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Serzh Azati Sargsyan (Armenian: Սերժ Ազատի Սարգսյան, born June 30, 1954) is the third and current President of Armenia. He won the February 2008 presidential election with the backing of the conservative Republican Party of Armenia, a party in which he serves as chairman, and took office in April 2008.
Serzh Sargsyan was born on June 30, 1954 in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, Azerbaijan SSR. He was admitted to Yerevan State University in 1971, served in the Soviet Armed Forces during 1971-72, and graduated from the Philological Department of Yerevan State University in 1979. In 1983, he married his wife, Rita. They have two daughters, Anush and Satenik, and one granddaughter, Mariam. He is the chairman of the Armenian Chess Federation. In addition to his native Armenian, he is fluent also in Russian. He is of no relation to the current Prime Minister of Armenia, Tigran Sargsyan.
Sargsyan's career began in 1975 at the Electrical Devices Factory in Yerevan, where he worked as a metal turner until 1979 when he became head of the Stepanakert City Communist Party Youth Association Committee. Then served as second secretary, first secretary, the Stepanakert City Committee Propaganda Division Head, the Nagorno-Karabakh Regional Committee Communist Organizations' Unit Instructor, and finally as the assistant to Genrikh Poghosyan, the First Secretary of the Nagorno-Karabakh Regional Committee.
As tensions rose over Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, Sargsyan became chairman of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Self-Defense Forces Committee and was subsequently elected to the Supreme Council of Armenia in 1990. He organized several battles in the Nagorno-Karabakh War and is considered to be one of the founders of Armenia's armed forces. He became the Armenian defense minister in 1993, head of Armenian state security department in 1995 and minister of national security in 1996. In 1999, he became Robert Kocharyan's chief of staff, then secretary of the national security council, defense minister, and prime minister in 2007.
2008 presidential election
Sargsyan, with President Kocharyan's backing, was viewed as the strongest contender for the post of the President of Armenia in the February 2008 presidential election. Full provisional results showed him winning about 53% of the vote, a first round majority, well ahead of second place candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian. Ter-Petrossian's supporters, disputing the official results, held large protests in Yerevan for over a week following the election, until they were violently broken up on March 1; ten people (8 protestors and 2 police officers) were killed, and a state of emergency was imposed for 20 days, ending on March 20, 2008.
Serzh Sargsyan was sworn in as President inside the Yerevan Opera House on April 9. Referring to the "painful events" that followed the election, he "urge[d] everybody to look forward, together, to seek and find the way for reconciliation, development, and future of Armenia." He appointed Tigran Sargsyan, who had been the Chairman of the Central Bank and is not a member of a political party, as Prime Minister. Vazgen Manukyan, a former member of the Karabakh Committee and a prominent oppositionist, stated that he is optimistic and "will do everything to help this government become successful". On April 18, Sargsyan launched an unusually blistering attack on the Armenian customs, saying that "corruption within its ranks is 'thriving' and hampering the countrys economic development." He later authorized an opposition to take place in Yerevan and pledged to comply with the Council of Europe's demands for an end to the government's crackdown on the opposition.
Sargsyan initially stated that he will continue Armenia's policy towards Turkey, to normalize relations without any preconditions while continuing to strive for international recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. On October 10, 2009, however, by signing the Turkish-Armenian protocols on the establishment of diplomatic relations, he most notably accepted a precondition in regards to the veracity of the Armenian genocide, in that he accepted the proposal of studying the issue through a commission. Moreover, with his acceptance of the current Turkish-Armenian border, he neglected Armenian demands for Western Armenia, which are supported by the Treaty of Sèvres. He also stated that "Armenia's possible recognition of Kosovo's independence will not strain the Armenian-Russian relations" but also noted that the "Kosovo recognition issue needs serious discussion ... Armenia has always been an adherent to the right of nations to self-determination and in this aspect we welcome Kosovo's independence."
Sargsyan made his first address in front of the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 25, 2008. In his address he referenced the 2008 South Ossetia conflict and emphasized the need for the United Nations to help bring peaceful resolution to armed conflicts around the world, including the one in Nagorno-Karabakh. He also mentioned how Azerbaijan's military buildup along with increasing war rhetoric and threats risked causing renewed problems in the South Caucasus.
Major protests against Sargsyan's regime began in 2011, with the president's 2008 rival Levon Ter-Petrossian at their helm. In a concession to protesters, Sargsyan said on 20 April 2011 that the government would recommit to a thorough investigation of the post-election violence of three years prior.
