“To overcome the censorship of the Soviet regime, we used code messages. ‘The bread is good’ meant we were starving. ‘The wardrobe door is broken’ meant persecution, imprisonment. If in a picture there were people lying down, it meant someone had died, and so on”. In her apartment in the centre of Anjar – three thousand Armenians up in the Lebanese mountains, Angel goes over the thread of family memories dating back to over 60 years ago, when her sister Vartuhi left Lebanon to move to Soviet Armenia. “Right from the early letters, all that was written about was bread and wardrobes, and then the pictures also slowly started coming in. I realised that Armenia was not the heaven the Russians wanted us to believe. And that I would never see my sister again”.

Following World War II, the Armenian diaspora was faced with yet another challenge. Determined to rebalance the demographic gap left by the millions of casualties from the war, the Soviet Union promoted huge repopulation campaigns. Anxious to finally be in a “motherland” of their own, American, European and Middle-Eastern Armenian communities, moved en masse. Starting from 1946, trains, ships and convoys with the red star moved thousands of children of the Armenian diaspora to Yerevan, in Soviet Armenia. Seventy percent of Anjar’s inhabitants, 3.500 out of 5.000, chose to leave. Among these was Vartuhi, Angel’s sister.

“It was very hard, at the beginning. Lebanese Armenians were used to moving, reading the newspaper, speaking their minds, so they were immediately spotted by the merciless eye of the regime. Many were shipped to Siberia, to concentration camps”. Angel’s memory moves smoothly to distant seasons, sweeping through the immeasurable geography of the diaspora as if no corner of the world were unknown.

“But Anjar’s Armenians are thick-skinned. Slowly, they built their lives, their homes, even a village, close to Yerevan”. I interrupt her. “Is this village still there?” Angel smiles: “Of course. It’s called Musa Dagh. Just like our native land. My sister lives there”. Enraptured by her memories, the old lady recounts the years of her youth, of the irreversible choices, while in my mind, a blurred idea is becoming clearer and clearer. While saying goodbye to Angel the Lebanese way, with three kisses on the cheek, I take a picture of her and make her a promise: “I will come back to see you, with a surprise”.

From my diary. 3rd November

The stream of memory that links the Caucasus to the Middle-East flows just under the surface of everyday life. The Inhabitants of Musa Dagh who leave Turkey in 1939 to move to Lebanon travel to Armenia eight years later. One-way journeys, decisions without appeal, but each displacement marks the land, tracing a path that from the Caucasus leads to Beirut and vice versa.

Vakif, the only one of the seven villages of Musa Dagh that chose to remain under Turkish authority, still inhabited by Armenians; Anjar, the Armenian jewel in the Bekaa valley, a pacific oasis in one of the world's most conflict-ridden areas; the new Musa Dagh in Yerevan’s suburbs, a refuge for those who in 1946, after so much misery, thought they had finally found the road to the Rising Sun of the Future. Splinters getting lost in the tragedy of the genocide, in games between powers, among the ruins of the wars of the Middle-East and the Caucasus. The only way to get back to the human element, to understand the choices of the many Vartuhis and Angels of this story, is to walk on the paths of those migrations, measure them with one's steps, with the rain and the monotonous horizons of the plateau and the desert.

“I’m going to Yerevan, I already have a ticket”. Sitting as usual in front of the shutters of the shoe factory, Rafi blows the dense smoke of the Turkish pipe unperturbed. “I knew you would leave, one day or another. You have become paranoid in your search for a rational logic in the history of my people. In time, you will learn it’s not worth it”. Rafi screams something in Armenian to a boy, who immediately serves us arak, an aniseed liquor diluted with water and ice. A one-dollar tip and the boy disappears, swallowed up in the chaos of Burj Hammoud, the Armenian quarter in the heart of Beirut. “What are you going to Armenia for?” While the night is falling on the alley, Rafi listens to the story of Vartuhi and Angel, the sisters separated by the Pobeda, the ship that in 1946 moved thousands of Lebanese Armenians beyond the Iron Curtain. “I want to retrace those events, feel the missing part in the story”.

Rafi orders some more arak. “Focus on this principle: in the Middle-East, it is points of view that count, not facts”. Burj Hammoud is now empty, and Rafi’s words snap like stones. “Take the story of the Pobeda, for example. It stopped existing a long time ago. In its place, what is left is the points of view of those who had an interest in Armenians leaving, and of those who, instead, wanted them to stay. And above all this, the Soviet Union”. Rafi’s allusion leaves no room for doubt. “You mean the Lebanese Armenian community was split by the Cold War too?”. Rafi is at his third arak: “It was a fratricide. That war killed hundreds of people right in these alleys. No one likes to admit it, but the trail of blood has reached our days”.

While I am walking away through the deserted alleys of Burj Hammoud, the rosary is told by the splintered walls in front of my eyes. I think back to Rafi’s words, to the unresolved ambiguity of the civil wars, to the warning that seems to come from the bullets thrusted on the walls. “It was not the foreign occupant to open the fire, but the neighbour, never forget that”. Sprayed letters steer these thoughts: “PKK”, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The movement born in Turkey in the ‘80s fights for the independence of Turkish Kurdistan, the region that was once the ancient Western Armenia. In the name of anti-Turkish resentment, the children of the Armenian diaspora support the Kurdish cause, even though they accuse the same Kurds of having been accomplices of the Ottoman army during the genocide. The labyrinth of these alleys is a metaphor for the intrigued stories of those living here.

The plane takes off on time from the cement carpet in South Beirut, where Shiite quarters fill every space before making room for the first bits of greenery on the spur of the mountain. From the pile of notes, e-mails and maps that I printed out in a rush before leaving, the answer that Adakessian, the Professor at the Beirut Armenian university, sent me a few hours ago pops out:

Dear Paolo,

I wish you the wisdom you need to discern the fine line and make things better understood. Find the contact of Dr. Demoyan, the director of the Armenian Genocide Research Institute in Yerevan. This is the Middle East, and the Genocide issue is one of the central ingredients of this intriguing complex.

Regards, A.

Wisdom, insight, complex intrigues. Where am I going, exactly? The night spent organising my journey has left me with doubts, more than answers. And while the vast blue of the sky and the Lebanese sea makes room for leaden landscapes, my mind is suddenly empty and my body finds refuge in deep sleep.

