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May 5, 2007 — From the front section
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1. State, parties share burden for fair elections, Kocharian says (by
2. "Lessons from the Rwanda Genocide" opens at the UN — three weeks
late, and with revisions (by Chris Zakian)
* Armenia welcomes retention of reference to Ottoman Armenian experience
3. From Washington, in brief (by Emil Sanamyan)
* U.S. Commission: Turkey’s refusal to recognize Genocide strains
relations with West
* Top U.S. foreign aid official resigns over prostitution link
* State Department chronicles world-wide rise in terrorism incidents,
* Poll: Armenians, others like globalization and trade, worried about jobs
4. Turkish military forces early election (News analysis by Emil Sanamyan)
* EU worried, U.S. remains confident in Turkish democracy
5. Will "shuttle diplomacy" help dig up the truth in Asia Minor? (by
* An interview with Professor David Gaunt
6. Shushi’s revival, like its liberation, will require a united
Armenian effort (by Armen Hakobyan)
* A town’s quest to regain its bygone charm
7. A look at the electoral terrain (by Armen Hakobyan)
8. Making history on parallel tracks (by Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan)
* Yeltsin, Ter-Petrossian, and the emergence of democracy in the post-Soviet era
* A pleasure to read (Maida Domenie)
* Not a pleasure to read (Claire Bardakian)
* Tread lightly on the earth (Joseph Basralian)
* Finally it changed (Gloria Alvandian)
* After the resolution (Haig Bohigian)
10. Living in Armenia: Women and parliamentary elections (by Maria Titizian)
11. Editorial: A month of victories
1. State, parties share burden for fair elections, Kocharian says
by Tatul Hakobyan
MARTUNI, Armenia — Derenik Papoyan, 76, met Samvel Babayan, the
former commander of Karabakh’s armed forces on April 30, when Mr.
Babayan visited this city on Lake Sevan as part of the election
campaign for his Alliance (Dashink) party. Mr. Papoyan asked the
Karabakh hero, "Who will protect our vote from the cheats?"
Mr. Babayan, who is part of Armenia’s opposition, assured Mr.
Papoyan and other Martuni residents, "Through our party’s local
structures, I have made it clear to all local leaders, and in the
first place, to village heads, that they should not engage in fraud.
They will be strictly punished, so let every man do his job. Fraud
primarily happens in the villages. The village heads should restrain
themselves. . . . I want them to let society choose this time. I will
not allow them to steal our votes."
On May 12, Armenia will hold parliamentary elections. The
authorities in Armenia have said repeatedly that they will do all they
can to ensure that the elections are free, fair, and transparent.
European observers have criticized all of the elections held in
Armenia since independence, as well as the 1995 and 2005
constitutional referendums. The 1991 presidential elections were free
of taint. Observers also concluded that President Robert Kocharian had
the support of the majority of voters when he was elected in 1998, and
the outcome of the National Assembly elections of 1999 reflected the
will of the electorate.
On April 27, President Kocharian met with students at Yerevan State
University to discuss the elections. "We will do all that is possible,
whatever depends on the authorities, to have good elections," Mr.
Kocharian said. "But the following too should be clear: political
forces equally bear responsibility for the elections."
The president added: "A calm and civilized campaign is underway,
which is laudable and is a result of the fact that the parties running
have avoided radical, extremist slogans. Today the opposition has the
opportunity to criticize, to hold election gatherings throughout
Armenia. No state structure is raising any obstacles, as international
observers have confirmed."
The campaign season has seen one major scandal, and Mr. Kocharian
touched on it in his meeting with the students.
Golos Armenii, a Russian-language newspaper published in Yerevan, on
April 21 ran a front-page story titled, "Around the table at Marco
Polo, or, at what price is Artur Baghdasaryan selling the motherland?"
The story recounts a secretly recorded conversation at a Yerevan
eatery between the former chair of the National Assembly, Artur
Bagdasaryan, and Great Britain’s deputy chief of mission in Yerevan,
In a discussion of the coming parliamentary elections, Mr.
Baghdasaryan repeatedly tried to persuade his interlocutor of the
desirability of foreign intervention in the elections, the article
said. Mr. Hyde reportedly responded that Armenia’s authorities must
make a serious blunder to justify foreign intervention. "We need an
unequivocal violation for the European Union to make a strong
statement," Mr. Hyde is reported to have said. The article claims that
Mr. Baghdasaryan told Mr. Hyde that Mr. Kocharian does not like the
British, and Mr. Hyde responded that the feeling is mutual.
Golos Armenii on April 26 ran what it identified as a transcript of
the secret recording in its possession. According to the transcript,
Mr. Baghdasaryan had held a meeting with Boris Berezovsky, the Russian
oligarch who has taken refuge in Britain, to discuss the financing of
a colored revolution in Armenia.
The British Embassy in Yerevan on April 26 released a statement,
saying it was "dismayed that a clandestine recording has been made,
and recently released in part to the press, of a conversation between
an official of this Embassy and the leader of an opposition party."
The statement added: "Along with the OSCE, European Union, Council
of Europe, the diplomatic community and others, the Embassy is
interested in seeing elections on 12 May that conform to international
standards. In this context the Embassy maintains a wide range of
contacts and dialogues with institutions and individuals across the
political spectrum in Armenia, in order to be informed of all shades
of political opinion. This enables us to form as complete and
objective a view as possible of the political process, and is in line
with the normal and accepted practice of any embassy anywhere in the
"As a member state of the EU, we wholeheartedly support the
commitment shared by the EU and Armenia in the European Neighbourhood
Policy Action Plan to work together to strengthen democratic
institutions, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,
and we welcome Armenia’s democratic achievements so far.
"In that context, our objective will remain to do what we can to
support and promote effectiveness in the performance of democratic
institutions and processes in the country. It is not, never has been
and cannot be, our business to support the political platform of any
specific political party."
Asked about the recording during his meeting with students at
Yerevan State University, President Kocharian said that Mr.
Baghdasaryan’s actions constitute treason. However, no action has been
initiated against Mr. Baghdasaryan. Nor has Mr. Hyde been declared
persona non grata.
Some political leaders join Mr. Kocharian in his assessment. But
Gurgen Arsenian, leader of the United Labor Party, which is part of
Armenia’s governing coalition, has noted that there are laws against
bugging. "I think clandestine recording of conversations does not help
the formation of political culture in Armenia," he said.
The election campaign is in full swing. The parties and individual
candidates are reaching out to voters.
One important difference between this election and previous ones is
that practically no one is taking political advantage of the Karabakh
issue. Foreign policy is not a priority in this election. The parties
are focused on social issues, and there is a great deal of populism,
along with lavish campaign promises.
Opinion polls have been conducted by the British firm Populus for
Armenia TV and by the Armenian Sociometer Center. Populus interviewed
2000 adults face-to-face between April 3 and 10. Interviews were
conducted across the country. According to both polls, the Republican
Party of Armenia, led by Prime Minister Serge Sargsian, and the
Prosperous Armenia Party, which is associated with the president, each
enjoy the support of between 25 and 30 percent of voters.
A group of parties, including the Armenian Revolutionary Federation
(Dashnaktsutiun), Artashes Geghamian’s National Unity Party, Artur
Baghdasaryan’s Country of Laws Party, Stepan Demirchian’s People’s
Party of Armenia, and Raffi Hovannisian’s Heritage Party, are likely
to cross the 5 percent threshold to win seats in the National
Assembly. Another group of parties, including the United Labor Party,
Mr. Babayan’s Alliance, and Tigran Karapetian’s Popular Party are
close to the 5 percent mark.
According to sociologist Aharon Adibekyan, head of Sociometer, 42
percent of voters expect serious violations of election laws, 20
percent expect minor violations, and 22 percent expect relatively fair
Incidentally, Mr. Kocharian told students the names of the parties
he would like to see elected: Republican, Prosperous Armenia,
Dashnaktsutiun, and United Labor.
2. "Lessons from the Rwanda Genocide" opens at the UN — three weeks
late, and with revisions
Armenia welcomes retention of reference to Ottoman Armenian experience
by Chris Zakian
NEW YORK — On Monday, April 30, three weeks after it was originally
scheduled to begin, the United Nations’ exhibit marking the 13th
anniversary of the Rwandan genocide finally opened.
The scheduled April 9 opening of the photo exhibition titled
"Lessons from the Rwanda Genocide" had been postponed after officials
of the Turkish Mission to the UN objected to a reference in one
display panel to the Armenian Genocide. The UN’s decision to postpone
caused an uproar not only in the Armenian community, but among other
UN member nations, and in the American media, culminating in a
strongly-worded editorial rebuke of new UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon by the New York Times.
Standing on principle, the U.K.-based Aegis Trust — which organized
the exhibit, and had been told by the UN secretariat just prior to the
scheduled opening that the reference to the Armenian Genocide would
have to be eliminated — refused to go forward with the exhibit unless
the reference was retained.
For the April 30 opening, the panel in question did contain
revisions in the language used to describe the events of 1915.
Originally the panel had read: "Following World War I, during which
1 million Armenians were murdered in Turkey, Polish lawyer Raphael
Lemkin urged the League of Nations to recognize crimes of barbarity as
international crimes." This was the language the Turkish UN Mission
The revised wording now reads: "In 1933, the lawyer Raphael Lemkin,
a Polish Jew, urged the League of Nations to recognize mass atrocities
against a particular group as an international crime. He cited the
mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in World War I, and
other mass killings in history. He was ignored."
