No announcement yet.

Armenianow.Com - May 05, 2005

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Armenianow.Com - May 05, 2005

    ARMENIANOW.COM May 05, 2005
    Administration Address: 26 Parpetsi St., No 9
    Phone: +(374 1) 532422
    Email: [email protected]
    Technical Assistance: (For technical assistance please contact to Babken Juharyan)
    Email: [email protected]

    ICQ#: 97152052


    By Suren Deheryan, ArmeniaNow Reporter

    Shikahogh, one of the few nature preserves in Armenia, is facing the
    threat of being destroyed to make way for an interstate highway that
    would improve transportation between Armenia and Iran.

    An approximately 17-kilometer section of the new road would run through
    the Mtnadzor territory of the protected area. Then entire highway
    is to pass a 90-kilometer route from Armenia's southern-most tip,
    Meghri, to Kapan in the central southern part of the country.

    While transportation and communication officials hail the highway
    for enhancing the republic's import/export profile with its crucial
    neighbor to the south, environmentalists say the project will have
    tragic consequences on nature.

    Shikahogh is one of three preserves in Armenia, and has been the most
    protected, owing mostly to nature's own protection, as it is centered
    in a dense, mountainous area.

    On Tuesday (May 3), more than 20 Non Governmental Organizations (NGO)
    attended a forum at the Armenian Office of the Regional Ecological
    Center, to try and find a prompt alternative to the proposed
    pathway. The forum resulted in an open letter addressed to President
    Robert Kocharyan, the Speaker of Parliament, the Prime Minister and
    Prosecutor General, advising the officials that the proposed highway
    would violate Armenia's law "On Specially Protected Nature Areas".

    "Shikahogh is the only place where the forest remains intact. It is
    home to unique species considered to be the wealth of not only Armenia
    but the whole world as well," says World Wildlife Federation Caucasus
    Program Office National Director Karen Manvelyan.

    "If the highway is constructed the preserve will be split in two
    and besides the fact that large trucks will be passing through it
    polluting and disturbing the course of regular life in the reserve,
    but will also become a reachable place for poachers and loggers."

    As many as 1,074 types of plants are registered in Shikahogh, which was
    established in 1958. About 70 percent of these plants are registered in
    the Red Book, considered the authoritative resource of flora and fauna.

    The preserve is also home to endemic reptiles, to goats and
    the Armenian muflon (ram). And, significantly, on March 14,
    environmentalists photographed a leopard, found there for the first
    time in many years.

    It is estimated that about 14,000 mature trees stand in the highway's
    path and some 90,000 young ones. The mature (oak) trees have an
    estimated value of nearly $1 million.

    Nature activists are also concerned that blasting and other
    construction operations would damage or destroy fauna that, for nearly
    40 years has been untouchable.

    Critics of the highway complain that the State's $21 million
    allocation of funds for the two-year project is a waste, since
    the Kapan-Kajaran-Meghri highway already serves traffic to the
    region. But sections of that road become impassable during winter,
    severely hampering trade and transport. Sections of the new highway
    would bypass the mountainous sections that get cut off by snow and ice.

    Those who agree that the highway is necessary are proposing
    alternatives, including suggesting that a tunnel be dug to replace
    the current portion of highway that is blocked in winter.

    Others want to see the new road connected to an already existing one
    that does not invade the preserve.

    According to the project of the Ministry of Transport, the new
    10-meter-wide road will ensure smoother and safer traffic for vehicles
    and passengers and will make it possible to save up to half an hour
    while passing through this section as compared to the previous one.

    "If in the past the average speed of vehicles in the previous road
    section was 34 km/h, then on the new road it will be 55 km/h," says
    Ministry of Transport and Communications spokeswoman Tamara Galechyan.

    Galechyan says the current Kapan-Meghri road is out-dated for modern
    transport. The new road would "fully meet the requirements for an

    Despite the concern of environmentalists, the Ministry of Transport
    has already held a tender to hire contractors for the road construction
    project and the companies that will build four out of the five sectors
    of the road are already known.

    "The project is estimated and prepared by road construction
    specialists, which appear to have been found to be the most
    expedient. The construction of a tunnel was a rather costly project,
    and it was found to be more advisable to build a second road instead
    of a tunnel," says Galechyan.

    The Shikahogh-Tsav road section is to be built by "Kapavor" Ltd.,
    with an estimated 1 billion, 650 million drams (about $3.75 million)
    to be spent on that section. Environmental activists say machinery
    is already on standby to begin clearing a building path.

    The Environmental State Expert Examination Department of the Ministry
    of Nature Protection has not yet approved the project, whose package
    was submitted by the Ministry of Transport on April 7. According
    to the department's director Ashot Santrosyan, under the law, the
    construction of the road will be considered illegal without the
    Ministry's approval and land allocation.

    According to Social-Ecological Association Chairwoman Srbuhi
    Harutyunyan, trees in Mtnadzor were not logged only because they were
    beyond reach, but in this case the Mtnadzor forests are facing the
    threat of logging.

    "Countries lacking in natural raw materials are eyeing our natural
    raw materials, and this is the only preserved unique forest, which
    is very dense and very useful and one can prepare various things
    from the raw material available here," says Artemis Lepejyan, the
    Chairwoman of the Saint Sandukht Women's Union. "The whole policy
    consists in the fact that they are ready to spend millions on this
    road, because they will make billions on it."


    By Aris Ghazinyan, ArmeniaNow Reporter

    One of the most provocative regional news items of the year was the
    letter Armenian President Robert Kocharyan received from Turkish
    Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan, during the week before April 24,
    the most somber occasion on the Armenian calendar.

    In it, the Turkish leader set out his vision of prospects for improved
    relations between the two bitterly divided countries.

    It has been more than a decade since such discussion has been
    considered between the neighbors' leaders.

