Friday, June 26, 2009

“Sometimes I like to talk about the past,” the Diaspora Armenian said, “just to forget about the situation Armenia is in today. You look around, we’re at peace, and Yerevan, at least the city center, looks like a European city, the streets and coffee shops full of young Armenians and hundreds of tourists. But think about what’s going on around us. It won’t be today or tomorrow, but in the future, Georgia and Azerbaijan will be in NATO. Our only friend, Russia, will be unable to help us, with Georgia blocking the way. We need to stay close to Iran, as our interests are closer than most realize.

“And then there’s the Turks. I’m worried that our government will agree to open the border with Turkey, if the opportunity arises. They’ll do anything to stay in power. I know it’s not easy, playing ball with Turks, Russians, the US, and Europe, but making crazy deals with the Turks is the last thing we need. Here we are, sitting in a nice coffee shop. If they open the border, who will be sitting at the next table but Turks, and there will always be some of our girls, with either financial or moral problems, ready to be there sitting with them. Our youth is already listening to rabiz, Armenchik and the like, which is just a poor imitation of Turkish music. These lovers of rabiz, and there are plenty, will welcome the Turks and their culture with open arms.

“This music, if you can call it that, is a slap in the face of people like Komitas and Toumajan, who saved our folk music from being totally lost. We owe Komitas more than people realize. If you look at the music he saved, his work, it is of a higher, more refined quality than others who did similar work. He was a genius. People say that Komitas, before being sent to the asylum in Paris, spent time in a Turkish asylum, because rich Armenians wouldn’t give the money needed to send him to a good hospital. I can picture what the Turks did to him there.”

Again speaking about the possibility of opening the border with Turkey, our friend continued: “If the border opens, and what happens here is what I think will happen, I’ll never return to Armenia. I’d rather live in the US or Europe, or even Turkey. I am Vanetsi, on both sides. I might consider living there, maybe in the same village my mother was from.

“My parents were both in Van in 1915. After the defense of Van, they both came to Eastern Armenia, then returned to Van with the Russians, and stayed there until the Russians left. They were there when Aram Manoukian declared the Van region independent, which lasted a month or so. There was also a Dashnak named Hambartsumyan who declared Van independent, again lasting just a month. They even printed their own money.

“Aram Manoukian was Karabaghtsi. Ruben Ter Minasyan, another important commander, was from Javakhk. At the time, Dashnaktsutyun considered it of the utmost importance to maintain the regions of Van and Moush, to make Armenia complete, and they came from everywhere to help.”

Commenting on the fall of Kars, he said, “It wasn’t the Dashnaks’ fault that Kars fell. Khatisyan was in Kars during the fighting, waiting for word on what to do. Then the Russians took Eastern Armenia, so Khatisyan had no say. He signed a treaty, which in fact meant nothing, as the Dashnaks had given up the government to the Russians. But keeping Kars was impossible, with the Russians advancing from one side and the Turks from the other.”

Then, quite seriously, he added, “What the Turks didn’t finish in 1915, they’ll finish in 2015. And without firing a shot. Just by opening the border.”

Note: As Shoghaken will be leaving shortly for a folk festival in Slovakia, the Yerevan Journal blog will take a short break, and will resume on July 9.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Karabagh war veteran gave his opinion about the liberation of Shushi and similar matters:

“A lot is said about how we liberated Shushi,” he began. “Some say Shushi fell because of Azeri traitors. And I’ve heard several times that Armenians climbed the rocky cliff at night, from the village of Karintak at the base of the mountain. Nobody climbed that cliff; we came up the road. And there was no betrayal on the Azeri side. The mistake they made was that there were no women or children in Shushi, only a few hundred fighters and a hundred or so inhabitants. Don’t they know that most soldiers will fight only so long, or so hard, if they aren’t defending their families, their women’s honor? Very few men, maybe five or ten out of a thousand, have enough love for their homeland that they’ll fight on and on, no matter what, just for the homeland....

“The Dashnaks made the same mistake at Kars. Fearing possible massacre, they sent the women and children out of Kars, out of the fortress. The siege lasted only so long, then the Turks took the fortress and the city.