The substantive alterations include the substitution of "Ottoman
Empire" for "Turkey," of "mass killings" for "murdered," and the
deletion of the reference to the number of Armenians who perished.
Raphael Lemkin is also identified as "a Polish Jew" instead of
At this writing, the Turkish embassy has ventured no reaction to the
Armenia’s Permanent Representative to the UN as well as the Aegis
Trust exhibit sponsors have said that they were satisfied with the
A spokesman for the Aegis Trust told the Associated Press that his
organization still "feels the reference is quite strong."
"The magnitude of the event is still clear in the new wording," he
said. "We’re quite pleased with the outcome."
Amb. Armen Martirossian, Armenia’s Permanent Representative to the
United Nations, was quoted in the same AP article as saying that the
new wording reflects the truth "to some extent."
"This is a Turkish version of history which is not acceptable to us,
but to avoid further postponement of the exhibition, we compromised,"
he was quoted as saying.
But in an interview with the Armenian Reporter, Amb. Martirossian
clarified that statement. "I am certainly satisfied with the outcome,"
he said. "It is indisputable that the mass killings of Armenians
constitute a genocide, and the exhibit language reflects that." His
mention of a "Turkish version of history" in the AP story was intended
to refer to the denialist position, advanced by Turkey, that the
Armenians killed were merely casualties of general fighting in World
War I, and not targets of a systematic extermination.
The new language does not support that position, Amb. Martirossian
said, and the alterations to the earlier text "reflect the real
political situation we have today at the UN."
"This was not an Armenian event," Martirossian added; "Armenia was
neither an organizer nor a participant in the exhibit. It was about
Rwanda, and the importance of acknowledging the people’s suffering
there. So this was not an occasion to initiate time-consuming
discussions about the Armenian Genocide." The major concern was that
the exhibit should not be delayed longer, he said.
The ambassador said that in the wake of the opening, other UN
colleagues have congratulated him for what they term a victory.
"But this isn’t really about victory or defeat," he said. "It hasn’t
been about a single sentence, but about preventing censorship and
"Our task was to nullify Turkey’s attempt to export its denialist
agenda to the UN. And we prevented that attempt, through the help of
the Armenian community and the mass media."
"The whole Armenian community in the U.S. and its institutions were
very helpful in all this. To some extent the outcome shows the might
of Armenians in the U.S., and in the United Nations," Amb.
Martirossian said. "We also have to give credit to the Aegis Trust,
which did its utmost to stand on principle. I met with them and
* Humankind’s darkest chapters
Amb. Martirossian was among the diplomats who attended the April 30
opening ceremony of "Lessons of the Rwanda Genocide," which is
scheduled to run for three weeks in the the south gallery of the
visitors’ lobby at the UN headquarters building.
Turkey’s mission did not send an official representative to the event.
In remarks on the occasion, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted
the victims of the Rwanda genocide, estimated at some 800,000 people,
mainly Tutsis and moderate Hutus, who were massacred by militant Hutus
in April of 1994. Ban recalled his own visit to Rwanda last year, and
his conversations with "those who had endured one of humankind’s
In what has been seen as a gesture to Turkey, he said, "This
exhibition is about lessons learned from the Rwandan genocide, and
does not attempt to make historical judgments on other issues. The
United Nations has taken no position on events that took place before
the World War that led to the birth of the organization." Earlier this
year, however, the Secretary-General opened an exhibition
commemorating — and articulating a definite position on — the
trans-Atlantic slave trade, which predated the UN’s founding.
His April 30 remarks also made no mention of the genocide in Sudan’s
western region of Darfur.
Ban did say, however, that the post of the UN’s special advisor on
genocide, now held by Juan Mendez of Argentina, would be elevated from
a part-time to a full-time position.
Also speaking at the opening, Rwanda’s UN Representative, Amb.
Joseph Nsengimana, said that the international community needed to
"act in a more serious and consistent manner to prevent genocide."
3. From Washington, in brief
by Emil Sanamyan
U.S. Commission: Turkey’s refusal to recognize Genocide strains
relations with West
Turkey’s continued refusal to address the Armenian Genocide remains a
source of tension between U.S. and other Western democracies and
Turkey, said the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
(USCIRF) in its annual recommendations released on May 2.
USCIRF is a bi-partisan federal body created by Congress through the
International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 "to monitor the status of
freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, […] and
to give independent policy recommendations to the President, the
Secretary of State, and the Congress."
In the Turkey portion of its 2007 report, USCIRF details formal
restrictions and other violations of freedom of religion for both
majority Muslims and minority Christian communities. It notes,
however, that "the consequences of some of Turkey’s state policies
toward religion have been particularly detrimental for religious
minorities," such as Armenians.
"Built into the founding of Turkish identity was the implicit
understanding that citizens other than ethnic Turks residing in Turkey
are potentially suspect, since they allegedly harbor a secret desire
to secede from and hence, dismember the country," says the report.
"This fear of dismemberment, which has fueled a strain of virulent
nationalism in Turkey, continues to hold sway in some sectors of
society, resulting in state policies that actively undermine ethnic
and minority religious communities, and, in some cases, threaten their
very existence. The Commission learned in meetings that the Greek
Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox communities are focal points for this
perception and its resultant policies."
The report points to prosecution and subsequent murder Hrant Dink
over ""insulting" the Turkish state because of his use of the term
"Armenian genocide" in his public remarks and written publications" as
"just one example" of such policies.
The report says that even though "during the Commission’s visit, the
issue of the Armenian genocide was not raised by any interlocutors,
the continued refusal of the Turkish government to recognize the event
continues to be a source of controversy in Turkey’s relations with
other western countries, including the United States." Visit
to read the full report.
* * *
Top U.S. foreign aid official resigns over prostitution link
The official in charge of all of U.S. foreign assistance programs
resigned on April 27, after admitting to using services of a company
currently charged with running a high-end prostitution ring, which is
illegal in Washington, local TV stations reported.
Ambassador Randall Tobias (featured on this page on March 17) was
the U.S. Director for Foreign Assistance, a rank equivalent to Deputy
Secretary of State. Mr. Tobias resigned even though according to local
NBC 4 he said that "no sex was involved and he only used [the] massage
Asked during April 30 briefing if the State Department had problems
with employees getting massages, spokesman Sean McCormack said that he
would not comment on "matter that is of current litigation." He said
that Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte will handle funding
decisions before a new foreign aid director is appointed.
* * *
State Department chronicles world-wide rise in terrorism incidents,
There was a more than 28 percent increase in incidents of terrorism in
2006, with about half of them occurring in Iraq, according to the
State Department’s latest "Patterns of Global Terrorism," a
congressionally mandated report released on April 30. The increase in
incidents also led to more than a 40 percent rise in terrorism-related
fatalities from 2005 to 2006.
In a section that briefly discusses individual countries the report
noted that "with substantial U.S. assistance, Armenia continued to
strengthen its capacity to counter the country’s few perceived
terrorist threats." (Overall, Armenia continues to remain largely off
limits to jihadist organizations, but there have been cases of
Azerbaijani-sponsored domestic terrorism in the past.) The report also
mentions Armenia’s continued support for U.S. efforts in Iraq and
Unlike the Department’s other publications, such as those on human
rights and narcotics, Azerbaijanis’ Karabakh conflict-related
allegations did not make it into the "Patterns…" The only mention of
the conflict comes in a sub-section dealing with U.S. government’s
"Outreach through Broadcast Media." It says that in 2006 U.S.’ Radio
Free Europe / Radio Liberty "provided comprehensive coverage of
intensified negotiations over a settlement to the longstanding dispute
* * *
Poll: Armenians, others like globalization and trade, worried about jobs
Most Armenians believe that globalization and increased international
trade are good for their country and for them personally, according to
a joint study of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and
WorldPublicOpinion.org, released on April 26. The survey included 17
other countries. The Armenia polling was conducted by the Armenian
Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) in December
Like in most other countries, the opinion in Armenia was divided as
to whether international trade was good (37 percent) or bad (36
percent) for the environment. In the case of U.S., for example, views
were similarly divided (49 percent — bad, 45 — good). Armenians were
also in favor of incorporating environmental controls (82 percent) and
labor standards (79 percent) in trade agreements.
Of all countries polled, Armenians were particularly anxious over
trade’s impact on jobs, with 84 percent saying that "protecting the
jobs" should be a "very important" foreign policy goal for Armenia (83
percent said so in Australia and 76 – in the United States.) 35
percent of Armenia respondents thought their government should oppose
potential adverse rulings by the World Trade Organization (WTO), while
38 percent were undecided or said "it depends" and 26 percent would
comply. South Korea was the only other public where this was the most
4. Turkish military forces early election
EU worried, U.S. remains confident in Turkish democracy
News analysis by Emil Sanamyan
WASHINGTON – Only last week the Justice and Development Party
(AKP)-dominated Turkish Parliament was set to elect Foreign Minister
Abdullah Gul as the country’s next President. But this week, Prime
Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan of AKP is being forced to call an early
general election and risk losing parliamentary majority.