    Relatively intensive contacts between Ankara and Yerevan were
    maintained in the early 1990s when talks between Armenia's first
    President Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Turkish Prime Minister Suleiman
    Demirel took place. During one such meeting held in Rio de Janeiro,
    Brazil, in the spring of 1992 the Turkish premier said: "I am talking
    to you as a neighbor to a neighbor. You will not achieve anything
    with a war against Azerbaijan. At long last, after a thousand years,
    you have an opportunity to build your own statehood. But don't build
    it on blood and hatred. Withdraw your troops from the territory of
    Azerbaijan, leave Karabakh alone, and we will start working together."

    One of the latest contacts of the leaders of Armenia and Turkey
    took place on April 21, 1993, in Istanbul, where Ter- Petrosyan
    participated in the funeral of the Turkish Republic's President Turgut
    Ozal. Official contacts between the top officials of Armenia and
    Turkey ceased in May-June 1993 when the NKR Defense Army gained full
    advantage on the frontlines. A couple of meetings on the sidelines of
    international political forums bore an exceptionally formal character
    and had no essential practical point whatsoever.

    And here, on the threshold of the 90th anniversary of the Armenian
    Genocide, the Turkish prime minister personally turned to the
    president of Armenia. In his letter Erdogan highlighted the need
    of "withdrawing Armenian troops from the territory of Azerbaijan",
    Yerevan's official rejection of "territorial claims to Turkey" and the
    policy of achieving the international recognition of the Genocide. At
    the same time, he suggested to the Armenian head of state to set up
    a joint Armenian-Turkish commission of historians to look into the
    circumstances of wholesale massacres and deportations of the Armenian
    population in the Ottoman Empire.

    "On the threshold of its possible membership in the European Union,
    Republican Turkey ought to pay a closer and more serious attention
    to the Armenian vector of its foreign policy today," says political
    analyst Vigen Hakobyan in this regard. "Now the parliaments of a number
    of countries are recognizing and condemning the Genocide of Armenians
    one after another and Ankara simply cannot ignore this fact. The
    Belgian parliament may go further than others in this respect,
    spreading the provision of criminal responsibility for the negation of
    the Armenian Genocide on the whole EU zone. Thus, Turkey has to show
    certain signs of attention towards Armenians. It is in this context
    that Recep Erdogan's letter to the president of Armenia is viewed."

    It is also remarkable that immediately after the initiative shown
    by the Turkish premier the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council
    of Europe (PACE) urged the president of Armenia to give a positive
    response to Erdogan's letter in regards with the establishment
    of a joint Armenian-Turkish commission on studying the genocide
    issue. Ninety-seven deputies of the PACE had put their signatures
    to this document - including 10 Turks, 10 Russians, eight Azeris and
    four Georgians.

    On the threshold of Monday's (May 3) visit to Turkey German Chancellor
    Gerhardt Schroeder also highly appraised the Turkish premier's

    "The proposal of the Turkish prime minister is positive and one should
    take it this way," said the chancellor in his interview to the Turkish
    NTV channel, pointing out, however, the need and importance of "the
    nation's critically looking back to its past."

    CE Secretary General Terry Davis called Erdogan's proposal "a gesture
    of a good tone". He said that 19 members of the PACE had urged the
    Armenian president to accept the proposal of the Turkish premier on
    the establishment of a joint commission.

    "I am not familiar with the text of the appeal, however I think
    that the formation of a commission on studying the facts of history
    is a good idea," said Davis. "If such a commission is established,
    historians may come to a certain agreement over the events of the
    beginning of last century. I regret the deaths of numerous Armenians in
    the early 20th century, but one needs to understand what circumstances
    caused those events. The readiness to discuss and study the facts of
    history is a 'good tone' gesture on the part of Turkey."

    The reply of the Armenian president to the Turkish prime minister
    came shortly:

    "Dear Mr. Prime Minister, I have received your letter. As neighbors we
    indeed have to look for ways for peaceful coexistence now and in the
    future. For that very reason we have suggested establishing diplomatic
    relations, opening the border and starting a dialogue between our
    states and peoples. There are neighboring countries in the world,
    particularly in Europe, with a tough past that brings out discords. But
    it is no obstacle for them to have open borders, normal relations,
    diplomatic ties and simultaneously discuss arguable issues. Your
    proposal of studying the past cannot be productive if it has no tracks
    to the present and future. For a productive dialogue we need to form
    a beneficial and adequate political environment. Governments are
    responsible for the development of bilateral relations and we have no
    right to authorize historians. Thus, we again suggest establishing
    normal relations between our two states without preconditions. It
    is in this context that an intergovernmental commission can be set
    up to discuss any issue existing between our countries or all issues
    for the purpose of resolving them and achieving mutual understanding."

    Despite the fact that Armenia's head of state practically turned down
    the proposal on setting up a joint commission of historians, official
    Ankara positively evaluated the contents of the reply. Turkish Foreign
    Ministry spokesman Namiq Tan, in particular, stated that "there are
    positive moments in the letter of the president of Armenia which will
    be taken into account." Among such moments he also mentioned the fact
    of the absence of the word "genocide" in the letter.

    "Robert Kocharyan also gave preference to the expressions 'some
    problems' and 'all issues' existing between our states," said Namiq
    Tan. "Robert Kocharyan's proposal on establishing relations 'without
    preconditions' is also positive."

    Meanwhile, as Radio Liberty reported quoting the Turkish "Zaman"
    newspaper, the Turkish prime minister is already preparing a second
    appeal to the Armenian leader, and is likely to refer to it in mid-May
    during one of the international political forums. In particular,
    Kocharyan and Erdogan may meet in Moscow on May 9 where they will be
    attending the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the victory in
    World War II. However, most political analysts are inclined to think
    that the meeting is likely to be held not in Moscow, but in Warsaw
    where the CE summit will be held on May 15-16.


    By Vahan Ishkhanyan, ArmeniaNow Reporter

    The director of a company involved in a controversial demolition of
    homes on Yerevan's Buzand and Amiryan streets was killed last Saturday
    morning when a building at the work site collapsed on top of him.

    Stepan Harutyunyan, director of Griar corporation was killed in an
    accident that also injured a work superintendent on at the scene.

