Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Opera singer Arax Davtian passed away today in Moscow. Armenia has lost a great singer and a great person.

Arax had the title People’s Artist of Armenia and was very well known in Europe and the Soviet Union. Recently, she taught at the Moscow Conservatory of Music, after leaving a similar position in Yerevan. She was, it is safe to say, Armenia’s best soprano.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This is a video clip of Sargis Davtyan playing zurna and duduk, appearing on Shant TV’s duduk competition after having been removed from the competitive part of the show the week before. The listener can decide if Davtyan’s removal was just.

Commenting in front of the audience that had gathered, Davtyan said he knew that if the winner would be chosen by how many SMSs he received, that he didn’t have a chance, but that he was the real winner of the competition, and that if any of the other contestants thought he was the better duduk player, that they could play side by side and see who was best. This comment, naturally, was edited out of what was shown to television viewers.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A legal expert commented on the recent international ruling stating it was legal for Kosovo to declare independence (thus self-determination winning over territorial integrity), and the decision’s possible implications concerning Karabagh: “In normal circumstances, this would open the door for the world to recognize Karabagh’s independence. But we have to remember the reaction in the West when Kosovo first declared independence, and Armenians saying that this would help Karabagh to receive international recognition. Their reaction was the predictable ‘Kosovo is a different situation, a different reality, from Karabagh, there is no connection between the two, etc.’ Well, the West is no doubt preparing a similar response to Armenians’ demands now. Do you really think the West is going to forget Baku’s oil and strategic location (concerning the US and its military interests)? Armenians are again making demands, after the latest Kosovo rulings, but it’s all a show. Those in the know realize this.”

About the fiasco concerning the opening of foreign language schools in Armenia, the expert had this to say: “I still regret I had a Russian education. Sure, I speak Armenian well, but I think, dream in Russian. The brain is wired for Armenian, and you mix it up with Russian.

“And the schools, without trying, will become elite schools. They’ll be well funded, very well funded. Regular Armenian schools will become second rate, not that they’re in good shape now.

“In normal countries, people make sure their own citizens, even those visiting or studying from other countries, master the language of the country. No one else does this, open foreign language schools. Let everyone learn Armenian, in Armenian schools, then later let them learn as many languages as they want.

“I think this is part of the plan, which we all know exists, of outside powers trying to ruin Armenian culture. By lessening the importance of the Armenian language, not to mention the promotion of sects by outside sources, well, what can I say, things don’t look good.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Anduni (Without Home)
Song of the Emigrant
Sung by Hayrik Mouradian

Transcribed by Komitas
Hayrik sings version from Shatakh (Moks)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Yerevan State University professor told how he gave a low grade, at the end of the semester, to a female student.

“Mark me just a little higher,” the girl said, “and all will be well. I’ll pass the course, and that’s what counts.”

“I can’t,” the professor said, “because you did substandard work, that is, when you did anything at all.”

Phone calls to the professor started, from persons in high places, demanding a higher grade. The professor, who like others needs his job, gave in.

Another professor told about how year-end examinations are sold, prior to test time, and at a high price. “Everyone knows it, including the parliamentarians who talk about fighting corruption. I don’t hear them talking about this, do you?”

A plumber, on leaving our house, said, out of the blue, that he doesn’t blame anyone for leaving the country. I asked him why, as he, for instance, earns a good living.

“Injustice,” he said.

Injustice reaches all walks of life, as far even as duduk competitions. As Yerevan is small, secrets aren’t well kept, and it became clear long ago that the winner of Shant TV’s competition had been decided at the beginning of the competition, and the various jury members were scoring the participants accordingly.

Today, Sargis Davtyan was removed from the competition, leaving three contestants. In the following video clip, please pay special attention to the second part, in which Davtyan plays “Sassna Hover.” His talent is evident. His removal, in normal circumstances, would be baffling.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A 30-year-old Hayastantsi Dashnak expressed his feelings about the current situation in Armenia, both political and economic:

“Armenia’s future is foggy. Unfortunately, I can’t really see it existing in 50 years. ‘Sons of prostitutes’ are running things now. If you want to do business in Armenia, you have to work with them, otherwise, you don’t do business. Those that stay in Armenia change accordingly, if they want to make it, live normally. Those that don’t ‘adjust’ stay poor, and join the 40% of our population which is barely making it.