* What happened?
While AKP has been in power in Turkey since its 2002 victory in
general elections, the party remained largely outside the
military-dominated Kemalist establishment (the so-called "White
Turks") that has been in charge of Turkey since the 1920s.The military
previously forced four Turkish governments it did not like into early
retirement, sometimes jailing or even executing its leaders.
The military has always been suspicious of AKP’s non-Kemalist agenda
and Islamist roots. But through a combination of efforts to move
forward Turkey’s membership bid in the European Union (EU), political
bankruptcy of secular nationalists and restraint exercised by the
previous armed forces chief Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, AKP was able to take
charge of the government.
Five years later, Turkey has more than recovered from an earlier
economic crisis and even achieved some headway in talks with the EU.
As part of EU-mandated democratization, AKP has also managed to
somewhat limit the military’s influence in domestic affairs.
But Turkey’s courts, secular opposition parties, much of the media
and especially the state bureaucracy, including the presidency,
remained the bastion of nationalists who oppose what they see as AKP’s
"Islamization through democratization" agenda.
Since his selection as Turkish military’s chief last year Gen. Yasar
Buyukanit said, and repeated this view during his February visit to
Washington, that, in his assessment, the "Turkish Republic has never
faced as many threats as it faces now." Stalling talks with EU and the
crisis in Iraq only added to the nationalists’ perpetual concerns, but
also gave them more freedom for action.
Murder of Hrant Dink and subsequent dead-end investigation sent yet
another unmistakable signal to those who may have had doubts of
Turkish nationalists’ ability to bite. While Erdogan pointed to the
role of "deep state," Turkish security officials congratulated the
As the term of the military-friendly president Ahmet Necdet Sezer
began to run out (it will on May 15), the generals and their allies
warned the government not to nominate Mr. Erdogan or another Islamist
candidate for the presidency. Well-attended and well-organized
demonstrations were held in Ankara and Istanbul to show the public’s
concern with "Islamization."
But with more than ample majority in Parliament, the way appeared
open for AKP to nominate one of its leaders for president, which in
Turkey is selected by Parliament. Perhaps since Mr. Gul was seen as
less irritating to the military and well liked in the West, he was
eventually the one nominated.
On April 27, probably sensing AKP was letting itself be pushed back,
the Turkish military made an announcement which said, in so many
words, that it will do all it can to stop an election of a president
it does not like.
The military-allied parliamentary opposition appealed to the
Constitutional Court to annul the first round of presidential
elections on the grounds that two-thirds of all parliament members did
not participate in the vote. Never mind that Turkey’s constitution
demands that only one-third be present for any parliamentary session
to be legal. The pro-military Court complied.
While the EU warned the military to stay out of politics, U.S.
officials remained stoic in face of apparent breaches in due process.
During April 30 and May 1 briefings, a State Department spokesperson
repeatedly expressed "real confidence in Turkey’s democracy" and
"faith in Turkish constitutional process."
The Washington Post suggested in a May 1 editorial, that the Bush
Administration was keeping a low profile "mindful of its low standing
among Turks." But that factor rarely stops U.S. from expressing its
views. A more likely reason for lack of U.S. reaction is that
Washington officials have been, or think that they have been, better
informed of Turkish leaders’ intentions than have Europeans.
Whatever is the case, it is quite likely that many U.S. policy
makers may see a secular "correction" in Turkey as beneficial to U.S.
interests. Indeed, Turkey’s leaders, both AKP and the military, have
been less that helpful to U.S. efforts in Iraq and containment of
But while the source of AKP’s opposition appears ideological
(Islamist solidarity), the military’s concerns are rooted firmly in
real politic — and first and foremost making sure an Iraqi Kurdish
state can not shift the regional balance of power against Turkey.
The Constitutional Court ruling means that any future presidential
candidate could be blocked by minority parties. (Unless of course the
ruling is ignored as the Constitution was this time around.)
Still exuding confidence about his and his party’s popularity, Mr.
Erdogan is now saying he is ready for early elections to be held about
forty days from now. But, in return, the military’s allies in
parliament are asked to support a proposal to make the presidential
post popularly elected, potentially shifting the balance of power
within Turkey away from prime minister.
Mr. Erdogan said, "the parliamentary democratic system has been
blocked. The only way to get rid of this blockage, and to lift the
domination of a [parliamentary] minority over the majority, is to go
to the nation… and let the people elect their president with an
election system of two rounds."
But the parliamentary opposition leader has so far refused to
negotiate on terms of early elections. Deniz Baykal, the chairman of
the People’s Republican Party (CHP), told reporters in Ankara on May 1
that early elections were "a constitutional requirement."
Mr. Baykal said, "A parliament that cannot elect a president should
hold elections. The only thing that the Turkish parliament can do is
to [call for early elections]. A negotiation on that is not possible."
Should negotiations on early elections take place after all, CHP and
other secular nationalists that were left outside the Parliament in
2002 are likely to make proposals of their own that would help improve
their representation in next Parliament by, for example, lowering the
10 percent threshold for entry.
That change, or alternatively an electoral alliance of several
nationalist parties, may mean that Turkey’s next government may not
include AKP at all.
5. Will "shuttle diplomacy" help dig up the truth in Asia Minor?
An interview with Professor David Gaunt
by Talin Suciyan
EDITOR’S NOTE: David Gaunt should be a familiar name to readers of the
Armenian Reporter. The Nov. 18 edition of this paper ran an article on
a mass grave discovered in the Mardin region of southeastern Turkey in
October 2006, in which Prof. Gaunt, an authority on massacres in the
region, speculated that the remains in the grave most likely belonged
to the 150 Armenian and 120 Syriac male heads of families from the
nearby town of Dara, killed on June 14, 1915. The local Turkish
gendarmery closed the Mardin site to further inspection, prompting
Prof. Gaunt to attempt to arrange an objective scientific examination
of the grave — these attempts were chronicled in the Reporter’s Feb.
17 and Mar. 3 editions. (These articles are available on the
Reporter’s website, )
A professor of history at Södertörn University College in Stockholm,
Dr. Gaunt holds a doctorate from Sweden’s Uppsala University. Much of
his research has centered on social questions involving the family and
work, ethnicity and violence; his studies of everyday life combine
history and social anthropology.
Prof. Gaunt began to research genocide late in his career, first
investigating the Holocaust, and later focusing on Syrian, Chaldean,
and Assyrian Christians, large groups of which arrived in Sweden in
the past three decades. His books include Jews and Christians in
Dialogue II: Identity, Tolerance, Understanding; Collaboration and
Resistance during the Holocaust: Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania;
and his latest volume, Massacres, Resistance and Protectors:
Muslim-Christian relations in Eastern Anatolia during the First World
War. In progress is a monograph on the development of religious and
ethnic tolerance in Eastern Europe during the Early Modern Period.
This week, Prof. Gaunt begins a series of lectures throughout
California. Talin Suciyan recently interviewed him for the Reporter. A
Turkish-language version of the interview is appearing in Istanbul’s
Talin Suciyan: What did you do after finishing your work in Dara?
David Gaunt: I have been photographing sites, in order to see them
with my own eyes. We went to Idil [Azakh], which is close to Cizre and
the Syrian border. I wrote an entire chapter about it in my book
[Massacres, Resistance and Protectors: Muslim-Christian relations in
Eastern Anatolia during the First World War]. Idil defended itself
against Teskilat Mahsusa (Special Organization) and units of the Third
Army under the leadership of Ömer Naci Bey. I was trying to
reconstruct this defense, which is one of the success stories of the
Assyirans. There were quite a few Armenians there as well, but we do
not think they participated in the defense because they were women and
During that defense, fedais (fighters) took the guns of the Ottoman
army by passing through the tunnel. I was looking for that tunnel —
and we found it. It is 500 meters long; we took photographs. It is now
a well near the Santa Maria Church. The tunnel goes under the whole of
old Idil. On top of the tunnel there is a shrine. The well was
Suciyan: When did this defense occur, and how do you know who was
Gaunt: The defense took place at the end of October 1915 or
beginning of November 1915. There are telegrams between Enver Pasha
and Kamil Pasha. Enver Pasha asked who those people were, and the
response was, "Assyrians and Armenians." The troops were on their way
to Iran actually, but they got stuck there and were defeated at the
We went to Aynvert (now Gülgöze) as well, which had also defended
itself; but we have only oral historical accounts of that defense.
There are bullet holes in the walls of the church — and in many cases
the actual bullets are still in the stones.
Suciyan: Where else have you been?
Gaunt: We went to Midyat. We visited the places where we knew
fighting took place. Syriacs actually attempted to mount a defense —
like in Van, but something less elaborate. It did not succeed,
however, and they were wiped out. You can still see the bullet holes
on the police station.
Suciyan: Where exactly?
Gaunt: A little beyond the center of Midyat. We found the tunnels
which were used by civilians to get to Anyvart or other places.
We went to places where we knew attempts had been made to mount more
systematic defenses. The history is very complex in Midyat; each clan
has its own story. I find this to be typical of that time.
Suciyan: Do you think the rivalries between the clans were known by
the authorities? If so, were these rivalries exploited by them?