    The demolition site - one of a few urban renewal projects in the center
    of the capital - has become a flashpoint of dispute between residents
    who say they are being forced from their homes without adequate
    compensation, and developers, some of whom hold government positions.

    During the work that took Harutyunyan's life (though on a different
    site), three families were still living inside a building at 25 Buzand
    Street while his crew was ordered to pull down the roof.

    Police were called to the site by residents, but did not stop the

    Among those holding out (see "Need" or Greed?) while their homes fall
    around them is the family of Sedrak Baghdasaryan, who has refused
    an offering price of $23,000 (plus a bonus of $14,000 if he accepted
    the offer on the spot) for his home.

    Developers, who see the old and unsightly buildings as an eyesore,
    accuse residents such as Baghdasaryan of trying to extort developers
    with selling prices far beyond reasonable value. Residents argue,
    however, that they cannot buy comparable homes in the same neighborhood
    for the prices they are being offered.

    Plus, residents are given only five days to consider offers, after
    which they would lose their signing "bonus".

    A court is currently considering claims, but even while the litigation
    is pending, the very homes in question are being destroyed.

    Residents have appealed to the Republic of Armenia Ombudswoman and
    even to President Robert Kocharyan.

    Ruben Martirosyan, legal advisor to Ombudswoman Larisa Alaverdyan,
    says the court has turned a blind eye to violations of the residents'

    While residents such as Baghdasaryan and his two neighbors hold out,
    their homes have become a peninsula on a demolition site where sewage
    and water pipes have already been disconnected.

    On April 11, Baghdasaryan's 14-year old son, Tigran, fell into a
    construction pit and broke his leg, while trying to gather water from
    one of the utility pipes.

    The Deputy Ombudsman has sent a letter to Yerevan's mayor in which
    he described the situation and asked for clarification to be given
    to him within five days. Twenty days have passed since and the mayor
    has not yet answered the letter.

    The same situation is in the section intersecting with nearby Amiryan
    Street, where the territory is being developed by former Member of
    Parliament Melik Gasparyan.

    Lianna Zazyan is still in her room, but the house is being
    demolished. She had packed up, but doesn't know where to go. Lianna
    lives here with her two children - two- and six-years-olds. She is
    divorced. Gasparyan will give Lianna $10,500 for her house and has
    demanded that they should vacate the house. Her relatives came from
    Gavar and began to search for a home, but they cannot find a home at
    that price, saying even the cheapest apartment on the outskirts of
    the city is $13,000.

    "I wish we had at least another $2,000. Now when my children return
    from the kindergarten I have no place to live. Shall I give my
    children to the orphanage and live in the street myself?" says Lianna,
    whose home is surrounded by sewage water and rats.

    She says the family of three sleeps with the door open at night,
    in case they need to rush out if a wall collapses.


    By Arpi Harutyunyan, ArmeniaNow Reporter

    Beginning June 1 radio and television stations in Armenia will be
    prohibited from broadcasting liquor commercials, except for cognac,
    Armenia's national spirit.

    "Strong drink" - defined as having more than 20 percent alcohol -
    will no longer have a local broadcast advertising market on radio
    or television.

    The decision was reached by the National Commission for Television
    and Radio. Commission chairman Grigor Amalyan says there will be
    "severe sanctions" for any company violating the ban.

    Although Armenia's Law on Advertisement was adopted in 1996, there
    has never been any regulation for airwaves commercials. (The NCTR
    was formed in 2001.)

    According to Article 15 of the Law on Advertisement, advertising of
    alcoholic drinks and tobacco is prohibited if targeted at juveniles,
    is shown between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., describes the procedure of its use,
    etc. The new law bans TV and radio advertising unconditionally.

    Violation of the law is punishable by up to about 500,000 drams
    (about $1,150).

    In 2003-2004 three TV and two radio companies were brought to
    provisional administrative responsibility for advertising tobacco
    and strong alcoholic drinks.

    Despite such limitations, Armenian TV and radio companies have
    routinely violated the law. Even Public TV has shown an ad for vodka
    depicting a successful sportsman using the drink.

    "I have never denied the problem exists, yes, drinks and tobacco
    are advertised. But I think here is the solution for the problem:
    the legislative should by all means fix rules for all those economic
    entities, including image advertisement companies, producing tobacco
    or spirits. I also support the strict and clear definition of any
    such advertisement," says Amalyan.

    Hidden advertisement is also widely used in Armenia. For example a
    certain vodka is indirectly advertised when the ad talks about prizes
    found under the bottle cap. Or a company is advertised for its other
    products, when it is known across the republic first of all for its
    vodka production.

    To a question whether the indirect advertising of such a company does
    not advertise also strong drinks although in a hidden way the head
    of the program monitoring and supervision department at NCTR Hayk
    Avetisyan replied the following:

    "We have discussed such dubious questions and decided that the
    advertisement of such companies should exclude showing bottles, caps,
    labels, vodka glasses, toasts and other subjects or pictures reminding
    of strong alcoholic drinks."

    NCTR members believe the Law on Advertisement has many shortcomings,
    including the lack of provisions for hidden advertisement.

    According to the former member of NCTR, head of the Department for
    Television and Radio at the School of Journalism at the Yerevan State
    University Mushegh Hovsepyan the decision is aimed first of all at
    preventing hidden advertisement.

    "Here in Armenia the symbol and the trademark are not differentiated. A
    hidden advertisement is done under the symbol. This is an advertising
    trick that must be prevented," he says.

    The NCTR supervises the private television and radio companies across
    the republic. There are 48 private TV companies and 17 radio companies
    in Armenia. The NCTR does not supervise the Public TV, Public Radio
    and the TV and Radio companies broadcasting based on international
    agreements - "ORT", "Rossiya", "Kultura".

    "In general the advertisement field should be supervised by the body
    entitled by the government in a proper order. Today there is no
    such body. Only our commission does the supervision, and conducts
    monitoring," explains Avetysyan.

    The NCTR monitoring procedure is as follows: a schedule is made,
    according to which TV and radio programs are recorded. Simultaneously
    the same TV and Radio companies submit their portfolio of programs
    to the NCTR.

