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Ter-Petrossian, Levon

TER-PETROSSIAN, LEVON

(b. 1945), Armenian philologist and statesman.

The first president of the second independent republic of Armenia (19911998), Levon Ter-Petrossian was born in Aleppo, Syria, and migrated to Soviet Armenia with his family in 1946. Ter-Petrossian graduated from Yerevan State University and received his doctorate in philology from Leningrad University. Until 1988 he was an academic researcher in Yerevan.

In 1988 he joined and became a leader of the Karabakh Committee that led the movement in support of the rights of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakhthe Armenian-populated enclave in Azerbaijanand eventually in support of Armenia's independence. In 1989, having spent six months in prison in Moscow, he was elected member, and in 1990 president, of the Supreme Soviet of the Armenian SSR. Having successfully managed the peaceful transition of power from the Communists, in 1991 he was elected president of Armenia and reelected in 1996. He resigned in February 1998 and currently lives as a private citizen in Yerevan.

Ter-Petrossian has received honorary doctorates from a number of academic institutions, including the universities of Sorbonne and Strasbourg, in recognition of his scholarly research in ancient and medieval philology and history, as well as his contribution to modern Armenian statehood.

The dominant figure in Armenia's history from 1988 to 1998, Ter-Petrossian initiated fundamental institutional, political, and economic reforms, including a radical land privatization program. He guided the drafting and adoption of a constitution in 1995 that has proven effective in resolving major political crises.

In foreign policy Ter-Petrossian advocated the speedy integration of Armenia in international institutions and processes, and the normalization of relations with all neighborsincluding Turkeyas the best guarantee for Armenia's long-term security and prosperity. In the process, Ter-Petrossian's pursuit of a special relationship with Russia led to the 1997 comprehensive Treaty of Cooperation and Friendship, which, among other provisions, formalized and regulated the presence of the Russian military base in Armenia.

Ter-Petrossian led the Nagorno-Karabakh war to a successful conclusion with a cease-fire agreement in 1994. He also considered peace with Azerbaijan a necessary precondition for the economic and social development of Armenia. The absence of a final solution to the status problem, which he pursued aggressively, stymied political and economic transformation; it also prevented the normalization of relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Ter-Petrossian's pragmatic policies invited the opposition of extremist forces. After 1995, criticisms of his administration, including charges of corruption, abuse of power by some ministries, and tampering with elections, increased. His acceptance in 1997 of a compromise solution to the Karabakh problem, opposed by some of his closest associates in the executive branch, led to his resignation.

See also: armenia and armenians; azerbaijan and azeris; nagorno-karabakh; nationalism in the soviet union; turkey, relations with

bibliography

Curtis, Glenn E. (1994). Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Washington, DC: Library of Congress.

Herzig, Edmond. (1998). The New Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. London: Royal Institute of International Affairs.

Libaridian, Gerard J. (1999). The Challenge of Statehood: Armenian Political Thinking Since Independence. Watertown, MA: Blue Crane Books.

Gerard J. Libaridian

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