Early Life

Vazgen Manukyan was born in 1946 to the Manukyan family that immigrated from Moxoene to Yerevan during the Armenian Genocide. His father, Mikael Manukyan, graduated from the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics of Yerevan State University (YSU) and was a Doctor of Sciences and a professor at YSU. His mother, Astghik Hakobyan, was born in Gyumri and graduated from the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics of YSU.

Vazgen Manukyan studied at the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics of YSU, from 1966 to 1967 he continued his studies at the Moscow State University. In 1967 he was forced to leave the Moscow University and return to Yerevan due to protest that he and his friends had organized in front of the Turkish Embassy in Moscow on April 24, 1967.

From 1969 to 1972 Vazgen Manukyan was postgraduate student at the Novosibirsk branch of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union. He is a Candidate of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and is the author of a number of scientific articles. From 1972 to 1990 has been a lecturer at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Informatics, YSU.

Early Political Activity

Vazgen Manukyan started his political activity during his student years. Until 1988, he was a member and organizer of various social and political organizations.

In 1967-1968 Vazgen Manukyan and his friends founded the Armenian Culture Club at the Moscow University, which, however, was not only cultural, but under the name of culture, mainly carried out activities towards protection of national identity. Later they established a similar organization at YSU as well, which had been raising up issues of independence, Armenia and Artsakh reunion, systems of political governance and etc.

On April 24, 1967, a group of like-minded people organized a demonstration in front of the Turkish Embassy in Moscow, working out the scenario in advance, visiting Moscow universities and dormitories, finding Armenians on the lists, and informing them about the demonstration.

On April 24, thousands of students gathered in front of the Turkish Embassy in Moscow, they were holding hands and singing “Zartir Lao,”. Militia dispersed the rally, but the demonstration had already taken place. This was the first successful demonstration after many unsuccessful attempts of the  previous years. Armenian students returned to dormitories to celebrate their victory. A few days later, the organizers of the demonstration, including Vazgen Manukyan, were expelled from the university.

While preparing for that demonstration, Vazgen Manukyan became acquainted with the head of the Department of Foreign Policy Planning of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Former Ambassador of the Soviet Union to Canada, Hamo Harutyunyan, who was a highly respected and influential figure in Moscow politics.

It can be said that he laid the foundation of Manukyan’s political activity. Their communication continued even after the rally in Moscow. Hamo Harutyunyan taught Manukyan and his friends the nuances of politics and diplomacy, from national politics to geopolitical processes. He talked about the structure of states and how the political decisions were made, and so on. Harutyunyan also introduced the youths to famous Armenians. “His house was a center for Armenians. For example, I met Silva Kaputikyan there. On numerous occasions, we met and became close to Marshal Baghramyan there. We got acquainted with the former First Secretary Yakov Zarobyan, in a word, the most influential people of that time,” Manukyan recalles.

The other great ideological influence on the young people had Karen Takhtajyan, mathematician, whose father, Armen Takhtajyan was a well-known academician in St. Petersburg. “It was under his influence that I first began to study Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Otto Weininger, Indian philosophy. And under the influence of Hamo Akimich, we stared to learn about the joint-stock companies, about the economy of the United States, that is, if we were an independent state, we would understand which way to go, and so on. All these boys later played a big role not only in founding various secret organizations in Armenia but also during the 1988 movement,” Vazgen Manukyan recalls.

In the 1970s, by the assignment of Vazgen I, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Vazgen Manukyan and his friends carried out rescue operations of cultural property in the territories of Nakhichevan and Artsakh, organized the rescue of Armenian children under siege during Beirut Civil War, and many other undertakings.

Feasts of the Translators

In 1974 Vazgen Manukyan and his supporters created an initiative called “Feasts of the Translators” (Armeniantransliterated: Tarkmanchats Toner), which united the entire Armenian intelligentsia.The goal was to create a national club that would allow people to get to know each other, to communicate, to discuss issues in an informal atmosphere, to gain the like-minded and supporters in discussing these issues, so that the most influential people in Armenia could be united around the same ideas.

The issues of Russian schools in Armenia, historical relations between Armenia and Russia, issues related to the Genocide, and sometimes even issues of freedom, independence, liberation from the communist regime were discussed.