Gaunt: Of course. You have mixed towns, with Syriac Orthodox and
Catholic, Nestorians, Chaldeans, Protestants, etc. Authorities go and
say, "We will not take you, we will take the Catholics and
Protestants," let’s say; but on the other hand they go and tell the
Catholics and Protestants the opposite. This is the way things were
done; many times it worked, but in some cases it did not.
In Azakh there were Assyrians saying, "Let’s stop this defense. They
don’t want us, they want the Armenians." In my opinion this shows how
overtly Armenians were targeted. The Assyrian [historical] sources are
very rich indeed, because in many cases where Armenians were deported,
Assyrians were still in their places and wrote chronicles. A Syrian
Catholic priest in Mardin wrote chronicles in Arabic. He wrote that
the members of a community led by Archbishop Ignace Maloyan had been
killed on the 10th of June 1915. This was the first arrest of Armenian
notables in Mardin, and included Assyrians, Syrian Catholics, and
Suciyan: What is the name of the priest who wrote that chronicle,
and where was it published?
Gaunt: Ishak Armalto. It had been published in Arabic, in Lebanon in
1919 and in the 80s. The title of the book was Calamities of
Christians. There were also three French Dominician priests — all
three of them were writing chronicles, too. Jacques Rhethore, a famous
scholar in his time, had a 300-page book in which he also chronicled
this event. Maloyan was an Armenian Catholic; the two had connections
with each other. There are other Catholic priests’ reports as well.
Suciyan: Are you planning to return to Turkey for any cooperation
with the Turkish Historical Society?
Gaunt: We will be talking to Turkish historians in the near future,
and then we’ll decide.
Suciyan: On the same mass grave?
Gaunt: No. The grave I saw was not available anymore for any
scientific work. However there are documents that are definitely worth
Suciyan: Of what kind?
Gaunt: More or less like the ones Ara Sarafian requested. We know
very well how developed the bureaucracy was in Ottoman Empire. We know
that property registers are far better than [population] censuses.
These documents can provide more information about Christians. And
further, there are the original records of trials after the war, after
the leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress left the country.
There is no reason to believe that they were destroyed.
Suciyan: After the conference held in Stockholm, you wrote a report
and said that Kemal Çiçek from the Turkish Historical Society told
Vahakn Dadrian: "Bring your Armenian money and you will get the
documents." Was this a reference to the documents you mention?
Gaunt: Yes; Çiçek said, "Bring your Armenian money and you will get
the documents" — and the audience heard his words. Dadrian made a
presentation on the need for sources, and this was his response. On
the basis of Çiçek’s remark, a Swedish parliamentarian, Ulla Hoffman,
presented a bill to use foreign aid funds for this purpose; but
nothing has come about.
Suciyan: You have quite a diverse range of interests. You’ve worked
on such subjects as futurology, everyday life, the family; you’re work
combines history with anthropology. When and how did you become
interested in Ottoman history during the First World War.
Gaunt: I’ve been working on historical matters for 30 years. Ten
years ago my children started to get interested in genocide issues.
They were interested because their grandmother was a Jew from the
Ukraine, and they convinced me to work on the subject as well. I wrote
a book about Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in the context of
Holocaust. While I was lecturing at the university, some students came
and asked for help; a debate on Assyrian history was to take place in
a high school, between a history teacher and an Assyrian student, and
I was asked to mediate.
Suciyan: Is this typical of the way conflicts are resolved in Sweden?
Gaunt: Swedes like consensus; they do not like ongoing conflicts. I
guess that history teacher is no sharper today than he was then.
Suciyan: Did you face any problems due to your work on these subjects?
Gaunt: In Uppsala I was lecturing for a government agency called
Living History in 2003. And my lectures were hindered by Turkish
authorities: Omer Turan from the Turkish Historical Society, people
from the Turkish embassy, some people accompanying them. Members of
the Turkish media were there as well; they took photographs of
everyone attending. We were made to look ridiculous; they tried to
undermine what we were saying, intimidating us by saying "Oh, you do
not even know Turkey’s geography!"
In the end, it was obvious who knew better Turkey’s geography and it
was not them. They said, "No Swedish historian ever visited the
Ottoman archives." I said, "Here is my list [of items] that I want to
get from Ottoman archives. Can you get them for me?" They said, "Of
course" — in front of a lot of people. It did come, in six months;
from military history and the Ottoman archives.
Suciyan: Are these what you refer to in the footnotes of your
article on the importance of the occupation of Iran in the 1915
Gaunt: The ATASE [military archive] references are to those
[documents], yes. Later, I came by myself and worked in the archives.
Suciyan: What do you think about the statement holding that "both
sides committed atrocities"? Do you think it’s just a way to be
disputatous? Or does it have a basis in fact? And why?
Gaunt: Both sides killed each other — this is true. At that point
the definition of "atrocity" becomes important. Atrocity has one
meaning if both sides have guns in their hands. It would have a
totally different meaning if only one side has the gun, targeting
unarmed civilians because of their ethnic and or religious origin.
There are many sources on the atrocities committed against the
Armenians and Assyirans between 1914 and 1916, and later to the
Greeks. This was a war crime.
Later, in Kars and Erzurum, after the Transcaucasian army fell
apart, atrocities did occur, most probably because of the
dissappointment and anger the Armenians had. But chronologically that
came later. The Turkish Historical Society opens mass graves of 1918,
of people killed by Armenians. But there are differences in
chronology, in the extent and systematic nature of the atrocities. One
does not neutralize the other.
Suciyan: How is that chronology used in Turkey’s official historiography?
Gaunt: It is used in a very confusing way. They do not pay any
attention, when things happen, to the order in which things happened,
and the context in which they happened. It is told that Muslims were
killed, but it is not said when.
Suciyan: What do you think what your role as a historian will be in
Gaunt: It’s going to be like "shuttle diplomacy." It is not a good
position, because both sides are locked. Professional historians are
essential — and this is the weakest point. If there are enough strong
professional historians, the process will proceed. As a result, we
will be talking among ourselves on boring historical subjects. And
politics will not be involved.
6. Shushi’s revival, like its liberation, will require a united Armenian effort
A town’s quest to regain its bygone charm
by Armen Hakobyan
YEREVAN — In a few days, Armenia will mark the 15th anniversary of
the liberation of Shushi. The military operation that wrested the city
from alien hands on May 9, 1992 was welcome evidence that Armenians,
when united, are capable of outstanding achievements.
But a decade and a half on, Shushi still waits for a similar effort
by the Armenian nation, to help it rise from the ruins, and regaining
its former beauty and reputation as Armenia’s city of artistic
Rebuilding the legendary city is the focus of the Shushi Revival
Fund (), established in spring 2006 through a
government initiative. Appropriately, Yerevan Mayor Yervand Zakharian
chairs the fund’s Board of Trustees, leading a group of 15 members
which includes well-known cultural, public, and religious figures from
Artsakh, Armenia, and the diaspora. Among them are the primates of the
Ararat and Artsakh dioceses, Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan and
Archbishop Barkev Martirosian; American University of Armenia
president Harutiun Armenian; writer and publicist Zoriy Balayan;
Hamazgayin theatrical director Sos Sargsyan; Armenia TV chief Artem
Sargsyan; and Shoushi Fund president Bakur Karapetian.
* City of artisans
Shushi is situated 1,500 meters above sea level, at the crossroads of
the Caucasus and Iran, and between two important Armenian lands:
Zangezur and Artsakh. Artifacts unearthed in the surrounding territory
date the earliest settlements to the first millennium B.C.
The town of Shushi itself was established much more recently: in the
mid-18th century at the site of Shoshaberd, the familial fortress
(sghankh) of Melik Shahnazar of Varanda, one of Artsakh’s five
constituent principalities. Since then, and until the early 19th
century, Shushi was a center of the Karabakh khanate, first
subordinated to the Persian shah and then to the Russian emperor.
Following Russian-initiated administrative reforms, Shushi became the
center of a self-named district, which incorporated most of Artsakh
and parts of Zangezur, and was itself part of the Yelizavetopol
In the latter 19th and early 20th centuries, Shushi had its own
mayor with a city council (duma), as well as a town police force,
magistrate, treasury, a mutual loan bank, a post and telegraph office,
army barracks, and other public offices.
The town of that day had a population of 42,000 — large for its
time and even for present-day Armenia — mostly of populated by
Armenians. Shushi was home to 1,856 stone-built homes, 11 streets, six
squares, four stone and two wooden bridges, 376 shops, five hotels
(caravanserais), seven taverns, four tanneries, two brickwork shops,
three dye-houses, and one small silk factory.
Craftsmen representing more than 500 professions worked in the town,
and in the years straddling the 19th and 20th centuries, a majority of
the population were artisans, including metal-workers, jewelers,
stonemasons, tailors, weavers, shoemakers, and barbers.
"Shushi was one of our rare settlements with a pronounced urban
culture," says Marina Grigorian, the Shushi Revival Fund’s public
relations officer. "We want Shushi to regain its status as an Armenian
center of culture, education, and spiritual matters. That’s the reason
that we want to draw the attention of all Armenians to Shushi, hoping
that our compatriots will understand and realize the strategic,
political, and cultural importance of rehabilitating the city, for the
sake of Armenia’s and Artsakh’s future."
