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COVER STORY

GRTDLOGK

THE

IO

Yesterday's revolutionaries, they now frequent the halls of Parliament in three-piece suits, struggling for their own visions of a democratic order. B ut faced with the prospect of compromise as an imperative of political discourse, the present leaders of Armenia often find themselves reverting to theleamedinstincts of theoldregime, to messianic rhetoric and provincialism. In post-Soviet Yerevan, franscending the totalitarian ethos is still a tall order. INSTITUTIONS

LIGHT

}IORTHERil

21

The arrogance ofcurators and Turkish propaganda have often kept Armenian art away from major American museum exhibits. Michigan's Alex and Marie Manoogian

Museum is the latest addition to a number of ArmenianAmerican institutions thatpromise an altemative to artistic marginalization. cLosE-uP

PARADISE

SUSPE]IDED

24

Armenia boasts some of the most breathtaking wildlife habitats in the world, many of which are designated as naturepreserves. With worsening economic conditions and an ecologically indifferent public, these sanctuaries are being pushed to the brink of extinction. SOCIETY

FAITH

SEAL OF

94

A widening influx of religious cults in Armenia has sent shock waves throughout the Apostolic establishment. Now on speaking terms, Ejmiatsin and Antelias, along wittr other

denominations, havejoined forces to fight for the soul thepeople.

Edltor's Notc

4 5 8

Lcttcrr Artr Joumal

t8

Gontact Spcclal Bcport Focur Art

29 32 38 42 45 46

Analyrlr Faccr

Eray

COVER DESIGN: DICnAX Y,

sâ‚Źlt'address_e-d^orveloP-a

X

taOUXY

is en-clg-sed. Opinions expres-sed in_signed arlicles do not nscassarily ropresent the vibws of ths publishsrs.For

Commonwealth o, lndepondsnl Statss: $35; AmEnia: $3b

Po.tm..t.?.r

Send address changes to

:

ltx,

P.O.

loi

of

32ed,

H.nh.nin lorct, bt

gOZbe.

idya?tlalno currioi U.S.i. ' -


PUIL|3H!O tY Atr, DtC.

ALLTHEWRONG NUMBERS

Even with, or perhaps because of AT&T, dialing Yerevan is quite an experience. Thatmoming, atthe regulartime, I dialedAIM' s Vartan Oskanian

in Yerevan, heard it ring, and waited for his all-embracing "hey" from ttre ottrer end. Instead, I got a very proper Englishman's "hello" and the news that I had indeed been connected to a wrong number. Yes, in Yerevan, the man reassured. No, he didn't know Vartan, but would be sure to look him up. We chatted about the cold and hung up. As it turned out, it was a day of wrong numbers. Just before sending the February issue to ttre printer, we asked a new intem to verify the names and accountnumbers ofbanks with Pan-Armenian Fund accounts. The listings, prepared and printed in Yerevan, were insufficient for Western bankers. The simple indication Citibank, with an eightdigit account number, proved useless to the local bank from which we attempted to make a transfer of funds. Twelve phone calls later, we were able to verify the Citibank New York office which had set up the account, with the assurance that an insistent donor could indeed convince a local bank to ascertain the receiving bank's eight- or lO-digit routing number and take

careof thetansaction. It was business as usual at AIM. That day, we could have found useful work for another five intems. Any curious, persistent, intelligent college students may inquire and participate in many more such days. Unfortunately, not all wrong numbers arereachedby telephone. By midafternoon, managing editor Ishkhan Jinbashian received a guest from Beirut-apriest who dabbledin the arts andwishedtopromotehis works. The discussion naturally revolved around life in post-war lrbanon, new beginnings, the youth, schools, the educational system. While the clergyman spoke and Ishkhan listened politely, I worked at a computer not three yards away, scanning an article with an ear half-cocked to the chatter. The priest's recountings dealt with what he described as the current crisis in Armenian education in lrbanon, where teaching faculty are mostly and, according tohim, unfortunately, female, a situationthattimewouldno doubt ameliorate, he hoped. After all, he continued convinced, Woman, and particularly the ArmenianWoman, mustretum to the home, where sheis queen, rather than wasting her life on the world stage, in the marketplace. Just in case it wasn't clear, in front of computer screens, he added. The name of the priest? We've all forgotten.

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Klchian, Lola Koundakjian, Gllde Kupelian, Michasl Mastarciyan, Moorad Mooradian, Nancy Naiarian, Ara Oshagan, Susan Pattio, Aris Sevag, Ralti Shoubookian Dlcran Y. Kassouny

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blockade.

But whereas AIM has been comprehensive in its analysis of Armenia's plight, it is deficient in suggesting a remedy. Assessing past experiences indicates that attempts to secure delivery ofbasic foods and fuel through Georgia andTurkey have failed. It is imperative that experts from both Armeniaandthe Diaspora formulateandpresent toourleaders alistof well-planned "national salvation projects." In view of the strategic importanceof Armenia's southern edge, one such project could be devoted to the im-

Compassion Fatigue Other people write about the misery of Armenia in abstractions or clich6s. After a while, they contribute to compassion fatigue, lulling the numbed brains of all too many of our Diaspora compatriots, who have heard the same

liturgy of adjectives for misery from

theirgrandparents about theGenocide and its aftermath. Tony Halpin writes about the misery of Armenia, too. I don't always find his reporting sensible or persuasive, but I always read it forthe honest nugget offact that it contains. "The politics of Bread" (Cover Story, January) is, however, a fi rst-rate piece of reporting. Iteschews clich6 and offers the sobering cold showeroffacts about whathas devastated and will continue to devastate Armenia's efforts to find agricultural and nutritional equilibrium. By using the comments of Fred Woods, a U.S. official, and Ishkhan Mardirossian, a Republic of Armenia official of Diasporan origin, Halpin is able to convey in calm tone and from differentperspectives the immensity oftheproblem. Buthe also writes ofwhathas been done. Please

puthim to work ferreting outuseful

suggestions aboutconcrete ways in which the

Diaspora can help reform Armenia's agriculture, which is going to matter more rather than less in the next few years. And keep up the good work in your new and I hope fireproof headquarters ! P rofe ssor Khachi g Tdldlyan Wesleyan University M iddletown, Connect icut

Your coverage of the situation in Armenia was so vivid and powerful that even the most insensitive reader will feel dismayed and frightened. Your correspondents deftly described the misery, hunger and desperation that our compatriots endure daily, while the polarization between President Levon Ter Petrossian and the Parliament is sharpened under the pressures of war and the Azerbaij ani

provement of the infrastructure of the area through an extension of the rail and highway systems to the border with Iran. This will establish a reliable route for importing food and fuel, and it will create new jobs. AIM and other news media have a vital role toplay in educating theArmenianpublic in the Diaspora about the importance of its financial support, through the realization of such vital projects, for the survival ofthe na-

tion. Hagop Y. Bedikian, M.D. Houston,Texas

Gome Back to Yerevan Armenia needs tourism and Taline Voskeritchian's excellent article on the Sergei Paradjanov Museum (Art, January) should encourage more.

In October a colleague and I were in Yerevan and Tbilisi researching the life and film career of Paradjanov, and the museum played an invaluable role.

In it you get a tangible feeling of

Paradjanov's presence. As Voskeritchian has noted, this is a credit to the brilliance of the artist's works, as well as to the museum staff who are all vivacious and informed. But I feel the spirit in the museum equally comes from the trading post ethos of old Tifl is from which Paradjanov derived so much inspiration. In his works made from the artifacts ofoldTiflis hecreated an almost spooky highdefinition vision of that city and its people. Paradjanov loved to trade, not for acquisition but for the sheer thrill of securing a valued treasure, especially if it was an antique with fine handiwork. With just as much joy he'd turn around and give away his winnings. In this he and his museum reflect the spirit of the Armenians of old Tiflis.

,o"y#::"x'r#!#i; Starting Over My husband and I, together with our son, were among those who took that "long trek" starting from Baku, Azerbaijan, and found ourselves in Chicago (Cover Story, December.) Sonia Derman Harlan and the editors of AIM are to be highly commended for their comprehensive presentation of the ordeals of the Armenian refugees from Baku. Maybe it is too early to look for the real villains who perpetrated this tragedy. How-

AIM, MARCH I993


ever, weareconfi dentthatone day history will unmask them. Meanwhile, on behalf of my refugee compatriots now settled in Chicago, I would like to thank you for your in-depth reporting of ourwoes, dreams, expectations, and determination to start a new life in this great land. We thank the Armenian community in Chicago, especially the Armenian Congre-

gational Church, which did whatever it thought it should do as an Armenian Christian institution to helpus. And, once again, we thank Sonia Harlan who presented our case to yourreaders in amostrealistic and conscientious way. I would also like to use this oppornrnity to appeal to the Armenian community in Chicago, as well as in other parts of the U.S., to help the refugees findjobs in which they can utilize their knowledge and preparation as

highly skilled workers and intellectuals.

Givc Ur Our Daily I am

touthwarh

notrenewingmy subscription to

AIM

for only one reason, and that is because ofyour political standing in these rough times. Your magazine treats the ARF as a Turk ish organization. Yourwriters, namely Salpi

Haroutinian Ghazarian and Tony Halpin, write about Dashnaktsakans as if they are writing about the Azeris. My point of view is that the ARF is much more Armenian than you and I thinkorknow; and whoever writes or speaks about Dash-

naktsakansmustwashhiVhermouthandmust think not only twice, but three times before saying or writing anything. I would appreciate your not sending any more letters asking me to renew my subscription. I do not want to throw them in the garbage forthe reason thatthe word ARMENIAN is on it. I say "good luck" to you and the rest of your subscribers.

These are proud people who do not wish to

Garobhrabian

liveonwelfare. Somehavetakenmenialjobs working for minimum wages, even though they are professionals with advanced univenity degrees. Others are stilljobless. They are willing to move to any part of the U.S. where there are jobs available for them. Please help! Svetlana Mcrtycheva

Glendale, California

Thc Bcst ol Both Woilds I am writing in response to the review entitled "The Tribes Within" (Books, January.)

After reading Arlene Avakian's book, LionWoman's kgacy,I only wished that someone had given it to me much sooner.

I

Chicago, Illinois

would like to let the reviewer, Joan

Bamberger, and the author, Avakian, know that I was able to relate to her struggles, fears and ambitions. Her story shed new light on

muchof my lifeandexperiences, anditwas

a

ofinspiration. I would also like to encourage young,

source

Armenian-American women to read this book because I believe Avakian's story is empowering for young women who are caught between loyalty to a culture and family that have given them priceless gifts, and loyalty to theirown desires and ambitions which can still conflict with the "proper" role for Armenian women in our society. Growing up in an all-white suburb of Los Angeles, I always knew that I was different frommy friends, thatmy familywasdifferent, my home was different. And because I was different,I often felt thatl was somehow less than adequate. I always felt like I had catching up to do. Like Avakian, I wanted to be normal. I wanted to be like my American friends. It wasn'tuntil I wentaway to college inBoston that I learned to appreciate my heritage and culture for making me a unique individual with an extraordinary capacity for tolerance.

I believe that with this understanding I have become more aware of the plights of the many ethnic groups that reside in the U.S. and are struggling to make this country theirhome.

I learned from Avakian's story that my experiences

as

achildhaveallowedmetogain

tolerance for people from different cultures, backgrounds and lifestyles. I also learned that as an Armenian woman I could have the best ofboth worlds. I had every right to be independent and to pursue any lifestyle, and this would not negate the fact thatl am Armenian. Simone

Let these timeless, rich images

of the twelve zodiac signs from

a 1sth century Armenian manuscriPt accompany your thoughts or wishes to your family members or friends for all occasions. The set of nvelve 4.5" x6" fold-over cards are printed in full color and include a complimentary card with all twelve zodiac signs in miniature.

Missirian

H acie nda H e i ghn, C alifo rnia

A Time For

Ballying

Why create different fu nd-raising organizations when we already have the Pan-Armenian Fund? (Special Report, February.)

Sending money directly to the fund will eliminate both middlemen and the trust issue, which has held many of us back, especially since the 1988 earthquake. The fund's board of trustees includes the president of Armenia, Catholicoi Vazken I and Garegin II, Charles Aznavourand otherluminaries. If we cannot trust them, who else can we trust?

ArtourGevorkian Glendale, Califuruia

Life After Fossil Fuel Send shown. Eoch fullcolor zodiac sign fitls front

of

actual cards at 175% of image shown here.)

_set(s)

of

13 cards @ $

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sets= $19 ea. (+ $3 S&H)

4-6 sets = $16

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ea.

(+ $s S&H)

Also available wholesale. Please write or fax for more info. Fax: (415) 292-7692

In Tony Halpin's interview with Energy Minister Sebouh Tashjian (Interview, January), I learned of the difficulties the ministry has to contend with (limited economic resources, asensitivepoliticalclimate, andlack of raw materials to produce electricity and heat.)

Make check or money order payable to Arevag Impressions P.O. Box 410391. San Francisco. CA 94141-0391

AIM, MARCH

1993

Although Tashjian stated "we may produce energy from wind, solar, and perhaps waste, in the order of l5-20%o of Armenia's


needs," he should pursue solar and wind resources far more vigorously. These two forms

Diflcrcnt Strokcr

of energy are independent of any political

able to convey to you and your staff my admiration for the wonderful presentation and

climate and fre.e of any blockades.

In New England, where the climate is similarto thatof Armenia, solarenergy is used to heat government-owned and operated elderly citizens' aparfrnentbuildings, schools and private homes. This is a proven technology, and even though it cannot meet all the demands of energy consumption in Armenia, it should not be kept on the back burner. I believe that a solar energy consortium should be formed in the Diaspora to fund, purchase ormanufacture components needed retrofit apartments and homes in Armenia. I commend MinisterTashjian and his staff for their selfless dedication to find solutions

to

to the needs of our homeland.

John Daghlian North Andov e r, Mas sachus ett s

It gives me an exceptional pleasure to be

wide coverage of varied topics and my warmest congratulations. Odette Bazil B

riti sh-A rme nian

A ll - P arty

Parliamentary Group London, England

the spirit nor the soul. Other than learning about some dry facts

I

find that I have gained very little from your reporting or editorials. I enjoy yourmagazine less and less. AIM is now aloof from what is going on in Armenia. Under the circumstances, I see no point in renewing my subscription. That money would be better spent in aid to Karabakh. Hagop D. Yacoubian, M. D. Ia guna H il I s, C alifo rnia

The views you express in AIM are often way out ofbase. Some ofyour regular reporters, suchasTonyHalpin, areoutoftouch with reality and have no concept of the Armenian Experience, They do not appreciate the emotions of theArmenian people, colored by generations ofdesperate struggle for survival. Theirefforts to givea so-called unbiased interpretation of facts has turned them into alien outsiders and their writings stir neither

Letters should be mailed to

ailt

P.O. Box f OOG+ Glcndalc, CA 91 209.3064 orfaxed to

(8r81 546 2283. Letters must include lull name, address and home telephone number, and may be edited for purposes of clarity and space.

T 3

WE NEED A FEW DEDICATED YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN

9 m

t

Q

o =.

TO JOIN US AND OUR EUROPEAN-ARMENIAN VOLUNTEERS ON OUR 1993 SUMMER PROGRAMS !N ARMENIA AND IN KESSAB Ihe Land & Culturc 06anlzatlm (LC0) is now

the U.S. Canada, France,

recruiting volunteers to work

countries have worked hand

on the land during our annual Summer programs ranging from construction projects, to

in hand with local villagers on the land to assist the local population and to preserve

help Armenian refugees reset-

our culture.

England, Armenia and other

Some distinguished former

tle in Armenia, to renovating historic monuments, to earth-

volunteers today occu py

quake reconstruction work, and agricultural projects.

responsible positions in elther the government of Armenia or various other vol-

Your involvement will entail 4 weeks in either July

untary and educational organizations. A few examples:

or August 1993.

Gassla Apkadan ('90)

Our efforts not only have

direct benefits for Armenia, but they also deliver a profound and powerful psychological boost to native

Director of the Armenian

--

i

Armenians whose morale has been shaken by a harsh win-

P1IASE RESPOND BY MAY

Ye-s ; I

1,1993

;;;il ;il ;;,.co ,il ;;;;;;;;;;il

Assembly, Yerevan; lJnda

--

0

Please rush me a brochure and volunteer application.