    Then the NCTR members do a comparative analysis and decide whether
    violations have occurred.

    There are three levels of penalties: Warning, penalty, suspension
    of license or deprivation of license. So far, no licenses have been
    revoked due to violations.

    "Of course, the media representatives brought no counterarguments
    against our decision, but I think their observance of the Law will
    be manifested after June 1, when the supervision on them becomes much
    more severe," says Avetysyan.


    By Marianna Grigoryan, ArmeniaNow Reporter

    The collective "State System of Armenia" has been named "Foe of the
    Press" by the National Press Club (NPC) of Armenia.

    For the fourth year, the NPC has handed out the title as part of its
    "Friend of the Press" and "Foe of the Press" awards.

    The symbolic title is intended, says NPC president Narine Lazarian
    "to encourage the friends and to identify the foes of the press as
    well as to point out the shortcomings of the field."

    The "Friend of the Press" shortcomings are easily found. Simply, in
    four years, no one has been named "Friend of the Press". Lazarian
    calls that circumstance "a result of our hard times".

    For "Foe of the Press", however, NPC members had a wide open
    field. (President Robert Kocharyan is a two-time winner, and shared
    the dubious title last year with Parliament Member Hranoush Hakobyan.)

    This year's nominees included Presidential Advisor Armen Gevorgyan,
    who has been criticized for harassing reporters who wrote critical
    information about his Chief.

    Surik Khachatryan, head of the regional administration of Syunik was
    also a candidate, so "honored" for his crackdown on free press in
    his marz.

    Parliament Member and business heavyweight Gagik "Dodi Gago"
    Tsarukyan was nominated for having his men rough up photojournalist
    Mkhitar Khachartryan while he was photographing a property Tsarukyan
    is developing.

    And the final nominee was the entire coalition that represents the
    Government in the National Assembly.

    This year's "winner", Lazarian announced on Tuesday, was chosen
    because the State System "on the one hand declares its commitment to
    democracy to the world, and on the other hand in fact violates one
    of the cornerstone institutions of a democratic state - the right of
    expression - and hinders the formation and development of free press."

    The NPC has issued a statement saying that the past year has been no
    better than previous ones in improving relations between government
    authorities and media, in terms of advancing a free press.

    According to the statement, directed attacks are launched against
    any media that is not under the control of certain oligarchs, who
    sometimes use physical violence as a means of intimidation.

    The NPC also charges that economic pressures are exerted by authorities
    who order potential advertisers to stay away from media that does
    not favorably represent the authorities.

    Further, the press organization statement is generally critical of
    several government agencies that limit access to information. It
    specifically cites judicial and law enforcement bodies, which allow
    illegal actions against media.

    It is for all these reasons, Lazarian announced on Tuesday, that
    this year's "Foe" has been institutionalized.


    By John Hughes Editor

    On a floor near Yerevan's acclaimed Physics Institute, I am sprawled
    on a carpet making vacuuming noises trying to redeem myself to one
    year old.

    It is a damning indictment to be hated by children too young to even
    say my name. Usually a person has to have at least the ability to
    read before coming to despise me. And so there is some comfort in
    the indication of early development for the twins Arpi and Hrant,
    my Armenian godchildren; they who have rejected me outright.

    I find myself in this floor, shameless of the fact that nearby
    properly seated on a couch is a widely-acclaimed nuclear physicist
    (the grandfather) who has split atoms and lectured world wide on his
    research in places where it is not the sound of imitation suction
    but of a nuclear accelerator that is the noise of brainy lives.

    Truly, this must be one of the unexpected offenses of "a country
    in transition" that this man of Soviet science witnesses his son's
    American kavor (godfather/bestman/younameit) prostrate making blowing
    noises in an effort to win the favor of the atom crusher's lineage.

    I have moved half way around the world, to find my middle age defined
    by the sound of Hoovering and the expectant and pleading gaze into
    tiny black eyes, hopeful of a 14-month-old's approval.

    (Conversation in any of five Pulitzer Prize-winning newsrooms from
    which my career led to this moment . . .

    "Hey, remember that weird guy that used to work here - what was his
    name, Hodges? What ever became of that guy?"

    "Oh, yeah, uh, Hudson. I heard he moved to Romania and became an
    impersonator of house cleaning appliances . . . Pity.")

    Z*****ooosh! Whrrrrrrrrrr! Var*****om! I suck and blow the sounds in
    the direction of the child who, if he responds at all, registers
    something between abject terror and whatever amount of disgust is
    capable from a critic still teething.

    His sister has even less to do with this alien for whom it was their
    misfortune that he should drop into their world on the pretext of
    Armenian tradition being violated to include an "odar". Arpi simply
    twists her tiny face into a reddened rag of vein-popping tear-splashing
    hysteria and opens her little mouth so wide it practically swallows her
    head, in shrill and convincing rejection of her overseer, appointed,
    she will regrettably come to learn, for life.

    Their mother tries to play peacemaker, holding either while stroking
    the alien's shoulder, the way one might pat a kitten being vetted to
    the master dog of the house. Kavor detente fails as miserably as my
    attempts to win the boy's favor by morphing into the home appliance
    he has turned into his favorite toy. I am disgraced in front of
    all, including the professor, a man who, not so many years ago, was
    engaged in weapon making that, employed, would have circumvented this
    unfortunate collision.

    (Once, when I took a trip back to the States, the grandfather asked
    if I could bring back a certain package from an associate of his in
    Texas. I agreed. Then upon making State-side inquiries learned that the
    item in question had a radioactive quotient of, well, a lot, and would
    not be a suitable souvenir for the carry on luggage of a flight to
    a country bordering Mr. Bush's Axis of Evil. But that's another story.)

    Armenia may be a man's world, but it is a child's universe. Having
    done nothing but come into this place -- with probably less difficulty
    than my own annual process of Residency Card application - they own it.

