A friend normally neutral when it comes to politics nearly lost his mind when I told him I had gone to the opposition rally on May 1.
“Don’t you understand who Levon is?” he said. “First of all, we liberated the territories against his will, in spite of him, not because of his help. Also, when president, during the war, he did exactly what the Israelis told him to do. He’s anything but a patriot. I’ll tell you this much. Serge and Robert are nothing to brag about. They’ve made plenty of mistakes, and leave a lot to be desired. But neither one of them would ever give up even a handful of Armenian soil. They talk about Serge giving back Karabagh. Don’t you believe it.
“And, don’t you know, outside sources gave Levon $300 million to get back the presidency, after he lost the 2008 presidential election. He spent some of that paying people to camp out overnight by the Opera. You think those people were there on their own? Each was getting 10, 15 thousand dram a day for staying there. Levon is acting like a saint now, but people should know better. The sooner he leaves the political scene, the country, the better for everybody.”
After our brief meeting, in the lobby of the Marriott, and after waiting for a friend who had arrived from Fresno, I went with Hasmik to the nearby Ministry of Diaspora, for a meeting with minister Hranoush Hakobyan. There, we talked about a program in which the ministry plans to record CDs for Diaspora youth, starting with a CD of traditional Armenian lullabies. We were told that the committee for this and other traditional music CDs consisted of an actor, a singer of ashoughagan music, a jazz singer and arranger, and, finally, a Komitas Conservatory professor, the only one in the group with a tie to folk music. In any event, it seemed the minister, quite a friendly and receptive person, leaned towards doing a CD of true folk music, as opposed to what her committee had been proposing.
While there, a call from a Culture Ministry official had the Culture Minister, Hasmik Poghosyan, requesting that Shoghaken perform at a banquet the next night for the famous conductor Gergiev and several other classical musicians visiting from Russia. In late Soviet times, Gergiev had conducted the Armenian symphony, until local mediocrities more or less ran him out of town.