On the way home in a taxi, I noticed the meter was jumping 200 dram each kilometer, as opposed to the 100 that it should have been. Reaching home, I gave the amount according to the taxi service’s 100 dram per kilometer rate and said thank you, after which the driver shouted something I fortunately didn’t understand. Yet, as has been told in the news, many independent taxi drivers are suffering due to new taxes levied by the government. “I wouldn’t complain,” a driver told me, “but if I’m sick, on vacation, or whatever else, I still have to pay the tax. It isn’t fair. This government is against the little guy. They should all be thrown out of office.”
Such is the mood of many here, some currently taking to the streets each evening on Northern Avenue, not content to wait until the May 1 opposition rally. A friend who works on Tumanyan Street said she was walking to her workplace when she saw about 20 men holding banners and shouting ‘azat, ankakh Hayastan,’ the marchers obviously protesting against the current rulers. “All of a sudden at least 100 policemen surrounded these men,” she said. “I was afraid to go closer to see what was happening. I still don’t know what became of the protesters.”
A basically peaceful, quiet Yerevantsi added, “At least 100,000 will be at the May 1 rally. Levon is smart. He is waiting until the weather warms up, and people are good and disgusted with everything, from the unfair taxes, rise in prices, and the police state that is now in place. I predict a revolution. The government can hold the people by the sword only so long.”
A note about what is going on in the world of culture in Yerevan: The upcoming “Folk Dance” competition, promoted by Shant television, has already caused a rift between Karen Gevorgyan, of the Berd Ensemble, and Vanush Khanamiryan, of the State Dance Ensemble, not to mention a member of the jury who is supposed to judge the preliminary stage of the competition, who says she was told by the organizers that even though it was called a folk dance event, authentic folk dancing wasn’t to be accepted, only choreographed dancing. Also, word in the culture community has it that one of the major names in music here was almost taken to court for taking, synthesizing, and calling his own the work of a well known composer/arranger, and saying “Just throw them a thousand or two, and all will be well.” Which was done. Another possible fiasco is the Culture Ministry granting a group performing traditional music money to ‘advance folk music in Armenia,’ after which they used the money to record a CD, told the sound engineer his studio could release the CD, and in the end, with the recording they received from the studio, plans to release the CD on their own, and have a concert in Yerevan in which nothing will be performed live, the CD, synthesizer and all, resounding in the halls of Yerevan.
As Hasmik will soon be participating in the Giving Voice festival in Poland, representing Armenia with a concert of Armenian lullabies and folk song and dance workshops, the Yerevan Journal blog will take a short break, until May 2, with both news from Poland and the opposition rally scheduled for May 1.