"We want to restore Shushi to the way it was in the old days —
reconstruct it to become even more beautiful and attractive to its own
inhabitants, and particularly to our youth and tourists," Ms.
Grigorian continues. "This is the fund’s aim. Fifteen years have
passed since the liberation of Shushi, but sadly much of the town is
still in ruins. Only the Ghazanchetsots Church has been fully
Ms. Grigorian recalls that other organizations have helped Shushi in
the past. "Certainly the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund implemented
several projects in Shushi. But the rehabilitation of an entire town,
especially one of such historical and cultural value, requires a
special approach. It’s not just about constructing an individual
building, or a street or a road, but a much more comprehensive
program, requiring years of planning and implementation."
* Stirrings of revival
In the year since it began, that the Shushi Revival Fund has managed
to fund the development and implementation of several projects
intended to breathe new life into the town.
It has already commissioned and completed a 50 million-dram (about
$140,000) master plan for Shushi, which includes a blueprint for its
social and economic development.
The fund is particularly proud of completing the 180 million-dram
(over half a million U.S. dollars) "Center of Tourism and Crafts"
project, which aims to attract tourists while creating local jobs. The
program involved rebuilding the bus station, which now houses an
information center for tourists, and the adjacent square, which now
includes traditional crafts shops, cafés with local cuisine, a winery,
and exhibition spaces.
About 100 Shushi residents took part in the reconstruction. Thirty
local young men and women received training which included internships
in Yerevan, and will now work in the Center — which is due to
formally open on May 9 as part of the 15th anniversary celebration.
Also in the works is a 30 million-dram ($85,000) micro-lending
program, which through loans and training would assist 20 local
families to launch small businesses like restaurants, pharmacies,
hairdressing salons, photo services, and Internet cafés.
In another project, 100 Shushi children, mostly nine- and
ten-year-olds, were taken to Yerevan for Christmas vacation. This
year, the fund will help bring students from Armenia and the diaspora
And t his summer, when Shushi hosts events for the Golden Apricot
International Film Festival, the town will have a completed summer
cinema. The festival’s director, Harutiun Khachatrian, is a member of
the Shushi Revival Fund Board.
* Partners in realizing a vision
The Shushi Revival Fund continues to move the town’s rehabilitation
forward. The effort is mostly solitary — for now. But organizers feel
confident that Armenians everywhere would be interested in seeing this
beautiful town revive, and would welcome the chance to help.
Among its larger projects, the find is building a new water-supply
system for the town; the design has already been completed by a
Yerevan-based company. The lack of a modern water supply system is one
of Shushi’s major problems.
Plans also include the historical preservation and renovation of the
19th-century Realakan and Mariamian gymnasiums, and the creation of an
enitre educational district for the city.
Most importantly, say the fund officials, all this effort is
intended not simply to provide a handout to Shushi, but to make it an
attractive place for further investment. The goal is to help Shushi’s
citizens "learn how to fish," as the saying goes.
In the meantime, the various rehabilitation projects inspire hope
for a larger revival of Shushi. In the opinion of this writer, that
process would greatly accelerate if the political will arose to
restore Shushi’s prominence as the administrative center of Artsakh.
* * *
Shushi-Shosh: the tallest branch of a young tree
The word shosh in the Artsakh dialect of Armenian means a branch of a
young tree that is the tallest of all. Through its elevated geographic
location, Shushi is in fact "taller" than much of the surrounding
landscape, and the similarity to shosh is obvious. Besides, there is
still the village of Shosh located just south-east of the town.
As with other old towns, the debate about the origin of its name
continues to this day. The competing theory is that the name comes
from the Turkic word for glass or mirror, signifying that Shushi’s air
was and is so clean (and it is in much of the rest of mountainous
But names of most of Artsakh’s settlements are typically prompted by
their geography, e.g. Arachadzor, Karintak, Kolatak, Getashen, or
other physical characteristics. The transformation of "Shosh" into
"Shushi" is also typical of the Artsakh dialect, in which switching of
"o" and "ou" are common, as in tot-tout, ton-toun and shon-shoun.
7. A look at the electoral terrain
by Armen Hakobyan
YEREVAN — Of 131 seats in Armenia’s National Assembly, 90 are
allocated to political parties and electoral blocs. Each party
presents a list of candidates. Parties that win more than 5 percent of
the vote get seats according to the proportion of the nationwide vote
they have won. As of May 3, there are 22 parties and one coalition
(1,245 individual candidates) in the race.
The remaining 41 seats are contested in local districts. There are
119 candidates in the race, seven of whom are running unopposed in
The campaign for the May 12 election officially began on April 8.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun), the Prosperous
Armenia Party, the Republican Party of Armenia, the Country of Laws
(Orinats Yerkir) party, the Heritage party, and the Peoples’ Party of
Armenia started lively campaigns, with events throughout the country,
meetings with constituents, posters, and television advertisements.
They have enlisted popular singers: Nune Yesayan and other popular
stars have performed for the ruling Republican Party. Arto
Tunçboyaciyan of The Armenian Navy Band performed at Marriott Armenia
for the campaign kickoff of Raffi Hovannisian’s Heritage party, and
then again at the mass rally organized by the ARF in Freedom Square.
Another famous singer, Forsh, permitted the use of his popular song
"And this is just how we live," with modified lyrics, for the Country
of Law’s theme song.
On a less pleasant note, the launch of the election campaign was
marked by explosions at two offices of Prosperous Armenia, in which no
one was hurt. No arrests have been made yet.
What follows is a glance at the most active parties in the campaign.
The Prosperous Armenia Party, led by Gagik Tsarukian, head of the
Multi Group conglomerate, is a new party. Its banners were up before
the official start date and its campaign is continuing it apace. It
claims 370,000 members (which is 100,000 more than the number of votes
garnered by the top vote-getter, the RPA, in 2003) and thus has high
expectations. Prosperous Armenia says it is in the political center;
it has adopted the slogan, "Together, let us build a prosperous
country." The party says it acknowledges the progress that has been
made in recent years, but will not shy away from confronting existing
problems and, in any case, is in favor of the rule of law, effective
government, and the development of democracy without extremism and
dogmatism. It promises to fight the shadow economy — even though Mr.
Tsarukian’s mother, Rosa Tsarukian, recently told the newspaper
Zhamanak Yerevan that their companies hide part of their income from
the state. (The tax authority has not responded to the Armenian
Reporter’s repeated requests for comment.)
Prosperous Armenia did not exist at the time of the 2003 election.
Two members of the party, Mr. Tsarukian and Melik Manukian are running
unopposed in districts 28 and 29 and are thus assured of winning seats
in the National Assembly.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun) has adopted
the campaign slogan, "Our old friend is the Dashnaktsutiun." Leaders
of the party, which is 117 years old, hope this theme will resonate
with voters who do not trust the motives of relatively new parties
dominated by newly wealthy officials and entrepreneurs. The party, a
member of the Socialist International, is emphasizing the social and
economic aspects of its program. It promises to fight the shadow
economy, provide a level playing field for economic competition,
ensure that people pay their fair share of the tax burden, triple the
state budget, raise the minimum pension to 30,000 drams a month from
10,000, and raise the minimum wage to 50,000 drams per months from
15,000. It also promises to implement policies that support continuous
The ARF is part of the coalition government. The deputy speaker of
the National Assembly and four ministers are from the ARF. In 2003,
the ARF gained 11.5 percent of the votes in the party lists, receiving
11 seats in the parliament. In the current election, the ARF is
focusing on the proportional ballot, having nominated only one
candidate in a local district.
For the Republican Party of Armenia, the sudden death of its head,
Prime Minister Andranik Margarian, was a serious blow on the eve of
the elections, and the party’s campaign was slow to start. But it is
in high gear now, with Prime Minister Serge Sargsian at the helm. The
electoral program of the RPA too is full of specific numbers and
promises, with an emphasis on the continuation of ongoing programs and
political and economic reforms. Having been in power for the last few
years, the RPA is reaching out to voters with the slogan, "For you,
Armenia!" with the results of its work over the last seven or eight
years, and with the promise of establishing an ever-improving
environment for investments, a level playing field for economic
competition, and a supportive environment for small and medium
businesses, as the basis for the formation of a middle class. The
party says its promises are modest but realistic.
In 2003, the RPA won 23.66 percent of the vote in the party lists
(280,363 votes), coming in first place and receiving 23 seats. The
party also won seats from the nonproportional ballot. Unlike its
coalition partner the ARF, the RPA is also running or supporting
candidates in most local districts.
Country of Laws (Orinats Yerkir) Party was part of the ruling
coalition until just over a year ago, at which time it joined the
opposition camp. Its leader, former Speaker Artur Baghdasaryan, has
become embroiled in controversy (see story above). The party’s slogan
is "We fight for a dignified life, law, and justice." The party
platform calls for population growth by offering, "Let’s say 400,000
drams [$1,120] for the first child," to quote Mr. Baghdasaryan. (The
ARF proposes offering a 200,000 dram grant to families for each of
their first two children and 2.5 million [$7,000] for the third.) The
platform also calls for higher and professional education
opportunities for every young person through student loans with 30- or
40-year repayment periods and the gradual elimination of university
entrance exams. The party promises to lower the retirement age for
women, make the military service period for conscripts shorter,
continue the return of devalued Soviet-era bank deposits, and fight
corruption. It also promises to fight monopolies: "It is better to
have 100 people owning one store each, than one person owning 100
stores." The party also proposes to build a second Iran-Armenia
natural-gas pipeline to provide for Armenia’s energy security.
