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AGBU’s Upcoming General Assembly in Yerevan to Tackle Armenia-Diaspora Relations

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13:31, March 26, 2015

On April 4, 2015 more than 300 delegates of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) will participate in the 88th General Assembly at the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts (Matenadaran) in Yerevan, Armenia.

The event will give the delegates the opportunity to reassert their commitment to strengthening relations between Armenia and the diaspora, as well as rediscovering Armenia’s cultural treasures and its potential for development.

The 88th General Assembly is aimed at creating a discussion platform and giving participants greater insight into AGBU’s undertakings. As part of the General Assembly, three panel discussions will be held between April 1 and April 3.

Brazil: Ruling Party Treasurer Joao Vaccari Will be Tried over Petrobras Scandal

March 26, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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12:42, March 25, 2015

The treasurer of Brazil’s ruling party Joao Vaccari will go to trial on corruption and money-laundering charges, according to court papers revealed on Monday.

Vaccari is one of the biggest names out of 27 who will be tried over the Petrobras scandal for soliciting “bribes in the form of electoral donations” for the ruling Workers Party (PT), according toDeutsche Welle. He is suspected of accepting more than US$ 1.2 million, in part of the giant corruption affair that has engulfed state-controlled oil corporation Petrobras.

The scandaleruptedin March with the arrest of former Petrobras director Paulo Roberto Costa on suspicion of money laundering. Costa was charged with bribery in July and, in October, gave evidence to prosecutors including an admission that he had accepted bribes.

Sarkisian Begins State Visit To China


President Serzh Sarkisian flew to Beijing on Tuesday for a four-day state visit aimed at cementing Armenia’s warm relations with China.

Sarkisian’s office said he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping for talks that will be followed by the signing of Chinese-Armenian agreements meant to “develop and strengthen bilateral cooperation in a number of areas.”

In a statement, the office said Sarkisian will also hold talks with the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, and parliament speaker, Zhang Dejiang, and deliver a speech at Peking University.

Relations between the two states have been cordial throughout Armenia’s independence not least because of successive Armenian governments’ unconditional support for Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, described Armenia as his country’s “trustworthy friend” when he received Sarkisian in Shanghai in 2010.

Bulgaria’s Largest Telecoms Firm Shares Bought by Group Linked to Sanctioned Oligarch

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17:21, March 24, 2015

A majority stake in the largest telecoms company in Bulgaria has been bought by a group linked to an oligarch close to Putin, according to a probe by the investigative journalism outlet Bivol.

The Louvrier Investment Company (LIC33) announced on March 19 that it had bought shares in the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, known as Vivacom AD, from previous owner Tsvetan Vassilev.

LIC33’s chairman is Belgian-Russian businessman Pierre Louvrier, and its website lists a company address in Paris which Bivol, an OCCRP partner, discovered is a rented mailbox. According to Bivol, no company with the name LIC33 legally exists in France and it is unclear where the group is registered.

Uzbekistan: President’s Daughter Investigated for Bribe Taking

March 23, 2015 Armenia, Asia, Business, Europe No Comments
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15:12, March 23, 2015

By Miranda Patrucic 

International mobile phone companies jumped at the chance to invest in the fast- growing Uzbekistan market but little did they know they would instead be funding the unlimited financial ambitions of the President’s daughter.

Gulnara Karimova, the elder daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, is being investigated for taking bribes for allowing Scandinavian and Russian telecom companies TeliaSonera and VimpelCom to operate in Uzbekistan. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has found new records that show she was far greedier and the scale of her alleged corruption was far wider than has been reported.

Armenian Exports of Live Fish Nearly Quadruple in 2014

March 20, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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11:08, March 20, 2015

Armenia’s fish exports sharply rose in 2014.

The National Statistial Service reports that the country exported close to 96,000 tons of live fish last year. Despite yearly increases, during the previous four years the annual amount never exceeded 25,000 tons.

The four fold increase flies in the face of a recent statement by Artur Atonyan, president of the country’s Fish Farmers’ Union, that exports haven’t been increasing and that a decrease was expected in the near future.

The reason for the expected drop, according to Atonyan, was a plan Armenia’s Ministry of Nature Protection to tighten controls of the use of artesian water in the Ararat Valley where many fish farms are located.

Moldova: Two Russian Journalists Banned for Five Years

March 20, 2015 Armenia, Business, Europe No Comments
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21:13, March 20, 2015

Authorities in Moldova have banned two Russian journalists from entering the country, preventing them from presenting a documentary on Crimea.

The two journalists are Dmitry Kiselev, head of a Russian government-owned news agency, and Andrei Kondrashov, the creator of a documentary called “Crimea. The road home”, according to theAssociated Press. Kiselev, who is chief of news service Rossiya Segodnya, has been called “Russia’s chief spin doctor” by the BBC. Authorities said they would both be on a no-access list for five years.

It appears to be the latest in a recent series of moves by Moldovan authorities to restrict Russian presence in the country. The AP reportsthat airport officials also turned away a Russian television crew late on March 18. President Nicolae Timofti has pushed for Moldovan integration into the European Union, and is reportedly concerned by “threats to regional security generated by the Kremlin”.  

Tsarukian Retains Parliament Seat


Businessman Gagik Tsarukian will not lose his parliament seat after all, despite having rarely attended sessions of the National Assembly, speaker Galust Sahakian said on Thursday.

The announcement came two weeks after Tsarukian resigned as leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest parliamentary force, and said he is retiring from politics. The move followed his defeat in a standoff with President Serzh Sarkisian.

Sarkisian told the parliament leadership on February 12 to consider stripping the tycoon of his seat because of chronic absenteeism. He also ordered law-enforcement authorities to investigate tax evasion and other “crimes” possibly committed by Tsarukian. The BHK leader capitulated in the following days, saying that he will stop challenging the government to avoid bloodshed in Armenia.

Two Prominent Istanbul-Armenians: Two Widely Divergent Views of 1915

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11:45, March 18, 2015

Hetq talks to Bedros Şirinoğlu and Dikran Altun, two influential members of the Armenian community of Istanbul regarding their perceptions of the events of 1915.

Bedros Şirinoğlu serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Holy Savior (Surp Prgich) Armenian Hospital in Istanbul. His family roots are in Bardizag (now Bahecik) near Izmit. His business interests are in construction, tourism and woodworking. He is known to have close relations with ruling Turkish government officials.

Erzurum born businessmanDikran Altunhas supported building bridges between the Armenian community in Turkey and Armenia since the latter gained independence from the Soviet Union. He’s probably best known as the person who launched a charter air flight between Yerevan and Istanbul that operates twice a week despite the closed border between the two nations.

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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

Gray Wolves and White Doves cover art

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.


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.