Serzh Sargsyan

Serzh Sargsyan
Սերժ Ազատի Սարգսյան
3rd President of Armenia
Assumed office
9 April 2008
Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan
Hovik Abrahamyan
Karen Karapetyan
Preceded by Robert Kocharyan
Prime Minister of Armenia
In office
4 April 2007  9 April 2008
Acting: 25 March 2007 – 4 April 2007
President Robert Kocharyan
Preceded by Andranik Margaryan
Succeeded by Tigran Sargsyan
Minister of Defence
In office
20 May 2000  26 March 2007
Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan
Preceded by Vagharshak Harutiunyan
Succeeded by Mikael Harutyunyan
In office
21 August 1993  17 May 1995
Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan
Preceded by Vazgen Manukyan
Succeeded by Vazgen Sargsyan
Minister of Interior and National Security
In office
4 November 1996  11 June 1999
Prime Minister Armen Sargsyan
Robert Kocharyan
Armen Darbinyan
Preceded by Vano Siradeghyan
Succeeded by Suren Abrahamyan
Personal details
Born (1954-06-30) 30 June 1954
Stepanakert, Azerbaijan SSR, Soviet Union
(now Nagorno-Karabakh Republic)
Political party Communist Party (Before 1990)
Republican Party (1990–present)
Spouse(s) Rita Dadayan (1983–present)
Children Anush
Alma mater Yerevan State University
Religion Armenian Apostolicism
Website Government website

Serzh Azati Sargsyan (Armenian: Սերժ Ազատի Սարգսյան, pronounced [sɛɾʒ sɑɾkʰəsˈjɑn]; born 30 June 1954)[1] is the third and current President of Armenia. He won the February 2008 presidential election with the backing of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, a party in which he serves as chairman,[2] and took office in April 2008.[3] On 18 February 2013, he was re-elected as President.

Early life

Serzh Sargsyan was born on 30 June 1954 in Stepanakert, Azerbaijan SSR. He entered 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, with whom he has two daughters, Anush and Satenik. They have two granddaughters, Mariam and Rita, and two grandsons, Ara and Serzh.[1] Sargsyan is also the chairman of the Armenian Chess Federation. In addition to his native Armenian, he is fluent in Russian.[4] He is of no relation to the former Prime Minister of Armenia, Tigran Sargsyan.

Sargsyan's career began in 1975 at the Electrical Devices Factory in Yerevan.[5]

Political career

Early career

In 1979 when he became head of the Stepanakert City Communist Party Youth Association Committee. Then he served as the Second Secretary, the 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.[1]

As tensions rose over Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, Sargsyan became the Chairman of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Self-Defense Forces Committee and was subsequently elected to the Supreme Council of Armenia in 1990.[5] He organized several battles in the Nagorno-Karabakh War[6] and is considered to be one of the founders of Armenia's armed forces.

From 1993 to 1995 he was the Minister of Defense.[1]

From 1995 to 1996, he was the Head of the State Security Department and, later, the Minister of National Security.[1]

From 1999 to 2000 he served as the Chief of Staff for the President Robert Kocharyan.[1]

From 1999 to 2007 he was the Secretary of the National Security Council led by President Kocharyan.[1]

From 2000 to 2007 he served as the Defence Minister.[1]

On 4 April 2007 Sargsyan was appointed as the Prime Minister, following the sudden death of Andranik Margaryan.[1]

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.[7] The 2008 Presidential election was hailed as largely democratic by OSCE, the European Union (EU) and Western monitors.[8][9]

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 1 March; ten people (8 protestors and 2 police officers) were killed, and a state of emergency was imposed for 20 days, ending on 20 March 2008.


