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30 Great Expectalions

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Armenian lnlernalional Magazine Vo Ltirr 15. ssuc 0nr

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Focus

6 From lhe Editor 7 Letters

16 Second Act Newly Renovated 0pera Starts New Season

10 AIM View Notebook

12 13 14 15

Did You Know? Postscript Birthdays and Anniversaries 0uote Unquole I Bytes on File

Cover Story

19 0n the Turkish Border 26 Stillthe Same Resolve Tom Samuelian I By lnvitation

28 The Economic 0utlook Gonnections

36 Courage and Solidarity Whata Difference a Cow Makes

Music

43 The Lady Sings the Blues Eooks

58 Historically Speaking 62 Underexposed 64 Our List 65 0ther People's Mail

Photo Essay

46 A Home By Any Other Name

,AJ J/

Photographer Rouben Mangasarian records the lile of Alla Khalatian

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4


1\INI Publisher

Fourth Millenni[m Society Managin0 Editor

llun Expectation$

Hrair Sarkis Sarkissian General Manager

Laura Gononian Art Director

alrcady shaping up to be a warm year. And everyone's gratelul. Last January, Yerevan lstrects lrozc. pipes burst. and the city experienced the coldest winter in decades.This year. the end of January. beginning of February l'elt like spring had come early. It's been warm in the AIM office too. Last January, AIM was a mere hope. This year, AIM is around and we have expectations. Not just great expectations, but huge expectations. We expect that with the participation of some thoughtful, experienced contributors such as attorney Tom Samuelian. political commentator Raflk Hovhannisian, creative photojournalist Rouben Mangasarian you will be able to see Armenia through a new prism. We have every reason to expect that the immediacy of their perspectives on Armenia and the Diaspora's role here - the process of a nation involved in state building, as Tom calls it - will

Sevan Amirians

!t's

Assistanl to the Editor

Eliza Gallayan Otlice Coordinator

/

Photo l\4anager

Narine Arushanian Web & Promotions Armineh Gregorians Advertising

Sylvie Keshishian Oifice 0perations

Marine Topchian Glendale Calil0rnia office Assistant

Mihran Manukian

Yerevan Bureau Ani Plaza Hotel 1

I

Sayat Nova Street

Business Floor No. 28/29

99

Phone 58 36 Fax 58 35 99 Alt\,4 inlo@eArmenia.com All\ilArm@arminCo.c0m

Contributors

Sara Aniarg0lian, Hakob Asatrian, Mad( Belinsky, Tamar Hay{ayan, Ralik Hovhannisian, vahe Karapetian, Sylvie Keshishian, Edith Khachalourian, Artem Sadoyan, Tom Samuelian, Chris Uregian, Nicole Varlanian, Fredrik Wadstrom Photographers Aniloine Agoudlian, tumineh Johannes, Mkhibr l$adlatian, Hary Koundakiian, Zaven ftadikian, Garo l-achinian,

Sosi Madmunian, Rouben Mangasadan, Xarâ‚Źn Miz0yan, Eric Nazadan, AIa ftlugan, Photolurâ‚Ź Ph0t0 l{ews Agency, Berge Ara Zobian Accounting Services

Bedig Araradian, CPA Legal Services

Shahen Hairapetian, Att0rney at Law Pasadena Calltornia

lnlernalional [egal C0nsulling

make you want to experience the satisfactions and aggravations of Armenia yourself. Just in case you don't, we'll be happy to keep pointing them out to you.

Our greatest expectation is that AIM continues to find a place in your mailbox. Share it with your friends. Show them what Armenian printing and the Armenian postal service can do. We're sure AIM is the post office's largest client, and we're certainly one of the biggest printing customers in Yerevan. That isn't just good news. (Remember the aggravation part, above?) But it's also great news. Hrair

S. Sarkissian Managing Editor

Vahe

Yerevan Armenia

lT Consulting & Services lssakhanian Yerevan Armenia

Printing

Prinlinto

Yerevan Armenia

Write to AIM! We welcome all communication. Although we read all letters and submissions, we are unable t0 acknowledge everything ttve receive due to limited staffing and resources. Letters to the Editor may be edited for publication,

Amenian lnternational Magazine

Art Director Sevan Amirians, Managing Editor Hrair S. Sarkissian and Assistant to lhe Editor Eliza Gallayan at Prinlinlo checking the first AIM pages printed in Armenia. Photo by Mkhitar Khachatrian

Left to right:

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

Founded in 1990 Founding Editor Vartan oskanian Foundin0 Publisher Michael I'lahabet 207 South Brand Boulevard, Suite 205, Glendale, CA 91204 USA Phone 818 246 7979 Fax 818 246 0088 AlMinfo@eArmenia.com


tioned in your story at USAID. The biggest current challenge facing the food industry is ensuring that the quality of products, packaging etc. comply with international standards and a lot of work is being done in this field. It is also encouraging to hear that some

big contracts will be signed in the near future to export Armenian products to Dubai and to Middle Eastern countries. With USAID funding, those organizations in Agribusiness such as DAI and ACDIA/OCA who just completed a project on dairy packaging, are accomplishing good quality work. It is important for readers of your magazine to be familiar with USAID projects and where the money is being spent. Keep up your great investigative work. Lena Majarian Yerevan,

Eating Well

Your cover story from the November issue was quite comprehensive and accurate. How do I know this? I hear weekly updates from those organizations men-

Armenia

As a current Yerevan resident, I can't begin to thank you enough for the recent focus on food and wine in the country. The number one request I receive from visitors is to give them the "inside scoop" on products to taste and buy. You've uncovered

in our

t).ze

Get freurtddinformation

quite a few jewels. Armenian foods do not share the same commercialistic qualities of other nations, that is to say high use of hormones and artificial flavor enhancers, and most importantly fruits and vegetables are

allowed to mature naturally, not forced to ripen by gassing or other means. All of shows in the taste and quality of the food products. As the manufacturing sector continues to grow, I hope that Armenia will gain strength in the marketplace in sharing her gourmet-quality goods with the world.

I would suggest that you plan on making

this an annual feature, as I'm sure that Diaspora stores are looking to carry more Armenian products. Armenia has a lot to offer in the area of cuisine, and visitors should take full advantage of all the work you've done when planning their trip to Armenia. One more flne example of all that the country has to offer. Paula Devejian Yerevan,

Waiting for Results I was glad to read about the anti corrup-

sbp wsitor centeil

www.ormenioinfo.om

ARmEnl Alnformation ARMENTAN ToURISM

DrvuopurNT AcENcy

3 Nalbandyan St., Yerevan - Tel.: 54.23.03, 54.23.06 - E-mail: info@armeniainfo.am Funding prcvidod by tho United Sist8s Agancy for lntemational Development (USAIO), with tschniâ‚Źl assistance by lntemational ExoqJtivs Ssrvica Corps (IESC).

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

Armenia


tion work being done in Armenia in your article'Hitting the Spot' (November 2003). But I wonder if such efforts could be at all

The Fourth lVillennium Society is an independently funded and administered public charity committed t0 the dissemination o1 inlormation for the purpose of developing an inlormed public. Underpinning all our work is the firm conviction thatthevitality ofan independent press isfundamental t0ademocratic society in Armenia and dem-

ocratic instituti0ns in the Diaspora. The Fourth l\rlillennium Society publishes Almenian lnternalional lVlagazine in its eflort to contribule t0 the national dialogue. The directors are gratelul to the Benefactors,

effective. Armenia and Armenian officials

Trustees, Patrons and Friends ol the Fourth Millennium Society who are committed to the well-being, growth and development ot Armenians and Armenia through the promotion of open discussion and the free llow 0t information among individuais and 0rganizations. Their financial contribulions supporl the w0rk 0t the Fourth Millennium S0ciety and ensure the independence 0f Allvl.

may be corrupt as a result of the Soviet influence or just because they are human. I

have heard

of major corruption

by

Armenian officials in forms of expected payoffs. which is very unfortunate. But then

Vahe A0habeoians, Salpi Haroutinian Ghazarian, Shahen Hairapetian, Michael Nahabet, Baffi Zinzalian, Directors

again. we have all seen various forms of corruption around the world - that is if corruption is defined as'taking advantage of one's own powers for personal gain.'Just look at

what the Bush administration has done to free speech and independent media in the last couple of years in the US. Don't get me wrong. I am all for any kind and amount of eftbrt to make Armenia and Armenians more responsible and caring for their own destiny. But really. how much could be done? People are people. People are selfish. I think very few will put their country's interest before their own pockets. Let's try and find and hang on to those who will. I also agree with you that it is everyone's

responsibility to curtail corruption. Not just

Benelactors Sarkis Acopian, Albert & Tove Boyajian, The Cafesjian Family Foundation, lnc., Araxie ful. Haroutinian, Hirair and Anna Hovnanian, Vahakn and Hasmig Hovnanian, The Lincy Foundation, Louise Manoogian Simone

Senior Truslees AUSTRALIA Heros & Kate Dilanchian CANADA Bazmig Hakimiant, Kourken Sarkissian H0NG K0NG Jack Maxian USA CA Armand & Nancy Arabian, Khachig Babayan, George & Flora Dunaians, Armen & Gloriat Hampar, George & Grace Kay, Joe & Joyce Stein NH Jeannette John NY James Tufenkian Rl Papken Janjigian

Founding Truslees AUSTRALIA Varoojan lskenderian USA CA Garen Avedikian, Mardo Kaprielian, Edward Misserlian, Bob lVovelt, Varoujan Nahabet, Norair 0skanian, Emmy Papazian, Zareh Sarkissian, Bafli Zinzalian FL Hagop Koushakjian PA Zarouhi Mardikian

Tenth Anniversary Corporate Sponsors Aesthetic & Reconstructive Plastic Surgery, Gar0 Kassabian; Armenian Jewelers'Ass0ciation; Commerce Casino, Hasmik l\4ordichian; George Tumanjan; Grand Tobacco, Hrand & Mikayel Vardanian; ISB Group, Armen & Ketty Kazandjian; Law Oflice of Aris Artounians, Aris & Karine Artounians; Law 0ftices of 0urfalian & 0urfalian, Ra{i & Sarkis 0urfalian,

the people in power. John Arakelian

NASA Services Inc., Sam & Elizabeth Sarkisian, Nick & Kamelia Sarkisian, Arsen Sarkisian; Pacilic Sales, Jerry Turpaniian; Remax of Glendale, Vahe & Aida Yeghiazarian; Yerevan Hotel

By E-moil

Associate Truslees ARIVENIA Khachatur & Rouzanna Soukiassian AUSTRALIA Arman & Nalri Derderyan USA CA Vartkes & Jean Barsam,

First Impressions

I

Walter & Laurel Karabian, Gary & Sossi Kevorkian, NJ Nazar & Artemis Nazarian,

recently visited Armenia for the first

time and was amazed at the country. I have been reading AIM for years and always look at the photos first as I have always wanted to get a mental picture of what Armenia looks like. As a result. things I saw during my stay were familiar to me because I have seen so much of them in AIM. I came across so many wonderful people, and made some friends. It was very touching as this is the first time I go to a country not knowing anyone and walk away with friendships I think may last a lifetime. But unfortunately, I was also struck at how some things can be so difficult to do, even for a tourist who is there for a relatively short time and not one who lives there and has to deal with eveyday life. I spent five days at Ovir trying to get my visa extended. I have since heard from some that not many people have the same experience with visas. Who know? On the other hand. my experiences at the airport were much better than what I have heard from others who had visited a year ago. I look forward to reading more of your articles. It will be a bit different from now on. as I have experienced the country first hand. But you guys do a good job. Good luck and keep plugging away. Maria Shakarian

By E-mail

Ralph & Savey Tufenkian IVA K. George & Carolann Najarian

Pahons AUSTBALIA

Varooj & Lena Allebarmakian

Krikor Krikorian

Arlin Etmektian George & Varlouhi Tavoukj an

Ha(y & Aivarl Barseghian

Julle Ku haniian & Roger Slrauch Louis & Grace Kurkjian Dora Serviariaf Kuhn

Richard K. Babayan

& Sonya Nersessian Charles & Donna Kouyoumlian Richard Simonian

Mack Vahanian Anonymous

Aram & Terez Basseflian Daniel Behesnilian Berj & Hera Boyajian

CAIIADA

ffouben V & Tania Chakalian

Avlk l\4ahdesiant Slepan & Erdlanik l,4arkarian

Hagop & Violet oakessian

lsabelle. Brian Melkesian

George Chamchikian

Caro & Diyana Danielian

Harout & Eita lvlesrobian

Edgar & Sarah Hagopian

Lor se Aznavour Gerair & E ise Dervish an [.4igirdic & An l\4igird cyan Soghomon & Ae ar Sakarya & Fam CYPRUS

Garo Keheyan ISRAET

Adrine Karakash an ITATY

Krikor & Haroul lstanb!lian

lies

Tony & Ria Moroyan

Alex l\ilanoogiant

0 milri & Tamara Dimilri Sleve & Lucille Eslephanian

Edward & Alice Navasargian

Klrakos Vapurciyan

l\,4ano usha

g Ferman ian

GaOik & Knar Galslian Vahan & Audrey Gregor Pietre & Alice Haig Hairapet an

Armand 0. Norehad

USA IIEVADA

Kennelh & Cindy Norian Llichael & Hermine Piranian Hratch & Hel0a Sarkis Alex Sarkissian

Latry & Seda Barnes

Robert &

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Helen Shamlian

Shahen & Ilarlha Haroutunian

Sun Plaslics. lnc.

Kevork Bouladian

Charles & Annabelle Hintilian

Petros & Garine Taglyan

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Arplar & Hermine Janoyan

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uItTE0 t(ltGD0ttt Diran & Su2i Chakelian usA cALtF0Slll^ Mlhran & Elizabelh Agbabian Garabed Akoolat

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Ardash & l\,,larian Derderian

LEBAIION

Garabed

Nishan & lvlargaret Atinizian

Z Greg Kahwajian

Ara & Avedis Tavilian Gaidzag

Jack & l\,1aro Kalaydjian Kevork & Sateniq Karajerj an

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Kirk & Ann Kesapyan lvan & Kohar Kesyan

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usA c0t{}tEcltcuT Louis T. Hagopian Kevork & Pamela Toroyan usA rLt-nols lvl nasian, Shetry Manoogian

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Mar0arel Chantikiant Sarkis & Ruth Bedevlan USA NEW YONX

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l\,4ichael Ansour

Hatry & Aida Koundakj an Nancy Kr corian Vahe N shaniant

V John & lucille

G. Sarkissian Haroul To0sacalian

usA wAsHtt{GTolr 0c Barry & Marqaret Zo(hiao

USA TIASSACHUSETTS

Kevork Atinizian

Friends ol AIM The F0urlh l\4illennium Society is Oratelul l0 the lollowinq l0r contribul ng during lhe last six monlhs to ensure All\4s linancial independence.

c^[aDA Vahe & Arsine oshagan, usA cA Agop Agopian, Sarkis & Karen Antikajian, A.A. Babakhanian, Rali & Sevan &ghdjian, Serj & Anahid Bulanikian, Arthony & B0upina Carman, Hatry Chakarian, Grisha & Arsine Der Hacobian, Garlield Financial C0D0rati0n, Peter & Sarah G00rjian, Jack & Adrine Habeshian, Hairapetian & Hairapelian, Dikran & Hermine H0roupian, S0sie Kachikian, George Leylegian, Armand & Nadia Milijanian, Edward & Velgine Misserlian, John & oebra Paulson, [,,lardig & Seta Pogharian, Richard Simonian, Ralli & Nairy Zohrabian, Ft Victoria Lairmore, Anne l\.4erian, Hrach & Armineh Mesl0pian, tI Hag0p Dickranian, MA Ardash & Charlene Apigian, Ara & Arax l\,lovsesian, itE Roupen Soulahian, ilt Jirair Haratunian, Richald & Adrienne lMcomber, ilJ Kevork [.4inassian, Alex Sarkissian, Kacheg & Anna Topalian, ttY Charles Dadaian, Haikaz & Alice Hovanesian, l\.4arlin & Anig Nalbandian, John & Jilda Saglamar, of, Jirair & S0ssi Kelchediian, pr Vartan & Stella Nazarian, James and Cherry Wardrip, wl Henry & Bouletta Gasparian, lvan & Kohar Kesian. ilo ADDRESS Nazarel & Linda Berberian. osborne & l\4ildred l\4oe

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4


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Thking Risks Expectations of Armenia 2004. Armenia - its people and its government - are expected to lwork to create stahle. legitimate. uncorrupt indigcnous state insti-

ln

tutions. Whose expectations are these? It's fair to say that everyone Armenians, the world - all want the same thing. As certain countries have demonstrated. one can live with a less

- Armenia,

than perfect president, and with far-from-perfect elected officials, if the institutions that determine the quality of people's lives are solid. In Armenia, they're not. And that's at the heart of all the discontent. There is institutional reform, prodded, funded, monitored by various international organizations. Partly as a result of this prodding and partly because Armenia realizes the essential need to fix the institutional infrastructure. Armenia's reforms are ahead of neighbor Azerbaijan's. That's a good thing, but not enough. As usual, those at the very top seem to understand and believe in the process of change for the good of society. The leaders make sense and they probably mean what they say. But where is the trickle down effect in Armenia's economic and social policies? That filtering down is not necessarily going to happen by itself. The people at the levels most directly responsible for making changes are the very people who still suffer from the Soviet-bred mentality that insists on no risk-taking and no collective-thinking. It's a thinking that is quite intentionally not circumspect, that does not stretch beyond the immediate question at hand.