(This article was originally published on July 25, 2012 in “Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso")

Related posts:
  1. Armenia Ranks Last Among Former Soviet States in Inflation
  2. Dimensions of Cultural Identity and Post-Soviet Ways of Modernization in Armenia
  3. Congrats, Heno!: Armenia midfielder named top post-Soviet soccer player in May
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1946: On board the “Pobeda” to Soviet Armenia

July 30, 2012 Armenia, Diaspora, Europe, Middle East, Turkey No Comments
Image 17080.jpg

11:12, July 30, 2012

By Paolo Martino 

Vartuhi left Beirut in 1946, to reach Soviet Armenia aboard a ship called “Pobeda”. In Stalin’s land, however, the survivors of the genocide saw the dream of a homeland turn into a nightmare. Fourth episode of the story “From the Caucasus to Beirut”

“To overcome the censorship of the Soviet regime, we used code messages. ‘The bread is good’ meant we were starving. ‘The wardrobe door is broken’ meant persecution, imprisonment. If in a picture there were people lying down, it meant someone had died, and so on”. In her apartment in the centre of Anjar – three thousand Armenians up in the Lebanese mountains, Angel goes over the thread of family memories dating back to over 60 years ago, when her sister Vartuhi left Lebanon to move to Soviet Armenia. “Right from the early letters, all that was written about was bread and wardrobes, and then the pictures also slowly started coming in. I realised that Armenia was not the heaven the Russians wanted us to believe. And that I would never see my sister again”.

Following World War II, the Armenian diaspora was faced with yet another challenge. Determined to rebalance the demographic gap left by the millions of casualties from the war, the Soviet Union promoted huge repopulation campaigns. Anxious to finally be in a “motherland” of their own, American, European and Middle-Eastern Armenian communities, moved en masse. Starting from 1946, trains, ships and convoys with the red star moved thousands of children of the Armenian diaspora to Yerevan, in Soviet Armenia. Seventy percent of Anjar’s inhabitants, 3.500 out of 5.000, chose to leave. Among these was Vartuhi, Angel’s sister.

“It was very hard, at the beginning. Lebanese Armenians were used to moving, reading the newspaper, speaking their minds, so they were immediately spotted by the merciless eye of the regime. Many were shipped to Siberia, to concentration camps”. Angel’s memory moves smoothly to distant seasons, sweeping through the immeasurable geography of the diaspora as if no corner of the world were unknown.

“But Anjar’s Armenians are thick-skinned. Slowly, they built their lives, their homes, even a village, close to Yerevan”. I interrupt her. “Is this village still there?” Angel smiles: “Of course. It’s called Musa Dagh. Just like our native land. My sister lives there”. Enraptured by her memories, the old lady recounts the years of her youth, of the irreversible choices, while in my mind, a blurred idea is becoming clearer and clearer. While saying goodbye to Angel the Lebanese way, with three kisses on the cheek, I take a picture of her and make her a promise: “I will come back to see you, with a surprise”.

From my diary. 3rd November

The stream of memory that links the Caucasus to the Middle-East flows just under the surface of everyday life. The Inhabitants of Musa Dagh who leave Turkey in 1939 to move to Lebanon travel to Armenia eight years later. One-way journeys, decisions without appeal, but each displacement marks the land, tracing a path that from the Caucasus leads to Beirut and vice versa.

Vakif, the only one of the seven villages of Musa Dagh that chose to remain under Turkish authority, still inhabited by Armenians; Anjar, the Armenian jewel in the Bekaa valley, a pacific oasis in one of the world’s most conflict-ridden areas; the new Musa Dagh in Yerevan’s suburbs, a refuge for those who in 1946, after so much misery, thought they had finally found the road to the Rising Sun of the Future. Splinters getting lost in the tragedy of the genocide, in games between powers, among the ruins of the wars of the Middle-East and the Caucasus. The only way to get back to the human element, to understand the choices of the many Vartuhis and Angels of this story, is to walk on the paths of those migrations, measure them with one’s steps, with the rain and the monotonous horizons of the plateau and the desert.

“I’m going to Yerevan, I already have a ticket”. Sitting as usual in front of the shutters of the shoe factory, Rafi blows the dense smoke of the Turkish pipe unperturbed. “I knew you would leave, one day or another. You have become paranoid in your search for a rational logic in the history of my people. In time, you will learn it’s not worth it”. Rafi screams something in Armenian to a boy, who immediately serves us arak, an aniseed liquor diluted with water and ice. A one-dollar tip and the boy disappears, swallowed up in the chaos of Burj Hammoud, the Armenian quarter in the heart of Beirut. “What are you going to Armenia for?” While the night is falling on the alley, Rafi listens to the story of Vartuhi and Angel, the sisters separated by the Pobeda, the ship that in 1946 moved thousands of Lebanese Armenians beyond the Iron Curtain. “I want to retrace those events, feel the missing part in the story”.

Rafi orders some more arak. “Focus on this principle: in the Middle-East, it is points of view that count, not facts”. Burj Hammoud is now empty, and Rafi’s words snap like stones. “Take the story of the Pobeda, for example. It stopped existing a long time ago. In its place, what is left is the points of view of those who had an interest in Armenians leaving, and of those who, instead, wanted them to stay. And above all this, the Soviet Union”. Rafi’s allusion leaves no room for doubt. “You mean the Lebanese Armenian community was split by the Cold War too?”. Rafi is at his third arak: “It was a fratricide. That war killed hundreds of people right in these alleys. No one likes to admit it, but the trail of blood has reached our days”.

While I am walking away through the deserted alleys of Burj Hammoud, the rosary is told by the splintered walls in front of my eyes. I think back to Rafi’s words, to the unresolved ambiguity of the civil wars, to the warning that seems to come from the bullets thrusted on the walls. “It was not the foreign occupant to open the fire, but the neighbour, never forget that”. Sprayed letters steer these thoughts: “PKK”, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The movement born in Turkey in the ‘80s fights for the independence of Turkish Kurdistan, the region that was once the ancient Western Armenia. In the name of anti-Turkish resentment, the children of the Armenian diaspora support the Kurdish cause, even though they accuse the same Kurds of having been accomplices of the Ottoman army during the genocide. The labyrinth of these alleys is a metaphor for the intrigued stories of those living here.

The plane takes off on time from the cement carpet in South Beirut, where Shiite quarters fill every space before making room for the first bits of greenery on the spur of the mountain. From the pile of notes, e-mails and maps that I printed out in a rush before leaving, the answer that Adakessian, the Professor at the Beirut Armenian university, sent me a few hours ago pops out:

Dear Paolo,

I wish you the wisdom you need to discern the fine line and make things better understood. Find the contact of Dr. Demoyan, the director of the Armenian Genocide Research Institute in Yerevan. This is the Middle East, and the Genocide issue is one of the central ingredients of this intriguing complex.

Regards, A.

Wisdom, insight, complex intrigues. Where am I going, exactly? The night spent organising my journey has left me with doubts, more than answers. And while the vast blue of the sky and the Lebanese sea makes room for leaden landscapes, my mind is suddenly empty and my body finds refuge in deep sleep.

