Saturday, February 28, 2004

I’m playing with the idea of starting a new log. Not a log of life in Armenia, but a log played out by fully anonymous persons to the reader, who plays the part of various government, religious and community leaders or relatives of said leaders in Armenia and the Diaspora.

The logs will for the most part based on current news and issues. The readers can correspond with the writers via comments.

Though this is just for fun, I think it could result in some very interesting discussions that maybe the real person can learn something from.

For those that are interested in participating, please write to me at and please tell me who you would like to be.

Friday, February 27, 2004

The chicken count is coming in. Today I got a visit from a neighbor who I was pre-warned was complaining about my dog eating her chickens while I was in Yerevan.

She came by this morning and I was expecting her to say my dog ate 15 chickens, but she reported that my dog ate four hens and one rooster. I thanked her for feeding my dog and said I would replace them soon.

Though my dog was thin when I got back, I can’t imagine her not eating at least 1 or 2 chickens a day. Let’s see who else will be knocking at my door and adding to the count?

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Living in a small town in Artsakh has its good and bad sides. Though I’ve shared with you many of the good things, I have finally encountered one of the bad things that has personally involved me.

What could be so bad that I would notice it and it had a slight effect on me? Gossip about me.

It seems that according to someone, I had not returned to Martuni for the last month because get this, I was beaten up severely by some Americans and was recovering in a hospital in Yerevan.

I learned this when again I got a call from my accountant a few days ago when in Yerevan, who was almost in a panic asking me if I was okay!? I told her yes and she again asked me if I was sure? I again said yes and asked her if she had a bad dream? She said no and hung up.

Yes, small town Martuni, what would I do without you and all the unemployed people who have nothing better to do.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I’m back in Martuni after a very long stay in Armenia. I’m really glad to be back.

The return trip was for the most part uneventful and the only thing interesting was picking up a couple of Westerners on foot with backpacks. They were on their way to Sevan which from the turnoff I left them at was 40 kilometers away.

One of them was from Italy and had made his way to Armenia via Bulgaria and Georgia. I asked him if he hitchhiked the whole way and he said no, only in Armenia, as he it was not safe to do so in the other countries.

The other walker was a girl maybe from Italy, but was leaving Armenia by air and going to Syria. She also had a noise ring.

I guess the only reason I picked them up was that they looked to the locals like freaks and from what I could tell, they were having no luck in getting anyone to stop. I guess holding up a thumb is really not an understandable signal in Armenia.

The weather here in Martuni is quite nice.

While I was in Armenia, I had sent my dog off to the chicken farm with my driver as she was in heat and 10 days ago, I got a call from my driver, who told me that he got a call from the farm to say that my dog had escaped and up until yesterday, my driver had not been able to find her.

When I was in Stepanagert, someone told me that they had come to my house on the 5th and my dog was at my house and barking. She said she came by on the 6th, and my dog was behind my house laying on the ground and looked sick and there was another dog in my yard. She said she chased off the other dog, but even then, by dog would not get up.

On my way home from Stepanagert, all I could think was that my dog returned home and maybe was injured by someone for killing a chicken or something and I was going to find her behind my house dead and covered with flies.

I got home and outside my house, my dog greeted me. She was quite thin and her paws were covered in a familiar blood (chicken blood) and she was a bit thin, but alive.

I fed her really well and for the most part she seems to be the same dog I left almost a month ago.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my driver, who was left here in Martuni to take care of things while I was gone and especially to look after my dog and make sure she was fed. At very least, I will make him pay for all the neighbors chickens my dog ate.

Anyway, it’s good to be home and also to find my dog alive.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
24 February 2004

Opposition Party Decries Government 'Repression' As Members Arrested

Shakeh Avoyan

One of Armenia's main opposition parties said Tuesday that scores of its activists around the country were rounded up and questioned by police early in the morning in what its leaders described as a renewed campaign of government "repressions."

At least three members of the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party led by former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian were reportedly arrested in Yerevan on suspicion of illegal arms possession. Sarkisian and his associates claimed that the apparent crackdown is aimed at derailing opposition plans to launch campaign of mass protests against President Robert Kocharian this spring.

"From now on the Hanrapetutyun party will act in a much more active and speedier manner," Sarkisian told reporters. "We are taking up the gauntlet."

An RFE/RL correspondent witnessed a search in the apartment of one of the arrested opposition activists, Armen Rubinian, conducted by police officers wearing civilian clothes. The officers refused to comment.

Rubinian's mother said afterwards that they were looking for weapons. "They didn't find anything," she said.

A similar story was told by Romik Mkhitarian, the head of the Hanrapetutyun chapter in Yerevan's Shengavit district. Mkhitarian said police knocked on his door in the early hours of Tuesday, but he refused to open it after demanding an explanation. He said they then broke into his car garage to conduct a search there.

A spokesman for the national Police Service, Sayad Shirinian, confirmed that the authorities are taking "measures to find weapons and ammunition" and said they have already found "large quantities" of them. But he declined to provide any further information or comment on the opposition charges.

Hanrapetutyun leaders, meanwhile, accused the authorities of trying to intimidate and discourage their most loyal supporters from attending the promised anti-Kocharian protests. Hanrapetutyun is seen as the most radical force inside the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) alliance which refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Kocharian's 2003 reelection and has vowed to achieve his ouster.

"The authorities are worried that we will soon get the people to the streets and topple them," the party's chairman, Albert Bazeyan, said. He alleged that that law-enforcement officials are trying to hold local
Hanrapetutyun leaders in check by threatening to bring criminal charges against them.

Bazeyan also drew parallels with the infamous arrests of hundreds of opposition supporters during and in the aftermath of last year's disputed presidential ballot. More than 270 of them were jailed for up to 15 days for attending unsanctioned opposition demonstrations in Yerevan. The massive crackdown was denounced by the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

For Sale . Yerevan
By Louise Manoogian Simone/AGBU News

Can you imagine an anonymous private developer receiving a permit to build a neon-lit cafe adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC or twenty feet from the wall of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City? Can you imagine the facade of the Smithsonian Institute or Metropolitan Museum hidden by two-story high billboards advertising cigarettes, alcohol, wearing apparel and candy? Can you imagine the green space of Central Park in New York City suddenly overrun with a hundred cafes of indiscriminate design and size?

At first glance, one is impressed by a bustling, colorful Yerevan: new restaurants, hotels, shops, apartment and office buildings are flourishing throughout the city, a far cry from the hungry days and dark nights of ten years ago.

