out in their thousands.

“This is a situation that has been developing over the last several years, especially over the last three years where the government has raised (electricity) tariffs. This is really a protest against the lack of government accountability, corruption and this feeling of exploitation.”

When comparing ElectricYerevan to Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution, Karena is hesistant to equate the two, as Armenia is not Ukraine and this protest has several other factors influencing it.

“The fact is that the Maidan protest started in very similar ways, against a corrupt government. I don’t know to what degree the protests to turn into an overtly anti-Russian movement. The situation here is very different. Armenia is already part of the Eurasian Economic Union and security concerns with Azerbaijan and Russia is still viewed as a deterrent.”

Despite the unlikelihood of this protest becoming very anti-Russian, Avedissian does reflect on the frustrations of the Armenian people with the Russian state media coverage of the protests.

“It is very clear that Russian state media reports were not reflecting the reality on the ground. I think there is a lot of frustration and anger with how the Russian media is covering this.”

Hromadske International's Nataliya Gumenyuk and Ian Bateson spoke with Karena Avedissian by phone from Yerevan on June 28, 2015.