(This article was originally published on July 25, 2012 in “Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso”)

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. Armenia Ranks Last Among Former Soviet States in Inflation
  2. Dimensions of Cultural Identity and Post-Soviet Ways of Modernization in Armenia
  3. Congrats, Heno!: Armenia midfielder named top post-Soviet soccer player in May
  4. Armenia Marks Soviet Victory In WW2
  5. Armenia and Russia More Theater Countries than Football Countries: Soviet Actor

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John Balian’s “Novel Approach” Brings the Armenian Saga to the Masses – An interview with John Balian by Lucine Kasbarian

Gray Wolves and White Doves cover art

11:12, July 30, 2012

By Paolo Martino 

Vartuhi left Beirut in 1946, to reach Soviet Armenia aboard a ship called “Pobeda”. In Stalin’s land, however, the survivors of the genocide saw the dream of a homeland turn into a nightmare. Fourth episode of the story “From the Caucasus to Beirut”

“To overcome the censorship of the Soviet regime, we used code messages. ‘The bread is good’ meant we were starving. ‘The wardrobe door is broken’ meant persecution, imprisonment. If in a picture there were people lying down, it meant someone had died, and so on”. In her apartment in the centre of Anjar – three thousand Armenians up in the Lebanese mountains, Angel goes over the thread of family memories dating back to over 60 years ago, when her sister Vartuhi left Lebanon to move to Soviet Armenia. “Right from the early letters, all that was written about was bread and wardrobes, and then the pictures also slowly started coming in. I realised that Armenia was not the heaven the Russians wanted us to believe. And that I would never see my sister again”.

Following World War II, the Armenian diaspora was faced with yet another challenge. Determined to rebalance the demographic gap left by the millions of casualties from the war, the Soviet Union promoted huge repopulation campaigns. Anxious to finally be in a “motherland” of their own, American, European and Middle-Eastern Armenian communities, moved en masse. Starting from 1946, trains, ships and convoys with the red star moved thousands of children of the Armenian diaspora to Yerevan, in Soviet Armenia. Seventy percent of Anjar’s inhabitants, 3.500 out of 5.000, chose to leave. Among these was Vartuhi, Angel’s sister.

“It was very hard, at the beginning. Lebanese Armenians were used to moving, reading the newspaper, speaking their minds, so they were immediately spotted by the merciless eye of the regime. Many were shipped to Siberia, to concentration camps”. Angel’s memory moves smoothly to distant seasons, sweeping through the immeasurable geography of the diaspora as if no corner of the world were unknown.

“But Anjar’s Armenians are thick-skinned. Slowly, they built their lives, their homes, even a village, close to Yerevan”. I interrupt her. “Is this village still there?” Angel smiles: “Of course. It’s called Musa Dagh. Just like our native land. My sister lives there”. Enraptured by her memories, the old lady recounts the years of her youth, of the irreversible choices, while in my mind, a blurred idea is becoming clearer and clearer. While saying goodbye to Angel the Lebanese way, with three kisses on the cheek, I take a picture of her and make her a promise: “I will come back to see you, with a surprise”.

From my diary. 3rd November

The stream of memory that links the Caucasus to the Middle-East flows just under the surface of everyday life. The Inhabitants of Musa Dagh who leave Turkey in 1939 to move to Lebanon travel to Armenia eight years later. One-way journeys, decisions without appeal, but each displacement marks the land, tracing a path that from the Caucasus leads to Beirut and vice versa.

Vakif, the only one of the seven villages of Musa Dagh that chose to remain under Turkish authority, still inhabited by Armenians; Anjar, the Armenian jewel in the Bekaa valley, a pacific oasis in one of the world’s most conflict-ridden areas; the new Musa Dagh in Yerevan’s suburbs, a refuge for those who in 1946, after so much misery, thought they had finally found the road to the Rising Sun of the Future. Splinters getting lost in the tragedy of the genocide, in games between powers, among the ruins of the wars of the Middle-East and the Caucasus. The only way to get back to the human element, to understand the choices of the many Vartuhis and Angels of this story, is to walk on the paths of those migrations, measure them with one’s steps, with the rain and the monotonous horizons of the plateau and the desert.

“I’m going to Yerevan, I already have a ticket”. Sitting as usual in front of the shutters of the shoe factory, Rafi blows the dense smoke of the Turkish pipe unperturbed. “I knew you would leave, one day or another. You have become paranoid in your search for a rational logic in the history of my people. In time, you will learn it’s not worth it”. Rafi screams something in Armenian to a boy, who immediately serves us arak, an aniseed liquor diluted with water and ice. A one-dollar tip and the boy disappears, swallowed up in the chaos of Burj Hammoud, the Armenian quarter in the heart of Beirut. “What are you going to Armenia for?” While the night is falling on the alley, Rafi listens to the story of Vartuhi and Angel, the sisters separated by the Pobeda, the ship that in 1946 moved thousands of Lebanese Armenians beyond the Iron Curtain. “I want to retrace those events, feel the missing part in the story”.

Rafi orders some more arak. “Focus on this principle: in the Middle-East, it is points of view that count, not facts”. Burj Hammoud is now empty, and Rafi’s words snap like stones. “Take the story of the Pobeda, for example. It stopped existing a long time ago. In its place, what is left is the points of view of those who had an interest in Armenians leaving, and of those who, instead, wanted them to stay. And above all this, the Soviet Union”. Rafi’s allusion leaves no room for doubt. “You mean the Lebanese Armenian community was split by the Cold War too?”. Rafi is at his third arak: “It was a fratricide. That war killed hundreds of people right in these alleys. No one likes to admit it, but the trail of blood has reached our days”.

While I am walking away through the deserted alleys of Burj Hammoud, the rosary is told by the splintered walls in front of my eyes. I think back to Rafi’s words, to the unresolved ambiguity of the civil wars, to the warning that seems to come from the bullets thrusted on the walls. “It was not the foreign occupant to open the fire, but the neighbour, never forget that”. Sprayed letters steer these thoughts: “PKK”, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The movement born in Turkey in the ‘80s fights for the independence of Turkish Kurdistan, the region that was once the ancient Western Armenia. In the name of anti-Turkish resentment, the children of the Armenian diaspora support the Kurdish cause, even though they accuse the same Kurds of having been accomplices of the Ottoman army during the genocide. The labyrinth of these alleys is a metaphor for the intrigued stories of those living here.

The plane takes off on time from the cement carpet in South Beirut, where Shiite quarters fill every space before making room for the first bits of greenery on the spur of the mountain. From the pile of notes, e-mails and maps that I printed out in a rush before leaving, the answer that Adakessian, the Professor at the Beirut Armenian university, sent me a few hours ago pops out:

Dear Paolo,

I wish you the wisdom you need to discern the fine line and make things better understood. Find the contact of Dr. Demoyan, the director of the Armenian Genocide Research Institute in Yerevan. This is the Middle East, and the Genocide issue is one of the central ingredients of this intriguing complex.

Regards, A.

Wisdom, insight, complex intrigues. Where am I going, exactly? The night spent organising my journey has left me with doubts, more than answers. And while the vast blue of the sky and the Lebanese sea makes room for leaden landscapes, my mind is suddenly empty and my body finds refuge in deep sleep.