In 2003, the Country of Laws Party won 12.49 percent of the vote in
the party lists (147,956 votes), coming in third place and receiving
12 seats (not counting local districts). When the party moved to the
opposition, some of its deputies broke with the party, however.
The Heritage Party, led by Raffi Hovanissian, is taking part in the
parliamentary elections for the first time, but its members are not
new to politics. It is engaged in an active and civil election
campaign. The campaign does not travel in expensive SUVs or official
vehicles but an American-style campaign bus. Also, in the spirit of
Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, the party is offering to sign a
contract with the people of Armenia. "In Armenia, illusory democratic
institutions have been made through imitation and declarations; they
are in reality hollow," the party declares. "The citizen of Armenia is
estranged from the opportunity to have decisive and real influence on
the administration the most important functions of state and society.
The political will of the authorities in power is directed toward the
distortion of democracy and obstruction of the development of civil
society. Only the legal, legitimate authorities formed through fair
elections will be morally and politically able to secure human and
civil rights and fundamental freedoms on all levels of government."
The party’s slogan is, "Free speech, free people, free country." The
Heritage Party offers voters a detailed legislative and executive
program, promising that after coming to power they will bring to life
the principles of accountability, transparency, and punishability.
The electoral campaign of the National Unity Party is also marked by
active meetings with voters, during which the leader of this
opposition political force, Artashes Geghsmian, mainly introduces his
crisis-alleviation program, the slogan of which is "Let’s save the
fatherland through unity." Mr. Geghamian presented a similar program
in 2002; the current one, he says, is revised and more complete. The
program, which is rather bulky, proposes to pass 42 or 43 laws in the
first 100 days. The party believes that Armenia is in a general crisis
"as a result of the actions of oligarchic and corrupt authorities,"
and in order to overcome the crisis, it is first of all necessary to
"eliminate mysticism and empty talk of reform." Mr. Geghamian and his
followers believe that "in conditions of general competition,
Armenia’s socioeconomic development requires the emergence of a new
political class, which will be able to offer hope and jobs to the
country, and first of all to its youth."
In 2003, the National Unity Party won 8.9 percent of the vote in the
party lists (105,480 votes), taking fifth place and receiving 9 seats.
The People’s Party of Armenia was part of a coalition in 2003 but it
is running alone this time around. It remains one of the most
organized and influential forces in the opposition camp. It is led by
Stepan Demirchian, son of Karen Demirchian; the older Mr. Demirchian
led Soviet Armenia for many years, made a comeback, and was
assassinated in the 1999 attack on parliament.
Stepan Demirchian was the runner up in the last presidential
contest. He and the People’s Party have maintained the same approach:
they promise authoritative leadership to establish law and order
within the government, in the economy, and across the board.
The People’s Party started its campaign actively, organizing
meetings with the voters. Mr. Demirchian has noted that the
authorities do not hinder the campaign. The focus of the campaign is
fair elections, or "taking ownership of the votes we receive." Mr.
Demirchian says that people’s conditions are very hard and oppressive.
"People have simply lost their faith in elections; but even in the
most neglected places, people are not broken," he says, calling on the
citizens to take part in the elections. He does not think that those
who take advantage of people’s destitution to buy their votes will
In 2003, the Justice Alliance won 13.78 percent of the vote in the
party lists (163,203 votes), taking second place and receiving 14
seats. The Justice Alliance comprised more than ten parties, but the
People’s Party reasonably considers the bulk of the alliance’s votes
to have come from the People’s Party’s supporters.
* * *
In addition to the seven parties briefly discussed above, there are
18 more political forces involved in the election contest. There’s the
United Labor Party (MAK) led by a businessperson, Gurgen Arsenian,
owner of Arsoil. The party came in 6th place in 2003, and with 5.7
percent of the vote, won 6 seats. When Country of Laws withdrew from
the coalition government, United Labor filled the minister of culture
portfolio, and is thus part of the government.
MAK has gained an unexpected rival in the form of MIAK, the United
Liberal National Party, led by the brother of Garik Martirossyan, a
well-known entertainer in Russia and Armenia.
The Democratic Way Party is also noteworthy. Its uncompromising
opposition politicians Manuk Gasparian, Arshak Sadoyan, and Aghasi
Arshakyan have been part of the National Assembly for practically all
of Armenia’s 15 years of independence.
As for the "exes," the Armenian Pan-National Movement was running
but dropped out of the party-list ballot. Individual candidates are
still running in two districts. (In 2003, the party received 7,676
votes or 0.65 percent).
There is also an "Impeachment" bloc advocating ideas in the spirit
of the Armenian Pan-National Movement. Had their nomination been
rejected because of their provocative name, they may have gotten a
great deal of attention, but that is not how things turned out.
The Alliance ("Dashink") party headed by the former commander of
Karabakh’s armed forces Samvel Babayan has the potential to be a
significant factor. The defection of a number of candidates on the
party’s list have hampered its credibility somewhat.
Although the campaigns have proceeded without any serious collisions
and confrontations, the struggle for each vote will become more
intense as May 12 draws closer. The RPA, with the resources of the
state and incumbency, can expect a strong showing. Prosperous Armenia,
with the resources of its leader, can likewise do well. The ARF, with
numerous articulate and well-regarded leaders to represent it, may
find that its constituency has grown.
Meanwhile, things are more complicated for the opposition, which is
fractured. With a threshold of 5 percent of the vote to get any seats
through the party lists, a multitude of parties with small support
bases can dissipate the opposition vote. Until the day nominations
were closed, there was talk of a various alliances. But the alliance
never materialized. This fact has disappointed and disillusioned
opposition-leaning voters, some of whom may sit out the elections.
8. Making history on parallel tracks
Yeltsin, Ter-Petrossian, and the emergence of democracy in the post-Soviet era
by Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan
YEREVAN — A rarely-heard voice could be noticed last week among the
Armenian leaders conveying their condolences over the passing of Boris
Yeltsin, who died on April 23 at age 76.
Former President Levon Ter-Petrossian — who has been largely silent
since leaving office in 1998 — took the occasion to express his grief
at the death of his fellow statesman. The two men shared a unique bond
as the first freely elected presidents of their respective countries.
And that was hardly the sole tie connecting them.
* Armenia-Yeltsin alliance at the end of Soviet Union
Their first exposure to each other most likely occurred after
Ter-Petrossian became chair of what would be Armenia’s last Supreme
Soviet (the parliament of Soviet Armenia) in 1990. In that capacity he
went to Moscow to meet Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and other
high level Soviet officials.
But closer cooperation between them started when Yeltsin became the
leader of the Interregional Group of the Council of People’s Deputies:
the first all-Soviet parliament elected with an element of freedom.
Ter-Petrossian, as the head of one of the republican parliaments,
could participate in the work of the council and cooperated with the
group. From this connection in the corridors of what was still Soviet
power, Yeltsin and Ter-Petrossian naturally established a rapport with
each other a few years later, when they entered the presidencies of
Russia and Armenia.
Yeltsin saw the issue of Karabakh as intimately connected with
Armenia’s democratization processes, and with its struggle against the
Communist Party nomenklatura that had originally ceded Karabakh to
Azerbaijan. Ter-Petrossian boldly joined the fight on the side of the
democratic faction, whereas the Azerbaijani government of the time
staked itself entirely on the old Communist powers.
Though at the time its attention was directed away from Moscow and
toward establishing good relations with Turkey, the
Ter-Petrossian–led Karabakh Committee, and later the Pan-Armenian
National Movement were allied with Yeltsin in the struggle against the
Soviet hard-liners. Gorbachev himself was wavering between the party’s
"liberal" wing, informally led by Alexander Yakovlev, and its
"conservatives" like Yegor Ligachev — who were also Yeltsin’s direct
rivals. At the same time, the latter faction had an extremely negative
image in Armenia and Artsakh due to its stance on the Karabakh
In that atmosphere, the fact that Ter-Petrossian did not support the
putsch — the August 1991 coup d’etat attempt of Soviet Vice President
Gennadiy Yanaev, KGB chief Vladimir Kriuchkov, Defense Minister Dmitry
Yazov, and others, who tried to take power away from Gorbachev —
played an enormous role in establishing future relations between
Armenia and Russia.
The leaders of the putsch were attempting to turn back the clock on
reforms. During its three days’ duration, some leaders of the Soviet
republics like Azerbaijani leader Ayaz Mutallibov publicly supported
the putsch; Ter-Petrossian, however, was silent.
Yeltsin organized the resistance, famously climbing on a tank
outside Moscow’s "White House" (the Russian government building) — a
symbolic gesture that helped galvanize public opposition to the putsch
and, eventually, bring him victory in his contest against Gorbachev.
At the time, people in Armenia wondered whether Ter-Petrossian’s
silence would have dire consequences for Armenia — a definite
possibility were the putsch successful.
But Ter-Petrossian’s allies succeeded: the putsch sank, taking with
it the entire Soviet system. Against this background the young
Armenian government found a sound basis for good relations with the
new Russia, over the ruins of the Soviet Union.
