Asbarez: Speaker’s Call to Change National Anthem Sparks Opposition Accusations of Concessions to Turkey and Azerbaijan

Another irresponsible remark from Parliament Speaker Alen Simonyan, this time about an imperative to change Armenia’s National Anthem and Coat of Arms, has led opposition leaders to accuse Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his party of making concessions to Turkey and Azerbaijan.

In a rant on his Telegram social media channel, Simonyan said “Mer Hairenik,” Armenia’s National Anthem, is “foreign” and has no connection “with our state and Armenian music,” calling for a national song that is “Armenian.”

The words to “Mer Hairenik” were written by Mikael Nalbandian and the score was arranged by the famous Armenian composer, Barsegh Ganachian. The song was adopted as Armenia’s National Anthem during the 1918 republic, with an iteration being approved in 1991 as the anthem for the present-day Armenian Republic.

Simonyan then went on to mock Armenia’s Coat of Arms, calling the lion depicted on a shied “a Facebook smiley face.” He apparently also took issue with Mount Ararat depicted in the center of the emblem, saying that Armenia was “under water.” He added that the sword, “should not be chained,” whereas the sword depicted in the emblem is surrounded by wheat stalks that symbolize abundance.

Naturally, a spokesperson for Simonyan later said that the Parliament Speaker was expressing his own views on the matter — a now common situation that has landed Yerevan in diplomatic and social hot waters in the past.

Reacting to Simonian’s comments, opposition lawmakers claimed that Pashinyan’s government is planning to change the state symbols in order to placate Ankara and Baku.

“This is another demand of the Turkish-Azerbaijani duo,” said Gegham Manukyan a member of the opposition Hayastan alliance. He explained that Turkey and Azerbaijan are attempting to force Yerevan to erase all references of Armenia’s millennia-old history.

“They [Ankara and Baku] need a small state which is detached from its roots and with which they could do anything they want,” added Manukyan.

Simonyan’s rant comes at a time when Baku is challenging Armenia’s Constitution, vocally claiming that it had raised objections to the document at the onset of peace talks with Yerevan. Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan last week acknowledged last week that Baku has voiced reservations about the Constitution’s preamble, which references Armenia’s Declaration of Independence that calls for the unification of Armenia and Artsakh.

Pashinyan himself criticized the Declaration of Independence, saying it sows conflict, and earlier this month called for a new constitution that better reflects the current geopolitical realities in the region.

Pashinyan has also criticized the Armenia’s Coat of Arms, saying last year that it emphasizes a “dichotomy between historical Armenia and real Armenia.”