(This article was originally published on July 25, 2012 in “Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso”)

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. Armenia Ranks Last Among Former Soviet States in Inflation
  2. Dimensions of Cultural Identity and Post-Soviet Ways of Modernization in Armenia
  3. Congrats, Heno!: Armenia midfielder named top post-Soviet soccer player in May
  4. Armenia Marks Soviet Victory In WW2
  5. Armenia and Russia More Theater Countries than Football Countries: Soviet Actor

New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

11:12, July 30, 2012

By Paolo Martino 

Vartuhi left Beirut in 1946, to reach Soviet Armenia aboard a ship called “Pobeda”. In Stalin’s land, however, the survivors of the genocide saw the dream of a homeland turn into a nightmare. Fourth episode of the story “From the Caucasus to Beirut”

“To overcome the censorship of the Soviet regime, we used code messages. ‘The bread is good’ meant we were starving. ‘The wardrobe door is broken’ meant persecution, imprisonment. If in a picture there were people lying down, it meant someone had died, and so on”. In her apartment in the centre of Anjar – three thousand Armenians up in the Lebanese mountains, Angel goes over the thread of family memories dating back to over 60 years ago, when her sister Vartuhi left Lebanon to move to Soviet Armenia. “Right from the early letters, all that was written about was bread and wardrobes, and then the pictures also slowly started coming in. I realised that Armenia was not the heaven the Russians wanted us to believe. And that I would never see my sister again”.

Following World War II, the Armenian diaspora was faced with yet another challenge. Determined to rebalance the demographic gap left by the millions of casualties from the war, the Soviet Union promoted huge repopulation campaigns. Anxious to finally be in a “motherland” of their own, American, European and Middle-Eastern Armenian communities, moved en masse. Starting from 1946, trains, ships and convoys with the red star moved thousands of children of the Armenian diaspora to Yerevan, in Soviet Armenia. Seventy percent of Anjar’s inhabitants, 3.500 out of 5.000, chose to leave. Among these was Vartuhi, Angel’s sister.

“It was very hard, at the beginning. Lebanese Armenians were used to moving, reading the newspaper, speaking their minds, so they were immediately spotted by the merciless eye of the regime. Many were shipped to Siberia, to concentration camps”. Angel’s memory moves smoothly to distant seasons, sweeping through the immeasurable geography of the diaspora as if no corner of the world were unknown.

“But Anjar’s Armenians are thick-skinned. Slowly, they built their lives, their homes, even a village, close to Yerevan”. I interrupt her. “Is this village still there?” Angel smiles: “Of course. It’s called Musa Dagh. Just like our native land. My sister lives there”. Enraptured by her memories, the old lady recounts the years of her youth, of the irreversible choices, while in my mind, a blurred idea is becoming clearer and clearer. While saying goodbye to Angel the Lebanese way, with three kisses on the cheek, I take a picture of her and make her a promise: “I will come back to see you, with a surprise”.

From my diary. 3rd November

The stream of memory that links the Caucasus to the Middle-East flows just under the surface of everyday life. The Inhabitants of Musa Dagh who leave Turkey in 1939 to move to Lebanon travel to Armenia eight years later. One-way journeys, decisions without appeal, but each displacement marks the land, tracing a path that from the Caucasus leads to Beirut and vice versa.

Vakif, the only one of the seven villages of Musa Dagh that chose to remain under Turkish authority, still inhabited by Armenians; Anjar, the Armenian jewel in the Bekaa valley, a pacific oasis in one of the world’s most conflict-ridden areas; the new Musa Dagh in Yerevan’s suburbs, a refuge for those who in 1946, after so much misery, thought they had finally found the road to the Rising Sun of the Future. Splinters getting lost in the tragedy of the genocide, in games between powers, among the ruins of the wars of the Middle-East and the Caucasus. The only way to get back to the human element, to understand the choices of the many Vartuhis and Angels of this story, is to walk on the paths of those migrations, measure them with one’s steps, with the rain and the monotonous horizons of the plateau and the desert.

“I’m going to Yerevan, I already have a ticket”. Sitting as usual in front of the shutters of the shoe factory, Rafi blows the dense smoke of the Turkish pipe unperturbed. “I knew you would leave, one day or another. You have become paranoid in your search for a rational logic in the history of my people. In time, you will learn it’s not worth it”. Rafi screams something in Armenian to a boy, who immediately serves us arak, an aniseed liquor diluted with water and ice. A one-dollar tip and the boy disappears, swallowed up in the chaos of Burj Hammoud, the Armenian quarter in the heart of Beirut. “What are you going to Armenia for?” While the night is falling on the alley, Rafi listens to the story of Vartuhi and Angel, the sisters separated by the Pobeda, the ship that in 1946 moved thousands of Lebanese Armenians beyond the Iron Curtain. “I want to retrace those events, feel the missing part in the story”.

Rafi orders some more arak. “Focus on this principle: in the Middle-East, it is points of view that count, not facts”. Burj Hammoud is now empty, and Rafi’s words snap like stones. “Take the story of the Pobeda, for example. It stopped existing a long time ago. In its place, what is left is the points of view of those who had an interest in Armenians leaving, and of those who, instead, wanted them to stay. And above all this, the Soviet Union”. Rafi’s allusion leaves no room for doubt. “You mean the Lebanese Armenian community was split by the Cold War too?”. Rafi is at his third arak: “It was a fratricide. That war killed hundreds of people right in these alleys. No one likes to admit it, but the trail of blood has reached our days”.

While I am walking away through the deserted alleys of Burj Hammoud, the rosary is told by the splintered walls in front of my eyes. I think back to Rafi’s words, to the unresolved ambiguity of the civil wars, to the warning that seems to come from the bullets thrusted on the walls. “It was not the foreign occupant to open the fire, but the neighbour, never forget that”. Sprayed letters steer these thoughts: “PKK”, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The movement born in Turkey in the ‘80s fights for the independence of Turkish Kurdistan, the region that was once the ancient Western Armenia. In the name of anti-Turkish resentment, the children of the Armenian diaspora support the Kurdish cause, even though they accuse the same Kurds of having been accomplices of the Ottoman army during the genocide. The labyrinth of these alleys is a metaphor for the intrigued stories of those living here.

The plane takes off on time from the cement carpet in South Beirut, where Shiite quarters fill every space before making room for the first bits of greenery on the spur of the mountain. From the pile of notes, e-mails and maps that I printed out in a rush before leaving, the answer that Adakessian, the Professor at the Beirut Armenian university, sent me a few hours ago pops out:

Dear Paolo,

I wish you the wisdom you need to discern the fine line and make things better understood. Find the contact of Dr. Demoyan, the director of the Armenian Genocide Research Institute in Yerevan. This is the Middle East, and the Genocide issue is one of the central ingredients of this intriguing complex.

Regards, A.

Wisdom, insight, complex intrigues. Where am I going, exactly? The night spent organising my journey has left me with doubts, more than answers. And while the vast blue of the sky and the Lebanese sea makes room for leaden landscapes, my mind is suddenly empty and my body finds refuge in deep sleep.

