Today is Armenian Independence Day.
Fifteen years ago -- September 21, 1991 -- the Soviet Republic of Armenia proclaimed its independence. The move came after a referendum in which 94% of the voters said "yes".
September, 1991: the last days of the Soviet Union. Just a month earlier, Soviet hardliners had attempted a coup against Mikhail Gorbachev. The coup succeeded in crippling Gorbachev but failed to revive the USSR; the big winner was Boris Yeltsin, the new President of Russia.
The dying USSR recognized the independence of the Baltic States on September 6. In November, Yeltsin banned the Communist Party. At the beginning of December, Ukraine declared independence, and a week or later Yeltsin and the leaders of Ukraine and Belarus formally dissolved the USSR.
Meanwhile, Armenians and Azeris had been killing each other in Nagorno-Karabakh for a couple of years. By September 1991, there'd been two waves of ethnic cleansing: Azeris out of Armenia, and Armenians out of Azerbaijan -- and two more waves were under way: an attempt by the Azeris to expel the Armenians from Karabakh (which would fail) and an attempt by the Armenians to expel the Azeris from Karabakh (which would succeed).
The Nagorno conflict would turn into full-fledged war in January 1992, with the Xocali Massacre (of a village full of Azeris) in February; the war would continue until April 1994.
(And where was I fifteen years ago? I was a young lawyer in the Northern Marianas Islands. I had followed the Gulf War with deep interest, but the ongoing collapse of the USSR made little impression on me. I was learning to scuba dive and waiting to hear if I'd passed the local bar exam. Armenian independence, I fear, went right past me.)
If I were Armenian, I might take this opportunity to contemplate what's happened since 1991... the good (Armenia maintaining its precarious independence, the gradual recovery of the economy, etc.) and the bad (Nagorno still unresolved, borders still closed, etc.).
But since I'm not Armenian, I'm just going to focus on one odd thing: the Independence Day Parade here in Yerevan.