But the joy of seeing the first outdoor cafe, Western-style advertising, stores filled with previously banned goods, gas stations instead of rusted trucks hosing car fuel into buckets for waiting drivers is quickly turning into serious concern as commercial interests destroy historic sites and the environment.

Yerevantsi's have always honored their city: a city that was designed by revered architect-planner Alexander Tamanian in the first third of the 20th century. The older generation has always remembered with pride that the Opera House on the corner of two prominent streets with an adjoining plaza was constructed when the population was starving, proving that in the worst of times Armenian culture still remained a priority.

So what has changed?

Is it possible that two national elections in the past year caused payoffs for political support to a small but influential segment of the population? Could it be that the 21st century ruling generation has forgotten the pride and priorities of their parents? Or is it just poor taste?

After some inquiries, like most cities it seems that Mayor's office is responsible. Its chief architect and an appointed architectural committee grant licenses to all new design and construction within the city limits.

Trees have been cut down, park benches removed, a royal blue and white Roman Empire style cafe with Roman statues and fountains has recently arisen in a major green park, casinos line the highway from the airport to Yerevan instead of being placed a few lots back, a three story restaurant now stands on a corner in front of a fifty year-old apartment house blocking the view of dozens of tenants, the view from the American University of Armenia Business Center is now a wall of cafes instead of a park, kiosks are placed directly in front of institutions and billboards reign supreme on all major thoroughfares of Central Yerevan. Newspapers have reported that there are more gas stations in Yerevan than in Moscow-a city of 10 million. These are only a handful of examples. Ask anyone and they'll give you dozens more.

One local businessman who has many successful commercial interests related another incident. While driving on a major thoroughfare that leads from Republic Square to the new St. Gregory Church he noticed workmen digging large holes in the street ten feet from the sidewalk. He stopped the car and asked the workmen what they were doing. "Building a new store" was the answer. "In the street!" he exclaimed, immediately placing calls to a number of officials-the work was halted. Of course not everyone has that clout.

Considering the usual time span between obtaining permits and completing construction would be at least one to two years, it is possible two mayors who have held the post since 2000 are guilty not only in their sell-out of Yerevan but also in succumbing to the pressures of influential citizens and officials. The electorate has no vote since mayors in Yerevan, unlike other cities in Armenia, are appointed by the President.

Who knows what's next?

Trafficking In Armenia and the Struggle against It
AZG Daily #027

Trafficking as an evil is spread all over the world. Armenia is not an exception. What shape does it take, does it really exist and what are the steps to be taken to tackle it? Below you will find interviews with government officials and victims of trafficking.

Prime Minister of Armenia Andranik Markaryan: “The phenomenon of trafficking does exist. In fact, it exists in every country and corresponds to the level of social welfare of the given country. It is two years that the Women’s Council within the office of the Prime Minister has been established. It is aimed at research and development of projects concerning trafficking issues. Although the scale of the problem is not large in our country, it really exists and is becoming obvious. We shouldn’t ignore it and say that there is no need to take steps to address trafficking. I would like to point out that the government’s Strategic Program of National Development for 2003-2015 includes studies on gender and trafficking issues. So great attention is paid to the phenomenon and it is certainly under control”.

In one of the regions in Armenia I had a chance to talk to a woman (for obvious reasons, I do not mention the place and the name) and tried to find out why she became a pimp and later a victim of trafficking. Ms. S. told me that her family of six had been deprived. Her husband left for Russia and she had no news from him. Her close friend urged her to make a living by prostitution and at first she received customers at home. One day she was invited to a party in Yerevan where she met people who promised her to help find a job abroad. 20 days later, leaving her children with her elderly mother and sister, she took a bus to Turkey. There she was met, taken to a hotel and the next day she was introduced to the employer as a waitress. Before she started work, they asked her to sign several documents. As she didn't know any foreign languages, she signed a contract agreeing to work for her employer for two years on the conditions set by the latter. She had 10 to14 clients a day. She was often beaten and humiliated. Once she tried to run away. She cut up a sheet, tied the pieces together and tried to climb out of the window but fell down from the seventh floor, breaking her arm and getting other injuries. Her employers helped her to recover but she was forced to sign another contract for five more years. Under this contract she was obliged to supply the employer with girls from Armenia. She had to send them to Turkey by bus. Otherwise she would have to pay 50.000 USD per year and, besides, she had to leave her two teenage daughters as hostages. Ms. S. thus became a pimp. Later she got the punishment she deserved. Now she swears that she will never do it again and is very unhappy because she was responsible for jeopardizing and ruining the future of her own daughters.

On October 14, 2002 the Prime Minister of Armenia passed resolution #591-A establishing an Inter-Departmental Committee aimed at tackling of trafficking in Armenia. The Committee included representatives of all the ministries and departments concerned with trafficking issues. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is responsible for coordinating the Committee’s activities. Valeri Mkrtumyan, Head of International Organizations Department in the MFA, says, “As a phenomenon, trafficking exists not just in Armenia and this region, but in all countries in transition. Trafficking is an evil and we have been fighting against it and will apply all possible means to continue fighting against it. Unfortunately, there has been no research that would help us deal with the problem, and I can hardly quote any data or any exact figures. One of our goals is to estimate the scope of trafficking in Armenia. In this respect, we only have progress in one direction. At least we know to which countries Armenian women are trafficked. They are Turkey, United Arabian Emirates and, to some extent, Greece and Holland… Presently the Committee is cooperating with all concerned agencies in those countries and in Armenia in creating a joint working group that will visit the countries where, according to our data, the trafficking phenomenon exists. The group will be conducting studies and will introduce the results to the Government.

My interview with the next victim of trafficking was a little more encouraging. K. learnt from her neighbor there was a big demand for nurses to look after elderly people in Turkey. She signed up in a queue, received a mall sum of money in Armenia, left three children and a disabled husband in the care of her relatives, got an air ticket from her future employers and left for Turkey with a group of seventeen women. On arriving in Turkey they were taken to a hotel. The next day the “employer” took away their passports. Then the women were forced to serve a client every 30 minutes. It may seem strange enough but most of the group agreed at once. They demanded that K either work for them during 3 years or pay a large sum of money. Only three months later, by pure chance, the police checked the hotel and found the women. They stamped their passports and exiled them from the country. K., who has a PhD degree in philology, is now in a state of depression, does not want to live and has made two attempts by poison herself. The second time, the doctors saved her life with great difficulty. The whole story came to light in the hospital when she was asked to explain the situation.