O

I can't go, but I would like to subsidize the cost of a volunteer and help support the

tr

events.

Director Project Hope;

Mlchael KouchakJlan ('90)

$50 0 $100 tr $2s0 tr $500 tr $1000 E other

Name:...............

Telephone: (day)...........................

are Armenia proper and the

Address:............

Telephone: (evening)

Armenian villages around

City:.................................State:.

Our two program venues

Kessab, Syria.

Professor, American University of Armenia; among others. lf you are an able bodied

Zip:............... Country:.............

indivldual, dedicated, adapt-

Fol lnqulrles, wrlte or call: Land & Culture Organlzatlon

Over the last 15 years,

I

North & S. America: 138 East 39th Street, New York, NY 10016. Call:272 697-5822 Europe, Asia, Australia: 16 Rue Notre Damede Lorette, 75009 Paris. Call: 1 43â‚Ź&533a

L---------

Beddan ('88) Armenian Assembly, Washington D.C.,

Matthew Der Manuellan ('78)

Summer programs. Please forward your check with this coupon to N.Y. address below.

ter and cunent political

hundreds of volunteers from

I

able and willing to work on I

our land, WE

NEED YOU.

------------J

LAND & CULTURE ORGANIZATION - 138 E. 39TH STREET, NEW YORK, NY 10016 TEL: 212697-5822 AIM, MARCH 1993


ARttENrAt{

IttE-tst()il PR()DUcltol{t t}tc

Horn Of Plenty By KATHERINE CHILJAN

Ilre mly hdeperdeot vciety

pogomhthworld 16(l - W lnilenroliolrl

Phooollt

;lr

(lnel

"All thathyperventilation has made fora lotofcrazy people," says SamPilafian, known as theEvel Knievelof thetuba. "You'rehyperventilating fora living-huff,rng andpuffing; you get used to it after a while, but it does make you a little wacky." Pilafian's versatile and innovative playing has made him oneof the most sought-aftertuba players in the world. "It feels like I'm on borrowed time," says the 43-year-old, who in the last five years has worked on 25 CDs, with both solo and group performances. PilafiantraceshismusicalpassiontohisboyhoodyeaninMiami,Florida.Thoughheplayed the oud in his teens, he switched to the tuba in order to join his Junior High School band. "Nobodywantedto takeupthetuba,"Pilafianremembers. "Itwas like a sentence-ifyou couldn't play something else, or you were bad, they'd make you play the tuba." But the lonely brass giant found a true friend in Pilafian. "I simply got hooked on the sound," hecontinues. "Playing the tuba is neatbecause you'reon thebottom and you can hearhow it's allputtogether;it'slikeyou'resittinginthebasementlookingupattherestofthemusicalform.

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You lay down at the bottom and you get to do these musical stunts." Miami In the 60s was ahaven forretired musicians-both jazz andclassical-and Pilafian sought them out to leam as much as he could. When he won the Concerto Competition at the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan, he was the second tuba soloist to do so in 50 years. Later, while on fellowship at the prestigious Tanglewood Music Center, he had a fateful encounter with the late

maestro Leonard Bernstein, who asked Pilafian to play a piece. "I thought I was dead

channel

(F,

because this guy was like God; so I played forhim and he said

KSChTV

to everybody, 'that's the way

Los Angcles

it's

supposed

Bernstein then

to

go!"'

appointed Pilafian as the tuba player for his Mass, written in honor of John Kennedy. From there Pilafian came to focus primarily on classical music. On Bemstein's advice, Pilafian and fellow students formed the Empire Brass Quintet, one of the most acclaimed classical brass groups

R(rcER K. DERDERIAN rINATICIAL CONSI'LTANT

in the world today. But he never lost touch with his other lov e-jazz-and while livin g in New York he took every opportunity to extend the range and color ofhis playing. Every night he would play in a classical concert, and immediately after traipse off to a jazz club and jam till the wee hours. Pllaflan: "You're hyperventllating lor a llvlng... and lt does make you a llttle wacky."

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the Duke Ellington Orchestra-subtly influences the other. For instance, "when I'm playing classical I feel a much higher degree of rhythmic intensity that comes from my jazztraining," he says. Cunently, Pilafian and his second band, Travelin' Light, areriding high with the 90s vogue for "unplugged" music. After its first, critically acclaimed, CD release, the band will put out

withtwomorerecordings thisyear. "Whatl'mdoingas theserecords comeoutis takingafresh look at the old music," says Pilafian. And in the process, the tuba is reclaiming its bass role in thejazz group. As the first tuba player to get his own record contract, Pilafian believes the growth and possibilities for the humble tuba are greater than ever. "We've got years ahead of us to come up with new ideas to use this instrument," he says. "There were people who broke ground and nobody would salute them. I'm the third one to try and people have begun to respond." New enthusiasm for lhe jazz tuba will undoubtedly cramp Pilafian's classical career. 'There's something free and open about improvising thatl need because there's very littleroom forthe tuba in classical music. [With Empire Brass] I spent 507o of my time writing and 507o playing

becausewewererunningoutofmaterial allthetime. Whenyouchangethepictureovertojazz, there's everything to play."

I

AIM, MARCH

1993


THEGRIDLOCK Yerevan's Inability To Govern here was a time when the plaque on the doorof the Prime Minister' s office read the name of the Prime Minister below the title. Not any more. The frequency with which the tenants of thatoffi ce have changed during the fi rst two years of Armenia's independence has compelled the administrators to make the plaque more generic: simply, "Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia." On February 15, President Levon Ter Petrossian, without consulting Parliament, appointed former Minister of Economy and Deputy Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian to head a new government as the fourth Prime Minister since Armenia's declaration of independence in August 1991. According to the laws about the President and Parliament of the Republic of Armenia, both of which the opposition is desperately

trying to change, the President's appointments to cabinet positions do not require Parliament's confirmation. In response, one key member of the opposition gloated: "The

own last Novemberbetween PresidentBoris Yeltsin and the opposition, resulting in the replacement of Russia's own "shock therapy" master, Prime Minister Igor Gaidar, with a more conservative reformer, Victor Chernomyrdin. Armenia's economy is inextricably linked to that of Russia. Armenia is a member of the CIS, still in the ruble zone, and continues to benefi t from thepreferential trade terrns that existed between the former Soviet republics. After all, 80 percent of Armenia's trade is with Russia. One ofthe biggest debates in the country today is over the reasons behind Armenia's dire economic conditions: to what extent are

foreign policies? Whi le acknowledging the existence of the objective factors, theopposition insists thatthe sourceof the majority of Armenia's ills is the

Executive itself. But such blame certainly begs the fun-

ment between Prime Minister Khosrov

and, more importantly and before it's too late, who is to judgejust whose policies are

Harutunian and his deputy, Bagratian, over

the right ones?

the socio-economic plan which led to

When Parliament established the post of President in August 1991, which was entrusted to Levon Ter Petrossian by a popular mandate in October, it seemed that the

plan was supposed to have been approved by thePrimeMinister. Yet, thepublic showdown

centered over a continuing disagreement about the scope, pace and methods ofachieving economic reform in Armenia. Harutunian's replacement by Bagratian was viewed as a victory for the proponents of the "shock therapy" method of transition to a

market economy. But despite Bagratian's s

post, it appears

the right policies for

Armenia

there

i

sa

force

Armenia's

Movement (ANM) was the

economy, has slowed down the pace of its

dominant force in Parliament.

l0

is left of

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are given enough power to, at

best, minimize Parliament's ability to check and balance the President's actions. When the laws about the

President and Parliament were passed in August I 991

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AIM, MARCH

1993

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whatever

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leadership struggle between the Executive and the l-egislature, which had surfaced after the collapse of the Communist Party, was over. While there is no confusion now as to which branch ofthe government can do what,

thatthe govemmentis backingdownfrom its initial intention to aggressively push for a transition to a market economy in as short a time as possible. There is more and more talk about the constructive role that the government may play overa long period----especially under today' s diffi cult conditions-to rebuild and vitalize the nation's economy. This is only natural. Anything else would have defied all the odds, as the Russian Federation, the moving engine andthe regulating

of

be present. In order to pass laws or resolutions, a simple majority of all members is needed. Thatnumber is I 25. Since even under the best circumstances the number of members present at parliamentary sessions does not exceed 160, and of that number 50 are members of the ANM, it is easy to see why it is extremely diffi cultforParliament to act on issues when there is no consensus between the opposition and the ANM. Fur-

Executive, faulty economic, domestic and

proval."

Harutunian's resignation. Oddly enough, the two openly disagreed on the floor ofParliament over key components of the plan. Devised and written entirely by Bagratian, the

members-must

Karabakh, the blockade, and political instability in Georgia-and to whatextent to subjective factors-the incompetence of the

damental question: what are

Indeed, it was the fierce battle in Parlia-

half of all members of Parliament-I24

they due to objective factors-war in

socio-economic plan to be presented by the new govemment, however, will need our ap-

assuming the prime minister'

Over the past 20 months, the ANM's undisputed hold in Parliament not only diminished astheoppositiongrew stronger,butitalsolost popular standing among the general public. With a mere 50 members in a 248-member Parliament, the ANM can hardly make a dent in the legislativeprocess. Butitcan blockany legislation or decision deemed undesirable. And it is precisely this kind of deadlock between the opposition and the ANM that has brought the legislative process, and consequentlytheentire govemment, toastandstill. Underthe prevailing rules, for Parliament tohave aquorumtolegallytransactbusiness,

economic reforms after a showdown of its

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thermore, for Parliament to override a presidential veto, the backing of two-thirds of all members of Parliament is needed. The opposition is out to change all that before they get down to the business ofpassing legislation. The proposal being discussed currently in Parliament suggests that a law should pass by a two-thirds vote of members present. To override the President's veto, the backing ofonly halfofall members ofParliamentshouldbeenough. In isMarch 3 session, Parliament came close to adopting such a proposal afterthe ANM agreed, on condition that the President be given additional veto powers over procedural issues. The opposi-

tionbalked. Unable to beat the ANM in its game, the frustrated opposition continues to try to bring itscase directly to the people. Numerous times during the past year, some opposition parties

have organized rallies attracting between 25,000 and 50,000demonstrators demanding the President's resignation. The President's response has been that the number ofpeople demanding his resignation does not begin to

approach the number of those who elected him. [n several recentrallies during the months of January and February organized by the National Self-Determination Union (NSDU) alone, crowds ofclose to 50,000 people demanded, once again, that the President yield totheopposition'sdemands. In aspeech tothe

demonstrators, Paruir Hayrikian, the NSDU leader, called for the establishment ofa constitutional body-a coalition government with proportional representation from each political party. The ineffectiveness ofthe opposition lies in its inability to provide a coherent alternativeplan tobring the country out ofthiscrisis. Lastyear, all opposition partiescametogether over the Karabakh issue, formed the National Alliance and, against the President's wish, passed a law forbidding the govemment to sign any document in which Karabakh appears under the jurisdiction of Azerbaijan. Over other substantive issues the alliance fell apart, due to fundamental differences among

political platforms. On theeconomy, the most striking differences are between the platforms of the Ar-

menian Democratic Liberal Organization (ADLO) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF).The former is for a freer economy while the latter advocates government control over major and mid-sized industries. Otheropposition parties are silent on their economic preferences, while expressing their reservations on the President's aggressive pursuit of the privatization law. On foreign policy, the opposition, but most

notably the National Democratic Union (NDU) and the ARF contend that Armenia's foreign policy during the past year and a half

has been a grand failure. They charge the government with putting a greater emphasis on the east-west axis (Turkey and the West) rather than on north-south (Iran and Russia). Where the opposition parties most agree is that Armenia needs to abandon the presidential system ofgovernment and adopt the

parliamentary system. They argue that in small and newly independent countries with presidential systems, the government runs the risk of becoming an authoritarian regime. Furthermore, the parliamentary system provides better flexibility in foreign policy mat-

ters, allowing better maneuverability by tuming away from pastcommitments, when necessary, by simply changing the government-something that can't be done with a sitting president. Indeed, there are differences ofvision between Ter Petrossian's government and the opposition. At the core of the problem is not whether these differences are reconcilable, rather the fact that the use of these issues to further political agendas has hampered the effectiveness of the government to take bold actions to solve the problems and alleviate some of the hardships that the country is facln8. Yet, a spring of reconciliation must follow the winter ofdiscontent, or no doubt, popular pressure will force a break in the political

deadlock.

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1993

I


CONTEXT

THEGASEOFTHE MISSING POLITY By.llVAll TABIBIAN rom Yerevan to [,os Angeles, Boston to Beirut, Kirovakan to Paris, for Armenians everywhere, the winter of 192-93 will be hard to forget. While in Armenia itself it was a winterofbitter suffering, deprivation and misery, of cold, hunger and destitution, for Armenians in the Diaspora it has been an experience of shared grief, ofanxious solidarity and a challenge to help, to reach out, to feed, to rescue, to support. But neither the deprivation of those in Armenia, nor the sorrow ofthose abroad can tell the full story. For the full story, we must also include a general feeling ofpowerlessness that was exacerbated by the spectacle

of

governmentandpolitical instimtions unable to respond to the challdnges, deal with the crises, solve the problems, deliverthe goods. And in addition to the energy crisis, the a

food crisis, the economic crisis and the military-security crisis, one must recognize and acknowledge the political crisis. In its most obvious and simplified form, thepolitical crisis is acrisis thatcan variously be chantcterized as a crisis of legitimacy; a

crisis of competency and effectiveness;

a

constitutional crisis; or as simply institutional gridlock between the Executive-the President and his

cabinet-and the Legislative-

Parliament. The presentpolitical crisis in Armenia has certainly elements of all of the above. But it would be useful to remember that if any political regime were subjected to the kinds of objective pressures and stresses-blockade, shortages, war, collapsing economy, accelerated change, etc.-that ttre Republic of Armeniahas had to confrontandendure during the 18 months since full independence, that regime would manifest similar failures, paralysis, fissures, gridlock. After the German invasion and the defeat of French forces, in 1940, France, for example, experienced a

similarly profound political crisis of legitimacy and institutional disanay. War, famines,

natural disasters, civil strife, revolutions, colonization, decolonization: they all represent the kinds ofconcrete conditions that tax political authority and institutions, threateningboth ttreir sability andtheireffectiveness. And of course there occurs betwepn challenge and response, between problem and solution, between crisis and governinent, a form of interactivity that amplifies the fault lines. It is like infections that weaken the immune system and a weakened immune System

t2

that invites further infections, fu rther assault. Without exaggerating the usefulness of this analogy too far, suffice it to say that this vicious circle is particularly hard to prevent or to break if twb conditions prevail: One, if the organization, or the polity, is

weakor weakenedduetoprevious conditions, i.e., it has not been well-cared for before, not adopted to fighting certain varieties ofinfec-

tion. And two, if there is an epidemic raging, where the whole neighborhood is infected. Thus, to understand thepolitical crisis in Armenia, we must briefly understand the state of its body politic, atthedawnofits independence, these early and critical years ofits infancy.

rule-making and rule-application-no open negotiation, no open compromises openly anived at. The instinct, or learned response, is to monopolize all power, to concentrate it in one body, to embody it in one institution: the presidency or parliament. The recent po-

litical debacle in Russia, the confrontation between Yeltsin and Khasbulatov and the People's Congress is a perfect illusration of this phenomenon, a larger-thanlife model of the confrontation between President Ter Petrossian and Parliament.

Both Parliament and the President themselves

as the sole and

see

ultimatâ‚Ź legitimate

authoriry for the country, appropriating for themselves the "totality" of political decisions, and see the other as a mere "instrumentality" in carrying out their decisions, policies or progftrms. Unfortunately, the memory of the old Soviet system is a far more "comprehensible" source of reference than foreign models operating in Western democracies. While words like "parliamentary" and "presidential" are frequently used, their meanings are colored by the historical experiences of their recent past.

A

Ligacy of Totatitarianism

One can identify three "congenital" defects thatthis newborn Armenian Republic of ours manifests to some serious extent (at this point, it is worth mentioningthatthese defects seem to afflict most if not all the successor states of the former Soviet Union with varying degrees of virulence.)

