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Challenges for Art in Armenia: View from Three Contemporary Artists and an Art Curator

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11:16, January 27, 2015

By Karine Aghajanyan 

“Art can have both aesthetical meaning as well as the potential for social impact”, according to Misha Badasyan, Manan Torosyan and Petra Hultman; the three artists I talked to regarding the contemporary art scene in Armenia.

I recently sat down with them to discuss their thoughts on the challenges they face regarding art in the Armenian context as well as the impact they believe art can have on Armenian society.

They all noted the lack of gallery space, divisions among different artists, as well as a shortage of finances and attention from the government as complex challenges for art in Armenia. This lack of space and resources to grow and become more visible as an artist contributes to a situation where artists often feel stuck, both creatively as well as physically.

Traders Resume Protests Against New Tax Law

January 26, 2015 Armenia, Arts, Business, Top News No Comments
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Hundreds of small-scale traders resumed their demonstrations in Yerevan on Monday, demanding that the government again delay the enforcement of new taxation rules which they believe spell trouble for their businesses.

At issue are recent changes in an Armenian law on turnover tax, which is levied from businesses with annual sales of up to 58 million drams ($125,000). The latter pay no other taxes.

The amended law, which took effect on October 1, lowered from 3.5 percent to 1 percent the turnover tax rate. However, it obligated the small business owners to provide tax authorities with documentary evidence of their wholesale purchases made from larger firms or face heavy fines.

Endangered Bonobo Chimp Imported to Armenia Goes Missing: Preliminary Investigation Drags On

January 24, 2015 Armenia, Business, Europe No Comments
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10:30, January 24, 2015

An endangered bonobo primate has disappeared from the Jambo Exotic Park in Armenia’s Tzoraghbyur village.

The park’s founder, Artyom Vardanyan, claims that the animal, listed in the international Red Book of endangered species, died last month.

All such animals can only be imported with special permits and must be kept in special conditions.

The importer of the bonobo and many other endangered animals is a company called Zoo Fauna Art. A criminal case of contraband was launched against company director ArturKhachatryan a year ago and is still on-going.

Hetq asked the ministry of finance to provide information about the criminal investigation and whether it has revealed any wrongdoing.

Kocharian Blasts Yerevan’s ‘Humiliating’ Response To Gyumri Killings

January 23, 2015 Armenia, Asia, Business, Top News No Comments
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In a fresh scathing attack on President Serzh Sarkisian, former President Robert Kocharian has condemned the Armenian authorities for failing to ensure that a Russian soldier accused of murdering seven members of a family in Gyumri is tried in an Armenian court.

In an interview with his unofficial website published on Friday, Kocharian also called for “radical changes” in Armenia which he said are needed to address its socioeconomic problems. He said the country’s recent accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) could aggravate them.

Kocharian told 2rd.am that he was “deeply shocked” by the January 12 tragedy in Gyumri that sparked anti-government and anti-Russian protests. “It was clear that people’s outrage could turn into mass actions with unpredictable consequences,” he said. “In order to prevent that, the authorities had to take immediate emergency actions.

Government Approves Tax Break For Foreign Investors

January 22, 2015 Armenia, Asia, Business, Top News No Comments
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In an effort to attract more foreign investment, the Armenian government unveiled on Thursday a bill that would all but exempt large-scale exporters from the country’s 20 percent corporate profit tax.

The bill approved during a weekly cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian sets a profit tax rate of just 2 percent for manufacturing companies exporting at least 50 billion drams ($106 million) worth of goods other than metals and ores annually. Officials said it will be sent to the Armenian parliament dominated by government loyalists in the next few days.

“This is one of the unconventional government steps aimed at stimulating exports,” Abrahamian told ministers. He said greater exports would mean more jobs and other tax revenue.

Armenian Oppositionist Warns Of Recession

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Russia’s deepening economic troubles could drag Armenia into recession this year, a prominent Armenian opposition figure said on Wednesday, dismissing government forecasts of continued growth.

The Armenian government expects the domestic economy to expand by 4 percent this year despite the unfolding recession in Russia, a key trading partner. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have come up with more modest growth projections: 3.3 percent.

The London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which has invested more than $1 billion in business projects in Armenia over the past two decades, has worsened its outlook for the country and now expects zero growth there in 2015.

Russia: Former Rosneft Director Shot Dead

January 15, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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21:04, January 15, 2015

Former Rosneft Oil Company CEO Aleksander Chernukhina was found dead from bullet wounds near his mother’s home in the southwestern Russia city of Stavropol on the evening of Jan. 14. 

Russia’s federal-level law enforcement body has launched a murder and weapons-trafficking investigation.

According to a report from the Stavropol Federation Investigative Committee, Chernukhina died at the scene from four shots to the chest. He was reportedly found by neighbors at about 8 pm.

Police said the attack could have been connected to Chernukhina’s business activities., A murder investigation has begun. No suspects have  been named.

Rosneft claims to be the world’s largest publicly traded oil company. Chernukhina resigned from Rosneft in 2011.