    In some circles there is concern that the birth rate isn't high enough
    to match the hopes of nationalists. I'm no statistician, but I can
    assure you that this spring's litter is a full one. With the sun,
    has come a convoy of infant carriages that turn public park pathways
    into something like a testing track for an assortment of simple to
    extravagant baby buggies.

    It is a joy to see. Unless the carriage holds a little one announcing
    his emphatic disapproval of the driver, yourownself, the kavor
    of shame.

    The only better position to have than being a baby in Armenia, is to
    be pregnant. Expectation always trumps reality in this regard. But
    once Baby Armenian makes the scene, Mother Armenian becomes just
    another fixture of its service.

    A friend of mine recently delivered. Then, after nine months of careful
    attention, of special treatment, of attending to needs, of, in short,
    being idolized, she became invisible.

    Which is not a condition I'm able to manage on this rug that absorbs
    the tears of an Armenian infant, but holds the disgrace of his American
    kavor like a billboard to foolish failure.

    I don't think this is just a language problem. But, just
    in case, what are the Armenian words for: Z*****ooosh!
    Whrrrrrrrrrr! Var*****om! ? Maybe I'm overlooking something . . .


    By Mariam Badalyan, ArmeniaNow Reporter

    Editor's note: Through the remainder of this commemorative year,
    ArmeniaNow will present regular profiles of Armenians who survived
    the 1915-18 Genocide. The stories become familiar, but each is told
    by an individual -- a fact that should never be forgotten as fewer
    remain whose eyes hold history.

    Sirak Matosyan lives in the world of old photographs and memories,
    which virtually take him back to the Musa Ler of his childhood, which
    the 99-year-old man saw flourishing for the last time at the age of
    9. In the fall of 1915, he left the famed mountain village with his
    family and other Musalertsis in a French rescue ship.

    Sirak is one of the few living Musalertsis in whose eyes the story
    that became myth and legend was first a true tale of survival.

    Against impossible odds the Musa Ler Armenians held off Turkish troops
    in a series of battles that secured their survival until ships off
    the Mediterranean Sea coast took them to safety in Egypt.

    Sirak's eyes, as blue as the waters that became his rescue, catch fire
    recalling those battles that were a lesson that the nine-year old took
    into life: Surviving with dignity is more important than mere survival.

    "We were children at those times," Sirak says. "The older people
    decided not to surrender: 'We will fight, defend ourselves till the
    last bullet. We will take the women and children to the sea to drown
    them there. Better they be drowned, than be shot by the enemy'."

    While telling about the heroic battle, he avoids recalling the
    sufferings of his fellow-villagers, as he considers it uncharacteristic
    of a Musalerstsi to cry and he tells only about their heroisms.

    He remembers that when the French rescue ships came the Armenian
    fighters did not want to leave the front line.

    "Now the fighters say: 'We won't leave'," the old man recalls with
    excitement. "'We will kill them and be killed.' The children and
    older people started to cry... it is good they took us all to Egypt."

    In three years the First World War was over, Turkey was defeated, and
    the Musalerstis got an opportunity to go back to their villages. Many
    came back and found their once thriving villages in ashes and
    ruins. Still, they stayed another 20 years.

    "Twenty years we stayed there until 1939," the old man tells with a
    trembling voice, "Eh, Armenian fate... in 1939 that land was severed
    and handed over to Turkey. We were 35 thousand Armenians living
    there. What remained? Some 5-6 hundred... we all got out of there..."

    Sirak remembers the referendum of the days, when the fate of Musa Ler
    was to be decided: would it belong to Syria or Turkey? Sirak tried
    to vote several times, by changing his clothes after each vote.

    "When I changed my clothes for the third time and entered," Sirak
    tells," a Turk called me: 'Sirak, come here', he told me: 'Sirak,
    why are you coming and going with your clothes changed? Everything
    has already been decided'."

    The Matosyans came to the seashore of Syria and from there to
    Lebanon. The French helped them to settle homes. His parents, brother
    and sister died there. In 1946, when the doors of Soviet Armenia
    opened, the 40-year-old Sirak, taking his wife and daughter with
    him, left Lebanese land, which had now become dearer to him with the
    graves of his loved ones, and came to the "free country of Armenia"
    on the first caravan.

    "It was me who came first and opened the doors of immigration,"
    jokes Sirak. "When we came we were provided with land and money to
    build a house." In general, Sirak considers himself a happy man. And
    when he talks about Musa Ler, he speaks in present tense still.

    "We - Musalertsis have a tradition: when the child turns 6, his
    father puts the gun in his hands. Place the bullet here. Take out
    the bullet. Shoot like this."

    His room is decorated with two photos of fidayis (Armenian
    warriors). In one of them is his father during the Musa Ler battle. The
    other one is himself. It was shot about 30 years ago, when he took
    part in a performance about Musa Ler battle playing the part of a
    fighting Musalertsi.

    "When the Musa Ler performance happened 20 Musalertsis came," Sirak
    tells. "One stayed a day, the other a couple of hours and it lasted
    14 days. I was the only Musalertsi for those 14 days."

    For his part, Sirak was paid 400 rubles. He spent it all on ice cream
    for the other actors and guests.

    The theater director noticed.

    "He told me: 'What are you doing, Sirak jan?'," remembers Sirak. "
    I replied: 'I did not get the money to put it in my pocket. I did
    this for my Musa ler'."

    In this way he proudly carried out the honorable title of being a
    Musalertsi and kept his heroic fathers reputation high. Musa Ler
    is alive for him as long as there are deserved children who keep the
    reputation of their fathers and forefathers high, and as long as people
    learn and speak about the heroic battle of Musa Ler. Sirak was among
    Musalertsis who successfully petitioned the Government of Armenia to
    name one of its settlements (near Zvartnots Airport) Musaler.

    "We wrote an appeal asking to give us a place with the name of
    Musaler, like there was Butania, Sasoon,...," Sirak says. "They
    gave us a Turkish village in a remote place. We said: 'No, let it
    be a street in the city or a village close to Yerevan. Finally he
    (the official) agreed."

    On the road from Yerevan to Echmiadzin is a monument in honor of the
    Musa Ler battles. It is Sirak's pride.

