ALUMNI NEWSLETTER // WINTER 2013
Year in review Dear Alumni, As the year winds down, we’d like to share with you some of our 2013 achievements and the exciting changes that are coming up in 2014! First, we would like to thank you for your continuous efforts in spreading the word about Birthright Armenia everywhere and for staying in touch by sharing your successes, projects and initiatives. We have an amazing alumni base out there! 2013 was a year of expansion for Birthright Armenia. This summer we successfully launched the alumni Pathway to Armenia program, which has already housed six repat alums. We also expanded to Vanadzor, where we hosted our first group of nine volunteers. Late this fall we welcomed our first-ever Alumni Program Coordinator, Shoghik Chilingarian, who is currently based in Yerevan and actively communicating with all of you. With many exciting developments underway, we are now looking forward to the upcoming big change! Just in time for our 10th anniversary year, starting January 1st, Birthright Armenia will be recruiting for and implementing its own internship program. We’ll soon launch our new website in five different languages. We’ll be looking to expand our out of Yerevan placements to include Artsakh. Most importantly, as we turn our focus away from fundraising and towards recruitment, we are all well on our way of hitting that target of 200 Birthright Armenia volunteers in 2014, while maintaining the high quality of programming we’re known to have. We ask for your involvement as well. Please keep us aware of any events taking place in your community— places where we might be able to share our recruitment posters, brochures and postcards. Email us the name of the event and any contact information you have for it and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org to let Linda know. There are many seminars, conferences and social events taking place monthly around the globe and we’d like to increase our outreach to as many of them as possible. With our combined efforts we are confident we can achieve this goal! Wishing you a joyful Christmas season! Your Birthright Armenia Team
Countries Represented in 2013
BR/DH Participant Growth Target for 2014
Hearing it from within This year was particularly fruitful in terms of repatriation. We had 22 alumni moving to Armenia for work. Elza Ter-Arutyunov (AVC ‘12) is one of our recent repats. She moved to Armenia this August to work for USAID Enterprise Development and Market Competitiveness project. Below Elza shares her story.
What began as a 2-month planned volunteer experience developed into nine months, with a contract to stay and work for an additional year in Armenia, a place which took me by storm and awoke inexplicable emotions in me. The wonderful lessons, experiences and connections that Birthright Armenia offered stirred the question of whether I’d ever be able to leave and if so, when? The wonderful volunteer group I was fortunate enough to be a part of didn’t help the situation. I met so many wildly beautiful and diverse people from all over the world that I often question how it is that I knew to pick that perfect date to arrive in Armenia. When I finally left on May 29th, 2013, to go back home, I was somewhat numb. Numb but complete. I’d seen most of the country thanks to all of the excursions and accomplished a few personal goals during my stay here. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, very far away from Armenia, the closest I ever got to Armenian anything was through our small local Armenian community and stories my parents recounted of distant relatives and great-grandparents. In a nutshell, I was born in Baku and moved to Armenia with my family, barely escaping the waves of violence sweeping the city as part of the genocide acts taking place in the late ‘80s. We then moved to live with my grandparents in Russia for a bit before finally migrating to the U.S. With all of this moving around, there was one place which constantly replayed in my mind through the years. The incredibly vivid memories of my 3-year stay in the refugee dorms of Armenia sparked the promise that one day, I would make every attempt to return and see them once more. Memories of building snow castles, climbing mountains to pick tulips, mushroom picking with my dad, and making acorn necklaces with the neighboring refugee kids constantly resurfaced every time I thought of Armenia. After my arrival to Yerevan late last year, it was fate that reunited me and this incessant dream of mine to revisit my childhood. I was placed in a family who introduced me to a friend who knew where this magical place from my childhood was located. As simple as that, we drove through the connecting village and arrived at our destination, much faster than I ever remembered it to be when walking down that road to and from school many years ago. Both of the refugee dorms that I once resided in were standing there, still, and deteriorated, and I stood just as still, staring at the half destructed buildings and mountains which I once used to climb, and which now looked much, much smaller. Twenty years went by, and though the structures remained completely unchanged, the place was far from what it once had been, full of people, laughter and life. Upon accomplishing this important mission, another interesting and unplanned idea started to take shape. As I finally met my distant relatives here in Yerevan, I learned of many stories about my ancestors, including the fact that both sets of my great-grandparents were from Karabagh. This inspired me to begin a new search, this time for my great-grandparents’ house in the mountains of Southern Karabakh. With the help of a very good friend and many strangers along the way, I made my way down to the Hadrut region to meet my newly discovered 4th cousins. They took us on a very long and arduous journey to a little village called Sarenshen on top of the mountain to show me the remains of what once was the house my great-grandparents and grandparents lived in. Although very little remained of the structure, the ability to simply be able to share the experience and photos with my family made it all the more worthwhile. After such experiences, I definitely could not fathom leaving now, and under strict determination found a job which would allow me to live here for another year. Today I’m in my fourth month of working in Yerevan and contemplating what other adventures await and where my future will take me thereafter. 3
Alumni Successes Ani Jilozian (AVC ’07) recently completed a Fulbright fellowship in Armenia and has decided to stay and work on two exciting new projects. Building off of her research over the past year, Ani has created an educational program for women in seven villages in Armavir Marz. The yearlong program, which started this past September, consists of trainings, seminars and workshops aimed to educate women about their reproductive health and promote women’s empowerment. She is also working with the Women’s Resource Center on a project to evaluate the sex education curricula in schools across Armenia in order to provide recommendations to the schools, as well as the Ministry of Education, on ways in which to improve the curricula.
