Student: Anahit Budaghyan
September 5th, 2020
Interviewee: Budaghyan Arshaluys
• Colonel and former Deputy Head of Police of Lori region
• Born on July 10, 1947 in Koghb, Tavush region, Armenia.
[Me] – Papi, were you a member of the Komsomol Party1?
[Grandpa] – Yes, I used to be a member of it till the collapse of USSR2.
[Me]- How did you become a member? (under which circumstances)
[Grandpa] – Through an interview. Generally, people were all accepted to Komsomol, as they
turned 14/15, of course, if that person was not a hooligan or a bad-educated one.
[Me]- Did you give importance to that membership?
[Grandpa] – At that time, under the Soviet rule, it was important because if you were not a
communist party member so you were a “persona non grata” man.
[Me]- Ok, papi, did you have any family experience with the Stalinist exterminations,
repressions, concentration camps3?
[Grandpa] – No.
[Me]- Thank God! What it felt like to live in the Soviet Union (Armenia)? What are the
privileges and the disadvantages that you had?
[Grandpa] – You asked me a question which requires a very extended answer.
[Me]- Yeah, papi, please, tell me everything!
[Grandpa] – There was a strict discipline in the country often assured by force and pressure both
in public spaces and in workplaces. “Moral Code of the Builder of Communism”4 included rules
about the proper behavior of a communist in the community.
[Me]- Did you like that? Do you with hindsight think it was right?
[Grandpa] – It can seem hard to believe, but Yes, I do.
[Grandpa] – According to my moral principles, I did not and still do not accept hooligans,
babblers, and robbers. During the Soviet era, many jobs were available, there even was a
criminal responsibility for being unemployed. “Militsiya”5 was responsible for finding these
kinds of people, consequently exerting pressure on them, and finding workplaces for them.
People were not paid high wages, yet there was no one in need of poking around in garbage cans.
In fact, there were people who wandered through the streets to make some money. Some of them
were unable to work, nonetheless, most of them were people who were eager to work. Besides
this, the country gave balanced amount of jobs to the members of the community plus the prices
for the products of the first necessity was the same in all shops, and the products were available
to everyone. Thus, people who were working could live in a moderate way. Of course, saying
normal is relative, but in any case, no one was hungry or thirsty. But there was such kind of
thing: it wasn’t allowed to work more and earn more. There were people who had the
opportunity and strength to work far more but the result of their work was planned in advance.
For example, imagine a person who worked at a factory polishing details. Now imagine that one
piece costed 2 rubles and that person had the opportunity to polish 20 pieces and have a 40
rubles-worth salary, but he was forced to make just 3. The aim of this was the planned economy6,
thus the salary was counted with the average productivity per person.
Moreover, if anyone wanted to buy a car, it was mandatory to present a declaration
showing the source of his/her money. There were lots of people who registered their cars with
others’ names. To illustrate the point, a storekeeper who robbed and became rich, asked one of
his/her relatives to register the car and then that certain person become a proxy in order to get the
alliance to drive “another’s” car.
Let’s take the sphere of production, for example the one of Vanadzor (former
Kirovakan)7. The knitting fabric worked in this way: the workers were sewing and sending to
other Soviet countries regarding who they had agreements with. Because the production was of a
poor quality, the items were returned and stored in the warehouse where the goods remained for
quite a long period of time, yet the worker was paid both for the good and bad production. In
other words, workers had no responsibility of the quality of the production and that is why the
economy was not developing.
Another example: there was a machine-tool plant in Kirovakan, the plan was to produce
15 units of machines. And they did not even pay attention to whether they needed these
machines or not. So, there was no connection between supply and demand, and that was one of
the reasons that the Soviet Union came to its end. That period was also called “stagnation years”,
because a planned economy was not a rational way of leading an economy.
Let’s bring one example of the economic “short-sighted” policy in the SU: in Ural off
roaders were produced and marked as “Ural military”. Kirovakan’s electro factory produced a
special device which was meant to be placed in those cars and used for military purposes. That
device weighed 10 kg, and instead of sending these pieces to Ural8 where a specialist could insert
them, they organized a whole rolling-stock with the military accompany came to Kirovakan to
insert that piece and went back. They created artificial expenses and just wanted to exceed the
[Me] -Thank you, papi, you gave a lot of information! But now let’s talk about the freedom of
speech. As we all know the Soviet Union had control over individuals’ expression of
[Grandpa] – One was forced to say what the country wanted. And if the internal right was
banned, the place of that person was somewhere else9.
[Me] – Well, do you have a positive or negative attitude to this?
[Grandpa] – How on earth can it be positive? At that time dictatorship was perceived positively,
and of course, it led to an easy way of ruling. Democratization had a factionary role in the Union,
and it was called “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”10. The Communist party was considered as
Democratic Labor Party, as if they express the opinions of workers and villagers in that way.
Dictatorship was the best rational way for the rulers not for the ones being ruled. No one had the
right to express controversial opinion as it would be considered as an opposite opinion against
the public order. However, by all means, that was a severe violation of human rights.
