Friday, October 31, 2003

Blogger is acting up. Until I can get it figured out, hang in there.
After reading the October 27, 2003 NRC Handelsblad (Dutch daily newspaper) titled "Karabakh: New Opportunities", which was written by Peter Michielsen (Editor), it really made me wonder how in tune Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is with this conflict which is refereed to in the article as the "frozen war"?

The minister visited Yerevan and Baku to talk with representatives of the conflicting sides and taking only what I would call the "economic" side into consideration and not considering history and what has happened in the past and what could happen in the future.

The article quotes Natalia Martirosian of the Armenian human rights organization Helsinki's Citizen's Assembly who said that the Armenian leaders speak from a position of power: they "won", they have what they want and are not inclined to make concessions to turn a frozen war into permanent peace. "Karabakh is our chimera. The politicians say: Karabakh is ours, period. But the citizens in Armenia think very differently; they see that the borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey are closed, they know our isolation and impoverishment. The politicians do not want to negotiate, but the citizens know better. The tragic thing is, says Martirosian, that public opinion in Armenia cannot exert pressure. Radio and television are monopolies of the government, and newspapers have no influence since Armenians are too poor to afford them. "Our public opinion only exists in the kitchen."

I'm not sure were Martirosian bases her statements and what class of people she has spoken to, but I along with many would not call Karabagh our "chimera", but rather call it and all of the liberated territories a necessary buffer for Armenia against Azerbaijan, a country that has adopted the Musavat Party as "the successor of the Azerbaijani democratic republic's ideas" back in November of 1992 (see: Turan News Agency in Baku-Azerbaijan November 9-14, 1992) after 70 years of the Musavat's exile. For those of you that don't know what the Musavat Party is, in short, it was the party whose ideals played a big role in leading the Young Turks to committing the 1915 Genocide.

If we really want to see an end to this conflict, I not sure if it will come from mediation from persons who take only the economic side of things as Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the likes of Natalia Martirosian? I really thing not just economics need to be considered when make such decisions. As soon as the mediators figure this out, we just may move one step closer to peace.

Though long, the following is the article:

Karabakh: New Opportunities
By Peter Michielsen (Editor)

NRC Handelsblad (Dutch daily newspaper)
October 27, 2003

Translated exclusively for ANN/Groong from Dutch.

YEREVAN/BAKU, OCT. 27 -- Last week, Minister De Hoop Scheffer attempted to initiate progress in Armenia and Azerbaijan in the "frozen war" over Nagorny Karabakh.

"New president, new opportunities" was the motto with which Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaap de Hoop Scheffer went to the Caucasus as chairman of the OSCE to try to initiate progress in Armenia and Azerbaijan in one of the "frozen" wars that the Caucasus is so good at: the conflict over Nagorny Karabakh, the enclave in Azerbaijan that was captured from the Azeris by Karabakh Armenians in a bloody war between 1988 and 1994. Since 1994 there has been an armed peace: Karabakh has declared itself a republic that nobody recognizes; the Armenians continue to occupy sixteen percent of Azerbaijani territory outside the enclave and have put one million Azeris to flight. For a number of years already, negotiations, set up by the Minsk-group - mediators from eleven countries -- have reached a total deadlock. The Armenians demand that Karabakh should be independent from Azerbaijan. The Azeris demand that Karabakh, no matter how, stays within Azerbaijan.

There is a veil of insolvability over the conflict. De Hoop Scheffer, however, is optimistic: new president, new opportunities. That new president is Ilham Aliyev, newly elected in fraudulent and violently closed elections in Azerbaijan. The question on the swift visit of De Hoop Scheffer to Yerevan and Baku is whether Aliyev, son of the critically ill Heydar Aliyev, who ruled over his country for more than three decades the hard way, is more flexible than his father. The question is also whether Armenians can see the window of opportunity, the chance to a breakthrough, which OSCE hopes for.

In Yerevan, the minister spoke with Robert Kocharian, president of Armenia, himself ex-leader of Karabakh Armenians. The President was "reserved" De Hoop Scheffer said at the end. "He believes it is early in the day. He is in no hurry. I told him he should be careful that he does not miss the boat. If Aliyev strengthens his position two or more will be necessary to solve the case."

One of the biggest problems with this frozen war, says Natalia Martirosian of the Armenian human rights organization Helsinki's Citizen's Assembly, is that the Armenian leaders speak from a position of power: they "won", they have what they want and are not inclined to make concessions to turn a frozen war into permanent peace. "Karabakh is our chimera. The politicians say: Karabakh is ours, period. But the citizens in Armenia think very differently; they see that the borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey are closed, they know our isolation and impoverishment. The politicians do not want to negotiate, but the citizens know better. The tragic thing is, says Martirosian, that public opinion in Armenia cannot exert pressure. Radio and television are monopolies of the government, and newspapers have no influence since Armenians are too poor to afford them. "Our public opinion only exists in the kitchen."

The Polish diplomat Andrzej Kasprzyk represents the Minsk-group in the region. He is the key figure in the negotiation. He likes De Hoop Scheffer's window of opportunity: "Both countries indeed see Karabakh as their biggest problem. Armenia can pretend that the solution must come from Baku, but Kocharian also knows that a situation of "no war, no peace" is dangerous, if only because this war blocks the path to Europe. The conflict is a millstone around the neck of the economy. Both countries need to make concessions. Safety is a problem for both; the army and security swallow a lot of money. Armenia knows: a solution means open borders, investment and aid. And Azerbaijan knows: a solution means return of refugees and return of occupied territories.

One of the main characters in the conflict is the president of Karabakh, the non-recognized republic. Arkadi Gukasian has come to Yerevan to speak with De Hoop Scheffer. The thin chain-smoker with glasses, a moustache and a very red head, is not the hooligan that you would expect as one of the leaders of a successful war. Does he see new opportunities? "Yes and no. Yes, because Aliyev is not loaded with the problems of the past. He is young and has potential. No, because he has hitherto not shown anything and he is not in firm control yet." The Azeris, Gukasian believes, have to involve us directly in the negotiation, which they have repeatedly refused, "but every peace process in the world shows that without direct negotiation there can be no solution." The Azeris also continually speak of return of the occupied territories, but, says Gukasian, "you cannot separate the territorial element from other themes, the security situation, the refugees, the status." The President does not want to hear that he is speaking from a position of power: "Under the status quo the Armenians are suffering the most. We cannot receive international aid because we are not recognized. The status quo is truce -- the goal, however, is peace." Only, he quickly adds, "we cannot give up independence. If I would do that, I would no longer be president tomorrow."

The president of the non-existent state makes his complaint. "If the son wants to leave the house the father will do everything to talk to him, he will tell him how good he is and how good the home is. The Azeris should be telling us every day how much they love us, they should promise us golden mountains, black caviar for breakfast! But what do they do? They make war. Where do we have to get our optimism from? We will not give away that independence. When their tanks were ten kilometers from our capital and they were bombing us every day we lived without water for a year, without electricity, without gas, without bread. But we survived. You have to fight in order to live."

Baku, a day later. Ilham Aliyev, the winner of the fraudulent elections a week earlier, has a t?-?? with the OSCE-chairman and then places himself opposite his delegation. A big heavy man with moist round eyes, a moustache and a double chin. "I know that people are suffering. I also know that Armenia is not shy about a war," says the president-of-new-opportunities - a comment that has never before been made in Baku. But on this afternoon in Baku, Aliyev Jr. does not say anything about concessions or new proposals yet.

And that t?-??? Did Ilham Aliyev say more in that face to face talk than in front of the cameras of his own television? De Hoop Scheffer: "I was not disappointed. He was more moderate than his environment. Everything depends on who he will choose as his staff. If they are old staff, nothing will change. But he was milder towards Armenia than the other people I spoke to here." In short, new president, new opportunities.

California Courier Online, October 30, 2003

CIA Confirms Armenian Ownership
Of Karabagh and Lands in Turkey

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

The Central Intelligence Agency publishes each year a report called "World Factbook" which contains comprehensive information on the geography, population, government, economy, communications, transportation, and the military of more than 200 countries and territories. The Factbook can also be read on CIA's web site:

Even though no secrets are disclosed in this public document, it is still interesting to see how the CIA presents certain facts and issues regarding Armenia, Karabagh, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. In the chapter on Armenia, the Factbook provides the following "background" information: "Armenia prides itself on being the first nation to formally adopt Christianity (early 4th century). Despite periods of autonomy, over the centuries Armenia came under the sway of various empires including the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Persian, and Ottoman. It was incorporated into Russia in 1828 and the USSR in 1920. Armenian leaders remain preoccupied by the long conflict with Muslim Azerbaijan over Nagorno- Karabakh, a primarily Armenian-populated region, assigned to Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1920s by Moscow. Armenia and Azerbaijan began fighting over the area in 1988; the struggle escalated after both countries attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. By May 1994, when a cease-fire took hold, Armenian forces held not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also a significant portion of Azerbaijan proper. The economies of both sides have been hurt by their inability to make substantial progress toward a peaceful resolution."