Unfortunately. those most appropriately-placed to demand a - the population at large - do not expect things to be any different. They too are not risk-takers. Nor do they have the experience of having fought and won civic battles to begin to believe that they do have power. So, it's back to the members of government. They've made the right promises to do the two most important things: make Armenia's

change

business climate attractive to domestic and foreign investors, and bolster Armenia's social. educational and health services. To do the first, they have vowed to improve the transparency and efficiency of customs administration and eliminate loopholes. The legal and judicial system, too, they say has to be cleaned up. They need to become more consistent, predictable, independent and fair. Tiansparency, here, too, wouldn't be a bad thing. The result will be not just more business investment, but also more faith in the system, which itself is an investment incentive. An indirect and desirable outcome will also be increased tax revenue, which in turn will help make possible the second goal: more responsive and responsible social, educational and health sectors. Public sector reform must start with a smaller number of more responsible and better paid civil service employees. That's the first step toward a reduction of offlcials on the take. The Government's Anti-Corruption Strategy will play a vital role in improving the

investment climate and in bringing a sense of predictability and empowerment to the population. Until then, Armenia can and should expect that international

donors contribute more sensibly and purposefully to Armenia's reform needs. The time for conferences is over. Neither health reform nor education reform is going to come easier or faster with one more seminar. Armenians in the US and in Europe can lobby their host governments to offer Armenia real, measurable reform projects in these key sectors. The greatest expectation of all is that the members of government care about their population and utilize brains and heart to adopt strong, tough measures, to accomplish the greatest good. r

Thking More Risks Expectations of the Diaspora

hat do we expect in 2004? Armenia expects that a well-intentioned and hard-working Diaspora will engage in the life and future of Armenia. In this new period when the sustainability of liberal economics, of democracy. of Armenia's "westernness" will be tested, the Diaspora must become a participant in these processes.The Diaspora was actually pretty good at delivering humanitarian assistance, but it has had a spotty record in promoting long-term economic growth and serious institution building. And that's what's needed now. A dozen years after independence, it's no secret that the conventions, the rules, the assumptions, the methods, are different Armenia's and the Diaspora's.And there's nothing wrong with admit 10

ting this, so long as the goals are the same. If the goal - the common goal - is the security and prosperity of Armenia, then the Diaspora will, in its own way, use its skills, resources and powers, to make some part of that prosperity and security happen. Those from the Diaspora who have succeeded in making projects' businesses or plans happen in Armenia, have succeeded because they understood that the process is slow - and different. They've understood that if the risks weren't great, the rewards wouldn't be either. If the country were perfect, if the institutions worked, there wouldn't be the kind of easy access there is to the top, to power, to resources, to decisionmakers. Diasporans would not have the opportunity to walk into a village and decide whether to overhaul the

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4


water system or the school building. That kind of decisionmaking is usually the domain of the officials. But in an imperfect, ill-designed, poorly-funded system, there is plenty of room for a willing participant to walk in and call the shots - right or wrong, wise or unwise, shortsighted or farsighted. This means that the Diaspora has quite a bit of maneuvering room to do big things. Educational systems or water distribution systems are, in a word, vital. Overhauling either means ensuring quality of life, and a future. The Diaspora can choose to tackle either of these challenges or both, or something else. These two are just examples. But the Diaspora must play a part. It must do more than donate. Involvement is the right word. Choose the sector, and chances are, Armenia has plenty of skilled, trained specialists to get the job done. However, regardless of the sector, Armenia does not have the educated, trained, experienced project managers to get the job done most effectively and productively. This is where the Diaspora comes in. The Diaspora's great asset is the thinking and experience that is different from Soviet thinking and Soviet experience. It is this resource that it must bring with it to Armenia. But the Diaspora itself is imperfect. It is a Diaspora after all -

born of survivors and victims, and dispersed. Diasporans are minorities in all their host countries, and have not escaped the feelings of inferiority that are often the characteristic of minorities. The Diaspora is also saddled with feelings of guilt and/or responsibility about its Armenian identity. This too is typical of a people living away from a homeland and the cultural, linguistic, social consciousness that a homeland generates.

As a result, in Armenia, individual Diasporans often try to assuage both those loads, by replacing the inferiority with superiority and the Armenian-ness with super-Armenianness. Neither sits well

with the Armenians of Armenia. Both attempts complicate work and other relationships. As a result, individual attempts to engage sometimes fail, unnecessarily. On an organizational level, the Diaspora is still not coordinated enough to be able to delegate tasks or job share. That results in occasional poor choices of projects and implementation modalities. But, the bottom line is the same: the risks are high, the problems are great, but the return is visible, palpable, tangible change and improvement. And the reward is high: a part in Armenia, a work

in

progress.

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NOTEBOOK

Enic GniUonian Winning Photo in Yerevan Exhibit lln

March 3,2UA the World Press Photo (WPP) exhibition of

llprizewinning photographs that travel to 40 countries around the world will be in Yerevan. Included in the exhibition will be Eric Grigorian's winning WPP's photograph for 2ffi2.The image is of a young boy sitting near the grave being dug for his father after a devastating earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter Scale hit the Qazvin Province of Iran. Amid the chaos around him the boy is holding on to his dead father's trousers and crying. This is the image that the international jury of the 46th annual WPP awarded World Press Photo of the Year 20fl2 among 53.597 entries submitted by 3,913 photographers from 118 countries.

Grigorian studied photography at San Jose State University in California and went on to work as a freelance photographer for the Los Angeles Daily News. ln 2C[.2 while in Tehran, Iran visiting his uncle, photojournalist Grigorian felt the aftershocks of the devastating earthquake in Qazvin Province some 2(X) miles away. Grigorian and a fellow

photographer hired a taxi and made the five-hour journey to the site of the earthquake that had killed an estimated 500 people. Only 20 minutes upon arrival, just before dusk, Grigorian found himself at a graveyard where bulldozers and soldiers were digging graves for the hundreds who had died. He photographed the young boy in whose image he captured the fear and lulnerability of the moment. Grigorian was not able to sell the photographs he took of the earthquake because they were in black and white and the story was no longer news because it was 2 or 3 days old by the time he left the remote village. He was later told that his photograph couldn't be sold because the death toll wasn't as great as originally anticipated and

therefore not newsworthy. Fortunately the judges at WPP weren't interested in trends or hype. Born in 1969 to Armenian parents in Tehran, Grigorian and his family moved to California while he was still

a

young boy. On his entry

form to World Press Photo he signed his nationality

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

as

Armenian. In


World Press Photo question and answer he said "...The culture I grew up in is Armenian, I speak Armenian with my family. I identify with that. Labeling myself as an Armenian photographer now makes the Armenian community proud and, the country of Armenia proud." World Press Photo is a non-profit. independent organization founded in the Netherlands in 1955.Their annual press photography contest is one of the most prestigious in the world.The exhibition will be jointly organized by the Caucuses Media Institute, funded by the Swiss

Agency for Development and Cooperation which among other things runs vocational training centers for joumalists in the republics of the former Soviet Union, and Patker Photo Agency based in Yerevan whose photographers cover the South Caucasus and Central Asia. r 0pposite Page: Photographer Eric Grigorian with the shol which made him an international name in pholoiournalism. Above: World Press Photo ol the Year 2002.

Anmcnia'$ New $eat In the United Nations f,learly three years ago, Armenia was elected a member of the llUnited Nations Commission on Human Rights (See AIM. May 2001) It was a surprise then that a small country without much to leverage could garner the votes necessary to gain a seat in that body. The Human Rights Commission is one of the UN's three main bodies.

In November of 2003, Armenia did it again. This time, 127 countries voted for Armenia to become a member of the UN's Economic and Social Council. 'Armenia was elected on the flrst vote and that's quite an accom-

plishment," says Armenia's Ambassador

to the UN,

Armen

Martirossian. For months before the vote, Armenia's ambassadors were mobilized. Martirossian, who was assigned to his post in June 2003, says he used each of his get acquainted calls to urge his colleagues to vote for

Armenia. Just over two-thirds listened to him. What does this mean forArmenia? "It means we will be able to participate in some of the UN's most important tasks: developing policy recommendations for the UN system, promoting economic and social progresE identilying solutions to international economic, social and health problems," says Minister of Foreign Affairs Vartan Oskanian. Although the Minister doesn't say it, this also means Armenia now has one more vote to trade. By its mere presence on the Human Rights Commission and now in the Economic and Social Council, Armenia will be sought after by other member states, for its vote. This means Armenia is a member of two of the UN's three main bodies. The third one is the Security Council, with five permanent members and 10 non-permanent members. r

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

13


NOTEBOOK

Gele[nation Alten

lile

Parajanov Would Have Been 80

ln recognition

of the 80th anniversary of the birth of artist and film (1924-1990), several exhibitions of his works (both artwork and filrn) were organized in various cities

ldirector Sergei Parajanov

around the world. On the day of his birth, January 9, a sold out three-day film festival opened in Yerevan's Nairi Theater and featured his films 7fte Color of Pomegranates, The Legend of Suram Fortress and Ashik Kerib as well as Parajanov: A Requiem, a documentary by German director Ron Holloway. Earlier on that day, friends, colleagues and fans of Parajanov gathered at his graveside at the Pantheon in Yerevan and then went on to his house-museum for their annual meeting to celebrate his life and works. A similar gathering took place in Moscow's famous Khanonkova House aswell as in Kiev,where the artist had lived and workedfor30 years His wife Svetlana and son Suren were in attendance at the Kiev gathering. The largest celebration took place in Los Angeleg where an exhibit - Sergei Parajanov: Celebration After Life - opened on December

4 (to February t4

2,2nq

at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum,

featuring 50 of Parajanov's works, some of his films as well as a photo

exhibit by the artist's friend and photographer (of his films) Yuri Mechitov of Tbilisi.

The LA exhibit, curated by Jan Christopher Horak of the Hollywood Entertainment Museum, was organized in cooperation with the Parajanov Museum of Yerevan and the Armenian Art History Research and Educational Association. The man they all remembered was a filmmaker who spent half a dozen years in Soviet prisons, between films. He made, from 1959 to his death nearly three decades later, two dozen fllms. His topics varied from Sayat Nova to international fairy tales, but his style didn't. He was a filmmaker, a magician, awizard, a photographer, an artist an enigmatic subject of more than 20 films.

-

The Parajanov Museum was opened in Yerevan shorfly after the artist died, and is one of the most popular museuns in town.The building was recently renovated by the Linry Foundation and was visited by more than 9,400 visitors in 2m3. Parajanov's birthday will be celebrated throughout the year,says Zaven Sargsian,curator of the Museum.

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4


NOTEBOOK

2gg,696

r6The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Monitoring Group's report on Armenia was substantially more positive than their report on Azerbaijan. No one can deny that if they read the report carefully. As to what we would wish was there, that's another matter. 0l course I can't disagree that it would have been much better il the phrase: 'Mountainous Karabakh and other occupied territories' was c0mpletely removed, rather than simply removing the word 'other'. lt would have been even better il it read 'Mountainous Karabakh and other historically Armenian territories'. I can't imagine there would be one Armenian who wouldn't have wanted the latter. But politics is the art of the possible.

Amount in tons ol grain, imported [y Armenia in the tirst 11 months o12002

253,829 Amount in tons ol grain, imported by Armenia in the lirst 11 months ot 2003

110 Age, in years, ol Armenia's Gentral Bank

10 Age, in years, ol Amenia's ourn currency, the Dram

ll

10

Rouben Hovsepian Armenias Consul General to St. Petersburg, member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation 0n the debate over language in a recentCouncil of Europe reporton Armenia, and the oppositions insistence that more could have been done lo change the language even further.

January 2004

rrl think the wording is very favorable

Number ol years that Armenia has been producing Calilornia redworms, with US Department ol Agriculture assistance, to facilitate the development ol nitrohumus

to

Armenia.'Mountainous Karabakh and occupied territories' mean Mountainous Karabakh is not occupied territory, and it means the international community recognizes this.

300 Number ol lacilities involved in production (and expoil) ol Calilornia redworms

ll

60

-An unnamed European member of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly January 2004

11,905 Amounl, in US Dollars, ol donations made online

rrThe businessmen of the West would not allow any sort ol military activity in this region, regardless ol how otten Azerbaijan makes such threats. After the millions which have been invested in the construction of the [Baku-Ceyhan] pipeline, then it's clear that under no circumstances will they allow that investment to be endangered. r,

to the Armenia Fund telethon

10

-Rafael Ghazarian physicist and

member ol

Nati

onal

Age ol Yerevan's Physics lnstitute

**rilJr:lri?:l8t:

Number of counlries, including Armenia and Kuwait, lrom which online donations were made to the Armenia Fund telethon

150,000

rrAs in all developed countries, it is the gouernment that administers lottos, and the revenues lrom those lottos are used to resolve social issues.ll

Amount in US dollars to be spent by the US State Department in Armenia on developing a program to improve and increase the role ol women in Armenia

Khachatur Sukiasian, businessman, member of Parliament, o

n the

ha rr

.,,fl

'

illJJ', #i,il

iii fiffi

?,TfJ i[8i

ff

f;

3

Sourses:

Hayasbni Hanraperuryun, Ayb-Fe Newspaperi AIM Research

:

December 2003

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

l5


Focus

Newly Renovated Opera Starts New Season w ffi 'ilt tffiH#;::l*,i:l,lJliltl! For the past 13 years, Yerevan's culture season stopped in November. But this winter things have started warming up. lnside the opera house there's a flurry of activity and voices in rehearsal in preparation for Verdi's Il Trovatore.Tltis year, for the fust time in over a decade, the opera house has opened its doors for a winter season thanks to the Linry Foundation reconstruction program, which spent over US $1.9 million for renovation of the opera house alone.

The opera house and adjoining philharmonic hall have been a landmark in Yerevan since the 1930s when construction began based on the plans of architect Alexander Thmanian who is considered to be responsible for laying the foundation for modern day

saw any renovations was nearly 25 years ago.