All ttree defects can be traced directly to 70 years of Soviet totalitarianism and its consequences for social and political life. Defect #1: A lackof traditionandexperience with politically legitimate govemnwnt.

In Western democratic countries, governments are the arena where fundamental political functions are canied out. Govemments

embody legislative, executive and judicial roles. Whether fully separate, as in the U.S., or less delineated, as in some parliamentary systems like Italy's, political divisions concerning laws, their enforcement or adjudication are processed ttrough the govemment. In short, government is political. In the former Soviet Union, the political process was the uncontested monopoly of the Communist Party and its leadership. Government was no more that an adrninistrative mechanism designed for and enrusted with the task of carrying out the political decisions of the party. The party incorporated, in an

integrated, "total" fashion, "legislative," "executive" and even "judicial" functions. As

Defect #2 : The wealme ss or non-existence of a multi-party system. [.â‚Źt me state the case most forcefully: there are no political parties in Armenia as weknow them inWestem democracies. A multi-party system is the very foundation of pluralistdemocracy. Such parties have no claim to exclusivity or monopoly of legitimacy and truth. Generally they have a

weak ideological content, and they

are

variety of changing dynamic political, economic, and social interests. They are driven by electoral politics, andthey areused to sit-outtheirtum whenthey lose. Their battles are not for life and death. themselves coalitions of

a

They are not monolithic in their structure, and are democratic---{pen, negotiative, participatory, elective-in their own internal affairs. True, they are not alwayscooperative in op-

position-as in the famous Deinocratic

Congress-Republican president gridlock in theU.S. Buttheideasof majority and minority have no implication of totality, of an all or nothing zero-sum game. It is seldom winner take all.

And, finally, itwouldbeinconceivablein any modem democracy to have political parties whose political base and public support reside outside the boundaries of the country.

The supremacy of the state is takeh for granted. The state is not the cap[ive of the

final arbiter in both determining the rules of the political game, and playing the game ac-

party, the instrumentof the party' s interest, aS was the case with the Communist Party and theSovietstate, andas some Armenian "parties" would have it.

cording to its own rules. Armenia, like the other republics, had no

in the F.S.U., arerather"movements," cliques,

nadition of "political" government during its Soviet history. This paradox weighs heavily on our experience ofpolitics. There is no precedent ofdistinguishing between

factions, ideologically or opportunistically motivated coalitions, whose $ole aim is the appropriation of power-power to be held without sharing, in the name of salvatiolr, re-

legislation and executive power; between

birth, victory, revenge, radical transformation

the single party, the CPSU could be the

AIM, MARCH 1993

What we have in Armenia, as elsewhere


or nationalist rhetoric.

ThcGlvlc Handicap

Pluralist democracies need political parties with more modestclaims to the people's soul and the country's bdy. It is fascinating to observe how successfully, in many instances, the formercommunists, chameleon-

Without this mediation, this intermediation, the individual is socially and politically naked, fragile, vulnerable. A totalitarian re-

like, have been able to adapt to the new game. They have been better at this than new movements, which have had much tougher times in making the transition from dissident activist to organized political force. It is as if their raison d'etre had disappeared with the collapse of the old regime. Like the ANM, they have come unstuck, with the glue of the old resistance replaced with internecine factionalism. The disarray of democratic, reformist elements all across the F.S.U. and in Armenia is symptomatic of this phenomenon, and does not bode well for the emergence of effective political parties in the democratic, pluralist tradition. It is this lack which makes the po-

gime deliberately sets out to destroy or eliminate if not these intermediate entities, at least their autonomy. From schools to factories, churches to youth organizations, from trade unions to universities, the Party penetrates and invades every sphere, and leaves no room for independent action. Armenia, no less than the other republics, emerged from the dark otalitarian tunnel with its civil society mutilated, extinguished, incapacitated. Itis as ifthepartyanditstenacles had sucked most ofthe social oxygen available. True, the combination of Glasnost and Perestroika had somewhat-if minimallyloosened the totalitarian grip. The dissidents, refuseniks, samizdats and mafias hadeach, in their own way, ried to carve out an autonomous if limited living space. Buton the whole independence and statehood came to societies unprepared to the task ofcreating and occupying a civil and civic space, lacking the

litical crisis in Armenia particularly worrisome. It is less a matter of a presidential or parliamentary system than one ofeffective political organization and democratic pro-

transmission mechanisms with which to in-

cesses.

struct political institutions and contain

Thesemovements are neither able to create a parliamentary counterpoint to a strong presidency, nor provide the elements and components of a two-party or multi-party parliamentary regime, both stable and representative. This controversy is essentially a hollow one, a pseudo-constitutional issue, masking the absenceof a modern, functioning, democratic multi-party system. The paradox in this instance is that today, in spite of democratically-i.e., popularly+lected president and similarly elected parliament, there is in Armenia a power vacuum, a sort of political institutional no-man's land, where each "branch" of government can exercise a de facto veto on the initiatives ofthe other, and

cal power. Nowhere is this handicap more incapacitating than in the much heralded transition to a marketeconomy. Without those intermediate arrangements and institutions, privatization will remain ineffective and the "market" in constant need of state intervention. In pluralist free market democracies, we understand the interdependence between production, distribution and consumption on the one hand, and media, communications, advertising, trade associations, courts, education, consumerand credit

waittoseewho willcollapsefirst. Itis wiseto if either one fails, the other will fail as well. [n the present circumstaices, Armenia can ill afford this vacuum. Defect#3: The absence ofcivil society. A

assume, however, that

civil society alty of

a

is undoubtedly the biggestcasutotalitarian political system. By defi-

politi-

unions, and non-governmental regulatory bodies on the other. All these are still missing or barely existent in these newly emerging democracies. Hereagain, in Armenia, whilethedebaterages

between government and parliament, or minister and prime minister, about the pace or extent of economic reform, privatization and the introduction of a market economy, scant attention is being given to the needs of strengthening a civil society, without which governmental laws and decrees often per-

nition, totalitarianism, by monopolizing all

petuate theold habits of receivingchange

aspects ofsocial and personal life, activity and

above. Ofcourse, acivil society is notcreated overnight, especially after a long sleep. Nevertheless, its critical importance must be acknowledged, the seeds planted, the fi rst shoots

values, leaves no room for the myriad ofhumanendeavors orassociations that emerge to create the web and fabric of a community. A civil society is a society in which individuals are connected to each other through networks of common interests and shared values, clubs, churches, fraternal organizationS, professional and trade associations, trade unions, student unions, parents unions, parties, businesses, enterprises, neighborhood groups, the press and media, scientific societies; They are the elements that link the personto the largersociety, andconnecthin/her to that final and all-inclusive realm ofthe

political and the state.

from

protected, cultivated, nurtured. The paradox, in this instance, is a more subtleone. A govemmentcommittedto a tnre democratic, open societyinthelongtermmust encourage the creation ofthis society, because therein lie the true measurcs limiting government. Without a civil society, government is

always arbitrary, unchecked, absolute, and potentially totalitarian. Governments with

authoritariaMotalitarian ancestry,

if

not

pedigree, abhor the competition that comes from below in the form ofthe citizens' au-

AIM, MARCH

1993

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tonomous life outside therealmof thecentral authority.In this area, thereis a lotof workto be done in Armenia as elsewhere, and the Diaspora should be cognizant ofthe unfinished work; These three defects, besides being seen as the legacy of the long totalitarian nightmare,

can also be understood as aspects of the problem ofpolitical and social modemization, or more precisely of incomplete modernization.

ln.Bctwccn Systcmr

By the commonly agreed standards of modemization, the Soviet Union was not politically modernized, except in the very narrow sense of the regime's use of modern technologies ofcontrol, repression and the ability to wage war. In the broader sense, the F.S.U. and its constituent republics lacked the attributes typically associated with modern political systems: arationaUadministrative apparatus; decennalization; individual autonomy; acivil society; specialization; a functional-if not constitutional-separation of powers; a demarcationbetweentheprivate andthe public with clear limits put on the reach of the public; market- and technology-driven effi ciency;

knowledge-based meritocracy; contractbased social obligations; the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary; and the secularization of political authority.

While even the most advanced democra-

.Through its widespread Diaspora, Armenia has windows onto the modern de-

cies vary in the degree to which they conform to these criteria, it is absolutely clear that by these standards Armenia is not a "modern"

andFrance-thus having access to "modern"

political system. In almost every category, it is at best on the road to modernization. Both

inputs andimports. However, this advantage should not be exaggerated. More often than

in the F.S.U. and elsewhere in the world there areeven less modemized societies.Infact, on the road to modemization and democratiza-

not, its Diaspora is trapped in pre-modern political ghettoes of their own making. In-

tion, Armenia enjoys certain relative advantages. They are worth mentioning:

.Armenia is an ethnically-and linguistically-homogeneous society, the most homogeneous of the former republics of the F.S.U. or many a developing country elsewhere (India, kan, Iraq, Lebanon, Brazil, Indonesia, Colombia Egypt, Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria, etc.)

.The population of Armenia has a high degree ofliteracy. Education, as one ofthe engines of modernization, gives Armenia a head start. The population is particularly literate in technology-sensitive areas of knowledge, and compares very favorably with other societies both within and outside the F.S.U. .The nationhood of Armenia has a long if tortured history. This sense of nationhood is not the creation, or the consequence,

ofrecent

colonial history (as in Africa), orthe result of politico-geographic boundaries that artihcially defi ne a nation-state as in Moldova and some central Asian republics.

mocracies of the

West-particularly theU.S.

ward-turned, insecure about assimilation, constantly augmented by first-generation immigrants from non-modern countrieslpbanon, Syria, Iran, etc.-the Armenian Diaspora in the U.S., for instance, has maintained political institutions for its internal community life pattemed after the originals created in the Ottoman Empire. In some exhemecases, itcan be arguedthatthe influence of the Diaspora on the political evolution of Armenia and its institutions has the opposite effectof undermining or slowing down modernization.

Beyond Scapcgoats and Hessiahs In this period oftransition, ofslow ifnecessary modemization as a precondition to democracy, theroadis rough andfraughtwith danger. In this sense, the political crisis grip ping Armenia is not accidental but systemic; it is not so much the failure of individuals as it is of institutions. History plays a more critical role than leadership. lnfact, thesearchforindividual scapegoats and saviors is a lingering manifestation of a

fundamentallypre-modemcivic andpolitical

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culture. While it is comforting in some selfdeprecating and self-flagellating fashion to ascribe our failures and successes to the enduring traits in our national character, our

emotionalism, our factionalism or impulsiveness on the one hand, and our collective genius, tenacity and visceral nationalism on the other, it would be more accurate, more

fruitful, though less glamorous, to look for explanations elsewhere. In this briefanalysis, it should be obvious that ourproblems are systemic, historical and structural. Weneitherinvented adhocacy, nor gridlocks, nor the art offlying by the seat of

one's pants. Armenia is not the only place

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history and destiny ofall peoples. The solution of the present crisis must begin with the understanding of its historical, geopolitical, cultural and social context. And the willingness to abandon all our ghettoes.

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AGLIMPSEOF SPRING

Thoughts on a Journey Home

By JOHil T. O'CONlrlOR and GAROLYN G. MUGAR ecently we traveled to Armenia to

help bring together U. S. Con-

organized by the Armenian Assembly of America at the Congressman's request, fo-

DONALD E. MILLER and LORNA TOURYAN MILLER

cused worldwide attention on thecatastrophic

Through interviews with 100 elderly

impact of Azerbaijan's economic blockade of Armenia. This was the thirdtime we havebeen

Armenians, Donald and Lorna Miller

give the "forgotten genocide" the hearing it deserves. $25.00 cloth,illustroted 1

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despite the many at-

tempts to bring it into submission, has somehow managed to keep its senseofdignity, respect, generosity and humanity intact. In ahospital where a sad-eyed woman sat

gressman Joseph P. Kennedy II and over 50 members of the Moscow-based international press corps. This trip,

An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide

At boohstores or order

none-a people that,

London

Armenia in less than a year, butwewere still not prepared for the extraordinary suffering that we witnessed. We anived in Yerevan late in the evening on ourcharterfromMoscow. Afterleaving the dimly lit airport grounds, we entered a pitch dark, eerie expanse. As we closed in on the center of the city, it looked like an Arctic outpost. At the reception desk of the Hotel Arto

menia, we were greeted by two women

Planning to visit

France

to spend some time in the French

bundledin layersofoldwoolencoats, gloves, scarves and hats. There was obviously no heat or electricity inside. The women knew we were coming and wanted to shake hands with the Congressman, What Mr. Kennedy, the press corps and we saw the next day is almost impossible to recount. In an orphanage we encountered a

dozen two- and three-year-old children,

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brown teary eyes, teeth chattering, with little heat and food, who were practically imprisoned in their confines. Later, at a l4-story refugee apartment building, we were told that a hole in the

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forced to dry baby diapers by attaching them to their own underclothes because body heat was the only warmth available. In visits to other equally dismal sites throughout the city, we saw how the people of Yerevan have been reduced to foragers. Evidently, entire families spent the betterpart ofeach day searching for wood, potable water and food. Thousands will perish from exposure, malnutrition and inadequate health care. Beyond the unspeakable human suffering, we saw perhaps the ultimate symbol of national

suffering when we visited the Martyr's

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Monument at Tsitsernakapert: the eternal flameremained snuffed out, agrim reminder ofthe ongoing fuel blockade by Azerbaijan. Andyet,amidstthehardships,wealsosaw spirit second to

a people that maintained a 18

AIM, MARCH 1993

Kennedy durlng dlstrlbutlon of Bed Cross packages to retugees (top); Yerevaners scour clty streets for farewood--once a aource of clvlc prlde, the capltal's maglsterlal trees have been all but wlped out to somewhat compensate lor the luel crunch.


by her husband on his deathbed, \\'e were treated to the most beautiful song rr'e have ever heard. This u,as all she had to give r.rs.

COURTING DETENTE

At another place, r,n'e spoke u'rth a Baku relirgee.-an engineer rvho had lost his sons and claughter-asking us to help hirri lintl an

Gatholicos Vazgen I and Sheikh.uhlslam Allahshukur Pasha-zade $pell lt Out in Switzerland

opponunity to use his skills to rebuilcl his new

nation. In \\'hat scenred as alrnost antither w'orld, *'e carne to know a l3-1'ear-olcl girl

By ARIS G. SEVAG

weighing only.19 pounds, desperately in need of a lif'e-saving heart operation, rvl.to rtonetheless tolcl r.rs of hcr plan to stud)'Annenian literature. Despite unconscionable blockacles int-

Natives andtourists intheSwissresorttownofMontreux lookedonindisbeliefas Vazgen I, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, walked alongside Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pasha-zade.

Little did they know that the spiritualheads of the ma-

jor religious communities of Armenia and Azerbaijan were there to talk about ways

to help resolve the crisis jn Karabakh.

The three-day February summit was organizedby the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Conference of European Churches, and represented t}re culmination of efforts over the past couple, of years by representatives of the WCC and the Armenian Church tobring the religious leaders togetler.

In an interview, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian. Primate of the Armenian Church of America, Eastorn Diocese, noted that he was

impressed by the Sheikh's respect toward His Holiness.

