Happy Independence Day Armenia

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Armenian independence from the USSR.

Now, American Independence Day is arguably one of our best holidays. The Armenians don’t do it up quite like we do, perhaps because it’s hard to fathom a celebration of such magnificence, but they do partake in their own interesting customs.

Locally, there was a gathering in the town park. The park, which is usually empty save for a few old guys on a bench or the old lady operating the soviet-era carousel ride, was bustling with everyone in town on hand. There was the handicapped guy, the cool Irish-beard guy, the kid that always cries at the YMCA, the director of another NGO in town that loathes me for not coming to help them, the mayor, and more. There were a string of performances by students of the sports school, music school, and some sort of youth Army club. We stood there, the 3 Americans, and weathered the initial storm of attention. I served as a beacon for any teenager who spoke English, standing a good foot above the rest of the crowd. You could feel a nice energy and busyness to the town which is usually lacking. I realized that they are probably starved for community events like this one. Later there were fireworks. They lasted only a matter of seconds, which makes complete sense. But it felt like nothing! A reminder that America is the land of plenty.

Nationally, the focus was all on Yerevan. The center was shut down for days to prepare and practice a large parade in Republic Square. I didn’t get to see the parade on TV, but I did see pictures online. I am still a bit shocked at the makeup of the parade. When I think of parades, I think of homemade floats carrying random groups of people in costumes, pleading for a candy throw, admiring the Shriners’ funny cars, covering my ears as the fire engine blasts its horn, and waving at friendly police officers. And later in life parades meant playing trombone while marching in formation, doing the same song over and over. I never associated parades with the military.

The Ballistic Missiles that keep me safe (Photo: ArmeniaNow)

In Armenia apparently a parade is meant for the military. Maybe that’s how parades originated. Regardless, it is odd for me to see these pictures of massive military vehicles being shown-off. There was nothing but soliders and vehicles (besides a small group of marching priests). There was even a Russian troop in the parade. One “military expert” wrote an article and claimed that the parade was not a show of force. He compared the showing to Azerbaijan’s parades, which ARE a measuring stick. But the Armenian parade was just, “Meh, let’s put 4,000 soldiers and 3,000 armored vehicles on display for fun – not to show our military strength.”

I’m sure there is something cultural to pick out of the way they did their big parade. The military has played a large role in protecting Armenia and keeping it independent these last 20 crazy years. And I know they are proud of what they have. As a small nation, there is probably a need to reassure the public that, “Hey, we can kick some ass if needed.” But it also seems a bit odd to me that they are giving this huge show of military strength while trying to work out a peaceful solution with Azerbaijan. Besides that, I feel there is a lot more here to celebrate than just the military. Their musicians, artists, actors, dancers, singers, accomplished athletes, kids, NGOs, and famous people were left out of a parade that could have been a lot cooler and a whole lot less serious.

Anyway, I’m sure there is something cultural that I’m just missing. The Independence Day was interesting. It made me thankful for our own and the way we celebrate it (gotta be the best in the world). For a people that are thousands of years old to be celebrating their 20th anniversary as a new country was also fascinating. Many people I know have lived through the transition to independence, which breathes life and meaning into a holiday that we often take for granted.

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2 Responses to “Happy Independence Day Armenia”

  1. ejehle86 Says:

    love it 🙂

  2. icenugget Says:

    love you (sorry Ben)

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