Friday, March 30, 2007

Klingon Armenian.

im_zenkn_im_bemn_e, originally uploaded by nazarian.

A Klingon looking fellow on an Armenian billboard ad in Yerevan with a motto 'My weapon is my stage'.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fight for your rights.

Today's 'AZG' has two articles that were of interest to me. The first one was about plans to build small dams and hydro-electric plants on the Vanadzor river in the Vanadzor gorge. To sweeten the deal, the builder, 'Hasmik Ltd.', is offering to build recreational facilities next to the damns which they label as 'our investment in Vanadzor'.

There are three arguments against the plan. The first is that building these dams will saturate the ground and cause mud slides. Apparently, there have been such plans in the 60-s but geological studies have indicated that once built, the dams will be dangerous and will cause the ground to slide down towards the populated areas a few kilometers downstream. Also, there is a list of rivers that the Armenian government has that allows the building of hydro plants and dams, and the Vanadzor river is not on it.

The second argument is that the amount of electricity generated will be so negligible that any investment in the project will not be recovered in the foreseeable future. As such, it does not make sense for a reasonable businessperson to invest money in the project.

The third argument is that all this is a ploy for the Hasmik Ltd to prepare ground for privatizing the gorge. Argument number two, combined with the offer to build recreational facilities, is what makes me suspect that this is the true motive behind all the hoopla. The area in question is the only area available to the Vanadzorci for recreational use. As a kid, I have gone there for weekend picnics, BBQ or gathering mushrooms. There are a number of restaurants but most of the area is public. If someone privatizes the area, the chances of it remaining available to the public are slim to none. In its dog-eat-dog philosophy, the Armenian government does not have a policy of making sure that the public lands are open to the public. Te public lands are leased to private parties who then restrict the public access to these areas. The citizens thus become serfs in their own country.

There is a big outcry in the city among the intellectual elite and concerned citizens who want to make sure they remain free and the owners of their own fate.

The second article was about the continuing practice of marshrutka drivers smoking. This is a direct violation of the law about smoking. Apparently, there are notices plastered in these minivans but the drivers ignore it. The passengers are reluctant to do anything as they are not willing to get into an argument with the occasional grumpy driver.

The problem is, if you don't fight for your rights, nobody else is going to. The non-smokers are lucky that there is a law and they got the law without a fight as it was presented to them by the government pretending to be a European country. All that is required of them now is to put a little effort to defend their rights.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Սերժ Սարգսյանը որպես Հայաստանի վարչապետ.

Թե ՀՀՇ-ն ինչի սրանց բերեց ու երկրի գլխին փորձանք բացեց, չգիտեմ.


It cracks me up every time I look at it. :) The sign says:

"The auto shop will serve you from 1 pm to 2 pm (on Wednesdays)"

seen on

I just found one of the commercials promoting Armenia to the Western tourists. It's a nice introductory commercial.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ayl@ntrank meeting takes place in Liberty Square.

Some of you may know that Ayl@ntrank had requested a permission to hold their March 23 meeting at the Liberty Square. The Yerevan Municipality had refused it in a manner not consistent with the law, and Ayl@ntrank has taken them to court. To top this off, The municipality has organized a 'Spring 2007' music festival when they bring kids to Liberty Square and have them perform. A festival in itself is not a bad thing but it's obvious why it has been organized now. The two-bit officials are trying to prevent any other activities from taking place in the square. They do not even hide that fact as the 'Spring 2007' festival ends on May 12 which is the election day.

Well, Ayl@ntrank has held its meeting in Liberty Square (Aramazd has promised to post some pictures of the event). I don't know of the degree of its gutsiness, given the history of the Armenian authorities' brutality against protesters as evidenced by the attack on them on Baghramian Street a few years ago after the presidential elections. But it is a welcome move that there is a push-back against the 'no one else has balls but us' attitude of the authorities (they like to call themselves 'the only men in the country'). The key to defeating any superior force is to refuse to play by their rules. So far the authorities force everyone to play by the law but they themselves break the law at any opportunity they get even though they are the ones who have written these same laws.

Ayl@ntrank is thinking to hold their next meeting at Matenadaran. I do not thin that they should do it. They need to reclaim Liberty Square as the location where dissenting views are displayed. The Soviets could not silence Liberty Square, and the current authorities should not be allowed to do it either.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Democracy issues in Russia.

The Russian Supreme Court has banned the Republican Party of Vladimir Ryjkov. The reason given is that the party is too small and is not very well represented in the regions in Russia.

One might expect such petty things from the mini-dictators in countries like the Armenian president Kocharian but I would expect something a little more creative from Putin. Acts like a plane accident in which Ryjkov was traveling, or some kind of terrorist act by a rival, and equally undesirable, party (that would kill two wabbits with one stone), or a Chechen terrorist act are out of question for such a small party. One wonders what has necessitated the party closure. If they are weak, let them exist as they can't challenge the autocratic government in Kremlin.

Here is the small article on RFE/RL about the closure.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Azeri President Ilham Aliyev

Dana Carvey as The Master of Disguise.

Holbrooke wants to have the cake, and eat it, too.


I do not believe the United States should or will make concessions about Georgia. I certainly would oppose that. Georgian territorial integrity is important, the Russians should stop supporting the breakaway illegal regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Georgia should be allowed to develop on its own.


Holbrooke: Of course, Kosovo will become independent. It's inevitable. But the Russians are encouraging the hard-liners in Belgrade by opposing the [Martti] Ahtisaari plan and that is very unhelpful.