During a conversation the Sheikh reportedly told the P

i,* _

ii --r-

lsr

Catholi cos; "even thsugh we are both religious leaders, I am like your son. Please forgive me if I make mistakes." lN SEARCT{ OF A PEACEFUL SOLUTION: The splrltual heads announced the eetabllshment ofthe "Unlted Perhaps the most signifilnternational Humanltarlan Fund," cant statement in the joint communique was that "this is not a religious conflict. Armenian Christians and Azerbaijani Muslims have lived and will live in peace." Elsewhere in the communique, the leaders issued an appeal for the unconditional release

ofallhostagesandthehumanetreatmentofprisonersofwar. TheycalledontheProsidentsof Azerbaijan and Armenia to cooperate during peace negotiations sponsored by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and other international organizations. In addition, the two religious heads announced the establishment of a "United Intemational Humanitarian Fund" to assistvictims oftheconflict withoutregard to theirfaithornationality. They askedtheWCC to oversee the fund withthelnternational lslamicCouncil for Daw'a and Reliel which attended the meeting as an observer. In 1905, worseningethnic rivalries between Armenians and Tatars (today's Azeris) triggered the Armeno-Taiar War, which was widely abened by the provincial Russian authnrities. In just three days of fighting in February of thatyear, some 1,500 were killed*900Armenians and 600 Tatars. The local Armenian bishop and Chief Sayyid of the Shi'a Musllrn In a spirit of reconciliation, Sayyid gave an address in an community later declared ryry3, Armenian cathedral and the bishop spoke in a mosque. Historian Luigi Villari, in his Fi re andswordin the Caucasus (London, 1906) wrotethat while the flames of hatred were dampened, both sides continued to arm themselves. Nevertheless, thei r efforts set a pricedent and almost a century later, the curront religious ,. , ' , leaders are trying to do the

same.

AIM, MARCI{ I993

;


posed upon every inhabitant of Armenia by its neighbors, weleamed thatthis small, newly liberatednation is farfrombroken. Afterfour

years ofembargos and a record-setting cold

winter, one would expectto see a demoralized people. But this wainot the case. Somehbw our tenacious people taughtthe visitors in our delegation that there is hope. However, as itwas madeclearby virtually

everyonewemet,theirhopemustbesusained

by concerned activists throughout the Diaspora, with carefully focused assistance. In meeting after meeting, whether with

Pr.esident Ter Petrossian, Prime Minister Bagratian, hospital workers, loving surrogate mothers, orthe man onthe street, themessage was the same: end the blockade so that the people of Armenia can resume theirproductive lives, so that they can help themselves once agaln. In retrospect, we feel that our regrettably brief visit to Armenia with Congressman Kennedy and 4n impressive representation of the international press corps was very positive. First theCongressman has re-doubled his tireless efforts for Armenia. Like us, he was profoundly moved by what he saw. In an effort to end the blockade by Azerbaijan, he has met with high-ranking officials in the White House andthe StateDepartment, and lobbied Turkish authorities. The Congressman has been in daily contact with the Armenian Assembly or the writers of this article. Second, more than 50 journalists witnessed and posted stories about the devastat-

ing situation in Armenia in news media throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Media inquiries to the Armenian Assembly in Washington and Yerevan continue.

Third, over two million dollars in additional aid has resulted from the trip and the attendantpublicity-one million dollars from the British Red Cross and anotherone

million

from the American government to purchase badly needed seed wheat.

Finally, we know that

Congressman

Kennedy's visit brought a much-needed ray of hopg to thepeopleof Armenia. Perhaps this brief but significant trip is a demonstration for us in the Diaspora that with creativity and

commitment it is possible to overcome Armenia's isolation. The effort put forth by theArmenian Assembly was well worth itand hopefully marks thebeginning of many more similar trips. As descendans ofa people dispersed by those who could never imagine seeing the rebirth of a sovereign state called Armenia again, we can, with all our senses, our commitment, our abilities and resources as Ar-

menian-Americans, act decisively to help save our struggling homeland. Now more than ever.

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olAmerlca. 20

AIM, MARCH 1993


NO LIGHT A Lngistics Report on theAlex and Marie Manoogian Museum By SONIA DERUAII IIARLAN t is befittingly named after trvo individuals whose philanthropy and patronage have been synonymous with the Armenian-American community-Alex and Marie Manoogian. The artifacts and historical objects housed wittrin the new in Southfield also echo ttre meticulous taste and relentless collecting effort by Father ParenAvedikian, pastorofthe St. John'sArmenian Church of Southfield, Michigan. Nearly two decades in planning, the Manoogian Museum opened its doors on December 6. On that occa-

temporary woodcarver, Krikor Khanjian.

Thc Polltlcr ol Exhlbltlng The Alex and Marie Manoogian Museum is the third permanent collection of its kind in America. In 1980, adefinitiveexhibitof Armeniancultureopened in New York, attheAmericanMuseumofNatural History's Hall of the Asian Peoples. Sponsored by the Advisory Council forArmenian Studies atColumbiaUniversity, and coordinated by Eleanora

Acopian Ordjanian, the scope of this well-balanced collection was anthropological. Viewers of the 187 artifacts had come to understand

sion, the Manoogians and Father Paren shared their joint dream-come-reality : an institution that pays homage and preserves the creative

genius

Armenia in the context of

of the Armenian

neighboring Asian cultures. A decade earlier, Boston attomey Haig DerManuelian and his colleagues had incor-

people.

Father Paren's idea of a museum startecl in I 973 wi*t tlree paintings, a death mask

and a reliquary.

In

1975,

Archbishop Shahe Ajamian donated to Father Paren his entire personal collection of

Armenian paintings. By 1987, the collection, as well

ON DISPLAY: Manuscrlpl contalnlng monastlc lnstructlons by St. Evagrlus ol Egypt and John of Slnal. Yevtogla, Tokat, I 696

available funds for the museum, had grown so architect Suren Pilafian could design the building. Four design changes later, the completed Manoogian Museum edifice combines Pilafian's exterior plan and Fattrer Paren's interiordesign. The annexed Manoogian Museum and Edward andHelen MardigianLibrary are both well-integratedwith the overall architecture of the golden-domed St. John's Armenian Church, a sanctuary designedby Pilafian in the 1960s. Both ttre museum and the library have impressive double doors carved in walnut by Armenia's finest conas

porated their collection as ALMA: Armenian Library and Museum of America. Presently, ALMA houses I I ,000 titles in its library and more than 6,000 artifacs.

The range and types of objects atthe Manoogian Museumroughly correspond o what is shown both atALMA and attheMuseumofNanral History. This is the only institution, however, with a unique

form ofacquisition: piece by piece, purchased ouright or gifted totheMuseum. TheManoogianMuseumhas hadno bequests of any major existing collertions.

Yef, Father Paren's expertise in Armenian art

has recollection that is display case after display case of the bestpossible specimen of artobjects in ttreirrespec-

sulted in

a

tive categories.

AIM, MARCH 1993

2t


For an Armenian art connoisseur or studentin search ofawiderrange ofspecimensthose of more folk-art categories such as car-

not fit in... Most museums, including the Getty, like to construct

even the origin of inscribed Armenian rugs. Turkish "propa-

ganda" is the chief contributing factor to this skepticrsm.

pets, or personal, household items-the Manoogian Museum would be either the

a narrative around

starting or finishing point ofone's quest. And then there are those concerned Armenians who question the justification for keeping such an exquisite collection "to ourselves," within the confines of the Armenian community. Wouldn't ithave beenpreferable

display. Because

Yet another

scholars cannot deal with Arme-

where politics in-

to have Alex Manoogian's two-million-dollar investment go toward building an Armenian wing to an existing museum in Detroit orelsewhere? Surely, if this had been a possi-

bility, the Detroit Art Institution (DAI) or otherart museums would haveconsidered it. Manoogian has been a long-time supporter of

the DAI. The benefactor's son, Richard Manoogian, is the President of the DAI's Founders' Society, with connections to many of America's foremost museums. Michael Kann, curator of African and PreColumbian art at the Detroit Art Institution and a consultant to the Manoogian Museum,

was asked to comment: "It never was an issue," Kann said. "The collection is important forthis community; it adds anotherdimension to St. John's as a cultural center, a cultural repository, a teaching institution." Kann hoped that contrary to the tremendous restrictions of major muse-

ums on accessibility to collections, "this museum wouldbe an ideal place to conduct research on such delicate objects as manuscripts and textiles." He also pointed out thatotherthan the museum's

manuscript collection, few other objects would be considered as art per se. In other words, "these items are important culturally, but they do not have the particularly esthetic value that would enable them to be shown

within the highly specialized scope and domain of most art museums." During the scholarly symposium marking the opening of the Manoogian Museum fes-

the objects

they

terferes with Armenian art is the case of late l6th and lTth century

nian art in this fashion, Armenia tends

tobeinvisibleinthis country's museums." Indeed, none of the museums in America have Armenian illumi-

Armenian Kutahya and Iznik

tiles. Presentday propaganda

nated manuscripts on permanent display. One of the

reasons

is that illuminated

manuscripts are extremely frag-

Sllver rellquary contalnlng the hand ol St. Abdelmuseh, clrca 16th century

ile and sensitive to light. Dr. Elizabeth Burin, Assistant Curator at the Walters ArtGallery in Baltimore, Maryland,

agrees with Dr. Taylor's evaluation: it is diffi cult to build an exhibit around the Armenian

manuscripts because they are "not always relevant." Yet,theWalters has carried two major exhibits of ArmeTop ol crozler, 1603. Ebony, lnlald nian illuminagold, turquolse rubles, tions in the last mother of pearl

decade-in

1984 and 1988. InJanuaryofthis year, New York City's P. Morgan Library excluded its Armenian collection in its current manuscript exhibit. Again, itseemsthattheArmenian material does not lend itself to be included comfortably in comparativemanuscriptexhibits. Itis forthis reason that the Morgan is planning an exclusive and comprehensive exhibit of Armenian illuminated manuscripts, due to open in

area

Another case in point:

in

cago Art Institution carried an exhibit entitled "The Age of Sultan Suleyman the

Magnifi cent," Concurrently, the institution's lecture series featured British art historian John Carswell-the world's foremost authority on Armenian Kutahya tiles. A week prior to the last lecture in the series, Carswell reminded his audience of an upcoming lecture: he would speak about the Armenian workshops in Kutahya and Iznik, theirpottery and their contribution to Sultan Suleyman's magnificent realm. But on the day of the lecture, many of his eager audience had a rude awakening. Dr. Carswell regretfully announced achangeoftopic. Heproceededwith a totally disorganized lecture and slide presentation on Damascus tiles. Clearly, Dr.

Carswell had yielded

to

eleventh-hour

"pressure" from local Turkish officials. Curiously, no mention was made of Armenian crafumanship in the exhibit's 283-pagecatalogue. It is as if none of the 300 pottery workshops in Iznik atthe nrrn of the I 7th century were Armenian; and as if one of the common Armenian surnames,

Kashician-from "kashici," tile-

May 1994. The same show will

subsequently travel to the Walters August I 994.

claims this artform as Turkish. In June 1987 the Chi-

I

maker, anglicized as Kashichian or

Kashishian-bore no testimony to the identity of lTth century Armenian

Those museums that can

tivities, art historian Dr. Alice Taylor dis-

anddodisplayArmenian

artisans.

cussed another point in relation to the three

rugs and textiles are often

Thus, given the politics

Armenian manuscripts at the Getty Museum in Malibu, California. Acquired quite by accident, the manuscripts werepartof thekene and Peter Ludwig collection. Later, other lesser manuscripts were sold; but the Armenian ones were keptfortheirphenomenal artistic value. A decade later, they have yet to be shown to the public. "The problem is, in what context do the

reluctant patrons of Armenian carpet art. Citing

Armenian pieces get shown: Medieval or Renaissance?" Taylorexplained.'The Getty illuminations are medieval Armenian art. But in Armenia, medieval times lasted well into the time frame when Europe was experiencing the Renaissance. Furthermore, the aver-

age museum-goer's concept of medieval times is based on the European image of 22

castles and knights. Armenia and its art do

and economics pertaining to

"overlap problems,"

scholars and the public have difficulty dealing

with the origin of

ture-necessary for

someCaucasiancar-

practicing fair scholarship, satis$ing the in-

pets as Armenian. Dr. Lucy Der-Manuelian, who has published and lectured extensively on this subject, is continuously confronted by skeptics who cannot accept Ewer,1730,

Cobalt

blueflo;ilj;il;;

spout Kutahya

AIM,MARCH

our

"national" art, it is necessary for Armenians to have a museum exclusively for Armenian art and cul-

1993

tellectual curiosity of

'i

community members, and patrons and collectors who seek to insure the safety

of their possessions by donating them to amuseum.

Name Your Gallcry The Alex and Marie Man-


oogian Museum has 12,000 square feet of display space; additional basement vaults are for storage. Only 50 percent of the museum's holdings are exhibited for now, occupying eight galleries.

The Twentieth Century Paintings and Sculpture Gallery is part of the expansive

separately from the illuminated manuscripts.

One of the first printed Armenian Bibles, dating from 1666, is ondisplay here. Integrated in the printed books category are silver book covers. The printing on a silk handkerchief is curious: it commemorates the October 13. l9l3 celebration of the

400th anniversary of the Armenian printed word and, simultane-

foyer of the museum. Attached is the Manoogian Room, which "is a combined replica of Mr.Manoogian'soffice

ously, the l500th anniversaryofthediscovery of the Armenian alpha-

and den," explained Lucy Ardash, special

bet.

assistant to FatherParen.

The Manuscript

Manoogian's desk, his

Gallery contains 22

own Aivazovski,

titled "Blessing of the

gospels, hymnals, individually framed pages

Water," the Manoog-

and fragments. The

ians' personal memorabilia, artifacts and awards, are housed here in permanent tribute to the museum's bene-

largest and almost

en-

lection has three bracelets, an armlet, two swords and a beautiful bronze belt. The 50 3/4"-long belt is adorned with four sets of alternating motifs of lions, horses, antelopes and the ree-of-life. The belt is a gift from Karl and Emma Sogoian of Detroit. All the museum' s pieces are cunently be-

ing photographed for inclusion in institution'

s fi

the

rst exhibit catalogue. Professor

Manya Ghazarian, who has previously worked on many similar projects, including the one for the Alex and Marie Manoogian Treasury in Ejmiatsin, will design the Manoogian Museum catalogue. The Armenian wordtangaranrefers to the housing ofall that is precious and venerable. In pagan Armenia, temples served as depositories of art objects of worship. In medieval

title pages surviving,

Christian Armenia, museum-like separate storage buildings and libraries were built within the confines of monastic complexes. Private collections, as we know them today, also existed in medieval Armenia. Royal museums and feudal princes' collections es-

predates master-illuminator Toros Roslin,

tablished the needed patronage of artists and craftsmen within the domains of these rulers.

and his school ofpaintfust and largest of the ing, by two generations. seven galleries within, What is unique about the Armenian Rugs and Gospel Book, 1759. Gllt sllver, chased repousse the Manoogian MuCarpets Gallery. Here, seum's manuscript 23 rugs and carpets are collection is that it contains samples from on open display, mostbearing Armenian inmostofthe known schools of Armenian gosscriptions. pel illuminations. The Household and Personal Objects The museum's Gallery for Ancient ObGallery contains ornamental objectsjects is full ofexquisite artifacts dating as far combs, headdress, bracelets, belts, thimbles. back as the 7th century BC. The Urartian colThese, like the two-piece l8th century

All these institutions must have been highly successful in their venerable mission

complete manuscript is Cilician, circa 12O6. This text, with fourof its

factors.The museum's double doors lead into 0re

ofpreserving and safe-keeping. In spite of persecution, wars, conquests, fires, earthquakes and theft, an amazing number of art objects have survived in excellent condition. When found and ultimately assembled in museums of Armenia, in Jerusalem, in Boston, and now in Detroit, these objects summon

upawholeuniverseof creativityasaculture's I commitment to permanence.

PRESERVING A HERITAGE: Alex Manooglan wlth Father Paren Avedlklan Kutahya ceramic ensemble of plate and silver spouted ewer, may represent more of a sociological, rather than artistic, value. Similarly, in the Textiles Gallery one can find delicate, handcrafted lace, crochets, embroideriesand woven textiles, all specimens of exquisite dexterity and imagination. With theexception of the rugs, all artobjects are displayed behind climate-controlled cases where every attempt has been made to please and inform the beholder. Elsewhere, an ebony crozier dated 1603 is a marvelous example of the I 7th century craft of inlaying

wood with gold wire and jewels. The silver

reliquary containing the hand

of

atility*

St.

Abdelmuseh is from the 16th century. These artifacts are housed in the Religious Objects Gallery. Early printed books are housed

* ir4Erhdoa $f

AIM, MARCH

1993

g,tti

t*Xr.'

l

23


Developerc at the Gate

tal and Nature Protec-

Authorizedby an actoftheArmenian Supreme Soviet in 1958 for the purpose of protecting Armenia's natural heritage, the preserves of Shikahogh, Dilijan and Khosrov were supposed to be off-limits to all human activity otherthan scientific research. Under the Soviet five-year economic plans, how-

tion, whose bid for con-

ever, all three preserves were required to deliver a set amount of resources (timber, hay, fruits, berries, nuts, etc.)-a de facto ac-

knowledgment of the state's complicity in what amounted to illegal exploitation of the preserves.

