Obituary: Sergei Badalian

SERGEI BADALIAN, the head of the Armenian Communist Party, suffered the fate of many current Communist leaders of the former Soviet Union in failing to move beyond his natural constituency of nostalgic hardliners. Although the largest party in post-Soviet Armenia (it claims some 50,000 members), the Communist Party never came close to attaining power and the most Badalian himself managed was third place in presidential elections.

The main reason for his failure to capitalise on the widespread popular discontent and disillusion with post-Soviet politicians was his adherence to rigid Communist orthodoxy and uncritical allegiance to the Communist past. His rhetorical style differed little from that of Soviet-era politicians, based around a string of Marxist-Leninist cliches.

Badalian's initial training was as a scientist. He graduated in 1970 from the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute with a diploma in computer studies. In 1980 he successfully defended his dissertation and received a degree in Physics and Mathematics. He wrote - alone or with others - more than 40 scientific works and lectured at Yerevan State University and Yerevan State Engineering University.

Badalian's political career began in 1970 when he joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In 1989 he was elected to the Bureau of the Yerevan City Committee of the Communist Party of Armenia, and, a year later, to the Bureau of the Party's Central Committee.

In January 1991 he was elected First Secretary of the Yerevan City Committee and, in July of that year, Secretary of the Central Committee, while retaining his City Committee duties. By now the Communist Party had been ousted from power by the Armenian National Movement that had built its support on the popular wave of sentiment calling for Nagorno-Karabakh to be transferred from Azerbaijani to Armenian jurisdiction.

Many former Communists had abandoned the party or defected to the National Movement, shedding their Marxist-Leninist ideology in favour of nationalism. But Badalian remained true to the faith.

In August 1994, at the 31st Congress of the Party, Badalian was unanimously elected First Secretary of the Central Committee. In July 1995 he was elected to the National Assembly on the Communist Party's slate and later became chairman of the Communist faction in parliament. He was re-elected to the National Assembly last May.

Badalian twice contested the presidency - in 1996 and 1998. In 1996 he achieved a distant third place, with 6 per cent of the vote, while in 1998 he came fourth, though with 11 per cent of the vote.

Badalian was an austere, even puritanical man, who seemed rather un-Armenian. A man of great energy, he nevertheless appeared the pure distillation of a Soviet apparatchik. He went beyond the pro-Russian stance of successive Armenian governments, even calling for Armenia to join the Russia-Belarus Union that has had so much difficulty getting off the ground.

One of Badalian's last meetings was with Gennady Seleznev, the Communist speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament.

Sergei Grigorievich Badalian, politician: born Yerevan, Soviet Union 4 July 1947, married (two sons); died Moscow 25 November 1999.

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