“When the movement of 88 started, we realized how important those round-ups were and how significant they were. The intelligentsia immediately united, because people already knew each other, approached the matters in the same way, shared the same ideas. That was the greatest achievement of the “Feasts of the Translators”.-Vazgen Manukyan

Artsakh Movement 1988

The First Prime Minister of the Third Republic

In May 1990 Vazgen Manukyan was elected a deputy of the Supreme Council of Armenia. On August 13, 1990 he was appointed by the Supreme Council as the Chairman (Prime Minister) of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Armenia. That was a hard period for Armenia: the USSR was rapidly collapsing, the political and economic blockade of Armenia from the north began.

On the one hand, efforts were needed to slow down the collapse, on the other hand, it was necessary to move quickly to a new economic system. The government, which held the entire executive power (there was no presidency under the constitution, all executive power was given by the Supreme Council to the government) successfully implemented this complex program, having relations based on political trust with both the Soviet republics and other countries.

The government headed by Vazgen Manukyan launched a number of systemic reforms which created a serious basis for further development of the country.

  • On August 21, 1990, the newly elected Prime Minister Vazgen Manukyan signed Decree No. 411, which was entitled “The Decision of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Armenia on the Establishment of Special Subdivisions under the Ministry of Internal Affairs.” The decision particularly said, “Based on the goal proclaimed by the Supreme Council, the need to start the process of establishing an independent state, to protect border areas and to fight against armed group crimes. The Council of Ministers decides to set up special units for the protection of the republic and the protection of public order.” The formation of a special regiment laid the foundation for the formation of the Armenian Armed Forces. On October 5, 1990, the regiment took its first oath of office to Vazgen Manukyan, Chairman of the Council of Ministers. In his welcoming speech, Manukyan said. “…Now we have our republic. It is not yet completely independent. But we are moving in that direction and we will achieve political and economic independence. We will have a strong state, a strong army, a strong economy and we will return the radiance of our ancestors… ”
  • The Defense Committee was established on May 4, 1991, by decision No. 325 of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Armenia. By this decision, the Committee for the Coordination of the Work of the Military Departments under the Council of Ministers was established as the Defense Committee under the Council of Ministers.
  • The new complex of international relations was put into operation, which pushed Armenia ahead of other republics in that important issue. In 1990-1991, the Armenian government undertook a major project, taking into account that the Soviet Union was collapsing and Armenia was entering a new world and the means of communication were very important, an agreement was signed with the American company “AT&T,” and Armenia had an international connection that no other republic or city in the Soviet Union had. They had no other republics or cities. It later became the most profitable industry for Armenia.
  • The construction of a gas pipeline, entering Armenia through Georgia, continued and was completed by Armenia, which became a means for life for Armenia when the pipeline through Azerbaijan was closed in 1991.
  • Land privatization and related program packages were implemented. Decisions were made before and after the land privatization of 1990-1991 to promote state procurement of agricultural products (Resolution No. 490 of 3 August 1991), according to which the government provided logistical resources and goods for agricultural and collective consumption to farms and collective farms on favorable terms in exchange for state procurement of grain, grapes, apricots, geraniums, tobacco, milk, and wool. By another decision (Decision No. 373 of May 23, 1991), the Government of the Republic of Armenia established the procedure, and terms, and a number of other decisions for the voluntary insurance of farms, and property insurance of enterprises. “The cultivation of small plots of land created by privatization is not effective, a state program should have been developed for the gradual enlargement of plots of land. Privatization was the first point of the case. After the privatization of the land came the real care of the villagers by the state,” Vazgen Manukyan.:
  • On June 13, 1991, the Government of the Republic of Armenia adopted Resolution No. 392 and No. 525, according to which the RA Ministries, Departments, and Organizations were instructed to import an additional 600 thousand tons of fuel oil to the republic by December 1, 1991, to allocate funds to “Armenergo” NU and “Haygaz” NU for the repayment of unpaid debts for gas and electricity used by the population of the disaster zone.
  • In 1990 and 1991, in the conditions of non-operation of the nuclear power plant in Armenia, 10.4 and 9.5 billion kWh of electricity was produced, respectively, which was 100% sufficient for the normal life support of both enterprises and the population, providing 24 hours of electricity per day.
  • In 1990 and 1991, 1.46 million square meters and 1.91 million square meters of residential buildings respectively, were put into operation in the republic. In 1991, about 21 thousand people bought an apartment, compared to 4,000 in 1992. Housing construction in rural areas in 1991 amounted to 866 thousand square meters. In 1991, unprecedented growth was achieved in the operation of facilities of socio-cultural significance, in particular in the operation of pre-school institutions, public schools, hospitals, polyclinics, clubs, and houses of culture.
  • According to decision No. 206 of the RA Council of Ministers on March 13, 1991 and No. 506 on August 9, 1991, the ministers and departments of the republic, the executive committees, institutions and organizations of the local councils of deputies were clearly instructed to consider the unconditional fulfillment of the tasks of provision of the construction facilities in the area of the 1991 earthquake as their main task.
  • In 1990, 500,000 square meters of living space was provided, and in 1991, 750,000 square meters of living space was provided. During the first 7 months of 1991, about 180 thousand square meters of living space or almost as much as the combined years of 1989-1990 were provided in the city of Gyumri. At that time, the state borrowed 500 million rubles from the Soviet Union, which was not repaid. It amounted to $250 million in terms of construction and installation.
  • According to decisions No. 237 and No. 379 of the RA Council of Ministers on May 21 and 29, 1991, the production base of various mining organizations working in the disaster zone was transferred to the “Ministry of Construction of the Republic of Armenia.”
  • Vazgen Manukyan signed Resolution No. 557 of the RA Council of Ministers on September 14, 1991, in connection with providing construction and restoration works in the disaster zone with local construction materials. According to that decision, clear instructions were given to “Armbuilding Materials” NU, “Ararat Cement” NU, “Hrazdan Cement Factory” and “Yerevan Plaster Factory.”
  • In 1991, the production of cement amounted to , as much as in 1992-1998 combined. The same applies to the production of other building materials, such as natural stone masonry blocks, small masonry blocks, prefabricated reinforced concrete structures and items, asbestos-cement sheets, etc.
  • Carbide and rubber productions were put into operation again in 1991. According to decision No. 331 in May 2012, the “Operation of the Nairit Scientific-Production Association” was launched, which strictly specified the norms of permissible emissions, leaks, and maintained the safety of the products and environmental norms.
  • Although the energy difficulties had already begun, the Azerbaijani gas pipeline had been closed and the Georgian one had not yet been built, the government had decided not to use Sevan for energy purposes. The climate was favorable, and that led to the fact that the water levels of Sevan lake rose by 10 cm.
  • A joint forum of local and Diaspora Armenian businessmen took place in Yerevan. Many joint ventures were registered.
  • In 1991, the Government of the Republic of Armenia also adopted decisions on additional measures to strengthen the social protection of the population in connection with retail price reform (May 3, 1991, No. 324; August 3, 1991, No. 492).
  • The first decision on stock exchanges was made, which legalized the first market structure and the procedure for creating and registering joint ventures, etc.