Although the idea that the preserves should be managed for the benefit of their wildlife seemed to be gaining strength in the last decadeof Sovietrule, the severeeconomic dep-

rivation currently afflicting Armenia has curbed calls to limit commercial activity in Dilijan and Shikahogh and increased efforts to renew the exploitation of Khosrov.

The ongoing debate over the preserves'

future is reflected in the struggle for their control between the Ministry of Agriculture, which currently hasjurisdiction overthe preserves and is eager to fully develop their resources, and the Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection, which wants to manage the preserves primarily for the benefit of

their resident wildlife, Officials of the Ministry of Environmen-

trol of the preserves is the best hope for their protection, acknowledge that the preserves will probably have to engage in some kind ofprofitable eco-

do

nomic undertaking (i.e.,

makemoney)iftheyare tojustify theirexistence to a desperate nation, inclined to see wildlife conservation as a luxury it can ill afford. According to Samvel Baloyan, Directorof the ministry's Board for the Protection of Flora, Fauna and Preserves, "We are considering an anay of possible activities-includingcamping, hiking, hunting, andeven international 'ecotourism'-as alternatives to the

current logging, grazing and hay cutting which are so damaging to wildlife." It is hoped that such activities will not only produce needed revenues for preserve upkeep but will lead to the development of domestic and international constituencies interested in keeping the preserves in their

wild state. Baloyan admits, however, that such rec-

reational activities, contingent as they are upon domestic normalcy or well-heeled foreigners, will have to wait for at least a partial

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but for the protection of nature. No other function is appropriate." Khosrov has been free of all commercial activity since 1980 (a feat acknowledged to be the result of Hunanian's decades-long stmggle against the powerful State Forestry Committee and its farming and ranching allies, and has perhaps the most to lose in the development debate, as a renewal of commercial activity would once again threaten many of the rare and endangered plant and animal species only now recovering from years ofabuse. No longer hunted by local villagers,

orby powerful officials for whom Khosrov was little more than a private hunting preserve, mammal populations hard-pressed elsewhere are thriving in Khosrov. The preserve now supports healthy populations of wild boarand wolf, stable numbers of brown bear, bearded

goat and mountain sheep, and a small but growing number of leopard. An end to sheepgrazing, haycutting,log-

ging and wild plant collection has given Khosrov's rich mountain flora a much-needed respite, and many of the preserve's eroded hillsides have begun to stabilize under a returning plant cover. Hunanian warns that "There are many powerful interests eagerto use these difficult timesas an excusetoreturnto Khosrov. Once even a small amount of development is al-

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preseryes are national treasures, created not forhuman recreation oreconomic enrichment

lowed... it will be the end of all we have fought so hard to achieve."

Western Armenian: 8 cassettes (7 hr.) and 319-p. textbook, $115.

auoto.FoRum'

Hunanian, Khosrov's Deputy Director for science and the preserve's former director, who speaks for many of his fellow scientists and preserve workers when he says: "The

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survival has made nature protection, and thus the preserves, one of the government's lowestpriorities. According to Karineh Danielian, the Minister of Environmental and Nature Protection, "The shifting of adequate resources to the preserves will not take place until... an acceptable standard ofliving is reestablished. The challenge now is to prevent the complete collapse of the preserves in the cunent climate of economic desperation." And that challenge is a daunting one:

Khosrov's staffof 100 (including 37 guards,


thority and funding to adequately protect the preserves, and looking at ways to raise enough money to pay preserve staff in the short run. "The preserves would benLeft to rlght: Haghartsln; ^rM/PETER*ELEGTaN Envlronmental and Nature Protectlon Mlnlster Karlneh Danlellan; the preserve of Khosrov

seven scientists and assorted clerks and bookkeepers) is threatened with layoffs, putting at risk long-term scientific projects and vital anti-poaching patrols; schemes to raise hard currency have spawned plans to build an international luxury hotel in Khosrov canyon, at the very heart of the preserve; and illegal woodcutting is on the rise in Dilijan and Shikahogh as desperate locals invade the forests in search of firewood. Perhaps the greatest potential threat to the preserves lies in the likelihood that commercial logging, grazing andhay cutting in Dilijan and Shikahogh (slowed down by the energy shortage and the collapse

of Armenia's

transportation system) will be renewed with avengeance upon the first signs ofeconomic recovery, as part of a plan to boost production by all means available. Preserve supporters in the development debate were dealt a fierce blow in January 1992 with the removal of Hunanian as director of Khosrov and the positioning of a Ter Petrossian political appointee to head the Department of Preserves (a division of the Ministry of Agriculture.) A former artist with no prior scientific training, the new director reportedly has little sympathy for the plight

ofthe preserves. Alsohandicappingpro-preserve forces are the lack of a public constituency (campers, hikers, hunters, etc.) that values the preserves' wildemess characteristics, and the disorganized scientific opposition to development in the preserves-the latter being a state of affairs encouraged by the clear commercial imperative of the preserve system, which has

efit immensely from even a small infusion of Western financial assistance," says Arthur Aroustamiar{, an official with the Minis0ry of Environmental

and Nature Protection's Department of International Cooperation.

"For example, Khosrov's entire 1992 budget of 300,000 rubles could have been covered by 500 dollars at current exchange rates." Aroustamian adds that "Assistance is also needed in developing Westernstyle preserve management techniques and a comprehensive, computerized database of Armenia's endangered species." The Department of International Cooperation is exploring several possible sources of assistance, including Diasporacommunities in Europe and North America, and programs recently initiated by Westem environmental organizations-such as The Nature Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, and the World Wildlife Fund-to assist wildlife conservation efforts in the former Soviet republics. Also being eyed by ministry officials is the

"Save the Zapovedniki" program, a promising international effort to raise funds for the protection of the 178 units of the old Soviet naturepreserve system, now scattered across I 5 independent countries. Obscured by the current economic crisis is an industrialized, relatively prosperous Armenia, with oneof themosteducated, scientifically literate populations of the former Soviet Union. Unlike many underdeveloped countries afflicted with the perennial human need that

makes wildlife conservation an all-buthopeless proposition, there is reason to hope that Armenia will, with a return to normal economic and social life, embark upon a concertedeffort to preserve its endangered wildlife and wild lands.

I-eading the way will probably be the Ministry of Environmental and Nature hotection, whose officials, even if they don't obtain complete jurisdiction over the preserves, anticipate an enhanced role in the management of the preserves' wildlife. According to Danielian, "the preserves are simply tooimportantto thebiological heritage and natural beauty of Armenia to stand by while their exploitation and neglect continues."

Pe'â‚Źr Keleglan ls an envlronmental wilter

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discouraged many scientists from making careers in the preserves and hampered the formation of a spirited scientific cadre intimately concemed with the preserves' future.

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a relative from Los Angeles, he being the most senior remaining member, to decide which of the mafia boss's family should suffer the next retribution.

Half blood feud, half organized crime, this is the face of Armenia's mafia. By day you can seethem hanging about on streetcorners orcruising the streets in BMWS orMercedes, the obligatory good+ime girl in the passenger seat. At night, the crack ofgunfire breaks the Yerevan stillness as turf wars and old scores are settled. Killings can be brutally simple too. Anotherentepreneurial man also received a visit one sunny September afternoon at the little caf6 he'd opened outside a busy Yerevan tram terminal. When he rejected demands from two young thugs to pay protection money, they shot and killed him in the street in front ofwaiting passengers. Then they ran off. Mafia gangs, and comrption in general, are thriving in the wreckage of post-Com-

munist Armenia, where the cut-throat struggle foreconomic survival has created an ethos of money-making by fair means or foul. Traditional sanctions of police and criminal

law are almost=nono*i

with produce such as olives coming the other way on a barter system. "They don't care about war or politics, it's strictly business," said Khorkhoruni. There are reckoned to be between l0 and 15 large gangs operating in Yerevan, totaling about 1,500 active members. Maybe another 3,000 people have some casual connection with the work of the gangs. Who are they? Typically, young men in their mid to late 20s, almost never teenagers, who adhere to a code of silence. Some wear

distinctive dress, black silk shirts being a popular uniform for one group. Most of the gangs are centered on individual family "godfathers," men in their50s, some of whom have exotic pseudonyms like Tikinoro or Gaziol, which means the Goat. When Tikinoro, the head of one of the largest gangs, was gunned down in thestreetbyrival mobsters in the summer, hundredshrnedout

for his funeral. Surprisingly, perhaps, the anti-mafia unit knows who many of the mafiabosses arpbut does not touch them. Critics suggest this is because the godfathers are protected by in high places, who might be embarde-

These costs are passed on to Armenian consumers, helping to make products in the republic among the most expensive in the former Soviet Union. One traderwho flew in a consignment of butter from Khazakhstan

was told to pay 250,000 rubles before he would be allowed to take it from the airport. Butter in Yerevan, at40Orubles perkilogram, costs nearly three times as much as in Khazakhstan. Police and airport officials at best turn a blind eye to comrption, at worst are paid off not to interfere. The government made one effort in the fall to break the criminal grip on Zvartnots, anesting Aviation Minister Yuri Agbashian and several senior airport staff, but

slowly the maf,ra influence has reasserted itself. The present aviation minister, who speaks no Armenian, is not known for his zeal in this area. Benzine is another notorious area

of Armenian mafia activity, and not only in Armenia. When then-Prime Minister of Russia Yegor Gaidar visited Yerevan on September 30, he complained to his Armenian counterpart, Khosrov Harutunian, that Armenian mafia gangs were so pervasive in the benzine trade that they were disrupting the Russian economy. Benzine in Armenia became among the

ive in the world in early Deovernightto or nearly $4 per

feltin

of confusion over said the unit's chiefV

this." Atpresent, the

. criminal profits mhough I are being mad.e, at least goods are continuing to florrr into the republic at a time when the risks might scare off legitimate traders. "These are good conditions for not being punished and so the amountof mafia activity

increases."

Add in the easy availability of powerful machine guns, thanks partly to the trade in weapons linked to the conflict in NagornoKarabakh, and a large pool ofjobless young men and the situation is ripe for criminality. Nor is war a bar to profits----one of the most thriving connections is between mafia groups in Yerevan and Baku. Shoes and clothing get sent from Armenia via Georgia

local, carving up different regions ofthe city forthemselves. Oneoperates in Abovian, for instance, another, named after the Parakar region from which it comes, controls business passing through the main Zvartnots Airport. This lastprovides agood illustration ofthe distorting influence on Armenia's economy of the gangs. Parakar exacts a "tax" on every cargo passing in andoutoftheairport, which is the only really secure transport route in the republic. Ifyou don't pay, your goods don't

move.

AIM, MARCH

1993

"of mafia," he said. There is also a shadow volvement with those who trucks on the streets. Fuel is state's petrol storage facility at but the right to buy from this store is at the discretion of government officia situation tailor-made for bribery.

ly a

Petrol from the store costs about 100 rubles per liter. Street dealers then add in the cost of city taxes, for permission to sell from the roadside, and kickbacks for sundry government officials and police who could make life difficult for them. Then the cut for the local mafia group and profits for themselves bring the retail price up to 500 rubles per liter. Nor do the mafia groups welcome competi-

tion from newcomers. One parliamentary deputy and some friends clubbed togetherto buy benzine in Siberia at 15 rubles per literat


atimewhen itwas selling for l00rubles

a

liter

in Yerevan. Georgian gangsters took half of their load as the train went through Georgia, then different Armenian gangs took a cut at each station they passed. When the group finally reached the

Oktemberian store, government officials bought the fuel-but would pay only 15 rubles per liter. Result-the deputy and his friends lost a stack of money. Khorkhoruni is defensive about govemment connections to the benzine mafia, preferring to criticize a general lack of will rather than active complicity on the part of officials. "We cannot say that there is

a

government

mafia," he said. "But maybe some in the government structure with theirpower ought to do something to stop it. They don't do anything to stop the petrol mafia and in this way they are helping the groups which control benzine prices." But in general he admits that ties exist between organized crime and government. "They try to use services in financial areas, such as banking, and to have people in government who can help them with their business operations, of course for money." None ofthis represents a sudden collapse ofpublic morality, but rather a depressing continuation ofthe "shadow economy" which developed

in the last years under communism. Omnipotent regional party chiefs were quite used

fluence over the wholesale supply ofgoods to the shop owners as a way of laundering dirty money, but that they don't directly control the table operations.

some of them are turning to drugs. But so far it is not a big problem because of Armenia's geographical position." Of more concern for the long term, perhaps, is the general perception that crime does

Table owners generally are reluctant to discuss their business, but one explained how corruption helped him to get started. In theory all traders need to buy a license from the city authorities to sell goods. This man said he was told to pay 7,500 rubles for

pay, that money and guns talk loudest in Yerevan's daily life. The consequent degradation ofsociety, as young hoods parade their

new-found wealth and power, depresses many who believed independence would

each ofhis two table sites near the central Opera Square before he could begin to sell. Unable, orunwilling, to pay the cash, he went

bring amorecivilized way of life.Instead, the absence of credible government authority makes them feel vulnerable- the bad guys

NT one of this represents I\ a sudden coLlapse of pubLic morality, blrt rather a depressing continuation of the ..shad.ovr econqryr" which developed in the Last years under connnrnism.

into business anyway and after two weeks paid 5,000 rubles to a local policeman not to inquire into his license. At the end of the month, he paid a further 5,000 rubles. Each month, he buys peace of mind by

are all too obviously getting away with it. Just how much they are getting away with

is hard to estimate with accuracy. The antimafia police department puts the combined annual earnings of the main gangs atbtween 100 and 150 million rubles a year, which it says is only a small percentage of the national

to receiving generous gifts in return for granting favors to people wanting to conduct private business on the side without p[ab: lerrrs- The atmosphere of com:ption penraded all levefs ofqpthority, from hous{ng ro hospitels, bb0uus$ uhortager of every€i*ng meant only those willing to pay Extra got what they

-'

Ileg+vrrnmenthnschnngdb*themajorityof bureaucraBremain in theirposts and opolmte under the sarE sare system of ofrranagerrmnagentEnt, motivated now by the need to silpplement their meager grrernment sularies.

=-:

Though Khorkhoruni innists his tesm is ,,'rtade up of incorn[Wtib]s young "fanatics" grip up to I 8 =ddicated to breaklng the

#a

hours a day, the averageYerevan policeman is held in low regard. Poorlypaid ond somev,:5at demoralizd by the *aarchic ewirl of

present-day life, they seem leaderless and unclear about their duties. Yerevan car driven stop@for an offense know it is only a question ofoffering the officer a bribe placed inside the driver's license

for the matter to be settled. One man we traveled with, stopped forspeeding at apolice checkpoint, slipped the policeman 300 rubles and carried on his way. It is generally accepted wisdom that the number of arbitrary checks goes up in direct proportion to an officer's need for money that week. More serious is evidence of police collaboration with criminal gangs. Theextentof

mafia involvement

in

the running of

Yerevan's thriving streetside "table" shops is unclear. Khorkhoruni believes they have in-

ir*fiagq=:to

their nature don't file tax is likely to be a considerable

ils by

the

whom helasrolati This wap the rabl+btu$$ business feding he hss a

UUUilI

U

in the pervasive culture

rfg

influence of cor-

mcsue of!ilotec-

ruptio-n reacfohs

tion agaitt**zro*tionate demands, the po-

Isittoo[aU?Is both cour€. Thp

liceman srp@nrents his income and can feel

to some degree thu ho is reducing vio{ent

th,e mafia group mdres ery money whilo feeting c-onfidanrc*mnre potH assistailce ilg*iit any rive*,;fu.trying to muscle in on its ffif.

created by the

crimq and

Who loses? Y€revan's shoppers who must subsidrize f:is*tsx,ll and tle Eq4ror and councilmen who can't fiM the mmfu to buy petrol for the trash wagons. Yerevan's steets al so bear other marki ngs of mafia influenca in *he proliferation of casinos,.Iaking a leaf pe*rys from America's Italian gangs whose involvement in the development of Las Vegas as a gambling empire is well known. "They are a very popular way for the mafia to recycle their money from illegal to legal cash," said Khorkhoruni. To American and European eyes, hardened by tales of brutal drugs andprostitution rings, Amenia's gangsters may seem naive, almost innocent. But Khorkhoruni said organized crime is involved in a small and growing narcotics market here.

