Armenian Reporter – 8/4/2007 – front section

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August 4, 2007 — From the front section

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1. Bowing to Armenian pressure, President Bush withdraws nominee for
ambassador to Armenia (by Emil Sanamyan)

2. 35 Iraqi-Armenians arrive in Armenia as refugees (by Armen Hakobyan)

3. From Washington, in brief (by Emil Sanamyan)
* Genocide resolution seen approaching "crunch point"
* Be watching…
* Reputed plans for U.S.-Turkish "secret operation" against Kurds leaked
* Think tank study argues for Iraq partition
* U.S. to begin major arms infusion into Middle East

4. Turkey is on the edge (by Rep. Ed Royce)

5. Through a media seminar, regional journalists get their first-ever
glimpse of Nagorno-Karabakh (by Emil Sanamyan)
* Salla Nazarenko, IWPR, Tbilisi
* Dmitry Avaliani, 24 Hours newspaper, Tbilisi
* Akhra Smyr, Chegemskaya Pravda newspaper, Sukhum (Abkhazia)
* Bella Ksalova, independent journalist, Cherkessk (Russia’s North Caucasus)

6. Observers on the July 19 presidential elections in Karabakh

7. Sedition trial concludes as prosecutor demands three years in
prison for Zhirair Sefilyan (by Tatul Hakobyan)
* Verdict is due on August 6

8. Uncertainty surrounds the case of Alexander Arzoumanian (by Tatul Hakobyan)
9. The silent screams of phantom monuments (by Armen Hakobyan)
* Part 2

10. From Armenia, in brief
* Taxi drivers win a temporary reprieve
* A handful of soil became a tractor full of soil
* Robert Fisk in Yerevan
* World Bank provides funds for Armenia’s tertiary canals
* Community Self-Help Fund allocates $160,000 to nine projects

11. Commentary: The Orthodox presence in America: Its meaning and its
prospects (by Vigen Guroian)

12. Living in Armenia: The lexicon of the ancients? (by Maria Titizian)

13. Letters
* OSCE and Artsakh: the short version
* A delight to read

14. Editorial: Toward the primaries

*************************************** ************************************

1. Bowing to Armenian pressure, President Bush withdraws nominee for
ambassador to Armenia

by Emil Sanamyan

WASHINGTON — President Bush on August 3 withdrew the nomination of
Richard E. Hoagland to be U.S. ambassador to Armenia. The decision was
a victory for the Armenian-American lobby, which had opposed the
nomination, and its supporters in the Senate.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) placed a hold on the nomination last
year, blocking Senate confirmation. After the president resubmitted
the nomination to the new Congress in January, Mr. Menendez placed a
hold again.

Mr. Hoagland was nominated last summer to replace Ambassador John M.
Evans, who was forced to leave his post and retire from the Foreign
Service over public remarks he made affirming the Armenian Genocide;
the remarks reportedly angered Turkey.

[This newspaper had called on Senators to use the confirmation
hearing for Mr. Evans’ successor to urge the State Department to
explain the circumstances of Mr. Evans’ early recall and to pressure
the White House to end its policy of not calling the genocide by its

During the confirmation hearings, Mr. Hoagland went beyond the
administration’s usual policy of acknowledging the events of 1915-17
in Asia Minor but withholding judgment on whether they constituted
genocide. He tried to make a case that it was not genocide, thus
galvanizing the bipartisan opposition of members of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee to his nomination.

Only after the State Department formally revised the nominee’s
remarks did the committee agree to send his nomination to the full
Senate. There, however, action was blocked by Mr. Menendez. Several
other senators, including the majority leader, have spoken against the

Mr. Menendez told The Associated Press that the Bush administration
did a disservice to the Armenian people and Armenian-Americans when it
removed Amb. Evans "simply because he recognized the Armenian

"It was clear that their nominee to fill his place was
controversial," the senator said. "I hope that our next nominee will
bring a different understanding to this issue and foster a productive
relationship with our friends in Armenia."

