Our visitor could be described as a young professional, in reality, one of Armenia’s finest. Late into the night, he gave his opinion about different themes, from the collapse of the Soviet Union to culture in Armenia:
“I remember when the poet, singer, and actor Vladimir Visotski died, I think in 1982. He was young, in his forties. The Soviets tried to control the huge crowds that gathered in Moscow, as the people shouted ‘Shame, shame.’ This was because Visotski had to record in secret, in his garage, house, who knows, as his works weren’t allowed to be publicly broadcast or sold in stores. Yet everybody in the Soviet Union, be they Russian, Uzbek, Kazakh, Tajik, Armenian…everybody knew Visotski. He was a great man, a legend.
“Yet, even though the Soviets disapproved of Visotski, I don’t think the Soviet Union would have collapsed if he had lived. Nobody would have listened to Gorbachev’s lies, hypocrisy, or his phony ideas about perestroika. Visotksi had such an influence on people, with his poetry, singing, and honesty, that they wouldn’t have listened to Gorbachev. And the world wouldn’t be in the condition it is today, as the Soviet Union was a balance to the ambitions of the West. The Soviet Union made mistakes, serious ones, but was a good country, giving its people a good education, and protecting national cultures, in spite of the damage they did by killing so many artists and intellectuals.
“Anybody that thinks that Armenia is in better shape because of their supposed freedom is mistaken. This goes for culture too. For instance, I was watching the old film, Gorani, last night, on National Television. Actually, what they had done was take a camera to the Sassountsi villages of Talin and record villagers, young and old, singing folk and patriotic songs. It was great seeing these songs sung by regular people, not to mention seeing a young Sargis Baghdasaryan, of Akunk, and Mkro (Hovhannes Sargsyan), the founder of the Maratuk ensemble.
“Gorani was filmed 32 years ago, in the heart of Soviet times. And it was filmed with the simplest cameras and equipment. Today they have the most modern and expensive equipment in the world. And what do they film? I’d rather not go into that.”
As the evening passed, and our visitor began telling Aparantsi jokes, he also related a story of how “in our newfound freedom of expression and the like” 30 young Armenian men traveled to Holland and declared themselves a ‘persecuted minority,’ in this case, those who prefer members of the same sex.
“Armenian embassy members in Holland, not knowing what to do, called Armenian Airlines in London, asking for advice, as the airline company would be the one to transport them back to Armenia if necessary. They were told to gather these men, treat them to a nice dinner, anything they wanted, after which they were told, ‘Now, someone with your preferences will come to check the authenticity of your claims.’ ‘How can you do this, what are you saying…’ You should have heard their reaction and panic. Needless to say, the young men took the next flight back to Yerevan.”