Rebecca Kandilian (AVC ‘10) is a fourth year student at the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. She has been honored with the 2013 Student Leadership in Health-System Practice Award by the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists (CSHP) and the Joseph H. Beckerman Memorial Scholarship. Rebecca was presented her awards during the CSHP’s annual meeting held on October 31-November 3 in Anaheim, CA. Here are just of few of Rebecca’s leadership accomplishments: • Served as CSHP-UCSD Student Chapter President • Spearheaded the development of student-provided tobacco cessation services at the UCSD Student-Run Free Clinics • Established an Organ Donation Awareness focus group • Served as Team Leader of the UCSD California Pharmacy Student Leadership Program (CAPSLEAD) • Served as Board of Trustee Representative for the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) Armen Bakirtzian (AVC ‘05) is the Co-Founder and CEO of Avenir Medicine in Montreal, Canada. Over the past year, Avenir Medical has matured and is about to enter the market with its first generation product. Avenir Medical is now a certified medical device company that has earned nearly $6M in financing. The company has established ties among several hospitals across North America that will use PelvAssist™ in the coming months to help improve their patients’ outcomes. Avenir’s team has grown to 15 and they continue to look ahead to the future. Click here to read more about Avenir Medical.
Diana Ovsepyan (AVC ‘09) is now a legal consultant at Scalable Network Technologies in the greater Los Angeles, CA area. Scalable develops high-performance communications simulation software used by governmental and military organizations, educational institutions, and commercial enterprises around the world. Mary Vardazarian (AVC ‘07) is now senior Business Development Manager at Chemonics International, located in Washington, D.C. From its founding in 1975, Chemonics has worked in more than 150 countries to help its clients, partners, and beneficiaries face difficult challenges, from political instability to limited healthcare to a lack of market infrastructure.
Armine Sargsyan (AVC ‘11) has made her greatest dream a reality by moving to Armenia and joining the Armenian Environmental Network (AEN) team, making her the third staff member who is a Birthright Alum. She is proud of AEN’s mission and works with regional teachers and university students to bring waste management education to classrooms in and around Vardenis. The project is called the Vardenis Environmental Education Initiative. Visit their website to learn more. Before moving to Armenia, Armine was a process-oriented artist mostly enabled by her natural surroundings. Her master’s thesis show, “Raw Happenings,” allowed Armine to realize just how delicate her feelings were as they hung on the walls of the gallery. She is now eager to see the shift that will occur in her work as she is in a new environment.
Edward Casabian (AVC ‘05) is working as the Senior Community Manager of Uber in New York City. Uber is an on demand transportation service that allows you to request a private driver through an iPhone / Android app and exists in 50+ countries around the world. They are HIRING all over the world, and hopefully Armenia one day! You can find a list at uber.com/jobs and reach out to Edward directly at email@example.com if you know anyone who’d be interested in working for Uber.
Norair Miller (AYF ‘04) was recently promoted as Manager / Marketing Champion for Citizens Bank. He is veryactive in the Armenian community with Armenian Youth Federation, Armenian General Benevolent Union, Homenetmen, and other church organizations/ activities. This past July 4th, Norair was on the planning committee for the Homenetmen Olympics that took place in Philadelphia.