(This article was originally published on July 25, 2012 in “Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso”)

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. Armenia Ranks Last Among Former Soviet States in Inflation
  2. Dimensions of Cultural Identity and Post-Soviet Ways of Modernization in Armenia
  3. Congrats, Heno!: Armenia midfielder named top post-Soviet soccer player in May
  4. Armenia Marks Soviet Victory In WW2
  5. Armenia and Russia More Theater Countries than Football Countries: Soviet Actor

“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

11:12, July 30, 2012

By Paolo Martino 

Vartuhi left Beirut in 1946, to reach Soviet Armenia aboard a ship called “Pobeda”. In Stalin’s land, however, the survivors of the genocide saw the dream of a homeland turn into a nightmare. Fourth episode of the story “From the Caucasus to Beirut”

“To overcome the censorship of the Soviet regime, we used code messages. ‘The bread is good’ meant we were starving. ‘The wardrobe door is broken’ meant persecution, imprisonment. If in a picture there were people lying down, it meant someone had died, and so on”. In her apartment in the centre of Anjar – three thousand Armenians up in the Lebanese mountains, Angel goes over the thread of family memories dating back to over 60 years ago, when her sister Vartuhi left Lebanon to move to Soviet Armenia. “Right from the early letters, all that was written about was bread and wardrobes, and then the pictures also slowly started coming in. I realised that Armenia was not the heaven the Russians wanted us to believe. And that I would never see my sister again”.

Following World War II, the Armenian diaspora was faced with yet another challenge. Determined to rebalance the demographic gap left by the millions of casualties from the war, the Soviet Union promoted huge repopulation campaigns. Anxious to finally be in a “motherland” of their own, American, European and Middle-Eastern Armenian communities, moved en masse. Starting from 1946, trains, ships and convoys with the red star moved thousands of children of the Armenian diaspora to Yerevan, in Soviet Armenia. Seventy percent of Anjar’s inhabitants, 3.500 out of 5.000, chose to leave. Among these was Vartuhi, Angel’s sister.

“It was very hard, at the beginning. Lebanese Armenians were used to moving, reading the newspaper, speaking their minds, so they were immediately spotted by the merciless eye of the regime. Many were shipped to Siberia, to concentration camps”. Angel’s memory moves smoothly to distant seasons, sweeping through the immeasurable geography of the diaspora as if no corner of the world were unknown.

“But Anjar’s Armenians are thick-skinned. Slowly, they built their lives, their homes, even a village, close to Yerevan”. I interrupt her. “Is this village still there?” Angel smiles: “Of course. It’s called Musa Dagh. Just like our native land. My sister lives there”. Enraptured by her memories, the old lady recounts the years of her youth, of the irreversible choices, while in my mind, a blurred idea is becoming clearer and clearer. While saying goodbye to Angel the Lebanese way, with three kisses on the cheek, I take a picture of her and make her a promise: “I will come back to see you, with a surprise”.

From my diary. 3rd November

The stream of memory that links the Caucasus to the Middle-East flows just under the surface of everyday life. The Inhabitants of Musa Dagh who leave Turkey in 1939 to move to Lebanon travel to Armenia eight years later. One-way journeys, decisions without appeal, but each displacement marks the land, tracing a path that from the Caucasus leads to Beirut and vice versa.

Vakif, the only one of the seven villages of Musa Dagh that chose to remain under Turkish authority, still inhabited by Armenians; Anjar, the Armenian jewel in the Bekaa valley, a pacific oasis in one of the world’s most conflict-ridden areas; the new Musa Dagh in Yerevan’s suburbs, a refuge for those who in 1946, after so much misery, thought they had finally found the road to the Rising Sun of the Future. Splinters getting lost in the tragedy of the genocide, in games between powers, among the ruins of the wars of the Middle-East and the Caucasus. The only way to get back to the human element, to understand the choices of the many Vartuhis and Angels of this story, is to walk on the paths of those migrations, measure them with one’s steps, with the rain and the monotonous horizons of the plateau and the desert.

“I’m going to Yerevan, I already have a ticket”. Sitting as usual in front of the shutters of the shoe factory, Rafi blows the dense smoke of the Turkish pipe unperturbed. “I knew you would leave, one day or another. You have become paranoid in your search for a rational logic in the history of my people. In time, you will learn it’s not worth it”. Rafi screams something in Armenian to a boy, who immediately serves us arak, an aniseed liquor diluted with water and ice. A one-dollar tip and the boy disappears, swallowed up in the chaos of Burj Hammoud, the Armenian quarter in the heart of Beirut. “What are you going to Armenia for?” While the night is falling on the alley, Rafi listens to the story of Vartuhi and Angel, the sisters separated by the Pobeda, the ship that in 1946 moved thousands of Lebanese Armenians beyond the Iron Curtain. “I want to retrace those events, feel the missing part in the story”.

Rafi orders some more arak. “Focus on this principle: in the Middle-East, it is points of view that count, not facts”. Burj Hammoud is now empty, and Rafi’s words snap like stones. “Take the story of the Pobeda, for example. It stopped existing a long time ago. In its place, what is left is the points of view of those who had an interest in Armenians leaving, and of those who, instead, wanted them to stay. And above all this, the Soviet Union”. Rafi’s allusion leaves no room for doubt. “You mean the Lebanese Armenian community was split by the Cold War too?”. Rafi is at his third arak: “It was a fratricide. That war killed hundreds of people right in these alleys. No one likes to admit it, but the trail of blood has reached our days”.

While I am walking away through the deserted alleys of Burj Hammoud, the rosary is told by the splintered walls in front of my eyes. I think back to Rafi’s words, to the unresolved ambiguity of the civil wars, to the warning that seems to come from the bullets thrusted on the walls. “It was not the foreign occupant to open the fire, but the neighbour, never forget that”. Sprayed letters steer these thoughts: “PKK”, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The movement born in Turkey in the ‘80s fights for the independence of Turkish Kurdistan, the region that was once the ancient Western Armenia. In the name of anti-Turkish resentment, the children of the Armenian diaspora support the Kurdish cause, even though they accuse the same Kurds of having been accomplices of the Ottoman army during the genocide. The labyrinth of these alleys is a metaphor for the intrigued stories of those living here.

The plane takes off on time from the cement carpet in South Beirut, where Shiite quarters fill every space before making room for the first bits of greenery on the spur of the mountain. From the pile of notes, e-mails and maps that I printed out in a rush before leaving, the answer that Adakessian, the Professor at the Beirut Armenian university, sent me a few hours ago pops out:

Dear Paolo,

I wish you the wisdom you need to discern the fine line and make things better understood. Find the contact of Dr. Demoyan, the director of the Armenian Genocide Research Institute in Yerevan. This is the Middle East, and the Genocide issue is one of the central ingredients of this intriguing complex.

Regards, A.