On the opinion of the Minister of Justice of Armenia, Mr. David Harutunyan, “the trafficking as a phenomenon does not exist. Perhaps there are separate cases but as a phenomenon, I think it does not exist. The criminal cases under prosecution are not sufficient ground to maintain that trafficking exists and has become a social phenomenon. There are some cases of trafficking. The perpetrators must be punished but it is too early to speak about it as a phenomenon. The US State Department has included Armenia in the list of countries where trafficking exists, based on publications in mass media. I think that trafficking as a phenomenon does not exist in Armenia.”

During one year Mrs. K sent five girls to Dubai to a hotel that belonged to a local friend of hers. All the girls agreed to go there and work as prostitutes. But the boyfriend of one of the girls learned about this and informed the police. When they were boarding their next flight, the police detained them but a day later they were released. Mrs K was arrested and sentenced to one year in jail. Mrs. K says “My friend in Dubai helped me with money and, as compensation, bought me a villa and a car. Now many mothers who have young daughters ask me to help them and send their daughters too. But now I do not take risk and I am afraid”.

On the opinion of the Chairmen of the Permanent Parliamentary Commission on Defense, National Security and Internal Affairs, Mr. Mher Shahgeldyan, “unfortunately, trafficking in Armenia exists and there are facts indicating this. There are also data indicating that underage homeless children are involved and are used in these activities. I have no facts about the trade in human organs. Now we pay serious attention to the problem of adopted children, we check the families that adopt the children and keep track of them while they grow up. We cannot declare today that such things do not exist, that women do not go abroad for prostitution, sometimes as a result of fraud. The problem seems to be rather serious where the Arabic Emirates and Turkey are concerned.”

Mr. G is currently under investigation for recruiting girls from several regions for prostitution. The girls ended up as victims of trafficking. I interviewed two girls who were sent back from the Arabic Emirates on their own wish. Their fates were almost identical. They were deceived and taken abroad. As they say, their so-called “boss” and a man who was with him were met by certain people both in the Yerevan and Dubai airports. They shook hands and the girls had the impression that both sides knew each other very well. The “boss” introduced the girls to those people, then collected the girls’ passports and handed them over to those people. Without any difficulties or queues, the girls passed customs and passport check-ups and boarded the plane. One girl says that “there was a very young girl of about 16-17 who boarded the plane without problems at the check-ups. Later we learned that her passport was false. Upon arriving to Dubai airport, she was met by Mrs.G and then turned over to three men, two Arabs and an Armenian, and they left. Since then we have not seen this pretty young girl. The room where we served clients was thoroughly guarded. After eight months I realized that I had lost my feminine identity. I behaved like robot and automatically did what I was supposed to do. Then I felt that I was getting weaker and asked to see a doctor. They refused. Three days later I could not leave my bed. I asked the chambermaid who brought me food to hand my short message to any Armenian she could find. I did not know any foreign languages and could only explain to her with gestures that I was dying and put the message into her pocket. A few hours later several men and doctors came in. They examined me and, shaking their heads, talked to each other in Arabic, then left some medicines and went away. A little later the Armenian boss and the Arab entered my room. They saw the medicines and got very angry. They took the medicines and left the room. A few minutes later they brought one of my old clients. All I can remember is that I began shouting and breaking everything around me. The guards broke into the room, tied my hands and started beating me. I don’t remember how long I was unconscious but when I could open my eyes I saw the maid who had brought the doctors. A few hours later my employer arrived and spoke to me in Armenian. I was astonished because I thought he was an Arab. I demanded that they send me back to Armenia but he answered that he was not going to fall to my tricks. Only with the help of some kind people were my friend and I able to come back to Armenia. Now I am handicapped and do not want to live. I beg you to do something to stop this and prevent other girls from sharing my fate”.

Mr. Rafael Gulnazaryan, Senior Assistant to the Prosecutor General of Armenia, says, “Trafficking certainly exists in Armenia. The situation here is by far better that in the neighboring countries. If only the corresponding agencies had known earlier about trafficking! Now everybody knows about it. During the past six months, public organizations have become more informed; by now at least one third of them is aware of the issue. All the possible measures are taken to reveal the cases. The Fourth Police Department, the Office of the Public Prosecutor, National Security, Border Guard and all the law-enforcement agencies in general are concerned with this issue and cooperate with each other in this field. First of all, this work is done by experts from the Fourth Police Department who are specially trained in this field. The level of trafficking in Armenia is the lowest in all CIS countries. People from different countries run prostitution businesses that occupy entire streets. According to police data, trafficking exists in Armenia and has become evident in 1996. Earlier, in 1994-1995, there had been only separate cases. Public interest in this phenomenon arose only recently. Now public awareness has risen and there is an opinion that the issue was not dealt with before and that law enforcement agencies only just started to address this problem. This is not true and we have always been concerned with this issue even before it started to be called ‘trafficking’ in 1998, and, undoubtedly, law-enforcement bodies did deal with it. At present there are numerous cases under investigation, under prosecution, cases of trafficking prevention and solved cases, sentenced perpetrators. In few words, these cases always existed and are at various stages of solving. Besides, the number of cases does not necessarily correspond to the number of victims. Whatever the punishment, it is important that the crime be punished and the punishment be inevitable.

The behavior of the next interviewee astonished me. It was a woman who had worked as a prostitute for seven years, starting from the age of sixteen. She started to receive clients in her own home, then moved to Dubai. Twice a year she visited Armenia and gave her friends addresses where they could apply for the job of prostitute. According to her, “very few people have the ability to learn this ancient profession. While I am in demand and well-paid, and have my own clients, I’ll be able to create good prospects for myself, I’ll get rich and then I’ll marry an old man and will enjoy myself and do whatever I want. Do you mind my talking like this? I’m not ashamed of anything or anyone. This is a job and I learnt to do it well. I am very skilled in my profession. If you wish, you can come with me and see for yourself who visits me while I am in Yerevan. Many people are ready to break into my house and beg me to stay a little longer in Yerevan. But abroad they pay better. The people here are not so advanced and do not demand much. Well, this is enough, I’m wasting my time. My pals have been waiting for me the car for half an hour”. I felt demoralized and very uncomfortable and came back to Yerevan. On the way home I had an argument with my husband who was angry with me that I had tried so hard to find Anahit, that terrible woman, and allowed her to belittle me in front of him by saying that if I were a little younger she would have taken me with her.