Avo Kambourian (Bars Media ‘09) is moving up in the movie industry, and is now holding the title of Post Production Assistant at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, CA. He’s working on the feature film, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad. We look forward to seeing Avo’s name scrolling in the credits of these and many more feature films to come!
This past August, Serda Ozbenian (AVC ‘10) received her M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from George Mason University. She worked with AUA’s Acopian Center for the Environment to conduct her graduate research in Armenia in the summer of 2013. Her thesis is titled ‘Survey of attitudes toward, conflicts with and management of wolves and bears in rural villages in Armenia’ and it serves as the first such baseline survey in Armenia. Her thesis can be accessed here. Serda, living in the greater Washington, DC, area, is now the executive director of the Armenian Environmental Network (AEN), a non-profit organisation whole mission is to ensure Armenia’s sustainable environmental future.
Armen Martirosian (AVC ‘10) is involved with a project called “Western Armenian DNA Initiative (Republic of Armenia),” which collects DNA samples to study the genetic variability among Armenians throughout Historic Armenia. Already large projects have been conducted within Armenia, but because Western Armenians are an underrepresented group, a more targeted study of Western Armenians will allow a better representation of migration patterns throughout Historic Armenia. One avenue is to sample the Syrian Armenians who have recently arrived, but Armen decided to involve the Birthrighters who also have Western roots. On November 6, several Birthrighters gathered at the Irish Pub to support Armen’s project. The head of the DNA Initiative is Professor Levon Yepiskoposyan, who is an internationally renowned and well published author of Armenian genetic analysis. You can read more about the Western Armenian DNA Initiative (Republic of Armenia) here. Tatevik Khoja-Eynatyan (FAR ‘11) led the initial creation of Ayo!, a crowdfunding platform that raises funds for projects only in Armenia and proposed only by young energetic local Armenians. Ayo! is initiated by the help of FAR and our very own Tatevik was involved in developing the structure and personnel, the training, and the incubation of the platform. Currently, Tatevik is the Project Manager of Ayo and she expresses that all of this started with Birthright when she first began her volunteer internship with FAR in 2011. Learn more about Ayo!
Anush Mirbegian (AVC ‘09) is Founder and Creative Director at For Eyes Like Oceans, a journal that establishes a dialogue on travel and trend. The Travel Journal includes the collaborative effort of Contributing Editor and BR Alum, Marin Preske. Anush and Marin fatefully met in Gyumri and have both made New York their base. The journal is looking for content from other travelers to Armenia and beyond that are in line with the aesthetics and voice of the site. Contact Anush for submissions and read more about the journal. Anush is also starting her own business working with women artisans worldwide to create a fashion and lifestyle line that enforces ethical business practices safe working environments and social benefits. She’d like to connect with anyone with a background in international business, marketing or anyone interested in setting social programs and lifting artisans artistically and economically. She’s seeking leads on additional funding including applicable grants. This winter Anush will return to Morocco from New York to begin her project. 6
Community Service Activity
On November 20th, Paul Vartan Sookiasian (AVC ‘12) involved Birthright Armenia volunteers in a community service cleanup project to Yerevan’s Central Cemetery, better known as Tokhmakh or Yerevan Municipal Pantheon, where he shared stories about the famous people buried there including Aram Manukian, Yervand Kochar and Arno Babajanian. Vartan enjoys researching the stories of past residents of Armenia and documenting their achievements. With his help, our volunteers were able to uncover a bit of Yerevan’s past and learn about some of the cemetery’s more significant monuments. Since the Pantheon does not receive full care and attention year round, our volunteers cleaned up as much of the area to show their respect. Learn more about Tokhmakh Cemetery on the Facebook page created by Paul Vartan or watch the video, created by Adrineh Grigoryan with Paul Vartan’s assistance which ‘premiered’ this past Halloween.
On July 4, 2013 Natalie MaserejianTsaturyan (AVC ‘06) and Albert Tsaturyan welcomed their first child Mílan Garen Tsaturyan.
On November 9, 2013 Sylvain Muradian (AVC ‘11) and his wife Dora welcomed with great joy little Jade Gayane Muradian.
NOW AND THEN
After her first time ever visit to Armenia Alice Nini (AVC ‘10) found out ‘why we are strong and creative as a nation’. She also realized why she has ‘the ability of adjusting and the gift of being fearless’. In February 2011 Alice moved to UK for the second time in search of a job and after a series of obstacles she thought moving to UAE would be a better option. It turns out UAE is a challenging area and she is now planning her next move. Below Alice shares her thoughts about her experience in Armenia.