People can argue over the choice of paint, color and lighting fixtures, but the important things such as heating and air conditioning have been secured. The only Grigorian wish that was left unfulfllled is the flooring in the

auditorium.

"We would rather have had wood floors which are essential for proper acoustics. During renovations, in the 1980s, the project architect decided on carpeting. This time around no one would heed our professional opinion on the benefits of wood flooring as opposed to carpeting. And it was not a mat-

Yerevan. The opera house is not only impressive in size at 25,000 square meters (250,0fi) square feet) but for its architectural design as well. It

ter of cost difference between the two." Grigorian is a tenor with over 33 years experience who has traveled the world and performed with the likes of Pavarotti. Grigorian says it's time to get back to business now that renovations are complete. The current repertoire includes Verdi's 1/ Tiovatore arrd La Traviata, Bellini's Norma and ballet performances of Bizet's Carmen

was impressive enough that

Sulre and symphony concerts which include the

in

1937

of Borodin's

Tamanian was awarded the Grand Prix award in an architectural exhibition in Paris. And since its construction, more than 70

works

years ago, the opera house has been the center of all things cultural in Yerevan.

World allunder the baton of conductor Karen Durgarian. Grigorian says though there is plenty of talent in this country it is still raw and needs to be developed. "This is an exciting time for the opera but we have lots of work to do. We need to prepare the musicians we have now for the next 20 years. For example we have maybe five

But the intentional and unintentional neglect since the fall of the USSR, has taken its toll on everything and especially on educational and cultural centers. This winter, after a long hiatus, the opera

house finally opened its doors for a winter season by celebrating a special concert.

its 70th

anniversary

Polovtsi.an Dances and

Pince lgor, Bartok's Concerto for Alto & Choir and Dvorjak's 9th Symphony New

with

performers who are ready for professional

Today's opera house has benefited from Lincy's funds by not only gaining a new heating and air conditioning system, but also by the installation of a new ventilation system, redecorating the interior and stage, upgrading the acoustic and lighting systems as well as giving the exterior a face lift. Gegham Grigorian, artistic director of the opera house says, "We're very pleased with the work. We had a wonderful opening in honor of our 70th anniversary and clearly people are happy that the opera is well heated and renovated." The last time the 1,100 seat auditorium

engagements. There is Arnold Kocharian, who is our best baritone - he is extremely tal-

16

ented and knowledgeable. Then there

is

Susanna Bagamyan who has a very bright

future ahead of her. She is already getting much attention in Italy." With over 300 musicians and 2fi) support stafl the opera house is as impressive an operation on the inside as it is a building on the

r

outside.

More lhan a lacelilt gone are lhe old days ol the public wrapped in blankets and coals. Photo by Photolure

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

\, *-L

f

ffiil EPTffi?

,I


nqrlr

,

i

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4


Stony

Eneat Erucctation$

,i

lr&

,$e The year 2003 was a year of Small I e*p..tutions. No one expected anything much beyond elections And that's what they got.TWo rounds of presidential electiong fol-

lowed by what appeared to be an interminable parliamentary election period. Now 20O4 is another story. 2004 is truly the year of Great Expectations. Great as in sometimes unrealistic. but

also great as

in very

important, critical,

make-it-or-break-it. It can be said that the Diaspora's expectations of Armenia have always been great. And often unrealistic. And very important

In 2003. the absence from Armenia of some key Diaspora leaders and

and critical.

organization heads was very visible. On the other hand, tourism was up. The average, non-aligned Diasporan came to Armenia in greater numbers, spent more

money, stayed longer, and promised to come back.

The expectations this year are varied. As more and more Armenians with no previous connections to Armenia come for a visit, they find the country (especially

Yerevan)

to be far more attractive

and

enjoyable, than they had imagined. As 18

a

result, they expect more on their next trip. And the country has to keep up. Beginning at the airport, expectations are high now that Eduardo Eurnekian, the Argentinean businessman, is moving into his fourth year of ownership. Cosmetic enhancements, together with improved work flow, are finally visible at the airport. Now, tourists and other frequent travelers expect more - better service, more frequent and varied flights, decent traveling hours. On the road into town, the recent asphalt can't be dismissed. The expectation is that municipalities will maintain what Uncle Kirk built. But the irony is that the newlysmoothed roads are soon taken for granted, and the public expects that local governments will do their share in cleaning up neighborhoods, public spaces and secondary roads. There is a sense of entitlement. In cities, the expectation is for continued

economic growth. The government wants that too. Registering 14 percent growth, as Armenia did last year, is not easy, but it's doable when the economy has hit rock bottom, as Armenia's did due to the combined affects of Soviet collapse, earthquake, independence, blockade and war. Maintaining

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

that rate of growth year after year is hard. But that sense of entitlement is there again. So long as the government keeps talking about joining Europe in a couple of decadeg then the Armenian public has a right to

expect that the economy

will

approach

Europe's, too.

If the government is planning to join

Europe, then they had better begin talking

and walking like Europe. That's what the Europeans, and the Armenians, expect. Armenia removed the death penalty, and

Europe is pleased. Now the Council of Europe expects Armenia to push forward

with electoral law reform,

with Constitutional amendments, with laws that

protect the rights of children, women, the disabled. Moreover, the Council also expects Armenian society to adopt the institutions which will implement these changes and will teach society how to transform itself. But that's not easy with media that is still undeveloped. The teaching and reflecting that societies associate with newspapers and television is still absent in Armenia. In this category at least, no one seems to have great

expectations.

r


$tony

0n the Tunkish Borden Will This Be the Year?

t:!

B.l

i"fj

d:;

fl

shot Karapetian grows tomatoes in Masis sells them to local Armenian canneries. He's concerned that if the border with T[rkey opens any time soon, the companies who buy from him will instead buy from the Tirrks across the border. "Their tomatoes are of lower quality but are cheaper than ours, and they can produce much more than we can," Karapetian says. On the other hand, Karapetian thinks that with his proven capacity for production, he would be able to compete with the Turkish farmers and sell to consumers in Turkey or to the Italian companies that buy tomatoes from Tirrkey. Of course, he'd need additional investment to be able to produce that kind of volume and at lower cost. But he knows he can do it. He just needs the investment. This, in a nutshell, is the double-edged

Iland

sword that defines the re-opening of the

Armenia's borders with Tirrkey

and

Azerbaijan. With open borders. Armenian exporters would be able to use the most efficient transport routes available and tap into new global markets. This would drastically increase Armenian exports and also provide a substantial incentive for foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country. In the short-term, this could. according to a World Bank Working Paper, cause Armenian exports to more than double, cutting the trade deficit by almost 50 percent and leading to GDP growth of 30-38 percent. These massive potential economic beneflts of open borders are a crucial determinant of the Armenian Government's stand on the issue. Officials at all levels, including the

Minister of Foreign Affairs, have on-therecord taken a more indifferent position -

They want to open it, fine, but if they don't,

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

we'll manage, we've learnt to manage

- is the

ofllcial line. In reality however, managing is not good enough and most recognize the vital importance of open borders for cutting the trade deficit and long-term, high growth of the economy.

The border issue is important to Tirrkey The increase in economic activity with Armenia and the opening of a clear route to Asia may be the catalyst that the povertyalso.

stricken Eastern provinces need. More importantly, opening the border will remove one of the key political obstacles to Tirrkey's entry into the EU. As a result, the border issue is invariably a key item on the agenda of meetThe Armenia-Turkish border, monitored by Russian soldiers, is less than 40 miles lrom downlown Yereuan. Photo by Photolure

l9


Goven Stony

ings between the Foreign Ministers of Turkey

and Armenia. Emerging from talks with Vartan Oskanian, Armenia's top diplomat, in June,

Abdullah Gu|Turkish Foreign Minister

went so far as to say that Ankara might consider reopening its eastern border soon. In practice, such a significant rapprochement is inevitably hindered by the historic

distrust between the two countries and Turkey's support of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Armenian

call for international recognition of the Genocide of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 is naturally the largest stumbling block and its recognition by Switzerland's Parliament in December 2003 led to a cooling in Armenia-Tirrkey relations. For many in Armenia, this is not a bad

thing. Open borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan would certainly provide new

ln 0t[en Wonils AIM

asked diplomats, politicians, busi-

ness owners the

will

following question:What

be the consequences of an open bor-

der for Armenia? For Turkey? For the region? What are the consequences of a

closed border? Here is what some said: Vahan Hovhannesian

DepW

Speaker, National Assembly

"The isue of the Tirkish-Armenian bor-

border with Armenia, Tirrkey demands the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Artsakh, the removal of the international recogrition of the Armenian Genocide from Armenia's foreigrr policy agenda and the declaration that Armenia has no tenitorial claims fromTirrkey. In these circumstances it seems that Tirrkey will continue its blockade of Armenia for the foreseeable future. Tirrkey's position will continue to aggravate the political and security

issue. Tirrkey has closed its border with Armenia for political reasons and it says that it will open it when is political preconditions are met. ThuC in this situation, open borders would mean thatAmenia has agreed with the Tllrkish pre-conditions The consequences of

situation in the South Caucasus, whereas a balbyTiukey would have helped the peaceful settlement of the Artsakh conflict. Recently, for their own political and strategic interestg the United States and the European Union have been pressuringTirkey to open its border with Armenia. [n response, and in order to reduce that pressure,Turkey

Armenia meeting the Thrkish preconditions

has initiated

der, as any other border,is primarily a political

would gravely harm the national interests of

Armenia and of the Armenian people, much more so than the consequences of theTirrkish blockade. As preconditions for opening the

anced approach

a public relations

campaign aimed at demonstrating that it is prepared to negotiate with Armenia and the Armenian people, but in fact it actively continues to pursue its hostile policies towards Armenia and AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2(X)4

the Armenian people.

The Tirkish blockade of Armenia is an expression of Tirkey's hostile position regarding Armenia; in fact, under intemational lavr, a blockade muld be interpreted as an act of war.

If

Ttukey tomorrow lifted its blockade of Armenia, it should take steps to assure the Armenian side that it has changed its hostile position; remgnizing the Armenian Genocide and its responsibility for that oime against humanity would be such a step. On the other hand, Armenia should be prepared for the possibility of an open border with lbrkey, in order to protect its national security and economic interests Tirkish preconditions for lift-

ing the blockade are not

acceptable."

John Ordway US Ambassador to Armenia

"A

stable region where goods and people

can easily pass between borders is at the heart of the US Government's poliry priorities in both Armenia and Tirkey. Opening


opportunities for the Armenian economy but

it is doubtful whether Armenia is in a position to exploit these opportunities. As the World Bank study notes, Armenia's poor transport infrastructure and weak banking sector that does not provide cheap loans for businesses, would severely constrain local

producers' export capacity if the border was opened. Moreover, many small companies and particularly farmers like Karapetian may lose or even be put out of business if the border opens now and the domestic markets are flooded with cheaper Tirrkish products. That, at least, is the fear.

As David Grigorian, an economist at the IMF pointed out in a recent paper,Armenia's "hostile business climate towards new entrants," will discourage many foreign companies from investing in Armenia despite the

therefore, despite a possible rise in the demand for Armenian goods, the lifting of the blockades would not necessarily lead directly to rapid economic growth. These reservations are exaggerated by

those who

for

ideological reasons are

attractive new export potential. Overall

opposed

the border between the two countries is an important step in realizing this goal.An open border can only benefit both muntrieg by promoting understanding, increasing economic activity and more free exchanges of information and ideas

dynamic socio-economic ties that already exist between Armenian and Tirkish citizens They higttlght the creative possibilities that await both muntries once the borders open.

The United States Govemment is encouraged by the increased dialogue between the Governments of Armenia andTirkey on this subject. The mntinuing meetings between Foreip Ministen Oskanian and Gul are an

indication

that this positive trend

of

Armenian-Turkish dialogue will continue. We join the region's other friends in the interna-

tional community in facilitating this effort whenever posible. US Secretary of State Colin Powell underscored the importance of a positive T[rkish-Armenian relationship during his latest conversations with representatives of both countries In addition, we raise this issue constantly with government colleagues in Yerevan, Ankara and in intemational fora. This is not a new poliry for the US Government. We have always encouraged opportunities to share experienoes between citizrns of both munties - including political lead-

-

erg students, artists and journalis$ as step in the right direction.These interactions reveal the

to any involvement with Turkey.

The majority of US Government-sponsored programs inArmenia can only produce solid economic results if Armenia finds itself

in a neighborhood where the principles of free trade and modem commerce can flourish. This is especially true in the economic sector, where our programs aim to help Armenia expand its markets and take advantage of its economic potenfial. A number of industries in Armenia stand to reap genuine gains from open borders Some industries

Opposite page: Even with a blockade by Turtey, cheap Turkish goods (alongside cheap lranian goods) have llooded the Armenian market. Above: Farmers and pundils lear thal an open

border with Turkey will - at least in the short run - hurl Armenia's agticultura! sector. Photos by Mkhitar Khachatrian

concrete actions of the govemments of the two countriesThe US will continue to play a consfuctive role in this proces so that the current

tentative first steps toward better relations can bear fruit in the nearest possible future."

Thorda Abbott-Watt British Ambassador to Armenia "This has, of course, to be a matter for discussion between Armenia and Tirrkey. But

one of the priorities which the European Commission set for Tirrkey in the 2003 Accession Partnership talks was that every effort should be made to resolve outstanding border disputes and the issues related to

may take longer to adjust and reach their

them. Speaking from a British perspective,

potential, but the long-term benefits cannot

we would like to see the border open. We believe that there would be benefits not just for the economies of both countrieg but for

be underestimated. The Government of Armenia worked hard to earn full membership in the World Tlade Organization. As Armenia takes its place as an international trading partner, an open border with its neighbor is the best way to ensure Armenia's

return on such an important investment. Open doors toward Europe will help Armenia more quickly realize an entire range of political and economic goals Improved relations between Armenia and Tbrkey, of course, ultimately depend on the

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

-

the wider cause of strengtheningArmenia's and Tirkey's - ties with Europe. Open borders are a pre-requisite for normal relations between neighbouring states

Mthout that normality it is diffrcult for either country to achieve its potential. If you do nothing to remove the barriers between you, you pass on a handicap to the next generation. This region has suffered enough from conflict

and a lack of trust between

neighbours.

21


Goven $tony

Undoubtedly some sectors of the economy

will be hurt by the competition with Tirrkish and foreign produccrs. but these are probably the sectors which do not have a future in a globalized world. Armenia should take the example of successful dcveloping countries in Eastern Asia and use this time that its

economy is sheltcred from competition to focus on strengthening its sectors that are competitive in the long-term. For example. a report funded by the US

tbr

International Development in 2fi)l comparing Armenian and Tirrkish agribusiness lbund a number of products including dairy goods. lamb, beef and apricots in Agency

Opening the border would increase stability

and prosperity. Thlking about states

and economies and regional stability may sound theoretical, but the impact would be real on the lives of ordinary Armenians and Tirrks. To move to situation where normal business can be conducted as part of everyday life does not mean denying the strongly held feelings of people whose families suffered in past conflicts I well understand the sensitivities

about the dfficult history between Turkey and Armenia. But there are good examples in

Europe of countries which have put history behind them and worked together so that their children should enjoy a better future. I could not wish for this more forArmenia and

Turkey. The children

of both countries

deserve that better future."