"There is an increase in drug-taking ourconditions of life have created a vacuum and among young women particularly.

AIM, MARCH 1993

not,on

the hardships of ttu

laspforever.

willJikely mor+

;

r

life becons* are being,

6ntinuingto when the risks traders.

Western ernment

of

=#s neither should the habits of a bi lic, where graft is a given. A government preoccupied crises of survival can find ithardto maketime to fight comrption. The creation of an antimahapolice unit was a start against organized crime. But so far there has been no effort to

counter the more widespread official corruption, both petty and serious, with which citizens mustdeal every day. Withoutsignals from the top, backed by firm action, rhat such practices belong to the old Armenia, they are in dangerofbecoming entrenched in the new

Armenia.

I


TI{A.I{TI{(OT..' PART II: THE BAGKGROUND ByTONY l{ALPI}l color and attitude

of its own. Atex needed designers who could

gray uniformity. Sexy and sassy, they speak ofdif-

work to professional standards, models to

he clothes splash

across Yerevan'

I

s

ferentpossibilities,ofnewwaysof looking and thinking. Ifclothes define you, then Atex fashions scream freedom. The story

of Andrey Milman's company symbolizes many of the changes taking place in Yerevan. Even its location-in the otherwise deserted State fashion house-speaks volumes about

Armenia's new style of life. What makes it moreinteresting is thatneitherMilman norhis partner and wife Irina are Armenian. The couple, both 32, came to Yerevan as young graduates from the fashion design institute in Byelorussia. "It was my first time here and I didn't thinkl would have serious connections with this country. But after some years, I decided that this place has everything I need," said Andrey. "As an artist I feel I was born in Armenia, that's certainly true, there are many

interesting things in Armenian culture and contemporary art here. "As a businessman, I was born in Armenia too. It is not a great secret thatthis was the most developed of the Soviet republics in the business sphere. I developedas abusinessman

here and it was more interesting and simpler

for me to work here than, for example, in Russia."

They began work in the Soviet fashion house, creating designs for mass production in Armenia's state factories. Milman eventually became chiefdesigner before they decided in April 1991 to strike out alone.

"I

understood that it is not real to create fashion in a state enterprise, there is no such thing in the United States. I felt I had to make my ownbusiness with my own pointof view," he said.

Three months later, Atex was born. The

Ministry of Light Indus[y helped with premises and paperworkforthe new business, but

the organizational and financial problems were theirs from the beginning, Milman said. Initially, Atex also provided designs for

in Armenia's clothing industry but the Milmans soon decided that quality, not quantity, offered greater satisfaction. Making high quality clothes-"it's mass production

not haute counrre but it's a higher level than other enterpri ses"-soon presented problems

Armenia-to try to work only with tall European-style models would not be right." Some of Milman's clothes display con-

show off the creations, some way to display their new clothes to the public. All this in a society where the notion of a fashion culture, rather than a clothes industry, had been officially scorned for decades. So to train designers, Atex established its own fashion school which has quickly grown into one of its main activities. Close to 100 people have passed through its doors so far, many ofthe graduates

scious links with historical Armenian dress,

and Atex is also studying the possibility publishing its own books about the history

of of

now working in Milman's company.

Atex also introduced the catwalk to Yerevan, setting up its own "fashion theater" shows to announce new clothes to the city. Milman choreographs them into dance and music spectaculars staged at the Cinema House for people simply to lookor to buy. The lastone in Septemberproduced more than 50 orders, proving that a market exists. Finding the models presented other problems, of aptitudeandappearance. ThoughAtexregularly

advertises in local newspapers for new recruits, Milman says he almost never finds the people he wants this way. "So I inviteboys and girls I see when I am walking in the street to try out at my studio. I invite anybody who might be interesting for

2 E

2 =

ii

mywork."

All of the 15 young models working for Atex todaywerefoundthisway,saysMilman, many ofthem aspiring actors and actresses. "It is very difficult in Armenia to find tall people so we solve this problem by making fashion oriented towards thetype ofgirls and boys we have. It is interesting for me as a designer to work with these types of models, from everyday life. "When a designer works only with very tall, slim models he begins to create a type of fashion which has no relationship to real life. When we in Armenia don't have bread or light, we haveonly this connection to real life. "If I then begin to make work as it would be made in France it would notbe theconect thing for me to do as an artist. I must think about these questions as a man who lives in AIM, MARCH 1993

MAKING THE STATEMENT: Tho Mllmang (above) and some of theh lateot creatlons


i

Armenian costumes. Part olthe fu nction of the shows is to educate audiences to appreciate fashion as an art form, he says. Even so, he was unsure ofthe reaction he would get when Atex presented its first show before a mass audience in Yerevan at an American Independence Day celebration last July 4. As it turned out, the bold colors, striking designs, and in-your-face sexiness ofthe models caused a small sensation. "I was very surprised, there were many people, young and old, who came up to us afterwards and said thank you, it's very nice to have a fashion show in Yerevan. There couldhavebeen anothertypeofreaction, this is the Orient after all." Finding a serious foreign partner is one of his main concerns these days. "We need partners from abroad but we want to find people who are interested in developing Armenian production, not simply using our work as cheap products. I don't think this kind of relationship is serious. "But we must have connections with a high-quality market because if today I work only on the level of the Armenian market, my level as an artist and as a businessman will go

down."

Atex, which has grown quickly into

a

business employing 40 people, has exhibited at an intemational fashion show in Vilnius and

has an invitation to present its clothes in Vienna and Moscow. Milman stressed thatthe company aims to match European levels of quality and design. Another New Yearinnovation for Atex is theopening of its first salon closeto Yerevan's Republic Square to have new designs on permanent display and to sell its fashions. It will bejoined in this venture by another Yerevan i company, Garni, which makes shoes. He f hopes the store will attract foreign as well as g local buyers, and plans to sell the limited edition clothes for dollars and rubles at the equivalent exchange rate. "We'll make, say, only20copiesof aparticular design and when these are sold we will change the design and make adifferent style." Many of hiscustomers havebeen Diaspora

Armenians, particularly from the United States, attracted by the prospect ofdesigner clothes at warehouse prices. A man's suit, for instance, could cost as little as $40, a handembroidered woman's outfit around $100.

"When we create our collection, I don't think about who will buy it. The most important thing is for me to create something that is interesting to me." Milman may havetrained under collectivism but his motivation today is laced with the philosophy of individual style and taste. It's a success story for Armeniathe small and energetic Atex cutting a graceful dash for the future out ofthe wardrobe of the overweight and frumpy State Fashion House. The Soviet Emperor may have had no clothes but the upstart courtier may yet go to T the ball in style.


SEALOFFAITH

Religious Gults Arc Tliggering a Reactionary Movement - ?hd Some Policy Ghanges - in Ejmiatsin By LISETTE PTOOLE

! I ! I

namonastery inMoscowasmiling monk in traditional orange garb asks a visitor

,o ,"*oue his stioei. Several young *orrr"n und men in similar clothei carr!

food to an upstairs room. The scent of lndian herbs ushers in a meal of buckwheat with vegetables at this Krishna home. When the visitoris done, his guide, the monk, leads him upstairs. On ttre way he introduces himself as brother Atmananda. He explains that he was Armen before his initiation. On the second floor they stop at a door

marked BBT-Bhagaradgita Book Trust. lnside, computers and printers flank bookshelves. The guide says Krishnaisticteachings

are translated here, edited and published in

Russian, Ukrainian, Tatarian, Armenian, Georgian and other languages fordissemination in the former Soviet republics. These headquarters are run by Sanyasa Das, the Krishna initiated name of Souren Karapetian. His assistant, who has innoduced himself as Kamala Mala, formerly Karen Sahakian, talks aboutthe group's philosophy. Hare Krishna surfacedinArmeniain 1985 when a dozen university students and workers faced nial for "hurting citizens' health becausethey adheredtoreligiousrituals." A total of 50 followers were arrested in the Soviet Union that year, according to news reports. "We still don't understand why we were imprisoned," BrotherKamalaMalasays. "We preached abstinence from sensual indulgence, liesandmeat. Weweretortured, keptinaKGB cellar in Yerevan for four months and fed meat. So we went on a hunger strike... They threw us in prison with assassins and thieves for two years." When released, the group went underground to dodge the KGB. They surfaced afterthe 1988 earthquake. KamalaMalaandhis group went to [rninakan, where they cooked and servedfreevegetarian meals to victims of the disaster. They now do the same for Armenian refugees streaming into Yerevan from Karabakh. At about the same time as Kamala Mala served earthquake victims, Armen Gregorian joined followers of the Transcendental Meditation movement. Founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the movement advocates peace through individual meditation, twice a day, and a simple lifestyle.

Transcendental Meditation came to Yerevan in November 1989. Gregorian told

joined when he was at in his life. After spending three years at the Leningrad Engineering Instinrte he asked to transfer to the State Polythechnic Institute of Yerevan. To his dismay, his application was rejected with no explanation. But his Transcendental Meditation membership earned him a scholarship in the U. S. He cunently studies "Universal Principles of Natural Law Governing Evolution in the Human Consciousness and Nature" at an interviewer that he a crossroads

Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa. Youth from59othercountries study atthis instinrtion, faculty members say. Graduates return to their own countries, *ren are assigned to other ones. Press reports say the movement is spreading to Hungary, Poland and Estonia. "Iranscendental Meditation made a great change in my life..." Gregorian says. "I think what they are doing for Armenia is very important. They are increasing the level of our spiritual awareness and thus decreasing the

risk of violence,"

Back to the Altar In an atmosphere of mushrooming cults, the Armenian Apostolic Church has had to forge new alliances to spread Christianity. It has had to accommdato a now, more relaxed style of ministering within its conservative ranks and accept help from dioceses outside Armenia to try to balance teaching, preach-

ing and reaching out.

Two prominent groups have

been

allowed to minister within the framework of Holy Ejmiatsin. Both--+lp United Arme-

nian Congregational Church and

the

Yeghbayraksutiun-have pledged to complement efforts by the Orthodox Church, their spokesmen affirmed in separate interviews.

This magnanimity, along with

a

reawakening of purpose within the church, has brought action: in Yerevan, a bible study

youth group is growing, a small army of spiritual laymen is preparing Sunday School programs, and workers in a sports arena are planning their next 5,0OO-strong Christian

rally. The halls of St. Sarkis Church in the Armenian capital resound with ancient hymns,

music and dancing. His Grace, Bishop Karekin Nersessian, encourages high school students to set up meetings and activities around studies ofscripture and the history of the Armenian Church. Visitors say this young and energetic

AIM,MARCH 1993

bishop spends several hours a day with the youth discussing their projects and allowing themtochallengetheteachings. Occasionally, he organizes trips to historic churches and encourages family involvement in reopening the sites for prayers.


One visitorreported that some 300 penons piled into buses and cars to visit an I lth century church in the medieval fortress of AmBerd.It was not just a hike-they tackled a 7,00Gfoot elevation into the foothills of snowcapped Mount Aragats to enjoy a picnic and admirp their ancestors' labor. "Theprocess ofreclaiming achurch helps *rem identifu with thehistory ofthe Armenian Church," the visitor explains. "There is a lot to learn. They are starting from zero. Communist books did not teach the history of reli-

gion."

Not too far from St. Sarkis Church,

a

seminary by Lake Sevan now boasts 120 students. Until recently it had only 30 enrolled.

Supcrstar Billing "All ofthese are very positive

changes,"

says Reverend Berd Djambazian, Senior Pastor of the United Armenian Congregational Church in Los Angeles, California. "In just a couple more years the church will have 80 newly ordainedpriests from this seminary. The future is bright. But now is crisis time. This is the time all of us must strengthen the church from within." The Reverend's comments came during an interview with AIM, shortly after he returned from a trip to the seminary where he gave a series of lectures. "I have committed myself tobe an instnrmentofrevival tobeused by the church," he says pensively.

ents. As a result, they grew from a handful in I 947 to an estimated 4,0fi) members in I 992. "We have 21 Sunday Schools in Armenia and six in Karabakh; we have over 4,500 pu-

pils and this body is growing every week," says Hamlet Zakarian, Chairman of the fellowship. "Our aim is to make people more familiar with the basic tenets of our church dogma through visis, get-togethers and helpingone another." In order to counteract the cults, the group wishes to expand into radio and television broadcasting in Russian, andescalate Sunday School programs in cities near the war zone.

"If wehad

2Ocars now,

wecouldincreaseand

Clockwlge lrom above: The Hare Krlshna, among other sectS and cults, are attractlng

newlollowere; Elmlatsln lstrylng to bolster lts pool of semlnarlans; Reverend Dlambazlan (left) durlng a mlsslon ln Armenla; slgng ot rellglous tevlval have become morevlslble

slncethe 1988 earthquake. Somecriticizehis style. Others fondly call him the Billy Graham of Armenia. He has drawn this attention through the unconventional use offootball fields for prayer. "We have a tremendous opportunity to revive the blessed roots offaith by preaching

the gospel to the maximum amount of at a rally last summer some 1,200 persons, out of 4,(X)0 present, dedicated their life to Christ during

people," he sresses, recalling that

an altar

expand the activities of the fellowship tenfold," Zakarian explains. "Our assistance to the church can help it... battle the sects."

Brothers in Arm The church is also lashing back with help from its dioceses overseas. Missions from the U.S. and Canada are being sent to Armenia. Bibles and religious pamphlets are being

shipped from Canada, and Armenian churches worldwide are being asked to ear-

call.

Membersof the Yeghbayraktsutiunareas dedicated to theirmission as the Evangelical pastor. In fact, many religious leaders credit

them for keeping the faith alive during 70 years of communism. They smuggledbibles into Armenia, established an underground

network forprayermeetings andpasseddown spiritual songs they had heard from their par-

AIM, MARCH

1993

mark offerings for specific reconstruction projects in the homeland. The Cilician See, too, is involved in disseminating the beliefs of the Mother Church. Antelias' Very Reverend Sebouh Sargisian spent a year in Armenia, developing a program of Christian education, at the invitation of Ejmiatsin. Itwas ayearof long-termplan-


ning, publication, and training of preachers

ternational Society of Krishna Conscious-

and Sunday School teachers.

ness continues to thrive in former Soviet republics thanls to a base of 300 militant Ar-

Bringing thechurch tothepeoplethrough these modern-day missionaries was a new dynamic experience, church officials say. It showed that the 2,000-year-old institution must find new methods to spread the gospel and ways to bolsterthe 500 clergy now ministering to 7.5 million Armenians worldwide. "People hunger for hope and a reason to live. They are curious about their ancestral faith," says Father Mesrob Sarafian, of Oakland, California, referring to missionworkin Armenia. ''Thousands turned out to touch, s€e and listen to us share our faith in Jesus Christ and the message of salvation. "I have never been so moved in my life," he exclaims. "I have never been so sad and joyful at the same moment. To witness this awakening, to see people make their first sign ofthe cross, to feel that the seed offaith has a chance to flourish-it was an immeasurable reward. There is still much work to be done. "The MotherChurch is asking forhelp.It is burdened, swamped, by too many needs," hesays. "Ifthechurchdoesn'tgettothepeople fi rst, the cults orotherreligious organizations

will." The Armenian Apostolic Church's first official signal of alarm was soundedrecently in a statement by His Holiness Vazgen I, Catholicos of All Armenians: "TheArmenian Apostolic Church wants to cultivate cordial and fraternal relations with all sister Christian churches... and (we) will never tolerateother churches attempting to convert our people whether in Armenia or abroad," declared the Patriarch. "Armenians, our spiritual children, unite... be of one will, one joy, one pain." His message triggered the North American mission and an international conference ofclergy to plot a course ofrevival action for the church and its dioceses. The move came amid reports that the In-

"Sure, there were the cynics. There were also the curious who realized thatthe system had failed but God prevailed. They felt ttrere

menian members. Meanwhile, Transcen-

was something important about God who

dental Meditation claims

defeated communism. They listened," he says. Father Sarafian was one of two priests on the mission. Lrd by the Bishop of Canada, it included five deacons and 13 volunteer youth. Therip was fundedby the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary of New Rochelle, New York. A spokesman said the success of this missionhas encouraged planning for several more.

regisny of 22,000 in Armenia, while Catholics claim 10,000 followers, Pentecostals 7,200, and Baptists around 1,000. These figures could not be independently verified. The emergence ofthis variety ofbeliefs is fairly recent. It is linked to the forced somnolence of the Armenian Orthodox Church, the 1988 earthquake, Glasnost and the collapse of communism. a

Thc Spiritual Vacuum Church observers believe cults and religious denominations are catching on because

of the vacuum created by the collapse of communism and the absence of Armenian religious teachings since the church, in Armenia and other Soviet republics, had sunk into the comfortable position of symbol of ethnic identity and preserver ofcultural heritage.