With the collapse of the USSR, the involvement of Moscow in the
Karabakh conflict changed dramatically. This was due to a unique
combination of personality factors and systemic political issues.
Kriuchkov, Yazov and others, who were ousted from power after the
putsch, were directly responsible for the conduct of Moscow’s earlier
involvement in the Karabakh conflict: "Operation Ring" and other
policies intended to expel the Armenian population from Artsakh and
its surrounding territories, in exchange for which Azerbaijan, for a
time, stayed loyal to the Soviet Union. The failed putsch thus marked
the end of Soviet participation in the conflict on the side of Soviet
* Finding common cause with the new Russia
With the USSR collapsing, Russia began its search for a new identity,
which in important ways continues to this day. A part of that still
unfinished search was a return to traditional Russian values — and
for the first time in the 20th century, these shared identity markers,
no matter how superficial, played to the benefit of Armenians. The
common Christian religion of Armenians and Russians was seen as a
point of solidarity against the Islamic traditions of Azerbaijan’s
Some Armenian leaders, particularly Ashot Manucharyan and Eduard
Simonyants, began a long-term effort to befriend key players in the
new Russian government, despite the lack of consensus on this approach
inside the Ter-Petrossian team itself. These efforts were encouraged
by elements in the Ter-Petrossian administration, which understood
that anti-Russian rhetoric, promoted at the time in Armenian
nationalist circles, was detrimental to an Armenia which found itself
both in blockade and at war.
Thus, for the first time since early 1920s, Moscow under the
leadership of Boris Yeltsin was acting with at least a semblance of
impartiality in regard to Armenia and Azerbaijan, rather than with a
heavy imbalance favoring Azerbaijan. Evidence for this can be seen in
the rapid conclusion of the Treaty on Military and Strategic
Cooperation between Russia and Armenia. That treaty and other
important diplomatic documents would eventually have different stages
and titles, but the first phase was negotiated already in 1992, when
it was still unclear whether the successor to the Soviet Union, the
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) — which did not, at the
time, include either Azerbaijan or Georgia — could maintain orderly
relations among its members.
Since that time, Azerbaijanis have concluded that Russia was
supporting Armenia in the Karabakh conflict — ignoring both the prior
history and the consideration that Russia’s support was intended to
contain the conflict and keep it in an unresolved condition, as a
lever of influence on both states, rather than to help either side
achieve a total victory.
Nevertheless, in this way too Yeltsin’s coming to power heralded a
new stage in Russian-Armenian relations. At least officially, Armenia
had gone from being a satellite or a part of Russia, to becoming a
strategic and military ally — moreover, Russia’s only one in the
The radical nationalist policies of President Abulfez Elchibey of
Azerbaijan (1992–93) on the background of its losses during the
Karabakh war resulted in a coup d’etat led by one of Azerbaijan’s
military commanders, Suret Husseynov, and probably partly supported by
Russia. That resulted in the return to power of Azerbaijan’s
Soviet-era leader, Heidar Aliev. He immediately embarked on mending
relations with Russia and Yeltsin. Azerbaijan joined the CIS.
However, the Russian-Armenian strategic alliance had already taken
root, and neither Yeltsin nor his administration could forget
Azerbaijan’s past, if brief, disloyalty. Besides, Yeltsin, the Soviet
rebel of the late 1980s, must have remembered that at that time Aliyev
represented the anti-reform wing of the Soviet establishment. In any
case, Azerbaijan chose to build its foreign policy on the basis of oil
development rather than on relying solely on the difficult friendship
Yeltsin’s team, as distinct from Gorbachev’s, did not feature many
recognizably Armenian names; the exception was Andranik Mihranyan, one
of Yeltsin’s many advisors.
But even in the absence of Armenian figures in his immediate circle,
Yeltsin’s relations with Armenia were cordial thanks to his connection
with Ter-Petrossian. This summit-level friendship was reinforced by
other layers of friendship, such as the connection between Vazgen
Sargsyan and Pavel Grachev, the ministers of defense in the two
Gradually an "inner circle" formed around President Yeltsin, and
direct access to him became much more difficult than it was in the
"revolutionary" times. With Yeltsin losing health and gaining in
"czar-like" qualities, his decisiveness of the younger years turned
into an arbitrariness in decision-making. Many decisions would not be
made because he personally was not aware of them, or was not
interested in them. To describe the situation, a special expression
came into existence: "access to the body." Politicians were divided
between those who could have direct access to Yeltsin, and those who
could not. Ter-Petrossian was one of those who had that access, and he
used it carefully.
* Armenia-Russia parallels
Other parallels in the political biographies of Yeltsin and
Ter-Petrossian would later come to light, perhaps highlighting a
deeper connection between Armenian and Russian politics. In June and
September 1996, Yeltsin and Ter-Petrossian respectively stood for
second presidential terms. In both cases the elections were most
likely heavily rigged. In any event, the results gave much less of a
mandate to the incumbents than they received during their inaugural
In both cases, the presidents resigned in the middle of their terms
(Ter-Petrossian at the beginning of 1998 and Yeltsin at the end of
1999), even if for seemingly different reasons. In both cases, the
successors were former Prime Ministers who had backgrounds in the
"power spheres": Vladimir Putin in security, and Robert Kocharian in
the Karabakh war. Both new presidents were from "the second capital":
Putin from St. Petersburg and Kocharian from Stepanakert. And both
were initially brought in from outside the sitting presidents’ team to
mend their seemingly broken administrations.
The parallels have been inherited by the successors. Both Putin and
Kocharian to a great degree renounced the policies of their
predecessors and gradually replaced the overwhelming majority of civil
servants, substantially relying on their homeland connections. Both
have encouraged the promotion of a negative image of their
predecessors’ terms, despite their own roles in those administrations.
Putin has declared that the collapse of the USSR was the greatest
tragedy of the 20th century; Kocharian immediately freed leaders of
the Dashnaktsutiun party, persecuted during Ter-Petrossian’s times,
and has declared the global recognition of the Armenian Genocide as
one of the priorities of his foreign policy, as opposed to
Ter-Petrossian’s more unusual line of currying friendship with Turkey
and peace with Azerbaijan via concessions. Both presidents have
curtailed freedoms, particularly the freedom of expression, in
substantial ways, while overtly declaring their devotion to them.
Today, Putin and Kocharian are about to complete their second terms
in office, and face the issue of succession.
* Yeltsin’s legacy
Yeltsin, also like Ter-Petrossian, withdrew from politics after
leaving office. But in recent years, visiting Armenia, he reiterated
that the Genocide should be recognized by Turkey. (It was during
Yeltsin’s term that the Russian Duma recognized the Genocide.) So even
after leaving office, he remained sympathetic toward Armenians. During
his last visit he also met with Ter-Petrossian.
Yeltsin was a vivid and formidable figure on a historic scale.
Actions of such figures are hugely consequential. It is no wonder that
his mistakes would prove as fatal as his successful decisions proved
His political will allowed him to start an independent power game,
grasp and keep power in the biggest country of the world,
unconditionally support freedom of expression in a country
traditionally lacking it, and accomplish Russia’s historic transition
from communist rule to a market economy. He governed over a period of
institutional change, and his personality played a larger role in
strategic decisions than do the personalities of leaders who come to
power in more stable historical periods. One mistake on a historic
scale was the war in Chechnya.
In later years it became more difficult for Armenians to have
"access to the body": that is, to achieve Yeltsin’s personal attention
on the issues which worried them. Nevertheless, it is fortunate that
Yeltsin remained a friend of Armenia up to the end.
* A pleasure to read
I’ve been meaning for some time now to write to you and congratulate
you for the total change of the caliber and essence of your whole
newspaper since the new management took over.
The total spirit of your newspaper is so much more professional than
before and it is a pleasure to read the newspaper from the beginning
to the end. As longtime subscribers, we sincerely appreciate your new
The latest change was the color pages. That also has enhanced the
look of the newspaper. Thanks for bringing us such an interesting
Very truly yours,
* * *
* Not a pleasure to read
I along with many of my friends do not like your new format and layout
of the paper. The red banners are unnecessary. It is difficult and
confusing to read this newspaper. I have a hard time following it. The
print is too small. The Calendar of Events is hard to read.
It is not a pleasure to sit and read this paper anymore. We hope you
will make a change for the better or else just go back to the way it
I have been a long time subscriber.
Very truly yours,
Garden City, N.Y.
* * *
* Tread lightly on the earth
Congratulations on launching your new format and expanded coverage!
Your ambitions, intellects, and fervor infuse our whole community.
I was particularly inspired by Paul Chaderjian’s comments upon
joining the team: "All I have ever dreamed of doing in my career since
childhood . . . are now part of my daily work experience. . . .
Through our work in media, our stories will be passed on to future
generations of Armenians, will become part of the collective history
of humankind, and help Armenians around the world be part of a virtual
I too have yearned to unite my life’s pursuits in the mission of
building my family, Armenian community, and human community. But
increasingly, the call-to-action is shifting. We must now acknowledge
that as we tread heavily upon our earth, we threaten our future
generations. In your pages, perhaps special mention should be made of
Armenians who contribute to a sustainable environment. Armenians have
always contributed to humankind’s advance, and we now confront a
reality — environmental destruction — that could render all of our
past accomplishments moot. May your pages become a place where we can
meet to work towards a sustainable future together on our fragile
Very truly yours,
New York, N.Y.
