Armenian Constitutional Reform Back On Track

President Serzh Sarkisian is pressing ahead with a controversial constitutional reform that would transform Armenia into a parliamentary republic, parliament speaker Galust Sahakian said on Thursday.

According to Sahakian, corresponding draft amendments to the Armenian constitution are likely to be put on a referendum by the beginning of next year.

The amendments will stem from a reform “concept” that was put forward in October by an ad hoc presidential commission. Sarkisian postponed a formal acceptance of the document at the time in the face of street protests staged by Armenia’s three leading opposition parties. The latter have strongly opposed the constitutional reform, saying that it is aimed at enabling Sarkisian to stay in power after completing his second and final term in 2018.

Tsarukian Quits ‘Active Politics’

Bowing to strong pressure from President Serzh Sarkisian, Gagik Tsarukian resigned as chairman of Armenia’s largest opposition party and announced his retirement from “active politics” on Thursday.

Tsarukian defended his decision to steer clear of a potentially violent confrontation with the Sarkisian administration as he addressed an emergency congress of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) held behind the closed doors. One of his top aides, Naira Zohrabian, was elected as the party’s new chairperson.

“I am leaving active politics,” Tsarukian said in a speech. “I am not the party chairman anymore. But I will continue to be of use to my country and my people in other areas.”

Europe’s Center-Right Urges Turkish Recognition Of Armenian Genocide

An alliance of Europe’s leading center-right parties has urged Turkey to recognize the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire and “make restitution” to descendants of its 1.5 million victims.

The European People’s Party (EPP) also called on the European Union to “officially commemorate April 24 as a day to remember and condemn the Armenian Genocide.”

“The European People’s Party reaffirms its recognition and condemnation of the Genocide and Great National Dispossession of the Armenian people on the eve of its 100th Anniversary on 24 April 2015,” reads a resolution adopted by the EPP’s governing Political Assembly on Tuesday.

“We commemorate one-and-a-half million innocent victims of the Armenian Genocide in 1915 and bow in gratitude to those martyred and surviving heroes who struggled for their lives and human dignity,” it says.

No Talks Yet On New Armenia-EU Accord

Armenia and the European Union have still not started official negotiations on a new agreement to deepen their relations not contradicting Yerevan’s recent accession to a Russian-led alliance, a senior Armenian official said on Wednesday.

“No negotiation process with the European Union is underway right now. There are only expert-level discussions aimed at mapping out directions of future cooperation,” First Deputy Economy Minister Garegin Melkonian’s told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (

The remarks contrasted with a statement that was made by Melkonian to the official Armenpress news agency in December. He stated that Armenia and the EU could sign “in the near future” a deal that would contain not only political but also economic provisions of their ill-fated Association Agreement.

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Armenia: My Illusion

February 27, 2015 Armenia, Turkey No Comments
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13:14, February 27, 2015

By Meltem Naz Kaşo

A week after a three-month stay in Armenia, I am once again at home in my green room in Istanbul, Turkey.

“Men must live and create. Live to the point of tears,” a quote from Albert Camus, is written on my wall. To me, Armenia seems like an illusion now. An illusion I lived and created to the point of tears.

For a Turk, going to Armenia seems a crazy idea. It’s not like going anywhere else with a Turkish passport.

I was selected by the Hrant Dink Foundation to be a research fellow in a Yerevan-based NGO, to contribute to cross-border understanding. Just as Turkey has racists, Armenia has its own.

Armenian Ruling Party Awaits ‘Messages’ From Embattled Rival

February 27, 2015 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments

Armenia’s ruling Republican Party (HHK) will wait to see what political messages one of its top critics, Prosperous Armenia (BHK), sends to the public at a convention scheduled for next month, a spokesman said.

According to Deputy Parliament Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov, the meeting of the HHK’s executive body held late on Thursday did not discuss any issue related to the BHK.

On February 12, the HHK council held a meeting dealing entirely with the domestic political situation created after BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian mounted a serious challenge to the current administration.

Apparently infuriated by Tsarukian’s “ultimatum” to give up the planned constitutional reform or face large-scale street protests, President Serzh Sarkisian told the HHK that he heads to exclude the man from the political process. He described Tsarukian as “evil” for Armenia and effectively ordered tax audits of his businesses.

FBI’s ‘Largest Cybercrime Bounty Ever’ Offered for Russian Hacker

February 26, 2015 Armenia, Business No Comments
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21:34, February 26, 2015

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have announced a reward of US$ 3 million this Tuesday, Feb. 24, for information that would lead to the arrest of alleged cyber criminal Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev.

The FBI claims this is its largest ever bounty offered in a cybercrime case. Bogachev is accused of racketeering, bank fraud, identity theft, conspiracy, and money laundering, along with other charges. He is currently on the FBI’s Cyber’s Most Wanted List.