Glastnost allowed entry to anyone who wanted to minister to the victims of the Armenian earthquake. Culs and others came in offering uncontested preaching, food, shelter, sometimes education and even an occasional trip abroad, to establish a foothold and fill the vacuum. The movements targetdisenchanted youth on university camiruses and, through

them, their families. The country's ongoing economic hardships, the warand the shattered dreams ofprosperity are all contributing factors. "People hunger forfaith," Father Sarafi an recalls. "In oneplace we shookhands with400 people, in anotherwehuggedall whocame-

itseemedlike an oceanofpeople-in another we shared the bread the villagers had baked. Peopleeverywhereweretouchedtoknowthat we cared enough to come all the way from America to visit them.

Preaching and ministering in villages and towns in the regions of Abaran and Charentsavan, 40 miles north of Ejmiatsin, was aneye-openerforall. "This was themost challenging experience in my life," said Taline Baltayan of Toronto, Canada, soon after she returned from Armenia. "It was emotionally and physically consuming. One minute we were happy playing with a child, or singing, another minute we were mourning with a farnily whose son was just killed. .."

"I met a priest who has to travel 40 miles on unpaved, cracked-uproads toreach atown

of 30,000, where they have no priests, no church, no nice reception hall forcoffee breaks and socializing. Can you imagine this?" exclaims Father Sarafian. who oversees a bustling parish, St. Vartan Apostolic Church, in

Oakland. "A nation is hurting," says Father Vazken Movsesian, founding eAitor of Window and head of St. Andrew's Apostolic Church in Cupertino, California. "The bottom line for each of us should be how many lives can we touch? How many can we save? How many can we bring to Christ?" Llsene Poole ls a Calltornla loumallst. Wth reportlng byTlgran Xmallan lrom Yerevan.

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P MTINGSPA

By ISHKHAN JII{BASHIAN Workunderreview:

SEM I OTEXT( E ) ARC H ITE CTU R E H raztan k itlian, Edit o r Semiotext(e), New York, 199, 160 pp, $15

hile command and control systems in the Gulf transmitted videographic bytes for a bemused world audience, a small crew of philosophers, architects, film theorists anddesigners in America and Europe were asked to transfer data of an altogether different order for a project based in Los Angeles.

In 1990, Hraztan Zgitlian had received a commission from Columbia University's Semiotext(e) toput together

bookdedicated to experimental architecture. As he wentabout a

soliciting material from his office in

Brentwood, California, the coinciding Gulf War came to be viewed as a major point of reference, and a pervasive critical theme, to the authors eventually included in S emiot e xt( e ) A

rchit ec ture.

quently, the analysis of the distinctly Armenian subject, from theinricacies of Armenian illuminated manuscripts to the workings of the Armenian Parliament, are viewed as a function of freely inspired choice, rather than a monosyllabic expression of guilt-ridden duty. Zeitlian's approach is based on a singular event in history, that of the invention of Armenianclassical architecture, a force field so wide-sweeping, he explains, that it has helped shape the very foundations of Western thought. As for the state of present-day Diasporan Armenians, Zeitlian sees nothing particularly interesting in their situation in-

duced to a mesh of economic diasporas. Migratory patterns, capitalism and the

silicon chip revolution have merged to

form massive webs

offinancial interest

warfarehave in common? Both deal with the problematicsof building and destruction, both are concerned with the controled manipulation and, increasingly, simulation of space. The juxtaposition of architecture and killing is ominously confirmed by the worldwide

and composite com-

of computer and command

technologies, virtual reality and cybernetics, where accepted spatial categories for employment, living and leisure, war- and lovemaking have all become suspect, yielding to an existential gray area thatrequires constant redefinition. Hence, architecture as a general concept of construction-and deconstruc-

tion-in thought, language, and its concomitant incarnations in state-sanctioned violence, the arts, and the destiny ofcities. A writer and architect, Zeitlian advances ratherambitious reading of suburbia and, by extension, of the enigma of the Armenian a

Diaspora and its ethnic underpinnings. Though firmly ensconced in the esthetic sensibilities of the Armenian language and culnrre, Zeitlian, whois also the general designer of Semiotext( e ) Architecture, sees no merit in speaking of a specifically Armenian rarson d' et re,sinceheaccepts Armenian

as no less than synonymous

intographic images, &awings come to the fore

sofar as the entire planet has been re-

But what do architecture and modern

proliferation

intelligible representations of conceptual architecture and real-world projects are followedby wild geometric fantasies in theform of abshact shapes and models; along a methodically constructed stream of chaotic imagining, writings dissolve---or fl ourish-

civilization

with Western

civilization. In this context, operating in an Armenian mode becomes all but interchangeable with a Westem ethos, encompassing all thepromise and pitfalls that this may entail; and, conse-

munities,withthenet effect that the traditionalhomeland,asa self-contained habitat for shared collectivities, has often become technically re-

dundantandmorally untenable.

Still,asitisamply demonstrated in Semiotext(e ) Architecture, territorial sovereignty remains the one metamyth forwhich menarewillingtokill and die. It is this fundamental contradiction-be-

tween the forced-open expanses of

postmodern life and the self-regenerating passion for territoriality-that Zeitlian and some of the co-authors of Semiotext(e) Architecture offset with the idea of the "SubBut first, the physical wherewithal of the book: Semiotext(e) Architecture is an oddsized, awkward tome, some I I inches long and 17.5 inches wide, and each and every graphic element everypiece of writing within its pages is designed to disturb the peace. In a general attempt to thwart expectations of graphic (i.e., political) conectness, individual essays are complemented, overlapped and/or interspersed by experimental drawings, illustrations, computer-aided renderings, collages, scrawls and squiggles; highly

AIM, MARCH

with poetic signifiers of their own, and typo-

1993

to

propose vie unforseeable perspectives. Indeed, the page layout of some of the texts is such a bloody mess that the written word comes annoyingly close to being illegible. And this is precisely the point. Through-

graphical fluctuations

jectiveCity."

o$ Semiotext(e) Architecture, the search for the sources, archetypes, and possible paradigms of architectural space cannot but subvert our notions of textuality and visual representation. Type, as we know it, assumes a fu ller, distinctpurposefulness, anexistence of its own; the writhing quality of some of the


DES

titled "Unbridled Space." "With the essential words of language, their true meaning easily

command), a province is a conquered terri-

falls into oblivion in favor of foreground meanings... Oblivion, the refuge of primal

battlefield..."

meaning, is the 'other shore' of architecture, its destination, so to speak (To dwell means, finally, to be transported.)"

Where ls Elsewhere?

It texts suggests a multidimensionality mirror-

ing life itself. This is not only a new way of book-mak-

butalsoasfategy toempoweranewbreed ofreader. Wearenolongerallowedtositback ing,

and be the passive end-receivers ofa certain paper stock, a certain font and type size, and

seems natural that any study

of

the

metaphysics of space should involve, fi rst and foremost, adiscussion ofmodem travel.In an essay entitled "Tourism: Suitcase Studies,"

Liz Dillerand Bemardo Scohdioexplorethe military nature of the traveling experience, We no longer visitdistant spaces to rediscover the discreet pleasures of repose, or to

tory (from 'vincere.') Field evokes the This is the inaugural glimpse ofalterspace, aphenomenon loosely definedas "inventing an architecture of elsewhere." It is also known as cyberspace and virnral, or intentional, reality, the next generation of computer works whose military and commercial applications have won ardent advocates in many a big boy throughout Silicon Valley and Washington. In "Sot I 1," an analysis of virtual reality

AvitarRonell writes: "paronl Lanier's project takes hold in the control and its pioneers,

rooms of his majesty the Ego... Haven't we, as a culture been too active, too action-filled, even if action splits itself into representations of the traumatized spectator and manic

warior?" With the death of god, we tore the nuclear family's emotional circuits apart and outof its ashes built hollow realms of individualism, Bankrupt in the ways of subjective spiritualities, hyper and bored, we became exponentially vicious in ourdemands forthe instantaneous experience, for the sharper image, a theatricality surpassing the spectacular. And since real time could rarely compete with its own simulation, we opted for the breathless pace of simulated reality, becoming its passive spectators: the mass media we

consume, the manufactured movie stars, video games, gymnastic equipments, sex scandals and punitive wars deliver on the promise of boundless action, dulling and numbing us to an extent that sustainedthought is increasingly superseded by the automated

reflex. Jean

Baudrillard: "Abstraction today

is no

longer that of the map, the double, the mirror ortheconcept. Simulationisnolongerthatof a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hypeneal." In the absence ofthe "subjective enunciator," or self-referential sanctuaries for reflection and growth, we have constructed mammoth, voracious serials of sensory stimulation

with no appeal. This is why we need en-

emies-along social, racial, geopolitical

tiers-whom we can invest with

newer grounds for the projection and rekindling of mass violence.

Anyone, any group, any nation is fair theneatly laid out, evenly flowing fictions as on greased cogs. We are, on the contrary, urged tobepissed off, and to acceptresponsibility for the acts of reading-to interpret text in a more holistic breath, snatch the soasentendres frombetween the lines, make full use of image-words as corridors to the perilous fields ofthe unconscious. In short, we are asked to reinvent the art of memory through text. "To forget... means to preserve, while re-

membrance intervenes, and revives, in a manner that is apparently not intrinsic to language," writes Daniel Tiffany in a piece en-

expand our ways and means ofseeing, but to conquerthe genuine articlepromised in tour-

ist brochures: returning from journeys that have become as strenuous as thejobs we can't wait to escape, we bring back snapshots and videotapes and souvenirs-the booty-"irreducible pieces of portable evidence of the sight having been seen." "... Certain spatial metaphors are equally

geographical and strategic, which is only natural since geography grew up in the shadow of the military," a quote from Michel Foucault reads. "The region of the geographers is the military region (from 'regere,' to AIM, MARCH

1993

game.

If it's not a dissident among

us, or a

minority on the fringe, then it's a Middle Eastem country begging to be accorded the status of the "negated other." It requires no leap of the imagination to grasp the design dynamics behind the Gulf War.

Gung.Ho Spacc

"'By God, we've kicked the Vietnam Syndromeonceandforall',saidGeorgeBush the moming after," writes James Derderian in an essay entitled "War/Game as Video." "We were primed for [the Gulfl war. Simulations had infiltrated into every area ofour lives."


Foryears, the U.S. military had rehearsed andsimulatedtheDesertStormscenario. And when the moment came, the mass media found it infinitely profitable to go straight for the

kill, hand in hand with theuniformed lot.

This was, after all, "westofthewest, thatis, a memorex cowboy frontier," manned by cyborgs dedicated toprecise search and destroy missions and hygienically correct surgical strikes, and voluptuously illustrated and summarized forthe laypopulace by generals who kept announcing the triumph of good overevil-theultimate video gameplayedout in alterspace. "The enemy is imagined as being disor-

derly, inefficient, tactically illiterate, dysfunctional and to a certain degree, the pro-

jected solution, cybernetics, promises to overcome such instabilities...," writes Ronell. "Our surgical srike, theirbodies, ourhightech shoots, theirblood."

Our will to action, with its thematic flippancy, has nothing to do with ideological conviction. The whole of ourcivic discourse, all ournational priorities, ourpersonal horrors and aspirations havebeenreduced to tautologies, endless fodder for speeches, self-improvementseminan andtalkshows. We have reached a place beyond the word. "Virnral reality, artifi cial reality, dataspace or cyberspace are inscriptions of a desire whose principal symptom can be seen as absence of community," underlines Ronell.

Plugged inside barbed-wired neighborhoods whose demarcation lines are getting progressively tighter, we have come to base our entire work ethic on the wish to buy protectionagainstthebad lot, the foreign element, and to earn the right to be left well enough alone while we vegetate in our television rooms. Accordingly, ourpublic spaces are no longer destinations of civil exchange, inspiration and healing; they have become variations on a TV theme where one goes to kill time, a mock-tribute to a suburbia struck with a perennial case ofthe Sunday Night Blues. "Does awindowbelongtotheinsideorthe

outside?" asks Tom Keenan in "Windows of Vulnerability," an essay that examines the locus of the individual vis a vis the domain of the public. When alone, we're used to confusing solitude with loneliness; and when in public, we're painfully aware of the stalking, negated other. We're equally exhausted in both spheres.

The Gity Ecstatic One of the mostexuberantly investigated themes in Sem iotex( e ) Architecture is that of the "Subjective City," an idea that goes to the heart of the postmodern condition. The notion is neither new nor particularly

original, but with its rigorous vision of engaging "the most singular levels of the individual as well as the most collective levels... a polyphony of subjective formations," it

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gives us a buoyant, spirited glimpse of the possibility ofushering in a new level ofenIightenmentto thecreation anduses of urban space.

"It is urgent to return to an 'animist' conception of theworld," writes Felix Guattari in a piece entitled "Space & Corporeity: Nomads, Ciry, Drawings." "The modemist outcome must de-play, foil undimensionalism and the generalityand formalism into which it seemed bound to crash... Theworldno longerchangesevery ten years, but from year to year. In this context, architectural and urban programmation appear to be moving at a dinosaur's pace." Fundamentally, the Subjective City is a proposition to construct creative-as opposed to reactive---+ities out of the spiritual muck left by the vanishing polis. During the planning stageof these new communities, not

only architects, sociologists, psychologists and artiss-at-large would join forces to sort out the many aspcts of urban problematics, but future residents themselves would have a say in the fashioning of private, as well as public space.

Furthermore, the new Architects would take into account not only functional and esthetic considerations that will "imply human multiplicities," but would also work toward a

more symbiotic construct that will encom-

pass "animal, vegetal, machinic, incorporeal,

and infrapersonal becomings."

Butno amountofurban planning, however revolutionary, willprovecapable ofeasing the endemic despair and alienation of our cities unless it's accompanied by a genuine attempt to reinventthe social fabric-for sure, neither under the aegis of an eclectism gone haywire, nor through a new order of disciplinarianism that will enforce further serialization. Guattari, envisioning an instinctive solution to the problem ofrethinking the socius, suggests this analogy: "For example, as soon as we enter certain primary schools, we feel an anguish oozing from the walls, factor of partial subjectivation that integrates itself to the lived paysage ofevery student and every teacher.., It happens, in effect, sometimes, as by miracle, that all the components, all the instruments are not in unison, but agree in a play of harmonics and scalar symmetries that confer on the edifice its character of auto-

reference, its systematic completion, put briefly, its proper way." And the final question mark belongs to Ronell: "Can there be an atopicality of the community that nonetheless gathers, a community going nowhere, but ecstatic, a community of shattered egos, where the control towers come tumbling down, and where the other is genuinely anticipated?" This is thecharacterof a wholenew poetics ofspace: an intervention in the contractual confusion of "aroomofone'sown."As such, it is an ambitious stance that may well inform an emergent passion-andcourage-to

rebuildourcities.

