Paruyr Hayrikyan Պարույր Հայրիկյան

* 1949

  • I was one of the most imprisoned prisoners in the cartels. So there was a poem: Prison, you have always been the mother of freedom, And the prisoner loves you. It was a very nice poem, it had three verses. If I hadn't been in prison, I wouldn't have known that I left my body in the cell and got out. Years later, when I started to write down memoirs, I suddenly realized that whoever was put in those cartels once or twice, came out and said, “I won't go there anymore, I'll do whatever you say.” But I went there more than three hundred times, and heck if I cared. Now when I happen to sleep on a soft mattress, it feels uncomfortable, while during the first nights at cartels I felt as if I had been beaten up. The weight of your body and bones crush your muscles on the wooden planks. Later, I got used to it, but twenty years passed before I just realized that we stayed alive due to the fact that we were able to dream, break away with our dreams, leave your body, and then come back. What episodes do I remember? When the guard would knock on the door, let's say he had to say something, I would wake up and think, “What? I'm not in the Geghard mountains, where am I? Wow, I'm in a cartel.” Of course, these kinds of things change you, they allow you to understand that there is a different reality than the reality you imagine, but you don't know how to make it the reality of your people, because you even have a hard time explaining it to your children.

  • There was a guard in the detention center who read the most among other guards. We saw him reading, then we found out he was studying at the law school. One day I knocked on his door and asked to pass a note to Ashot. He said, "Who do you take me for?” I said, “I take you for a human.” He slammed the door shut. After ten minutes, where he probably contemplated what I said, he returned and said, "Give me the note. Ashot is a good guy, that's why I'll take this." He took the note, and then brought the answer from Ashot. We had contacts in prison, but additional contacts would help. And let me tell you what happened. One morning we woke up, - there were eighteen of us imprisoned in the case of the National United Party, - we woke up and saw no single Armenian guard left. Moscow ordered to take all the Armenian guards away. Years later, I got to know its value. Old experienced KGB members were giving lessons to the National Security Service. When giving lessons, they explain and teach that there are no unrecruitable people, that every person has their weak point, you find that weak point, you move forward with it. And when one of the students asked, “Well, if that’s true, then how come you imprisoned Paruyr Hayrikyan five times but you couldn't recruit him?”, the answer was that there are exceptions to the rule, and that I was the one to recruit their people instead while in prison.

  • We considered the National United Party to be very secretive, a structure that had distance between the rank-and-file members and the leadership. Of course, from the very first contacts, I understood that Stepan Zatikyan is an important figure, and to some extent Shahen Harutyunyan, although Stepan was much younger. I knew that there was another leadership. Later, I found out that actually that trio was the basis of the foundations [ed.- Shahen Harutyunyan, Haykaz Khachatryan, Stepan Zatikyan], and several fellow students of Stepan Zatikyan. The group was not that big, it was planned to be created in the future. I met Haykaz Khachatryan during my first detention. So in 1969 I was arrested and detained, in 1970 I ended up in the same prison camp with Haykaz Khachatryan. He was over fifty at that time, and I was twenty years old. We communicated, of course I learned some things - it was not that I [violated] confidentiality rules or something else - it was more that I learned about their ideas by reading the program-statute of the National United Party. Stepan Zatikyan's role in the matter of confidentiality rules was very important: discipline, not knowing anything unnecessary. For example, he used to say that even the most powerful person can talk in his sleep, therefore you have to work not towards keeping a secret, but so that everyone knows as little as possible, everyone knows the bare minimum. In that case, the project succeeds. To me, Shahen Harutyunyan revealed our activities from a different perspective; that of love. One time he saw me with a close female friend of mine, and later he asked how she was. I said, I broke my ties, because Stepan had said we should not have close female friends, because our closest friend was our homeland. He laughed, got upset, and said, “Our whole struggle is for love, how can you reject love and fight for love.” But whatever happened had happened. That was my first strong feeling that perhaps prepared me to be able to take such things easier later.

  • About our activities in Shant, we found an interesting way to distribute flyers. So, we waited with the leaflet in hand at the bus stop, and as soon as the bus was about to leave, we would stick it on the window from the outside. That way, people could read from the inside, but no one would be able to tear it off. It was one of our favorite ways, a way we came up with. Until the bus reached the next stop, a lot of people read the leaflets.

  • I started to engage in public life for several reasons. First of all, I felt that many things were not harmonious in public life, starting with the fact that they chose a squad leader at school by just appointing someone to that position, and said, "We elected him." It was then that I felt it for the first time. I said, “To elect means to choose one out of several, you have just appointed someone, how did you elect?” They said, “Well, that's choosing.” [To me], it was not choosing, it was confirming. I had my first serious disputes on that ground. Then I created a school group in the 9th grade, when I was 16 years old. The name of that group was Unbreakable Trio because we were three friends, then when the fourth friend joined, we renamed it Union of Armenian Youth. It was in 1965. That's how I started.

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    Yerevan, 27.06.2023

    duration: 01:11:44
    media recorded in project Memory of Armenian Nation
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I have dedicated my whole life to the idea of independent and democratic Armenia

Paruyr Hayrikyan in Soviet prison
Paruyr Hayrikyan in Soviet prison
photo: pamětník

Paruyr Hayrikyan was born on July 5, 1949 in Yerevan. His mother was the HR department manager at a knitting factory, his father was an electrician. On his mother’s side, his roots go to the city of Van in Western Armenia (Eastern Turkey), and on his father’s side, to Constantinople (now Istanbul). Hayrikyan studied at the Faculty of Technical Cybernetics of Yerevan Polytechnic Institute and at the same time worked at Sovetashen knitting factory. This was before his arrest. Since his school years, he had been trying to organize pro-Armenian activities. He organized the Armenian Youth Union group, which distributed leaflets. Then they established contact with the underground National United Party and became members. Hayrikyan founded the Shant organization, which was the youth wing of the United National Party. After the arrest of the party leaders, Hayrikyan replaced them, organizing the printing and distribution of a leaflet titled “Wrath.” In 1969, Paruyr Hayrikyan was also arrested. This was his first imprisonment, which lasted for four years. Later, Hayrikyan was sentenced to imprisonment a few more times, but he did not stop fighting for Armenia’s independence. He returned to Armenia in 1987, founding the Union for National Self-Determination on the basis of the National United Party. In 1990 he was elected to the Supreme Soviet, and to the National Assembly in 1995. Hayrikyan lives in Yerevan, and heads the Union for National Self-Determination Party. Paruyr Hayrikyan has also been and is still involved in literary activities. He has published two collections of poems, the novel “On the Road to Light”, the screenplay “With Faith and Love”, three albums of lyrical and patriotic songs, and several biographical works. Currently, he is working on the third and fourth volumes of the book “In Prisons on the Road to Freedom”, and is also engaged in implementing the model of absolute democracy. In 2013, he published the book “Towards Absolute Democracy”.