Thousands Dance to Mark Armenia’s Independence Holiday

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Tens of thousands of people–among them President Robert Kocharian–formed a human chain around Armenia’s highest mountain on Saturday in a dance that celebrated the 87th anniversary of the restoration of Armenian statehood.

The traditional Armenian circle dance took place along the 163-kilometer perimeter of the sprawling Mount Aragats and was meant to symbolize "national unity" on one of the country’s most important public holidays. Organizers hailed it as a resounding success–saying that more than 160,000 people participated in the unprecedented event.

"We will try to express the unity of our nation around Aragats," Kocharian said before he joined hands with fellow participants in the area about 60 kilometers north of Yerevan. "Thank you all for coming," he added.

The dance began at 3 p.m. local time after a public "blessing" voiced by the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church–Karekin II–and lasted for 15 minutes–with several Armenian fighter jets roaring overhead. Participants–each of them part of a group assigned to a particular section of the area–began arriving at the Aragats foot early in the morning.

The massive movement was overseen by the police that closed some of Armenia’s key highways for regular traffic. Thousands of buses and minibuses were diverted from their service routes in Yerevan and other parts of the country to transport people to the scene. The operation left public transportation in the capital effectively paralyzed throughout the day.

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