[Me]-What about the individuals? Were there rumors? Did they condemn the rulers and
complain about the structure?
[Grandpa] – They spoke, complained secretly “under walls” keeping the feelings inside
themselves. Of course, they could not do any march. Look what the government was doing: the
Union organized large-scale events dedicated to May 1st or May 9th11, and they pictured people
happy, smiling and laughing, clapping, holding balloons while walking along the streets. In this
regard, they showed the countries that people were happy with less problems.
[Me] – Okay, now let’s talk about you specifically. What kinds of jobs did you have during the
[Grandpa] -I worked as a laborer, then served in the army, studied in the “Operative School of
Militsiya” and after that I entered the Internal Affairs System of Militsiyia and I worked there till
the Soviet collapsed.
[Me]- What kinds of positions did you have?
[Grandpa] – Lots of: Crewman, Lieutenant, Head of Transport Militsiyia point, Senior
Lieutenant, Senior officer of Criminal investigation division of Transport Militsiya, Deputy Head
of the division, Head of the division.
[Me]- As you worked in the SU, could you, please, name some benefits and downsides?
[Grandpa] -It was easier to work, because the discipline of the Community was on high levels,
but after the collapse a real political and juridical chaos started. There was no incident to go
against the humanity, but we should go to the course of the general movement.
[Me]- Well, then, did you support the Soviet system?
[Grandpa] -I completed my job responsibilities fully as they were during the soviet forms.
[Me]- But if more global? Was Soviet good for you?
[Grandpa] -Firstly, it was secure, the life level was average. Soviet was a powerful union among
the others and people felt themselves secure from outcoming danger.
[Me]- Well, I would like to give such a question: would you like to live in the Soviet Union
[Grandpa] -Certainly no.
[Grandpa] -Today, I can stand in the society and express my mind freely, but, of course, with
caution. Anushka jan, at that time, Soviet was behind “iron curtains”12 from the rest of the world.
At that time going abroad was nearly unreal. You should be a titled member of a communist
party, but that was not enough. There was a committee who was responsible to investigate that
person, and if they allowed him/her go out, a secretary officer should also go to watch whether
he/she did anti-Soviet actions or not.
Today if I have health issues, I can freely go to Germany freely for medical purposes,
moreover, I am able to visit other neighboring countries. But, decades ago, I did not have the
right of such “luxuries”. Especially in my case, I was considered a worker dealing with
information carrying governmental secrets, so I was not even allowed to visit other Soviet
[Me]- What is your recollection of the Karabakh movement?
[Grandpa] – “Karabakh committee”13 and “Krunk committee”14 were simultaneously created in
Armenia and in Karabakh accordingly. The struggle for independence started, at the same time,
Armenians started to work towards the Karabakh conflict: to liberate Karabakh from Azerbaijan
till the collapse of the SU, because it would be much more difficult if Azerbaijan declared its
independence with Nagorno-Karabakh in its composition. Mainly, the members of Karabakh
committee organized by Pan-Armenian National Movement15, the independence from Soviet
Azerbaijan which lead to massacres in Sumgait, Baku and Kirovabad16. They organized the
defense and ended up in 1994 May 12th with a ceasefire for unknown period.
[Me]-When the movement for independence had already started, did you believe that one day we
would reach our main aim?
[Grandpa] – In our eyes the SU was very powerful and nobody could imagine that it would
collapse one day. We considered the movement as classical aspiration towards independence
which would certainly be pressured by the authorities.
[Me]- Was the education level of that period of time higher than today?
[Grandpa] – For me, soviet school was a much more rationally organized institution which gave
high level of education. But in 1980’s students could graduate with corruption. Students had free
dormitories and even free canteen, they also got scholarships, such as mine- I got 40 rubles
monthly which is equivalent to 100/120$ nowadays. Universities, hospitals had free service, but
in fact it was not free, because they demanded and received bribes.
What to tell more? Hmmm… When people filmed something, they were obliged to have
it go through several stages of censorship. The same with the newspapers and books.
Ah, and you know when Moscow Cinema just started to be built, the SU did not agree to
finance because Armenians wanted to name it “Ararat”. And when the people confirmed that
they are going to name it “Moscow” then they finally sent the money. This kind of stuff was
[Me]- What can you say about the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant17? Why was it closed and then
re-opened? Why reopened so late leaving the population in a newly independent Armenia poor
and without heating and light?
[Grandpa]- There was a word that for ruling the people they limited the electricity. But
interesting was that the war in Karabakh had started and energy resources mainly gasoline and
diesel were brought to enact the work of tanks and military cars. Armenian CHPs18 such as in
Yerevan, Vanadzor were running short of fuel oil, and they imported gasoline and diesel in the
name of fuel oil. They did it in that way not to show other states that they were in need and war.
[Me] – What can you tell about the Earthquake? About the blockade from Azerbaijan?