“As the war progressed, I found myself fighting for revenge, more than anything else. After what I saw...Maragha, and other places...I couldn’t help myself. War is like that. If I had a chance to join in the Khojalu events, I probably would have lost control and started killing those fleeing. It’s good I wasn’t there.

“But this is probably the only place on earth that does what it does to its war heroes. For instance, when Levon was president, I was shown in video material taken after the battle for Shushi. Then when Kocharian took over as president, they edited me out, and why, I still don’t know. Now, with a new president, I’m still out of the picture. In the future, who knows.

“Yet, more important is what they’ve done to Sassun Mikayelyan and Jirair, from Lebanon. These fellows were fighters, real fighters, who defended their homeland well. What’s their thank you? The government isn’t giving Jirair citizenship, and Sassun is in prison.

“Here, if you’re against those in charge, you’re the enemy. How do these people look at themselves in the mirror?”

Monday, June 22, 2009

A lawyer who doesn’t have a television asked me what I had seen or heard about the events in neighboring Iran. After doing my best at telling what I had heard on Armenian, Russian, and European news broadcasts, the lawyer said:

“It’s plain what’s going on. The West is using what is going on in Tehran, already talking about regime change, due to supposed voting irregularities. There are 18 million people in Tehran, and the news people are making it look like the end of the world, showing some video taken by cell phones?

“A question: Who really thinks George Bush was elected president in 2000? Why aren’t the politicians and news people who are acting so righteous now talking about that election, or recent ones in Armenia or Azerbaijan, for that matter?”

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The perennial question with no answer is being asked again: what is a real Armenian? Is it one who speaks Armenian, is Armenian Orthodox by religion, or just what? Can Moslem Armenians be true Armenians?

At a news conference yesterday, so-called experts discussed the subject of Armenians in Turkey, talking about how some have converted back to being Armenian Orthodox, after years of living as Moslems, while others have supposedly said, “better to not be Armenian than to have to be Christian.”

Meeting with a “hetanos” (pre-Christian, pagan) Armenian, and telling him about the news conference, he said, “Who are they, and who is anybody, to say what a real Armenian is. Of course the Armenian Church has done a lot over the years, and is an institution we all should respect. But to say a real Armenian has to be Orthodox is wrong. I am “hetanos.” I go to Garni every year, at least three or four times, to different ceremonies dating back to when, I can say, Armenians had their own relgion, their own gods, not an imported god. I think I am a real Armenian. Not only that, I fought during the war with the Turks, and will go again, so no one can say I’m not patriotic.

“And there are the Armenians who were forced to convert in 1915. True, they didn’t have to convert, but I don’t blame them. Many secretly stayed Christian, but to save their families from being slaughtered, they converted to Islam, even if for show. And many of their children and grandchildren stayed Armenian, in their hearts, moreso than a lot of Diaspora Armenians I’ve met who trumpet their Armenianism, but are just talk, and do nothing to help their homeland.

“To say Moslem Armenians, or pagan Armenians, like myself, aren’t real Armenians, is a joke. Why aren’t people saying that the many thousands of sect members in Armenia, and in the Diaspora, aren’t real Armenians? They’re far more a danger to the future of Armenia than my pagan friends are, or the Moslem Armenians of Turkey.”

Friday, June 19, 2009

A scientist friend from the engineering department of the Academy of Sciences talked about the situation in neighboring Iran, and how, in his opinion, it could affect Armenia.

“Many Armenians, here and in the Diaspora, don’t understand just how serious the situation in Iran is, and how it could end up spilling over into Armenia. First, the turmoil there won’t end any time soon. We know from experience that when the organization and funding comes from elsewhere, namely the West, as it did in Georgia and Ukraine, nothing ends soon. And Obama’s statement that America shouldn’t get involved in Iran’s affairs...I don’t take that seriously. Iran was too strong for them to attack, so they’re trying to overthrow the government this way.

“One way the West is trying to overthrow the government there is by continuously broadcasting, from Azerbaijan, Turkey, and US-sponsored broadcasts from that area, anti-Iran news and northern Iran, where Azeri Turks live. Actually, they’re not Azeri Turks, but might as well be, as their culture is more similar to that in Azerbaijan than Tehran.

