Anton Kochinian was a remarkable, yet underrated figure in the history of Soviet Armenia during the 1950-1970s, despite being in top leadership positions for most of that period.
He was born in the village of Shahali (now Vahagni), in the district of Lori, on October 25, 1913, in the family of an agriculturist. He studied in the local school, then entered the youth organization of the Communist Party (1928) and studied in the school of the organization until 1931. He went to Tiflis to study at the Armenian pedagogical technical school in 1932, but left after a year and he was sent to Yerevan to study at the agricultural school of the youth organization (1933-1935).
After working on the editorial boards of local newspapers from Tavush and Vayots dzor (1935-1937), Kochinian rapidly rose in the party ranks. First he was secretary of the regional committee of the district of Azizbekov (Siunik) from 1937-1939, and from 1939-1940 secretary of personnel and then first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth Organization. In 1940 he was elected member of the Central Committee of the Armenian Communist Party, and in 1941-1943 he led regional committees in Yerevan and Kotayk.
After spending two years in Moscow as an auditor at the higher school for party organizers, in 1946 he was elected third secretary of the Central Committee of the Armenian Communist Party, and in 1947 secretary of personnel.
In November 1952 Kochinian was promoted to the post of president of the Council of Ministers. He would occupy this position of prime minister for almost fourteen years, during the tenures of Grigori Arutyunov (1937-1953), Suren Tovmasian (1953-1960), and Yakob Zarobian (1960-1966) as the party’s first secretaries. Kochinian was selected by the Moscow leadership to replace Zarobian in February 1966 after the latter failed to contain the demonstrations of April 1965 on the fiftieth anniversary of the genocide.
During his more than two decades both as prime minister and first secretary of the party, Kochinian recorded a series of important achievements. The economic progress of Armenia was backed by an important program of industrialization. This included the construction of chemical factories in Alaverdi and Kirovakan (nowadays Vanadzor), the industrial complexes of Hrazdan and Charentsavan, and factories in Sevan and Dilijan, complemented by railways that ensured transportation of raw materials and production. The “Yeraz” truck factory (1964) in Yerevan and big electronic factories in the city of Abovian were added in this period. Thermoelectric centrals were built in Yerevan, Kirovakan, and Hrazdan, as well as the hydroelectric central of Tatev and the cascade of Vorotan. The construction of the 48 kilometers-long Arpa-Sevan tunnel, which would bring the waters of the Arpa River to Sevan Lake, started in 1963. Kochinian’s active participation was instrumental in the decision to build the nuclear central of Metzamor, started in 1969, which would lead Armenia to energy self-sufficiency. Several thousand hectares of orchards were planted, along the construction of the canal of Aparan and the reservoir of Garni. The Yerevan-Sevan highway and the Kapan-Goris route were also built.
Besides a network of sanatoria, pioneer camps, and tourism areas throughout the republic, the sports complex of Tzaghkadzor, which would be used to train the Soviet winter sports teams, was built in the 1960s, and some important public works in Yerevan started in the early 1970s, such as enlargement of the Zvartnots airport (1973), the Hrazdan stadium (1971), and the Rossiya movie theater (1970). The first steps to build the subway network were taken in 1972.
Kochinian was also instrumental in the inauguration of the genocide memorial of Tzitzernakaberd (1967), the monument of Sardarabad (1968), and the Erebuni museum (1968). The latter coincided with the celebration of the 2750th anniversary of the foundation of Yerevan with great fanfare. He also raised the issue of Karabagh in 1966.
During Kochinian’s tenure as first secretary, Soviet Armenia earned three of the five all-Soviet decorations it had throughout its history for reaching high marks in economic activity (1968, 1970, and 1972). Kochinian himself was twice decorated with the order of Lenin.
In November 1974 he was replaced by Karen Demirchyan under pretexts of “serious flaws in leadership” and practically left unemployed. He passed away on December 1, 1990. On the centennial of Kochinian’s birth, two busts were inaugurated in Yerevan and in his birthplace in Vahagni (Lori).