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Armenian Speaker Was Stable Figure

October 28, 1999

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) _ Parliament Speaker Karen Demirchian, who was killed by gunmen in Armenia’s parliament on Wednesday, was admired by many Armenians for providing a stability that Armenia has lacked so severely over the past decade. He was 67.

Demirchian was prominent in politics during two strongly contrasting periods. He was Armenia’s Communist Party chief for 14 years when it was part of the Soviet Union. He then returned to politics in 1998, becoming parliament speaker after losing his bid to become independent Armenia’s president.

In the interim, he directed a semi-privatized electrical equipment factory. The factory stayed open even as Armenia’s economy collapsed, and Demirchian’s supporters saw that as evidence of business acumen.

Demirchian also represented stability to them: he was the Communist boss from 1974 to 1988, a period when life was relatively predictable, when pensions and wages were paid on time.

But the Kremlin removed Demirchian from his post in 1988 as tensions over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh reached the boiling point. The ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan declared independence that year, touching off a war that left an estimated 15,000 people dead and severely drained Armenia’s economy.

The official reason given for Demirchian’s removal at the time was health concerns, but observers widely speculated that Moscow was unhappy with his inability to cool the ethnic tensions.

Demirchian was trained as an engineer, and worked in a Yerevan electrical factory before devoting himself full-time to party work.

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