U.S.-Armenian Energy Deal ‘Back On Track’

January 14, 2015 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments
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The Armenian government said on Wednesday that it is close to completing the sale of the country’s largest hydroelectric complex to a U.S. energy company, which was controversial delayed last year.

Under the takeover agreement signed in January 2014, the New York-based group ContourGlobal was to pay $180 million for three hydroelectric plants making up the Vorotan Hydro Cascade and invest another US$70m in their modernization. The takeover, strongly welcomed by the U.S. government, was supposed to be formally completed by mid-April.

However, Armenia’s new Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian, who took over on April 13, put the brakes on the acquisition, saying that some of its provisions run counter to Armenian law and need to be renegotiated.

Black Robes in the Armenian Bar Association – Five Profiles of Judges in the Federal Sector

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14:04, January 9, 2015

By Karnig Kerkonian

It seems we, in the Armenian Bar Association and beyond, are compelled to find unifying threads in the lives of the people we value. Similar stories of origin, upbringing, influences and aspirations must underpin, we believe, the lives of those holding similar, indeed coveted, stations in life. It perhaps comforts one to know that there is some teleology to the whole thing-that the path can be gleaned from the end itself. And to some extent, of course, there is.

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Featured Books

Book Reviews

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

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Armenians often wish for a tale about the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath that would make a blockbuster film and draw attention to their cause. John Balian’s new book, Gray Wolves and White Doves (CreateSpace/Amazon.com), may be that tale.

 Largely autobiographical, this atmospheric novel is presented through the eyes of an innocent young boy trying to make sense of the world as he grows up amid repressive conditions in Western Armenia/Eastern Turkey during the 1960s and 70s.

 This fast-paced, multi-layered narrative takes readers from Hanna Ibelin’s (a.k.a. Jonah Ibelinian’s) close-knit family life in the perilous Asia Minor region of Palu to terror and tragedy while en route to Syria’s Kamishli, to a bleak existence on the mean streets of Istanbul.

New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

Teaneck, N.J. and Belmont, Mass. –  An Armenian folktale retold by Armenian-American writer Lucine Kasbarian and illustrated by Moscow-based artist Maria Zaikina debuts with Marshall Cavendish Children’s Publishers in April 2011.

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale is from the ancient Armenian oral tradition and culture, which was nearly obliterated during the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915. The author learned the tale from her father, editor and columnist C.K. Garabed, who would recite it to her at bedtime. He had learned it from his own grandmother, a celebrated storyteller from the Old Country.  The tale was first put to paper by Armenian poet Hovhannes Toumanian at the turn of the 20th century.

“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

Turkish writer and publicist Ahmet Insel labels the initiative of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party to pray namaz on the ruins of Ani as provocation.

In an interview with “A1+,” the publicist said the initiative was supported only by a small percentage of Turks.

“They offered namaz in Ani in protest against Christian rites carried out in Trabzon and Akhtamar. The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, Devlet Bahceli said if Christians are allowed to pray inside museums, similarly he can pray namaz in Armenian churches,” said Ahmet Insel.

The Turkish writer arrived in Armenia to participate in a book festival. Presentation of Armenian version of Dialogue sur le tabou arménien (Dialogue about the Armenian Tabou) co-authored by Ahmet Insel and Michel Marian was held during the festival.

US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA –  KFI 640, a popular news/talk radio station hosted by Bill Handel on September 23 aired a live interview with Michael Bobelian, the writer of a new book titled  Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice

The book chronicles the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and recounts a people’s struggle for justice in the face of a century of silence and denial.

During the interview, which was aired during the prime morning time slot, Bill Handel addressed both the efforts within the United States to ensure that the US government appropriately acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s ongoing denial.

Handel, a well known and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, has discussed the Armenian Genocide during past shows.

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Commentary

Capitalism Run Amok Is Just Plain Capitalism

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16:37, January 17, 2015

By Markar Melkonian

The source of Armenia’s misery and humiliation, we often hear, is not capitalism per se, but rather “gangster capitalism,” “a broken system,” “capitalism run amok.”

The goal for the future, then, is to “fix the system,” to reform capitalism, to make it more like regular, pure, genuine Free Enterprise, the kind of capitalism that works. But what if Armenia’s actually existing capitalism already is genuine capitalism?

An economist once observed that the only existential meaning of “enterprise” in the term free enterprise is “whatever capitalists happen to be doing at the time”–and “free” is the accompanying demand that they be allowed to do it.

Ukraine: Cops Go After Casinos, Suggest Yanukovych Connection

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21:45, December 15, 2014

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs has launched a campaign against illegal casinos amid fears that a large network of underground gambling dens could be providing an income source for the son of the country’s disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The new crackdown on unlawful casinos – an ongoing scourge for law enforcement agencies in Ukraine since regulation was made stiffer with a 2009 law – was launched on Dec. 8 after an announcement on Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s official Facebook page.

Avakov, who keeps a lively and occasionally angry Facebook commentary on current affairs, pledged to put a complete stop to the establishments within ten days; first in the capital of Kyiv, then the rest of the nation.

Yerevan Calling: A Weekly Roundup of Random Musings from Armenia

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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.

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. 

Armenian Gangs: Caught between an Archetype and a Cliché

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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.