    "All the tourists who come to Armenia will head for Echmiadzin,"
    says Sirak, "On their way they will see the monument and ask: 'What
    is this?' And he will learn everything there...

    "The monument is standing like we are - the Musalertsis".


    By Marianna Grigoryan, ArmeniaNow Reporter

    For every tear of sorrow plant a seed of Life.

    For every fallen son and brother grow a tree that stands for Truth.

    For stolen daughters torched to dust, give us Beauty for their ashes.

    For every widow's wail of mourning, play the dawn's sweet symphony.

    For every fallen victim, grow a tree of Hope...

    The profound emotional words are accompanied by a gentle music
    underscoring an original way of keeping the memories of the 1915
    Genocide victims alive.

    Armenian Tree Project (ATP) "Trees of Hope" is one of the largest
    projects of this year of commemoration.

    "The project has invited Armenians from all over the world to take
    part in the process of 'Trees of Hope' planting across Armenia as a
    confirmation of the memories of the past and hope for the future,"
    says the executive director of the ATP Jeffrey Masarjyan.

    Masarjyan says the trees of memory will not only express the respect
    Armenians have towards their ancestors, but will also help preserve
    the Fatherland by rehabilitating the environment and its beauty.

    This year the tree planting has started with 90,000 trees symbolizing
    the 90 years of the first genocide of the new history of an old

    "Our aim is to grow tens of thousands of Trees of Hope before the 100th
    anniversary," adds the executive director. "In the blooming Armenian
    highlands of 2015 they will be evidence of the eternity of the Armenian
    spirit and its harmony with life and the beauty of nature and hope."

    The fruit trees - apple, peach, apricot, mulberry and decorative
    evergreens will open their branches as a silent embrace for victims
    of terror.

    Sponsored by local and Diaspora Armenians, the project will plant 53
    different varieties across the republic this year.

    To publicize the unique meaning and the idea of the tree planting
    the ATP has launched a large-scale propaganda. It includes printed
    materials, direct correspondence, satellite television broadcasting,
    local radio, as well as information on a website.

    Partners to the program are solicited at $15 for Diaspora and 1,000
    drams (about $2.25) for locals. This sum, according to the organizers,
    is enough to cover planting and maintenance expenses for a single tree.

    Those wishing to buy trees in bulk, are offered discounts.

    You can also opt to receive a personalized Trees of Hope certificate.

    Single Tree $15.00

    4-Tree Cluster $60.00

    8-tree Grove $120.00

    35-Tree Arbor $525.00

    100-Tree Woodland $1500.00

    335-Tree Forest $5000.00

    For more details visit

    "The 'Trees of Hope' will give each Armenian an opportunity to have
    his own investment in keeping the eternal memory that is also the
    guarantee for the future of Armenia," says Nancy Krikoryan, member
    of the board of trustees of ATP. "The Armenian self-consciousness
    is traditionally based on the locale. Village, town or community -
    these trees will give deep roots in the Armenian land. We present
    this to our ancestors and the future generations."


    By Suren Deheryan, ArmeniaNow Reporter

    In a city where the memory of bread lines and empty market shelves
    is a fresh recollection, it seems impossible that exotic foods should
    now be more accessible than two-ply toilet paper a few years ago.

    Smoked crocodile is now available in honest-to-goodness
    supermarkets. That's right, crocodile. Smoked. The khorovats of the
    Nile is now on shelves for the discerning shopper in the capital.

    In reality, the smoked crocodile you might see today is likely the
    same one you would have seen a month ago, as, at 110,000 drams (about
    $250), there isn't exactly a run on hot croc.

    The point, though, is that western-style, wide-aisled, brightly lit,
    shopping-cart-friendly mega stores (well, compared to before) has -
    within the past several months - changed the landscape of Yerevan
    grocery shopping.

    In the scheme of global capitalism, it is probably more accurate
    to call these "middlemarkets", but nonetheless their presence is
    noticeable and, by casual accounting, successful.

    Today about two dozen such markets have popped up among the hundreds of
    typical "mom and pop" grocers. And, judging on the traffic in and out
    of the self-opening doors of the big stores, Yerevantsis are willing
    and able to pay a little extra for high quality and variety.

    The "Mantashov" market, near Opera House, was opened last summer, and
    turned its windows into a marquee for some 350 kinds of alcoholic
    drinks on its counters and nearly 70 kinds of seafood - alive,
    smoked, as well as canned. It also features tropical fruits. And,
    in an effort at organic marketing, it buys produce only from local
    farms, not from industrialized food production.

    A Mantashov shopper may do a double take when sizing up the price
    of a bottle of "Empire Faberzhe" vodka. Price: 850,000 AMD (about
    $2,000). The luxury liquor, like the smoked crocodile at nearby SAS,
    is mostly a curiosity item. But, the administration of Mantashov
    says the store has sold at least one bottle of a $740 liquor.

    Executive director of Mantashov Arshak Kosyan says the goal of his
    market is to never have to say "we don't have . . ." - a phrase that
    was too often the response of grocers in days that many here remember
    too well.

    Gone are the days, remembered by "Aragast" market director when his
    store was considered exclusive because it was the only one in Yerevan
    that had Snickers and Mars bars - brought in in suitcases.

    "Today shopping is done in a civilized manner," he says.

    Extravagantly, in fact, by the minority of capital residents for whom
    $13 for a kilo of nectarines is not a challenge.

    "Such unknown products are basically bought by foreigners or people
    who were in other countries. I doubt that locals will spend 6,000
    drams ($13) for only trying some fruit. But our goal is to show such
    different products that people know and if they need some thing they
    can find in Sas," says Hasmik Adamyan.

    The $250 SAS crocodile is likely to not only be smoked, but completely
    dried before it leaves its shelf. (Employees of the shop say they have
    heard that crocodile tastes like chicken.) But in any case capital
    shoppers are interested to learn that not only can crocodile eat homo
    sapiens, but vice versa.