"We are gratified to see that the administration has finally come to
recognize that Dick Hoagland — through his own words and action —
disqualified himself as an effective representative of either American
values or U.S. interests as U.S. ambassador to Armenia," stated Aram
Hamparian of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

"This is a correct, although a long overdue move," said Ross Vartian
of the U.S.-Armenia Public Affairs Committee (USAPAC). "We trust that
the administration will take into account the Hoagland nomination
process, when a new candidacy is offered for the position of
ambassador to Armenia."

Both ANCA and USAPAC opposed the nomination of Mr. Hoagland, while
another advocacy group — the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) —
did not oppose the nomination. In a statement released in January, AAA
argued that "it is vitally important that the United States send an
ambassador to Armenia."

No reaction from AAA to the withdrawal was available as of press time.

The withdrawal opens the way for a new ambassadorial candidate to be
nominated to the Senate. Rudy Perina, a retired ambassador, is on a
temporary assignment as chargé d’affaires, directing the U.S. Embassy
in Armenia.

* * *

[This breaking story does not appear in this week’s print issue.]

***************************************** **********************************

2. 35 Iraqi-Armenians arrive in Armenia as refugees

by Armen Hakobyan

YEREVAN — Early in the morning of July 31, the scene at the newly
completed arrivals hall of Yerevan’s Zvartnots International Airport
was moving. The Aleppo-Yerevan flight was carrying 10 Iraqi-Armenian
refugee families, 35 Armenians in all.

In arrivals halls across the globe, families must have been happily
reuniting. But the scene at Zvartnots that morning was especially
poignant. People escaping tragedy and grave danger at home were
arriving in their ancestral homeland, which was welcoming them with
open arms.

Though restrained, Sarkis Tertsakian of Los Angeles was visibly
moved. He and other Iraqi-Armenians long established in the United
States set up the Iraqi Armenian Relief Fund in 2004. It was through
the efforts and assistance of the fund that this group of refugees was
making this journey.

The monitor at the arrivals hall announced that the Aleppo flight
will arrive about an hour late. It was a chance to chat with Viken
Gdigian, who arrived as part of the 2006 contingent. "Almost 10 months
ago we came from Iraq, from Baghdad. We are trying to adjust to life
here, but everything is all right," he said. Mr. Gdigian is a chemist.
He used to work at a medical laboratory in Baghdad. He has three sons:
Bedros, 21, Ara, 19, and Kaspar, 17. Two of his sons are employed. One
works at a major home electronics store as a salesperson. The other is
a bookkeeper at an eatery. Mr. Gdigian’s wife Haiganush has a
two-month assignment as a substitute teacher. He hopes that he will
find work in his field soon.

"The difference between Yerevan and Baghdad is like the difference
between heaven and earth," Mr. Gdigian said. "You know it’s war there,
in Iraq. Not all Armenians are in the same situation, but everyone,
every family, has experienced some sort of calamity. One was injured,
another was in an explosion and died, another had his son kidnapped,
and another had his home stolen from him. We regret that we didn’t
come sooner. We should have come to the homeland 10-15 years ago. We
wish we were with you in those years they call the dark years, and had
brought the homeland to its current state together with you. We are
late, but here we are."

Mr. Gdigian spoke with respect and gratitude about the Iraqi
Armenian Relief Fund and Mr. Tertsakian.

The Gdigian family live in a rented home for now. He said, "Our
landlady is a good woman. When she saw we were refugees, she treated
us well. We are managing, and with God as our helper, we will make it

The Iraqi Armenian Relief Fund raises money in the United States and
spends it to relocate Iraqi-Armenians who wish to move to Armenia. The
refugees have to get on their own to Syria, where the Armenian
consulate arranges their paperwork at no charge.

The fund, Mr. Tertsakian says, pays the Aleppo-Yerevan airfare. It
pays two months’ rent on an apartment in Yerevan, and pays each family
a stipend of $100 a month per family member. The fund also helps the
families settle in.

In 2005 and 2006, the fund had moved a total of seven families or 31
individuals to Armenia. The group that arrived on Wednesday was larger
than the previous two combined.