It is interesting to note that the CIA devotes more than two-thirds of the "background" information on Armenia to Karabagh, indicating CIA's special attention to that region. By stating that Karabagh was "assigned to Soviet Azerbaijan in the 1920s by Moscow," the CIA is confirming the Armenian position that Karabagh was historically a part of Armenia. Finally, by referring to the territories surrounding Karabagh -- but not to Karabagh itself -- as "Azerbaijan proper," the CIA reinforces its acknowledgement that Karabagh is not part of Azerbaijan.

Even more interesting is the following paragraph under the title of "disputes": "Armenia supports ethnic Armenian secessionists in Nagorno-Karabakh and militarily occupies 16% of Azerbaijan - Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) continues to mediate dispute; border with Turkey remains closed over Nagorno-Karabakh dispute; traditional demands regarding former Armenian lands in Turkey have subsided; ethnic Armenian groups in Javakheti region of Georgia seek greater autonomy, closer ties with Armenia."

The above paragraph contains three false assertions:
1) Armenia does not occupy 16% of Azerbaijan. Karabagh Armenians (with support from Armenia) liberated themselves from the tyranny of Azerbaijan;
2) the Armenians of Karabagh are not "secessionists." They seek self-determination -- a right recognized by the United Nations; and
3) Contrary to the CIA's assertion (which were also made in the earlier editions of the "World Factbook") Armenian demands for their historic lands from Turkey have not "subsided."

The Treaty of Sevres recognized the territories occupied by Turkey as Armenian lands. The borders of a much larger Armenia were drawn by President Woodrow Wilson. It is comforting that the CIA acknowledges that these territories did belong to Armenia by referring to them as "former Armenian lands in Turkey."

In another CIA document ("Resolving conflicts in the Caucasus and Moldova: perspectives on next steps), a distinguished panel of experts contradicted those who say that time is on Azerbaijan's side in the Karabagh conflict. The panel members made the following very interesting observations: "Some observers see substantial strengths in the Armenian position, since the Armenians occupy the territory and over time their possession may be consolidated in de facto terms. Although Azerbaijan has the economic advantage, economic indicators may not be a deciding factor for at least three reasons:
1) Azerbaijan's relative economic strength is also its vulnerability since the Armenians understand that another war will interfere with petroleum transport, undermine regional investment, and compromise Azerbaijan's economic momentum;
2) Many Armenians have concluded on the basis of their troubled history that they cannot safely reside in territory controlled by Azerbaijan, and they are consequently resolute;
3) Armenians are prepared to sustain high levels of suffering.

The rhetoric of Azeri hard-liners may therefore accomplish little beyond reducing Armenian's capacity for compromise. One of the difficulties in the conflict is that both parties regard time as being on their side. In each case, this is a fallacy. Yet it is difficult for either party to see around a long history of mutual grievance and mistrust."

Armenians should make it clear to the whole world that their demands for their historical lands in Turkey, Karabagh or elsewhere, are as valid as ever, and not "subsiding!"

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I know your going to think I'm too soft, but the weather changed yesterday and it just got too cold for me so today I installed the woodstove and started to heat the house. I'm not sure if winter is here, but for the last couple of days we have had rain, fog and some very gray weather.

Yesterday, Jeff Ryan and I went to Nungi to the pottery studio (see: as they had fired the kiln and we needed to be present for the unloading. No the greatest weather, but what came out of the kiln was some great stuff. This is not exportable stuff, but stuff for the local market here in Artsakh. Flowerpots, yogurt jars, large pickling containers, wine bottles and these cups called "Piti" cups, which is a cup that they put in half a tomato, one potato, some chick-pees, fat from a lambs butt and spices and cook it in the cup on the stove. The more you use it, the better the flavor gets as the fat mixes into the pot and retains some flavors. I have not had this, but they say it is very good and this product so far seems to be a good seller.

We loaded up my jeep with a bunch of the flowerpots and brought them back with us to Martuni, where today we took them to a couple of the stores. I think this stuff will sell well and it was interesting that when we went into one of the stores, I told the lady that we had some goods to sell and she didn't seems interested until I mentioned that they were made in Nungi, which got her attention and desire to want some for herself. We left 20 pieces with her to sell.

Last night we also went to dinner at Rosa Myrig's house. Jeff really liked Rosa Myrig, who seemed to be in a good mood. They are building a bathroom onto their house and they got the roof on it just a few hours before the rains started. I hope they get it done before winter sets in, as going to the outhouse in the snow and rain at their age or any age for that matter is a real pain.
Why,when I post a not so pleasant log (as in my last entry, after re-reading it and thinking that maybe I was a little bit harsh), some related news story comes out that quickly makes me change my mind and makes me think I was not harsh enough.

As Jeff Ryan of the Nungi Ceramics would say, "It burns my ass..."

So what burns my ass? The Fresno Bee newspaper out of Fresno, California ran a story on October 27th, titled, "Leader of tiny ethnic Armenian nation speaks in Fresno", which is reporting about our good president Ghoukasian's visit to a church, where he spread his empty rhetoric about creating a "dignified life for his people".

Dignified life for his people? I would like for the president to share with us what he or his administration has done since he has been president to do this? If you ask the natives or myself, he has done virtually nothing. Then again, maybe he was talking about "his people", meaning his friends, which in that case, he has done everything.

In the article, the president goes on to say, "We have started a new war, an economic one, and if we lose this one, the military war could also be lost." I'm not sure what this means other than it sounds really good to a new crowd of people, as the president has been using this same line since he was first "elected" 6 years ago. If you ask me, this economic war has been going on long before our war with Azerbaijan started and it's not a war we are fighting against someone from the outside, but it's a war of the common people trying to do business and support their families vs. the people in power, such as the present day president who want to be rich beyond what this country can support. Who the winner of this battle will be I still am not sure, but I hope those most deserving and who have invested the most in this country will be the victors. As for the military war being lost due to the "economic war", let's not be naïve, this is not our war, but a war between Russia/Iran vs. Turkey and the West and what they decide for us will be how this war ends. We need to win this economic war, but it's not something that will be won by what Ghoukasian later suggests to the crowd as being investment, as important as that may seem, under his administration and the BIG picture, so far, such investments have proven to do more harm than good.

The article also states: "In the past three or four years, he said, between $30 million and
$40 million of investment has been funneled into his country from Armenians in the United States, France, Italy and Australia." What the question should be asked is of those investments, how many became viable businesses? How many did he and the Prime Minister demand to have some share of? How many of those that refused to give them a share are still in business? How many of them are facing avoidable difficulties and suffering due to things that are caused by the government (see my last log)?

According to the article, Ghoukasian encouraged such investment to continue and said his country's tax structure is attractive for additional investment. Maybe the tax structure is attractive, but if you ask me, I would rather be paying 50% in taxes and have stable rules on the economic playing field rather than trying to work in a place where the "rule" change by the minute to what is best for those corrupt people in power.

Every time I write about these issues, I ask myself if Shahan was here today, what we he think and do?

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Last year I met with the Minister of Defense Seryan Ohanyan in regards to an issue of a large diameter pipe that I was salvaging from the Martuni region to be sent to a village in Lachin that has over 100 families so we could provide water to their village for their gardens.

The problem I had encountered was that the pipe I was removing and was promised by our regional minister the year before, was a pipe that had after my securing said pipe, been decided by the army to be used for supplying gas to the 2nd military base in Martuni.

I spoke with the gas specialist in our region and was told that the pipe we were removing was 4 times larger than the pipe needed for the base. I met with the General Ohanyan and explained to him this information and told him that we would supply him with the appropriate pipe for the base and the strategic need for the water to this village in Lachin.

He explained to me that it was decided a year before my meeting with him that no pipes would be allowed to be removed from Artsakh for any reason and that pipe would stay where it is. They were all under the protection of the army. When I again told him the importance of this project and how we were only thinking of the well being of the people, he looked me in the eyes and told me that he thinks more of the welfare of the people than I do.

At that point I knew our conversation was over and the General who didn't know me from any other person in the Armenian community, not knowing how many hours in the day or night I think about what we can do for our people to make life better, not taking into consideration that I don't have an army to run, nor do I cheat on my wife and keep a lover with a large newly remodeled apartment in Stepanagert, or have interests in factories and other investments to have to think about. No, I don't have all those responsibilities, but I guess the good general didn't know that when telling me that he thinks more about the well-being of our people.

The General said that I can't have that pipe, but if I would like, I can meet with the Hadrout division head General Levon Yeranosyan, who could point me in the direction of pipes to salvage in his region for our project. I did this with no luck, as the pipes we need didn't exist according to General Yeranosyan and like the Defense Minister, told me pipes have strategic value and none are allowed to be removed from our territory.

So I left my meetings defeated and the project to supply water to 100 families in Lachin was not realized as a result.

A couple of months ago, the pipe that was to supply gas to the 2nd military base was dug up and trucked off to Armenia and from there, who knows, maybe Iran. I was not happy and you can only imagine what I have been wishing for the people involved that allowed the pipes to be removed.