Wisdom, insight, complex intrigues. Where am I going, exactly? The night spent organising my journey has left me with doubts, more than answers. And while the vast blue of the sky and the Lebanese sea makes room for leaden landscapes, my mind is suddenly empty and my body finds refuge in deep sleep.

(This article was originally published on July 25, 2012 in “Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso”)

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Related posts:

  1. Armenia Ranks Last Among Former Soviet States in Inflation
  2. Dimensions of Cultural Identity and Post-Soviet Ways of Modernization in Armenia
  3. Congrats, Heno!: Armenia midfielder named top post-Soviet soccer player in May
  4. Armenia Marks Soviet Victory In WW2
  5. Armenia and Russia More Theater Countries than Football Countries: Soviet Actor

US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

11:12, July 30, 2012

By Paolo Martino 

Vartuhi left Beirut in 1946, to reach Soviet Armenia aboard a ship called “Pobeda”. In Stalin’s land, however, the survivors of the genocide saw the dream of a homeland turn into a nightmare. Fourth episode of the story “From the Caucasus to Beirut”

“To overcome the censorship of the Soviet regime, we used code messages. ‘The bread is good’ meant we were starving. ‘The wardrobe door is broken’ meant persecution, imprisonment. If in a picture there were people lying down, it meant someone had died, and so on”. In her apartment in the centre of Anjar – three thousand Armenians up in the Lebanese mountains, Angel goes over the thread of family memories dating back to over 60 years ago, when her sister Vartuhi left Lebanon to move to Soviet Armenia. “Right from the early letters, all that was written about was bread and wardrobes, and then the pictures also slowly started coming in. I realised that Armenia was not the heaven the Russians wanted us to believe. And that I would never see my sister again”.

Following World War II, the Armenian diaspora was faced with yet another challenge. Determined to rebalance the demographic gap left by the millions of casualties from the war, the Soviet Union promoted huge repopulation campaigns. Anxious to finally be in a “motherland” of their own, American, European and Middle-Eastern Armenian communities, moved en masse. Starting from 1946, trains, ships and convoys with the red star moved thousands of children of the Armenian diaspora to Yerevan, in Soviet Armenia. Seventy percent of Anjar’s inhabitants, 3.500 out of 5.000, chose to leave. Among these was Vartuhi, Angel’s sister.

“It was very hard, at the beginning. Lebanese Armenians were used to moving, reading the newspaper, speaking their minds, so they were immediately spotted by the merciless eye of the regime. Many were shipped to Siberia, to concentration camps”. Angel’s memory moves smoothly to distant seasons, sweeping through the immeasurable geography of the diaspora as if no corner of the world were unknown.

“But Anjar’s Armenians are thick-skinned. Slowly, they built their lives, their homes, even a village, close to Yerevan”. I interrupt her. “Is this village still there?” Angel smiles: “Of course. It’s called Musa Dagh. Just like our native land. My sister lives there”. Enraptured by her memories, the old lady recounts the years of her youth, of the irreversible choices, while in my mind, a blurred idea is becoming clearer and clearer. While saying goodbye to Angel the Lebanese way, with three kisses on the cheek, I take a picture of her and make her a promise: “I will come back to see you, with a surprise”.

From my diary. 3rd November

The stream of memory that links the Caucasus to the Middle-East flows just under the surface of everyday life. The Inhabitants of Musa Dagh who leave Turkey in 1939 to move to Lebanon travel to Armenia eight years later. One-way journeys, decisions without appeal, but each displacement marks the land, tracing a path that from the Caucasus leads to Beirut and vice versa.

Vakif, the only one of the seven villages of Musa Dagh that chose to remain under Turkish authority, still inhabited by Armenians; Anjar, the Armenian jewel in the Bekaa valley, a pacific oasis in one of the world’s most conflict-ridden areas; the new Musa Dagh in Yerevan’s suburbs, a refuge for those who in 1946, after so much misery, thought they had finally found the road to the Rising Sun of the Future. Splinters getting lost in the tragedy of the genocide, in games between powers, among the ruins of the wars of the Middle-East and the Caucasus. The only way to get back to the human element, to understand the choices of the many Vartuhis and Angels of this story, is to walk on the paths of those migrations, measure them with one’s steps, with the rain and the monotonous horizons of the plateau and the desert.

“I’m going to Yerevan, I already have a ticket”. Sitting as usual in front of the shutters of the shoe factory, Rafi blows the dense smoke of the Turkish pipe unperturbed. “I knew you would leave, one day or another. You have become paranoid in your search for a rational logic in the history of my people. In time, you will learn it’s not worth it”. Rafi screams something in Armenian to a boy, who immediately serves us arak, an aniseed liquor diluted with water and ice. A one-dollar tip and the boy disappears, swallowed up in the chaos of Burj Hammoud, the Armenian quarter in the heart of Beirut. “What are you going to Armenia for?” While the night is falling on the alley, Rafi listens to the story of Vartuhi and Angel, the sisters separated by the Pobeda, the ship that in 1946 moved thousands of Lebanese Armenians beyond the Iron Curtain. “I want to retrace those events, feel the missing part in the story”.

Rafi orders some more arak. “Focus on this principle: in the Middle-East, it is points of view that count, not facts”. Burj Hammoud is now empty, and Rafi’s words snap like stones. “Take the story of the Pobeda, for example. It stopped existing a long time ago. In its place, what is left is the points of view of those who had an interest in Armenians leaving, and of those who, instead, wanted them to stay. And above all this, the Soviet Union”. Rafi’s allusion leaves no room for doubt. “You mean the Lebanese Armenian community was split by the Cold War too?”. Rafi is at his third arak: “It was a fratricide. That war killed hundreds of people right in these alleys. No one likes to admit it, but the trail of blood has reached our days”.

While I am walking away through the deserted alleys of Burj Hammoud, the rosary is told by the splintered walls in front of my eyes. I think back to Rafi’s words, to the unresolved ambiguity of the civil wars, to the warning that seems to come from the bullets thrusted on the walls. “It was not the foreign occupant to open the fire, but the neighbour, never forget that”. Sprayed letters steer these thoughts: “PKK”, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The movement born in Turkey in the ‘80s fights for the independence of Turkish Kurdistan, the region that was once the ancient Western Armenia. In the name of anti-Turkish resentment, the children of the Armenian diaspora support the Kurdish cause, even though they accuse the same Kurds of having been accomplices of the Ottoman army during the genocide. The labyrinth of these alleys is a metaphor for the intrigued stories of those living here.

The plane takes off on time from the cement carpet in South Beirut, where Shiite quarters fill every space before making room for the first bits of greenery on the spur of the mountain. From the pile of notes, e-mails and maps that I printed out in a rush before leaving, the answer that Adakessian, the Professor at the Beirut Armenian university, sent me a few hours ago pops out:

Dear Paolo,

I wish you the wisdom you need to discern the fine line and make things better understood. Find the contact of Dr. Demoyan, the director of the Armenian Genocide Research Institute in Yerevan. This is the Middle East, and the Genocide issue is one of the central ingredients of this intriguing complex.

