The RA NA Deputy Speaker Lena Nazaryan took part in the Conference Berlin Wall – From the Divided to the City of Freedom held in Berlin on November 7-11. The NA Vice President said in her speech:
“Something there is that doesn't love a wall… ”
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure that in my capacity as Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia, I have joined this historic event, the 30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall .
I would like to extend my words of gratitude to the representatives of the Academy for Cultural Diplomacy for their invitation, and for this opportunity to address this summit.
I hold high public office in Armenia; but today I will not be speaking as a state representative only. I will be speaking as a contributor to the 2018 Velvet Revolution of Armenia, known otherwise as Revolution of Love and Solidarity. I will be speaking as an activist who has had her share in the process of democratization in my country; as someone whose life as a child was affected profoundly by the momentous fall of the Berlin Wall. I will be speaking as someone who later – in the not-so-immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union – joined the ranks of all those who had set in motion the wheels of opening cracks in the structure of global authoritarianism.
A year ago, in the autumn of 2018, the people of Armenia — determined to carry the waves of our Revolution forward — began a struggle against systemic corruption in the country. They were adamant in their decision to remove bricks from the tall tower the previous semi-authoritarian government had erected.
They chose their first milestone to be the staging of new and free parliamentary elections in Armenia. Once the new parliament was formed, we joined forces with Armenia’s new government and other democratic institutions to carry out reforms, which, among other things, also aimed at removing the barriers created by the country’s previous regime.
It is my firm belief that these combined efforts are part and parcel of a much broader context – our undertakings continue and are on a par with the logic of what the Berliners and the other societies of the former Eastern Bloc and Soviet republics started as many as three decades ago.
Ironically, the Wall of Berlin – that ostentatious symbol of division – has now become a memory symbolizing unification – against iron curtains, against deterrence, against political repressions, and the like.
The Wall of Berlin is an unkind reminder to all of us – to the citizens on either side of the barricade – that a wall ՛ is a wall ՛ is a wall; that a wall can separate families; that a wall can turn the inside into an outside; that it can turn our deluded ideas about otherness into the reality of regular people’s daily lives.
So, what we are celebrating today is not a matter of international and domestic politics only, an event changed the political map of Europe and marked the revival of democracy throughout the continent. Today we are also celebrating an event that brought families back together, gave people mobility, a sense of freedom, solidarity.
We are honouring an event today that, I think, emphasized in full the fullness of what it is to be human; of what it is to live as humans, act as humans. The present we happen to be living in may seem brighter than the past we had, but it's a past never to be forgotten. The joy of achievement should never make us blind to the circumstances of the past that once, back in 1961, made the disaster of a wall across a city an undertaking possible.
Today's celebrations also stress the importance of drawing lessons from history. We must reflect upon the conditions of politics, and the conditions of political thinking, which allowed us to push hostilities to heights of such magnitude; we must identify their causes and analyze the dire consequences that follow all such decisions.
It is therefore important that we commit ourselves to the task of leaving not one brick on a brick when it comes to tearing down the walls that tear us apart; when it comes to tearing down the walls that undermine democracy.
The year of 1989 was a tumultuous year. Late in spring and early in summer, as the people of Hungary began the removal of Hungary’s border fence with Austria, and as the people of Berlin were demolishing their wall of shame in November, the people in Armenia, too, began, a year earlier, challenging the borders imposed on them by the Soviet regime. Their aim was to resort to legal instruments, and to peaceful means, to be able to overcome the divide between the two segments of Armenians living in Armenia proper and the Autonomous Region of Nagorno-Karabakh. On those days, when the most tangible symbol of the Cold War era was being brought down in Berlin, the authorities of Soviet Azerbaijan did their best to suppress those democratic developments.
They blockaded Armenia, as well as the Lachin Corridor, the only passage linking Armenia to Nagorno Karabakh. This exacerbated rivalries, and the region succumbed to a tripartite military confrontation of large-scale proportions.
After three decades, the conflict remains unresolved.