Two years ago the Chairman of the Parliamentary Permanent Commission on State Law, Mr. Viktor Dallakyan, after getting acquainted with the problem, proposed a law that became the basis for introducing a provision on trafficking and its regulation. I interviewed Mr. Dallakyan and this is what he said: “This phenomenon exists in Armenia. Research shows that its scope is not large. This is a result of the difficult socio-economic situation in the country, poverty and unemployment. In order to solve this problem we thus needn’t worry so much about the results but need to exterminate the causes of trafficking. There problem has other aspects - moral and legal, plus scarcely any public awareness or media coverage. We also need to improve our laws. In particular, in the law we have a provision concerning this problem and setting a punishment for trafficking but we need to enforce a separate stricter law concerning crimes of this kind. I received proposals to this effect from corresponding organizations in the USA. There is a separate law concerning the problem of trafficking in the legislation of the USA. At present we are working on the draft of such a law and we are studying the experience and legislation of other countries. I think that enacting a separate law could provide proper grounds for addressing the issue.

I am thankful to the Education and Culture Office of the State Department of the USA for their support of my work on the article and my studies that included interviews with the victims of trafficking.

By Marieta Makaryan

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Tonight I went to Southern Fried Chicken (SFC) and have to say that the food there is quite good. Only problem I had was the Ketchup, which has a strange taste and an exp. date of 14.04.03.

Though SFC is a very clean establishment, with cleaning people to rush your table the minute you get up and a bathroom with a live-in cleaning lady, the bathroom situation is a bit odd. What I mean is that they have one bathroom, with 2 sinks and 2 toilets, which is used by both sexes.

Today I found myself coming out of the toilet to find 3 girls/women at the 2 sinks doing their make-up. And though I didn’t mind watching them working away at making themselves beautiful, my food was getting cold and I had to wash my hands. After a couple of minutes of waiting, they gave up one of the sinks and as I was drying my hands, the lesser of the attractive finished and waited for her friend to finish to leave, freeing up much needed breathing space, as if she didn’t trust me in the same room alone with her very attractive friend.

The weather here in Yerevan is great. It’s not too cold and there is no sign of rain yet, though I did wash my car today, so you can be sure that rain will soon start.

I was told that a couple of days ago they had very heavy hail in Martuni, knocking out the telephone system and breaking windows.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

I got a call last night that my presents were needed in Armenia, so this morning I headed out and in a few hours found myself in Yerevan.

The weather on the road was great and I brought a couple of people from Martuni with me, one of who got car sick on the way.

When we were pulled over while she was barfing out her brains, a cargo van pulled up and gave this poor girl a bottle of water and a hand full of candy.

To say the least, we were very impressed with the act of kindness and for the next hour talked about how there still may be hope.

Anyway, I’m going to be here for at least a week, so I hope I’ll have a chance to meet up with some of the loggers and relatives.
The Azeri’s want a peace deal and us to trust them? It’s clear to me that we have to have very defined borders with them and keep our buffer zone at all costs

A1 Plus | 18:23:25 | 19-02-2004 | Official |


At 5:30 am on February 19, Lieutenant Gurgen Margarian of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia, posted to Budapest to participate in the NATO Partnership for Peace Programme’s English language training course, was brutally murdered in his sleep - axed by an Azerbaijani military officer attending the same course. His attempt on the life of a second officer of the Armenian Armed Forces was blocked.

The murderer has been arrested by the Hungarian Police. Representatives of the Armenian Embassy in Vienna are in Budapest, working with the police and monitoring the situation.

This crime is the logical consequence of the anti-Armenian hysteria that has been left unreined by the Azeri authorities over the years and of the warmongering militarist propaganda of recent months, which consistently infects all of Azeri society.

It is evident, that such state policy has crossed the bounds and officials, representing Azerbaijan abroad, can commit cold-blooded murder.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia expresses its outrage and most vehemently condemns this crime. The Ministry expects that the international organizations will appropriately assess this crime and react. At the same time, we demand that the Hungarian authorities punish the perpetrator to the maximum extent of the law.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry expresses its condolences to the family, relatives and colleagues of Lieutenant Gurgen Margarian.
You have to check this site out!!!!
The Moscow Times
Thursday, Feb. 19, 2004. Page 9

Armenian Oligarchs: Goldfish in a Puddle

By Kim Iskyan

Russia has many oligarchs -- not least the 17 Russians who made it onto Forbes magazine's list of the world's 500 richest people. No Armenian national, however, made the grade.

The threshold of wealth to qualify for oligarch status in Armenia is a rounding error for the Russian counterparts of Armenia's moguls. Armenia's annual GDP (which is a lot larger than any individual's fortune in the country) is equivalent to two months' revenue for LUKoil, or the total wealth (as of March 2003) of oil baron Viktor Vekselberg, the fourth-richest
Russian on the Forbes list.

But in Lilliputian Armenia, local oligarchs -- who would barely merit a nod from the maitre d' at Cafe Pushkin -- are veritable Gullivers.

Armenia's oligarchs are easy to spot. They're the guys swaggering down Yerevan's main drag, Abovyan Street (shrink Tverskaya by a factor of 10 and you're getting close), flanked by a bevy of flathead thugs who look like genetically engineered, black-turtleneck-clad KamAZ trucks on legs. The local moguls join the corrupt Nagorny Karabakh generals in building mansions
gaudy enough to make palatial New Russian dachas look like modest middle-class suburban pads by comparison.

They're piloted about town in a Hummer, Bentley or maybe a tinted-window Mercedes sport utility vehicle -- chase car optional.

As in Russia, Armenia's oligarchs have their fingers in a lot of pies. There's the Armenian mini-mogul who, according to the Commission to Protect Economic Competition, in 2002 controlled 96 percent of all sugar imports and 78 percent of all alcohol and spirits imports. Another has a bank, an airline that is perpetually on the verge of bankruptcy, and an offshore company that accounted for more than three-quarters of all gasoline imports. He's often linked to Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisyan, Armenia's gray cardinal, who headed up the president's re-election campaign last year. (It was probably just a coincidence that the quality of gasoline deteriorated -- perhaps because it was being diluted -- right around the time that the campaign needed extra cash.) Then there's the bank-and-real-estate tycoon, the candy-and-tobacco baron, the beer-and-natural gas magnate, the power-and-media industrialist, the my-wife-is-friends-with-Putin's-wife power broker and so on. Some of Armenia's oligarchs are giving something back as parliamentary deputies. (Immunity from prosecution has nothing to do with their desire to serve their country, of course.)

