Armenia continues to be a land of stark contrasts. Yesterday I went, for the first time in months, to the offices of the Aghbyur children’s journal, and spent some time looking through the last few issues. The issue with a short piece I had written about William Saroyan and his relationship with our family, in the old days near Fresno, had several pictures painted by school-age children in Armenia. Several of the pictures were good, surprisingly good, by 8-12 year-old children, especially one that reminded of village scenes painted by Minas Avetisyan, and another in the image of an illuminated manuscript, the painter seemingly a future Toros Roslin.
The same evening, on National Television, competitions took place to see who would represent Armenia in Junior Eurovision. Last year’s contestant, an Armenian girl from Baku, sang, in the words of many here, “like someone’s morkuyr (aunt).” This, while other countries featured individuals and groups who actually sang like children, after all, it is a competition for children. This year’s Armenian contestants, while being interviewed, spoke in either street slang, or mixed in English, with some acting like little mafia characters or rap stars. Even our 11-year-old guest, visiting with his parents, became disinterested and shut the program off.
While some blame our bad cultural situation on the Diaspora, some on our leaders, who love rabiz and pop, and some on forces trying to destroy our national culture, now, Armenian singers and actors who had been working in Los Angeles and elsewhere are returning to Armenia, due to the financial crisis in the US, and are appearing in serials, concerts, and the like…”with their new accents and movements, how disgusting,” as a local actor put it. “And not only that, besides the mafia serials, there’s one starring orphans, several being the sons and daughters of those in other serials…I guess they want everything, all the money, for themselves…”
In closing, a joke is going around Yerevan about an Aparantsi who can’t find a job, and who changes his approach, telling possible employers, “I’m from Aparan, but my heart and soul is in Karabagh,” referring to the general feeling here about Karabaghtsis getting so many of the better jobs in Yerevan.