Closure of the exhibition is anti-democratic and anti-constitutional

On September 9 we witnessed another example of democratic principles falling in Armenia. This time an exhibition was closed by labeling “politicized”. Deputy Minister of Culture of the Republic of Armenia Arev Samuelyan told to Radio Liberty that being “politicized” was the reason for closure of the exhibition titled “Eclipse” dedicated to Bolshevik torture victims and initiated by Tumanyan House-Museum.

The exhibition, dedicated to the blessed memory of the victims of Soviet dictatorship had to offer alternative coverage of the bolshevik revolution to Soviet discourse, but was closed because of being “politicized.”

“Do not politicize”

In general, the desire to depoliticize politics and issues related to it is not new in Armenia. The expression “do not politicize” is, perhaps, one of the most beloved expressions of the ruling government. Although the question arises how not to politicize the pages of history associated with a change in political system, namely, violent conquest of the First Republic of Armenia by the bolsheviks. The death of people killed for their political views has already been politicized, so this issue can not be considered outside the political context.

Anticonstitutional censorship

According to Article 8 of the RA Constitution “ideological pluralism and a multi-party system are guaranteed in the Republic of Armenia”. In other words, according to the RA Constitution citizens of the Republic of Armenia have the constitutional right to have different opinions on political issues. Consequently, closure of the exhibition is unconstitutional and limits the right of citizens of Armenia to pluralism, what is one of the cornerstones of a democratic state. Similarly, tomorrow another governing body of Armenia can prohibit the publication of a newspaper whose articles, in their opinion, are “politicized”.

Politicized closure of “Eclipse”?

It is noteworthy that the exhibition was opened on August 22 and was agreed with the Ministry of Culture in advance, since, as Minister of Culture Armen Amiryan noted: “All SNCOs under the Ministry of Culture of Armenia must negotiate their exhibitions with the Ministry on an annual basis.” Therefore, why should the exhibition approved earlier be closed?

Let us recall that the museum director Narine Tukhikyan received a number of threats for the initiation of the exhibition. “We had to close the exhibition as a result of slander. Some people have applied to some structures, and I believe they resorted to blackmail in order to do it”, she said telling that a 70-year-old lieutenant-colonel threatened her by phone.

Hence, we can assume that this decision was the result of Soviet nostalgia inside our government institutions. Our officials have not overcome their Soviet past in order to be capable of facing the past mistakes. In other words, we can state that there has not yet been an ideological generation change within Armenian government.

Nevertheless, regardless of the explanations and reasons, this is a clear anti-democratic move that contradicts to the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia and is a blow against pluralism in the country.

Anna Pambukhchyan
Union of Informed Citizens