Time elapses slowly. The monitor finally said that the flight had
landed. A few minutes later, a passenger called a relative on a cell
phone and announced, "We’ve arrived." Everyone in the arrivals hall
was smiling. Soon, the hall was resonating with joyful Western
Armenian voices. After relatives and old acquaintances had a chance to
greet each other, Mr. Tertsakian and the fund’s coordinator in
Armenia, Gayane Muradian, asked the group to assemble outside.

* Handing out keys

"It is a historic day for us and for you," Mr. Tertsakian told the new
arrivals. Their apartments were ready for them. They had been rented
in the same neighborhood. Each family recieved the key to their
apartment. Mr. Tertsakian said he would remain in town for a month to
help smooth out any problems that may arise. He assured the new
Yerevantsis that they will always have the fund as an ally.

Avak Ghanaghanian, 63, spoke on behalf of the new arrivals. He
thanked the fund for its help in bringing them to Armenia.

Later, Mr. Ghanaghanian said that Armenians are managing in Iraq,
but "the situation in Iraq is not good. There are many people who
would like to come, but cannot make it as far as Aleppo."

Young Shirag Sarksian said, "We are very happy now that we have been
freed of Iraq. We are very happy that we are in the homeland. It is
very difficult there in Iraq, very dangerous." He is a mechanic by
trade and hopes to find work in his field in Armenia. His cousin,
Armen Markarian, has been in Armenia for three years. He works in
trade in Yerevan as he did in Baghdad. He reassured his cousin. Then
he said, "It’s good. It’s a bit difficult to find work, life is
expensive, but at least it’s safe here."

Employment is an issue in Armenia and it is understandable that new
arrivals from Iraq would find it difficult to find work. Some
Iraqi-Armenians who came to Armenia on their own have moved on to
Europe or the United States. The families that came with the Iraqi
Armenian Relief Fund have all remained in Armenia.

**************************************** ***********************************

3. From Washington, in brief

by Emil Sanamyan

* Genocide resolution seen approaching "crunch point"

With elections in Turkey wrapping up, the House Resolution on the
Armenian Genocide (H. Res. 106) will approach a "crunch point quite
soon," according to Alan Makovsky, a senior staff member on the House
Foreign Relations Committee. But he anticipated no action until the
August recess was over.

Mr. Makovsky said this in his personal capacity in response to a
question from former Congressman and long-time Turkish lobbyist
Stephen Solarz during a July 23 discussion at the Washington Institute
for Near East Policy (WINEP), an audio of which is available on its
web site.

Prior to his congressional appointment, Mr. Makovsky headed WINEP’s
Turkey program and in that capacity he publicly opposed the 2000 House
Genocide resolution, according to reports in the Turkish media at the

Both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Majority leader Steny Hoyer
have had a "long-time personal commitment on this issue," Mr. Makovsky
noted, and "if they had their way [H. Res. 106] would pass." At the
same time, the Bush Administration has been intensively lobbying
against the measure.

The senior congressional official recalled that two types of
arguments have been made against the resolution. The first argument is
"strategic," in terms of potential consequences for U.S.-Turkish
relations, and, the second one is that of timing linked to elections
in Turkey.

"We [the U.S.] don’t want to become a factor in the elections," Mr.
Makovsky said, and "that point resonated with a lot of people [in
Congress]." Now that the Turkish electoral process is about to wrap up
(the general election was held on July 22 and a parliamentary vote for
president is expected in the next several weeks), that second argument
is about to become irrelevant.

Also participating in the WINEP discussion, Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State Matt Bryza thanked Mr. Makovsky for referring to
the Administration’s work in opposing the resolution and promised that
it "will continue that approach."

Mr. Bryza reiterated the State Department’s position that it "do[es]
not deny anything one way or another" but believes that "those
horrible events" should be addressed through dialogue between
Armenians and Turks. "How do you do that, I don’t know," he said but
added that that is the approach favored by the Administration.

Referring to "somewhat ominous" comments by Mr. Makovsky that
"things are going move" on the resolution, Mr. Bryza argued that "we
really need something from the Turkish government that… moves towards
normalization of relations with Armenia, it is time for that to

As of this week, 224 of 435 members of Congress have officially
endorsed H. Res. 106. Mr. Makovsky said that the fact that more than
half of the House members back the measure was "psychologically
significant, but in itself does not mean anything operationally."

