The ‘espionage passions’ and a whistleblowing virus
Russian Gazprom’s top manager, Karen Karapetyan’s nomination for the post of the Prime Minister of Armenia has been rightly regarded as Moscow’s intention to bolster its influence on Armenia. The need to choose the new head of government of the Republic of Armenia is certainly conditioned by a number of factors, but the Russian ruling circles’ concern over losing their positions in public opinion of the allied country probably has also played a certain role. Thus, the Prime Minister’s replacement in Armenia could be viewed within the context of other developments, including, on the ideological front.
Every time I come across some TV pieces that ‘probe into’ the technology of ‘color revolutions’, I immediately recall a wonderful soviet-time cartoon: The ‘Espionage Passions’. A climax of this animated film is an episode, when an infant’s ‘report’ prevented a huge subversive attack in the West: ‘Uncle, aunt, puke-puke, baba boom-boom, byaka”!
Approximately the same level of reasoning and reliability could be commonly found in all sorts of publications by the Armenian and Russian media, ‘exposing’ the activities of the ‘fifth column’, no matter what the latter is engaged in: be it saving forests or ensuring independence of the judiciary, protecting the property rights or monitoring the legitimacy of elections. They perceive that there is a plot, inspired from the outside, behind each of them.
There has never been any lack of such ‘damaging information’ against the Armenian politicians, journalists and civil activists, trying to prevent the ‘masters of life’ from managing the country at their own discretion. However, mostly the sub-national issues were solved that way earlier.
The ruling post-soviet elites’ interaction in ‘capturing Pokemons’ has become a new form of international solidarity, exchange of experiences on how to neutralize the threats to their regimes. Choosing the means from the know-how arsenal–confinement in the dungeons, inclusion in the ‘foreign agents’ list, creation of alternatives like GONGO (government-controlled civil society organizations), remained specifically a sovereign matter.
The domestic policy has conceded a status of the main scene of the ‘espionage passions’ to the interstate relations sphere only in the recent years, when the Kremlin firmly decided to stop the united Europe’s advancement deep into the former USSR area.
People in Armenia have started making assumptions about the existence of the western agents’ ‘black list’, compiled by the Russian Embassy in Yerevan jointly with the special services, following September 13, 2013. It was then that Armenian President, Serzh Sargsyan, unexpectedly stated about country’s intention to participate in building the Eurasian Economic Union, thus casting the draft EU-Armenia Association Agreement into the waste bin. It was quite logical to assume that all those, who were discontent with September ‘U-turn’, would be facing hard times.
In one of his interviews, RF Ambassador to Armenia, Ivan Volinkin, called on the local authorities to deal with the non-governmental organizations that were ‘driving a wedge’ in the Russian-Armenian relations. To the Armenian authorities’ credit, they responded in a rather decent manner, alleging that Armenian NGOs kept within the law and the government appreciated their activity.
If those, who have disapproved Armenia’s rotation on Moscow’s orbit, are not facing obvious pressure on part of their own government, the hostility flows from the North are getting more furious. And the more reasons the Armenian society has to distrust its strategic ally, the more intrusive the reciprocal love-enforcement measures become.
A sad story that happened to Sergey Permyakov, a serviceman of the Russian military base in Gyumri, who shot dead the whole family in 2015, but who hasn’t been actually transferred under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Armenia. Russian TV channels that once again discredited themselves, ‘having perceived’ an American trace in the social protest against increase of the power tariffs in June 2015.
Some provocative statements, made by the high-rank officials in Moscow about continuation of supplies of the new offensive weapons to Azerbaijan immediately upon their intensive use in a four-day war in April 2016. Open hints, made in July 2016, about the need for taking tough measures against Sasna Tsrer group (The Daredevils of Sasun), who had seized the patrol police regiment in Yerevan, announced about uprising and put forward some political demands, shared by significant part of the community irrespective of their attitude to the rebels themselves (and in this case, according to the Russian media and politicians, it hadn’t been without the ‘West’s hand’).
Disappointed expectations to improve population’s living standards though joining the Eurasian Economic Union. All the aforesaid are just some preconditions that shattered the Armenian citizens’ confidence in the country, from which, like in one old movie, the ‘hope from the North’ was supposed to rise and a term ‘decolonization’ was to be included in the national political agenda.
An anonymous appeal to the Armenian authorities was released in response to the aforesaid end of August this year (the appeal was signed by ‘Ardarutyan Tur’, an organization that claims to be representing the Armenian Diaspora, though no one has ever heard about it and its activity before). The very fact that the text in the audio version of this publication was read into a microphone by Philip Ekozyants, one of the initiators of Kharkov ‘anti-maydan’, suggests where the traces of this publication lead to on social media.
This appeal-denunciation provides a list of organizations and persons (MPs, well-known parties, NGOs, Mass Media), who, at the instigation of the U.S. intelligence agencies, are allegedly going to ‘stab a knife into our [Armenians] back’…It ends with a call, first of all, to ‘the law-enforcement agencies’, to prevent the traitors’ penetration into the country’s top positions’, as well as hints that the ‘authorities’ inaction… will testify’ to their support for these traitors.
The whistle-blowing virus and spy-mania have encompassed the segment of traditional and new Armenian mass media, that tends to see the root of country’s troubles in its cooperation with the European structures and the USA, whereas its salvation – in the Eurasianism and Russia. It’s hard not associate a far more consistent and persistent activity of those media and public organizations with the recent intensification of the activity of ‘Rossotrudnichestvo (Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation), “Sputnik international news agency and some other Russian structures, declaring the ‘soft power’ policy.
Though, judging by the recent developments, this power is far from being soft. On August 30, Russian border guards didn’t allow the Stepan Grigoryan, the Director of the Analytical Center on Globalization and Regional Cooperation (ACGRC), to cross the border at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport. As they claimed, under the legal provisions regulating a procedure of ‘deportation of the foreign citizens participating in the activities of international organizations that are not desirable in the territory of Russia,’ he was banned from entering the Russian Federation until 2030.
In view of the fact that ACGRC is not operating in the territory of the Russian Federation, the only ‘activity’ that Grigoryan was going to ‘carry out’ during his 10-hour transit trip to Moscow, was to visit his father’s grave. It’s useless to guess what exactly made him persona non –grata, especially as there hadn’t been the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official response to the Armenian diplomatic agency’s relevant inquiry by the time the article was written.
Russian Embassy in Yerevan denies the existence of ‘black lists’. However, taking into account the sick imagination and the level of incompetence of the blow-whistling enthusiasts, cutting themselves loose on mass and social media. You can easily imagine, how perverse their classified information about the Armenian ‘West’s agents’ could be. Thus, a ban on crossing the Russian border may seem a very soft measure for the figurants of those whistleblowing reports.
… As a student, the author of these lines tried to imagine from time to time, how this or that of his acquaintances would have behaved in 1937. What would he have been – an author of anonymous letters or a potential victim of reprisals? He frequently built the relations with others based on the aforesaid. I wish such modeling of behavior wouldn’t become topical for the present-day Armenia.