    According to a survey of the Consumers' Union of Armenia only 10 to12%
    of the population is solvent to do shopping from Armenian supermarkets;
    the rest can buy only everyday necessary food.

    "Of course, it is good that we have such markets in Armenia, because
    it is easier to defend the consumers' interests here, as the owners
    of those shops understand the consumers' rights and their profit
    based on them," says Arsen Poghosyan, head of the Consumers' Union.


    By Gayane Lazarian, ArmeniaNow Reporter

    "I never put on a false nose, never dyed my cheeks and mouth and
    hardly ever used makeup," proudly says 85-year-old Hakob Uzunyan,
    in summary of his life as a clown. "Skill and talent armed me as an
    actor during my whole life."

    The deep wrinkles on his face resemble unfinished smiles ready to
    grant laughter and delight.

    The clown's blue suit and striped trousers are harmonious with the
    ring on his little finger. His confident step and a bow-tie around
    his neck betray him as an artist.

    Uzunyan says: "To me my bow-ties look like smiles. I don't remember
    a single day that I didn't have my bow-tie on. I wear it even when
    I go to the street. People look at my unusually large bow-tie and
    smile. It gives me pleasure."

    After 28 years spent abroad Hakob Uzunyan returned to Armenia on a
    weeklong trip on April 27.

    Living far from Armenia he had always thought about the Armenian
    circus and when he decided to come to Armenia his visit coincided
    with the 80th birthday anniversary of the famous Armenian clown Leonid
    Yengibarov, which is celebrated on May 5.

    Uzunyan wanted to use the occasion to give his last performance,
    but had to cancel it after he fell ill on the way to Armenia.

    Here he visited the State Circus, where he used to perform, and met
    his old friends. The administration of the Circus gave accommodation
    to its former entertainer and now he temporarily stays there at night.

    Many generations in the Soviet Union grew up with Uzunyan's circus
    performances and his name is widely known among certain generations,
    especially the Armenian audience, proud to have given such a clown
    to the Soviet Circus.

    It was Uzunyan's first trip back to Yerevan, after leaving the Soviet
    Union in 1977 partly because he was at odds with his colleague,
    well-known clown Oleg Popov in Moscow. (Unlike Oleg, Hakob was not
    a communist, he was not Russian and he was a repatriate, and so he
    was pressured and he decided to leave the country.)

    Now, the clown is retired, but his son continues the work of his
    father, performing in Canada.

    One of the former circus artists, 70-year-old Albert Minasyan says
    that Hakob had his debut as a clown in Yerevan Circus in 1972.

    "The audience liked him at once. They received him well and waited
    for his next appearance. Even before he did something funny in the
    arena people would burst into laughter simply by looking at him. The
    audience grew excited still before his performances began. And
    especially beautiful were his step pieces that he performed together
    with his wife," says Minasyan.

    Hakob Uzunyan was born in Turkey in 1920. When he was still a child
    his family emigrated to Alexandria, Egypt, to escape from Turkish
    persecutions. He remembers his student years at Poghosyan gymnasium
    where teachers would often expel him from classes for his joking all
    the time and disturbing the lessons.

    He links his entrance into the professional art with the well-known
    black step dancer (tap-dancer) Harry Fleming.

    "He was a well-known Hollywood master and also my first teacher. At
    the age of 17 I began to take lessons from him and learned to dance
    step. A few months later he was taking me with him to performances. And
    later I began to dance solo," says Uzunyan.

    He says that he followed Fleming's advice to become a good artist.

    "He would say to me: 'Never run after money and women, if you become
    a good artist they will come themselves, and, most importantly,
    whatever country of the world you work in never come in from the main
    entrance. You must enter from the backdoor and shake hands with the
    watchman, you must be modest'," the old clown remembers.

    In 1948, like many Armenians Hakob repatriated to his homeland. After
    two years in Armenia he left for Moscow where he was destined to have
    a big future.

    Uzunyan says that he didn't even know what circus meant. He was simply
    a step dancer and also liked standup comedy and magic. A friend of
    his took him to Moscow's state circus. After talking to the director,
    the would-be clown was sent to study for one year at the well-known
    Soviet clown Kukushkin.

    "First I was Kukushkin's assistant. Then gradually I began to take
    the road of my self-making, which, of course, was not easy. I became a
    professional clown in the Soviet circus and numerous tours followed,"
    he says.

    During the 25 years of his work in the Soviet country Uzunyan created
    24 pieces. A few years later he was given the title of the honored
    artist of the Soviet Union.

    Minasyan says: "He was endowed with one vitally important quality
    for an artist - a link with the audience. Hakob tried to go deep
    into the essence of each of his clown pieces, constantly searching
    for more complicated and interesting thoughts and experiences."

    When describing himself the old clown says that he had always demanded
    devotion from himself, responsibility before the audience and feeling
    and exactingness for work.

    Uzunyan left the Soviet Union in 1977 and set up permanent residence
    in the Canadian town of Mission. There he created his own company
    of clowns - Uzunyan Co. The clown trio of "Bim, Bom, Bum" included
    Hakob Uzunyan, Maria Uzunyan and their son.

    "We became known all over Canada. We toured from town to town, from
    province to province. Canada didn't have its state circus, and we
    began to go on tours," says Uzunyan.

    On his return to Yerevan Uzunyan brought posters, brochures and
    newspapers in which he was featured over the years. With shaking
    hands but youthful enthusiasm he tells the stories of his life, shows
    pictures and presents the countries where he performed - England,
    France, Italy, the US, Hungary, as well as many Soviet cities and
    towns. He distinguishes one of the Finnish posters that reads:
    "Only this Armenian clown has managed to make the cold Finns laugh!"

    "The greatest happiness in life is when people want to see again and
    again the funny things that you do, when like an ocean the audience
    gives a wave with a peal of laughter and encores you back to the
    arena. I am happy only for having granted smiles to millions of
    people," he says.

    Hakob finds it difficult to say how many times he appeared on stage,
    but during his 25 years of work in the Soviet Union alone he gave one
    performance a day for an audience of up to 5,000 people. He worked
    12 months a year, with only one day off a week. Over weekends he gave
    2-3 performances a day.