Still, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Morton Abramowitz said that
the resolution was very likely to pass in the House after Congress’
August recess, the Turkish Daily News reported on July 26.

A vote on the resolution depends on a decision by the Democratic
leadership of the House of Representatives.

* Be watching…

Our readers in the Washington area take note that this Sunday, August
5 at 8 p.m. the local PBS affiliate WETA channel 26 will be re-airing
Andrew Goldberg’s film The Armenian Genocide. This documentary first
aired on PBS nationally last year, when it received critical acclaim
both in the United States and abroad. For more information connect at

* Reputed plans for U.S.-Turkish "secret operation" against Kurds leaked

Speaking at the Washington Institute for the Near East Policy on July
23, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Bryza hinted that in
the immediate future the U.S. is likely to take action against
anti-Turkey Kurdish groups in northern Iraq.

Mr. Bryza agreed with Turkey’s claims that the U.S. has not done
enough to clamp down on forces in Iraqi Kurdistan, usually identified
as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who Ankara has accused of
fueling a growing anti-government insurgency within Turkey. Both the
military and the government in Turkey have threatened to invade Iraqi
Kurdistan unless the U.S. takes measures of its own.

"The attitude has shifted here in Washington," Mr. Bryza revealed.
"We have to produce concrete results and I’m confident we are going to
soon… in the next few weeks or months."

In his July 30 Washington Post column Bob Novak offered details of
one potential such action. According to Novak’s sources, during the
previous week Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman gave select
members of Congress a confidential briefing on plans, in Novak’s
words, "for a covert operation of U.S. Special Forces to help the
Turks neutralize the PKK. They would behead the guerilla organization
by helping Turkey get rid of PKK leaders that they have targeted for

But, according to the Post columnist, the idea was not well received
by at least some in Congress. Its opponents believe that any such U.S.
action would undermine progress made in Iraqi Kurdistan, the only
stable part of the country.

Predictably, U.S. and Turkish officials declined to comment on
Novak’s claim. Most commentators suggested that the leak intended to
scuttle any such operation. The Administration-friendly Washington
Times, in its editorial on July 31 blasted the unidentified
congressional sources that leaked the contents of Mr. Edelman’s

The Times concluded: "now that it has been made public, the
operation has been severely compromised — if it hasn’t been forced
off the table altogether."

But mindful of the Administration’s penchant for secrecy and
tendency not to share information with Congress, Blake Hounshell, web
editor for the Foreign Policy magazine, wondered on his blog if Mr.
Edelman’s briefing to Congress was made with an intention for its
details to be leaked.

"So perhaps the plan was simply being floated in order to buy more
time with the Turks, and Congress was used in order to kill it," Mr.
Hounshell speculated.

Whatever the case may be, senior Turkish officials continue to
threaten to invade Iraqi Kurdistan, although Prime Minister Recep
Tayyib Erdogan acknowledged earlier this summer (see this page in June
16 Reporter) that the Kurdish resistance is based mostly in Turkey
rather than in Iraq.

Turkey’s real concern appears to be with the existence of a de-facto
Kurdish state on its border. A referendum on the status of the
Kurdish-populated and oil-rich city of Kirkuk, expected to result in
its unification with Iraqi Kurdistan and opposed by Turkey, may yet
lead to a fresh escalation in tensions if it takes place as is
currently planned before the end of this year.

* Think tank study argues for Iraq partition

Frustration over continuing sectarian violence in U.S.-occupied Iraq
has sent Washington policy-makers scrambling for policy ideas that
could provide for a long-term stability in Iraq. In recent years, a
view that Iraq can no longer function as a centralized state has
increasingly gained ground.

Last month, a prominent national security scholar and an experienced
conflict-management practitioner issued "The Case for Soft Partition
of Iraq," a policy paper in which its authors Michael O’Hanlon and
Edward Joseph argue that such an approach "would involve the Iraqis,
with the assistance of the international community, dividing their
country into three main regions. Each would assume primary
responsibility for its own security and governance, as Iraqi Kurdistan
already does."

