Although the 55-year-old prime minister was known to be in poor health and was a frequent visitor overseas for heart disease treatments, his death nonetheless came as a shock to many. The event might well prove one of the most significant political developments before the May parliamentary vote, which is being framed as an important democratization test for the South Caucasus state. [For details, see the Eurasia Insight archive].
The political ramifications of Markarian's death are so far unknown, but any speculation on how it will affect the ruling Republican Party, of which he was chairman, was lost on the hundreds of Armenian citizens who converged on his home to pay their respects at a March 27 wake intended for relatives, friends and political associates. Hundreds waited for as long as two hours to get their chance to enter his modest apartment, situated in a typical Soviet era block on the outskirts of the capital, Yerevan.
That affinity for the ordinary may be how many people, including his political opponents, many of whom attended the wake, will remember Markarian. He had served as Armenia's prime minister since 2000. Although many Armenian officials are renowned for their lavish lifestyles, the late prime minister was generally considered a more modest man, known for treating political rivals and citizens alike as his equals.
Delegations from the United States, Russia, Greece, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and fellow members of the Commonwealth of Independent States were among those attending the funeral at the State Academic Opera & Ballet Theater in central Yerevan. Turkey, which, along with Azerbaijan, has no diplomatic relations with Armenia, sent its Georgian ambassador to the ceremony.
Onnik Krikorian is a freelance journalist and photographer from the United Kingdom based in the Republic of Armenia.