Monday, May 31, 2010

Civil Disobedience

The Liberty Square opened a few days ago. On May 28, a group of HAK activists wanted to celebrate the Republic Day there. As has become usual, at the site of HAK activists, the police showed up and banned whatever was happening. A few dozen people were detained. Their crime: trying to be at the Liberty Square.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Marching towards the bright future.

Bright because it's lit by the blaze of the plunge to the Earth. You open any news source and you don't know whether to cry at the misery of the Armenian political thought or laugh at the comedy that the Armenian diplomacy has become.

Some highlights from today:

Investigators Say Murder Theory In Police Custody Case ‘Ungrounded’

EU Likely To Stay Cautious On Political Reform In Armenia

Armenia Raps EU Parliament Over Karabakh Resolution

New Armenian Governor Warns Media

Monday, May 17, 2010

October 27: Another Suspicious Death

[...] In 2000, Norayr Yeghiazaryan, who had sold weapons to the gang, died under unknown conditions in an isolation cell. In 2004, Vram Galstyan (uncle of Nairi Hunanyan) committed suicide by hanging from a bed sheet. Throughout his trial Galstyan claimed that authorities had injected him with psychotropic drugs, and that they pressured him to commit suicide “so that the truth remained unrevealed.” [...]
In 2002, Tigran Naghdalyan, 36, Chairman of the Board of the Armenian Public Television and a key witness of the case was shot dead at the doorstep of his apartment. Armen Sargsyan (brother of assassinated Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan) was accused and imprisoned for Naghdalyan’s murder, however, suspicion has surrounded Naghdalyan’s death was assassinated as an October 27 witness. 

In 2004, National Assembly deputy Mushegh Movsisyan, 47, another key witness of the case, died of a car accident. The same year, Hasmik Abrahamyan, 45, an employee of the NA Protocol Department who was on the witness list was found hung in the NA building. 
Too many people connected to the October 27 assassinations have died. While the then president Kocharian declared that this was an open and shut case, 11 years later the process is still going on. The biggest beneficiaries of the assassinations, Robert Kocharian and Serj Sargsian, still enjoy their lives.

Armenia Now: Suspicious Death: October 27 accomplice dead by heart attack in prison

It could be that this guy was not really involved in the parliament terror plot according to an Aravot article. (original in Armenian or English through Google Translate)

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Ronnie James Dio has passed away. Cancer finally got him.

He was one of the main rockers during my formative years.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Interview with Levon Zurabian

- It would be ideal if the opposition was able to carry out regime change in a bloodless and safe way for the state, establish democratic liberties, a competitive economic system, achieve such changes that would allow Armenia to negotiate from a much more powerful position. But when you sit against a junta, which is ready to initiate bloodshed or suppression of liberties to hinder the process, it is clear that a so-called "full frontal attack" can only complicate the already difficult condition surrounding Armenia and Karabakh. If Armenia were to appear for 10 minutes in the state that Kirgizistan was, nothing would remain of Karabakh. "Frontal attacks", any means of opposing the regime that have a potential for bloodshed are against the interests of Armenia or Karabakh. That is why we have chosen a path which, though longer,  is aimed at the smooth reformation of the political system and the governance. That is why we are "ripening" the factors which will enable us to complete what the Czechs called a "velvet revolution". And I am sure that we already have serious results.

Read the rest of the interview with Levon Zurabian (in Armenian) (English through Google Translate)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Սեռժեմբերիկներ: Punishing Child Molesters.

We don't have them! This is what you hear in societies where putting rose colored glasses or sticking their heads in sand is the appropriate way of dealing with the reality. In Soviet Union, they said that about a lot of things: any kind of sex (including love-making between consenting adults), prostitution, drugs, child molestation, poverty, illiteracy and things like that.

As a devoted post-Soviet society, Armenia has continued to deal with issues in a similar fashion. About a year ago, Mariam Sukhudian, an environmental activist, researched and published child molestation cases in a Yerevan orphanage/boarding school by one of the teachers there. Immediately, the police went into their usual mode and charged her for "false snitching". The readers may remember that this is kind of an allegation the Armenian government uses to imprison undesirable people who dare to speak out (Sargis Hatspanian is still serving his 7 year term in prison for a newspaper interview).

There was a major uproar and grudgingly the police actually started investigating the child molestation cases. Lo and behold, they actually determined that the allegations were indeed true and charged the teacher in question. Today it turns out that they want the judge to sentence the child molester to 1.5 years in prison.

To add insult to the injury, the trial is being expedited Under the Armenian law, expedited trials do not require to go over the details of the criminal case and no witnesses are examined. This is despite the objections of the attorney representing the interests of the victims.

For a comparison, consider this: innocent people get sent to prison in Armenia for 5 to 7 years. At least!

A child molester, on the other hand, is treated with mercy. But at least they are sending him to jail. In 2000 when then president Robert Kocharian's guards beat up and killed Poghos Poghosian at the popular Paplavok cafe in Yerevan, only one of the guards was charged with "careless pushing" and sentenced to 2 years of probation.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Սեռժեմբերիկներ: Marvels of Modern Armenian Engineering.