The disagreements between Vazgen Manukyan and the other leaders of the “Pan-Armenian National Movement” over the future political course of Armenia were growing and on September 25, 1991 Vazgen Manukyan resigned as Prime Minister.

National Democratic Union

Gradually, the majority within the popular leadership of 1988 gained a direction that, in the opinion of the opposition, was consistently sacrificing the tasks enshrined in the program of the movement and the principles of democracy to the principles of “power for power” and “power at all costs.” A part of the leadership of the people’s movement, seeing danger in that direction, voluntarily left the ANM.

Tigran Sargsyan and Davit Vardanyan, who later formed the NDU with Vazgen Manukyan, raised the issue at one of the ANM sittings that the ongoing privatization is deepening social injustice. There were many reasons for disagreements. The members of the committee had different views on the settlement of the Karabakh conflict, from the “not an inch of land” policy to the perspective of keeping the issue frozen. Ways to solve economic problems were not always acceptable.

After the formation of the “National Democrats” faction in the Supreme Council, Vazgen Manukyan, Davit Vardanyan, Arshak Sadoyan, Shavarsh Kocharyan, Ludvig Khachatryan, Tigran Sargsyan, Seyran Avagyan, and other figures initiated the establishment of the “National Democratic Union” (NDU) uniting the active participants and supporters of the movement. In 1991, the NDU was formed, and Vazgen Manukyan was elected chairman of the party board.

The NDU had a faction in the National Assembly between 1995-2003.

Minister of Defense

On September 11, 1992, Vazgen Manukyan was appointed Minister of State of the Republic of Armenia, and in October 1992, he was appointed the RA Minister of Defense, at the same time managing the RA military-industrial complex. During that period, the Armenian Armed Forces were finally formed, and after many defeats, a period of brilliant victories began.

In the summer of 1992, Nagorno Karabakh was experiencing a tragedy: within a month, Azerbaijani troops occupied Shahumyan and Martakert, about 50 percent of the Armenian-controlled territory. It seemed that with one more effort, the Karabakh issue would finally come to an end. It was then that Vazgen Manukyan became the Minister of Defense of Armenia, and the course of the war gradually began to change.