Jonathan Stark President, European Union Chamber of Commerce in Armenia "The principal consequences of border closure are a restriction of choice and opportunity, particularly in the economic sphere. From the domestic Armenian perspective this means physical restrictions on the supply of imported consumer goods and creation of a protected market for existing domestic manufacturers and suppliers Armenian manufacturers are denied free and fair access to export markets as our only two trade routes are through Georgia, which

22

which Armenia has a comparative advantage. The Armenian Government must foster the conditions that would allow farmers to easily expand their production of these products in the event that the blockade is lifted. This includes strengthening banks that lend to farmers at low interest rates and helping potential exporters build contacts with partners overseas. Wth substantial funds for such assistance coming fiom foreign donors like the US Department of Agriculture, European Commission and World Bank, the agricultural sector has developed significantly over the last three years. More of the same is required, not only in agriculture but also in sectors such

is prohibitively expensive and through Iran, which imposes a geographical and time prohibition on perishable exports, particularly in the agricultural sector. Opening the border would provide the immediate benefit of increasing trade flows and improving the export climate for existing Armenian products through ready access by existing rail and road networks to major EU markets and beyond. By increasing the

choice of available trade routes it would force Georgia to reconsider its punitive fee strategy towards Armenian traffic.

It is hard to imagine the border being voluntarily opened from the TUrkish side except in the context of some agreed plan to resolve issue. However, it does not follow that the border could not be opened before final agreement is reached and indeed it could be a first step in such a process From a broader perspective, opening the

the Nagorno Karabagh

border would send a signal to the interna-

tional community that regional tensions were reducing. Armenia could then improve is Country Risk profile to a level where it could reasonably compete for Foreign Direct Investment, the lifeblood for developing under resourced transitional economies The involved Diaspora would be the probable source of initial FDI. This would not be aid, assistance and charity, but eco-

nomically justifled hard capital investment

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

as IT, textiles, food and drink processing and jewelry that have genuine potential according to the Mckinsey Global Institute's study of the Armenian economy in 2ffi3. So while Tirrkey and Armenia are working out ways to balance practical concerns with their hugely emotional and acrimonious past, the Armenian government has time to prepare the economy for the shock that it will experience when the border opens - as one

day it

I

must.

The only non-lunctioning link in rail lines connecting Europe to the Far East is the rail line lrom Turkey to Georgia, through Armenia. Photo by Photolure

into the country. Projecting further, an acid test for economic development will be the

first time a disinterested third

party

investor selects Armenia in preference to other choices. However, opening the border will also present significant socio-economic challenges

throughout the community. Greater access to foreign capital, markets and methods will empower the burgeoning domestic middle class and particularly the younger generation, educated to a more Western outlook. Howevet their aspirations and those of the rest of the population will need to be managed if we are to avoid breeding discontent and disillusion. The currently closed border is a convenient explanation for the current economic state of Armenia. Removing this palpable obstacle to growth may expose many to criticism ilthe expected benefits do not materialize or are misappropriated. Within the regional context, Georgia, which is already experiencing economic hardship despite its geographical advantageq

would be further hit by a reduction in trade flows through a switch to the Tirkish alternative routes A positive move by its principal sponsor

would probably lead Azerbaijan to

seek

greater economic ties with Armenia.

The potential development of a regional in turn encourage stateglc

market would


IW , *.l

FDI, with a possible objective of expanding into Iran. Weighing the risks of maintaining the status quo or reaching for growth and opportunity can lead to only one conclusion, open the border now"

and the potential of both countrieq it is clear that Armenia's role is not as advantageous ils TUrkey's which is a significant player in the

European market and has as trading partner some of the leaders in world trade: Germany - export 10 percent, import 9.4 percenl USA - export 12.7 percerfi and import 17 percent; France - export 5.7 percent and import 5.2 percâ‚Źnt; Italy - export 4.5 percent and import

Deepak Vohra Indian Ambassador to Armenia "TheArmenian authorities have stated on more than one occasion that they would like

3.8 percent. These numbers indicate that TUrkish goods are competitive even in these

their border with Tirkey to be

developed markets with strict standards.

reopened.

There are complex issues involved, perhaps also some historical baggage. However, India always believes that all disputes and disagreements can be resolved peacefully through dis-

cussions between the parties concerned. Closed borden are never a desirable situation in any part of the world.We are confident that with goodwill and the desire to rebuild a relationship of trust, the present situation can be resolved for the benefit of all concerned."

Hrant Vardanian President, Grand Holding in Armenia "On the matter of Armenian-Tirrkish relations and the opening ofthe border,there are two prevalent approaches: the emotional and the expectant. Yet, in today's world with

its

ever-present struggle

for

markets, Armenian-Tirkish relations are best viewed from the economic aspect. In analyzing the economic possibilities

Circumstances are quite different for Armenia. The other economic factors which

must be taken into consideration

are

Armenian-Tiukish trade ties Here, information is limited, but despite the closed border, there are some preliminary numbers. Since 1995, the total quantity of goods circulated

between the two countries has grown, although trade between Armenia and Tirkey is performed through the territory of a third country and passes several tax-points. Armenia is a net-importer of Tirrkish goodg and with an open border, it can be assumed thatTirrkish production will press its way into the Armenian economy with serious consequences for Armenia. An open border

will mean cheap transport of

course, and

Tirkish goods will have an advantage here, being of greater volume. TUrkey's role again,

as a big market and a competitor will have an eventual positive impact.

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

Insisting that the border not be opened is not reasonable, but at the same time opening the border without any discussion is not right either. We have too many examples of such steps taken without serious thought and planning such as the wild liberalization and pri-

vatization

of the early years In this

case,

besides the economic aspects of the problem

there are historical, political and psychological aspectq which are of no less importance. We always used to look at the other side of the border and with unique feelings, thoughts and expectations. Today, to drop all this sounds strange and improbable. Are we ready for political and historical dialogue with TUrkey, and if yeg with what reciprocal concessions? If the borders are opened without preconditions and a preplanned and conceived approach, then whether we are economic winners or not (and here I have reasonable doubt) we will be psychological losers Sq regarding the opening of borders, we may be ready mechanically, but not politically, economically and psychologically, for at least three to four years.

During this period of time we will have plenty of work to do, beginning from the expresion of political will to legislative and diplomatic work. Today we can assert with confidence: we are not ready for the opening of ArmenianTirrkish border, not yet."


$tony

Political txpcctations The Picture In and Out of the Country

a year in which little happened on the Inegotiations front - both Armenia and Azerbaijan were busy electing (or re-electing) presidents - plenty was happening in international organizations. By all indica-

!n

tions,2004 will continue to be a busy year for Armenians-chiefly in the Council of Europe and the United Nations In 2003, Armenia

met most of the social sector requirements placed on it: removing the death penalty

being the flrst among firsts. Now, the Europeans are interested in seeing constitutional reformg electoral law changeq media law improvements. And peace in the region.

One of Armenia's commitments for membership in the Council of Europe is the

resolution

of the

Karabakh conflict.

Azerbaijan made the same commitment. But although Armenia keeps saying it's ready to compromise and resolve the outstanding issues, Azerbaijan's public state-

ments are repetitions of the coy and not-socoy calls to arms. Azerbaijan doesn't seem to want to move forward. Just as no Armenian president would be able to sign on the dotted line and give Azerbaijan control over Karabakh, it is equally true that no Azerbaijani president will find an easy way to signing away Karabakh. The old President Aliyev didn't, and there's no reason to believe the new President Aliyev will. Not unless he is pressured into accepting what the international community already knows - that there is no longer any hope of a Karabakh returned to Azerbaijan. Is that a good thing? It is, since it sets a minimum threshold from which the negotiations can move forward. On the other hand, the chances increase that Europe and the US will try to pressure Armenia, the'victor,' into making other concessions. Armenia's involvement in international

organizations

- from the UN's Human

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

Rights Commission and its Economic and Social Council (see page 13) - provide it the opportunity to establish the relationships necessary to protect its position on

Karabakh. This might in itself be sufficient reason to maintain those memberships. This year,Armenia will attempt to be re-elected to

the Human Rights Commission. Then, for two years, with no new memberships in sight, it will remain to be seen if Armenia can even begin to utilize those positions to engage in policy development and implementation on a global scale. It can, because it does so in Vienna at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and at the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. Still, even as Armenia's top two diplomats President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian - continue to talk and explain Karabakh to every highJevel interlocutor, Armenia has decided to move on and call this the year of economic growth.


\\ltellt.'r tlti. i: Irr'ilrurtlr'tl rrn lr'.rr ol lltt ,.\zerlrlrijlrni oil ll,,rrin! lllriru!,lr Llr. ll:rku ( erlllltl oil pipql111.. l,p.sll,l,, qilllitr lr',,, \!'ilr\. ()r'$lttllrr't llti. r. ri tilrlrzlrlrott lltlll Krrltl.rtklr nril\ Lllka,rrtlrrlr lLr rr:rrlr.'hlrl lit ittll c,,tttiilrott. lltLl.l ttttIt r)\.'. llti' r'.'.Ltll r. llti' sltttte.,\ rlllctl.iesite l{) |tl\ll lo111 i1i.i iut rr'()n()nlia irgcnrllr. Ilrr I'r't'itle nt r'()ntinua(1 l() \tlcs\ l)()lici.\ tlrielr uill le'Lrll in nl()le li)lr\. hc sltiti. ( )sklinirrr inr oke .l li lo1.' jg11 .a(ln()nrlc l)()lic\ l hich rr ill llrl i lrgqt L:.ir elr I.Ltt rLtc

l,rr.'ja,', rttirrk\1. .,rt.l 1,,r. iirt .rtr..l,".. 'I l'to,rc ltt o Ittiii(rt clLtc-g()t ic. ltlrtittt rLlttt

Lll)

tltc nlrjor'a\iructiLli()n\ ttl ,\r'ntertilr rn its intcnrclions uith th.'LrLtt.trlr urir ltl: lir Klultlrltliit. lutri rkr ultlrl lttttsl 1..'.l,rn. rtith oLttsirlt inrolrr'nren1. to lir 1h.' Lr'()lr()rtt\. Ilet\\ean luttl lLt0Lrn.l 1]rrr:t' 1rro. r'\ur\ihirlr clsc clur llrll intri irllitt.

()n thr' iirsi.le. ,\tnrenilr lrlr. lrLLue. littrl in.'r itlrlrlr. e \l).! llrli()lr\ \)l it\ \lrtionll .\s:enrlrlr. Ihe r ue re .'lril.tl in \llrr ol llrsl telit. lrnrl tlter llrre irn()LltL'l lltr.e lrntl lr hlrll VClil\ t() !() Lnrtil tlreir llnr: lLrr'Ul). Jn lrettreen. llll llro.r' lLlolnrr thlrt tlte l:trlopclrrt: llinl. lrntl tlrlt .\rnrr'nlirrr knotr thet neerl llorl tlre ( onslitutron trr e ltclion legislirtion to nrerlilr Iteetlottts lrll tetlLtitc it *ot kinq \utirrnlil ,.\\\e lrtlrlJ. ,,\r'rt'tcnil'r Jclitlcishi1. tloe r no[ ltiirlicLl]lll\ cn.jo\ thc l)c()l)le '\ t'lrt or', Soile iire c\ e n llirtcri rrilh u prrssron. IIirricrcr lhc Lrpposition clocs not in-\l)irc un\ conlirlcncc cithcr. lLrrthcr. thu opposition is ciiriclcd. lilh at Lclist thrcc pe r'-

sonlilitics

-

Stcpan I)cnrirchrrrn. .-\rtushe-t

( i.'ullrntilrrt lrrttl

..\lrrl Slrlgsilrn

crrnll onlinu

(ilelr ()llrer'. tlrttr lort'r'in! tlr.it rtllclrrlr nrirrr tllltl cltlitttes ttl sLtr.ct'ss. l llr oIlltlsitiotl ir lrirl colIing tlrc sf:sionr oI llrr \rrlionlil .\:senrl.lr I lr.'rr is no lllelnlilire leui:llrlron irt tlreir l.,rrl lirljor..l'lte I)t esirle nt ol llte \lrliottlrl,\:re tttlrlr. .\rtlrtn. Illrchtilrslitilin. lrerrtl rrl the llule iil'

I lrtr I)lritr.

either ll |()Pt1lr\t rrrth crcn higlr ;rrrrlriti,,rr.. {, 1 t,,\r!.. \r'.tt.lj. r oLrnt yroliticiln lclrlninl. ()n the i()ir tLc1rg11.1ing on lotLr j11i ol r ie l. I Iis tlcItLtie . is

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rcP|c\cnt thc trio othc| politicll piilticr in tirc 1r'onr thc..\rnrcnlrrt

colrlitron onc is

dcnrlion l)li-shnlrkt:utr r.rn. thc othcl is u ith tltc Plintc \lini\t.r"\ I{e 1111hl1r' I)lrt tr. I he it colltrigue s ()n th. 1l(r()r' [{cr olutionlrn

f]e

lrnrl in llre corrrrlis:iorrs lrre lr ntollcr ele\\ ()l l.rrsincssnrcn lrnrl rttole |oILtlrstr. lhe thire \\ li\ c()illili()n is rrot r clr solirl. u ith eltclr ()l 1he

l)llllic\ cle ilIl\ lookinu 1o !itin !t-ountl thr' nt'rt clcclior in l00r \e r cr tlrclcs:. lltis rttcssr srlttlrtiort i: lrtrt ll e\\erl lrr tlll t ilt,:l legirllrlir e :tt elll,lltetlitlo l)r()grilnrs lttrtrlctl trr tlte I S lutrl I:uroll;..\1111 llrc Nlrtiorlrl ,,\sscrnhlr hli: the \\ irlclllul r\.\ ,rr lltr'( rrl1r'il rrl | 111,,1rq.,,11 ji rr,rtlitti l,,t thc plonriscil lcli)l nr\. 'l hc I'r-inrc Nlirristcl urrrl his clilrilr.t t()() irle l'rcing natclrcrl. lltc tlonrestic Poliliell lirrrnrrtions rr ithin p()or c()ulrtric\. like .\rrncnia. llrc scl i()uslv alle cte rl bv thc 1trrirLrlation's social conrliti()n. In this se n-\c. the rc i\ little consolation. JLrsi ()\cr hu11' thc population livcs bclo* thc povcrt\'linc. Of thcse f -i pcrccnt is cxtrcnrclr poor - that is thcr surl.e lot e

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llru: rrrltteing \()rrir'1\'s !\l)l(xi\c ettctgr. ltt l,l,)tr. the rellrtionslriP ol riclr lutrl Pt,or irteornc: llrtl r.ilclrc(l .ll lrrd lirir1 lcrl 1o t11. ,ar.,,. tlolncstic Politicll sittiutirrn. IntrlnlrtrLrrtlrl e \l)e lt\ slrr'Illtt lthorc.10 nteittts lrorrhlu. lirtLrr. tllrt rrurrhel is 17. I'hc tuo inrp()rllinl ac()n()nri( policv clocttnrcnts thc I)or e ltr [icrlLIctiLrn Stratcu.\, Papcr and tlt.SLr:tainatrlc Econorrric Dcvckrpnrcnt Polio (

\\ \\ \\.ilrnrcniarliusl'xrlir.coni/1'rftrjccls )

rt the hchcst ol I). r clo|nte

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tlrc

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nt I)roglrnr.

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clr

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lhLrLruht ou1

iLnrl elln PI()!Iiilll.

lrr

iirrrr lr rtlrlrle. Pcircclttl crtrironnrcnt. l0(l-1 nlir bc thc relu lhirl tlrc {o\enrnrenl r.rioLLslr tlickle s thcsc golrls. I:rlttclrtionltl. (

lrelrltlt lrrttl socirrl irttProven)enls liill lollou. )l coLrr:e . the r'll tlrlie Irlirce lurru'ln. I:ithct :lou lr Lrr rluicklr. l isclv or lrr.hitnrlilr. r (

r-); irLr: iLr

lrait'r Presidenls Kocharian and Putin

during an inlormal meeting at the Presidential Belreat al Lake Sevan. 1 " s paqe Minisler 0skanian in a press conference with Ambassador Ago who leads the Council of Europe Group that monilors Armenia's and Azerbaiian's pr0gress in meeting Council ol Europe membership G0mmilments.