A World Citizen Made in Armenia Three years after my first visit to the motherland, I have found myself joining shuffled ethnicities immigrating in for a brighter future. The current epidemic trend of immigration is not a matter of choice; it’s a matter of protecting our dignity, vital to our human nature. Descendant of genocide survivors, the gene of quest and surviving has unquestionably been part of my DNA. I don’t have to run away from suppressive imperialists or fear for my life but I have been called to serve imperialists in a failing economy as an economic immigrant. What Armenia taught me three summers ago was that its soil held on to their identity throughout wars and barbaric invaders. So when my hopes froze hanging from grey skies, melted away in hot desserts or vanished in concrete cities, my core was there to remind me that I am here because someone in the past fought ferociously to stay alive and progress on foreign lands. Being away from home is tough. Not being able to be who you are in controlling societies is terrifying. There are times that a cultural mosaic looks beautifully harmonized and other times its pieces stand individually apart from each other without blending into absolute unity. Because assimilation is the biggest challenge for ourselves. Accepting the new chosen reality takes some time while for the natives, whoever they might be, accepting us might never happen. And while walking down the street I am ‘one of them’ and you ‘are one of those’, at work we are all part of a formless army, a mass of working units obeying masters and the terror of insecurity they instill driven by greed. Temperamental bosses with the expectation of ruling obedient workers and employees, social isolation and personal battles fought daily for overcoming barriers in a hostile global community and hopeless politics. These are some of the trials I have faced in my career as an immigrant along with a clockwork orange lifestyle destined to create a character-less tribe of people. I guess they don’t realize who ‘they’ deal with. I am proud to say I was born to rebel and never conform to a lifestyle defined by others. After long days at work, rejection, unfamiliar faces I can’t relate to or unable to confide in, I look back at Khor Virap. It is still intact, facing dangerously close to a closed border. It is a symbol of faith and values to all of us who oppose the new order of things by preserving the unique ingredients we are made of.
We are happy to see the growing number of participants from Russia. So far we have hosted 14 volunteers from Russia and hope to see this figure grow exponentially in the coming years. Below Victoria Davydova (AVC ’12) who recently moved to Armenia from St. Petersburg, analyzes her return home from the point of view of the possibility of achieving certain set goals.
Не рискуя – мы на самом деле рискуем во много раз сильнее Начиная свое небольшое повествование о возвращении на Родину таким словами, я прежде всего хочу обратиться к вам с двумя истинами: это очень трудно, но это того стоит. Практически каждый день я стараюсь анализировать пребывание в Армении с точки зрения возможности достижения определенных целей и даже в кои-то веки начала вести записи в блоге. И, надо сказать, я думаю не только о репатриации, большую часть моих мыслей занимает наблюдение за собой и своим поведением просто в условиях самостоятельной жизни. Впервые в жизни мне приходится снимать жилье и рассчитывать на себя во всём. Может, кто то скажет, что для 25 лет это даже поздно, а кому то и в 30 будет трудно покинуть родительский дом. Возраст не важен, важно лишь то, что возвращение на Родину это не просто красивая история для средств массовой информации и пропаганды патриотизма, это ежедневное преодоление всё новых и новых препятствий на извилистом и неизведанном тобой пути. И если бы не Birthright Armenia, если бы не сама философия этой организации и ее работники, которые стали для меня здесь второй семьей, я бы, наверное, никогда не смогла осуществить задуманное. Здесь ты понимаешь, насколько легче было любить Родину за ее пределами. Ведь там можно выбрать только всё самое лучшее: искусство, историю, выдающихся личностей, и отдать свои чувства на поклонение только им. В реальной же Армении, сталкиваясь с непонятным для себя поведением людей, приходится всё время напоминать, что ты не обязан любить всё и всех. Потому что ты нормальный житель нормальной страны, которая имеет свои плюсы и минусы, как и любая другая страна, в том числе и та, откуда ты приехал. Я специально использовала слово «непонятный» для описания разницы менталитетов, так как теперь я больше пытаюсь выведать причины тех или иных явлений, чтобы не относиться к ним отрицательно. Мне кажется, что это правильный путь, если ты хочешь вписаться в общество, а не быть его закулисным критиком. У меня есть Вера. Вера в то, что с каждым годом жители Армении всё реже и реже будут задавать вопрос, почему же ты оставил свою, по их мнению, прекрасную жизнь в другой стране, и приехал сюда. Это станет нормой, и люди всё меньше станут удивляться. Честно сказать, я даже мечтаю, что когда-нибудь наша Республика будет вынуждена ввести новый режим для приема возвращенцев, и закроет, наконец, Министерство Диаспоры за ненадобностью. Да, наивность – одна из классических черт