If Russia's oligarchs are sharks in a pond, Armenia's are goldfish in a puddle. But if the puddle is your universe, it's not such a bad life.

Kim Iskyan, a freelance journalist and consultant based in Yerevan, Armenia, contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.
For the most part, the ARF and I are thinking on the same level, but then again I think for the most part all of us are thinking on this level. Now let’s see if they can accomplish 10% of what they desire. I wish them luck.

A1 Plus | 19:32:19 | 18-02-2004 | Politics |


Repeated expressions

"The party will continue to strengthen the Armenian state, insisting on the state's defend of the rights of Armenians of Artsakh and other regions, straighten the struggle for Hay Dat and national identity of Diaspora Armenians and their relations with the Homeland".

No to corruption, yes to legality

"ARF will use all of its strength to fundamentally improve the socio-economic conditions in Armenia, to eliminate corruption and economic monopoly, to establish social justice and rule of law, to form civil society and make fundamental improvement of the political system".

No reconciliation

"ARF will continue its vigorous struggle for the Hay Dat. The fake initiative of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation is completely unacceptable. The General Congress underscores the necessity of expanding and giving momentum to the activities aimed at recognition of the Armenian Genocide and
neutralizing of Turkey's denial policy".

NKR as a negotiating part

"ARF considers unacceptable any concession in Nagorno Karabakh Republic security guarantees. The international recognition of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic should contribute to its reunification with the Homeland. In the conditions of Azerbaijani government's destructive policy, the Nagorno
Karabakh Republic should be involved in the peace talks, while Armenia should be the guarantor of Artsakh's independence and security".

Sovereignty to Javakhk

"ARF will support the Javakhk Armenians to overcome the tough socio-economic conditions, triggering cultural, educational, lives, and will react to the Javakhk Armenians' quest for incorporating a provision of autonomy in Georgia's constitution".

Citizenship of Armenia to Diaspora friends

"It is necessary to clarify and reevaluate the relations between the Homeland and Diaspora making them more complete and coordinated. The Armenian constitution should provide for dual citizenship".
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Armenian Inflation Tied To Bread Prices In 2004
18 February 2004

By Atom Markarian

Armenia's Central Bank (CBA) said Wednesday the success of its efforts to curb higher-than-expected inflation largely depends on whether or not there will be further increases in the price of imported wheat this year.

According to government data, the inflation rate stood at 8.6 percent last year -- well above the 3 percent target set by the CBA. Government and bank officials say the consumer price index was mainly pushed up by a 30 percent jump in bread prices between last June and December.

The CBA hopes to keep the inflation within the 3 percent limit in 2004. But as its chairman, Tigran Sarkisian, admitted, the authorities are not quite confident about meeting the target. "It is extremely difficult to make such forecasts," he told a news conference. "If bread prices continue to grow we will definitely have a higher price index."

The higher cost of bread, a basic staple in Armenia, has hit hard scores of low-income families that make up a considerable proportion of the country's population. It also fueled public anger with the government which was used by its political opponents. They blamed the price hike on a handful of government-connected wealthy businessmen who enjoy a de facto monopoly on lucrative imports of wheat.

The authorities denied the charges, citing external factors such as a rise in wheat prices in the international markets as the root cause of the problem. Armenia imports wheat to meet most of its bread demand, with Russia remaining one of its main suppliers.

The Russian government decided last month to suspend its wheat exports, citing the need to prevent a similar rise in its domestic bread prices. The move could therefore spell more trouble lying ahead for the Armenian consumers. Analysts say a lot will depend on this year's global grain harvest.

Sarkisian spoke to reporters as he unveiled the Central Bank's annual plan of monetary policy that will be submitted to parliament this week. The document projects an economic growth of at least 7 percent in 2004. The forecast figure is rather modest compared to the 13.9 percent growth registered by the Armenian government last year.

Officials admit that the multimillion-dollar assistance provided to Armenia by the Lincy Foundation of U.S. billionaire Kirk Kerkorian added several percentage points to the record-high GDP increase. More Lincy aid, mainly used for road construction and other infrastructure projects, is not expected this year.

"We base our monetary projections on a 7 percent growth of the Gross Domestic Product and take into account the fact that no more Lincy Foundation funding and structural adjustment loans from the World Bank are planned for this year," Sarkisian said.

Sarkisian added that another key objective of CBA policy is to promote long-term lending and borrowing, which remains very uncommon in Armenia despite the relative macroeconomic stability of the past eight years. He said the CBA envisages "radical reforms in the financial sphere" that will encourage local commercial banks to introduce new Western-style services such as housing mortgage.

Some banks already make mortgage loans. However, those are repayable in less than six years, making the service unaffordable for many middle class families.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Happy Valentines Day!!!

Tonight in Yerevan, the streets are crowded with couples. It’s nice to see so many young people in love.

My girlfriend and I went out for Chinese food at Lotus, which is down the street from the Ani Plaza Hotel. Though the food had much room for improvement, it was the first time my girlfriend has had Chinese and for the most part she liked it.

Today was quite hot and I won’t say it was short pants weather, but was the kind of weather that you don’t need a jacket. Even right now a long sleve shirt is enough to keep warm. I’m sure it will get cold again and then March will be who knows what?

They have a new big screen television in Independence Square, which really lights up the place, but the programs that they show is a bit questionable. Last night, they were showing a fashion show that had bare-breasted models. Not that this is bad, but it seems not to mix well with our culture. I wonder who is in charge of programming for this television?

Not much else going on right now that I can write about other than I’m still in Yerevan meeting people and don’t know if I’ll see everyone that I need to on this trip.
EURASIA INSIGHT February 14, 2004


Haroutiun Khachatrian: 2/12/04

Striving to enhance its business environment, Armenia has unveiled a high-profile government strategy to stamp out corruption. Though ambitious in scope, some civil society advocates in Armenia caution that vague implementation mechanisms could cause the anti-corruption drive to stall.

Like many former Soviet republics, Armenia has struggled to over comecorruption as it strives to reconstruct its economy. In 2003, the international corruption watchdog Transparency International gave Armenia one of the best ratings among CIS members, but noted that corruption was "pervasive" throughout the country. Along with other factors, corruption has damaged Armenia's ability to attract foreign investment, which is needed to maintain economic growth. According to government statistics, the Armenian economy expanded at a 13.9 percent rate in 2003.