Pr!i:-i rr Phololure


$tony

Still thc $ame Resoluc I Wish That This Year Armenia

...

TOM SAMUELIAN I By lnvitation Yemek te ays nor tarin . . . Votki kangner Hayastan (If only Armenia this year were back on

itsfeet...)

This New Year's resolution wishing for a L,.ong and prosperous Armenia is as apt today as it was over 125 years ago when penned by Rafael Patkanian (a.k.a. Gamar Katipa)

tively secure and unimaginably affluent children and grandchildren, whose success is built on their forebears' sacriflce, values, and faith in the future, have yet to devote even one percent of their time, wealth or energy to building Armenia. The Armenian nation is at a crossroads. When have we ever been wealthier, better educated, more secure, more connected or

What might our country and people expect during the year of our Lord 2004, 4496 of. the ancient Armenian calendar, 1453 of the new Armenian calendar, and

2786th anniversary

of the founding

of

Yerevan? (Yes, we've been at this for quite a long time.) Will 2004 be the year that Armenians the world over embrace the opportunity to be worthy of our heritage by becoming an exemplary nation that builds an exemplary state? I write from our new yet ancient capital, where I have made my home and my living for the past six years. Much has changed in these six years, nearly all for the better. It is truly a remarkable rebirth. So much achieved with so few resources. Of course

it's never fast enough when

it

comes to

our aspirations. So much has changed so quickly that it is almost impossible to predict what the next year

will bring. But we can hope and we can wish. Here are some of my hopes and wishes for our new, ancient homeland and people in 2004. Creating an independent country is a big

job, much bigger and grander than most imagined. Building a state is a nation's work: it will take the efforts of the entire nation, not just the one in three that makes his or her home in Armenia today.

Building a home for ourselves is someit is also a sweet opportunity - an opportunity that generations of Armenians have for centuries only times a trying task, yet

dreamt of, longed for, suffered and died for. So many of our downtrodden, refugee

grandparents and great grandparents

would have given all they had (and often did) for a chance to rebuild our homeland. Ironically, the vast majority of their relaAIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

better positioned than today?

Building means more than kibitzing from the sidelines or acting in fits and starts in odd hours of longing or ennui. Building is creative work that will take all the ingenuity, energy, resourcefulness, and talent our nation can muster. This is the generosity of spirit that Patkanian evokes in his words of encouragement:


Hayer yerbek cherknttink, ke katarvi uvd onten, yete i spar nrcnk hanenk po kro kuty urt nrcr srle n. (Armenians should never doubt that all this will come to pass if we free our hcarts from the small thinking that holds our spirit back.)

We each began our lives with thc bap-

tismal anointment calling us to faith, hope and love. It will take faith in the future. hope for better, Iove for our people and country to make Armenia the land of our dreams. This call has resounded lor centuries among Armenians everywhere. It is the kind of faith that. despitc scemingly insurmountable obstacles. all this will come to pass. if we approach the future with

a generosity of spirit befitting our national heritage as the first Christian nation. It is the kind of hope that moves mountains, cleanses the wounds of centuries. heals the soul and brings pride to every Armenian cverywhere. It is the kind of love that seeks to be worthy of gifts more often taken for granted than appreciated, embracing setbacks as opportunities to be more creative. more ingenious. more understanding and more persevering. In no other part of our lives do we expect others to realize our dreams. We understand that accomplishments take effort, resources, time and commitment. May 2004 be the year that we embrace our national destiny to build

an Armenia that is the best place for Armenians

-

all Armenians

-

to live, work,

visit, endow, enjoy and create. Each of us has a choice of what to build and where to build it. It is the privilege of this

generation to build Armenia. Will 2m4 be the year that we resolve to make

our schools into islands of virtue? our music, art, literature and Iilm into international trend-setters? our church into a voice of morality that gathers and uplifts our dispersed nation? our legal system into a paragon of fairness

=

and efliciency?

our countryside into a model of environmental stewardship? our medical system so advanced that patients come from far and wide to be cured? our products and services, science and know how so coveted for quality and value around the world that we have full employment?

our homeland so enticing that all Armenians dream of calling it home? What do you wish for Armenia in2004? It won't happen if you don't dare to dream or dream to dare. r -A

native of New Jersey,Tom Samuelian

is an international attorney and scholar happily at home in Armenia. He heads a

public interest law firm Arlex International and chairs the Arak-29 Charitable Foundation, both based in Yerevan. AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4


Stony

Ihe Economic 0utloolt Will the Growth Be Sustained?

f I

his year promises to be a crucial test for the Armenian economy. On one hand. the country's impressive economic performance in 2003 "continued to exceed expectations" according to the IMF annual country report. Gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 13.9 percent while the volume of exports increased by 40 percent. Although inflation was unexpectedly high (8.6 percent), this was mainly due to external, one-off factors out-

side the Government's control. Overall, Armenia had the best macroeconomic indicators in the CIS in 2003.

But of course there is the

flip-side.

Poverty and inequality, whether you are judging from statistics or from the number of people searching garbage bins for food, are still

wide-spread in Armenia. Although the high

of the last two years have increased incomes by at least 10 percent for growth rates

both the poor and the non-poor, offlcial estimates placed the poverty rate (percent of total population that is poor) at 50.9 percent

in 2ffi1. Moreover Armenia's income Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, has fallen from 0.59 to 0.535 (maximum is 1) between 1999 and 2001 but it is still the highest in the CIS. Unemployment in 2fi)1 constituted 32.8 percent of the economically active population,and even among those employed, 45-47 percent are poor according to recent poverty studies It was in response to these factors that the Armenian Government, funded by the IMF and the World Bank, prepared the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) following a broad, three-year participatory process at the national and regional levels. Finalized in late 2003, this document analyzes the roots and impact of Armenia's economic problems AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

and provides a strategy with ambitious yet attainable targets for drastically reducing poverty and inequality by 2015. Accepted by the majority of international and national experts as a "coherent, realistic and candid assessment" of Armenia's economic status, it sets out four key policy goals that will define

the Armenian Government's economic policy for the decade beginning 2004.The policy goals are (i) promoting sustainable economic growth through macroeconomic stability and private sector development (ii) enhancing human development, particularly in terms of citizens' health and education, and expanding social security safety nets for the disadvantaged (iii) following prudent public sector tax and expenditure policies and reforming the tax system (iv) improving public sector infrastructure, services and functions. The highest priority in 2ffi4 and beyond


will undoubtedly be ensuring continued strong economic growth as this was the primary factor behind poverty reduction in the years 1999-2001, accounting for more than half of the increase in the incomes of the poor. The PRSP projects an annual growth rate of 5.56.5 percent in order to achieve the targets it has set for 2015: $2000 GDP per capita (vs. $834.2 in 2003) and a poverty level of 19.3 percent. Most economists agree that even without

the massive boost given to the Armenian economy by the investments of the Lincy Foundation in the last two years (estimated conservatively to be responsible for 4-5 percent of GDP annually), this growth target is reasonable. 'Armenia is well-positioned in

i,}

.,*

terms of performance," said Karen Grigorian,

country economist at the World Bank in

q

Yerevan, "and having achieved what we have so far. we are optimistic for the future."

Specifically

for

2004. the Ministry of E

Finance and Economy aims to increase GDP per capita by $70 to $904.2 and reduce the

i..

$ F

poverty rate to between 47-45 percent from just below 50 percent where it stands now. But where will this high, long-term

:i

â‚Ź

IE

growth come from iI the construction sector. the economy's main engine during the last two years, shrinks in 2004 with no more Lincy funds? This fundamental question is currentIy being addressed by the Ministry of Tiade and Economic Development. With the help

of the United Nations

Development

Program (UNDP) in Armenia, the Ministry has formulated a Sustainable Economic Development Policy (SEDP). This document complements the PRSP and according to Tigran Sukiasian, national coordinator for

the project, is a practical "evaluation of Armenia's potential to become a knowledgebased economy by 2015."

In the meantime. the Government will continue to focus on increasing exports, foreign and domestic investment and strengthening the private sector - crucial factors for ensuring long-term growth. With fewer grantfinanced investments that caused imports to rise in 2003 and with export growth expected to continue,2004 should also see an improvement in Armenia's trade balance. Tiade and microeconomic policy

will concentrate on

making trade procedures easier. particularly at the borders, and reducing the unnecessary barriers to companies so as to improve the business climate. Specilic emphasis will be put on improving the business environment in the industries that have the highest export and growth possibilities such as IT, textiles. tourism and food processing. A key aspect of improving the business environment will be the reform of the tax and customs policy and administration that seriously constrain the growth of the private sector - and therefore, Armenia. Under intense pressure from international donors and

investors, the authorities have agreed to change the most troublesome tax regulations (profit and Value Added tax) and make

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

improvements to tax administration. These changes - scheduled for 2004 should lead to an increase in government revenue equal to about 0.5 percent GDP. This

will help implement the essential public expenditure increases outlined in the PRSP if poverty is really to be reduced and social services increased.

Even wilh Soviet supplies and ma*ets gone, some Armenian laclories continue to manulacture and sell their products in Armenia and even through the region. Among them, the large General Transworld Rubber production Gomplex (opposite page) and the Ararat Cement Plant (above). Photos by Photolure


$tony

Money Mattens The Cost of the Falling Dollar ing materials, face the same dilemma.

Since Armenia imports so much from Europe, such hikes in consumer prices could ultimately be signiflcant enough to lead to a rise in domestic inflation. Some

point to the 2003 rise in inflation - 8.6 percent up from 3.5 percent it 2002 - as evidence of this phenomenon. In reality however, these concerns are, for the time being anyvay, exaggerated.The high inflation in 2003 was not a result of the rise in the Euro but rather a signiflcant rise in the global prices of bread and wheat due to poor

harvests worldwide. The Central Bank recently announced that the movements of the dollar would not affect the Dram to the extent that it will harm Armenia's macroeconomic stability. Even the IMF claims that, currently, the dram's fluctuations "are not a major problem." On the contrary, this appreciation of the Euro against the Dram may be a golden

for some exporters as it in Euro terms, the prices of Armenian goods in European markets,

opportunity reduces,

making them more competitive.

For Armenia's

representatives and

embassies in Europe, however, it is an unbear-

l'lne of the hottest topics of discussion llregarding lhe globaleconomy in 2003

has

been the fall of the US dollar in the foreign exchange markets, particularly versus the Euro - where it has lost 30 percent of its value. The effects of this slide of the once-formidable dollar are such that now it is not only

finance ministers and international economists that are concerned but also many ordinary people who have felt the impact of this shift in foreign currency dynamics. In Armenia, the Dram has, since January 2003, fallen by close to 13 percent against the Euro but remained stable against the dollar. Although China and Japan are actively

intervening

in flnancial markets to

ensure

that their currency tracks the dollar, the

Armenian Central Bank

- the

main

Government organ responsible for monetary policy - is not. Rather, it is the natural consequence for an economy like Armenia's that is very "dollarized".This means that a high proportion of 30

both official and unofficial transactions are made in dollars as opposed to Armenian Drams. In fact the International Monetary Fund's representative in Armenia warned, in October 2003, that the high level of dollar cir-

culation in Armenia could negatively affect the value of the Armenian Dram and make the domestic economy vulnerable. This is because Armenia's biggest external trading partner is the EU. With the depreciation of the dollar and the dram vis-i-vis the Euro, European goods become more expensive to purchase, leading to lower profits for businessmen importing from Europe who may cover their higher costs by charging consumers higher prices. "We have to raise our prices in order to make a profit, but then the goods are less popular because people cannot afford them and prefer Russian productg" said one shopkeeper selling Italian and French processed

food. All businessmen dealing with European products, from cosmetics to build-

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

able burden. Their budgetg have in effect, been cut by 30 percent over the last year and a half. So, even as embassies and ambassadors, as well as their staffs, receive their complete budget allocations, in dollars, once they convert to the Euro, they actually have far less to spend. Embassies in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, and Greece are severely affected. So are the various governmental, parliamen-

tary and business delegations that visit European capitals regularly.

With the dollar widely expected to rebound against the Euro sooner rather than

later, the overall effect on the Armenian economy, is not expected to be significant in one direction or another. The residual affects good or bad on individual sectors may

-

linger

longer.

r

ln a heavily dollarized economy, there are currency exchange booths throughoul Yerevan, and a surpilsingly stable Dram can be traded against maior currencies. Photo by Mkhitar Khachatrian


Christmas 0rnamenls A set of 10 hand crafted stained glass ornaments, A great gift for someone on your list who has everything. Perfect as a stocking stutfer or as a package topper.

Size: Price:

Appr. 3.8"

$$N,fet

$9IA$ts

$ZS

$45


These stained glass items have been designed and produced exclusiuely for AIM and only available through AlMarketplace. Each of these handcratted items is unique and may vary slightly.

Pomegranate Coaster Set A symbol of Armenian hospitality, this charming set of six pomegranate-shaped coasters makes the perfect addition to your coffee table or outdoor patio. Functional as coasters, they also look beautiful just standing in its own delicate, wrought-iron holder.

Size: Price:

4.5" x 3.5" (in stand) $47.00

Araral Sun Gatcher - Limited Edition A limited edition sun catcher in rich colors is inspired by the rich tapestry of the Armenian landscape and depicts the Ararat Valley using traditional symbols assembled in a pleasing, effective collage. 7.25" diameter Price: $100

Size:

Pomegranate Votive Holder

Pomegranate Bor

This elegant votive candle holder sits on a delicate iron stand and will add a warm glow to your home and make the perfect gifl even for those who thought they didn't like stained glass.

A simple but elegant stained glass box is the modern interpretation of Armenia's most representative symbol. 3.75" in diameter

Each

pomegranate

/i;

is delicately fash- {1' ioned of more than 30 individual hand cut pieces. Size: 6.5" x 4" Price: $50.00

Size:

Price:

$30.00


Gross

This traditional design will be a deeply meaningful addition to your home. Placed on or near a window, or

other source of light, it is beautiful and spiritually calming all at the same time. 7" x 4"

Size: Price:

Armenian Flag Sun Gatcher Show your true colors and your pride in being Armenian with this stained glass sun catcher. The Red Blue 0range color scheme is obvious, and the sun only reaffirms the earthiness and beauty of this brilliant color combination. 7" x 4.75"

Flowers Usher in the contemporary spirit of creative Armenia with an array of hand-cut and individually assembled blossoms. ln clear glass and hues of red, blue and yellow, each flower is perfectly crafted with a pair of leaves sitting on a finely twisted stem. Display them singly or in bunches, they are a conversation starter and a happy bouquet.

Size:

16" tall

Price: Set of

Set of

Four

$39.00

Eight $70.00

sounds peaceful and inviting. The clear pewter detail of this pomegranate is accented by the trio of sleek dangling rods. Transports easily and makes a nice gift. 13"

Size: Price:

$14.00

Pomegranate Wind chime It doesn't just look good, it also

Size: Price:

$12.00

$20.00

Laula's Noot

-

Exclusive Design Handmade silver pomegranate charm. Hang it on a necklace, bracelet or use it as a talisman. Also perfect as a key ring.

Size: Price:

0.75" $50


My Limp Through Armenia It's the trip you wish you could take - the camera on your shoulder, the notepad in your bag, the spirit of adventure leading the way. This beautifully prepared book (printed in Armenia) presents Australian-

My Yerevan It's black and white, but full of spirit and soul. One hundred years of Yerevan history through full-page black and white photos. The rare and historic photos chosen from the State Film Library archives are combined with the familiar and modern photos of Max Svaslian to create an elegant, beautifully printed coffee table book. lf that weren't enough, the CD on the inside front cover features all (all!) the Yerevan songs you've ever heard. Listen to the CD as you turn the pages of this true art book and plan your next visit to this memorable

Armenian photographer Jacob Majarian's photos and diaries of his 1,000km walk, through Armenia and Karabakh, seeing the people and the scenery not as exotica, but as an extension of his heart and soul. The book is too good to keep to yourself. Published in Armenia

Size: Price: - The Calendar 2004 A great selection of photos representing Armenia from talented photographer Jacob Malarian's point of view. (Also see the next item - a book by Majarian). This beautiful calendar is designed and printed in and will bring you closer to Armenia, every month. Armenia

city.