The paper was published by the Brookings Institution — one of the
more respected and less partisan think tanks in Washington — and
received considerable attention both in Congress and in the media.

Nonetheless, the plan has also been criticized because it would
entail continued U.S. occupation of Iraq at the current levels for at
least another two years, as well as major population relocation within
Iraq, certain to cause additional humanitarian crises.

U.S. policy initiatives are frequently vetted through think tank
studies, although only few of them become blueprints for government
action. A policy paper prepared last year by the pro-Administration
American Enterprise Institute, which argued for a "surge" in U.S.
troop presence in Iraq as a way to contain the sectarian violence in
the country, was one such example.

The "surge" policy has been in effect from early this year and has
received mixed reviews so far. This September, the U.S. military
commander in charge of the plan is expected to report on whether the
approach is working and based on the outcome of that report whether it
should be modified or abandoned in favor of troop withdrawal.

Mr. O’Hanlon, of the partition study has been supportive of the Iraq
invasion as well as the most recent "surge" policy, and may expect to
have the Administration’s ear.

* U.S. to begin major arms infusion into Middle East

Secretaries of State and Defense Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates
this week traveled to the Middle East, bringing along an aid package
that includes many billions of dollars worth of U.S. military hardware
for its Arab allies like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and smaller Persian Gulf
states, as well as Israel.

"The United States is determined to assure our allies that we are
going to be reliable in helping them to meet their security needs,"
Ms. Rice was reported as saying on July 31 by news agencies.

Israel, which is already the biggest recipient of U.S. military
assistance to the tune of $2.4 billion a year, is expected to receive
$30 billion over ten years (a 25 percent increase from the current
level). Arab states are due to jointly get an additional $33 billion
over the same period, with aid to Egypt doubled from $1.3 billion a

The aid, including naval vessels and missile defense systems, is
intended to check the perceived increase in Iran’s regional power
following the devastation of Iraq and amid Tehran’s continued progress
over its nuclear program, in spite of U.S.-championed international

The U.S. Congress would need to approve the aid. That, despite some
reservations over aiding countries like Saudi Arabia, seems likely
since the plan has Israel’s support.

As part of its efforts to contain Iran, U.S. also poured arms into
Lebanon in the effort to limit the influence of Iran-backed Hezbollah
there. The U.S. is also supporting one of the two main factions in
Palestine; aiding Azerbaijan through the multi-year $100 million
Caspian security program and funding opposition groups within Iran

Iran’s reaction came from its Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad
Najar. "[The U.S.] are engaging in psychological warfare in the region
in an effort to save the American military industry," he was quoted as
saying by news agencies.

"U.S. plans are designed to create a security belt around Israel,"
Mr. Najar said. "We have no problem with neighboring or Muslim
countries, and should any of these countries acquire weapons, this
would only make the Islamic world more powerful," he suggested.

************************************** *************************************

4. Turkey is on the edge

by Rep. Ed Royce

As a member of NATO and a rare Middle Eastern democracy, Turkey has
had a special place in geopolitics. In a region hostile to the idea of
separation of church and state, Turkey has been the exception. While
Turkey’s experience with democracy and secularism has been tumultuous,
recent events are jarring, including its attack on the Ecumenical

Efforts to elect Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as Turkey’s next
President troubled secular Turks, many of whom took to the streets.
Seen as someone who would turn back the clock on secular reforms, from
sexual equality to consuming alcohol, they are right to be wary. The
origins of Gul’s ruling AKP party are in fundamentalist Islam. Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political mentor and former Prime
Minister Necmettin Erbakan came to power promising to "rescue Turkey
from the unbelievers of Europe" and to launch a jihad against
Jerusalem. The AKP, some say, has overcome these sentiments, but
caution is in order.

The steady rise of a radical brand of Sunni Islam in Turkey is cause
for concern. Islamic brotherhoods, such as the Nurcu and the
Fettullahci, have used loopholes in secular law to set up extensive
private educational systems. These organizations span from preparatory
schools, to universities, to business schools, molding much of the
leading cultural power, both at the popular and intellectual level.
Many secularists believe that these schools are the madrassas of
Turkey, and fear that they may be a Trojan horse for radical Islam.
Unqualified madrassa graduates are taking up positions in the Turkish
civil service.