Question: How do you make something that has lower quality than a Chinese made product?
Answer: Have an Armenian "svarchik" (welder) replicate a Chinese design using Soviet era metal, homemade welding machine and low quality Iranian-made welding supplies.

The result is what we saw in Yerevan on May 9. A svarchik-made ferris wheel malfunctioned - a basket seat broke apart and fell to the ground injuring two adults and two children. The adults are still in the ICU.

Svarchiks are a unique class - they are the backbone of the Armenian infrastructure. The rickety Soviet era buses you see on the streets of Armenia are mainly held together with beams pieced together by svarchik-s. The leaky water pipes are installed and maintained by svarchik-s. The natural gas pipes you see near roads are designed and put together by svarchik-s as well.

At least their output is positive until something goes wrong (a bus flips over, a gas pipe blows up, etc.)

The government is pretty much governed by svarchik-s, too. They also tinker with the country and try to keep it held together. They don't use welding machines or duct tape - theirs is the intellectual equivalent of duct tape. There are plenty of examples of that in this blog.

Now, for your enjoyment, a typical faucet design in Armenia.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Victory Day!

Today is the 18-th anniversary of the victory of the Shushi battle - a major turning point of the Karabakh War of self-determination.

Thank you to all the heroes of the Karabakh army who made it possible for NKR and Armenia prevail.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Google Ads.

When I put Google Ads on the sidebar of this blog a couple of years ago, I was interested to see what kind of campaigns would appear based on my content. Usually there are no ads and it shows a "Google-ի կենցաղային ազդ" - basically grassroots ads for hurricane Katrina relief, etc. because the topics are not of commercial interest.

Well, with the post about the Russian schools in Armenia, there was an ad for a lawyer who offers to do the paperwork for your Russian or Ukrainian mail order bride for a low fee of $195 (discounted from $295).

Life cracks me up sometimes.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Slide Decks.

For the past 7-8 years there is an underground movement against Powerpoint presentations. The message is "Powerpoint makes us stupid".

I personally like slide decks accompanying presentations especially if there are printouts for me to take notes on. But a lot of presentations I have seen have been very boring.

Slate has a very useful article on when and how to have good PPT slides. I am presenting this afternoon and some of my slides do not really comply with the best practices the article talks about. I wish I had read this earlier.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Unsustainable economy, Սեռժեմբերիկներ 2.

The point about the Russian language schools is not as trivial as the wishes of the former Russian educated elite or Serj Sargsian's upbringing in Azerbaijan. It's another stepping stone towards joining with Russia in some sort of a union.

This sounds like a paranoid conspiracy but there are grounds for this. The past decade has shown that the Armenian society is unwilling or unable to build a sustainable economy. The monetary policies of the successive governments have favored the importers. Production for internal markets or exports have been discouraged. The import of goods is controlled by a handful of families and it is far easier to resell something that's already been made than to actually create value.

The main export has been labor with people leaving the country to work abroad and support their families in Armenia. This, however, is not sustainable in the long run. There are a couple of reason:
- Immigrants integrate into their new home countries the longer they live there and will try to bring over their families as they learn the laws and customs of their new home;
- Immigrants lose their touch with their birthplace with time;
- Families left behind die off reducing the recipient lists.

The financial crisis exposed how vulnerable this system is and the Armenian government had to fill the plug with $1.5 billion of new foreign debt.

The solution is to enter into a union where there is an economic 'big brother' with a pegged currency or single currency. The obvious choice for a big brother is Russia and the return of the Russian schools is another step in preparing people to administer Armenia under Russian control.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


The retreat from the promise of an independent Armenia is gathering pace. It all started with the unlimited presence of the Russian garrison in Gyumri. While the excuse for such terms was the national security of Armenia vis-a-vis the Turkish threat (a quite realistic threat to the very existence of Armenia), contracts that do not have termination clauses usually leave you without any levers of control.

The Russification of Armenia then continued with the infamous Debt for Property deal where $100 million debt was written off in exchange for public properties such as the Hrazdan power station. The encroachment of the Russian ownership of assets in Armenia continued and completed where the land-line telephone market, the internet gateway to the rest of the world is owned by the Russians, the #1 and #2 largest cell phone service providers are Russian, the power grid is owned by the Russians and the nuclear power station is managed by Russians, too. Effectively, all that remains under Armenian ownership are low tech, low value added agriculture based industries and the tourism industry.

The result was a resurgence of the class of people during the Soviet era who were educated in Russian schools and were the carriers of the Soviet/Russian mindset. These were people who looked down the Armenians who spoke Armenian and considered them uneducated villagers. While Robert Kocharian or Serj Sargsian were Russian speakers, it was not entirely their fault - in NKR, where these two grew up, you either spoke Russian or Azeri if you wanted to succeed and have a career.

This class of the society now wants to reopen the Russian language schools. Their leader is a person called Ashotian - the minister of education. This man used to be the most foul mouthed parliamentarian when he started his political career but was quickly promoted to a minister when Serj Sargsian inherited the presidency from Robert Kocharian after the March 1 massacre.