Published in Armenia Size:

10" x 12" Hardcover

212 pages Price:

Size.

$55.00

Price:

8" x 8.5"; 74 pages; full color

$16.00

Set of Two: $30.00

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AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO1


"f, new cow saves the home from hunger,"

llgo",

an old Karabakh saying. At least 120 families will attest to the truth of that simple maxim today, thanks to Nadya

Kebabdjian, from France and the charitable organization she founded to help widows and children, called Femmes Courage Solidarite (Women Courage Solidarity).

In

1999, when Kebabdjian visited Karabakh she had already decided she needed to help widows and fatherless children. She asked around and, with the help of the governor's office, obtained a list of the soldiers who had been killed in the war. She started with i2 of their families in Martakert - Karabakh's northernmost district. about 45 minutes from the capital, Stepanakert, and one of the regions hit hardest by the war. She met widows with as many as six children. Their homes had been destroyed by the fighting which had ended flve years earlier, but were still in ruins. Poor didn't begin to describe the conditions in which those families were living, she remembers. But what broke her heart most was how malnourished the children were. "We gave them some essentials like bread

and milk and cheese and yogurt. But this was a temporary measure and we realized it. It wasn't about giving them handouts. We wanted to be able to give them something that could provide a livelihood from day to day and, most of all, a sense of dignity," Kebabdjian says now five years into the program. Through the governor's office, she met

Sevag Ardzrouni who was Martakert's mayor, and Rubik Danielian who has been with the project from the very beginning. With their help, she designed Femmes Courage Solidarite

-

a program very similar to the Heifer Project International started during World War I in Spain for the purpose of helping combat hunger for those who had been affected by the civil war. For Kebabdjian the idea was simple: the neediest families would be selected from the list, and proposed the following: "We will give you two cows and two calves for one and a

half years, during which time you will not be able to sell or slaughter these animals. After that time,we ask that you return one cow and one calf to be given to another family. You will be allowed to keep the rest of the animals and can do with them as you wish." AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

Sounds simple enough. But Kebabdjian and Danielian say they came across much resistance on the part of those they aimed to help. Not because the women were ungrateful. But this was all new to them.

Gayane Arustamian

and

Zephira

Harutunian live the grim realities of village life. Chldran, a village of 3fi), is 60 kilometers (40 miles) from Stepanakert. Here, the sweet,

inviting calm and green

of the beautiful

Karabakh landscape is juxtaposed with the tired faces of these villagers.

Around Arustamian's simple home, chickens scurry around and pigs can be heard nearby. Her cows are somewhere grazing. Danielian explains that some of the families buy pigs after they get the cows. "You see when they make cheese from the milk they can feed the brine to the pigs.

This creates a way for them to minimize feeding costs and helps create a way to keep more animals." 0pposite page; Two brotherc and their families who benelited from the program are on theil way to a new home. This page: Danielian visits with two mothers whom the organization has helped. Pholos by Hrair S. Sarkissian 37


Gonnections

Arustamian and Danielian seem to be old friends. Their easy banter is interrupted by some serious talk about Arustamian's family. The oldest daughter is now attending university in Stepanakert, studying to become a teacher. Arustamian sold one of her cows for about $160, and used the money to finance her daughter's education. A she repeats her

gratitude

to

Kebabdjian and

to

Femmes

Courage Solidarite, she also explains that she

was probably the most reluctant of all the families to accept their help. "I didn't want the animals in the beginning because I was very afraid. I thought I could not take care of them. I had never milked a cow before. But thanks to Rubik and Mrs. Kebabdjian's encouragement I'm glad I accepted." Although the animals are given to the families outright, there are still costs that they are asked to take in. They must be able to provide a barn and about six tons of hay for the winter. Some just aren't capable of such a big responsibility and others are reluctant and need encouragement. Kebabdjian says the challenge is not so

38

much in getting them the animas but helping

build a sense of confidence in the minds of the women.

"When we talk to them, we tell them we trust them and we believe they can do this. Slowly they come around even though they are initially very apprehensive about accepting our offer to help. This is a great hardship for them as well as a great help. Acquiring six tons of hay for the winter is not easy; building a barn if they don't already have one requires capital, which they don't have. They aren't used to dealing with animals to begin with and on top of it all; we ask them to sign an agreement. But they do sign and once they do, they are very respectful of that agreement," says Kebabdjian. In these five years, they've lost only 10 percent of the animals and these to predators such as snakes. The families that have sold their cows have done so after the contract period ended, usually to pay debts or medical bills. Some have moved away. A few have gone to work in the nearby gold mines. Most keep the animals, enjoy their bounty and breed them either to sell or to create farms.

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

Nazig Khachatrian, 29, is a mother of four. She lives in Mataghise, near Chldran. She sold one of her many cows so that she herself could go to school to become a teacher. She sold two others for the cash. With the milk from the remaining five, she makes cheese that she manages to sell. Kebabdiian says Nazig is one of their greatest successes.

Over this half decade, the program has changed to accommodate the changing needs of the villagers. In the beginning, Kebabdjian says, they purchased cows from large farms in distant locations. Now, they purchase the animals from nearby villages which means more help for individuals, less transportation costs and better for the animals. The average cost of a cow and a baby calf - between two to six months old - is about $250. Today, they sometimes give families sheep and goats in areas where this is more practical than cows. Also the focus is no longer on helping widows alone. They have also begun to help war veterans who are disabled and either can't work or can't find work.


One such family is Zephira Harutunian's.

Her husband was wounded in the war and has not been able to work. But with the cows.

he spends his time taking them to graze and attends to their needs. They don't have a barn but his parents do, so they keep them at their house nearby.They've found a way and

Zephira says, "Now my children have milk every morning before they go to school and

this is the most wonderful thing for our family." Kebabdjian says the next logical step was to help the families whose husbands weren't killed in the war but were extremely poor. Families who don't get even the small pension the government offers widows. "These programs are a little different. To them, we ofTer a cow and calf. but only if they don't already have any animals. And like the others, they must be able to provide them with a barn and feed for the winter. And although they don't have to return any of the animals, they are not to sell them or slaughter them for two years. We want them to believe that these animals are capital and that it's important to take care of this capital."

The Deputy Minister of ForeignAffairs of Karabakh, Masis Mailian. knows Femmes Courage Solidarite very well. "This is important work they do. Especially since this helps the villagers become self-supporting and stay connected with the land. Rehabilitating this area has been very important to the people here. What they have done is extremely positive." Mailian isn't just referring to the value that the animals bring. These village families

have created networks to care for the animals, collect hay and raise barns. Kebabdjian

another funny sounding name - Gichan. She is back home from her day job working as a teacher in a local school. She has two small children. Her little boy is trying to help her raise an antenna on the roof. Danielian comes by just in time to help out. Anush chops her own firewood; she works and provides for her children the best she can. And

with the help Femmes Courage Solidarite, she sold one of her male cows for 70,000 Drams ($125) to supplement her income. With the others, her children enjoy milk and cheese and butter and cream. "I'm so grate-

says there is one woman who is a veterinarian who helps if an animal in her village and nearby villages gets sick.

ful for not only the help that I've received but that I can in turn help others as well,"

With the milk and the cheese and yogurt

Kebabdjian says that one of her goals was to help create a sense of solidarity among the

the women make, they help one another out. Selling these goods is not always feasible considering the conditions of the roads and

she says.

women

in

things, she

Karabakh. From the looks of

has.

the lack of reliable public transportation. Instead they realize they share a common

fate and help each other out any way they can. Anush Alaverdian lives in another small village on the way back from Chldran - with

r,

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

,/4 e e, .

rS.r.â‚Ź

2OO4

0pposite page: Lelt

lo right, Arustamian,

Harutunian and Danielian catch up on each other's lives. This page: Anush Alaverdian and her children prepate lor the winter. Photos by

Hrair S. Sailtissian

r


Gonnections

]leailstart Children's Mental Health Clinic Leads the Way

n ordinary looking couple and a small boy

wait in the lobby of the Association of

Child Psychiatrists and

Psychologists (ACPP) office. On a small table, there are leaflets for parents and caretakers of children to take on a series of topics ranging from obsessive compulsive disorder to phobias. This little boy doesn't speak. He's autistic and his parents out of a need to help their son and out of their own to understand and cope have opted for therapy. Another little boy much the same age we'll call him Sarkis - also doesn't speak.

He's six now and stopped speaking two years ago. In the past two years Sarkis has been regressing emotionally and mentally. Besides not speaking, he stopped going to the bathroom began urinating and defecating in public. This little boy was born and grew up in a home where his father abused drugs and his

mother. In the course of Sarkis' short life there have been many horrific events. Perhaps some adults in the face of so much

anxiety would likely shut the world out also. His mother has since left his abusive father and come to this center for help. But the story

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

doesn't end there. Sarkis needs serious ongoing therapy and medication, which this center and its qualified therapists are willing and ready to offer. And yet his young mother and her extended family think it best to hand Sarkis over to the Kharbert Specialized Orphanage where children who suffer from illnesses like mental retardation and Down's Syndrome are sent. Khachatur Gasparian, Mce President of the Psychology Division at the ACPP says it's as important to work with the families of the children to help them understand and cope


with the mental health issues facing their children as it is to work with the child. One of the principal philosophies of the work they do is just that - involving the whole family in the therapy process.They'll even make home vis-

without the stigma or taboo.

its if necessary.

unique in Armenia. Currently they are alone in what they do.In 1993 when the Minister of Health closed down the existing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Clinic families were left without a resource center to attend to children's mental health issues. But in 1997 the ACPP was established as a non-governmental, non-profit organization and brought together a host of child psychiatrists and psychologists both from Armenia and abroad as volunteers and they came, willing to help. Currently they are working with the

As Gasparian

discusses Sarkis' case an extreme look of worry settles on his face. He's done everything he can to help Sarkis'mother understand that he needn't be sent to Kharbert he's counseled her, agreed to provide the medication Sarkis needs which she says she can't afford but in the end it's her decision.

-

To make an obvious statement, mental health issues are still difficult topics of discussion for many in Armenia. The lack of public education is what haunts many families still. The ACCP offices are located in a central part of Yerevan. They are on the flfth floor of an unassuming building with a placard welcoming the patients of a dental clinic. Here the visitor can be safe and suspend all previously imagined pictures of grim, gray Soviet styled mental health centers.

Instead the ACPP's corner on the fifth floor is warm and provides a sense of safety

The center, which opened in May of 2000.

and its six district offices have already seen over 500 children and adolescents and currently has a waiting list of 46. The ACPP is

Geneva Initiative

on Psychiatry to train

health care professionals who work with children on mental health issues. "We want those

individuals who work directly with children to have more knowledge of mental health. In Armenia the tradition has been to refer those suffering from mental health to neuropathologists instead of psychologists. In communism there was no room for applied psyAIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

chology. The Soviet approach was more illness based, more biological instead of social," says Gasparian. ACPP runs training centers in Gyumri, Vanadzor and Yerevan and is constantly working on ways to bring awareness and information to the public. One such way is with a live radio program Gasparian started back in1992.

Currently the radio show is off air since the last elections. Gasparian says during the

elections people were calling

in not

to

respond to the program but to give commen-

tary on political issues so the producers decided to pull the program until things settled down. But Gasparian feels confldent that

they will be back on air very soon. In the meanwhile he offers tapes of previously recorded programs to give an idea of the work they did. They've covered everything from alcohol and drug abuse to behavioral problems to Art is an important tool lor mental health specialists. Above: Therapist works with Opposite page:

children. Photos by Karen Mirzoyan

47


Connections

of guilt, because they feel that they might be thought to not have loved grand-

sense

mother or grandfather. I'm certainly not saying that European orAmerican traditions are necessarily right but I do believe that we need to reexamine some of these traditions," says Gasparian

The centers'psychologists see children as young as one and a half years old. Sometimes

mothers bring

in their

young children

because they are masturbating and they can't

how to overcome difficulties and hardships. He's discussed AIDS and divorce. There were shows on life skills, memory and obsessive thoughts and sex education. The 35-minute show has been on air since 1992 as a live call in program broadcast on

Public Radio Company

of Armenia

Yerevan, Vanadzor, Hrazdan,

in

Sevan,

Ashtarak and Vayk.

"We realized a long time ago that the public needs information and this was a way

of getting important facts and

bringing

awareness to the public. We have a good fol-

lowing of listeners and they generally respond with positive feedback until we discuss things like sex education and suddenly they are uncomfortable. I had a boy come to the center because he heard our show on

Gasparian and his colleagues seem to find a high rate of obsessive compulsive disorder

(OCD) in Armenia. The center in Yerevan along with its six district offices seems to work with many children and adolescents who suffer from the illness.Though there are no concrete statistics to analyze the numbers

of

individuals with OCD

in

Armenia, Gasparian and his colleagues feel the num-

bers are high in comparison to phobic anxiety disorders or post traumatic stress disorder or somatoform disorders. Cases at the ACPP are diagnosed using

the ICD-10 (Intemational Classification of Diseases) which Gasparian hopes more psychiatrists and psychologists in the country will start using. Most mental health professionals in Armenia still use the Russian equivalent.

obsessive thoughts and called in. This has happened on several occasions that children come to us on their own. In the end this child needed medication and we asked his parents to come in but at first they were unwilling to cooperate," says Gasparian.

Gasparian points out that in families where death has occurred there is a huge problem of trauma. In Armenia where the corpses of the dead are still brought home for viewing the effects of death and the dead body can cause much anxiety to adults and

Though parents are still reluctant to

especially children who are most vulnerable. "Many children share with me that when they see death in their home they are traumatized, they don't want any longer to be in

approach psychologists Gasparian says these attitudes are changing. He points to the numbers of children they've already seen and the long waiting list. Still, many parents continue to be misin-

formed or in denial of the problems facing their children.

the home where they eat, sleep and play because the memories of the honible event are constantly relived and they cannot express themselves to their parents out of a AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

seem to understand how to deal with what they deem a problem. Gasparian goes on to explain "parents come to us out of fear, as a last resort and because they may have been given false information. And we talk to them to learn from them about these issues. Most often it's the mother's own anxiety and need to know why certain things happen as they do. And they come mostly wanting to understand. And if for example a generally good student is suddenly doing poorly in school we ask the mother what is going on at home and

slowly we leam there is talk of divorce or conflict in the home."

Recently the ACPP helped celebrate International Mental Health Day on October 10 by organizing an exhibit of the handiwork of mentally ill patients and orphans along with art therapy pieces by the children of the centers. At the opening ceremony they hosted a concert at an old age home by a chorus of WW II veterans. Gasparian says the aim was to narrow the divide between vulnerable groups and the general public. "We wanted our message to be that they are one of us and we one of them, to bridge the gap." The UK-based Friends of the Family helped fund these activities along with the many similar things they help the center do.

Honorary member Professor Haikaz Grigorian who practices in New Jersey has been working with earthquake trauma victims since 1989. "Things have changed since then.