* * *
* Finally it changed
The new updated Armenian Reporter is wonderful!
The style and the various sections are easy reading. Finally it
changed, and I like the new print, which does not smear on your hands,
Very truly yours,
* * *
* After the resolution
Armenian-American groups have done an excellent job of focusing
attention on the Armenian Genocide resolutions in Congress. But these
resolutions still have not been passed. Even if they do pass, then
what? What is the follow up? What is the recompense?
Turkey has had the chance to do the right thing — 92 years is long
enough. Now is the time for real restitution and penalties. Here are
some things we Armenians should do:
1. Boycott all Turkish products such as apricots, dates, nuts, rugs, etc.
2. Boycott all cruises and trips that include Turkey in their itineraries.
3. Picket advertising and PR agencies that are apologists for Turkey
and picket Turkish embassies on a regular basis.
4. Create Armenian Genocide material for all levels of school curriculum.
5. Denounce all organizations that deny the Armenian Genocide.
6. Flood local newspapers with letters regarding the Armenian Genocide.
7. Call or e-mail radio, TV, and cable stations for Armenian
8. Assure that any reference to events prior to A.D. 1200 in Asia
Minor be cited as historic Armenia, not Turkey.
And here are some demands Armenians should make:
1. Turkey must admit, and take responsibility for the Genocide.
2. Turkey must cease its illegal blockade of Armenia, which is
tantamount to a declaration of war.
3. Turkey must include the Armenia Genocide as part of its
educational curriculum for all ages.
4. Turkey must yield to Armenia a 10-mile-wide corridor from Armenia
to the Black Sea.
5. Turkey must restore all the churches and khatchkars that it has
desecrated and destroyed.
Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.
The writer is professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal
Justice, of the City University of New York.
10. Living in Armenia: Women and parliamentary elections
by Maria Titizian
Parliamentary elections set for May 12, 2007 in Armenia will not
likely present a significant increase of women in parliament. Although
women’s organizations have been lobbying more actively this past year
to have a greater representation of women in the National Assembly and
some political parties have been showcasing their women candidates on
the campaign trail, it is unlikely that the status quo will change.
Of the 131 seats in parliament, 90 seats are assigned to national
proportional lists and 41 are majority, single-mandate seats. The
overriding majority of the 28 parties which have submitted their
proportional lists to the Central Electoral Commission have included
at least one woman in the top ten. Of all the names on the
proportional lists, 353 women’s names are listed, the highest
percentage ever. Three parties have placed women as the second name on
their lists; those include Raffi Hovanissian’s Heritage Party, Samvel
Babayan’s Alliance (Dashink) Party and Shavarsh Kocharian’s National
Democratic Party. However the likelihood that any of these parties
will manage to pass the 5 percent threshold required to get into
parliament, is slim. Only three parties out of the 28 have 3 women in
their top ten, and 4 parties have two women in the top ten, the rest
have the mandatory single name. The fact that there are women at all
in the top ten names of these proportional lists is because Armenia’s
electoral code was amended and which now stipulates that parties must
include 15% women in their proportional lists (from the previous 5%
requirement), and at least one woman’s name must be included in every
There are only 5 women who are vying for one of those 41
single-mandate majoritarian seats but the likelihood of their winning
is almost nil, especially when you take into consideration that most
of the incumbents and new candidates in the electoral districts that
these women are running in are wealthy businessmen, with lots of
resources and leverage, ultimately leaving women out in the cold.
Interestingly, in two electoral districts, there are two women
candidates running against each other. A seasoned politician once said
that if there was one independent woman running in a single-mandate
seat then all political parties should collectively support her to
ensure she wins. In his estimation this would help in the creation of
a new political culture which would see broad based support for women.
This suggestion obviously never came to fruition.
The problem is that there is no level playing field. Women do not
enjoy the same privileges as men nor do they have the same access to
finances, thus leaving them out of the game. During one of many
conversations with men, including members of parliament, when talking
about the lack of women in parliament and government, one politician
posed the question — is it a level playing field even for the men in
this country. Making it to the National Assembly for most it seems,
man or woman is a matter of money and connections.
Throw into the mix election fraud and ballot rigging and women are
further alienated. These elections will be a benchmark for Armenia. If
the powers that be do not have the political will and moral fortitude
to ensure that the elections are fair, free, and transparent, then
many things will hang in the balance for the future of this country.
Every political party is reaching out to the electors, asking them not
to take bribes, promising that they will not be part of the extensive
and imaginative forms of ballot rigging. Although everyone is saying
the same thing, we are constantly bombarded by the news which
documents the fact that some political parties are not only passing
out bribes, but are also demanding voters’ passports as insurance that
their payment to the elector actually translates into a vote for their
party. One cannot turn on the television without hearing the same
sentiments being expressed. International and local observers will be
monitoring the elections. International observers include, the
Executive Committee of CIS, OSCE/ODIHR (Office for Democratic
Institutions and Human Rights) with 131 observers, OSCE Parliamentary
Assembly and PACE with 48 observers. There are 34 local organizations
which have also registered to conduct election observation. One
particular NGO, The Center for Youth, Legal and Social Support, is
participating with 532 members.
To raise awareness among women voters, the Women Voter’s League and
the Women’s Coalition of Armenia held several debates among women
candidates, representing different political parties. The first debate
was held on April 13 at the Sundukian Theatre in Yerevan. Over 500
women from different women’s organizations and NGOs participated in a
very lively debate which sometimes crossed the boundaries of etiquette
and decorum. To an impartial observer, it seemed that some of the
women in the audience, unaccustomed to this kind of forum, only wanted
to pursue their own objectives. It became apparent toward the end,
when the moderator had lost control of the situation that the level of
frustration on behalf of most women was at its pinnacle. This is not
surprising because in the past, women have rarely had the opportunity
to voice their opinions and make their concerns heard. All the same,
it was a first step in a long road to attaining women’s participation
It is imperative that more women make it to parliament in Armenia,
not simply to increase numbers but to create a new democratic agenda
in Armenian politics which can improve the lives of all the citizens
in the republic. There cannot be real democracy in Armenia if over
half the population is not involved in the process. If we continue to
ignore the gender disparity in Armenia, it will come at a great cost
to our society’s ability to sustain growth, to govern effectively,
increase productivity and eventually reduce poverty. The majority of
women in Armenia want to have a role in the development and
empowerment of our nation not only to advance women’s rights or
"interests" but because they want to have a stake in public policy
development and ultimately bequeath to their children a country they
can be proud of.
Although most indicators suggest that there will not be a
significant increase of women in the National Assembly after May 12,
we must continue to advocate for gender parity in all areas of public
life in Armenia.
11. Editorial: A month of victories
May is the month when Armenians get together and make history.
The Battle of Avarair, most historians tell us, was fought in May
451. While it was technically a loss, it was a victory for Armenia’s
In May 1918 Armenian forces stopped the Ottoman Turkish onslaught at
Sardarabad and Aparan, making the very existence of an Armenian state
In May 1945, Allied forces — including tens of thousands of Soviet
Armenians and thousands of Armenian-Americans — put a definitive end
to Nazi rule in Europe.
And more recently, in May 1992 Armenians liberated Shushi in
Nagorno-Karabakh and in the following weeks opened the corridor into
Zangezur in southern Armenia, physically stitching together the two
parts of Armenia.
In May 1994, Armenian soldiers launched a final offensive of the
Artsakh war that threatened to cut Azerbaijan in two and forced it to
accept a cease-fire and the relative peace that both nations continue
This list is not exhaustive, but it is a reminder of what Armenians
may accomplish through collaboration, determination, and sustained
At the start of Artsakh war, Azerbaijani forces controlled Shushi
and surrounded Stepanakert. Artsakh’s capital came under direct and
indiscriminate fire for over six months, with local people living in
bomb shelters on the brink of starvation. Armenians were outnumbered,
outgunned, and encircled. Many thought the situation was hopeless.
To have a chance, Armenian forces had to break out of the circle,
and that meant, most importantly, taking Shushi. The operation,
codenamed Hrazdan — and informally known as "Wedding in the
Mountains" — took over a month of careful planning.
On May 8, 1992, Armenian forces, all volunteers, scaled the steep
cliffs on which Shushi is located, engaging Azerbaijani forces. After
a day-long battle, in which 52 Armenian soldiers were killed, the
Azerbaijani forces retreated, and Armenians liberated the town in the
early morning of May 9.
This year Armenians are celebrating the 15th anniversary of the
Shushi victory. Much work remains to be done in the town itself. (See
Likewise, much work remains to be done to translate the Armenian
military success into a political and diplomatic one, and prevent
another war that has been threatened by Azerbaijan.
In the United States, a key role in these efforts is played by the
Office of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in Washington. This mission
works with the U.S. administration, Congress, opinion makers, and the
general public to advance the pan-Armenian cause of a secure and
An apt way to celebrate this month of victories is to support the
NKR Office in its important work. Visit their website at
Or call 202-223-4330 and see how you can help. We
should all be able to take pride in our role in the progress of a
secure and free Artsakh.
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