Regards, A.

Wisdom, insight, complex intrigues. Where am I going, exactly? The night spent organising my journey has left me with doubts, more than answers. And while the vast blue of the sky and the Lebanese sea makes room for leaden landscapes, my mind is suddenly empty and my body finds refuge in deep sleep.

(This article was originally published on July 25, 2012 in “Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso”)

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Related posts:

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  2. Dimensions of Cultural Identity and Post-Soviet Ways of Modernization in Armenia
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  5. Armenia and Russia More Theater Countries than Football Countries: Soviet Actor

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Commentary

Yerevan Calling: A Weekly Roundup of Random Musings from Armenia

Image 56686.jpg

13:05, October 3, 2014

Here it is dear readers, the debut of a weekly column I hope to maintain on a regular basis.

It’s sort of a catch-all of news snippets, irreverent commentary, and personal observations on what’s happened during the week here in Yerevan, and throughout Armenia.. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting, if not slightly diverting.

Your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Regards – Hrant

Oct. 2 – Protests Throughout Armenia: A Game of Numbers & Solidarity

Three separate protest rallies took place in Armenia today.

As Hetq reported earlier, business owners in the town of Sevan kept their stores and factories shut to protest changes to the so-called volume (sales) tax. Local residents flocked to the bread factory to wait on line for a loaf or two.

Merchants and small retailers again gathered outside the government building in Yerevan to voice their opposition to the changes in the volume tax law that requires that they keep receipts for all inventory purchases and sales.

In Yerevan, vehicle owners who have bandied together in a group calling itself “Keep Away from Our Pockets” tried to drive through the city in a convoy of cars to protest paid parking spaces many argue is just a ruse for some oligarchs to make money. Police stopped them before getting too far.The bulk of the fines and fees don’t even go to the Yerevan city coffers but is kept as income by the corporation overseeing the parking spots. The drivers are also complaining about traffic fines they say are too exorbitant.

Taking you grievances to the street is a growing trend in Armenia – whether in towns or villages.

The largest and most successful to date were the sustained protests that took place in the summer of 2013 in Yerevan that eventually forced the municipal government to rescind public transportation fare hikes.

But ever since then, demos and protests seem to have lost their verve and vigor and are more and more issue specific. While this is to be expected (those immediately affected by this or that government decision are the first on the streets), the general citizenry once again seem resigned to whatever fate awaits them.

While attempts were made to broaden the participation of these mini-protests and to link their specific interests under some kind of umbrella movement, they proved unsuccessful.

Numbers and mutual solidarity remain elusive. Strategizing and innovative tactics are also lacking.

Three opposition political parties are gearing up for a joint rally on Oct. 10.  Let’s see if it will be more of the same old, same old…

Oct. 1 – Government Reappoints Thug as Syunik Governor

Hetq readers will know that SourikKhachatryan, the publicly disgraced and much maligned former Syunik Provincial Governor, was reinstated to his old job this week. Khachatryan was forced to temporarily step down after being implicated in a June shoot-out near his Goris home in which an Artsakh Army commander was seriously wounded and his brother killed.

Here’s a tit for tat exchange between HAK (Armenian National Congress) MP NikolPashinyan and Armenian Prime Minister HovikAbrahamyan in parliament regarding Khachatryan’s reinstatement.

Pashinyan (and I paraphrase here) – That man has been charged with expropriation of public property through fraud, auto theft, the beating of several individuals, one incident when he hit a prominent woman in a Yerevan hotel was caught on tape, the beating of a child because he had a quarrel with the father…Recently, this individual murdered a man by shooting him from such a position from his house that the cameras didn’t catch him…”

Abrahamyan – Who is this man you refer to? Oh, SourikKhachatryan. Well, I nominated him for reinstatement based on his years of experience in provincial governance and organizational skills.

The prime minister added: “I’ve also taken into account the wishes of the people of Syunik. Our studies show that a majority want him as their provincial governor.”

Oct. 1 – Diaspora Minister Receives “Good Job” Watch

Armenian Prime Minister HovikAbrahamyan visited Diaspora Minister HranoushHakobyan at her office bearing gifts. Well, one gift in particular. The PM bestowed Hakobyan with a commemorative “prime ministerial” watch for a job well done.

Now c’mon folks.A stinking watch? A grandfather’s clock would have been more appropriate.

Oct. 1 – Armenia is Getting “Old”

This is the view of GarikHayrapetyan, who heads the Yerevan Office of the UN Population Fund.

On Wednesday, which marked the International Day of the Elderly (we’ll all get there sometime), Hayrapetyan told journalists in Yerevan that 13% of Armenia’s population is over the age of 60. (That’s practically bordering on senility).

Anyway, he claimed that the country is fast approaching what is termed the ranks of “old countries” (you know, where the president or dictator walks around on crutches).

Right now, thank god, Armenia is merely considered “growing old”.

Khachatryan attributes the age imbalance to the fall in the birthrate after independence.

Less young people means less people to take care of the elderly. But I only know of one old-age home in Armenia. Who’s looking after the rest?

Sept. 30 – Aznavour Wants Turks and Armenians to Reconcile Before He Dies

In an interview with RTS (Radio Television of Serbia), Charles Aznavour is alleged to have said he hopes to see Armenians and Turks reconcile before he dies.

Bonne chance, mon ami. 

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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China: President Takes Action Against High Ranking Corrupt Officials

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21:31, July 30, 2014

Zhou Yongkang, one of China’s most powerful former leaders, is under investigation in the highest-level corruption inquiry since the Communist Party came into power in 1949.

Under current president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating Zhou for “serious disciplinary violations,” as the officialXinhua news agency reports. Media has not yet, however, specified the allegations against him.

The probe is an attempt to show the length to which Xi and the party will go in order to combat abuse of power reportsThe Wall Street Journal. 

A commentary published in the officialPeoples Daily makes the point that regardless of  an official’s rank or supporters, punishment will result for violating laws or the party’s discipline. 

In recent years an agreement has been in place  ensuring that for the sake of party unity,  most senior figures would not be investigated. Zhou’s case has been the first to break the agreement and is aimed at party purity instead. Communists are hoping to stay legitimate and to win more supporters. 

The anti-corruption campaign has realized its vow of no off-limit targets, says political scientist Zhang Ming in The Guardian.

reportingproject.net

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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Armenian Gangs: Caught between an Archetype and a Cliché

Image 55647.jpg

19:15, July 12, 2014

By Marineh Khachadour

“The whole thing started with a scene straight out of a mobster movie. It was around 6 p.m. when more than a dozen men from two organized crime groups opened fire on each other in a North Hollywood parking lot. Witnesses say nearly everyone was armed, and the shootout quickly went mobile. The men took off in cars, exchanging fire as they weaved through the Whitsett Avenue traffic.”