There's a new generation of thought and I truly appreciate what the ACPP does, the next step is to create a similar center for adults." r The new playroom provides comlortable space

lor interaction between patient and lherapist. Photo by Karen Mirzoyan


Music

The lady $inU$ tlte BIUGs Jazzing

f I

it IJp at Yerevan's I-Inderground Venue

here are plenty of jazz clubs in Yerevan. flenty of places to hear blues. And most

professional musicians - and even non-professionals - would not hesitate to say that there is plenty of musical talent in this country. How and why is another story. Lady Blues (www.LadyBlues.nt.am) on Amirian Street in the heart of the city is one such place where jazz and blues aficionados can

Iisten to local musicians display their best. At tady Blues is where Vahagn Hapapetian, one of Armenia's best known jazz pianists, plays three nights a week with his JazzTrio. Here in this intimate studio cafe is where guitarist

Grisha Avanian and Stormy Monday play rhy.thm and blues and Karen Gasparian jazzes things up with his Jazz Duet. On a cold, quiet Thursday night if it weren't for knowing that just outside this underground basement den is central Yerevan. one could

easily mistake it for a blues joint somewhere on the Mississippi for the amazing tunes belting out of Stormy Monday. On most nights, the room is full of Yerevan devotees who frequent the tady so often they

goddesses are displayed: Mississippi John Hurt, Early Wright, Eugene Powell, B.B. King, Bessie Smith. Between the live sets of music a 1970s style record player plays old, scratchy

are considered more family than customers. There are couples and groups of friends, they

Armstrong

are in their mid twenties and in every age range above that. What lures them here is the music. Artak Nersissian, a 2}-year-old amateur musician is jamming with Stormy Monday the rhythm and blues band - on his harmonica. He's never studied music but plays guitar, piano, harmonica and percussion. He swears

-

he doesn't know how to read a note. Other musicians come to jam. Diasporan Arto Tirncboyaciyan who founded the Armenian

records.

On this Thursday night,

Louis

warming up the room with sweet little ditties lke,The Bucket\ Got a Hole in it. Owner Mona Kurkjian, a recent repatriate from Iran, says having a jazdblues club has been a childhood dream.With the help of close friend Nina Rostamian, who's also a repatriate living here over a decade now she was able to realize that dream in Armenia. They both agree that there's plenty of musical talent in this countryThey wish they could display more of it at their club. Since the opening of Lady Blues in April of is

Navy Band is a regular, when in town.

In nooks along the brick walled tunnel shaped interior, the names of musical gods and

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

Jammer Artak Nercissian heats up a cold night with his harmonica. Photo by Karen Mirzoyan


Music

of the week from Spm till midnight when they 2003 there has been a live band every night

have to stop because of city ordinances regarding noise in residential buildings. One has the feeling if it weren't for the ordinance the bands

here could play all night. "The quality of music is very important for us.The musicians who play here are dedicated and talented individuals. They are some of the most respected musicians in this genre living in Armenia," says Rostamian. "Business is good," Rostamian says. "Things are getting better. We make ends meet and most importantly we can pay our musicianE even though I wish we could afford to give Left: The R&B band, Stormy Monday. Below: One ol the nooks where iaz and blues memorabilia is desplayed. Photos by Karen Mirzoyan

;*"*=\

m AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4


them more than we do." she adds Lady Blues offers live music every night of the week. Whether it's jazz or rhythm and blues, there's always something to keep the toes tapping. For the hungry there's sandwiches, schnitzels fries and salads served from lunch till closing. If you're thirsty there's cold beer and mixed drinks "just don't ask for a shot of vodka or tequila. Rostamian says they don't serve hard liquor at the Lady. It's just something they can do without. But never mind the hard liquor. If it's music you want you won't leave disappointed.

r

Right: Grisha Avanian

ol Stormy Blues.

Below: Vahagn Hayrapetian and his

iaz trio

are

regulars at Lady Blues. Photos by Karen Mirzoyan

f i

rjf s..

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

I

+

;#r itl:


Photo Essay

A llome By Any 0then Name PHOTOS BY Rouben

Mangasarian

In

Yerevan. there is always more under the lsurface than one imagines. Alvart Khalatian lives, literally, under the surface. And finding Alla - as her friends call her - is easy in a small city such as this. On a tip from journalists and others who have witnessed Alla going in and out of her

trap door, a mangy black mutt barks at the foot of the wide metal stairs leading to a dark underworld. A voice from deep inside calls out "Who's there...what do you want?" Rouben yells back, "We're journalistg we want to talk to you. Could we please come in?" "Come back tomorrow at 11am. I don't

underground home, photographer Rouben

have light today."

Mangasarian finds the location below Saryan

The next day, Alla wams us that she still doesn't have any light down there.Trying to find sturdy, practical candles - not cute, small, scented ones - in nearby shops proves futile. So, the small decorative candles would have to do.

Street at the foot of a decaying Sovietbuilt fountain rusty and falling apart after at least a decade

of disuse.

Nearby, a construction crew points to a healy metal trap door which leads into the service area below the fountains. Other passersby notice her visitors and call out in laughter, "That woman has been photographed more often than Sophia [,oren." As Rouben struggles to open the metal 46

Climbing down the slippery stairs is half the battle. The only luminosity in this gravelike home is from the opening in the ground, above.Walking toward the darkness is another challenge but Alla guides her visitors.

"Keep to the right. Be careful, AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

I

don't

2OO4

want you to fall. That's how I became a cripple you know by falling into those ditches." The darkness is overwhelming. Finally a small candle is lit but relief is only temporary. Not seeing this world is perhaps better than seeing it. "Welcome to my Khor Virab," she says in a crackling voice, as tears fill her eyes. It's cold inside, at least a few degrees colder than outside, and unbearably damp. The stink of waste and trash masked only because of the temperature. Everything is done here and therefore disposed of here.

Alla is sitting on a rusty iron bed with piles of dirty, tattered bed linens. She says she hasn't moved from her bed in a week. When she does get around she uses a crutch for her bad leg. About a week ago she took another fall trying to climb up the stairs and hurt her


other knee. She says she was carrying Mickey, the black mutt she calls a poodle in a plastic bag. That's how she gets him in and out. She has a visitor, a woman named Ello. Ello is a neighbor and she asks Rouben not to photograph her because she's married

with two grown daughters.

"lt

wouldn't

be

good for her... with her sons-in-law and all. You can photograph me all you want but not her." Ello says she brings Alla drinking water and hot food when she can. She sits quietly to one side and observes. Alla is a heavy woman. It's hard to imag-

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4


Photo Essay

Feady

f,os ine her climbing in and out of this hole by herself let alone with a dog in plastic bag, and crutches. But she does. For the past five years, this underground service area has been the only place Alla has had to call a home. She moved here with sec-

ond husband Roman (and the contents of their home) on a tip from one of his friends who worked for the sanitation department. Roman abandoned her in August and left her to fend for herself. But she has a network of people she calls friends and neighbors who bring her food and water and drop by to see how she copes. Her friends are similarly homeless men and women. who are bottle collectors and the like, with no place to go and no family to turn to. When we return for a follow up interview, and some more photographs, Rouben has prac-

48

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4


tical candles This time, Alla has more visitors Zaven and Shemavon are friends of her husband's who have come by to see how she's doing. "They've brought me a kilo and a half of meat. But I've nowhere to cook it. My stove top was stolen a couple of months ago along with my purse which had my passport in it.What can I do? I'm at the mercy of my neighbors and friends who might bring me something to eat."

It's a mystery how they will cook that meat in this dungeon.

On a makeshift table near her bed is

a

large black container that collects rain water. Alla says she collects the water for bathing

and washing.

It

filters itself through the

cement, she says, quite seriously. The table is cluttered with dried bread and an ashtray full

of cigarette butts and food no longer fit for consumption.All around her are boxes full of things stacked one on top of another. And heaps of trash in every corner along with pots and pans collecting the "filtered water". She takes a plastic Fanta bottle and pours herself something which must be very strong then takes her broken tea cup and fills it with water from the black container on the table to wash it down with. "Please don't get me wrong. I have to do this to stay warm.There's no other way."And her friends nod in agreement as they take turns with the cup and the Fanta bottle. There's a portable radio on the small table and two little clocks to help her keep time. The battery in her radio has died and Rouben offers her the used batteries from his camera. She takes them and thanks him they work perfectly well in her little radio. She turns it on and ChristinaAguilera's voice is heard under Yerevan's ground. Alla's not pleased so she searches the airwaves and finds something traditional and Armenian. "I sing you know," she says and her friends again nod in agreement. They begin to convince her to sing something but she doesn't need much persuading and begins in a raspy, cigarette voice - to croon something sad and lonesome. There's a makeshift bureau nearby with a

vase and dried flowers and

little knick

knacks. Not far away, an empty clothes line. It's hard to imagine the last time Alla bathed

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4


or washed clothes or dishes. She says her last bath was six months ago. In the summer, she fills large water bottles and sets them under the sun where they heat up and washes herself with the warm water. Since her husband left, there's no one to help carry the bottles and the weather has been too cold. On another visit and after some urging on Rouben's part. Alla agrees to climb outside for some fresh air and exercise. Soon, neighbors on their way to run errands or throw out trash stop by to ask her how she is. One leaves a pair of shoes for her. On this visit, only Zaven is with her. He

ffi

h,'i,P

fd.

climbs out too carrying the meat he and Shemavon had brought the day before, along with an unwashed pan. This is what they'll cook in and eat from. More men stop by. One brings a bottle of

vodka. Alla and Zavet cook the meat by burning cardboard boxes. Nothing to season with but salt. After nearly an hour on a barely warm fire it's as done as it can get and it's clear there's not much meat there, rather it's fat and tendons. Alla takes a swig of vodka and begins her meal. Mickey comes running to her and she feeds him like a baby. "Come to mama, Mickey" she says... "He's the only son I have. I can't eat without him." At only forty-six, she's been interviewed and photographed for the last five years. "l just don't know what's ever going to come of all this," she says "I've become a super-model and have nothing to show for it."r 50

AIM .IANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4


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YeS, tr D

I want to be part ol the LGO 2004 Summer Programs

Please rush me a brochure and volunteer application. I can't go, but I would like to subsidize the cost of a volunteer and help support the Summer

Programs. (Please lorward your check with this coupon to the address below.)

Al! conlrlbullons are lar dsducllbls.

tr $50 tr $100 E $250 tr $500 a $1000 tr

For lnquirles,

Other

wrile, call, e-mail or websile: Land & Culture Organizalion

P0. Box 1386, Hoboken, NJ 07030 e-mail: info@landandculture.org. 0ur Website is at wwwlandandculture.org SPACE IS LII{ITED, DEADLII{E FOR APPTICATIOI{S IS MAY 17 ,2OO4


A iJL i.T-T,'I:';: :L:,

archiving

Director of the Film Archive Museum, joined up with some colleagues, went to the authorities in Moscow and asked if those historical

to show director

and art films that were the works of

of

Armenian filmmakers could be brought to

two. Her nimble fingers thread the 35 mm film through the projector with great efficiency.

Armenia. Moscow agreed. "lt was the time of perestroika and things were changing. The meeting went very well, better than we expected. That's how, in 1987, we established the Film Archive Museum." says Zakoyan. Zakoyan, who is the former director of the Film School at the Art Institute in Yerevan, is a photographer and filmmaker himself. He is a mild mannered man whose patience and dedication to his work keep him going, and put him in touch with the likes of Atom Egoyan and Max Sivaslian. Egoyan the fllmmaker has relied on Zakoyan's con-

Archive Museum in Yerevan. restoring film,

o'fi','J*'

x.'ii,,'i:

Museum. So do the two Armenian and 15 Russian films for which Aram Khachaturian composed the music. Charles Aznavour's films are here, too. right next to Hamo BekNazarov's. one of the leading actors and directors of the 1920s. There are 3.000 films here to be exact, dating as far back as 1925.

But there's more than film at this Archive-Museum also called Cinematheque. Filmadaran - all of the above. There are photographs (199,737 of them) and audio liles (21.782 individual items) - and ghosts of life past.

Not just because it's a bit like a ghost town. The grounds of the Film Archive Museum, some ways from the center of

transferring film

to video and

and cataloging. Today she's preparing

Arthur Peleshian's

Seasons to an audience

In the run-down screening room that

is

supposed to be under construction, there are rows of armchairs not unlike the ones found in traditional movie theatres. Thttered curtains cover the windows that keep the bright

sun out. Suddenly the sound of the projec-

tor's motor can be heard underneath the Vivaldi that fills the dark room. On the screen is Peleshian's masterpiece

employees keep busy with daily tasks like cataloging and restoration. Larisa Amirkhanova worked at the Tbilisi TeleStudios for 27 years. For the past

about the seasonal struggles of sheep herders All of Peleshian's genius is here: in canisters holding his long and short black and white documentaries. In the 1940s when the Armenian National Film and Photo Archives was established, it was made responsible for storing and cataloging documentary films, photographs and audio flles. The historical and art films were stored in Moscow.

eight years, she has been at the Film

In the 1980s Garegin Zakoyan,

Yerevan, are quiet and lonely. Inside or out, there aren't any visitors or guests, no film stu-

dents

or

directors. Instead

a handful of

and village life.

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

the

tacts and know-how for various projects. including his 1990s Calendar, and his most Opposite page: Rows ol tin-covered treasures

sit

in the rooms which protect them lrom direct sunlight and heat. This page: Larisa Amid<hanova closely lollows the lilm she projects lor visitors. Photos by Karen Mirzoyan


Ints

recent Ararar. to help him find locations, experts, technicians for his various projects.

With French-Armenian

photographer

Sivaslian, Zakoyan cooperated on a project which resulted in a beautiful coffee table book entitled My Yerevan. Black and white images

chart Yerevan's history beginning with 1890 and concluding with Sivaslian's black and white photos of the last decade and a half. Sivaslian's work hangs in the Archive Museum entrance hall. Up the stairs, on the way to Zakoyan's office, a long hallway features old posters and movie relics. Zakoyan's office is a temple to the photoGaregin Zakoyan in his ollice crowded with years ol collecting and creating. His own altw0rk, which line the walls, is reminiscenl ol Paraianov's. Photo by Karen Mirzoyan

graphic and cinematic arts. Here, in this museum-within-a-museum. there are old photographs, old cameras, old collages reminiscent of the Parajanov years.This very large airy space is both library and office, working space and exhibition area. Since 1996, the building houses both documentary and art films, and functions both as archive and museum. Every film ever made in Armenia is housed here, along with a large collection of foreign films including those of French filmmakers Goddard and Tiuffaut. In fact, the first time the works of those two French masters were seen in Armenia was in the early 1990s, with the help of the

French Embassy in Armenia, and its Cultural Attache, Patrick Donabedian. Subsequently, Zakoyan organized several other film festivals in Yerevan. But funds were limited and printing was a problem, so AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

with the help of artist friends, the invitations for the Sergei Paraianov festival in July 1993 were hand engraved on narrow wooden panels. Having discovered a good thing, for the Aznavour festival the same year, they used clay medallions. The most recent festival (June 2002) was

called Migration des Images which the Contemporary Art Center of Geneva helped fund. Filmmakers and fans from 20 countries came to participate. Zakoyan describes how the huge screens were planted along the hillsides to show contemporary video art and computer generated films. So much for bringing world cinema to Armenia. But to expose the treasures of Armenian cinema to the rest of the world, their last effort was a huge festival in conjunction with the Centre Pompidou in Paris called Le Cinema Armenien in 1993. In the


span of four months, over 120 fllms by Armenian fllmmakers from Armenia and the Diaspora were screened. He hopes to do something similar in Armenia - a festival to be called Armenians in World Film. Zakoyan says audiences in Armenia need to see the works of Armenian fllmmakers abroad and those same filmmakers should see what's available here - something that is necessary and useful for everyone involved. The Film Archive Museum is a non-proflt organization funded by the government.Their yearly budget is 12 million Drams, or $21,000. The budget barely covers salaries - average is $30 monthly - and upkeep. The allocation for purchase of new films, photos and audio files is about 150,000 Drams (or $270.) With such limited funds, there is no money for such luxuries as organizing festivals in Armenia or participating in festivals abroad. Worse, there is no digitizing capacity in Armenia. As a result, when local filmmakers find that they must participate in international exhibitions, they screen the good oldfashioned 35 mm film and shoot it with a hand-held digital video in order to have a digital copy to submit to festival committees abroad. Not the most sophisticated solution, but it's a solution, Zakoyan says. "Digitizing facilities would bring in revenue as well, since there are no such facilities in the entire region," he continues. But they are expensive to procure. Their limited budget doesn't cover renovation, temperature control, heating or air conditioning either. "Fortunately, this building is well constructed to suit the needs of an archive. The large grounds provide protection against dust and pollution. Although the trees contribute to the scenic environment, they serve a greater purpose by creating moisture which is necessary for the protection of the films," says Zakoyan, who has learned to see that the glass is half full, not half empty. In one of the storage rooms, dry towels

ture levels when neither the trees nor the stone walls help.