Today HETQ ONLINE ran the following story that tells it all like it really is:

No one can stop the general
The Max Group-Armenian businessmen from the United States and Lebanon-does business in the territories liberated by Nagorno Karabakh. In Soviet times, an excellent irrigation network was built in the area, supplying every village with water for their crops. The pipelines' routes, diameters, and other details were accurately marked on Soviet military maps. Today, General Levon Yeranosyan, the commander of one of our military units, is using these maps to dig up the pipes and send them off various directions. We have discovered that some of the pipes turn up on the Armenian market, and the rest goes to Iran. At the moment, they're working on pipes with a diameter of 800 millimeters. Naturally, Army equipment and military personnel are being used for the job. We've been informed that the Max Group asked President Arkady Ghukasyan and Prime Minister Anushavan Danielyan of Nagorno Karabakh to stop the general. But their response was, more or less, that there was nothing they could do to stop the general. Within the Karabakh government, Serge Amirkhanyan is the man responsible for the territories in question, taking care of resettlement issues as well. But he hasn't been able to do anything about the pipes, either. It's ridiculous that on the one hand, the Karabakh government invests huge amounts of money to settle the villages in those territories, and on the other hand, one of the most important preconditions for doing so- the irrigation system - is being destroyed.
Edik Baghdasaryan

Sunday, October 26, 2003

If you recall my log of October 13, 2003 and me making mention of the non-governmental, non-political Armenia Fund and me mentioning the board of directors consisting of some of the most corrupt people from Armenia and the Diaspora, most of who are political figures, then you will be interested in reading the October 24th press release from the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America East about a visit from Artsakh's president, that reinforces what I was saying:

"He [the president] was accompanied by an entourage which included Naira Melkumian, currently Executive Director of the Hayasdan All-Armenia Fund, and formerly Karabagh's Foreign Minister."

Yea, I can see that the Armenia Fund is really a non-political and very transparent organization that I would trust my donation with.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Living in a small town can at times be very interesting, especially when one becomes the center of gossip based on speculation.

A girl who I've known since she was 12 years old (she is now 19) and I just recently turned into the talk of the town and the gossip didn't start here, but started in Yerevan on the night I wrote about the guys sitting and talking about the abduction that took place a couple of months ago.

It seems that the house I was visiting the girl at belongs to a man named Edik, who owns a store that is on the outskirts of Martuni which the people here refer to as the store under the Hazelnut tree. The girl is staying there with a friend of hers and Edik is the friend's relative.

I had gone to Edik's house to pick the girl up so we could go visit with Harout (DerHova), so he could check her voice, as she has a desire to become a professional singer and has been attending Arthur Grikorian's music school in Yerevan for the last month.

I got to Edik's house about 3 PM as we were going to go, but she told me that she had to wait for some people coming from Martuni (Edik, his son and their driver Samuel). So we waited for them to come and by the time they came, it was too late to go to Harout's, so before I could leave, I was invited to stay a bit for a meal and talk.

At some point, we got a call from my Godchild Nora, who I invited to go out for pizza at Diamond Pizza (Raffi's favorite pizza place). It was already 10 PM and I had to be to the place I stayed by 12 AM, so we ordered a cab, picked up Nora, ate a quick pizza, ordered a cab again, dropped off the girl, dropped off Nora and I got to the place I was staying at 11:50 PM.

Well it seems that when Edik got back to Martuni, he spoke with the mother of the friend that she is staying at to tell her that when he got to his place, the "American" was there and the girl goes out at all hours of the night taking taxis and the night we dropped her off, he claims that she got home at 2 AM. He told the mother that they would have to ask the girl to leave. What he was implying if you didn't get it from what I have written is that he is saying that the girl is some kind of "whore" and the "American" is fooling around with her.

Now weather the girl is a "whore" fooling around with the "American" I think is quite irrelevant, since Edik's own daughter Noushik use to (probably still does) sleep around with every married man in Martuni who would have her. I mean, she even got caught a couple of times and almost ruined some marriages. On top of this, the mother of the girl, who I should mention lost her husband in the war, has also been known to sleep around with married guys too (someone mentioned that she did this even when her husband was alive), including my contractor, who after they got caught and my contractor cooled it off to save his marriage, I saw in front of my own eyes how she would hit on him. That woman a couple of weeks ago was in Yerevan staying at Edik's house and her lover (a married man of authority in Martuni, whose name I will not repeat on this site since there are some people from Martuni who live in Stepanagert that read this, though they probably already know who he is), came over to visit her there and the girl that I'm suppose to be fooling around with, came home and after ringing the bell and waiting for 5 minutes, the lover opened the door. Come to think of it, maybe it is better that she is not allowed to live there.

So now the next time I'm in Yerevan, I have to go look for a place for this girl to rent so we can freely fool around without it bothering anyone and becoming the gossip of Martuni.

Not that my name or her name is in danger of being ruined by Edik and what he has said, but I think for the honor of this girl and to set things straight, I should really go see him and at least tell him that for the record, she did not get home at 2 AM and if she did, I want to know who she was seeing from 11:40 PM to 2 AM? I wonder what he will say?

Ah yes, small town it is, and one of the things I love about this place.

I also found out tonight that the woman who claimed my dog ate her chickens, her chickens were poisoned back in August and to me her claim I will categorize as supper dishonest, one I will also mention to the school director as with the surplus of teachers these days, getting rid of her would only do us good.

BTW - If your wondering why I have not posted any pictures in the last week, it's because I'm having problems with MSN and it allowing me to download pictures. I'll get it figured out at some point.

Speaking of pictures, here is a picture that has been on the internet of me for a while. This picture was taken at Yosemite Park in Eagle Rock at the school play we did called "Horton Hatches a Whoo". I played a frog.

And this picture is a more recent picture taken in the summer of 2001. The girl in the picture with me is the girl in who this log refers to

Friday, October 24, 2003

Today was a busy and productive day, ending with me talking with my general manager, who went to Yerevan the day I returned to Martuni and she got back tonight.

She briefed me on the latest news in terms of our bulldozer being rented out to cultivate a field for a new plantation and details on the chickens my dog ate in the last month.

The bulldozer story was quite simple and the only complication it had was the person renting it and they trying to lower the already low rental fee. In the end, the guy agreed to the standard terms and will not be shorting us 30,000 dram as he wished.

As for the chickens, I had instructed my general manager to replace all the stolen chickens with the owners choice of money or a replacement chicken. Sounds simple and for the most part, people opted for a chicken, all but one woman. That woman wanted frozen chickens and told my general manager that her chickens were quite large. My general manager took the woman's word and replaced 6 chickens. Later on she learned that this woman had not lost chickens to us and the only chicken she did loose, was a sick chicken, who died.

My general manager was very upset that this woman who I will call Annie (since that's really her name). Annie is a schoolteacher and now a also known in our neighborhood as being dishonest.

The whole neighborhood is upset about this woman taking advantage of me and confronted her about this act of dishonesty. Annie told her that I (Ara) help out many people, so she figures that I'm helping her out too and added that she will ask me for more chickens when I get back.

I'm not sure what to do, as now I have one of my Ara Manoogian moral dilemmas, as this woman is a schoolteacher and if she is a dishonest schoolteacher, what message does she send out to our children? Do we want such people teaching our children?

So now I have to decide what I will do. Do I ask this woman for the chickens back? Do I just drop the subject and let the community take care of her? As it is, she had ruined her name with the children of our neighborhood, who the minute I pulled up to my house the other day, they came running out to tell me that if Annie comes to tell me my dog killed her chicken, don't believe her. I don't yet know what to do, but I guess I will have to decide something soon.

Not that it means anything, but there is an interesting tie to the bulldozer and the chickens. The guy renting the bulldozer has a manager working for named Arthur, who owes me $150 from a couple of years ago and is the brother of Annie. I guess I should collect not only for the 6 chickens, but should also collect from her brother my $150.

Well I better get going, I cooked up a chicken to night and I want to eat some if it myself before my dog beats me to it.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Now that I'm back in Martuni, thinking that I can rest up a bit, I guess I was fooling myself, as yesterday my "rest" was disrupted by a need to go to Nungi to check on the NK Arts pottery studio, where they are now firing the kiln.

Jeff Ryan, the head of that project and I drove to Nungi to check on things and found that things were under control, thanks to the 81 year old Master, Vartan. He has been making pots in Nungi since he was 11 years old. I really like this guy, though his dialect is very thick and hard even for me to understand.

I didn't know this, but when we were sitting down for a meal and I said that 3rd toast to our lost soldiers, I learned that Vartan had lost his 3 sons in the war (another Rosa Myrig, but he still has a daughter).

The whole visit was very peaceful and I felt very honored to be among these artists, who sat and talked by candlelight.

Today I took care of some of my business and tomorrow I will be in Stepanagert taking care of NK Arts business and also finding beef bones for my dog.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

RFE/RL: Ex-Mayor Calls For Elected Administration In Yerevan

By Shakeh Avoyan

Robert Nazarian, the former mayor of Yerevan, made on Tuesday a strong case for an elected municipality in the Armenian capital, saying that its presidentially appointed heads are too weak to ensure good governance.

"As long as Yerevan has no elected mayors, I'm afraid that achieving serious successes in its dynamic developments will not be possible," he said at his first news conference since his sacking last July.

Nazarian claimed that he himself asked President Robert Kocharian to relieve him of his duties after realizing that he is unable to run the city properly. "Looking back at those two and a half years, I made a firm decision not to continue to work as mayor of Yerevan," he said.