Stories such as this are not unique to Armenians in the American press, but this investigative report recently published in the LA Weekly is about Armenian Power, the Los Angeles based Armenian gang that operates in the heavily Armenian populated communities of Glendale, Burbank, and North Hollywood.

The writer describes the members of the group as “gun-toting defendants” driving flashy cars “and connected to elaborate schemes in bank fraud, identity theft and other highly sophisticated white-collar crimes.”

Armenian Power originated in the 1980s by young Armenians, mainly from Soviet Armenia, to protect themselves from Mexican gangs in Los Angeles high schools. In time the organization developed working relations with the latter and shifted focus from fighting for territory to fighting for money and power.

My initial reaction to the report, like to all things Armenian, is visceral. Besides the fact that the horrific nature of the group’s actions turns my stomach, I feel angry. There are many positive contributions Armenians make to the communities they live in, so why point out the negative?

I think and catch myself in doing something very typically Armenian: reacting defensively when a non-Armenian criticizes my people. I immediately want to blame someone, mainly the person who is pointing a finger in my direction. This is a natural reaction for those of us who take pride in belonging to a lineage older than Noah’s Ark.

Ancient is the Armenian archetype – our intuitive behavior that has proven to withstand the test of time. We’ve been around so long, we consider ourselves to be wise and flawless. It is in our ethnic genome to revere the old and be doubtful of the new, to respect the elder as authority and dismiss the young as naive and inexperienced, to move in time and space, but not leave the past and the home we left behind. Any divergence from what has history and is the norm, we perceive as deficient, abnormal, lacking.

Young Armenians in American public schools faced with anything but the norm, as they know it, are caught by surprise like objects uprooted by cyclonic winds.

When life throws us into the realm of the unexpected or takes us out of our element, when it forces us to question our truths and face our shortcomings that make us seem not so perfect, we feel ashamed and become unforgiving. This quickly leads us on to the path of self-loathing. Our genesis, the very thing that is the source of our pride and the reason for our being, becomes our handicap in the youth-crazed, ever changing culture of the new world. We feel betrayed.

Additionally, we have been conditioned to put on our best face in public, regardless of what is going on inside. This archetype was reinforced during the Soviet era. We do not air our dirty laundry in public, but proudly display our clean, shiny load in front of our balconies and windows literally and figuratively. We even pride ourselves in the way we pin the pieces next to each other on the clothesline!

So, regardless of our circumstances, we find ways to put on a front like the well choreographed parades of the Soviet government. For God’s sake, we were the first people to adopt Christianity as our state religion! Never mind that our church is void of spirituality and our God cares more about the dead than the living.

Then we boast, and when others dare to not appreciate our genius with expected enthusiasm, we resort to demeaning, deprecating commentary and are not shy about projecting our negative feelings. No one is good enough, smart enough, deserving enough as Armenians. We’re the oldest and the wisest, and therefore most deserving of respect and appreciation.

More than once I have had to counsel a distraught Armenian parent complaining about how people make fun of their perfect child because he/she does not look or act like them.

When our expectations are not met, we are wounded and insulted. This is when the daredevil gene kicks in, and we don’t hesitate to give our perceived enemy a piece of our mind, or show off a flexed muscle.

We call this taseeb (honor): a sentiment that forces an Armenian to pick up a rifle and defend his physical and psychological turf. It is the same sentiment that drives a young Armenian to defend himself from insults and aggression, real or perceived, from a person of a different ethnicity in an American high school.

These archetypes are some of the underlying factors that lead Armenian youth into conflicting situations outside their circles.

In a new and changing world, old archetypes no longer serve the needs of the people, while the new ones are constantly elusive. Coupled with the desire to belong and to fit in, this drives people to adopt clichés that are readily available in a world congested with material, ideas and attitudes. Thus, to be accepted by the out-groups, to measure up and to be competitive, they quickly adopt what is more accessible to them for putting on the “perfect face.”

Designer clothing and accessories, Mercedes, BMW, Porches, attitudes and gestures we don’t quite grasp but admire, just about anything that we perceive as distinguishing and defining the out-group we are so eager to be a part of and be appreciated by, we collect. Clichés are easy to launder, polish, and pin on one’s life’s “clothes line”. Life in the new world becomes a long string of clichés.

In the absence of archetypes, reality is re-imagined, improvised like life on a theater stage, Marshall McLuhan explains. On this stage, young people are the characters of their own show, and there is nothing in the world more important than that until new archetypes take form.

The mafia or its modern day version – gangs that are a common occurrence in societies constantly in flux – is the stage where young people play out their roles. There have been Irish,   Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Mexican gangs in America prior to the Armenians.

Every wave of new arrivals, every wave of change, brings with it a new set of expectations and challenges. While families try to decipher the laws, rules, and traditions of their new environment, the young tend to gravitate towards groups that fill the need for belonging and provide a security network.

Some, more than others, in every group are willing to break rules often to their own detriment while caught between archetypes of the old world and the clichés of the new.

Marineh Khachadour is an educator, writer, researcher working in a public school in Pasadena, California.  She lived in Armenia from 1992-1998. During that time she provided educational services and resources for Armenian women and children including refugees and served as Gender in Development Expert with UNDP, Armenia from 1995-1998.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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Want to Write for Hetq?

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10:24, March 14, 2014

I’m looking for freelancers who can broaden the scope of Hetq’s English edition

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Politics, Civil Society, Interviews…

Anything interesting happening in your local community you’d like to share?

Write to me with your ideas and story suggestions.

Hrant at hg.hetq@gmail.com

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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For Better or For Worse: Nature Protection Ministry Proposes Amendments to Water Use Laws

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16:44, February 14, 2014

With the goal of providing a systematic solution to issues of effective use of water resources in Ararat valley, the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia (RA) is proposing amendments and additions to the RA Water Code, and the RA laws on the Republic of Armenia’s National Water Program, on Licensing, and on State Tax.

The proposed legislative package has been sent to the relevant state agencies for their input.

Head of the Ministry of Nature Protection’s Water Resources Management Agency Volodya Narimanyan told Hetq, said that with this amendment package his ministry is attempting to clarify the ideas and the ambiguous commentary, as well as introduce new requirements. For example, one of the main points of the proposed amendments is if water use permit conditions are not met, the water use permit might be annulled.

“In the past, if water use conditions weren’t met, we couldn’t void the permit, but now we’re making that clear. If the state gives you a water use permit with this condition, be kind and meet this condition; otherwise, we will make the permit null and void,” he explained.

A new requirement in the proposed package concerning the execution of drilling operations stipulates that a drilling company or individual must obtain a license so that the state can supervise its activities. “Those companies that execute drilling must have a license for drilling. That is, we are proposing to license activities,” he added.

After the relevant state bodies discuss and submit their opinions regarding the amendments, Narimanyan says, the package will be sent to the RA Ministry of Justice, the government, then finally to parliament.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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