Vladimir Karmirshalyan:
ARMENIAN INDPENDENCE

Vladimir Karmirshalyan:

“A diplomat has no right to relax”

Vladimir Karmirshalyan is one of the most experienced Armenian diplomats. The Regional Post spoke to Mr. Karmirshalyan about his career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the Soviet era and the establishment of the MFA following Armenia’s Independence.

Text: Areg Davtyan / Photos: Vladimir Karmirshalyan Archive
 

Mr. Karmirshalyan, you began your diplomatic career in the 1970’s. How did it come about?

— Before Armenia became independent there was the MFA of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic where I began to work in 1977. The staff was small, there were only approximately 11-12 members and fewer still were diplomats. This small team was a part of and played a significant role in the MFA of the Soviet Union. Our mission was particularly important for the USSR’s foreign relations specifically with neighbouring countries such as Iran, Turkey and the Arab World. Armenian diplomats were traditionally assigned to countries with significant Armenian populations such as France, Lebanon, Syria , Argentina, etc. The relashionship with the Diaspora was considred essential so we provided information concerned Armenia’s attitude towards particular states to the Central Soviet authorities.


What was your position at the Armenian office at that time?

— I have to say I was exceptionally lucky to have worked with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Armenian SSR John Kirakosyan at the beginning of my career, a wonderful person who was both a historian and a diplomat. I had worked as his assistant for eight years. By the way, I was assigned to my first diplomatic rank of Attache by Andrei Gromyko, a famous Soviet statesman who had previously been the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1957 to 1985. In August 1991, when the USSR was dissolved I was assigned the diplomatic rank of First Secretary by Eduard Shevardnadze, the Soviet Union Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1957 to 1985 and later president of Georgia.

But then you spent quite a few years working outside Armenia...

— From 1985 to 1989 I was appointed as consul at the Consulate General of the Soviet Union in Da Nang, Vietnam. When the Spitak earthquake struck, the MFA of the Soviet Armenia played a significant role in organizing assistance from abroad. I remember learning about the disaster and the first thing I thought of was leaving Vietnam and returning to Armenia. I felt that even if I managed to rescue a single person from under the rubble it would have been worth leaving my posting, However, the ambassador, being more realistic suggested that Iuse my resources differently. and he was right. The average Vietnamese person, who although lived a simple life, donated so much to the families of the victims. They had had their own bitter taste of disaster during the war and I remember an old lady approaching me and saying that her daughter working in Czechoslovakia had sent her a coat and she wanted to send it to Armenia to one of the victims of the earthquake. I still have a towel with the inscription “To the Armenian nation from brotherly Vietnam”.


In 1989 you began studying at the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR.

— Yes, I did. And it was an important step for me to become geografically closer to Armenia. My graduate thesis was about the role of the Armenian community of Argentina in the political and social life of the coutnry. In 1991 I was proposed to work in the Russian Embassy in Argentina, but I preferred to return to Armenia as at the time a Ministry of Foreign Affairs if the independent Armenia was in its formation process.

 I decided that my previous experiences would be put to better use in my homeland. I was granted my first diplomatic rank of Attache by Andrei Gromyko, a famous Soviet statesman who had previously been the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1957 to 1985. In August 1991, when the USSR was dissolved I was granted the diplomatic rank of First Secretary by Eduard Shevardnadze, the Soviet Union Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1957 to 1985 and later president of Georgia.

Which is the main difference between working in the MFA of the USSR and the MFA of the Republic of Armenia?

— A Soviet diplomat, although a tiny cog in a gargantuan machine, felt the power of a mightly empire behind him, however an armenian diplomat who works for his indepenent state felt nothing but imense pride.


What about your most memorable mission?

— I will never forget the 26th of December, 1991. I was the head of the Department of the Americas and we were on a mission to Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil to negotiate on the recognition of the Armenian independence. The then Foreign Minister of Armenia, Raffi Hovhannisyan with whom I travelled to Latin America had left for the USA and I was in Buenos Aires, anxiously awaiting the decision of the Argentinian governement. The following morning I received a phone call setting a meeting with the Deputy Minsiter. On my way to the MFA approximately 25-30 Argentinian armenians came up to the building of the Ministry and there was so much excitement in the air. Eeveryone was waiting for the decision.

On my way to the Deputy Minister`s office one of the employers passed by with a tray of champagne and glasses and I have realized that we were going to have something to celebrate! When the official decision was read out and it was submitted to me as to the oficial representative of the Republic of Armenia I realized that being a diplomat was all about moments like these. I t is a great honour for any diplomat to represent his country during such a crucial period in it’s history.

During that particular period, a lot of Armenian diplomats returned to work at the MFA of the Independent Republic of Armenia leaving behind their foreign missions and careers.

— Yes, there were some. And it would have been nearly impossible to establish the ministry we have today without their assistance and participation. Ashot Melik-Shahnazaryan, Arman Navasardyan, Grigori Badalyan and others were among them.

It’s also worth mentioning that Edward Nalbandian, a current Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, is one of the diplomats, who chose Armenia instead of his successful diplomatic career in Russia. We decided to use our experience and invest all of our efforts into the development of Armenian diplomacy while simultaneously working with the new generation. MFA sent a number of young students to study abroad and gain experience needed to represent their country on the international stage. It is impossible to build and to develop diplomacy without experience, theory cannot replace practice. I can proudly state that some young boys and girls who joined MFA between 1991 and 1993 are now heading our diplomatic missions around the world, professionally and proundy representing the Republic of Armenia. I personally have oficially represented Armenia for 12 years in 7 countries. I have presented my credentials as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to four presidents, two kings and a queen. It is quite an achievement and an honour for me.

What do you think is the main rule in diplomacy?

— A diplomat has no right to relax, this is a profession that requires constant self improvement and continued study. I always try to learn even from the younger generation. If a diplomat looses his drive then there is nothing left to do.We cannot afford to relax, we must at all times be vigilant and ready for any unexpected situation, especially in this interconnected and changing world.

 

Vladimir Karmirshalyan

Born in 1952 in Echmiadzin, Armenia.

Diplomatic Rank: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

Current position: Head of Consular Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, Yerevan.

Education: in 1970-1974 Studied at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. 1976 Graduated from the Moscow State University, in 1991 Graduated from the Moscow Diplomatic Academy with a degree of excellence

2012-2013 Adviser, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, Yerevan

2006-2012Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the Argentine Republic, Oriental Republic of Uruguay and Republic of Chile (with residence in Buenos Aires)

2000-2006 Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the Kingdom of Denmark, Kingdom of Sweden, Kingdom of Norway and the Republic of Finland.

1998-2000 Member of the Human Rights Committee, headed by the President of the Republic of Armenia.

1994-1995 Head of the Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of theRepublic of Armenia, Yerevan.

1992-1994 Head of Latin American Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, Yerevan.

1991-1992 Head of the First Political Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, Yerevan.

1990 Short term mission in the Embassy of the USSR in Buenos Aires, Argentina

1985-1989 Consul, General Consulate of the USSR, Da Nang, Vietnam.

1978-1985 Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Armenian SSR, Yerevan.

1977-1978 Second Secretary, Department of Political Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Armenian SSR, Yerevan.