Nazarian's dismissal was widely attributed to the results of the May parliamentary elections in which a pro-Kocharian bloc headed by him fared poorly, failing to win any seats in the National Assembly. Shortly afterwards he was named to head a state body regulating public utilities and other "natural monopolies" such as the ArmenTel operator.

The ex-mayor was widely criticized for a dramatic spread of street cafes that now occupy most of public parks in the city center. The process has been accompanied by a shrinkage of environmentally important green areas, with some café owners chopping down olds trees to make room for their businesses. Many of those businesses are owned by ministers and other influential government officials who are believed to have used their position to clinch lucrative land allocations from the municipality.

Nazarian implied that he was powerless to resist orders from above. He also said that almost all café owners flouted their license terms by grabbing more land that was allocated to them and constructing illegal premises on it. "I can be blamed for not fighting against those illegalities," he said. "Yes, I failed to do that."

Under Armenia's constitution enacted under former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, Yerevan is the only urban community in the country that has no elected mayor. Some analysts believe that Ter-Petrosian feared that an official elected by at least one third of the country's population could be in a strong position to challenge his rule.

There have been numerous calls for the abolition of that exception in recent years. Kocharian, however, opposes that. His package of draft amendments to the constitution put on a referendum in May did not envisage any changes in the formation of the Yerevan administration.
Yerevan's parks have been seized by government officials

Long story worth reading at:
We know who the owners are - 4

Many people remember the public toilet near the Opera House. When the Soviet Union fell apart, this restroom did, too. It was out of order for years, and became a gathering place for homeless people. On August 14, 2002, Yerevan Mayor Albert Bazeyan (decision # 1006) granted the public toilet and an adjacent 650-square-meter plot of land in the park near the Opera House to Atlas, Ltd. to "reconstruct the toilet (italics mine), and build an outdoor cafe and recreation zone".

Of course, no one has supervised the construction of a public toilet, especially seeing as the public park as such doesn't exist anymore. Atlas, Ltd. has thus far built the Astral Club cafe here. No one knows what is planned for the upper part of this underground structure, since the approved design has already been violated and walls higher than those specified by the design have already been erected. Perhaps the construction will take an unexpected turn and the owners will decide, say, to build their private residences on the upper floors. And now let's see why this company was granted such a privilege.

The company's shareholders are Tigran Ghalumyan and Armen Stepanyan.
On September 11, 2002, by Robert Nazaryan's decision # 1553-A, an additional 600-square-meter plot of land, attached to the 650-square-meters already allocated, was granted to Atlas, Ltd. for 25 years to build an underground club.
Some people may remember former mayor Robert Nazaryan?s sentimental speeches about his - "a hometown boy's" - love of Yerevan, the Opera House, the Hrazdan Gorge, etc. But in between his speeches he managed to sell off Yerevan's green zones centimeter by centimeter, and justify it with various laws, instructions, and decisions… As to the damage to the state caused by the mayor's giving away so much land in the Opera and Circle parks, we will provide you with reports in further publications.

Edik Baghdasaryan

President's protocol chief goes unpunished
"The fight against corruption, nepotism and protectionism must become a priority in our work. The effectiveness of this fight depends on political will of the government and the civil action of the people."
(Excerpt from President Robert Kocharyan?s inaugural address on April 9, 2003)

Almost all the departments of the Yerevan Mayor's office expressed their negativity about the allocation of this plot of land in the Arabkir district. However Mayor Robert Nazaryan ignored these views and signed a decision giving the plot away. One who was not displeased was the former mayor of the Arabkir community. It was in the park just in front of his office that 15 trees were cut down. The Aravot daily already reported this story, but did not know at the time who the official was who was able to destroy this part of the park and avoid any responsibility. We now know that the real owner of the building under construction there is Mamikon Tonoyan, the chief of the protocol department of President Kocharyan's administration.

Edik Baghdasaryan

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Sorry for not logging yesterday or the day before, but I was very busy with work in Yerevan and now I'm logging you from HOME!!!! YES, I'M HOME AND FEEL GREAT!!!!

The ride home for the most part was quite uneventful and the only problem I had was as I was coming down the hill from Shushi to Stepanagert, where after coming out of a hairpin turn, a thumping sound started from the front right tire, which I figured must have been a flat, but turned out to be the disk for the break had shattered and thank goodness it happened on a long stretch and not on a turn, as it took me 300 meters to stop the car.

I took a look to find the shattered disk, and determined that I would have to drive the rest of the way down the hill to Stepanagert without breaks, which I did by keeping the transmission in 1st gear and made my way to my Stepanagert mechanic, where we broke off the rest of the disk and placed a piece of it in between the brake pads so the other 3 tires would work. We also called my Yerevan mechanic and asked him to send us a new disk, which he will tomorrow.

Anyway, I'm really tired and today is going to be a day of rest for me (I hope) and then tomorrow I will start to do work I have neglected for the last couple of weeks.

BTW - Yesterday I went to Gyumri with Harout (DerHova) for the day. We visited the 2 orphanages and toured around (it was his first time to this part of Armenia). The orphanages were very nice and in fact their physical condition was as nice, if not nicer than my house. The director of the government sponsored orphanage, Rosanna, sat down with us for over an hour and assured us a few times that there is no corruption in the system and she refuses to believe what I was saying. This is the orphanage that Mariam, the girl featured in our story was from.

Well, I'm off to sleep and I hope it will last for the whole day, but I know this is wishful thinking.

Saturday, October 18, 2003


Today on my way to a friend's house, I came across a sight I had seen before, but didn't have a chance to catch a good picture.

Yes, children are gambling all over Yerevan and no one seems to be bothered by it, or at least don't say anything in public to the people selling tickets.

(PICTURE TO COME)The picture you are seeing was taken on two different days. The picture I took today is of a 10 or 11 year old boy, who is purchasing a lottery ticket.

If your wondering what the effects are of gambling to youth, visit and go to the message board and take a look at what I wrote on that subject last year when the youth in Stepanagert hung himself for loosing money to a casino.

After taking the picture, one of the effects of gambling came out, as someone noticed me taking a picture and came after me. I asked the guy that followed me what problem he had with me taking picture and where it states in the law that taking a picture in a public place is against the law? I said if he had a problem, let's find a police officer and let him explain to us what the law states about picture taking and youths gambling?

The man pulls out an identification with him wearing some uniform and since I can't read Russian, I'm guessing that this man is just some guard. I tell him that allowing children to gamble is wrong. None the less, he walked me back to the ticket table and asked me who I was and the people who had been photographed wanted me to take out the film from the camera.

I woman of about 50, who was not in the picture, got right in my face and grabbed hold of me and started to demand the film. I asked her if she knew who I was and she said no. I said that if she didn't let go of me, she would soon find out. The "cop" continued to ask who I was and what right I have and I offered to him a chance to call on my cell phone his chief to send down a car and we can settle everything.

The woman let go and then the guy that's in the left of the picture comes after me and grabs me by the hand and wont let go, telling me that he does not give me the right to take his picture. He was getting right in my face and looked like he was ready to strike me. I looked him in the eyes and told him that he should really think about what he is doing an if he does not let loose, he was going to end up in jail. He continued a bit with his complaint and then I pulled my hand loose.

The "cop" continued to ask me who I was and after I again made the offer of calling his chief, I walked away and he just smiled.

Friday, October 17, 2003


Today at 6PM as I was walking to the place I'm staying, I passed Parliament and on the side street, there was a water cannon truck, a barbwire truck and behind them was 3 large buses of riot police. The park next to Parliament was flooded with high-ranking police personal.

I sat in the cafe in the park and had a drink and waited to see what was going to happen. After waiting a bit, I called journalist friend of mine to see what was going on and he told me that there was an opposition meeting at the manuscript library, which could end with a march on the presidential palace.

I walked over to the manuscript library and found the meeting going. I made my way up to where the speakers were and when I wanted to get up close to get a picture, I was stopped by a couple of thugs who told me I can take pictures from down below. I told them that I could not get a good shot and it was too bad that I come from America and leave without a good picture. One of the guys asked me what city I was from and after telling him Los Angeles, he arranged to get me passed for a picture, which I got so close to Dermirchyan, Sarkissian and Manoukian, that I had to step back to get their picture. Talk about weak security.

I'm guessing that there were about 5 to 10 thousand people (I'm not really sure how one measures so I could be off a bit). Most of the people were older (over 60 years old).

The general message from all the speakers that all our problems started after October 27th, 1999 and before that, people had hope.

One of the people said that Kocharian has no defense for what he has done, but the Oligarch (the Mafia) and members of Parliament had a defense to where they got their money and power.

Aram Sarkissyan (Vasken's brother who was Prime Minister after Vasken was killed), said that Kocharian is not our President and we must get rid of him. He said that today they are not going to share with the people their plan to get rid of Kocharian, as when you go to battle with your enemy, you don't share with them your battle plan. He went on to assure the people that they have a battle plan. He also announced that this was the last meeting he and people like himself will attend and the next time they announce a meeting, it will be when Kocharian is finally out.