“The tone of these broadcasts is one of Pan Turanism, of a Greater Turkey or Greater Azerbaijan. The West knows, by their experience in Afghanistan, that when they can’t fight a war, or have fear they might lose, they engage the local population.

“Can you picture what plans the Turks and Azeris have concerning Armenia and Karabagh? The Roadmap was good to show the world, but we know what their game plan is.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A politically astute relative watched as one of the lesser known television stations showed a courtroom scene in which former foreign minister Alexander Arzumanyan defended his participation in last year’s March 1 events, Arzumanyan declaring, “I am proud of what I did,” to the cheers of those gathered in the courtroom.

“It’s hard to say who was guilty, the government and police or those like Arzumanyan who organized the demonstrations,” he said. “Or if both were guilty. But one thing is for sure. Even if government forces, Kocharian and others, are responsible for the murders and chaos on March 1, Arzumanyan and his people have no right to say they are ‘working for the people of Armenia.’ They see the Karabaghtsi rulers in charge of everything, getting richer by the day, and they don’t like that. They want to be back in power so they can continue what they were doing before.

“And they’re working together, at least somewhat, the Karabaghtsi rulers and Arzumanyan, Ter Petrosyan. They’re putting on a show of ‘democracy’ for Europe, the Venice Commission, and others. And they both know where to stop in their accusations. If one side goes too far, the other can always say, ‘We know what you stole, and if you don’t watch your step, we’ll reveal everything.’ Picture this: if someone honest came to power, and revealed how Ter Petrosyan and his people were selling factories for $1,000 to their friends, what would happen. In the current picture, both the Karabaghtsis and Levon’s people are guilty of this sort of crime, so they only go so far in their accusations, so their deep secrets stay just that, secrets.

“I’m not sure why the Armenian people, say 80%, have a slave mentality, and always follow this or that criminal. They think that it’s better for a thief who’s stolen millions to be in power, figuring that person will get so rich he’ll eventually think about the people…that if someone new comes to power, he’ll start from scratch, and steal even more than the others. They don’t believe someone honest can come to power, so they follow this or that criminal, thinking this is the way things have to be. But in the meantime, the nation suffers. And one of these days, the nation won’t be able to recover, not with open borders, World Bank money, or anything else.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

A disgruntled neighbor commented about Armenian-Turkish rapprochement and, in her opinion, its uselessness. “No way,” she began. “Both sides are just playing politics, and they know it. Armenians and Turks have had problems for over 1,000 years, and then 100 years ago they killed almost all of us. They don’t want us here. And we have no love for them either. But now isn’t the time to be talking about us getting along better with Turks…

“How can we even be thinking about border opening and brotherly love with the Turks when our own leaders, and the oligarchs, often one and the same, are busy stuffing their pocketbooks, amassing fortunes so large we can’t even imagine,” she continued. “And this, while half our population is out of the country working, trying to take care of their relatives here. If we’re in this condition, how can we talk about the Turks and our historic lands, and opening the border?”

A businessman who has had good success, actually quite good success, in Armenia’s business world, agreed, then gave his own thoughts about the business climate and economy here: “It is odd, true, that we’re busy talking about the Turks and Genocide recognition, while our leaders here are killing us. What they’re doing to the middle class here is criminal, that is, if there’s still a middle class. I’ve done well, but I’m nothing compared to the oligarchs, who are running everything here. I have two small factories that I can’t make profitable, due to the laws coming into play, and now I can’t sell them, as the only ones that can afford a normal price are the oligarchs, who are just waiting me out, till I have to sell, and the price is rock bottom.

“Without justice in our own country, we’re talking about border opening, energy routes, Genocide recognition…we have to remember, nobody listens to the weak.”

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A university-age female, with a friend in the arts, came to our home to have vocal lessons, saying “A well known name in the Estrada genre here gave me vocal lessons for just a month, and since then I’ve been trying to correct what she taught me.”