Pressured by international financial organizations to address its graft problems, Armenia began work in January 2002 on an anti-corruption blueprint. Experts from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe consulted on the policy, and the World Bank extended a $300,000 grant to finance preparatory work. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian made the final, 70-page plan public on January 17. It envisions a three-year implementation period.

A wide-ranging legislative agenda lies at the core of the program. By 2007, over 90 proposed pieces of legislation are expected to be in place, guiding anti-corruption efforts. Among the envisioned laws are acts to establish a witness-protection program, rate the creditworthiness of financial institutions, block money-laundering, and promote a transparent judicial system. Some anti-corruption measures - such as rules for state tenders, and an independent commission to oversee most civil service appointments – have already been enacted.

Political corruption is addressed only sparingly in the government plan. After charges of vote-rigging marred parliamentary and presidential elections in 2003, this is a sensitive topic for Armenia's government. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Two new measures call for enhanced responsibilities for local representative bodies, and the reform of the election system. A third measure on campaign finance reform was passed last year by Armenia's National Assembly.

The plan has received skeptical reviews from civil society activists. Some observers say the program's lack of provisions for implementation represents a serious handicap. It is also vague when it comes to ensuring proper oversight of state-agency actions, Amaliya Kostanian, director of the Center for Regional Development, a Transparency International partner, told the ArmInfo news service. Some officials have called for the establishment of a special anti-corruption agency. But many NGO activists and others question the need for such a state body.

The government plan foresees only a limited role for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the anti-corruption drive. Only a handful of the anti-corruption programs allows for NGO involvement, drawing criticism from Kostanian and other civil society activists.

Other observers are also questioning the government's selective definition of corruption. For example, Armenia's army escapes all mention in the government blueprint, noted Noyan Tapan news agency analyst Robert Yegian. Meanwhile, bribe-taking for admission to university or to a state-run hospital is given particular attention.

Kostanian also questioned the program's priorities. Its focus lies primarily on customs, tax services and the courts, Kostanian said. No attention has been given to the use or misuse of government funds during elections. The program additionally does not address the possibility of corruption amid a response to a natural disaster. Given that the country is earthquake prone, such contingency plans should be in place, NGO representatives say.

In unveiling the program, Prime Minister Markarian stated that the government recognizes the threat that official corruption poses to Armenia's stable development. But some high-placed officials appear reluctant to risk publicly acknowledging that corrupt practices are pervasive in government. In an interview published in the Haykakan Zhamanak daily, Armenia's prosecutor general, deputy head of police, National Assembly vice-speaker and other influential government officials all maintained that corruption does not exist in their areas of government.

At present, there appears to be little domestic stimulus that would force President Robert Kocharian's administration to undertake efforts to investigate and eliminate official corruption. Armenia's political opposition, though vocal, has proven fractious, and thus unable to exert steady pressure on the administration.

At the same time, Armenia's government is facing growing pressure from outside to root out corruption. On January 17, Armenia officially joined the European anti-corruption organization GRECO. In June, the EU is expected to mull whether to include Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in a group of countries with which it is stepping up trade and investment ties as the bloc pushes eastward.

Many Armenians doubt whether the full-extent of the program will ever be implemented. A poll conducted in 2003 by Transparency International indicated that 67 percent of Armenians consider corruption a widespread problem in everyday life. Public cynicism about correcting existing problems remains high.

"Armenia's tragedy has not been the adoption of laws," commented Hranush Kharatian, board member of the National Civil Initiative, a non-governmental organization, "but the fact that many of them do not work."

Editor's Note: Haroutiun Khachatrian is a Yerevan-based writer specializing in economic and political affairs.

Friday, February 13, 2004

For the first 45 minutes of my day, I was dealing with police stops. What a pain and 2 of the 3 stops were clearly unjustified and ended without any conflict.

The one stop that I really didn’t care for took place in the 40 kilometer and hour zone where I was clocking the American Embassy jeep doing 120. Today I was going 50 and got stopped.

The cop asked me for my doctument and after determining that I was wrong and me telling him to write me a ticket, he told me that it was not that simple, as my license was not valid in Armenia.

He asked me to step from the car and talk to his chief, who painted me to be Armenia’s 10 most wanted and was ready to impound my car.

I told him I didn’t understand how my license was not valid, since last week they wrote me a ticket. He said he didn’t understand this eighter and what they did was wrong.

I explained to him that his chief had decided last year that my license was valid in Armenia and he his chief was right at that time, but now Armenia is a member of the EU (when did this happen?) and now they have a whole other set of laws that they have to follow.

They finally asked me what I do here and after telling me, they both smiled, gave me back my documents and sent me on my way.

I’m really a bit confused. I mean I was driving 10 kilometers over the speed limit, don’t have a valid license and am clearly criminal material and they let me go. Go figure.

Today I also had a phone call from Karabagh Telecom about me reaching my limit on my cell phone and supositly have charged up 26,000 dram on my cell phone. I was really confused, since I paid my cell phone bill early just before leaving for Armenia, though I could not figure how I talked that much. On top of that, my accountant paid an additional 27,000 dram after I left. I asked the woman calling me when the last time I charged anything on my phone and was told Feb. 5th. I told her I don’t think so, something is wrong, as I’ve been in Armenia since the 30th of Jan. My accountant said that we have to review all my past bills, as we have clearly been over charged. This should be interesting how this has happened.

As for weather in Yerevan, it’s slush right now. Not happy weather.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

March is tree-planting month in Yerevan

The following article was published in the Armenian version of hetq in March 2003. Since then, things have only gotten worse.

General Haykaz Baghmanyan's carrot-colored tufa house, with its garden and surrounding wall, sits up high, dominating this neighborhood that promises to become an exclusive compound for generals. Ordinary people who live nearby, in houses and apartment buildings, say the general's house was built by soldiers. Another general, Seyran Saroyan, is also likely to use Armenia's armed forces to build his new house. There's even a third general, building a third house. We managed to find out that he's from Vanadzor, but nobody dared tell us his name.

The large holes and newly uprooted tree stumps indicate that this plot has been sold as well. It looks as if the owner will soon cut down the remaining trees -- their trunks are marked with x's. We gather that this plot has been given either to President Robert Kocharyan's brother-in-law or to his sister. Everyone we talked to in the neighborhood mentioned Kocharyan's name.

"This land does not lie within the park," explains the chief architect of Yerevan, Narek Sargisyan. And indeed it doesn't, according to the general layout of Yerevan. But that's because even though the land is covered with trees and greenery, whoever drew the limits of the city parks chose not to include it.