Religious intolerance seems to have reached new levels in Turkey, as
evidenced by massive protests to the Pope’s November visit. In the
wake of his controversial comments on the nature of Islam, tens of
thousands of Turks rallied against the Pope. So vehement were these
protests that the Turkish government deployed 4,000 policemen backed
by riot trucks, helicopters, and armored vehicles.

The Ecumenical Patriarch has long been subjected to Turkish
misdeeds. Turkey is the only country not to recognize the
2,000-year-old spiritual beacon to millions of Orthodox Christians.
Furthermore, Ankara’s demand that the Ecumenical Patriarch be a
Turkish citizen threatens the very institution, as less than 2,500
Greek Orthodox citizens of Turkey remain, most of them elderly.

The Armenian Patriarchs of Istanbul endure similar hardships, having
to abide by the same restrictions for their religious appointments to
the Patriarchal see. The Armenian Orthodox community, the largest
Christian community in Turkey comprising of 70,000 citizens, today has
only 5 Armenian Apostolic priests and 2 Archbishops to oversee the
spiritual guidance of its 38 working Armenian churches throughout
Turkey. While Turkish authorities deny governmental interference in
religious matters, the closure of theological seminaries in 1969 has
continued to take its toll on the Armenian Patriarch’s ability to find
clergymen who meet the criteria set forth by the Turkish government.
Unless Turkey changes its policies, the Patriarchs and their respected
Christian communities will disappear in the foreseeable future.

In response to these affronts, I, along with several other members
of Congress, signed a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan urging
him to end his limits on religious freedom regarding the Ecumenical
Patriarch. The practices of the Turkish government, as we expressed to
the President, "clearly reflect (his) policy of viewing the Ecumenical
Patriarchate as a strictly Turkish institution, when in fact it
provides spiritual and moral guidance for millions of believers
worldwide." Congress isn’t alone in its scrutiny of Turkish
repression. The State Department’s 2007 Report on Human Rights cites
Turkey’s denial of the Ecumenical Patriarchs request to reopen the
Halki seminary on the island of Heybeli, which was closed in 1971 when
it nationalized all private institutes of higher education. If Turkey
is to remain a secular state, it must make serious efforts to stop
such behavior, and Congress must continue to press Turkey to follow a
path to religious tolerance of peaceful minorities.

* * *

Rep. Ed Royce, Republican of California, is the Ranking Member on the
Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.

****************************************** *********************************

5. Through a media seminar, regional journalists get their first-ever
glimpse of Nagorno-Karabakh

by Emil Sanamyan

STEPANAKERT, Karabakh — For two weeks this July journalists from
throughout the Caucasus were in Nagorno Karabakh for a seminar
organized by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), a
London-based nongovernment organization.

The formal reason was training — with a special guest lecturer
shipped in from Northern Ireland — and the seminar’s more than a
dozen participants did go through several grueling days of sessions on
subjects like conflict resolution and collaborative writing. They also
covered the presidential elections, meeting candidates, officials,
voters and touring polling stations around Karabakh.

But the IWPR seminar also provided most of these journalists with a
first-ever opportunity to see Karabakh.

"There is practically no information about Karabakh in Georgia,"
says Dmitry Avaliani, a former IWPR staff member and now editor for 24
Hours, one of the largest Tbilisi dailies.

"We recently had a premier of a Georgian-made film Journey to
Karabakh, set during the war here [in the early 1990s]," says Mr.
Avaliani. "And so my friends were seriously wondering if it was safe
for me to come here."

Salla Nazarenko has since April led the IWPR’s Cross Caucasus
Journalism Network — a three-year project funded by the European
Commission, through which the seminar was organized, and involving
more than fifty journalists from around the Caucasus.

"Nowadays people [in the Caucasus] do not have much of an
opportunity to travel in their own region," says Mrs. Nazarenko, who
is originally from Finland and is now based in Tbilisi.

"There is a lot of hate speech, a lot of propaganda," she said. The
IWPR is hoping to break those stereotypes through exchanges such that
organized in Stepanakert.