With the active participation of TerGrigoryants, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Soviet Armed Forces, a small but efficient army was formed. Since the fall of 1992, it was able to stop the advance of the Azerbaijanis, and starting spring of 1993, the Armenians counterattacked and in August defeated the main strike forces of the Azerbaijani army.

On May 28, 1993, the formation of the Armed Forces of Armenia, of which the Artsakh Defense Army was an integral part, was almost completed. Kelbajar was captured, Martakert was taken back, the backbone of the Azerbaijani army was broken, and the series of victories continued. There was a wave of great enthusiasm among the people, at that time the first military parade took place, which was hosted by the then Minister of Defense Vazgen Manukyan.

The Kapan Operation

During the autumn and winter months of 1992, the situation on the country’s borders was dire. Shahumyan and Martakert were in the hands of the enemy, Kichan and therefore, Stepanakert and the whole of Artsakh were under constant threat. Walking through the Lachin corridor was extremely dangerous, sometimes impossible. The enemy also fired on the Armenian villages in the Kapan district with various weapons, endangering the Kapan-Goris highway.

Since April 24, 1992, border clashes had turned into serious military operations. The city of Kapan and the border settlements were massively shelled.

A decision was made to take measures to eliminate the most dangerous bases of the enemy. Chief of the General Staff of the RA Armed Forces Lieutenant General Hrachya Andreasyan developed a plan, Yuri Khachaturov was appointed head of the operation.[47]

The operation started early in the morning of December 10. After several hours of fighting, the Armenian side managed to completely defeat the enemy and change the outcome of the war.[48]

Vazgen Manukyan did not inform the then President Levon TerPetrosyan about the Kapan operation, as the latter was against such actions, considering them unacceptable by the international community.

The Karvachar Operation

The operation to destroy the Azerbaijani military base in the Karvachar district, liberate the occupied territories, and crush the Lachin-Kelbajar group of the Azerbaijani army, took place from March 27 to April 2, 1993, during Vazgen Manukyan’s tenure and under his direct leadership.

Karvachar was very important in its position. Martakert was being shelled from Karvachar, the enemy forces stationed in Karvachar were a great danger to the planes supplying Shahumyan partisan detachments. It was not possible to liberate Karvachar in one direction: it needed to be carried out in an attack in three directions simultaneously.

Liberation of Martakert

After becoming Minister of Defense, Vazgen Manukyan remained faithful to his oath. Immediately after the Karvachar operation, preparations for the liberation of Martakert began. In a very short time all forces and resources were united. Operations began in early summer 1993. Armenian forces were fighting on the whole northern front. On June 26, they managed to retake heights called “TV Tower” and “Pushken Yal”. When Defense Minister Vazgen Manukyan reports to President Ter-Petrosyan about the conquest of heights, the latter wonders what that means. Vazgen Manukyan explains that at night the intelligence will enter Martakert, and in the morning the army will enter the city, and tomorrow Martakert will be ours again. Everything went according to plan, on June 27 Martakert was liberated. The Armenian side defended the dominant heights, the main road directions.

On August 21, 1993, Vazgen Manukyan was relieved of his post as Minister of Defense, after having played a significant role in the victory of the Artsakh war during his one-year tenure.

Presidential Elections of 1996

During the 1996 presidential election a serious opposition front was formed. The main political parties and forces unite, nominating Vazgen Manukyan as a candidate of national accord in the presidential elections.

The presidential election of September 22, 1996, resulted in widespread electoral fraud in favor of Levon TerPetrosyan. Even as a result of widespread electoral fraud, according to official data, Vazgen Manukyan received 41% of the vote, and Levon Ter-Petrosyan 51%.

The September 1996 presidential election was allegedly rigged to secure President Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s first-round victory so that he would not face Manukyan in the second round. The National Democratic Union has submitted an evidence base to the Constitutional Court in volumes.

“Nevertheless, we did not announce that the opposition candidate had won, but demanded that each constituency open 3 ballot boxes at random, and if election fraud was found, we would go to the second round,” Vazgen Manukyan.

Opposition rallies began. During the September 25 rally, Vazgen Manukyan announced, “Now it is being decided which way the state will go. If there is an illegitimate government, it will become a tradition and will continue in the same way.”

Vazgen Manukyan went to the Central Electoral Commission with several people, which was located in the building of the National Assembly Building at that time, suggesting to open 3 boxes from each region. At that time, Vazgen Manukyan announced, “If we do not come out in 20-30 minutes, come look for us.”

