Government Shelves Plans for New Armenian Anthem

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The government Thursday shelved its controversial plans to change Armenia’s national anthem after facing strong resistance from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, a member of the ruling coalition. A draft law approved by ministers would keep the existing "Mer Hayrenik" anthem in force for at least one more year. The bill will be put before parliament next month. "Mer Hayrenik" was the official anthem of the independent Armenian republic from 1918-1920. It was for decades banned by the Soviet authorities before being reinstated by Armenia’s first post-Communist government in 1990. Earlier this year the government formed an ad hoc commission made up of prominent intellectuals, artists and government officials and tasked with organizing a contest for a new anthem. The commission headed by Culture Minister Hasmik Poghosian short-listed last August five out of 85 songs submitted by local composers, calling a public debate on the issue. The short-list included Soviet Armenia’s former anthem with altered lyrics that no longer glorify Soviet rule and the Communist Party. The commission selected its music, written by the late prominent composer Aram Khachatourian, as the winner of the contest but rejected the lyrics, urging local authors to submit better words for the tune. The government found the partial solution unacceptable after strong objections voiced by The ARF. Leaders of the party and other politicians have opposed any change of the anthem. They were particularly incensed by the selection of the Soviet-era song. "We will strive to make sure that our fellow lawmakers correctly assess the situation and prevent the adoption of any other anthem," Deputy Parliament Speaker and ARF Bureau member Vahan Hovannisian said on Monday. "An anthem to the tune of which people were taken to Siberia is unacceptable." Prime Minister Andranik Markarian also questioned the wisdom of restoring the Soviet-era anthem as he spoke to journalists on Wednesday. "We must have an anthem acceptable to all of us," he said.

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