[Grandpa] – The world was eager to help Armenia both with material goods and with human
resources: specialists of different spheres. But the most goods were coming from Russia
(Derbent city) through Baku line. Azeri people very often were robbing, closing the roads, even
there was a case that they fully made the wagon empty and hanged a dog there then sent it to
Armenia. Basically, the working line was Sukhumi -Sochi which was for passenger trains, but
because of the enduring situation it transported goods as well. In Marneuli, Georgia there were
Azeri settlements, they set train lines and gas pipes on fire, so as the energy resources did not
enter Armenia. Then, the railway was from Kazakhstan- Ijevan-Dilijan-Hrazdan- Yerevan.
Azeris even blocked the entry of the trains to Armenia. I had my own experience regarding this
kind of situation. In the Barkhurdar station (Azerbaijani station near Ijevan) 7 trains were held in
that station and were not allowed to continue its way to Armenia bringing the reason that it was
not safe for Azeri drivers to be in Armenia. So, we had to go and we went with our drivers
brought them to Armenia.
Listen, when the earthquake happened, I was in a service. Being informed about the
quake I went to Kirovakan to be sure that everyone in my family was fine. Having checked on
them, we moved to Spitak station which was under our rule at that period of time (Spitak-
Nalband railway). The station was fully damaged and destroyed, we had no instruments to help
the people out there. We were in the uniforms, so we were able to stop two cranes and bring
them to the station to help people because we heard screams, we saw alive people. We started to
deal with this and took lots of alive and injured people, but also corpses.
[Me] – What can you tell about the rumors about Quake in the Soviet Armenia?
[Grandpa] – There were even discussions on that topic: the tectonic weapon from Afghanistan.
Near the village Nalband, there were bases for state troops. And for the testing of the tectonic
weapon to be rational or not, the minister of military forces of the Soviet Union Yazov19 arrived
there a few times both secretly and openly. And with the idea of the Quake to be a national
disaster, these kinds of discussions were held. To my mind, these discussions did not come out of
[Me]- Can you tell me one of the secrets you were obliged to keep then during your service but
can tell me now?
[Grandpa] -Anushka jan, the secret information that we had during the Soviet time include
secrets still actual today as well. And being a person who carries them, I do not have the liberty
to share them.
[Me]- Okay, papi, I understand, and the last question: What was it like to see the collapse of the
[Grandpa] -The collapse of the SU was a necessity which occurred. Towards the people’s rights,
towards the development of industrialization and economy.
[Me]- Thank you, papi jan. You helped me a lot!
1Komsomol (All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, based in 1918), a youth organization governed by Communist Party of the Soviet Union. (In Russian – Kommunisticheskiy Soyuz Molodyozhi)
2 USSR- Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
3 The Great Purge or the Great Terror, also known as the Year of ’37 and the Yezhovschina was a campaign of political repression in the Soviet Union between 1936 to 1938. It involved a large-scale repression of wealthy peasants; genocidal acts against ethnic minorities; a purge of the Communist Party, government officials, and the Red Army leadership; widespread police surveillance; suspicion of saboteurs; counter-revolutionaries; imprisonment; and arbitrary executions.
4 Moral Code of the Builder of Communism was a set of twelve codified moral rules in the Soviet Union which every member of the Communist Party of the USSR and every Komsomol member were supposed to follow.
5 “Militsiya” was the name of the Police Forces in the Soviet Union.
6 Planned economy- an economy in which production, investment, prices, and incomes are determined centrally by the government.
7 Vanadzor (Kirovakan)- the third largest city in Armenia.
8 Ural is a geographical region located around the Ural Mountains, between the East European and West Siberian plains.
9 Ostracization, prison
10 Dictatorship of the Proletariat, rule by the proletariat—the economic and social class consisting of industrial workers who derive income solely from their labour—during the transitional phase between the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of communism. (Britannica)
11 May 1- International Workers’ day May 9- Victory day (the surrender of Germany in WW II)
12 Iron Curtain, the political, military, and ideological barrier erected by the Soviet Union after World War II to seal off itself and its dependent eastern and central European allies from open contact with the West and other noncommunist areas.
13 Karabakh Committee was a group of Armenian intellectuals recognized by many Armenians, formed in 1988, Yerevan. Objective: reunification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.
14 Krunk Committee was the group that shared the same objective as Karabakh Committee, based in Karabakh.
15 Pan-Armenian National Movement- political party in Armenia which aimed to get Independence.
16 Sumgait (1988) Baku (1990) Kirovabad (1988) pogroms were against the Armenian civilian population in Baku during which Armenians were beaten, murdered, and expelled from cities.
17 Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant is the only nuclear power plant in the South Caucasus, located 36 kilometers west of Yerevan in Armenia.
18 CHP- Cogeneration or combined heat and power
19 Dmitry Timofeyevich Yazov (Russian: Дми́трий Тимофе́евич Я́зов; 8 November 1924 – 25 February 2020) was the last Marshal of the Soviet Union, appointed to that rank on 28 April 1990, and was the only Marshal born in Siberia. A veteran of the Great Patriotic War, Yazov served as Minister of Defence from 1987 until he was arrested for his part in the 1991 August Coup, four months before the fall of the Soviet Union.