Serzh Sargsyan was sworn in as President at the Yerevan Opera House on 9 April. 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."[3] 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.[10] According to the Freedom House report "In 2011, the government took concrete steps to fulfill longstanding and often repeated promises to confront corruption. E-government services reduced opportunities for bribery, while new regulations and stricter enforcement led to higher numbers of corruption lawsuits and fines against senior officials and large companies. Owing to a more consolidated government effort to eradicate corruption, Armenia’s corruption rating improves from 5.50 to 5.25."[11]

During Sargsyan's presidency the record of the freedom of speech and the freedom of press in general also improved in Armenia. Internet penetration rose sharply – from 6.2 percent in 2008 to 37 percent in 2011, providing greater access to online media, which rapidly grew in number, including blogosphere – with over 10,000 bloggers in 2011.[11]

After the elections Sargsyan also authorized opposition rallies to take place in Yerevan[12] and pledged to comply with the Council of Europe's demands for an end to the government's crackdown on the opposition.[13]

The vibrancy of the civil society has grown considerably during the last years with the number of non-governmental organizations growing at a higher rate and with civic activists succeeding in raising public awareness and holding important campaigns in the sphere of human rights, environmental protection and social justice. However, public advocacy still has limited impact on public policy.[11]


The start of Sargsyan's presidency coincided with the Great Recession. In 2009, Armenia's GDP contracted over 14%,[14] which according to the World Bank was the fifth worst in the world that year after the three Baltic states and Ukraine.[15] GDP growth subsequently stabilized at around 3% by 2013.[16] As of 2014, Armenia's GDP is below the pre-crisis levels. During his first term of presidency, the official poverty rate doubled and reached 32.4% in 2012.[17] According to official data, some 213,000 people have left Armenia from 2008 to 2013.[18] In 2012 Armenia was ranked 39th out of 179 economies according to the Index of Economic Freedom and is ranked 19th freest among the 43 countries in the Europe region.[19]

In September 2013 and under Sargsyan's direction, Armenia announced its intentions of joining the Eurasian Economic Union with Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.[20] The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU or EEU) is an economic union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, and came into force on 1 January 2015.[21] Treaties aiming for Armenia's accession to the Eurasian Economic Union was signed on 9 October 2014. Armenia's accession treaty came into force on 2 January 2015.[22] The Eurasian Economic Union has an integrated single market of 176 million people and a gross domestic product of over 4 trillion U.S. dollars (PPP).[23] The EEU introduces the free movement of goods, capital, services and people and provides for common transport, agriculture and energy policies, with provisions for a single currency and greater integration in the future.[24][25][26]

Foreign policy

Sargsyan and US State Secretary Clinton in Yerevan, 4 June 2012
Dmitry Medvedev in Armenia, 20 August 2010


Sargsyan made his first address in front of the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 25 September 2008. In his speech 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.[27]

Serzh Sargsyan continues the policy towards the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict pursued by his predecessors, which constitutes one of the main goals of the Armenian foreign policy.[28] Sargsyan has repeatedly stated that the Armenian side is interested in finding a just and exclusively peaceful solution to the conflict and that the OSCE Minsk Group is the viable format within which the peace talks should continue.[29][30][31] He has thus continued the negotiations with Azerbaijan and has had a number of meetings with the president of Azerbaijan within the framework of OSCE Minsk Group. On 2 November 2008 Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan traveled to Moscow for talks with Dmitry Medvedev. The talks ended in the three Presidents signing a declaration confirming their commitment to continue talks.[32] The two presidents met again since then, in 2009 in Saint Petersburg[33] and on 22 November 2009, together with several world leaders, in Munich where President Aliyev once more threatened to resort to military force to reestablish control over the region if the two sides did not reach an agreeable settlement.[34]

Sargsyan blames the Azerbaijani side for hampering the peace process and for pursuing an openly anti-Armenian stance. According to him the anti-Armenian policies of Azerbaijan, such as “state-supported falsifications of history”, “hostile propaganda against Armenia and Armenians” and the “military build-up” prove that Azerbaijan does not want peace.

The most vivid expression of anti-Armenian policies of Azerbaijan was the hero's welcome given to the convicted ax murderer Ramil Safarov who had brutally killed Armenian officer Gurgen Margaryan during the NATO's Partnership for Peace program in Budapest in 2004. The fact that after his extradition to Azerbaijan in 2012 Safarov was pardoned by president Aliyev, promoted to the rank of major, given an apartment with over eight years of back pay and was made a national hero,[35] hampers the negotiation process and proves, in Sargsyan's words, that "the Azeri propaganda brings up an entire generation in the atmosphere of xenophobia and intolerance."[36]

Sargsyan has also clearly stated:

The Armenophobic and aggressive stance of Azerbaijan reinforces our conviction that Nagorno-Karabakh has no future within Azerbaijan. Moreover, Azerbaijan has neither legal nor political or moral grounds to claim over Nagorno-Karabakh.[37]
Serzh Sargsyan and Azerbaijan's Ilham Aliyev, 23 January 2012