The chief architect says people planted trees in vacant undeveloped land which was envisaged in the city plan for development and paved roads. After
the development work is done and Northern Avenue is built, all that will be left of 30,000 square meters of forest is a 3,000 square meter strip along Azatutian Avenue, perhaps to keep these fancy mansions out of sight.

Speaking of being out of sight, city land is supposed to be sold through an open tender. But of course in this case, no tender was held. Who would subject the appetites of General Baghmanyan, General Saroyan and a certain relative of President to a tender?

After the land was given away, they started cutting down trees, and the park
watchman, who had tended the trees for thirty years, had a heart attack. The local playground was leveled and is now a construction site.

"There was never a playground here," says Narek Sargysyan. "There was a meadow here, but no organized sports facilities... You newspapers always look for the negative. There is nothing wrong here. The city doesn't have a budget, we have to procure resources in order to build anything," he continues. But instead of "procuring resources" through an open tender they just give this land away.

"In just two years you will witness the creation of a very nice new park here," Sarkisyan tell us, sharing his plans for the future of the park. In other words, in just two years, there will be saplings in place of the
40- to 50-year old trees. We say 40-50 years old, but people who live here insist, "They were planted some 100 years ago. We have lived here for 40 or
50 years ourselves. There was a thick forest here, kids were afraid to walk through it alone".

Soon the kids won't be able to walk here at all -- it'll be private property, and they'll be trespassing.

And the trees that are still standing have no idea that this is not a park -- they go on making oxygen for this suffocating city. The city, however, understands the mistake, and will soon correct it.

Edik Baghdasaryan, Arevhat Grigoryan
Though this may take a bit to load up, this seems to draw a clear picture of what has and is happening in Iraq.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

America pushing it’s weight around in Armenia once again

As an “American”, I hate to see diplomatic immunity being a reason someone thinks they are beyond the law.

Today while driving into Yerevan from Lake Sevan, I was passed by a American Embassy Chevy 4X4 license number 01 D36 ARM, who was driving way beyond the speed limit and weaving in and out of traffic. At one point, the jeep was going 120 kilometers an hour in a zone that had signs that set the limit at 40 kilometers. This encounter took place at 13:45, a time where many children could potentially be crossing the street. A couple of days before I had seen an accident in that same area where the Niva 4x4 that was involved, if there was anyone sitting in the passengers seat was probably critically injured if not killed.

I happened to talk to Raffi Kojian a couple of hours after this encounter to see if he had an influence in informing the Ambassador of this and to warn the drivers to slow down a bit. He told me he would do what he could and told me that our conversation was being recorded, which in this case I was happy to hear so those that need to know could hear it straight from my mouth.

As American citizen, I feel that such aggressive behavior from American Embassy automobiles gives the natives the wrong impression of who and what America is in the region. It almost gives the impression that they think they are kings and own our country, which I’m sure is not a message they would want to be sending out.

Since there was only the driver in the jeep, I’m sure that it was just a local driver who was using his immunity to drive as he likes. Mr. Ambassador, please deal with this issue as the next time I encounter such driving, I’ll videotape it, confront the driver of the car and then publicly embarrass him/her and the embassy.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Today’s log is going to be about my run inn’s with the law today, since other than taking a drive up towards Sevan, hooking up with DerHova (Harout) and going out for Mexican food at the best Mexican restaurant in Yerevan, Cactus, I really didn’t do much today.

On my way back from Sevan and coming into Yerevan, the traffic police checkpoint one passes on the way in, I was the last car in a group of cars, going the speed limit and so on, I get waved down by the traffic cops. I look to the cop, do the Armenian hand signal which asks what’s up and kept on driving. The cop got in his Niva (Soviet made Jeep) and came after me.

I drove on like nothing had happened and pulled into Dodi Gago Dzaroogyan’s gas station, which is located below is mansion that looks like a very large museum and has a church next to it that he built since God gave him a son.

The cop car didn’t enter the gas station and waited on the road as I pulled up and filled my car with 98 octane gas and as the attendants were filling I asked them how they were, which they asked me where my car was from and me telling them Martuni.

It turns out that one of the attendant’s served his military duty at my neighbor’s base in Martuni and told me what a great commander he was. Another of the attendant’s also served in Martuni and was good friends with someone I know. They told me to tell their friend hello and also sent warm wishes to my neighbor. I finished, paid and drove on.

I got onto the street and stopped my car, where the traffic cop came up to my car (badge #0723). I gave him my documents. He asked me why I had not stopped for him and said I had not done anything wrong, but he just wanted to check my documents. I told him that he must be new to that post and for the most part, people don’t stop my car. He said he was new.

By this time, the attendants came running to my rescue and started to threaten the cops, telling them to leave me alone and give back the documents or else they would be sorry. The one cop that was rude at first started to refer to me at the “esteemed” one and if I would be so kind to drive back with him to the check point? I agreed and as I was pulling away, the attendants told me if I had any problems, they were here and would come up and take care of the cops so they understood that they should not bother me. Wow, Mafia protection and from one of the most powerful and respected clans.

I followed the police Niva to the check-point, where the cops rushed up to their chief to fill him in and I’m sure told him what Gago’s had said to them and what they would do if they harassed me.

I walked up to the chief and introduced myself. He said a few words in English and looked over my California driver’s license and my car documents. During this time, the cops asked the chief for permission to return to their duty of stopping cars.

The chief, who I didn’t get his name from asked me if I was a native of Martuni, since my car is registered to me and my address is my home in Martuni. As far as I understand the law (maybe there has been changes, but 5 years ago the law read this way), I’m not allowed to own a car, but since this is Armenia, anything seems to go for me. I told him no, I was born in California.

He asked me what I do here and I told him I’m an investigator and investigate the government. He asked me in what way I investigate and I told him I investigate corruption and the problem of bribery. At that point, he stopped looking me in the eyes as he changed the subject and told me about his nephew who had been to New York 3 times and had returned without breaking the law and now it has been impossible to get a visa.

He finished by saying in English “Ara Manoogian is a very good boy. Give me $100 and then go” and started to laugh. I took my documents from him and drove off. I guess if the chief was not around, they would have let me go at the gas station.

As I was coming into Yerevan and had just passed the Zoo, I got stopped and the cop told me that I was speeding and was supposedly going 75kmh and if I want, I can look to see what the radar gun reads.