армянского восприятия мира. Если я наивна в своих суждениях, тем лучше, тем больше я армянка. Хотя, не могу не отметить, что перед своим возвращением я проделала не малую работу по подготовке переезда, и ее нужно будет сделать всем. Поэтому, холодный рассудок – это то, что должно работать на нас и наши идеи, а не вопреки. Третьим и объединяющим предыдущие два компонента является огонь, который появляется, когда разум соединяется с верой, огонь, зарождающий новые начинания, разжигающий фантазию человеческой мысли и воплощающий их в жизнь, огонь, с помощью которого сгорит весь хлам и ветошь. Завершая, такие непонятные, но идущие от сердца мысли, я хочу поделиться с вами радостью того, что недавно на одной из улиц Еревана меня спросили, как пройти к какому-то зданию, а это значит, что я по-настоящему часть города, часть страны, не Армения - часть меня, а я теперь являюсь частью Родины. 9
Pathway to Armenia Look Who’s Here — This year Pathway to Armenia launched and until now six alums made the choice to jump into the space of unlimited possibilities. We asked alums who have already participated or are currently participating to share their experience: what are the challenges and benefits, what connections they made, and what advice they have for you.
Challenges faced while looking for a job in Armenia, and the benefits of the Pathway program: Emily Kaldjian (AVC ’11) who recently was hired to work for Armenia Tree Project and CivilNet, says that some of the challenges she faced in Armenia were that there are not yet many online job databases and also that most of the search she had to do was in person. Coming from a Western standpoint this made things extremely challenging. Secondly, she came in the summertime when many organizations are closed or not interested in hiring, particularly in August (vacation month in Armenia). Finally, the third was that she was not willing to do any job that she found - Emily came to Armenia with the goal of working in the environmental sector, and she wanted to do good work that would not only benefit Armenia’s environment but allow her to learn as well.” Emily says that she would not have been able to return to Armenia without the program, since she found it nearly impossible to find a job from the States. “I needed that three-month cushion to enable my job search.” One of Lena Tashjian’s (AVC ’11) main challenges as she lives in the Birthright Apartment and establishes her very own new business called Go Green Armenia (GGA), is establishing her business as full-time work that is sustainable. She says, “With a new business and very few co-workers, there is a LOT of work that is being done by very few people, so it can be overwhelming and extremely time consuming.” Lena says that Pathway allows her to be able to actually focus on making GGA her main project, without having to worry about having multiple side-jobs in order to be able to pay rent. She also finds that the beautiful, spacious house with great facilities makes it an ideal working environment, as well as a convenient location. Lena emphasizes that as a result of pathway she is saving up the money that she would have spent on paying rent towards applying for 10 year residency in order to be able to work long-term.
Achod Papasian (AVC ’11) who is currently participating in Pathway to Armenia and looking for a job says that the biggest challenges for him are “facing disappointment but still keep searching, having a lot of patience because it takes a long time for things to get done, and finally learning to constantly adapt to new situations.” Achod says that the program provides him a place to stay until he is settled and he also benefits from the follow-up meetings every week with Sevan.
The job searching process would not have been successful without the right connections: Emily says that it was due to the connections she made among the Diasporan bubble within Armenia’s society that she found both of her jobs. For instance her job at Armenia Tree Project materialized when she ran into ATP director and Birthright Alum Areg Maghakian -at a local café, and jokingly asked him if he knew of any available jobs. It turned out that the office had just been discussing their need for a native English speaker. And thanks to Birthright’s good re lationship with CivilNet as well as the help of Repat Armenia, she was able to meet with the director, Salpi Ghazarian, and pitch her own hire. Neither of these jobs were listed but by networking within the Diasporan community, Emily was able to turn her skills and background into two very valuable and interesting positions. At ATP, Emily does PR, where she gets to visit every single corner of Armenia to photograph and film everything from trees to children to wildlife. At her second job with CivilNet, Emily does environmental reporting (in English) to counterpart their already strong Armenian ‘Green News’ segment. Lena says that the Birthright team is always helpful to her, letting her know about editing jobs or teaching jobs that may interest her. She is doing some editing work on the side as a result now, and knows that she can always get some advice and help when she needs it. Furthermore, her roommates have also been full of information and they tend to have lots of advice and suggestions for each other.