In his speech made at the British Chatham House Sargsyan said:

Our belief is that the settlement of the Karabakh conflict should be based on human rights and the will of the Karabakh people… It is the only way to achieve lasting, feasible, and peaceful settlement. The alternative to this settlement is the forcing of the Karabakh people back into Azerbaijan, which will inevitably lead to attempts of new ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Karabakh. There is no alternative here.”[38]
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan in Sochi, 9 August 2014

Responding to the persistent war rhetoric of Azerbaijan Sargsyan has condemned it as a violation of the norms of the international law, as the parties had signed a truce which Azerbaijan, the "defeated aggressor", had asked for.[39][40]

He has also multiple times emphasized that his country is categorically against the resumption of military hostilities but at the same time is ready to counter any military aggression. “We don’t want war and never wanted, but at that time [i.e. during Nagorno-Karabakh war] we had to defend our Motherland. If the time comes again, this time our blow will be final and deadly.” he has said.[41]

In this regard Sargsyan has also assured that in the case of military aggression from Azerbaijan “Armenia will have no other choice but to recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic de jure and to employ all its capabilities to ensure the security of the people of Artsakh.”[42]

In his electoral program of 2013 Sargsyan promised to increase the security guarantees of Nagorno-Karabakh and its people given Azerbaijan’s policy of Armenophobia.[43] He also highlighted the importance of strengthening the defensive system of Armenia "as a factor restraining the Azerbaijani aggression and ensuring stability in the South Caucasus".[31] The candidate also promised to take all the necessary efforts to ensure that Karabakh becomes a negotiating side in the peace talks as well as to foster the ties between Karabakh and the international community.[43]

As for the position of Armenia concerning the independence of Kosovo, Sargsyan 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."[44]


Having been elected as a president for his first term in 2008 Sargsyan pledged to continue Armenia's policy towards Turkey, to normalize relations without any preconditions while continuing to strive for international recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.[45]

Coming to power Sargsyan took specific steps towards the normalization of ties with Turkey, a policy termed as “football diplomacy". In 2008 Sargsyan took a historical initiative to invite Turkish President Abdullah Gül to Armenia to watch a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier match between Armenia and Turkey.[46] Abdullah Gül attended the game in Armenia while Serzh Sargsyan made a reciprocal visit to Turkey to watch the second match.[47]

On 10 October 2009 the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey signed protocols on establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries without any preconditions. The accord also presupposed the opening of the border between Armenia and Turkey which had been closed by Turkey in 1993.[48][49] The protocols were signed in Geneva, Switzerland under the international mediation, chiefly that of the United States.

Sargsyan’s policy of rapprochement with Turkey received controversial reaction among the Armenian people. While one part was for the opening of the border and fostering trade with Turkey the other part was concerned that by this move Armenia would be forced to make concessions to Turkey in the most vital and strategic matters. Armenian influential opposition parties, most notably the Armenian Revolutionary Federation were categorically against the signing of the protocols, given the recognition of the existing Turkish-Armenian border and the setting up of a joint commission of historians researching the Armenian Genocide, as envisioned by the protocols. They considered these steps as a sellout and staged mass protests against the signing of the protocols.[50] The Armenian Diaspora was also largely opposed to this type of reconciliation with Turkey, arguing (despite Sargsyan's assurances to the contrary) that this would jeopardize the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide as well as the prospects of legitimate territorial claims of Armenians from Turkey.[51]

The process of reconciliation however was suspended after a year, as the Turkish Parliament failed to ratify the protocols within the "reasonable time frame" as had been previously agreed by the sides.[52] Contrary to the principle of "no preconditions" Turkey also continued to tie the reconciliation process with the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, expecting concessions on the Armenian side, which was unacceptable for the latter. Sargsyan explained the suspension of the reconciliation process by the Armenian side in the following way:

For a whole year, Turkey’s senior officials have not spared public statements in the language of preconditions. For a whole year, Turkey has done everything to protract time and fail the process... We consider unacceptable the pointless efforts of making the dialogue between Armenia and Turkey an end in itself; from this moment on, we consider the current phase of normalization exhausted."[52]

