Generally speaking historical moments are not something you can plan your schedule around. They are things that happen unexpectedly and end up being so important they change the face of history and thus get written down for future generations to learn about. In April Armenians successfully changed the political picture of their country by collectively taking to the streets protesting against the government in a movement that was so peaceful it has come to be known as the “Velvet Revolution”. Today, as I write this, Armenians are voting in an early parliamentary election because the acting Prime Minister is seeking a stronger mandate in order to continue with the reforms. Between today’s election and the velvet revolution in April they celebrated 100 days of freedom and I was there to witness it.
It wasn’t planed, I didn’t know there was going to be a celebration. Actually, I didn’t even know 100 days had passed since the velvet revolution. I just happened to be there on holidays. I mean, I knew they’d had a peaceful revolution, what I didn’t know was that to mark 100 days since the velvet revolution they they were declaring that day a holiday and were organizing a BIG concert in Republic Square. And what a party it was!
Vagary Hostel, where I was staying in Yerevan, was just outside the area cordoned off, effectively turning the whole town center into a pedestrian zone. In other words, my first taste of the celebration was to witness the already normally hectic traffic go mad with cars honking continuously, playing super loud music, and people hanging out of windows and sunroofs waving flags and singing. The euphoria was so contagious that I soon found myself joining the crowds walking towards Republic Square.
By the time I got to Republic Square the crowd was so tightly packed it was difficult to move amidst the throng but being in the thick of it was kind of exhilarating. Everyone exuded what, for a lack of a better word, I’ll refer to as an ‘air of jubilation’. At the center of Republic Square a large stage had been set up and what I assume were prominent local bands and celebrities were onstage providing entertainment. At one point images of the street demonstrations and news clips from April were shown on the big screens next to the stage. I only wish I could have understood the language in order to understand the lyrics of the songs and the speeches. Yet, regardless of my lack or Armenian I could definitely partake in the celebration. After all, young or old, local or foreigner it didn’t seem to matter as long as you had a big smile on your face and were dancing and singing.
I must have stayed in Republic Square 2 or 3 hours, captivated by the atmosphere of triumph encapsulating everyone, before slowly making my way back to the hostel and to bed.
I do not claim to understand all the political implications and I know many people would have been afraid to join in, claiming it might not be safe, or that the language barrier was too much of an impediment. They are just afraid and you shouldn’t listen to them. I didn’t need to understand the politics or speak the language to know that ultimately these people were overjoyed and all they wanted was to share their happiness with everyone. After all, happiness itself is a language all humans speak. Who ever heard of someone needing help interpreting a genuine smile?
So next time you find yourself somewhere where history is happening peacefully don’t just stand on the sidelines. Participate. You won’t regret it.