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Benefactor Halts Financing of Odzoun Renovations: Issues Still Remain

April 10, 2015 Armenia, Business, Culture No Comments
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13:42, April 10, 2015

Moscow based businessman Movses Tzavaryan has stopped financing renovations at the 5-7th century Odzoun church in Armenia’s Lori Province.

Tzavaryan, who has pumped close to $780,000 into the renovation project over the past fifteen years, told Hetq that the important work to stabilize the edifice had been accomplished.

What remains to be resolved is the rainwater removal system.

“There is no project on the books for the water removal issue. Some want to address the issue by employing modern accessories. They can do so, but without me. Why haven’t the Italians restored the Coliseum? The church’s dome was collapsing so we rebuilt it,” Tzavaryan said.

Tighter Credit Adds To Economic Downturn In Armenia


Rising interest rates and stricter lending rules set by commercial banks after recent exchange rate fluctuations are dealing another blow to economic growth in Armenia which looks set to slow down considerably this year.

According to official statistics, the average cost of borrowing in the country rose by 2 percentage points in February to 19 percent despite a stabilization of the Armenian dram’s exchange rate. The dram had weakened by roughly 17 percent against the U.S. dollar since October, leading the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA) to sharply raise its benchmark refinancing rate.

Azerbaijan: Accuser Drops Complaint Against Jailed Journalist Khadija Ismayilova

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16:29, April 9, 2015

The man who accused Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and OCCRP journalist Khadija Ismayilova of driving him to attempt suicide has withdrawn his accusation, RFE/RL reports.

Tural Mustafayev told the broadcaster that he has asked the Prosecutor General to rescind his complaint, which he claims he made in a period of “emotional stress”.

Ismayilova has been held in pre-trial detention since last December, when she was taken into custody in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan. A day before her arrest, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s chief of staff Ramiz Mehdiyev issued a 60-page statement accusing Ismayilova of of treason and of having a “destructive attitude toward well-known members of the Azerbaijani community” in order to “please [her] patrons abroad”.

What Could Democracy Be?

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23:26, April 4, 2015

By Markar Melkonian 

Part I:  There Is No Such Thing as Democracy Plain and Simple 

Some older readers may recall a statement by one of the self-described “Velvet Revolutionaries” in Eastern Europe a quarter of a century ago, to the effect that there is no such thing as proletarian democracy or bourgeois democracy; rather, he said, there is just DEMOCRACY, plain and simple.  Unfortunately, my internet searches have not succeeded in locating the exact quote, but it went like that. 

Back then one heard many such statements.  By 1990, Yerevantsi’s were fed up with high-handed bosses who called themselves communists and claimed to rule in the name of some higher form of democracy.  They were fed up with one-party rule, and they wanted responsive, representative leaders.  

Afghanistan: Suicide Bomber Kills 16, Injures Dozens at Anti-Corruption Protest

April 3, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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20:05, April 3, 2015

An anti-corruption rally in eastern Afghanistan ended in tragedy on Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the crowd, killing at least 16 people and injuring 40, according to police.

Khost Province, AfghanistanProtesters had been gathering for nearly a week in front of the home of the acting governor of the Khost province, Abdul Jabar Naeemi. They accuse him of corruption and land-grabs, according to the Guardian. The Afghani interior ministry reported 17 deaths and 37 wounded.

President Ashraf Ghani expressed his condolences and indignation. “The killing of innocent people during peaceful demonstrations, which is a civic right of a country’s citizens, is an unforgivable and savage act,” he said.

Russian Activist Close to Navalny is Granted Asylum

April 3, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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20:04, April 2, 2015

The United Kingdom has granted political asylum to a Russian opposition activist close to Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny who faced embezzlement charges in his home country.

Vladimir Ashurkov, 43, is executive director of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny’s Fund to Fight Corruption (FBK). He and his partner Alexandrina Markvo fled to London in spring last year, reports the Financial Times, after he received a summons from the Russian Investigation Committee.

Not long after Navalny was placed under house arrest in February 2014, Russian authorities raided Ashurkov’s apartment. Footage from the search was aired on television. The summons came next, prompting him to leave. The Investigation Committee put a warrant out for Ashurkov’s arrest in July 2014, according to the Guardian.

Newly Appointed Kotayk Governor’s Business Ties to the Prime Minister’s Family

April 2, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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14:46, April 2, 2015

The Armenian government today appointed Abovyan Mayor Karapet Gouloyan as the new provincial governor (marzpet) of Kotayk.

Karapet Gouloyan is the son of Prosperous Armenia MP Mourad Gouloyan and the son-in-law of that party’s founder Gagik Tsarukyan (seen in photo).

As to why the young Gouloyan, who has only served as mayor of Abovyan (pop. 42,000), has been appointed provincial governor remains a mystery. What skills does he bring to the job?

What we do know is that Karapet Gouloyan is one of the wealthiest mayors in Armenia. Purely by coincidence, his wife and the wife of Argam Abrahamyan (the prime minister’s son) are sisters.

Tsarukian’s Relative Named Regional Governor


A son-in-law of Gagik Tsarukian was appointed as governor of Armenia’s central Kotayk province on Thursday in a further sign of the former Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) leader’s reconciliation with President Serzh Sarkisian.

The appointment came almost one month after Tsarukian stepped down as BHK leader and retired from active politics under strong government pressure. Many of his associates, including the newly appointed governor, Karapet Guloyan, also quit Armenia’s second largest parliamentary force.

Tsarukian’s exit led the BHK to essentially stop challenging Sarkisian. The party threatened to depose him with street protests as recently as in February. The president responded by harshly criticizing Tsarukian and ordering tax audits of his numerous businesses and inquiries into other “crimes” possibly committed by the tycoon.

The Allies at Gallipoli: Defeat in 1915, Disgrace in 2015

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12:43, April 2, 2015

By David Boyajian

April 25 will mark 100 years since the Allies – the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and France – made their ill-fated landing on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula during WW1. Having barely gotten off the beaches after months of fighting, the Allies withdrew in defeat leaving over 44,000 dead and 97,000 wounded.

As in recent years, thousands will flock from the Allied countries and elsewhere to Gallipoli for the Turkish-led April 24-25 commemorations. Numerous world dignitaries, including Australia’s and New Zealand’s prime ministers and Prince Charles, will also attend.

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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.