The girl opened her mouth in an unnatural way, her voice corresponding. The artist who accompanied her said, “You see, going to that singer was a mistake. She’s not a real singer, and not an Estrada singer. I know you’ve seen video clips on television featuring Constantine Orbelian’s Estrada band from Soviet times. Singers like Tatevik Hovhannisyan, Zara Tonikyan…one better than the next. Today’s pop singers, who have nothing to offer, call themselves ‘Estrada singers.’ Not one of these could measure up to Tatevik or Zara, or the others, and they know it. It’s kind of like today’s ashoughagan singers, who try to up their status by calling themselves folk singers. Not one of them can sing a folk song, and they know it.”

During the evening, a concert commemorating the life of Andranik Margaryan was shown, our friends remembering Margaryan:

“Margaryan was a smart man, a decent man. I’m not saying he was a saint. But compared to today’s leaders, he definitely was a decent man. People still talk about his death, and its suspicious timing, just in time for Serge to take his place as prime minister, and then become president. And, a lot of people don’t know that the doctor who performed the autopsy on Margaryan died soon after doing the autopsy. Perhaps he didn’t agree to keep secrets? Of course, there’s no proof here, but this is what people say. And often there’s something to what people say.”

On the comical side, if it can be called that, or, what is better known as the “Armenian reality,” the next morning, after being without water for some 24 hours, a call to the water department got us the response, “Vtar,” a word meaning accident, or breakdown, and often used here to describe whatever misfortune that may have occurred. Later, after an attempt at connecting to the Internet failed, I checked at a nearby Internet club to see if they had a connection, and the response there was the same, “Vtar.” Although used at times by lazy workers or officials to avoid answering a citizen’s question, this time “vtar” was accurate. Related is the overuse of the Armenian word “jknajham,” used to describe the current financial crisis, a neighbor aptly describing the way many businessmen here use that word when asked why they don’t hire people, give them normal salaries, etc.: “In Armenia, we’ve been in a ‘jknajham’ since Independence; these businessmen are just using that word to justify their criminal ways, and not pay people a decent wage.”

Friday, June 12, 2009

While getting ready to leave for a meeting with Hranush Hakopyan, of the Diaspora Ministry, our Russian-based friend called from Ohanavan and said he had just one more day in Armenia before returning, so he was coming over to say goodbye. Arriving with his brother, we said hello and sat at the table for a dinner of dolma and our guest’s favorite, tuti arak from Khundzoresk. “I have friends there,” he said, “so this arak is special.”

While in Armenia, our friend had been all over the country, from Byurakan to Zangezur, and from Gyumri to Shamshadin. “One of the things I miss the most living in Russia, besides my friends and the land and water of Armenia, is the dialect people in each region still use. My favorites are the Shamshadin and Zangezur dialects, but I love them all. In Russia, Armenians speak good Armenian, sometimes perfect Armenian, but they don’t use dialect. And even when they do, their children don’t. People lose so much not living here, and they don’t understand it. Speaking perfect Armenian, Western or Eastern, is wonderful, but they don’t have the feel of the nature, the people, of a certain area. It’s too bad, but all the dialects of the Western Armenians are gone, the dialects of Moush, Van, and all the others. I hope Eastern Armenians continue using dialect, and, I think they will.”

Giving a toast, he said, “I wish that the situation in Armenia, financial and moral, improves to the level that Armenians will move back here, without having to think of all the negative things going on now. And, to our next meeting, which I hope is soon…be it in Russia, or in Yerevan.”

As our friend’s brother had only eaten mulberries, not drunk any, he served as the designated driver and took us to the Diaspora Ministry for our meeting, which went quite well, as our collaboration in producing a CD of Armenian lullabies and another for children’s songs is becoming at least somewhat certain.

From there, a ministry official drove us to Kino Moskva, for the premiere of Geghama Ashkharhu, or, “The World of the Geghama,” the mountain range in the region of Lake Sevan. Arriving, and opening the door to the theater where the film was being shown, we met Shavarsh Vardanyan, the film’s cameraman, and for whom I had translated the film into English. Apologizing, Vardanyan said that there was no place to sit, and that we’d have to stand alongside the walls.