I left the meeting when it ended this after Garen Dermichyan spoke. Garen is recognized by the majority of the crowd to be real president of Armenia.

As we were leaving and flooding the Mashtots, the police was driving by in their car and on announcing to the crowd "Loving people, please walk on the sidewalk".

I heard one man talking about how Kocharian has no place to run and how when they increase the elderly persons pensions by 20 dram, they steal 1,000.

My overall impression was that there were no young people to speak of and those that were cheering and waving their hand were very old and some even appeared to be confused. No one seemed to agree when the speakers mentioned that our problems started on October 27th.

Today in another attempt to solidify my commitment and move to Armenia and after giving up all hope that the Artsakh government will ever give me citizenship, I went to the OVIR in Yerevan to apply for Armenian citizenship.

I went up to the 4th floor and asked where I can apply for Armenian citizenship and the first thing I was asked is where I was from. I told the woman, who gave me a strange look and told me to go to room 409 and see Mr. Menastaganyan.

I went to room 409 and was instructed by the secretary to go in which I did.

Ara: Hello, (shaking Menastaganyan’s hand) my name is Ara Manoogian (sitting down).
Menastaganyan looks to Ara as if he is too busy to be bothered
Ara: I would like to apply for Armenian citizenship.
Menastaganyan: Where are you from?
Ara: America.
Menastaganyan: (with dumbfounded look on face) Go to room 401.
Ara: (Shaking hand) Thank you.

I walk to room 409 and inside I find a woman (I didn’t get her name) who looked like she had a rough day. I told her Mr. Menastaganyan had sent me to see her about citizenship.

Woman: Where are you from?
Ara: America.
Woman: You know you will have to relinquish your American citizenship?
Ara: I know, but do I have to do that before I apply?
Woman: You can do it simultaneously or when you get your Armenian citizenship. I’m just warning you now so when the time comes, you don’t say you didn’t know.
Ara: (with smile on face) I know and am ready to do this.
The woman pulls out a form and writes on a piece of paper what I will need. It was the same form I filled out for Artsakh citizenship.
Woman: Once you apply, it will take 6 months to a year.
Ara: That’s fine.
Woman: You will have to provide a paper that states were you live.
Ara: I live in Artsakh.
Woman: I don’t know if we can give you citizenship as we only give it to people who live here and we don’t recognize Artsakh as being part of Armenia.

I tell my citizenship dilemma to her and how the main reason they wont give me citizenship in Artsakh is because Armenia does not want Artsakh to give duel-citizenship (the law that my original papers fell under and I did make the cut off, but the President of Artsakh didn’t sign my papers for some unexplainable (to this day) reason). Now the only way I can get Artsakh citizenship today is by relinquishing my American citizenship, but I would be a fool to do that for a country that is not even recognized by Armenia, not to mention the rest of the world.

Woman: You will have to bring a paper about your work status.
Ara: I work in Artsakh.
Woman: You don’t have work in Armenia?
Ara: I live in Artsakh, how can I work here and live there?
Woman: I don’t know how were going to do this since by law we only give citizenship to people who live and work here.
Ara: I’m sure we can figure out something. Maybe I can use the Artsakh committee building on Moscovian as my address. (I guess I could also be like the majority of the population and claim to be unemployed)

I thanked the woman for her help and tell her that as soon as I can gather up the papers (which I will get from the Artsakh MFA, MIA or President's office), I will apply for Armenian citizenship and see what happens.

Here is another story about the double-standard of life here being all about who you know.

Last summer when I was visiting Yerevan, I visited with a relative (from my mother's side) who told me about her son who is serving in the army as a communication specialist in Dilijan.

It seems that Dickran, who of all my mother's relatives is unusually intelligent, very proper and respectful to his elders, was bullied by his commanding officer and ended up being beaten to the point that his parents were not allowed to see him for a week after the incident because he sustained noticeable external scaring.

When my cousins husband was finally able to see Dickran, he made it clear to the commander who beat him that he personally would kill whoever is responsible if anything happened again.

When I heard this story, I was outraged and even though a couple of months had passed and my cousin said that I need not do anything since it was under control, I felt that I needed to at least strike some fear in the guy that beat my cousin so he would really not think of doing anything again and called a close General friend of mine, who is a deputy to the Minister of Defense of Armenia. I told the General what happened and asked him to call Dilijan to warn them that if one hair on my cousins head was bent, I would personally go to Dilijan and settle the score. The General was not happy hear about what had happened and told me he would tale care of it and I can be sure my cousin's remaining time in the army would be uneventful.

Back at the base in Dilijan at that very time, Dickran had been called to his commander's office and was told that he needs to bring from the communication storage 10 radios. Dickran told his commander that there was no such radios and had not been since he had been serving. The commander said that he didn't care, he said that Dickran needs to find 10 radios, even of that means they are broken radios and if he does not, he would once again be punished. It seems that since that last beating, Dickran was being bullied by his commander.

Dickran left his commander's office and really didn't know what to do and was called back a half hour later to a totally different commander, who apologized to Dickran and told him not to worry about the radios and he (the commander) would find them himself. Dickran left the office confused and later learned from another communication specialist that a call had come from the DF's office to the commander and though were not sure what was said, since that call, Dickran has no longer been bullied and can't seem to do anything wrong.

When Mama Manoogian heard all about this, she commented on how sad this whole situation is and how it's all about who you know or how much you are willing to pay. Very sad indeed and something we all need to somehow change so that those that don't have the money or friends in power, have a fighting chance to a good and fair life.
Last night being that I was homesick, I went to visit some friends from Martuni who just drove to Yerevan. It's really interesting how good I feel to be around such friends.

While we were sitting and talking, in came another guest who also just drove in from Stepanagert and didn't know who I was and since I was not talking, was probably very tired and figured I was just another native.

Being a fly on the wall, the guy started to tell us news from Martuni and being that this guy was a high-ranking government official, the news he had to share was common, but had inside details that only the people at the top could know.

It seems that there was an attempted abduction of a girl for a forced marriage and what made it interesting was that for the most part, the people involved are people I knew, so it was in some way a gossip session, which is something even guys do here.

The man was telling us that it seems the guy had noticed this girl 7 or 8 years ago when she was a schoolgirl and fell in love then.

The guy used the reason of needing to send a bag of stuff to Yerevan to come to the girls house to drop off the bag and had called to ask they send the girl out front of the house to receive the bag. The girl did this and with the help of others in the car, they forcefully pulled her in the car.

The woman of the house (it may have been her mother), stood in front of the car to not allow them to take the girl. Someone got out of the car and pushed or dragged the woman to one side to let the car pass. They sped off and picked up Garik's taxi to take them off to someone's house.

Since it turns out that girl is related by law to this high-ranking government official, calls are made to the Minister of Internal Affairs (which is the ministry that deals with all law enforcement departments), who in the process of looking for this girl, I guess got the Prosecutor General and as this official told us "everyone somehow got involved".

Within 2 or 3 hours, they found the girl, who was at someone's house sitting at a table where the suspects and his cohorts were eating a meal.

They retrieved the girl and denied the high-ranking official to drop all charges in return for doing what he wanted to the guy and his cohorts, short of killing them and was told that a law is in force (I'm not sure if this is a new law or not), that the first part (I didn't really understand what this meant) gives a sentence of 1 to 6 years and the second part is 4 to 8 years. In there is not just the punishment for the guy who wanted the girl, but also his cohorts.

The new Martuni chief of police, Hyeaser, had suggested that they shake the suspects down for $3k (in bribes), which the high-ranking official asked Hyeaser if he didn't think it was a bit inappropriate to try to make money from someone who violated his relative? For him to even do this I would think is enough of a reason to dismiss him from his post and I think it would not be such a bad idea to push this idea to the Minister of the Interior when I get back to Artsakh.

I'm glad to see that there is a law in place to protect girls from being abducted, but seeing that if the victim was not a high-ranking official's relative, then the complaint would have only gotten to the chief of police and in that case, $3k could have been paid and the case would have been dropped, which would send out a message (if such cases have not already done this) that if you want a girl who does not want you, have $3k ready to pay, which in some cases is what people spent to having a wedding and in the case of being in "love", would be worth paying to get what you want.

It sounds to me like this law was created in a genuine attempt to protect girls, but I'm sure in many cases is being used not to protect girls, but to enrich some very corrupt people, since you don't hear much about people being prosecuted for such a crime, but you do here all the time about forced abductions.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Last night Mama Manoogian and I went out with our longtime readers, Dickran Hagopian and his daughters to Raffi’s Kebab for dinner. It was great to finally meet Mr. Hagopian, who for the last couple of years has been writing to the loggers. A very fun person to be around.

I sent off Mama Manoogian this morning with Madlene’s mom and dad.

I have a bunch of appointments today, including one with DerHova, who will be auditioning someone from Martuni, who is now studying to become a singer here in Yerevan. She was apprehensive at first to go sing for him, telling him that she will audition after she has learned to sing. He explained to her that she can learn all she wants, but if she can sing, then all the learning will not change what he is looking for. So today after 2 PM she will audition and we will see if we have found one of the next Armenian singers that you will hear about everywhere and you will be able to say that you knew about her before she was…

BTW, my television interview has finally been aired here in Armenia (3 days ago) and I guess it should soon be aired on satellite.