Serzh Sargsyan has thus far been conferred the following honors:
- Order of first Degree "Martakan Khach" ("Combat Cross")
- Hero of Artsakh
- Knight of "Voske Artsiv" (Golden Eagle) order
- Order of "Tigran Mets"
- The First Class of the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (Ukraine, 2011)
Other transcriptions of his given name are Serge and Serj, of the surname Sarkissian, Sarkisyan, Sargsyan, Sarkissyan, the transliteration is Serž Azati Sargsyan (see Romanization of Armenian).
- Official biography of Serzh Sargsyan
- "RPA nominates Serge Sargsyan for President". PanArmenian.net. 2007-11-10. http://www.panarmenian.net/news/eng/?nid=24036. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
- "Armenia: Sarkisian Sworn In As President", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 9, 2008.
- Republican party biography of Serzh Sargsyan
- de Waal, Thomas (2004). Black garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through peace and war. ABC-CLIO. pp. 172–173. ISBN 0-8147-1945-7. http://books.google.com/books?id=pletup86PMQC&pg=PA172.
- "Sargsyan wins Armenian presidential race", Xinhua, February 20, 2008.
- Marianna Grigoryan (2008-04-11). "The Other Sargsyan: PM Tigran in, political "independent" to lead government". ArmeniaNow. http://armenianow.com/?action=viewArticle&AID=2962&lng=eng&IID=1182&CID=2892. Retrieved 2008-04-11.
- Astghik Bedevian (2008-04-17). "Manukian Looks Forward To Sarkisian Presidency". ArmeniaLiberty/Radio Free Europe. http://www.armenialiberty.org/armeniareport/report/en/2008/04/DBB6545D-3A3B-4F21-9DEE-BB590DB4D701.asp. Retrieved 2008-04-17.
- Emil Danielyan (2008-04-18). "Sarkisian Blasts ‘Corrupt’ Customs". ArmeniaLiberty/Radio Free Europe. http://www.armenialiberty.org/armeniareport/report/en/2008/04/E91906A7-09FF-4678-867A-8AC015EE1EBD.asp. Retrieved 2008-04-18.
- Astghik Bedevian (2008-04-21). "Thousands Rally In Yerevan With Rare Government Consent". ArmeniaLiberty/Radio Free Europe. http://www.armenialiberty.org/armeniareport/report/en/2008/04/CEEF3F0C-795A-494E-9953-2B516D424745.asp. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- Hovannes Shoghikian and Emil Danielyan (2008-04-25). "Sarkisian Pledges To Meet Council Of Europe Demands". ArmeniaLiberty/Radio Free Europe. http://www.armenialiberty.org/armeniareport/report/en/2008/04/E18A643E-80D2-4249-85BE-2E2E90687257.ASP. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
- Emil Danielyan (2008-04-24). "Sarkisian Reaffirms Armenian Policy On Turkey". ArmeniaLiberty/Radio Free Europe. http://www.armenialiberty.org/armeniareport/report/en/2008/04/FEDEF892-623F-46EF-95C2-0704D96867DC.asp.
- "Armenia doesn’t view Kosovo as precedent", PanArmenian.net, 12 March 2008. Link accessed 2008-03-12.
- "Statement by President Serzh Sargsyan at the General Debate of the 63 rd session of the general assembly". President.am. 2008-09-25. http://www.president.am/events/statements/eng/?id=19. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
- "Armenian protests call for early elections". BBC News. 2 March 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12617145. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
- "Armenia: 10,000 Protesters Demand New Elections". The New York Times. 17 March 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/world/europe/18briefs-ART-Armenia.html. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
- Danielyan, Emil (8 April 2011). "Ter-Petrosian Sets New Deadline For Armenian Leadership". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. http://www.rferl.org/content/armenian_opposition_rally_demands_elections/3551595.html. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
- Grigoryan, Karin (15 April 2011). "Inflation Sparks Virtual Protests in Armenia". Institute for War & Peace Reporting. http://iwpr.net/report-news/inflation-sparks-virtual-protests-armenia?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+iwprstories+%28IWPR+Stories%29. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
- "Armenian president orders new impetus to March 1 case". NEWS.am. 20 April 2011. http://news.am/eng/news/56263.html. Retrieved 25 April 2011.