We watched in amazement as the story of the land and dynasties between Artashat and the Geghama Mountains was told, centering on the temple of Garni and its importance in Armenian history over the ages. Amazing was seeing the large number of monasteries and fortresses in the area around Garni, possibly the most classic the fortress of Keghvaberd, located high on a rocky mountaintop, and which was used until just before the time of the Mongol invasions. Ancient carvings of rams, the Soldier’s Church, and other churches carved into rocky mountains, much like Geghard, were of special interest.

Something that surprised the audience was the fact that the Russians were making arrangements, in early Soviet times, to move the stones of Garni to Tbilisi, where they planned on reconstructing the temple. Fortunately, we found out, the Russians declared the task too difficult, the stones too heavy, and the project too expensive.

The quite well done film, got rave reviews from all who attended, young and old, and partly, as one said, “due to the nice, relaxed music, both classical and the sound of the blul and an occasional voice of a villager singing a folk song in the background, without the sound of the synthesizer drowning everything out, agitating everybody.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

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.”

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Karabaghtsi told us that while still living in Karabagh, he always considered himself Armenian, but that when arriving and living in Armenia, he first heard “Hayastantsi,” “Karabaghtsi,” and all the rest.

“This has always disgusted me,” he said. “Armenians are a talented people, no doubt, but they have some character traits they should face up to…not just talk about, but face up to.

“One of those problems is the individual being only for himself, and not the nation. I’m thinking now about a Beirut-born Armenian who was living in Yerevan and went into business with an Arab, registering the business in his own name, as he was a citizen here. Then the Armenian cheated the Arab, who took what he could and left Armenia. Needless to say, the Arab never returned. The Armenian’s father, and the Arab, were friends in Beirut, so the Arab trusted the Armenian.

“The Armenian thought only about his pocketbook, not his father’s friendship with the Arab, and not about the good that their business venture, and future business ventures with the Arab, could have done for our country’s economy and people.

“And, in my opinion, Armenians could learn some lessons from the Turks when it comes to diplomacy. For instance, in my opinion, Armenians aren’t being smart when it comes to the issue of Genocide recognition. A recent letter sent to and published in the Armenian press in the US received no reaction…none. It said that Armenians should be congratulating Obama for going as far as he did in recognizing the Genocide, and should be announcing to the world that Obama recognized the Genocide with his description of what happened in 1915, his description fitting the legal definition of genocide perfectly. If we declared that Obama recognized the Genocide, the Turks wouldn’t know how to react. But they react well to our tears and complaints, which I think serve some of our Diaspora organizations well, and give them the reason they need to prolong their existence.”

Friday, June 5, 2009

“There’s a joke here about someone making a wish that he could live ‘in the Armenia they show on National Television news,’” our visitor said. “And today we see another example of the reality behind this joke. National Television is saying the recent election had problems, but that whatever violations that might have happened didn’t affect the outcome. A group of Europeans, bought off as usual, said the same thing, yet we expect that from them. But when our own refuse to admit the truth, it’s bad.

“Like what the representative from Heritage said on a local television station today… ‘I saw lots of violations in the two polling stations I observed…’ but when asked by a viewer if this meant the violations were widespread, the Heritage person said, ‘I can’t say for sure.’ When people see the supposed opposition talking like this, kind of swimming along, not saying anything definite, they lose hope in any sort of democracy taking hold here. Also, it wasn’t National Television, but a smaller, local station that showed several local observers opening a bag of supposedly cast ballots, but the bag was open, which is illegal, and the ballots in it were bent, folded, obviously not ballots cast by the voters. I wish they’d show this kind of thing on National Television, for Diaspora Armenians to see, but no such luck.

“Armenians in the Diaspora, those that are able to watch Armenian television, watch National Television, Armenia, or Shant. Outside of occasional good programming, these stations are doing nothing but promoting pop singers, mafia-style serials, ridiculous music competitions with self-promoting judges, and low morals in general. They tried to stop funding for ‘Hye Aspet,’ a show in which young students test their knowledge about Armenian history, traditional song and dance, and the like. Luckily, they found the money. There’s never a problem in getting money for the serials, etc., but for something cultural, like ‘Hye Aspet,’ they have to beg for money.