Sargsyan however has also stated that unlike Ankara, Yerevan remains committed to its initiative to normalizing relations with Turkey.[31]

European Union

President Sargsyan supported Armenia's efforts to ink an Association Agreement with the EU, which contains a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, for several years. Under his Presidency, the negotiations for the agreement were completed and Armenia was set to sign the agreement at an upcoming EU Summit. However, President Sargsyan made a drastic policy reversal when in September 2013, after a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, he opted to join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union. Even though such a reversal was made, President Sargsyan's administration has been determined to further EU inspired reforms in law and governance, and have stated a willingness to sign the political component of the Association Agreement with the European Union.

Protests against his presidency

Major protests against Sargsyan's regime began in 2011, with the president's 2008 rival Levon Ter-Petrossian at their helm.[53][54][55][56] 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.[57]

In July 2016, Armenians protested in the capital Yerevan for the release of all political prisoners and the resignation of president Serzh Sargsyan and so to end his corruption according to the Armenian protesters.[58] The national security service of Armenia called the takeover a "terrorist" attack, but a growing number of Armenian civilians disagreed with that assessment.[59]

Honours and awards

Serzh Sargsyan has thus far been conferred the following honors:

Other details

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).


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Official biography of Serzh Sargsyan. Retrieved on 21 June 2014.
  2. "RPA nominates Serge Sargsyan for President". 10 November 2007. Retrieved 11 November 2007.
  3. 1 2 "Armenia: Sarkisian Sworn In As President", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 9 April 2008.
  4. President of the Republic of Armenia.
  5. 1 2 Republican party biography of Serzh Sargsyan at the Wayback Machine (archived 18 December 2010).
  6. de Waal, Thomas (2004). Black garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through peace and war. ABC-CLIO. pp. 172–173. ISBN 0-313-33621-0.
  7. "Sargsyan wins Armenian presidential race", Xinhua, 20 February 2008.
  8. Danielyan, Emil (20 February 2008). "Armenian Vote 'Largely Democratic'". ArmeniaLiberty, Radio Free Europe. Archived from the original on 6 March 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
  9. European Commission shares OSCE assessment of Armenia’s presidential election. (22 February 2008). Retrieved on 21 June 2014.
  10. Marianna Grigoryan (11 April 2008). "The Other Sargsyan: PM Tigran in, political "independent" to lead government". ArmeniaNow. Retrieved 11 April 2008.
  11. 1 2 3 Nations in Transit 2012: Armenia. Retrieved on 21 June 2014.
  12. Astghik Bedevian (21 April 2008). "Thousands Rally In Yerevan With Rare Government Consent". ArmeniaLiberty/Radio Free Europe. Retrieved 21 April 2008.
  13. Hovannes Shoghikian and Emil Danielyan (25 April 2008). "Sarkisian Pledges To Meet Council Of Europe Demands". ArmeniaLiberty/Radio Free Europe. Retrieved 25 April 2008.
  14. "Armenia's GDP contracts by 14.4% in 2009: Statistics". ARKA Newa Agency. 2 February 2010.
  17. "Poverty Rate in Armenia Nearly Doubles". Asbarez. 26 November 2013.
  18. Hakobyan, Tatul (6 February 2014). "Սպիտակ ջարդ` 100-րդ տարելիցի նախօրեին". CivilNet (in Armenian).
  19. "2012 Index of Economic Freedom", The Heritage Foundation.
  20. "Giorgi Lomsadze: Will Karabakh "Join" Russia's Customs Union?". Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  22. "GDP, PPP (current international $)".
  23. "Belarus to benefit from Eurasian Economic Union". Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  24. "Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus form Eurasian Economic Union". Washington Post. May 29, 2014. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  25. "Eurasian Economic Union to have common currency in 5-10 years". Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  26. "Statement by President Serzh Sargsyan at the General Debate of the 63rd session of the general assembly". 25 September 2008. Retrieved 11 April 2009.
  27. Foreign policy. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia.
  28. Nagorno Karabakh Republic: History and Current Reality. President of the Republic of Armenia official site.
  29. President Serzh Sargsyan participated at the solemn event dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA). 20 December 2010.