This computer I’m using in the internet café keeps loading up porn sites, which tells me that I really need to wash my hands when I leave.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

A while back I wrote about a man named "Mouse" who was being considered for high ranking position in government by the Prime Minister and I wrote about his criminal activity in the past? Well here is another one of those stories.

This time the story is about a man named Vahram Parseghyan, who is the Deputy Minister of Culture, who I happened across and found that he was fabricating stories about people in "need of medical help" and in that particular case, used Mesrop Srpazan of the Prelacy of New York to solicit funds from the Diaspora, of which he secured $4,000 from a man in Washington.

I filed a complaint with Kocharian's office back on the 22nd of November, 1999, with documentation that in an international court of law could have found Parseghyan guilty of fraud, but what ended up happening instead seems to be an opposite effect.

The last I heard of the case on an official level was on the 29th of December, 1999, when an investigator from Kocharian's office came to Stepanagert to see me. My journal entry that day reads:

"I drove to the Bazaar and parked my car and walked up to the PM's building, where they called up to Aganesyan's office and wrote me a visit slip. They sent me to the President's building and after a metal detector search, I went up to the 3rd floor, where I was invited into Avanesyan's office. There was sitting a man with him, who was from the President's (of Armenia) office. The man sitting at the table asked me if I speak Armenian? I said yes.

In front of him, he had the document pack that I had dropped off at Kocharian's office and asked me why I wrote this letter? I said the letter speaks for itself and he asked, "How do I know the facts are true?" He asked if Era (the mother of a young man whose name was used to solicit funds from the Diaspora) is familiar with this letter and does she agree with it? I said she has read the letter and she did not object to it.

He showed me some invoices that Vahram had, that showed that on 05 Aug 99, 2,000,000 dram was received by Era; 02 November 1999, 3,000,000 dram was received by Era; unknown date, $1,200 was received by Era.

I said the information Era gave me does not indicate she received this money. He said "you know that the allegations you are making are very serious as this man has a high-ranking position in government and they are threatening you [me] with a law suit." I smiled and said, "If they feel I have done something wrong, then they should sue me, but I will defend myself and hang Vahram."

He said, "so you think that these documents are fake?" I said, "I am saying that I don't believe that they received that kind of money. I believe this for many reasons, but mainly because of a $1,500 debt they have." I said, "If they received that kind of money, then they would not have that kind of debt where their relative would loose his truck to the bank, as it is his only means for work." I went on to say "They only received from Vaharam $1,000 after we started to poke around. It's clear to me that Vahram has fabricated these documents to cover his tracks."

I asked him if he had called Era and told her to go to see Vahram to see the letter and other documents that I had submitted to the President's office? He said no. I said she got a call a week or two ago and they would not tell her their name but instructed Era to go visit Vahram.

He said, "You know that the documents today show that Era has received the money and she is the one that could be in trouble." I said, "If she if she has done something wrong, then she needs to answer for what she has done."

He showed me a letter from Era as to show me what her signature looks like and said that he compared that signature to the ones on the receipts and he is convinced that they are the same. He looked to me for a reaction.

I asked to see the letter and receipts and noticed that on one of the receipts there was a very thin black line on the top and left side of the signature. I told him I believe that this signature was cut from somewhere else and pasted on the receipt and then photocopied. He looked with interest and asked me if I really think so (as if I made some new discovery). I told I'm almost sure.

I asked him if Robert or Vasken had really given $4,000 each (these are claims that Vahram had made to Mesrop Srpazan)? He said Vasken is dead and he has not yet asked Robert.

He asked me where I was from and I told him. He asked how long I have been in Karabagh and when I told him, he looked at Slava, as if they should have known this. They should have, but they don't check on people like me because that would mean they actually would have to work and do their job. He asked the standard questions about my family and so on.

He said that we need to write a couple of lines that say that what I wrote in my first letter is true. I told him I could do it in English and they would have to translate it and he said he would help me, but not to tell anyone, as it is suppose to be a statement from me to him and if he writes it, then I could sign it and later say I didn't understand what I had signed.

I told him what I wanted to say and he dictated it to a secretary who was sitting in the outer office. It basically said that everything is true and talked about the $1,500 debt and the phone call Era got a couple of weeks ago. It also mentioned my feelings about the receipts. We printed it and I signed it.

I asked him if I could have copies of the receipts and he said no, since there is an investigation going on, it is confidential information.

He gave me his official government card which read : Ara Aghababyan, 58-87-35 (this phone number no longer works).

As we were finishing, I said it's the same in America and people that are caught do everything they can to get out of it and documents like the ones that Vahram presented are worthless. I said it will be interesting to me if Kocharian gave $4,000. He shook my hand and I told him to try to get in touch with Era, as she is now in Yerevan. I got my passport and walked to the car, where I am sitting and writing."

So why am I writing about Parseghian today and what is the similarity between he and the "Mouse"? Well it seems that Parseghian is candidate to lead the president's controllers office, which from what I understand is the same office that Ara Aghababyan was working under.

I have to say that "Mouse" didn't get the position and I would hope that Kocharian has enough sense to follow the Prime Minister's lead and not select Parseghian, as it would be like putting the fox as guard of the henhouse.

Monday, October 13, 2003

The other night when I was walking to the hotel, I spotted a police car (white Fiat (06) with big number on the side "040", corner of Marshal Baghramian and Moscovian, time: 0104) that had stopped a white Niva 4X4.

I stood and watched as a policeman from the passengers side walked up to the Niva and the driver of the Niva got out and tired to give the policeman something.

The policeman pushed the mans hand away and next thing I know, the driver of the Niva almost fell on top of the policeman and they seemed to engage in a kind of dance. I guess the driver of the Niva was under the influence of something.

They continued to talk and were joined by the driver of the police car.

The driver of the Niva stumbled to the sidewalk, digging into his pocket and returned to the policemen, and after a short conversation and the driver of the Niva handing the policeman something, the policemen returned to their car and the driver of the Niva got back in his car and the cars drove off.
I’m a bit confused about this statement that was made in a story about President Arkady Ghoukasian’s going to America to raise funds to finish the North-South highway:

“Founded in 1992, Armenia Fund USA is part of the Hayastan All-Armenian
Fund, the first international, non-governmental, non-profit,
non-political network representing all constituents in the Armenian

Armenia Fund USA is dedicated to upholding transparent procurement
policies and supervising quality control, ensuring that all funding
dollars make it in to the right hands, every step of the way. Board
members and hand picked ground-level supervisors directly control how
funds are allocated and spent. Armenia Fund USA does not involve the
government in the application of funds and ensures the utmost
accountability for every precious dollar donated towards building
foundations for a sustainable future.”

The way I see it and have always seen it was that they may call the Armenia Fund a non-governmental and non-political organization, but if that’s really the case and if they in fact are keeping the government out of how the funds are spent, then why is it that the board of directors consist of some of the most corrupt people from Armenia and the Diaspora? And don’t you have to wonder why the Diaspora of America does not give $25 million without flinching an eye for a road in Artsakh? I think the fact that the President of Artsakh has to keep going to America and begging for money year after year tells the whole story.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Privatization, Karabakh style

Construction companies have recently been privatized in Karabakh. These are wealthy, technically well-equipped businesses. The identities of their new owners have thus far been kept secret from the public. We have been informed that Yuri Ghazaryan, the deputy prime minister of Nagorno Karabakh, owns shares in all of these companies, including, we have been able to confirm, the republic’s two most important construction firms. Of course Ghazaryan’s name may not appear on any documents. In Karabakh, just like in Armenia, people often buy property in someone else’s name. The deputy prime minister recently acquired the biggest store in Martuni, the Univermag. We’ve been informed that he owns the Yerevan-Stepanakert mini-bus routes as well.

Edik Baghdasaryan
We know who the owners are – 3

In early 2002, then-mayor of Yerevan Robert Nazaryan granted Magnolia Ltd a 20-square-meter site. In November 2002 the Mayor gave Magnolia an additional 20-square-meter plot adjacent to the service entrance of the Opera and Ballet Theatre, to enlarge the box office and entrance hall. And in December 2002, as we learned from S. Kotolikyan, head of the city department of architecture, the territory of the Magnolia Cafe was 2,615 square meters, making it the largest cafe now occupying the public park surrounding the Opera House. And who owns Magnolia-who succeeded in persuading Mayor Nazaryan to so expand the site? None other than member of parliament and Orinats Yerkir Party representative, Grigor “Bellagio Grish” Margaryan.

Edik Baghdasaryan
I just finished with a date I had with a couple of girls that are from Martuni and are studying here in Armenia now.

We met in front of Hotel Armenia and sat in their café in front of the hotel and shared some beer batter onion rings and a banana-split. As far as I can remember, I have not had these things since the last time I was in America and have to tell you, as good as they were, I really didn’t have to have them.

I asked them how life was here and one of them, who just got here last month, told me that she is already sick of this place. The other one told me that the fruit, vegetables and meat has no taste and you can tell that chemicals are being used while growing them.