“Mediocrities in culture, science, and education are running things. You, personally, see it in culture. I was watching ‘Yerg, yergots’ on Public Television last night. Mediocrities (and worse) were singing (ruining) well known songs from the past, and name people, as a sort of jury, were praising them. And on Public Television’s second station, rabiz was flowing like a river, men dressed as women, girls looking like prostitutes were dancing, if you can call it that. If our so-called leaders wanted to, they could put a stop to all this. But they love it, no doubt.

“It’s nice being here tonight. I like to visit with people, but most locals stay home, as they can’t afford the 1,000 dram for a bottle of wine or flowers people take when they visit or go to see their friends. Rich people visit, but only with each other, and who needs their ‘where do you work, business, cars’ conversation.

“There is talk about war. But is Armenia ready? Is the mood there? Is the army strong enough? I don’t think a war will start, though, as even if the big powers decide who should win and who should lose, Azeris know there’s a chance they’d lose, which would mean the loss of their oil/money. If it does start, though, the Dashnaks are ready to go. Even though many of us are disgusted with the way things are going now in our country, we know that if we don’t fight, we’ll lose everything.

“If I had met Hillary Clinton when she was here, I would have told her this: Too much has happened between Armenians and Turks, and for too long. I can’t forgive them for killing my ancestors, and they hate us. We can’t live together. It won’t stop until one or the other of us is out of the picture.

“I personally won’t go to Turkey, as I’m afraid of what I might do if a Turk rubs me the wrong way. And I won’t go to the church service at Aghtamar, this September, which is just a show. I can picture all the Diaspora Armenians going there, eating darekh fish from Lake Van, celebrating at the restaurants on the shore of Van. These are the same Armenians who ‘love Massis from a distance.’ Or, they come to Armenia, and open restaurants and bars. Let them open factories and put people back to work. Or come and fight if there’s a war. Then, I’ll respect our brothers and sisters from the Diaspora.

“And our friends the Karabaghtsis. They have been worse for Armenia than the Tatar-Mongols. The Karabaghtsis got along well with the Azeris before the war; doesn’t that mean something? I’ll leave that conclusion up to you.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A call from a resident of Yerevan’s Charbakh district revealed a sad event that took place near Moscow on Vardavar, this past Sunday. Several Armenians living in Moscow went out of town to a picnic area to celebrate Vardavar. During the course of the day’s events, someone who had been drinking apparently said something that a middle-aged Charbakh-born male didn’t take kindly to, the Charbakhtsi telling the person, in so many words, to “mind his manners.” Telling the Charbakhtsi he had no business telling him what he could or couldn’t say, he picked up a skewer and stabbed the Charbakhtsi, killing him.

Our caller went on to say how shocked he was, that even though Armenians are a hot-blooded people, such a violent act would never have happened during Soviet times, as people’s lives were better, more balanced, and that the people involved in Sunday’s violence were likely Hayastantsis struggling to make it in Russia...and that if such a violent act had occurred in Soviet times, it would have been committed by hot-blooded youth, not middle-aged persons, as was the case on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Komitas: “Yerkinkn Ampel e” (The sky is covered with clouds). Sung by Aleksan Harutyunyan. From Karot II (Face Music, Switzerland).

Clouds cover the sky
The earth is open
My love is asleep
Her face is open.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A wealthy Diaspora Armenian was funding the construction of a new church in Armenia. He insisted that his name be carved in a prominent place on a khachkar near the entry of the church. The architect of the new church refused, saying this was against Armenian Church architectural tradition. The wealthy Armenian, and Armenian Church clergy, were in shock that someone had the nerve to stand up to this wealthy Armenian.

The khachkar won’t bear the name of the church’s sponsor.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Words of a Diaspora Armenian:

“Strange that Diaspora Armenians talk so poorly about Hayastantsis, that they’re clannish, stole money and aid after the earthquake, and have other various bad traits. I know personally that $5,000,000 collected in the Diaspora and meant for earthquake relief never even reached Armenia. The money ended up in a Swiss bank account. And to say that Hayastantsis don’t let foreign-born Armenians do business in Armenia. Or if they do, they run them out once they are successful. This might be true. But Armenians everywhere are like that. If a Dashnak moves to a certain country, for instance, he’ll only do business with Dashnaks. If a Hunchak appears on the scene, it’s the same thing, he’ll do business with Hunchaks, but not with Dashnaks, not that the Dashnaks would do business with him anyway.

“They say there are 5-6 million Armenians in the Diaspora. In reality, there are no more than 10,000. What I mean is this: most Armenians are good at talking, but it’s all hot air. The 10,000 do all the work, and often nobody knows who they are.