    "Above all, a clown must be a good artist. His smile must come from
    inside his soul. He needn't make too much effort to make the audience
    laugh. If the audience grows fond of him, it means he is a good clown,"
    he explains.

    Art accompanied Hakob throughout his life and today he longs for the
    stage, his props, thousands of looks staring at him, but he admits: "My
    energy is not what it used to be, and one shouldn't perform poorly."

    He says that any clown creates his own character, like Oleg Popov,
    Yengibarov, Karandash. What is accumulated in his heart is turned
    into smiles on the faces of thousands of people.

    "Hakob created his own persona - striped black trousers and a white
    shirt with suspenders, black and white boots, white gloves, a top
    hat, a stick and a bow-tie. He synthesized step dance and clownery,"
    remembers Minasyan.

    Uzunyan remembers how an old lady came up to him after one of his
    performances in Uzbekistan and thanked him for returning to her the
    ability to laugh after 40 years that she spent without this ability.

    When the legendary French mime Marcel Marceau, with whom he was in
    close relations, saw his performance, he sent him a couple of lines:
    "Clowns are my hobby. I've had a good laugh today, thank you."


    By Suren Musayelyan, ArmeniaNow Reporter

    What are the odds that you will become a regular punter in
    Armenia? Local bookmakers say it is very likely if you try at least
    once to place a wager.

    "Armenians are quite venturesome people who like betting a lot,"
    says Garik Aznavuryan, the director of VIVARO, one of the three
    largest bookmakers in Armenia. "But this is a trait not typical of
    any particular nation. Simply some individuals seem to like gambling
    more than others."

    VIVARO opened in Armenia in 2003 and is competing with two other
    well-established bookmakers, Eurofootball and Toto, on the Armenian

    Besides offices in Yerevan, VIVARO also has branches in Armenian

    According to local bookmakers, the inclination to wager in Armenia
    is high and it reached its climax last year during Euro-2004.

    "People see that they have better chances to win in pari-mutuel
    wagering than in any lottery and therefore choose to play at our
    offices," says Aznavuryan. "Unlike in lotteries punters have to use
    their analyzing skills to win here."

    Bookmakers offer a range of bets involving various sports and also
    other action like competitive reality shows or television programs
    where participants contest. A minimum sum for a wager in Yerevan
    bookmakers' offices is usually 1,000 drams ($2.25). But in some places
    wagers of 300 drams (about 80 cents) are also accepted.

    Punters can choose to place a wager on the result of one game or a
    combination of games in order to win larger amounts. There are a great
    variety of things to bet on - beginning from the outcomes of sporting
    events to such particulars as yellow and red cards and goal scorers
    (in football), winners of tournaments, etc.

    Bookmakers explain the rules to customers who fill in special cards
    provided by the bookmakers.

    Vilen Harutyunyan admits that he became an addicted punter since
    the first time he placed a wager on his favorite team. Since then
    the 36-year-old engineer from Yerevan has changed his tactics of
    placing wagers (not necessarily on his favorite team) and says that
    occasionally he wins good money.

    "Apart from the financial aspect of betting you also get a sort of
    entertainment," he says. "Even a match between two mediocre teams
    will seem very exciting to you if you made a bet on one of the teams."

    Since recently punters also have the opportunity to make bets online,
    which according to bookmakers will attract more people who are
    reluctant to come to the bookmaker's office.

    But for many people, especially youngsters, betting remains an
    entertaining pastime and they visit the bookmaker's offices to watch
    live action, make bets and have a good time.

    The legal age restriction for gamblers is 18 and although operators
    of places where punters place their wagers give assurances that this
    rule is strictly observed, many younger people play pari-mutuels,
    especially if they look older than their age.

    Artsrun Badalyan, 17, is only in the tenth grade. He looks older
    than his age and says that he often plays without any risk of being
    banned. He says he wins on and off and mainly does it for sport,
    using small stakes (recently he won a sum of 27,000 drams placing
    the minimum wager).

    "First I was keen on football. Then my interest in football brought
    me to the bookmaker," he says.

    The youngster, who seems to know everything about making bets
    and wagers, thinks that betting makes his leisure time pass more
    interestingly. Artsrun says he is very much involved in betting
    but can quit any time he wants. But when asked about how to win in
    pari-mutuels, he says jokingly: "Don't play, then you will not lose
    and therefore will win."

    As in any gambling there are also extremes in pari-mutuel wagering too.

    Speaking from his experience Armen, a 30-year-old
    bookmaker-turned-punter, says it can be a destructive habit.

    He says that he began as a bookmaker in one of the first bookmaker's
    offices in Yerevan in 2000. It was then that he started to make bets
    himself. Later after quitting his job he couldn't quit his habit of
    placing wagers.

    "Once you start to play there is no stopping you," says Armen, who
    has lost $13,000 to bookmakers.

    He says that he witnessed many people go down as they made wrong
    bets. One of the losers, according to him, developed diabetes after
    losing a sizable sum of money. Others, he says, were losing their cars,
    properties and eventually became social outcasts.

    "It's like a disease and there seems to be no cure for this," says
    Armen. "Simply you must try not to pay attention to bookmakers
    advertising their business around you."

    Internews producer Armen Sargsyan describes the last few years as
    "the downfall of the era of winning lotteries". In his analytical
    study of the advertising market of Armenia in 2004 he writes that
    from more than 15 lotteries only Family Lotto has managed to survive:
    "However, nature abhors vacuum, and bookmaker's offices came to
    replace the lotteries after their boom ended."

    Sargsyan thinks that all favorable conditions have been created for
    pari-mutuel wagering in Armenia - such as broadcasts of live sporting
    action, periodical presentation of tournaments (European football
    championships, national championships of Italy, Spain, England,
    Germany, Olympic Games, NBA, etc).

    "Unlike lotteries, broadcast sporting actions are not only
    entertaining, but also contribute to the popularization of sport and
    healthy mode of life, something that our television obviously lacked
    two years ago," he concludes.