“This all makes me wonder,” he continued, “if life was better then (Soviet times) or now. When walking up to your house, I passed by several new garages and a new little shop, made out of metal (bootka, in Russian, meaning a sort of makeshift, small building), so I asked the men working on the shop if they were going to sell books there. They got mad, knowing I was making fun of them. In Soviet times, none of this would have been allowed. People needed written permission, a document, to build something, make an addition to their house, that sort of thing. Now, no matter how much your neighbors might object, if you bribe the right person, you can build what you want, where you want. Is this good?

“My Kessab-born father, who never felt at home here, still talks about how people treated others with respect in Soviet times, and how they had morals, real morals. He always tells the story about someone he worked with who, back in the 1980s, got divorced and didn’t take care of his former wife and children properly. This person was ridiculed at work, almost lost his job, and was later forced by the government to make payments to his ex-wife. This definitely isn’t the case today. Sometimes I wonder how things could have changed so much in 15, 18 years.

“But, in spite of all this, there are good people here. The good people need to stay here, otherwise we’re finished. Too many here have one foot in the country, one out of the country…they don’t know where they are, or want to be. I know someone who had it made, actually, was fairly rich, in Soviet times. He ran a huge flower business, and was able to keep it fairly quiet, as this kind of entrepreneurship wasn’t allowed then. When the Soviet Union collapsed, for some reason he thought he had to leave the country. Now he’s washing dishes in Los Angeles. He’s an honest type, so couldn’t go the route so many Hayastantsis take there, many of whom end up in prison for their schemes, so he’s washing dishes, of all things. And another old friend, who owned several shops, some of them downstairs in the Hamalir, and had plenty of money, took the same route after Independence. Now he’s driving taxi in Los Angeles.

“It’s crazy here, but we need to stay here, and work our way out of this. This is our last chance. If we leave the country to the elements running things now, what will future generations say about us?”

Leaving, and nearly out the door, our visitor turned back and told what he had just heard, from a very reliable source. “An American-Armenian donated a certain sum of money, which he used as a write-off on his US taxes. But this was with the condition that the organization here give back 25% of the money supposedly donated. I know all Diaspora Armenians aren’t like that, but, I’m tired of hearing about our people here raking off funds coming into the country, when there are those from the Diaspora who do the same thing pretty well…”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

“Agna Oror”
Recorded by Komitas in Agn, region of Kharberd
Lullaby sung by Hasmik Harutyunyan

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On election day, a late-night visitor told why he had voted for Gagik Beglaryan and his party in the day’s election. “First of all, I work for City Hall. I’d be stupid not to vote for Beglaryan. He has the power and the resources to get things done. Is he a saint, or close to it? Of course not. Is George Bush a saint, or Merkel, Blair, the others? Why do we expect more of our own leaders than of others?”

Kept out of the city center by work-related activities, I was unable to partake in any of the rallies that may have taken place near the Matenadaran or city center. Yet, I was at least somewhat enlightened at a hogihangist in Charbakh, several of the men standing in the garden under vines and mulberry trees telling what they had seen and heard during and after the election:

“It wasn’t an honest election, no matter how you look at it,” a Charbakhtsi said. “They bought the election. They were passing out money, five and ten thousand dram a shot. There’s no way they would have won without doing this.”

“As a Dashnak, you have no room to talk,” a native of the Erebuni district said. “When Dashnaktsutyun was in the coalition, they told their observers to keep quiet when they saw violations. Now they turn pure?”

Someone living in Avan said he saw people taken to various polling stations and forced to vote. “They had voter registration lists. When they saw names of people who hadn’t voted, they went to the buildings they lived in, and took them to vote. I had never seen so many Hummers in one area, though they also used vans, etc., to haul people in to vote.”

A woman with her guest from France came to where the men were standing, repeating the accusation that the election had been bought by the ruling party. Her guest, an Armenian from Lyon, said, “In France, people wouldn’t stoop so low as to sell their vote for a few dollars, or a dinner of khorovats,” to which I said, “In France, if the people were in the financial state of most Armenians here, they would have sold their soul and a lot more long ago,” a remark that needless to say didn’t earn me a new friend.