Although a bit archaic, it's simply a way of doing something rather than nothing at all.

r

lhe ptoiection r00m. Bel0w:Threading lilm through the aging 35 mm proiector. Above: Amirkhanova reigns over

Photos by Karen Mirzoyan

are piled in a corner. Zakoyan notices an explanation is necessary. He says that in the hot summer months, they wrap the film canisters in moist towels to help keep the moisAIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

57


Boolrs

Histonically $peakinu The Various Shapes of Armenla

Douben Galichian

traded in oil and gas. But llhis real love is maps. He collects them. Now he has published them in a beautiful

collector, who over a lifetime has become a specialist of maps of Armenia - and this book is his first step into publishing. Born inThbriz,

volume published by I.B. Thuris of London and printed in Armenia. Armenia figures in the 127 maps featured in this book - from Babylonian clay tablets to satellite photos. In all of them cartographers

Iran, he and his family moved to England, where he did consulting and trading in the petrochemical world. Galichian's interest in

place Armenia somewhere. Galichian's

1970s, with a growing private maps, mostly of Armenia.

Historic Maps of Armenia: The Cartographic Heritage is a first. He is a private scholar and

geography and cartography started early but he began to take this interest seriously in the

collection of

But Galichian is a busy man. He is AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

the

Honorary Consul of the Armenian Embassy to Great Britain in [.ondon. He is also chair-

man of the Britain-based charity, Aid Armenia, and in September, he was in Armenia to oversee the opening of a kindergarten in the village of Voghni in the Shirak A map lrom the Bononie edition ol Ptolemy's Geography, printed in Rome in 1482. This untitled map is unusual in containing both Armenia Minor and Armenia Major in one single map.


region. It's a \\'ondcr that tltc book ol ntaps saw thc lisht of dar. Galichian hcgan his rcscarch at London's British Librarv. which holds the second biggcst rnap collcction iri the uorld. after tlte Librarv of Consress in Washinston. DC. "The

British Lihrar'\''s map nrom holds the rnost important maps ol Arnrcnia ancl its surrouncling rcgion. as u'cll as of thc rvorld. Its map roonr contajns actual rnaps ancl repro-

duclions on nticrofilm. This rcscurch lastccl

!.E.;

dis' {ttr'

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

20();1


Boolrs

t,cur antl l hall." slrr s (itrlicltian. SubscqLrcntlr. hc vrsitccl thc I -ibrlrlv ol'

arountl

l

in Washinqton. I)('. thc Wtltcrs (iallcn in I'hilaclclphil. thc []ibliothcqrtc

('onqrcss

Nationirlc dc Itr-urtcc in Puris. .krhn I{r'ltrrtcls [-ibran' in Nlanchcstcr. F.ngland. thc Stlrr-lt L-ihnrn in Nlunich. thc Vicnna ('itr' [-ilrran'. antl thc lrblarics o1'Bolognit Llnii'crsitv and thc Naplcs lVIuscurl. "'lhc onlv collcction ol nraps br, Arnreniun clrrtogrlphcrs tias at thc Ventcc Murciano N'luscunr." he erplains. "All thc other maps \\crc outlincd bt non-Armcniitns.'" Anruncl -i0 pe rccnt ot lhe maps teaturccl in the book arc held bv the British Librtrn'.20 pcrccnt are from hrs pcrsonal collectittn and the lest '11g ll'1rnr

inletnrrtiotlrl co]leclrrrtt:.

Errch nral-r is acconil-ritniecl bv thc

nalrc ol'

thc cirrtrulaphcr. whcre thc tnap uas clnt*n. arrcl its prcse nt krcitlion.'fltcre arc ntitps clatinq

back

to thc uncicnt (ircek gcogrlphcr

Ptolcnrv. rvith clcscriptions ol t\rnrcnia uncl its citics.'l'hc hrxrk continucs nith rrraps l.nrnt thc ILonran lncl ('hristian ct-us. us'nvcll as sca cltarls lionr thc l2th to l6th ccnturics. Ol political signilicancc urc lhc nraps r.vhich thc Artt.tcnian

clelcgation carriccl

to thc Paris Peacc

Conlcrcncc at thc conclusion ol \\tlrlcl War I. and []S Prcsiclenl Wooclrorv Wilson's ill-fated map of thc LIS Mandate over Armcnia. This map. currently housecl al the Lihlarl' of Congrcss. leatures the prcsiclent's signature.

Also of interesl arc three Ottoman-cra

nraps. lnrrn thc British [.ibrary's collcction. I'rinlcd in 'lirrkcv. two ol thcnt clating I'ttlnt lli0l irnd 1867. lclturc 'Arntcttia' bctrvccn Erze runr ancl Vun in olcl f)tlorran script. r

The below map, entitled 'Alexandri Magni Macedonis Expeditio', is Map Z lrom Abraham 0rtelius' (1528-98) allas Theatrum 0rbis Terrarum, published in Amsterdam, in Latin, in 1595. The map covers the geographical area that Alexander conquered, starting with lndia and extending to Anatolia and Greece. ln this map the two Armenian lakes Areesa and Thospitis are shown, which are in lacl the Armenian names given t0 the same lake (Ariesh and Toshpa).

I}iIGDNIO, IVDICIO, ET EMTDI, TIO}.IE PRAE.5f, ANTI,DOMINO

HENI(ICO SCHOTIO,VRSr ANTVM,P, A CU!,ISILI I3 :AilO : RI$ L:T TENTVOLENT1AE ER' cor IU(rc T{B\ILAM WDICAB.

ADRAH,OBTELIVS.

AIM .IANUARY FEBRUARY

2004


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At www. armeniaforeignministry. am click on e-visa, provide credit card and passport information, and you'll receive a visa online in just 48 hours, without leaving your home.

[tl'yu lh]lurl iilJIJl.} Yu',Jr,,t, tjurf


Undenexposed

At [a$t State Tleasure is Home

i

violoncello (or cello for short) made by master, Andrea Guarneri, in Cremona in 1685, was handed over to Armenia's Culture and Education Ministry by Armenia's Ambassador to the Ukraine, Armen Khachatrian, on December 28. The cello had lived a colorful life outside Armenia. Played by numerous violoncello virtuosi over the years, including Mehdi Abrahamian, in 1948 Armenia bought it from

Hthe Italian

Moscow-based

cello professor

Sergei

Aslamazian for a private collection of rare musical instruments at 2000 rubles - expensive for the time. In 1984,Armenia lent it to prize-winning cellist Suren Bagratuni for a concert in Lviv, Ukaine.This is where the violoncello remained for other concerts there and in its neighboring states When Bagratuni and his wife, Nina Khoma, moved to the US, they left it at Khoma's 62

sister's home, where the violoncello laid idle. In 1996, the recently-formed Republic

of

Armenia was keen to reclaim its precious items. Every new republic expressly guarded any precious items in their possession. The first attempt to reclaim the violoncello

was

made by the head of the Armenian Church in Lviv back in 1996. but his efforts were unsuc-

cessful. Last year, Martin Yeretzian,

a

Komitas State Conservatory violin professor and violin maker, decided to try to bring it back himself. Accompanied by Ambassador Khatchatrian's assistant, Kevork Meymarian, and armed with the 1948 certiflcate (stating that Armenia rightfully owns it), they went to Lviv at the beginning of December. Once they tracked down the whereabouts of the violoncello, the repossession was agreed

upon with the Ukraine and the process of bringing it back to Armenia was initiated. AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

"The violoncello, the property of Armenia, has returned home after a long odyssey, a remarkable event in our cultural life," said Khachatrian.The instrument will be kept in a collection of rare string instruments at Aram Khachaturian's House-Museum, where 23 other valuable Italian string instru-

ments are exhibited. The violoncello is presently undergoing restoration by Martin Yeretzian for future concerts in Armenia and abroad. According to Yeretzian, the cello, once fully restored, will be worth around half a million US dollars. Four other string instruments have been

brought to Armenia since 1997, from CIS countries, Germany and Great Britain. Khatchatrian added that some rare artifacts

-

once belonging to Armenia - are now in Lebanon, and authorities are working to bring them back

also.

r


Glohalization Making the Full Circle Home are lots of Diasporans who have business interests in Armenia. The famous Manoogian family is not among

fhere

I

them. Alex Manoogian's daughter Louise Manoogian Simone's name is well known in Armenia. She is the chief advocate and sup-

porter of the American University of Armenia, a generous donor to the

Armenian Apostolic Church, the patron of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra. and many other big and small institutions. Her brother Richard Manoogian, now President

of the Masco Corporation, founded by their

father, the benefactor Alex Manoogian, is also not one of Armenia's business names. Yet Masco is indeed in Armenia. Among their dozens of home and constructionrelated manufacturing concerns around the

world, Masco also owns Aran, an upscale Italian kitchen designer and manufacturer. Aran's products are now available in Armenia, imported by ZigZag, a major qf home appliance retailer, with three branches in central Yerevan. r

Petal PeFIeGt

Putting the Pieces Together f,

lvina Barkhudarian is an unusual artist.

lltuk.

a close look. and it's apparent that she's used colorful flower petals to frame the buildings, trees, people and flowers in these paintings. In 1988 she was forced to leave Baku. She came to Yerevan to continue to

- this time at the Architecture Institute. But except for a few years, she's spent the bulk of her time here as an artist study

whose work sells well. She exhibits in Yerevan frequently - from United Nations Refugee Day to the Artbridge

Caf6.

AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

2OO4

r


(lun List

Menu ltems at[anUG

Yerevan boasts nerv restauranls weekly. Each ol thcsc rcstaurants comes with its orvn image. its own d6cor. and its own menu. Don'l look fbr consistencv, however. Good food can be found on the funniest menus. The samplcr below comes to you without any editing or corrections. These are actuaI mcnu items that can be tbund in some of Yerevan's vummicst eateries. (Where contnents couldn't be resisted, they're in italic.s.)

Solyanka

The recipc of an old bachelor Frog's Feet

Chicken under mayonnaise Pretty Woman More attractive than Julia Roberts

Bon Appetitl

Main Courses

Salads & Appetizers Green and Acid

Buckwheat on Spit

Lrttucc with

Burltacued vettisott

Ie

nron rrr r inugrtr

Vcgctable soup:doesn't takc this long anyvay

- or but'k trtcut

Lost Atlantic Soup with salmon; lves Coustcau's dreant

Jellied Spaghetti

Midwest

Mushroom. sweet corn

9 - Weeks

&

cucumber

unlcash the other dcsires

Hummus With chick pccs

Brave heart Pork tenderloin with sause: favorite lbod

Chicken Chest

in Scotland

Boat in the Ocean

A la carte sturgcon piecc baked in a tiril al'tcr a long slay ('l'hat would be u tturinudc?

Funny Prices

1

(Appr.565 drams/$l )

Fried Aborigine

Sonrcone tried to do sonrc editing here: auber.qine - othenvise knov'tt os an eggpltuil conles up as aborig,ine n,hen using Microsofi's

Ishkhan As it is

spell check

Piglet Squeal Well-fried pork

400 drams Sandwich 350 drams Sandwich il Ham Omelet il Ham & Cheese 1500 drams 1600 drams Omelet w/ Ham 1700 drams Omelet ilCheese

Draft yogurt Matsun

Best to order sn omelet with ham and

Fried Veal Fillet Tender like first iove AIM JANUARY FEBRUARY

cheese, 200,I

mintts the hqm!


0then People's Mail

lloliday Gheen

DearT, The holidays here (my first!) were not about shopping or sales - although most places were offering five to seven percent discounts -- or reflection. What else can they be about, then? Well, eating is on top of that list, hand in hand with drinking. But this kind of eating is like no other. and has a life of its own. As it is freezing cold outside, people's bal-

conies become a natural freezer. Food for

New Year's Eve, and the following week, to be purchased around midDecember and stored outside if needed, with the belief that prices will start going up as it gets closer to the end of the year. Now you may ask: How much food can one buy that

begins

they need to start so early, and need the extra balcony space? Well, more than you can ever imagine. A family of three will need as much

food as a family of 10, as it really has nothing to do with the members of the household. It has to do with who they know. As the days near the 31st, cooking starts

and does not end until well after Armenian Christmas. On New Year's Eve, the table (much larger than usual) gets set with all that the family has been able to purchase. What appears on that table in no way reflects the family's financial situation, as the food and drinks are most often bought with money borrowed, or saved for this specific occasion,

or a combination thereof. (There are the exceptions: A friend spotted someone going into a small market, and running a $3,0ffi bill, just on drinks, and paid in cash.)

The main purpose of the table is to show off to the people visiting what the family'can afford,' a phenomenon not very different than those Armenians who prefer to live in one room in Glendale,yet drive a new BMW. (Nothing new is invented in that New World across the ocean. It is simply a continuation

of old traditions, if you can call it that, in

a

new land, which offers more products, able to be purchased on credit.) So, the table. To my question directed at V as to why his family will need to set such

an extravagant table for New Year's Eve if there is only his mother, sister and brother, and especially when the sister and brother plan to celebrate the turn of the year elsewhere? The answer to my dumb question was: The relatives and the neighbors, and whoever else decides to stop by during the week all need to be fed. It turns out that, according to local culture, what people do between December 31 and January 7 is visit each other's homes, where the tables are set at all times, with food being constantly replenished. And they eat. Offlcially, they are

congratulating the New Year, but what is expected is a lavish table, lots of vodka shots, and whatever else that comes along. No gifts are exchanged during this time, but hordes of people come and go through a house, sit at

the table, sometimes with others they don't know, eat, make toasts with well wishes, and move on to the next house. Now, you may think, or maybe I am the only one who did: If everyone is out there going from house to house, who is doing the cooking and receiv-

AIM JANUARY TEBRUARY

2OO4

ing the guests? Well, again according to V, there is a certain method to this. It seems that people just know what house to go to, and when. and households sort of take turns

in going around, and staying home for the others to visit. Kind of like driving in Yerevan traffic. They just know. And there is no way of escaping all this. It is not like you can just ignore it and go on with your life. No way. First, not much is happening in the city during this week. Offices are closed, most grocery stores are

well, or work limited hours (in case one of those tables runs out of vodka as a result of misjudging one's own family's popularity). Another major problem is getting cabs. During this week, any one of the dozens of cab companies that would have been all too eager for your call otherwise, don't have the time to answer your call, or the lines are busy for hours on end. In the rare instances that you do get through, a minimum wait of 45 minutes is normal. What seems to be the problem? One of the most respected traffic rules in Armenia is the Don't-drink-and-drive-rule. As a result, people hire cabs, and go from house to house, making the cabs wait for the 15 or 20 minutes it will take them to have a couple of shots and a few pieces of dolma. Then, on to the next house. as

Who knew Armenians can

be

so organized?

Love,

H 65


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Great Expectations - January/February 2004