The FBI suspects that Bogachev participated in a “major cyber racketeering enterprise” using a malware scheme called “Zeus”, which reportedly allowed him to take part in the theft of more than US$ 100 million by harvesting the banking information of businesses and consumers through fake webpages and password theft. The FBI claims it disrupted the “botnet” (network of private computers) responsible in June 2014.

Amnesty International World Report: 2014 a ‘Year of Regression’

February 26, 2015 Armenia, Azerbaijan, Europe No Comments
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21:37, February 26, 2015

Amnesty International’s report for 2014 has condemned the response of the international community to worsening human rights abuses across the globe.

Amnesty, which released its annual report yesterday, said last year marked a nadir in the global state of human rights that was not due simply to a stalling of progress, but a “regression”.

The report is highly critical of Azerbaijan’s government over its silencing of critics, particularly the currently-jailed OCCRP and Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty journalist Khadija Ismayilova, whom Amnesty has named a prisoner of conscience. Ismayilova was targeted by authorities after publishing investigations into corruption amongst the oil-rich country’s political elite.

Armenian Mining Exec – International Investors Interested in Gegharkounik Gold Fields

February 26, 2015 Armenia, Asia, Europe No Comments
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10:00, February 26, 2015

Armenia’s Ministry of Nature Protection has given the green light for International Gold to conduct geological studies around the Tzarasar goldfield in Armenia’s Gegharkounik Province.

The area in question is 7.5 kilometers southeast of the Verin Shorzha village and 20 kilometers from the town of Vardenis on the shore of Lake Sevan.

Mher Simonyan, the sole shareholder of the recently established company, also serves as its director. Simonyan represents several international mining concerns in Armenia. He also served as director of Aratta Mining which conducted exploratory studies in the regions of Verin Shorzha, Koghasar, Jil Aregouni and Makenis.

Armenia Considers Tax Advantages For Large Exporters

February 26, 2015 Armenia, Arts, Asia, Business, Top News No Comments

A government-drafted bill setting a considerably reduced profit tax rate for large-scale exporters has sparked debate in Armenia after reaching the National Assembly this week.

In an effort to attract more foreign investment, the Armenian government last month unveiled its plans to cut the tax from 20 to just 2 percent for manufacturing companies annually exporting at least 50 billion drams ($106 million) worth of goods other than metals and ores.

An elaborated bill setting the export volume threshold at $40 billion drams (about $84 million) and envisaging a 5-percent corporate profit tax was put on the agenda of this week’s four-day session at the National Assembly.

‘Reports’ Implicating Tsarukian In Tax Evasion Still Being ‘Verified’

February 26, 2015 Armenia, Business, Top News No Comments

Armenian tax officials are still inspecting the businesses of embattled political party leader Gagik Tsarukian, a senior government member confirmed on Thursday.

Deputy Finance Minister Armen Alaverdian, however, refused to disclose details of the audits or speak about their preliminary results.

“The inspections are underway, certain time frames are set for these audits, and it is impossible to speak about any results now,” he said.

The tax audits of the companies owned by the extended family of Tsarukian, the leader of Armenia’s second largest parliamentary party, Prosperous Armenia (BHK), were ordered by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian on February 14, two days after President Serzh Sarkisian lashed out at the opposition leader, accusing him of being “evil” for the country and calling for his exclusion from Armenia’s political life. In his verbal attack on his top critic Sarkisian also spoke about “unverified reports” implicating Tsarukian in large-scale tax evasion.

Armenia Again Slams Turkish ‘Preconditions’ For Normalization


Armenia has rejected the latest Turkish demand to end “the occupation of Azerbaijan” before the diplomatic protocols signed between the two countries in 2009 can be implemented.

The kind of precondition to official Yerevan was reiterated by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu who paid a visit to Baku this week.

At a joint press conference with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov, Cavusoglu also claimed that “the whole world knows about the precondition to Armenia” and that Yerevan “has failed the test of sincerity”. He said that the recent decision by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian to withdrawal the protocols from the parliament is, therefore, “of no importance”.

Armenia ‘Negotiating’ Natural Gas Price With Russia

February 26, 2015 Armenia, Top News No Comments

Armenia is conducting negotiations with Russia for the price of natural gas not to be raised in the near future, the chief of a state regulatory body has told Armenian lawmakers.

During a question-and-answer session in the Armenian parliament on Wednesday, Robert Nazarian, the head of the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC), was asked whether a rise in electricity prices was expected this or next year.


Armenia — Robert Nazarian, the Chairman of the Public Services Regulatory Commission, 17 June, 2014

​Nazarian first said that the tariffs for electricity and natural gas are “directly interrelated” and then cited “fluctuations” of the national currency exchange rate as a major factor in determining the energy tariffs.

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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/, 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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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.