Interview with my Father
Source of the picture: Mediamax
Student: Anna Margaryan
Date of interview: 04.09.2020
Interviewee: Vladimir Margaryan (my Dad☺)
Place of birth: Kirovabad, Azerbaijan
The Soviet period was both one of the best and worst periods of Armenian history. There were both developments and recessions, both pros and cons of the already collapsed regime. My Dad, 63-years-old Vladimir kindly agreed to answer to some questions and share his experience.
Answering to the very first question about the Komsomol and Community Party, his answer was the following: “Every citizen had to be a member of the Komsomol, and if you didn’t, it was considered as a challenge to the whole Communist society. As to admissions to Komsomol, it was rather formal thing. First, you were admitted in school and were checked on communist ideology knowledge, but nobody really cared about that. So everyone was the member of Komsomol, but I can’t say the same about Community Party, it was quite difficult. Your commitment to the communist ideology did not really matter, because of the quotas, according to which the exact amount of professionals must be admitted. And the most interesting part was that every single person wanted to become its member because you simply couldn’t get a good job without being the Party member”. To the question, “then how were the members chosen among all the candidates?” Vladimir said: “Especially in Armenia, money decided who is going to become its member”.
The next question about Stalin repressions was an interesting one. Despite knowing his answer, I decided to ask the question anyway and listen to his experience once again. “Fortunately, none of our family member experienced Stalin repressions” said Vladimir, and then starting commenting on what it really was. “The victims of repressions could become ANYone, you could be a fair person, but your next door neighbor simple doesn’t like you and snitches on you as an anti-communist. Moreover, all your family could be arrested with you because they were not vigilant enough and let this happen. That was the awful reality of communist regime”.
Against all my prejudice and knowledge of his opinion on this topic, his answer to the question “What was it like to live in Soviet Armenia?” was kind of unexpected for me. He says “Despite all the above mentioned, the ordinary life of Soviet Armenian was quite happy, because all the people were equal, everyone had a job, and after graduation you were sure about your future”. I absolutely disagree with this point, as to me that is too little for being happy.
“Did they support the Soviet system?” I asked, the answer was the following: “Even if you supported it, the system was self-destructing. Some people blame Gorbachev, but this was not his fault. There were so many problems already, that there was no way rather than self-destruction. Having seen all the benefits and downsides of soviet system, I was sure it was going to collapse; it was just the matter of time”. I completely agree with this point, being sure that Gorbachev had nothing to do with the SU collapse; it was already collapsed when he came to power.
The question about victims was quite interesting for me to find out. After confirming that he didn’t know any victims of Soviet regime personally, he brought some great examples, one of which I am bringing to your attention: “Fortunately, I did not witness that, but there are great examples of prominent people who become its victims, such as Solzhenitsin. In his book “One day of Ivan Denisovich” Solzhenitsin described an old woman who had to walk 20 km to arrange her pension, and how they made the poor woman come and go for hundred times. Only for describing this scene in his book, Solzhenitcin was announced as a dissident. And this was the reality”.
Despite being born in independent Armenia, I have heard from elder generation a lot about the restrictions of travelling. This is what Vladimir said about his experience: “Unfortunately, I wasn’t abroad at that time, because it was a big problem. You had to have permissions from some people. It was easier to travel to socialist bloc states, such as Poland or Bulgaria, but not the USA or Europe”.
As to question about 5 key turning points in Armenia’s social and political life, a quite long story began, but I’ll try to bring the most important ones. In 1970s, the people started living as humans, for example the collective farmers started to retire, they even didn’t have passports and were not allowed to go to the city without permission. Next, science, economy and other fields started to develop. Nuclear power plants started to be built all around the USSR, one of which was built in Armenia. The relations with the USA started to develop and the evidence of that is Apollo-Soyuz, the first jointly international space mission. Perestroyka was also one of the major points of Armenia’s history, when Gorbachyov started the policy of private property. And of course one of the most tragic pages of Armenian recent history is Spitak earthquake. Already in 1980s, it was clear that the USSR is going to collapse soon, because many national movements began, such as Karabakh movement, and all the autonomies declared independence.
“What is your recollection of the Karabakh movement?” I asked. After a minute of silence and a smile, he continued: “The brightest recollection of Karabakh movement is the mass rallies. And especially the ones when my uncle arrived in Yerevan from Saint Petersburg to take part in them”. He also spoke about some prominent leaders of Kharabagh movement, highlighting Igor Muradyan. Gerard J. Libaridian in his book “The Challenge of Statehood: Armenian Political Thinking Since Independence” tells about some distinguished leaders of Kharabkh Committee, and about their vital role in Armenian political discourse of those times.
The main point of the last question about the collapse of the SU was that it was something awful. “We were the citizens of the 1/6 part of the world and suddenly we become the citizens of tiny Armenia” he said. In addition to war and earthquake, the manufacturing and economy stopped. Everyone was left without even belief to the future.
To conclude all the above mentioned, I would like to highlight that the sovetization of Armenia at that time was the core of its survival. Considering all the disadvantages all the soviet nations had, I am absolutely sure that without it Armenia couldn’t survive. Till now there are lots of why-s about SU that concern me and I’m trying to find the answers to. It was a long period, with its good and bads, but as to me bureaucracy and formality are one of the major indicators of its collapse.