Armenia’s ruling party frames anti-government protesters as ‘Russia-backed’ on social media: DEMOCRACY WATCH #4

Armenia’s ruling party frames anti-government protesters as ‘Russia-backed’ on social media: DEMOCRACY WATCH #4



By Tigran Grigoryan and Karena Avedissian


Ruling party links protesters to Russia on social media accounts


Leaders of the protest movement opposing the transfer of four Tavush villages to Azerbaijan are demanding the resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. And in recent days, they have become targets of a coordinated social media disinformation campaign. A CivilNet investigation has found that the campaigns, mostly on Facebook, are generated by the country’s ruling party. Among the main targets is the leader of the protest movement Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, the Primate of the Tavush Diocese.


During the lead-up to and throughout the September 2023 Yerevan municipal elections, some of these same Facebook pages disseminated false narratives about the primary opposition candidate, former Yerevan Mayor Hayk Marutyan.


These news pages claim that the archbishop is backed by former Armenian President Robert Kocharyan as well as the Kremlin. They circulate videos and photos suggesting his involvement in a “Russian plan to destabilize Armenia.” Some of these images depicted the archbishop alongside prominent Russian figures such as President Vladimir Putin and Russian media executive Margarita Simonyan.


While the protest movement may maintain some connections with Russia, branding it entirely as orchestrated by Moscow is both problematic and factually incorrect. This campaign is aimed at delegitimizing political opponents and weakening societal discourse and discontent regarding policies related to National Security in Armenia.


Protest movement speaker Anais Sardaryan’s comments about “non-Armenians”


Actress Anais Sardaryan addressed the protest rally on Sunday, saying that those who are not Armenian should leave the country.


She later clarified that she believed her reference to non-Armenians had been misinterpreted, arguing that the “non-Armenians” she referred to are current government officials.


This rhetoric is problematic as it constitutes the delegitimization of political opponents through an extreme us vs. them framing. This approach not only points to nativist ideology, it also alienates Armenia’s ethnic minorities.


At the time of this writing, none of the protest leaders have condemned her statements.


No plurality of voices being aired on Armenian Prime Time TV


Since the first protest rally against the handover of the four villages in the Tavush region at Republic Square on May 9, the state-run public television channels have not invited any movement representatives for comments or discussions. The prime time political talk show “Interview with Petros Ghazaryan” on Public Television has featured three guests so far on the topic – two deputies from the ruling party, and one expert who backed the government’s position on border delimitation, criticizing the protest movement.


Additionally, a CivilNet investigation revealed that as of May 3, there has been no coverage featuring residents from the Tavush region, where the transfer of four villages to Azerbaijan is planned and where the impact of the policy will be felt most.



Democracy Watch is a joint initiative by CivilNet and the Regional Center for Democracy and Security.