We thought that there was going to be a concert in Independence Square, but after calling DerHova, learned that it will be tomorrow, so it looks like our date will continue tomorrow.

After we finished with the Hotel Armenia café and it started to get cold, we decided to walk to the Coffee Man on Tumanian for some hot green tea and some very tasty lemon cake. A very good place to go, especially in the winter.

I asked the girls how they deal with the guys here, as both of these girls are very beautiful and they said they just ignore them. I noticed that the guys here stare quite a bit and the girls said that if they look at them in anyway, they are approached. They said that cars honk at them, even taxis and police cars. It’s quite disgusting and worries me a bit that the guys here are such dogs. In fact a couple of our guy friends know the dogs here so well that anytime any of our Martuni girls want to go out, they call Armen or Kevork to escort them, as we know if they ever went out alone, they would be physically attacked.

Well tomorrow will be the big concert in Independence Square and our date will continue then and we will be joined by Der Hova. This should be fun. If anyone else wants to join us, e-mail me with your phone number so I can let you know where we are going to meet up.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

While I was heading to the internet cafe, I was distracted by the sound of a marching band that was heading up Mashtots.

I have no idea who they were and for what reason they were marching, but it seemed to me some type of celebration. I got the impression it was a sports team or something.

The one thing that caught my eye was that the kids were dressed no different than the kids you would find in Glendale. Armenian kids all over the world really do look the same. I took pictures and also a movie clip, but I guess you will have to wait until my new site is up and running before you can enjoy the clips.
A little food for thought. When I think of Nobel Peace Prize and Iran, I think that just maybe someone is trying to once again instill their Western values in a country that has been around for centuries, whose [Iran's] culture and natural resources maybe can't support Western values.

Not that Shirin Ebadi didn't deserve the prize for her human rights activism, but is it not strange that during this time when America is trying to control the region and having a difficult time getting their influences into Iran, someone who is pushing human rights for women and children in a country where the culture for hundreds of years promotes that men are dominating and women and children are subordinate, is awarded a prize of $1.3 million, which the winner said will go towards her work? She claims to not have even known that she was a candidate for the prize.

One thing I did like was that she said that human rights must be dealt with internally and a population must not wait for organizations from the outside to fix such problems. It sounded good, but since this statement was being played over and over again by CNN, you have to wonder why they are doing this. I know that the people in Iran do watch CNN and many dream of a more democratic country, but with the West standing on the sidelines just waiting to move in with their financial institutions to pillage the country, I'm less in favor of such a "democracy" in Iran right now.

You really have to wonder if this is part the West's desire to get into Iran and destabilize the ruling government using persons on the inside? It appears to me like techniques used in the US military's manual on Low Intensity Conflict (LIC).

Oh, another something I saw on CNN was an American General talking about how they are producing a million barrels of oil a day to pay for the rebuilding of Iraq. This is the Iraq that the West bombed the hell out of to bring the whole country to it's knees so the West could move in and try to control it. I wonder who is making out like a bandit on this oil deal. I would guess Bush and his friends.

And at the same time, think Cuba, Castro, and Bush saying that they are going to start transmitting anti-Castro propaganda into Cuba if he does not agree to the lifting of an US embargo in exchange for allowing a more democratic policy for Cuba. I like Castro only for the fact that he has been standing up against the West for over 40 years and after all the West has dished out, the old man is still in power. Viva Castro!!!

Is all this part of the new US-policy that believes that it's no longer enough to "defend", but now they must start "attacking" (as if they have not been doing this all along) and wiping out the treats that they have been "defending" themselves against? It seems to me that the "wounded lion" (America) has to lash out now and eradicate any threats while it still has the strength to do so before it becomes too weak and the mice that it has been terrorizing all these years, collectively come and pick it's bones clean. Let's all hope that whatever is best for the great population of the world prevails and the real axis-of-evil is defeated and real human rights and democracy will one day become a reality on Earth for all humans. Okay I'm dreaming, but this is what we should all aim for.
Last night after dinner with Mihran K. and his wife at Raffi's Kebab (another great meal), I took a walk to Hotel Armenia. While walking down Abovian, I came across this office.

With Armenia now 77th on the list of most corrupt nation and with so many new jobs being created every year according to President Kocharian, why do we need an office where one can apply for a green card and move to America or Canada?

I guess I just don't understand, or want to understand.

Friday, October 10, 2003
10 October 2003

Outside Eye: A non-Armenian's view of life in his adopted home

By John Hughes

Sometimes it is the seemingly insignificant events that say the most about the living condition: Putting a new coat of polish on worn-out shoes; sweeping trash from a sidewalk that is hardly more than dirt itself; carrying yourself with dignity on your way to borrow money . . . Such things.
We have a story this week that could be seen as insignificant, unless you look past the event itself and to the mentality that creates the environment in which such actions flourish.

Some trees were uprooted from an Armenian hillside and replanted to decorate a Yerevan cafe. So what?

So what, is that the trees were planted 30 years ago in an effort to filter the air and protect, via a "greenbelt", the environment. Now they are practically nothing but potted plants, likely to dry out and do little more than filter clouds of cigarette smoke from one of too many Yerevan cafes.

So what, is that the person who put them there is the very appointed government official - the Minister of Protection of Nature - whose title should spell out pretty clearly the irony here. That Minister took 30 years of cultivated nature - significantly in this case, government property - probably damaged it, and turned it into window dressing for his wife's cafe.

The official was clever enough to disguise the intentions of his action. He filled out papers saying the trees were going to be used for aesthetic enhancement of a government property in Kotayk. But two days after those papers were filed, the 15-to-20-foot silver spruces became landscaping for Mrs. Minister's central Yerevan cafe.

So what?

So what, is that an environmental protection group - the Union of Greens - found out about the transplanting and asked the General Prosecutor's Office to look into it. An investigator found that violations had occurred.

I guess the fact that it involved an appointed official got somebody's attention, so the President was advised that his Minister of Nature Protection had arguably defiled his very title. The President told prosecutors to back off, answering their investigation with, in effect: "So what?"

I came here from California, but I am not a tree hugger. I find it hard to get worked up over environmental issues because I generally find them arrogant suppositions that Mother Nature can't find a way to take care of herself - like, after billions of years she needs our puny help.

This isn't about trees. It is a damn lot about the environment here, however.

The environment here is that abuse of government-appointed power is seen as a privilege of the post, rather than a punishable offense. I wish this incident with the trees were the most egregious example of that fact. In any case, since it is our jumping off point on this occasion please indulge further examination of this "insignificant" occurrence.

First, does anybody question how it is that prime property, i.e., cafe sites in one of the busiest parks in the capital, ends up owned by families who run the government? Does anybody question whether it is right that a pensioner in the city center can hardly find a park bench that isn't attached to the disco-deafening noise of a cafe? Or that a strolling family has no green space for introducing babies to nature because the green space has been overtaken by concrete and neon put up to entice business for the well-connected?

Finally, is it too ironic that government officials/cafe owners cut down park trees to make room for their cafes, then uproot trees from government property to decorate them?

Okay, okay. I won't unravel the whole socio-political ball of thread over this one. So what?

It's just some trees, right?

They are out of control!!!
10 October 2003

Destructive Decoration: Nature preserves become personal plucking grounds for the powerful

By Vahan Ishkhanyan
ArmeniaNow reporter

The Minister of Nature Protection dug up 10 environmentally sensitive trees from an Armenian nature preserve and used them to decorate his wife's cafe near Yerevan State University.

In April, Minister Vardan Ayvazyan, filed papers stating that the 30-year old silver spruces of five-to-seven meter height would be uprooted from the Charents Reservation Park in Jrvezh and replanted in Kotayk, to improve the aesthetics of the former forestry administration building. But the paperwork was merely a coverup for the real purpose.

The trees in fact were taken to Yerevan, where they now grace "Mermaid" Cafe, owned by Mariam Ginosyan, the minister's wife.

Immediately upon learning of the trees' removal, the Union of Greens of Armenia filed a complaint, first notifying Ayvazyan himself, then after getting no response, union president Hakob Sanasaryan appealed to the General Prosecutor's Office.

Upon receiving Sanasaryan's appeal, the prosecutor investigated the complaint. ArmeniaNow has learned chief prosecutor Aram Tamazyan advised President Robert Kocharyan of the investigation results, but was ordered by the President to withhold prosecution.

Instead, Ayvazyan was ordered to pay a just market value for the trees. But the minister has not paid.

Records show that Ayvazyan's family paid 300,000 drams (about $526) for the 10 spruces. According to the prosecutor's investigation, the market value is about 10 times that amount. Further, the prosecutor's report found that the park's effectiveness as a "greenbelt" (created in 1977 for reducing air pollution) was damaged as a result of taking the spruces. (Silver spruces are rare trees for Armenia and they don't grow here in natural conditions. The ones in the nature park were brought from Russia.)

The General Prosecutor's Office refuses to comment on the case. According to our information the Prosecutor's Office had sufficient grounds for bringing the case before a court. The crime of misuse of office causing major damage to the state is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Rather than face prosecution, Ayvazyan has been ordered to pay the State the market value of the spruces. Ayvazyan, however, contests the estimated value of the spruces and has offered documentation showing the value to be $1,000. Ayvazyan has made one payment of $500 toward that amount. (Ayvazyan refused ArmeniaNow's request for an interview.)

