The Products Of Armenia's Uprising

The merchandise riding the wave of Armenia’s street protests.

"Duxov" as worn by creator Aslanian.

The 'Duxov' Hat, by Ara Aslanian

In angular Armenian script, the word emblazoned on the cap that's become iconic of Armenia's protest movement roughly translates as "Be strong." The mash-up of the Russian "dukh," meaning "spirit," and the Armenian "ov," meaning "with," is the kind of slang you might hear on the street when someone is called on to show a little grit.

Ara Aslanian, the hat's designer, had created the logo in early 2018 after being commissioned to create a marketing campaign relating to soccer's upcoming World Cup. But Aslanian soon realized the brand would be a perfect fit for the protests that gained momentum in April. As the demonstrations began to grow, he ordered the production of 3,000 of the hats and hatched a plan.

"My goal was to give [protest leader Nikol Pashinian] the hat," Aslanian tells RFE/RL. "If he puts it on, my marketing plan is really good. So I go [to a large protest rally], I give a lot of hats away, and people are saying: 'Oh, nice cap. Can I have it?' I say, 'OK, I'll give you two if you give one to Nikol.'"

Aslanian then sat back to watch live streams of the protests, and he waited.

Pashinian wearing the Duxov cap on May 2 (Photo by Vano Shlamov/AFP)

​When Pashinian's trademark Adidas cap was finally replaced with the striking and thoroughly Armenian "Duxov" cap, it caused an immediate sensation.

The designer mimes multiple telephones to demonstrate the wild success of the brand that is now being sold in the United States and Russia, in addition to elsewhere in Europe.

Aslanian says he lost count of the number of caps he's sold, and counterfeit versions are popping up so fast, he says, "I physically cannot manage it."

At a central Yerevan market, RFE/RL saw more than 100 counterfeit versions of the cap being sold, along with T-shirts, notebooks, and badges emblazoned with the "Duxov" logo.

A youngster trying on a T-shirt with Nikol Pashinian's face and a pirated version of the "Duxov" logo at a market in Yerevan.

For now, Aslanian is not making a profit. After giving away the first batch in the early days of the protests, the caps are selling for 6,000 drams ($12) -- just enough to cover costs. "A lot of people were saying, 'Oh, it's bad to get profit from revolution.' So I decided at the moment not to sell [for a profit], I'll sell it later. My plan is to eventually have this brand everywhere."

'Sweet Freedom' Honey, by Lilit Karapetian

Within 10 minutes of news breaking that Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian had resigned on April 23, Lilit Karapetian hurried to her computer and got to work.

With the sound of street celebrations rumbling through the walls of her office, the director of Yerevan's Honey House tapped out the design of a label for a batch of honey they'd recently received from the lush mountains around Ijevan (the northern Armenian municipality is Pashinian's hometown).

A worker ladles "Freedom Honey" into a jar in the Honey House store in central Yerevan.

By that evening, the jars of linden honey (a variety described as "pleasantly sweet, but with a barely perceptible bitter aftertaste") were on sale. In just over a week, Karapetian says they sold around 50 jars of the 3,900-dram ($8) honey.

Jars on display outside Honey House

Karapetian and company owner Arsen Sirekanian share the enthusiasm many Yerevan locals appear to have toward the street protests, and say they closed down their business during the demonstrations to hand out water and honey butter to protesters. Sirekanian tells RFE/RL: "For the last 10 years, people in Yerevan were starting to smile less and less. Now look outside, people are happy again."

Nikol Pashinian T-Shirt, by Armen Ohanian

In a quiet, tidy village an hour's drive from Yerevan, Armen Ohanian is a busy man. As his wife and teenage children cluster around to show off the acrylic art that he paints directly onto dresses, handbags, and umbrellas, the artist carries on the work that is taking up much of his time these days: portraits of Nikol Pashinian painted onto gray cotton T-shirts.

One of Ohanian's T-shirts on sale in Yerevan's Vernissage Market

Each T-shirt takes the artist around two or three hours to complete, and will be sold for 10,000 drams ($20) in a shop in central Yerevan that the artist has a long working relationship with. Although he's lost count, he says he thinks around 50 of the shirts have been sold over the past few days.

Ohanian says that in his younger days he was never involved in street protests but that on May 8 he hopes to be with the crowd on Republic Square when Armenia's parliament should vote in a new prime minister, widely expected to be Pashinian.

A T-shirt in progress with the photo Ohanian based his painting on. "I like this photo because [Pashinian] is smiling. In most photos, he looks very stern."

The optimism many Armenians have shown in Pashinian is captured in the song quote that Ohanian's wife chose for the portrait: "The sunlight of faith is shining in our eyes."

As Ohanian quietly puts the finishing touches on a T-shirt, he justifies the high regard he holds for the protest leader: "He has planted the seed of freedom and unity in every Armenian."

Photos and text by Amos Chapple