A head doctor, an attorney, and a young mother with a small child sat in a hospital room in the Zeytun district of Yerevan and talked about life in Armenia. “Of course,” the attorney said, “a battle against corruption is underway in Armenia, as the higher-ups say. But the laws are changing so fast I can’t keep up with them. With so many rich businessmen in parliament, they write a law, it’s accepted, then when it no longer suits them, the law goes back to what it was. And money still changes hands, but now they’re being careful, and accepting money only from trusted sources. I hate to see the judicial system in this condition. I know of a case where a family of Karabaghtsis moved into a house and refused to leave, lived there a few years, gave a judge some money, and got ownership of the house, with the innocent party out of luck. Sometimes I go to sleep at night hoping I won’t wake up.”
The doctor, who has a quite good reputation in his field, continued the conversation: “I hide my head when I have visitors from outside Armenia, especially those we work with professionally. A Swedish colleague told me, in so many words, that it’s ridiculous for Sweden to continue funding our program, as it’s obvious the government here could be doing better than they’re doing. ‘Leaving the airport, all I see is expensive jeeps and casinos,’ he told me. ‘In Sweden, you don’t see so many Mercedes, BMWs, and jeeps as you do here in Armenia. And the government says they have no money. If there was no money here, there wouldn’t be so many of these expensive vehicles on the streets. Something doesn’t make sense.’ I don’t know what to say. People have lost their sense of modesty. Haven’t you seen the weddings here now? They spend $5,000 to shoot off some fireworks, and bring in pop stars at over $1,000 a song. I just heard one of them recently demanded $8,000 a song. Why not, one of the oligarchs is supporting her, took her out of the restaurants and made her famous.”
Hearing this, the young mother angrily said, “How can I bring up my daughter in this country? We turn on the television and all we hear is pop stars. None of them has a good voice, and not one is actually a singer. They close the door to anybody who knows how to sing. And the male singers, many of them, are starting to talk with a certain ‘less than manly’ kind of slang. That’s all we need here.”
To note, this morning the culture station in Armenia was broadcasting a circus, from wherever in the world, while Turkey’s culture station had Turks aged forty or so and up, in national costume, in a house in Kharberd, singing Turkish folk songs.