The Mermaid Cafe is not the only beneficiary of such destructive decoration.

It has become something of a fashion in Yerevan to uproot trees from protective forests and replant them in the city. This year a spruce of about 10 meters has been transplanted in front of the Kentron District Office (of Yerevan Municipality) and two others in front of the Ministry of Justice.

Five spruces and 13 mature pines were transplanted around "Partez" cafe, which is owned by the Minister of National Security, Karlos Petrosyan. It is believed that the trees were taken from a nature preserve near Sevan. Many of the 30-year old pines and spruces have dried out.

Environmental activists charge that those with money and influence are satisfying their own interests, at the expense of damaging the republic's already fragile eco-system.

Covering 407 hectares, Jrvezh Reservation is a research and development area where a forest was created using a special pump station taking water to the top of a mountain. The "greenbelt" serves as a means of producing better air quality for surrounding areas, including Yerevan. The reservation is maintained by scientists who are specialists in creating environmental regions for ecological purposes.

"If the overt crime committed by Vardan Ayvazyan remains unpunished then there is no sense to apply to the Prosecutor's Office with other requests too," says Sanasaryan. "We hoped that after entering the court this case would serve to prevent this torrent of spruce transplanting. But the pattern has not stopped."

I've noticed this artist for the last few days set-up in the middle of "Independence" Square painting and I just had to cross over and see what he was painting.

I made my way to the center, which I have to tell you is a very dangerous thing to do, as the rule in Armenia is that he who is bigger, has the right of way. Well I'm not a government official, so you can just imagine that I'm not as big as a car and for that reason, I have a great respect for the cars that are speeding around the square.

I got to the middle of the square (which is not square, but circle) and found the artist with a few people watching.

I got a look at his work and really didn't think too much of it. I'm not sure if this guy is some famous artist or if he is painting for therapy? The later makes more sense, but you never know. I get the feeling that he was contracted by the Armenia hotel for a painting in the lobby or something.

Anyway, I figured that you would enjoy seeing this picture so you can see what the new look of "Independence" Square (Circle) looks like since lots of money has been spent on it and according to President Kocharian, we were not going to recognize it, but I did and immediately noticed the shinny slick granite used on the sidewalk that if your wearing dress shoes you slip on.

Yesterday I noticed a traffic light that looked to be made in Armenia using LED's. Today that light was replaced with fancy looking incandescent lights that are most certainly high-maintenance and consume a greater amount of energy. Too bad, I really thought the LED option, especially since they were made here was a great idea.
Though I don’t believe in gambling, I bet on a sure thing and won $2. You may ask how I did this and why this was a sure thing?

I gave odds on who would win and loose the Nobel Peace Prize, giving 1 million to one odds on Ariel Sharon winning and bet 5 million to one on George W. Bush loosing.

I figured that if one of them did win, then it was time to hang myself, so overall, it was a sure bet.

If can collect the $2 is another story, as I’m not sure if Ariel and George are good for it or not.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

What a small world. I just had dinner with Mama Manoogian at Raffi’s Kebab on Isahakian. It turns out that the owner Khachik, use to own Club Oasis in Eagle Rock on Colorado Blvd., the place I grew up. That was the place when I learned to drive I would look in the dark windows that acted like a mirror to watch myself drive. Very dangerous, but when your young and stupid, you don’t think about that kind of stuff.

Not to brag about the food, but it was good!!! I bet they have consistency and it’s the kind of place that you would take guest that want a normal meal. Though I came for onion rings, I ended up having a chicken korovads which was great and filling!!! I would have had onion rings, but they took them off the menu a few months ago.

They also offer a 30% discount to students, so don’t forget your student ID.

Anyway, if you’re in Armenia and looking for a good meal, stop into Raffi’s Kabab which is just off Mashtots on Isahakian, next to Nairi Cinema and very close to Paplavok Jazz Club. Their phone number is 56-34-21. Tell them I sent you and let’s see if Khachik remembers me.

BTW, I started to eat since I was starving before taking this picture, just in case you thought something was missing from my plate.
The weather in Armenia has been great!!! I think it's mini-summer visiting us at last and this is the time when you just have to get out and enjoy walking around before winter sets in.

Today I met up with Mihran K, the guy that posts news stories on We sat for coffee, mineral-water and conversation at Cascade+ outdoor cafe at the bottom of the Cascades.

While we were sitting and talking, a couple of young boys who looked to be brothers, came by and sat at the table across from us and ordered a beer, which they split. I was a bit in shock and I'm not sure how this type of thing is viewed here or if there is any law that sets age restrictions on such practices. It can't be good for young children to be consuming alcohol.

I know that at weddings and special occasions, children are allowed to drink a little bit of wine or beer, but these boys who the younger of the 2 could not have been 12 years old, just ordered up a beer and drank it down like a pro. Mind you, the beer they were drinking is 12.5% alcohol and I get a slight buzz from just drinking one of them and am at least 3 times the size as that small boy. I didn't loose the opportunity to take a few pictures of the boys and the waiter that served them so you could see it for yourself.

I ran into Madlene, Arthur and Ozzie in the Cascade Park and later joined them at the museum office for lunch with them and their staff. A great bunch of young, intelligent people are working there and it always gives me hope that there are young people who will at one point if given the chance lead our country. We talked about our future and their views for the most part, reflected the views of everyone else here in Armenia.

BTW, the Shahan Natalie Family Foundation, Inc., has joined the "Protect Our Forests Coalition" and will hopefully be representing the coalition in Artsakh, where as you have read on this site, we have a very big problem in terms of foreign owned companies chopping down endangered trees.
Watching CNN for me is not a good thing as I take it too seriously and I guess being that they are the pro-US news network, one should in fact ignore them entirely. I really was only watching to see what was going on with the recall/elections in California.

While watching, I got a glimpse of Bush basically giving Israel the okay to "defend themselves" against "terrorism", even if that means attacking other countries. That didn't make me too happy, as this also means that he could if need be, okay Azerbaijan to attack Artsakh in the name of defending themselves from "terrorists", which were not.

The one that got me wondering about the American public and if they are stupid was the story they ran on conventional arms found in Iraq and how they have found 650,000 tons of ammunition. They made it sound like a big deal that Sadam's army had arms that weigh as much as 65 Bowing 747's. Yea, I guess if the city of Los Angeles had that much, it would be a big deal, but for a country of the size of Iraq to only have that much ammunition, is not a big deal. I mean consider how much ammunition America has. I think America has pounded Iraq with about that much in the last war. If you use America to compare how much a country should have to defend itself, then Iraq was in fact under armed and no threat to anyone other than maybe it's own people.

Were living at a very interesting time in history and it makes me wonder who is really the treat to world stability in the big picture of things?

I also want to comment on the latest report that states that Armenia is the 77th most corrupt country in the world, with Azerbaijan and Georgia being in the top 10. Knowing how corrupt things are here, it only makes me feel better a little to know that things are changing, but have to not let our guard down and continue to work towards positive change, as we should be at least 200th. In fact I really think this is possible, that is if we really want this.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Being in Yerevan and dealing with the people here has given me a very sad picture of persons working in the service industry. This not only includes the people in cafe's, restaurants and stores, but especially people in government and the medical industry.

What I'm seeing is that people are getting more and more incompetent, and they are incompetent to the point that it's harmful to our future. These are the kind of people you just want to put out of their misery, as they are really pathetic, but at the same time you feel sorry for them. Maybe that's one of our problems, feeling sorry for someone who adversely effects your life and existence.

Why is it that these "educated" people are so incompetent and stupid? Could it be a result of our educational system, which is now all about money? Could it be that to get into the university, it's still about how much money you have and/or who you know? Could it be that since our upper government for the most part are uneducated, that they look for people who are less educated then them so they wont be a threat? And why is it that the uneducated people have the money and are willing to pay to get into a jobs that they're not qualified for? I think our problem is a little bit of all of the above and until we put the brakes on such practices, things are only going to get worse and Armenia and it's only real natural resource, which is brain power, is going to one day be lost. Remember, Armenia once provided the greatest brain-power and industrial output in the USSR and this was not because we were uneducated. And yes, Armenian DNA if properly nurtured can once again in a very short amount of time regain that brain-power. Sadly, we are doing this to ourselves and anyone that is responsible for this condition or knowingly turns a blind eye to this problem and is unwilling to do their part to correct it is nothing less than a trader to our nation.

Someone asked me why I put up with these conditions and stick around? I guess it's because I really believe that these issues can be dealt with and we can turn things around. I also believe that there are still enough people here in Armenia or like I said above, we have people who if nurtured properly, have the potential to fill the void. Of course those people who are out there and ready to fill that void, need to have conditions which are cohesive to working in their field of specialty. This includes a need for laws and a justice system that really works for the people. Equal economic opportunities would also be a good thing to have.

I guess we need a major cleaning of the system and until we see a cleaning at the top, we should not expect any change to take place soon. Very sad and just what the Turks want.

Thank you for allowing me to vent and get that off my chest. I feel a little bit better, but will feel much better when we in fact fix these problems.