  30. 1 2 3 Serzh Sargsyan: Armenia's foreign policy is based on mutually beneficial cooperation with global and regional players. Retrieved on 21 June 2014.
  31. "Document: Full text of the declaration adopted by presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia at Meiendorf Castle near Moscow on November 2, 2008". Armenian Reporter. 2 November 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2009.
  32. "Armenia, Azerbaijan Satisfied With Fresh Summit". RFE/RL. 4 June 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2009.
  33. "Azerbaijan military threat to Armenia." The Daily Telegraph. 22 November 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  34. "As Armenia Protests Killer's Pardon, Azerbaijan Promotes Him". Radio Free Europe. 31 August 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
  35. Working visit of President Serzh Sargsyan to the Russian Federation. 18.12.2012 – 20.12.2012. Retrieved on 21 June 2014.
  36. The official legal standpoint is that Nagorno-Karabakh was never a part of independent Azerbaijan and that “the Autonomous Province of Mountainous Karabakh seceded from the Soviet Union fully in line with the Soviet laws and all the applicable principles and rules of international law, exactly as the 15 Soviet Republics did”. Speech by President Serzh Sargsyan in the Chatham House British Royal Institute of International Affairs
  37. Speech by President Serzh Sargsyan in the Chatham House British Royal Institute of International Affairs. 10 February 2010.
  38. Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan: Azerbaijan unleashed the war, was defeated in that war and asked for truce. (13 June 2009). Retrieved on 21 June 2014.
  39. Serzh Sargsyan: Azerbaijan forgets who was asking for truce and who was first to sign truce. (19 December 2012). Retrieved on 21 June 2014.
  40. President Serzh Sargsyan speaks after the military exercises. (13 November 2010). Retrieved on 21 June 2014.
  41. Remarks by The President of the Republic of Armenia H.E. Serzh Sargsyan at the OSCE Meeting of the Heads of State or Government. 3 December 2010.
  42. 1 2 Foreign Policy for Safe Armenia – Serzh Sargsyan's election program's extract. (21 January 2013). Retrieved on 21 June 2014.
  43. "Armenia doesn’t view Kosovo as precedent",, 12 March 2008. Link accessed 12 March 2008.
  44. Emil Danielyan (24 April 2008). "Sarkisian Reaffirms Armenian Policy On Turkey". ArmeniaLiberty/Radio Free Europe.
  45. Edward Nalbandian: Serzh Sargsyan's 'football diplomacy' is a wise and justified initiative. 4 March 2008.
  46. Serzh Sargsyan Goes to Turkey for "Football Diplomacy". (14 October 2009). Retrieved on 21 June 2014.
  47. Armenia and Turkey normalize ties. BBC News (10 October 2009). Retrieved on 21 June 2014.
  48. Historic Step: Armenia-Turkey protocols signed; await ratification. (1 March 2008). Retrieved on 21 June 2014.
  49. Dashnaks Plan More Protests Against Turkish-Armenian Protocols. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (14 December 2009). Retrieved on 21 June 2014.
  50. Armenian-Turkish Protocols To Confirm Kars Treaty. (25 September 2009). Retrieved on 21 June 2014.
  51. 1 2 President Sarkisian Announces Suspension of Protocols. Armenian Weekly. 22 April 2010.
  52. "Armenian protests call for early elections". BBC News. 2 March 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
  53. "Armenia: 10,000 Protesters Demand New Elections". The New York Times. 17 March 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  54. Danielyan, Emil (8 April 2011). "Ter-Petrosian Sets New Deadline For Armenian Leadership". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  55. Grigoryan, Karin (15 April 2011). "Inflation Sparks Virtual Protests in Armenia". Institute for War & Peace Reporting. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  56. "Armenian president orders new impetus to March 1 case". 20 April 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  59. "Armenia, Georgia to Boost Economic Ties After South Ossetia War". Eurasia Daily Monitor. Jamestown Foundation. 5 (196). 2010.
  60. "Armenian FM awarded Grand Officer Medal of French Legion of Honour". 10 October 2011.
  61. "Négociations entre le Président de l'Arménie Serzh Sargsyan et le Président de la France François Hollande". Ambassade de la République d'Arménie en France.
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Political offices
Preceded by
Andranik Margaryan
Prime Minister of Armenia
Succeeded by
Tigran Sargsyan
Preceded by
Robert Kocharyan
President of Armenia
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