I


AWARFOR THEMASSES

The Karabakh Gonflict's Human Rights Record Has Barely lmproved ByWILLIAM NEUIIAN

predictable. "As the character of the confl ict changes, the nature ofhuman rights offenses

well," reports Rachel Denber, director of the Moscow office of Helsinki Watch, an independent, US-based human

changes

nightof February25, 1992, Armenian forces seized the town n the

of Khojaly, located about l0

as

ofshelling and heavy fighting have fled their homes, driven out by the more intense aerial

attacks, Many villagers took refuge in Stepanakert, but when the capital itselfbecame a target, they sought to enter Armenia. Time aftertime, civilian targets havebornethe brunt of the bombing, which, according to Denber, was "carried out in such an indiscriminate way as to terrorize the civilian

dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of Azerbaij ani civilians, including women and children, were gunned down as they attempted to flee across the border to a nearby Azeri village. Two months later, on April 24, armed men opened fire on a bus carrying about 30 Armenians nearthe village of Shekher, in Karabakh. About half the people on the bus managed to run to safety, but Azerbaij ani fighters boarded

rights organization. Observers returning from recent visits to the region paint a grim picture. "There have beenmassivehumanrightsviolationsonboth sides," said one activist. The greatest impact on the civilian popuIation has been caused by heavy aerial bombing of Karabakh by the Azerbaijani armed forces. Last year Azerbaijan began using military aircraft, including SU-25 ground attack bombers, inherited from the former Soviet Air Force. This led to a major

the bus and shot wounded passengers who had

escalation of the conflict, as Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan, in tum, has accused Armenia of bombing raids on Azeri villages, and observers have confirmed some of these reports. TheArmenian governmentcontinues to deny direct involvement in the war. Both sides have also been responsible for heavy shelling of villages, resulting in civilian casualties. Azerbaijani forces have been

been unable to escape.

launched a counter-offensive in June to recover territory held by the Armenian forces

against heavily populated areas in Karabakh.

miles from the Karabakh capital

ofStepanakert. In the chaos that followed,

These incidents, and dozens like them,

have been documented by human rights groups monitoring the cycle of violence that the reglo region's civilian heavy toll on me has taKen taken a neavy population in the five-year-old

ofKarabakh. Aerial bombing has taken a heavy toll. Villagers who had held out through months

conflict for control over Karabakh. The area, an enclave the size of the state of Delaware inside Azerbaijan, came under the control of its Armenian majority after a military offensive last summer. Since then, there has been

bitter fighting between Azerbaijani government forces and forces loyal to the Karabakh authorities. Rising tensions have led to clashes between

Azerbaijani and Armenian units along their shared border. In all, an es-

timated 3,000 persons, both civilians

and combatants, have been killed since 1988.

But the pattern of forced deportations and "ethnic cleansing" that characterized the conflict in Karabakh as recently as one year ago has given way to other abuses as the two sides consolidate territory and increasingly faceone another across clear front lines. The war

has become more stable, in a sense, and military activity more AIM, MARCH

1993

population."

using missiles designed for field warfare

Faced with almost daily barrages of bombing, artillery or missile fire, the region's residents have learned to makedue. The hos-


pital complex in Stepanakert was destroyed last year by massive shelling, before the Armenians consolidated control over Karabakh. Today, hospital opera-

the night on the road through the

corridor, caught by darkness and heavy snow. Those retuming to Karabakh pass easily through the corridor. But refugees seeking to leave the enclave are required to show an

tions have been transferred to the basement of the building that formerly housed the offices of the

exit permit obtained from

au-

Communist Party Central Com-

thorities in Stepanakert. Helsinki

mittee.

Watch has received reports of

of

thousands of refugees have fled the fighting, Hundreds

widespread corruption associated

with the permits, including bribes and exorbitant fees. "If you don' t

mostly concentrating in the capitals, Stepanakert in Karabakh, Yerevan in Armenia, and Baku in Azerbaijan. Nearly half a million

have a connection, you don't get

it,"

refu gees havebeen displaced in the

said Denber of the permits. Members of the self-defense forces cah obtain permits for

course ofthe conflict. The refugee situation in Yerevan has been especially serious, due to the colder

relatives from their commanding officer. But those not so lucky must stand in line to receive per-

than normal winter weather, and

mits at the Interior Ministry in Stepanakert. Women, children and the elderly are allowed to leave the enclave, but men capable ofserving

the crisis in Armenia that has left much of the country without heat and electricity. Afterthe lastgas pipeline into Armenia was cut off in an explosion in Janu-

ary that the government attributed

to

Azerbaijani tenorists, the crisis reached its peak, affecting both refugees in the makeshift camps and the general population. The Azerbaijani capital of Baku has be-

come home

to

refugees from Armenia,

Karabakh, as well as from an ethnic conflict

in neighboring Uzbekistan. The UN High Commission for Refugees has distributed aid to both sides, and relief supplies have also been

sentby anumberof governments andprivate organizations. Many Armenian refugees return to Karabakh afterexperiencing the hardships in Yerevan. Refugees travel back and forth along the narrow Lachin corridor connecting Armenia with Karabakh, which is controlled by some seven military checkpoints. Winter conditions in the conidor are severe, and a delegation led by the English human rights activist and member of the House of Lords, Baroness Caroling Cox, was forced to spend

in the selfdefense forces areroutinely refused permission to leave. Alexander Arzoumanian, the Armenian ambassador to the UN General Assembly, acknowledged that somecomrption may exist, but he insisted that it is not the policy of the Karabakh authorities. Throughout the confl ict, hostage-taking has been a pervasive problem on both sides. Recently, however, the changing face of the war has made it easier for residents to evacuate villages before opposing forces take control, thereby cutting down the number of new

hostages. Monitors have thus fo-

cused on the condition of those already in custody. Many hostages are still held by both sides, and their fate illustrates the intensely personal nature that the conflict has taken on in a region

where people who were living closely together as recently as a year ago now find themselves brutal enemies. "Some of the fighting has the characteristic of mountain tribal fighting," said Rouben Adalian, research director for the Washington-based lobby group Armenian Assembly of America, refening to the hostage-taking. Hostages are often held in private

homes, usually by people who have a familymemberbeing held hostage on the otherside. In these cases, thehostageis used as

akind

of insurance. There is reported-

ly even a. market for hostages, with families "buying" hostages whom they hope to ransom for relatives held across the lines. But the wartime mentality extends far beyond the immediate

AIM, MARCH

1993


zoneof combat. Several Armenians havebeen detained while in transit at the airport in Baku,

supposedly with the hope of using them in fufu re hostage exchanges.

Helsinki Watch reports that on one part of the front, Armenian and Azeri commanders met daily to exchange lists and photographs of hostages and "haggle over details" of the exchanges. Negotiations over the conflict have repeatedly addressed the hostage situa-

tion, and government intervention

has

brought about limited exchanges. Nevertheless, numerous instances of beatings and brutal mistreatment of hostages have been reported. The list of human rights violations on both sides ofthe conflict is long, and includes numerous cases of violence to civilians, summary executions, beatings, torture, and rape. Butthe isolation of Karabakh and wartime conditions make the collection of data on human rights violations difficult and dangerous . Much of the information today comes from refugees leaving the area. Helsinki Watch made two trips to the region last year, to Karabakh in April and, in response to an escalation in the fighting, a follow-up trip to Yerevan in November. The group plans to visitBaku laterthis year, followed by another visitto Karabakh. Amnestylnternationaland

other groups have also stepped up their monitoring. The Washington staff of Chris-

!

, 2 =

E

zz

tian Solidarity International, the group working with Baroness Cox, is organizing a Congressional fact finding mission setfor later this

spring. One American-based group, the Armenian Human Rights Advocates (AHRA), has begun to distribute a form designed to facilitate reporting of abuses. Printed in Armenian and Russian, the form, called a "human rights case adoption application," includes specific questions about different types of violations.

Information gathered will be made available to major intemational rights groups. AHRA is the only American group focused exclu-

sively on the human rights situation in Karabakh. In interviews atthe UN, representatives of both countries directed the blame at one another, forboth the ongoing confl ict and human rights violations. These representatives insisted that the human rights situation could only be evaluated within the context of the war, and suggested that violations were inevitable under the circumstances. Arzoumanian insisted that the question goes beyond individual human rights. "The

whole nation of Armenia is struggling for survival. It's a nation's rights issue," he said. While Armenia continues to claim not to be a party to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Karabakh, it provides material and moral support, and has also represented the interests

he first thing you'll discover is our knack

of the Karabakh authorities at international negotiations seeking to find an end to hostilities. Furthermore, it has long been rumored that the Armenian armed forces are directly involved in the fighting. Helsinki Watch interviewed two Armenian draftees who claimed to have been wounded in combat in

for

saving the travails of traveling. Give us a

budget, your wildest fantasies and a tentative plan, andwe'll make the big picnrre happen. Anywhere

Karabakh . They said that they were not given a choice as to where they would serve.

Elshad Nassirov, first secretary of the

in the world. Complete

Azeri mission to the UN, sidestepped the question of responsibility for human rights

arrangements, car rentals, cruises, tour packages for

abuses. When asked about the bombing of civilian targets in Karabakh, he suggested that it was part of the normal toll of warfare.

Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean and Club Med. All the enchantment

Negotiations are scheduled tocontinue this spring, butthere is little hope for aprompt solution to the conflict and an end to hostilities.

you can take. Hassle-free.

550 South

Hill

From his Washington office, Adalian gave voice to the despair felt both by those caught in the conflict, and observers who have sought to bring the war to the attention of the world community: "There is no optimism expressed by anyone anymore," he said,

Street, Suite 833, Los Angeles, CA 90013

William Neuman ls a New YorkJournallst.

AIM, MARCH

1993


A Bridge Galled Odabashian By KATHERIilE CHILJAN "Ifit's my bridge, why can't I put a toll gate and charge2l cents percar?"jokes Richard Odabashian, speakingof the longbridgeinWentachee, Washington, thatnowbears his name. Originally known as the Olds Station Bridge, it was renamed in 1991 when Odabashian, Washington's Transportation Commissioner, retired. The bridge connects Chelan and Douglas Counties over the Columbia River, as it comes off the Grand Coolee Dam. Nearly one mile across, the bridge is used by an average of20,000 vehicles daily. A sprightly 72-year-old, Odabashian says he was flabbergasted when he learned about the renaming of the bridge. "There are so many people out there who probably deserved it more than me. I'm just an ordinary Armenian boy." A former United Airlines captain, the Fresno,

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mula with apricots, and the delicious duo, "Aplets and Cotlets," was born. Over four million boxes of the delicacy are sold yearly in North America. As Tertsagian's son-in-law, Odabashianjoined Liberty Orchards afterretiring from United Airlines, and is presently the firm's co-owner. He promoted the candy across the nation with the help of his private planes, giving customers rides and flying them to the plant. "I flew from area to area to do business," he says. "I had a special scooter made, which I'd carry in the baggage compartment and get on to go see customers. Those were the old days, of course. There weren't so many salesmen flying around doing business, so I had a little bit of

notoriety." Todatehehas loggedover29,000hoursintheair.Tokeepbusyinhisretirement,Odabashian tinkers with his airplane, and still competes in tennis tournaments. He has gamered over 100 trophies, and has been named number-one player in the age-60

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THE USES.ANDJOYS. OFTHEZERO HOUR ByARTASHES ElllN et us set things straight first-this is not going to be about eugenics Armenian style. Neither shall we dwell upon geopolitics nor even the adverse effects of the multiparty system. Enough has been said and writtenaboutwhatmainland Armenians go through in post-colonial times. Thepicture is pretty grim and the trials and tribulations ofindependence have been mulled over in many a sarcastic or sympathetic mouth. Now that it's finally spring and little creekp undermine bastions ofice all over the country, one is unwittingly tempted to look at the sunny side of it all. Which is really what most of the independence drive is all about----change the mentality of the people, make them think positive! Somewhat along the same lines I shall attempt at an unjaundiced observation of how the hardships of this past winterproduced adownright favorable effert on our nation. A friend of mine would have argued here that the winter left but a few alternatives fora decent Armenian to survive: (a) become a reckless capitalist; (b) emigrate; (c) consciously turn into acriminal (asopposed to thosewho arebom into itanddo not notice the fact); (d) join some crazy

sect; (e) plunge into politics. He claims suicidedoes notcount hcause it rules out survival. Anyway, his point of view has lost most of its relevance sincehereverted to D halfway through the winter. For those who

of kin to go and seethem. Besides, mostofthe malepopulation turned into woodcutters, providing their households with some warmth at the expense of summer's oxygen, -Better eyesight. Straining to read, perform household chores or find the way in dim to nonexistent lighttrained theeyes as nothing else

could. Survival of the firrest. Darwin couldn't dream of such a vivid illustration of this principle. Many of the weakest infants and elders joined the majority. They froze or starved to death. Being eaten by packs of stray dogs was the privilege of several lonely old men who didn't make it home before dark. Those with feeble lungs had to go too; people usually do not notice dangerous concentrations ofcarbon monoxide

beforeitis too late. Themakeshiftwood stoves produceditamply and one doesn't ventilate rooms in below-zero temperatures. Cleaner streets and homes, improved urban planning. The same stoves and heaters caused fires, mostly in shantytowns-thus cutting thecostof pulling them down. For lackof mostcommodities, people picked plcKeo up from rrom the me streets suee[s stuff that used to clutter them in the "good old days"-metal scraps and all manner

ffi

of bric-I-brac, not to mention firewood. As a result, the streets have gotten much cleaner. There are also big, spontaneous garage sales or flea markets throughout, where people sell, among other things, items that used to belong in their attics or clos-

resisted the temptation several positive consequences are apparent. Clo s e r family ties. As the schools (along with colleges and universities) havebeen mercifully closed since late autumn, kids stayed home through-

ets.

out the winter. People huddled together day and night for the simple reason that the more individuals who breathe in the sameroom, the warmer it gets. For lack of power, zapping through TV channels was forgotten until better times and the number of fairy tales told was increased drastically. Add the different table games folks can play together and the impact on strengthening the family cannot be overestimated. Cheaper and tnore effective birth control. No pill or IUD could compare to the lack ofprivacy or around-zero temperatures under the sheets. Having (ornothaving) a showera month was prettydissuasive on itsown. People mostly went tobeddressed likeonions, andpeeling off a layer or two did not help much. Improved healtft. Several factors account for this. -Diet. Mostof the population has been on a moderate to heavy diet: no cholesterol, no fat, no proteins, no nothing. Two hundred and fifty grams of rationed inferior quality bread a day often was all some had to eat (highly recommended, greatly enhances the metabolism, thebody extracts everything it possibly can and there's almost no waste.) Whateverothers ate was sometimesconsumed uncooked, andthere's controversial evidence that this is good for the health. -No pollution. With fuel prices beyond reach, people didn't drive theircars. Industry was stalled, hencenoperilousexhausts. The airwas remarkably cleaner and less heart diseases were reported. -Exercise. The absence ofpublic transportation resulted in people walking medium to long distances, often with hurdles. Severed phone links increased the motivation of those with no news from their next 46

Sharper minds. Armenians got much better at maths, with more zeros to cope with as inflation continued to soar and more mental substracting was called for. Their individualism also gota mighty boost

after the shrinking of social programs, as everyone had to work out orherown ways of withstanding the imminentdangers; the Sovietinduced lethargy ofmany decades gradually oozed out. kss chanceforviolence.If, God forbid, along with the warming ofthe weatherpeople revert to witch hunting, looking for scapegoats, therewill benothing to hangtheculprits from, since all trees wouldbe gone by then. Besides, most ofthe hotheads are already serving in his

Karabakh, and they have taken the ammo along. And, finally, theexodusof theleastenduring and tough compatriots, who fled the aforementioned hardships and left behind a bigger percentage of committed and "patriotic" Armenians to face the challenges of this second spring of independence. No offense meant for the fourth wave of Diasporans-look what became of Australia, even though the first settlers were mostly convicts. All these combined bring about a shift in the national makeup that is hard to ignore and furtherraises ournotorious thresholdoftolerance. It could even be safely maintained that we, as an entity, have developed certain superhuman qualities. Which an Azeri journalist has recently confirmed in one of their weeklies: "If the Armenians survive this winter, they are not human!" Artashes Emin is a translatot and the General Secretary the Armenian P.E.N. Center.

ol

AIM, MARCH

1993


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The Gridlock - March 1993  

Armenian International Magazine | The Gridlock - March 1993

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