I told him he was wrong and whatever the radar gun reads, was not from my car and I was not going over 60kmh. He started to argue with me and I told him to stop his arguing and if he feels I’ve broken the law, to write me a ticket.

He noticed the other ticket that was written on me, that was with my documents. He asked if I had broken the law and I said yes, and for that reason they wrote the ticket. I said he can do the same, but in this case he is wrong and they will believe me over him.

He got really upset and told me that he does not have the nerves to deal with me and rudely handed back my documents. I drove on as he kept looking to me, as if he was waiting for me to fight with him.

The last run in with the law happened a little while ago as I was driving home and in front of me was a silver Mercedes G500 Jeep (one of those ugly jeeps made for NATO forces), license number 100oo10. As I was following this jeep, another car came right up behind me very close, but never flashed his lights as to pass, so I just kept driving. At one point I had a chance to pull over to the right side of the road and the car passed. This car was a black Mercedes G500 Jeep, license number 09so007. As he passed, he looked to me and looked to be swearing at me. From what I remember, I’ve seen this jeep before and was told that it belongs to some big-wig at the KGB or Ministry of Internal Affairs.

I followed the two jeeps and kept up with them as we passed a police check-point going 90kmh and at some point the road split and I took one road and them another.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

It looks like our work is again producing positive results and some of our recommendations have been taken seriously and may even be adopted into law. It looks like we have found one of the real ways to make changes in Armenia and make the law work in our favor.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
5 February 2004

Government Approves More Curbs On Foreign Adoptions

By Atom Markarian and Emil Danielyan

The government put forward Thursday additional restrictions on the controversial adoptions of Armenian children by foreigners which would force the latter to deal directly with relevant state bodies without any third-party involvement.

The provision is contained in a draft "family code" approved by ministers. If endorsed by parliament, it could further complicate foreign adoptions in Armenia, the integrity of which has been called into question over the past year.

"The bill bans intermediary activity in the area of adoptions, which was very commonplace until now," Deputy Justice Minister Gevorg Malkhasian told reporters, describing the proposed change as "very important."

Malkhasian said anyone who represents foreign nationals in the adoption of local orphans for financial or other motives will be liable for administrative and even criminal punishment. "This will be considered an illegal activity, and those who engage in it will be held accountable," he said.

The move, which requires the parliament's approval, is the latest in a series of government actions complicating the foreign adoptions which hit a record-high number of 76 last year. The toughening of the adoption rules began in late December with a government decision allowing foreign couples to have an Armenian orphan only after the state exhausts all possibilities of finding the latter local parents. And on January 15 the government approved a scheme offering local families financial incentives to take in and raise children from state-run orphanages until they come of age.

The foreigners, most of them U.S. citizens of Armenian descent, normally arrange the adoptions through local "facilitators" who either work independently or in conjunction with private American agencies. The facilitators reportedly charge between $9,000 and $13,000 per child – a suspiciously high figure given the much lower cost of the entire paperwork inside Armenia.

An RFE/RL report last June suggested that a large part of the money may be spent on bribes to Armenian officials involved in the process. Social Affairs Minister Aghvan Vartanian asked state prosecutors at the time to look into the report, and it was his ministry that subsequently floated the idea of removing adoption intermediaries.

Malkhasian said the proposed family legislation would also mandate additional requirements to potential foreign adoptive parents and obligate the state to keep track of orphans already taken abroad. "Many people worry about what happens to children adopted abroad. After the passage of the code we will adopt rules and our diplomatic missions will be obliged to follow our children's fate," he said.

The code would amend rule for local adoptions as well, with the ultimate authority to approve or reject them to be transferred from local governments to the courts of justice. The central government, however, will continue to have a final say on foreign adoptions.
Still in Yerevan and very busy. Meeting with lots of people and just moving forward with my work. There are so many more people to meet and it seems that one meeting leads to another and then another. It seems never ending, but when all is said and done, we should get some very big and very positive results.

The weather here this morning was cold, but since this is winter, I guess I should expect such weather.

I talked to the mayor of Martuni this morning and he told me that the grader to level our road will come in the morning.

Since being here, I’ve had a few police stops, one that resulted in my hitting a traffic cop with my car. I was written up for a ticket on that stop which is going to cost me 2,000 dram (less than $4). When all was said and done, the cop that wrote me up and figured out who I was, applogized for writing the ticket and asked me if I’m upset about him writing the ticket? I told him no, I’m very happy that he’s doing his job and following the law. The cop who I hit, told me that I need to have my side-view mirrors shortened by 4 inches.

Anyway, I’ve got lots of e-mail to read and answer and then maybe get to sleep early tonight, as the circles under my eyes just don’t seem to want to go way.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

AZG Armenian Daily #015 - 31/01/2004



Armenian people are tired of politics and political stresses, ethnic psychiatrist Karine Nalchadjian said January 30 answering daily Azg's question.

In Ms. Nalchadjian's words, psychiatric crisis is typical to people during transition periods, during which the people discard certain high or traditional values. Self-protection instincts are gaining larger importance among people at such periods, and moral disappointments prevent people from sympathizing a person and seeing a leader in him. Right now this is what's happening in Armenia, and only improved social conditions can waken enthusiasm and certain cherished values among the nation.

The fact of the current authorities being the only party that can improve people's well being, it turns out that the ruling elite on purpose keeps the social conditions of people on a level which enables them to only survive. For when people's condition reaches certain stable situation, in words of Ms. Nalchadjian, they start noticing other things than what's necessary for survival, and have more demands, express thoughts or revolt. This is what's done in Armenia, and no opposition powers can now do anything. This is of course, unless someone who really cares about people will emerge, and is able to win their sympathy.

The only thing that, according to Nalchadjian, can awaken the Armenians, among the current problems, is the Karabakh problem. In the psychiatrist's opinion, as far as the idea of homeland and patriotism sits very deep in the soul of Armenians, in the case the Karabakh's fate is endangered, i.e. an option that goes counter to the Armenian interests is adopted officially, then inner fluctuations and mass disorders reaching to a revolt are possible.

I’m in Yerevan. I got here 2 days ago, but have not had access to internet.

The weather is okay, but today it was a bit cold.

Why am I here? Well you all know what stuff I’ve been dealing with and this visit is no exception.

The ride in was smooth and fast, as the roads were ideal. The weather the day I came was so clear that at Saravan (about 150 kilometers from Yerevan), you could see Ararat and Masis (this does not happen that often).

Anyway this trip is going to be a little on the long side and I have many people to meet with and don’t plan on returning until I meet with every one of them.