It remains to be seen whether 'with a friend like the US who needs an enemy' situation will become true for Georgia or they have made a good choice to align themselves so closely with the US interests. I understand their desire to get rid of the Russian meddling into their affairs. I just don't know if it's wise to offer their country as a battleground in between Russia and the US. The whole purpose of US foreign affairs is to kick the Russians into insignificant existence very much like the what happens when you kick a dog and it runs away shrieking with the tail in between its legs.

Of course, I could care less about Georgia's territorial integrity if it did not directly affect the future of my country. I am not so eagerly waiting for the developments around Kosovo and Georgia. I hope Armenia is not presented as a sacrificial lamb on a plate to Turkey.

Read the whole Holbrooke interview on RFE/RL.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Azeri sense of insecurity.

Anyone who follows the Azeri newspaper publications has repeatedly encountered their negative coverage of Armenia, and anything related to the Armenians. It may be understandable for them to use Armenia as a yardstick for their accomplishments and shortcomings. The three countries in the region, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, use each other's statistics to measure how well, or badly, they are doing. When Armenia was the 'vagr' (tiger) of South Caucasus, the other two were jealous. Now Azerbaijan is the vagr and the other two are jealous. Georgia and Armenia continue to laugh at Azerbaijan for its totalitarian regime. The Armenian are jealous of Georgia's progress in fixing corruption and openness to the West. The examples are numerous.

But the funniest examples of jealousy are the articles in the Azerbaijani press about the Armenian culture and how they are all stolen from ancient Azeri culture. In doing that, they often sound like the women from the 'Desperate Housewives' TV show. The latest article that caught my attention was about Hayko's Eurovision entry and his use of duduk music. Now the Azeris claim that duduk is their tutek. Of course, nobody cares if tutek is duduk as it is immaterial to everyone except to people who have nothing else to do.

For your entertainment, here are the original in Russian, and a roughly translated version in English.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Slow internet.

Today the internet at the hotel I am staying is slow. Earlier, I came across the Harvard women's basketball team in the hotel restaurant. My guess is that the young ladies are hogging up the bandwidth.

I thought they were stuck in the snow on their way to the game with Maryland but it turns out it's in Hartford. The players feel like an underdog but are hopeful that they'll kick ass. We'll see on Sunday if they succeed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Back in the US.

After about a week in the Caribbean, I'm back in the cesspool of petty partisan politics and the culture obsessed with celebrity antics. Of course, the most unpleasant experience is going through the border control and getting interrogated. In the airports, everybody is inspected suspiciously by the armed police standing in strategic points - what the hell are people who have just arrived to the country going to do, I don't know. I have no problem with the police walking around with dogs (I like animals) but everything else is very degrading. At least the citizens are not finger printed and photographed.

But what made my day was seeing two blobs riding around on Segways. These women, who were airport security or something, should have been walking around instead of using a Segway - a Segway only makes their giant folds of fat even larger.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A short documentary on Russian mercenaries.

Here is a short documentary about the Russian mercenaries in 1991 working for the Azeris. The Russian government had denied that the Russian planes were bombing the Armenian towns. It was true - the planes were not Russian but Azeri. The pilots, however, were Russian army officers.

The narrative is in Russian. For those who do not know Russian, here is a short recap:

The video features two Russians who were shot down over Karabagh within 6 months of each other in the early stages of the Karabagh War For Self Preservation. The first pilot, Yuri belichenko, was shot down on 25 October, 1991 over Stepanakert and describes why he signed up. The Azeris offered him an opportunity to make money ($5,000 per raid and an apartment). He was out of job once the Soviet Union collapsed, and the base in Baku where he was an officer was ransacked. He accepted the offer even though he knew the risks associated with being a mercenary. He was eventually let go and moved to Russia after he helped restore the Stepanakert airport runway - the same runway that he had destroyed earlier.

The second pilot, Anatoly Chestyakov, reveals more. He describes the amount of money he receives ($5,000 for each mission), that there were 6 more Russian pilots working for the Azeris and the type of missions which were designed to attack the civilians in order to spread fear and panic among the civilian population. He had already flown 30 or so bombing missions and killed God knows how many civilians. He committed suicide a week after the interview was filmed.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Melkonian petition has yielded results.

The Cyprus government has issued a new preservation order for the Melkonian property, Cyprus Mail reports. This is good news towards the preservation and eventual reopening of Melkonian. The combined effort by the Melkonian alumni, the Armenian community of Cyprus and friends of Melkonian and Cyprus has yielded a definite result but the struggle is far from over. AGBU is a formidable and rich nemesis and they have better resources than the friends of Melkonian. Our creativity and drive for a good cause somewhat compensate for that but AGBU cannot be dismissed easily.

I'll keep y'all posted about further events. Alternatively, you may access up to date information at

Friday, March 02, 2007

Virtual lab experiments - educational CD-s in Armenian.

I just came across an ArmeniaNow article about lab experiments on a CD. These are tools developed in Armenia that enable the school kids to practice lab experiments on a PC instead of the real thing.

This may seem a little strange to people living in the West but the truth is that the Armenian schools have long suffered from lack of lab equipment in schools. Such a condition existed during the Soviets when everything was in short supply. It was especially true for non-Russian schools. The empire had to have an incentive to convince the parents that it was better to send their kids and have them educated in Russian rather than their native language. So they had better supplies in the Russian schools than the Armenian schools.

Since the independence things haven't gotten better. When the funds are tight, the school districts care more about warming the classrooms rather than trying to acquire lab chemicals.

So now there are tools, which incidentally in Armenian and are developed by Armenian professionals, that will enable kids to learn in the comfort of their homes, if they have a PC, or on school computers. It's like getting two wabbits with one stone. I don't know if the developers have plans to start exporting these to the Armenian Diaspora as well - it probably be a good idea.