“And I’m embarrassed about the recent writer’s conference in Armenia, where the government paid all that money to bring writers to Armenia, all expenses paid, hotels, everything. Did any of them say they could come on their own expense, that the money could be used to improve life for orphans or old people? Not one of them. And then they give awards to “approved” writers and translators, whom everyone, including the writers, know are worthless. Did anyone speak up? Of course not. They all want to be invited again, to live it up, eat their barbecue, and talk their heads off.

“This is why, in my belief, Armenia and Armenians are in the state their in. There’s no unity. Yet, we’re still here. Remember Darius I, who wrote the names of the countries he had subjugated, in 600 BC, the first time the name ‘Armenia’ appeared in history. All the other countries he wrote are long gone, from small countries to large.”

When asked about the recent visit by Hillary Clinton and the Karabagh negotiations, he replied simply with the now widespread opinion that a short war is being planned, in which Armenia will lose the liberated territories, to where the current leaders can’t say they gave it away by a simple signature.

“Their names will go down as the greatest traitors in our entire history. But what good will that do...they’ll run and hide with their billions, while the nation, if it continues to exist, will be a shell, nothing, overrun with Turks and Azeris. Then let them try to collect money from the Diaspora for this or that project...”

Monday, July 5, 2010

While making purchases of fruit and vegetables at a neighborhood market, a friend and his son, quietly agitated, gave their opinions about Hillary Clinton’s trip to Armenia and the proposed surrendering of the liberated territories. “Serge is a patriot,” the son said. “He won’t give up anything.“

The father, noticeably irritated, responded: “Apparently you don’t know how our government runs. Clinton is coming, just to remind our leaders what they have to give up to have peace. She’ll remind them that the Russians and Europeans want Armenia to give up the territories, and whatever else follows. Nothing will be signed while she's here, though. But one day soon we’ll hear Serge say, ‘We have no choice; if we want to have peace, and not lose more of our sons, we have to agree to what they say.’ Then, the fireworks will start. War will break out. If there’s a danger of losing the territories, our boys will go and fight. And if left alone, we’ll win.

“But the big powers, especially Russia, can control the outcome. Our side, our leaders, will know in advance that the purpose, and result, of the war will be losing the territories. That way, they think, no one will blame Serge, that at least Armenians fought for the lands. The fact remains that those who go and fight will all be sacrificed, and this will be known ahead of time.

“I hope I’m wrong. But the big powers control everything; in time you’ll see I’m right.”

Saturday, July 3, 2010

While driving past the presidential palace on Baghramyan, we saw a noisy protest taking place in front of the presidential palace. Raised banners spoke of Karabagh and the liberated territories, the protest being against the proposed surrender of the territories in return for some kind of security and unknown future status for Karabagh. The protest was likely timed around the upcoming visit of Hillary Clinton, who will undoubtedly push the so-called peace plan, called “positive” by the ruling party.

Our taxi driver couldn’t contain himself. “See this,” he said, hitting his leg, the sound of wood reaching our ears. “I have a wooden leg because of injuries fighting in Karabagh. I went, and several of my friends went. I am Aparantsi. We did what we had to do to save our country.

“Now, we are ridiculed by our own government, which is run by the same people we saved. And now they say they’re ready to hand back the territories. And let Turks back in Karabagh. They’re spitting on all we did. The US is sending Clinton to convince our leaders, who only do what they’re told anyway.

“They’ve divided our country up between a few oligarchs, who own our mountains, the shores of Sevan, downtown Yerevan, everything. If somebody is building something in Yerevan, you can be sure it’s one or the other oligarch. What kind of country is this? What kind of future does it have?

“I hope they agree to give back the territories. That way there will be a revolt, a revolution, otherwise we’re stuck with these traitors, who care nothing about the nation. Nothing.”

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thoughts of a fedayee-turned-businessman: “I fully expect Serge and the Armenian government to agree to giving back the territories, keeping only Lachin, Turks coming back to Karabagh to live, everything else. Presidents from countries like the USA, Russia, and France wouldn’t make such a statement if it wasn’t going to come true. But the Armenian people won’t give the territories back. There will be a revolt. Serge knows this, but he’s powerless.

“Interestingly, life was better under Kocharian. True, there was injustice, bribery...but there was movement, action, people were working, there was direction. Now, it’s ‘we take everything, no matter what, nobody can stop us.’”