To any of you who are thinking about making a long-term return to Armenia: Emily learned that “It’s vital to play up your skills as much as possible, even more so than in the States or elsewhere, because here you’re a bigger fish than you are at home. Do you have a passion for photography? Love learning languages? Put it all on your resume. Interesting classes you’ve taken, internships you’ve done - even the fact that I owned a camera was essential in my job search. Armenia is not an easy job market, but it’s one in which you can really create your own opportunities. As an environmentalist, I was dreading going directly from college into an American NGO to do paperwork and make people coffee for a few years until I got a promotion. In Armenia, I have hit the ground running, and I know that if and when I return to the States it will be with valuable experience that I would not have gained elsewhere.” Lena’s advice is that Pathway supports to make living and working in Armenia a real option. For many people who are thinking about long-term stays in Armenia, finding jobs from abroad can be difficult. When someone is serious about making the move, Pathway allows you to actually find meaningful work while living in Armenia. Achod shares that in Armenia “you are here and it’s easier to connect with job sites while you’re on the spot.” Also you get to hear new ideas from people you meet, and there is a good support system.
The Quiz The winner of the last quiz, and a $25 gift certificate is Vana Nazarian (AVC ‘10) whose correct answers were: 1. What percentage of Armenia’s energy production comes from nuclear power? (34%) 2. Who is depicted on the 100,000 Dram note? (Abgar V of Edessa) 3. In 1989, Armenfilm released a film called 13th Apostle. The movie was based on which Ray Bradbury novel? (The Martian Chronicles) Here are the questions for the next quiz: 1. The head of the statue of what Armenian goddess was found in Satala (western Armenia) and where is it located now? 2. Name the Armenia produced “Instagram” rival smartphone app which has over 80 million downloads? 3. Name two of the four US states that have recognized Karabakh? As always, e-mail all answers to firstname.lastname@example.org and the winner will earn a $25 gift certificate for www. amazon.com. 11
Interesting facts on Armenia In this issue we share with you an excerpt from the article ‘Blank Zones in Collective Memory or the Transformation of Yerevan`s Urban Space in the 60s’, written by art critic Ruben Arevshatyan.
“The beginning of 2010 in Yerevan was marked by an unprecedented activist movement which began right after the Armenian Government made certain changes in the List of Historical and Cultural Monuments of the City of Yerevan. The changes concerned the open air hall of the Moscow Cinema Theater, a bright example of the late modernist architecture of the 60s, which was taken out of the list with a subsequent commission that it should be destroyed and the church of St. Poghos-Petros (St. Paul and Peter) that had been destroyed during Stalin’s antireligious campaign in the 30s should be constructed in its place. The decision provoked an immediate and quite unexpected (in its scale) reaction. A Facebook group called “SAVE Cinema Moscow Open Air Hall” was formed and 6000 members joined the group in a short period of time. In addition, an activist initiative that organized various types of actions, public discussions, etc. was formed. One of the most effective actions was the signature campaign that was held for a week during which more than 26000 signatures were collected for preserving Moscow Cinema Theater open air hall. Different professional unions, NGOs and other public institutions also supported the initiative. The campaign started to gain wide public resonance, shifting the discourse to broader sociocultural and political levels, which was rather unexpected and unwanted for the government and for the church. After hot debates in the press, TV, radio and the internet, the church, as well as the government decided to pull back and suspend the implementation of their plans for a while. They announced that the question was being considered by different commissions, which could either mean real discussions or it can be the usual tactic employed to stagnate the problem by freezing public attention. The open air hall was constructed between 1964 and 1966 by architects Spartak Kndeghtsyan and Telman Gevorgyan. It has been one of the best examples of the revived functionalist approaches in post-Stalin Soviet Armenian architecture that were developing parallel to the intensive urbanization of the city of Yerevan. Architects masterly transformed a constricted backyard between two buildings into a rationally used space where the combination of concrete forms with developed superfluous spaces mixed with integrated natural elements created a distinguished ensemble in the very heart of Yerevan.