The blockade of the Lachin Corridor may have been lifted, but Armenia's borders with Azerbaijan, and consequently also with Turkey, remain closed to this day.
The specter of this semi-frozen conflict had been, until recently, an important background factor -- an effective instrument — for stamping out peoples’ democratic aspirations both in Armenia and Azerbaijan; for committing and justifying human rights abuses; for neglecting people's demands for reform and change; and importantly, for perpetuating the firmness of position of the local semi-authoritarian regimes in the region.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has for years on end posed formidable obstacles to the region's smooth transition to long-term democracy and to lasting prosperity.
The bitter pills that the people of Germany and the people of my country had to swallow were not of the same making. Yet, the two experiences show that there is no such authoritarianism that can succeed in keeping people torn apart forever; there are no such walls — nor any blockades or barricades, chains or straitjackets — that prevail forever.
Indeed, it is in the nature of authoritarian regimes that they should impose restrictions and breed intolerance; it is in the nature of authoritarian regimes that they should draw curtains made from iron and build up battlements made from steel and heaviest concrete; it is in the nature of authoritarian regimes that they should impose on people immobility of thought and immobility of action.
But it is also in the nature of human spirit that it will always find gateways into liberation. We must therefore never turn a blind eye to this basic feature of our human composition; we must instead breathe life into such aspirations; give shape to such demands; and promote, of course, the values of free thought, democracy, human rights and solidarity – be it inside our own countries or the outer world of interstate relations.
It is inevitable that iron curtains vanish one day. It is also inevitable that all the walls of authoritarianism fall apart one day. But they also leave an indelible mark on our memories. They always leave a trail of damage behind – the damages of inequality and antagonism.
Importantly, the physical demolition of any wall creates a void – a vestige – that perpetuates its invisible presence – the presence of dividedness in our heads, and in our lives.
The Wall of Berlin symbolized pain, separation, repression, and antagonism. Its demolition 30 years ago inspired hopes, and the belief that we stand on the verge of a new era. Much has changed, but it is also common knowledge that the divide that separates the East from the West has not been overcome completely.
The invisible walls of division lead a secret life of their own even inside societies with longstanding traditions of established democracy. It is alarming to see that there is a rising tide of antidemocratic forces in Europe.
Their rhetoric of separatism and divisionism seeks pathways into restoring the east-west divide of Europe.
We must give serious warning concerning these developments and view them as a call for sobriety. These newly emerging challenges to democracy invest the 30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall with a new meaning.
This anniversary should inspire us to continue the work of our parents, but with greater subtlety and greater sensitivity to the existence of invisible walls. It requires courage, and also patience and consistency, so we can identify the invisible walls first, and only after that, move on to the task of abolishing them. Indeed, it is our task today to break through such invisible barriers and promote equality and solidarity.
We remember and we understand that physical walls are usually the workings of invisible walls. But we must also keep in mind that the demolition of invisible walls, just like any other popular revolution of emancipation, requires unending commitment and permanent effort. When a popular revolution falls short of continuity, or of reform, it gives way to political divisions, and to the rise of other newly emerging walls – visible and invisible.
I see these barriers to be the ulcers of our shared history. They are in need of a radical cure, which we can achieve through intense exchange and through the strengthening of our cultural, economic, political and inter-societal ties.
Thanks to the efforts of the generation of our parents, the wall of Berlin has become no more. It is now our turn to bridge the chasm between east and west, so we can build a happier and a safer world.
Today, 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, democracy is in need of ardent devotees more than ever. I believe that we, the people who have gathered here, have a shared commitment. I believe we all want to tear down all the real and imaginary walls that separate us, and that we are all committed to the task of spreading and fostering democracy and human rights throughout the world.
We must build bridges of Love and Solidarity, so we can experience a shortage of construction materials for building walls and for engineering barriers.
In the opening lines of his famous poem, “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost writes that “[s]omething there is that doesn't love a wall.” Frost is vague about who, or what, he thinks that ‘something’ that doesn’t love a wall is. I’d like to believe that one of the names for this ‘something’ is Humanity.”