The people moved from Freedom Square along Baghramyan Avenue to the CEC chanting “Vazgen for President.” At around 6 pm, thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the National Assembly in support of decisive action. Shortly afterward, Vova Hakhverdyan, one of Vazgen Manukyan’s supporters, came out of the National Assembly building. “I am personally saying Vazgen Manukyan’s words, ‘We will succeed, just be patient.’ It is his personal request to wait patiently, but the negotiations are taking place in a rather difficult atmosphere.”

After some time, seeing that Vazgen Manukyan did not leave the building of the National Assembly, the people broke the iron gates of the National Assembly and entered the building. Clashes broke out.

Vazgen Manukyan tried to calm the protesters down, saying, “The commission is making a decision here, with which we are completely satisfied. People, the future of our entire nation depends on this moment.” He called on the people not to riot, not to raise their hands against the police.

Excerpts from the US State Department report on the 1996 presidential election and its aftermath:

“President Levon Ter-Petrosyan was re-elected as a result of controversial multi-candidate elections in September, which were marked by a number of illegalities and serious violations of the electoral law. The opposition rejected the official results of the elections and appealed to the Constitutional Court, asking to annul the decision of the Central Electoral Commission and call new elections. The court examination did not dispel doubts about the reliability of the official results…” [64][66]

“…During the events following the September elections, the government beat and abused members of opposition parties and protesters. The government signed an agreement with the Red Cross authorizing meetings and private talks with the detainees, but not enough steps were taken to implement the agreement…”

“…The government continued to impose certain restrictions on the freedom of the press, security forces beat and arrested journalists after the September events, and journalists were prone to some self-censorship.”

“…In the aftermath of the presidential election, when the ban on rallies was still in effect, security forces and officers in civilian clothing beat passers-by who were found near the main rally site. Two cases of police brutality were registered in the first half of the year. In each case, the prisoner who was severely beaten then committed suicide. Both cases are currently pending in the Supreme Court

Chairman of the Public Council

From 2009 to 2019: On November 13, Vazgen Manukyan chaired the RA Public Council. The purpose of the Public Council is to promote the establishment and development of civil society in the country, to create an atmosphere of tolerance, to develop a constructive dialogue between the government and various segments of society.

Prominent scholars, public, cultural, former state figures, and intellectuals were involved in the council, who, by uniting and cooperating in the council, developed a common vision for the future of Armenia and the Armenian people and formulated issues that were also presented to the authorities of the day.

During the years headed by Vazgen Manukyan, the council was active, responding to all those issues concerning Armenia and the Armenian people that received a public voice and touched society. Numerous issues were raised, discussed and proposals on them were submitted to the RA President or the RA Government on the initiative of the members of the Public Council or committees. Some of these issues were immediately resolved, some were included in the guidelines and programs of the Government of the Republic of Armenia.

The RA Public Council became a member of the International Organization of Public Councils on July 7, 2010, at the General Assembly of the International Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions (AICESIS) in New York.

Within the framework of international cooperation, the RA Public Council has signed bilateral cooperation agreements with a number of countries of the Association (Russia, China, Brazil, Greece, Portugal).

Within the framework of the International Association, the Union of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Francophone Institutions (UCESIF) was established, which the RA Public Council has also been a member of since 2015.

The Council has worked closely with the RA President, the Prime Minister, and the heads of state agencies. The Public Council commissions actively cooperated with the representatives of the relevant state structures with the aim of bringing the culture of public dialogue and public discussions to a new level of development.

``Vernatun`` Social-political Club

In 2019, responding to the developments in the social and political life of Armenia, the existing problems and dangers, Vazgen Manukyan founded the “Vernatun” socio-political club. The goal of the club is to promote the creation of a healthy environment and public consolidation in our country through the efforts of all political forces, non-governmental organizations, and politically active individuals, contributing to overcoming the problems facing Armenia and the formation of future-oriented guidelines and ideas.

Homeland Salvation Movement

The causes and course of the Second Artsakh War, which took place from September 27 to November 9, 2020, and then the signing of the joint statement on November 9, 2020, by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev raised a wave of protests in Armenia, demanding the resignation of RA Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. 17 Parliamentary and extra-parliamentary parties formed the “Homeland Salvation Movement” Council and on December 3, 2020, Vazgen Manukyan was nominated as a joint candidate for the position of Prime Minister and head of the transitional government.

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