Sunday, November 12, 2006

Socialism In One Village

From, a wonderful story of a village in Armenia where Communism is a way of life:

"Long Live Communism!," "Long Live Socialism!," "Long Live the Great October Revolution!" In the Armenian village of Lernamerdz, about 40 kilometers from Yerevan, communism and its triumphant proclamations are not a dim recollection. They are a way of life.

In Soviet times, there were reportedly only seven communists in Lernamerdz, a hamlet of over 500 residents. But the situation changed after Armenia gained independence in 1991, and began to dismantle monuments to communist leaders, villagers say.

Amidst the economic hardships and political uncertainties of independence, Lernamerdz Communist Party Secretary Samvel Mirzoyan says, the village began to see socialism as their sole support.
"They say the country has become independent, but from what?" commented villager Azat Barseghyan. "Once we were dependent on Russia, and lived well… [T]oday we depend on the whole world and are struggling to survive."

"The example of Lernamerdz is a good illustration of what great results people’s unity and rallying around a common idea can bring," said Armenian Communist Party First Secretary Ruben Tovmasyan. "The powerful ideology of socialism cannot die. It can retreat for a while, but it is certain to come back and triumph." Communist Party membership in Armenia currently stands at about 18,000 members; the party has no seats in parliament.

The lack of political muscle does little to dissuade these villagers, though. Nearly 15 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the first toast at birthday and wedding parties here is in honor of Vladimir Lenin. Unlike elsewhere in Armenia, schoolchildren are familiar with communist holidays, and can recite by heart poetry dedicated to the now much-maligned leader of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

And as in Soviet times, November 7, the anniversary of that revolution, remains cause for official celebration, with Communist Party representatives from nearby towns and the party’s national leadership on hand to congratulate villagers.

"Our leader is with us, hurrah!" ring out the cries of villagers applauding a silvery two-ton statue of Lenin that stands in the center of the village. The monument, adorned with a red banner that proclaims "Proletarians of All Countries, Unite!," arrived only in 1997. It is repaired every year to maintain its appearance.

The central government’s enthusiasm for the festivities runs thin, however. Villagers told EurasiaNet that the government had changed the principal of the Lernamerdz school and forbidden children to come to school in red scarves, or to take part in the November 7 celebration. But some still attended.

"The spirit of communism is in this village," commented Sofik Manukyan, second secretary of the Echmiadzin city branch of the Armenian Communist Party.

Even so, that "spirit" has so far done little to improve living conditions for village inhabitants. Unemployment still looms large. Some 150 people have left Lernamerdz in the past few years, said villager Barseghyan. Twenty-three houses have had their doors locked for years, he added.

Nonetheless, optimism for a better life persists. It is all just a matter of time, villagers say.

"When communism returns to Armenia, people will lead a happy life," concluded 41-year-old Rostam Avdalyan. "Everyone will be happy then and the sun will shine brightly."

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