Still, there were no Azerbaijani participants. "The official opinion
of the Azerbaijani government is that people should not come here,"
says Mrs. Nazarenko. "So we did not want to put people at risk of
problems back home."

* Salla Nazarenko, IWPR, Tbilisi

"It is surprisingly quite, beautiful, easy-going. I understand that
this is just the surface, and there may be processes going on
underneath. But it is pleasant to be here."

* Dmitry Avaliani, 24 Hours newspaper, Tbilisi

"It was a surprise for me to see a normal modern town [Stepanakert]
virtually without any traces of war, with infrastructure and working
state institutions. That said, when you go out of town you do see the
war-time destruction, particularly in Shushi."

* Akhra Smyr, Chegemskaya Pravda newspaper, Sukhum (Abkhazia)

"Unlike in Abkhazia, the state here by and large has addressed main
social issues, rebuilt Stepanakert. And guaranteeing normal life is
the main basis for people’s trust in the state authorities —
something we saw first-hand at the elections."

* Bella Ksalova, independent journalist, Cherkessk (Russia’s North Caucasus)

"There is much development here in Stepanakert, in terms of services
it is quite in step with what I saw in Yerevan, for example. The
nature too is unusual, although the windy mountainous road here is not
easy to handle."

*********************************** ****************************************

6. Observers on the July 19 presidential elections in Karabakh

Editor’s note: Ms. Alaverdian, Mr. Kocharian, Mr. Williams and Mr.
Zatulin made their comments in July 19-20 interviews with the Armenian
Reporter in Stepanakert. Mr. Sheinis and Mr. Markedonov spoke during a
press conference in Stepanakert. All arrived in Karabakh to observe
the July 19 elections.

* Konstantin Zatulin, member of the Russian State Duma (Parliament)
from the ruling United Russia party and director of the Moscow-based
CIS Institute ():

"It is undeniable that as much as they insist that Kosovo is a
unique example, there are commonalities.

"And with regard to Kosovo and Karabakh, both places want self
determination and in both regions the creation of the mechanisms of
statehood are present. I would like to stress that these prerequisites
were established much earlier and in a much more comprehensive way in
Karabakh. Kosovo’s quasi-independence has been under the protectorate
of NATO. And with regard to Karabakh, here the people themselves
reached independence."

I believe that if Western leaders lean toward the recognition of
Kosovo’s independence, that process would likely have a snowball
effect on other unrecognized regions."

* Sergei Markedonov (center) of the Moscow-based Institute for
Political and Military Analysis ():

"The most important result of these elections is that Nagorno Karabakh
realized the constitutional transfer of power from one political
leader to another. In other words, the leadership was transferred not
through a ‘velvet’ revolution or through a military coup. That is a
very crucial moment, which gives us the opportunity to say that the
Republic of Nagorno Karabakh is a de facto, established, developed
state organism. Here, [unlike in Azerbaijan] leadership is not
transferred from father to son. This is a very important element."

* Paul Williams (right, with other American observers) of the Public
International Law and Policy Group and former State Department lawyer:

"Without a question, these elections will benefit the peaceful
settlement of [the Karabakh] conflict. I am sure that many countries
in Europe place great importance on the democratic processes being
carried out in [Karabakh] and recognize the development of democracy
here. In a few weeks, the international community will have forgotten
[critical] statements by European officials, but will remember for a
long time to come the fact that free and fair elections were carried
out in [Karabakh]."

* Viktor Sheinis (right) of the Russian Institute of World Economy and
International Relations, former member of the Russian State Duma
(Parliament) (1990-99) with opposition Yabloko Party:

"The Russian [monitoring] delegation registers that the progress of
democracy in Karabakh is obvious. These elections proved to the
international community that Karabakh has matured and is expanding its

* Shavarsh Kocharian of the opposition National Democratic Party and
four-time member of Armenia’s Parliament (1990-2007):

"By not putting his candidacy for a third term for President, Mr.
Ghoukasian not only protected Karabakh’s constitution but more
importantly returned ethical and moral conduct to Armenian politics.
Furthermore, Mr. Ghoukasian himself stressed many times, that the
elections weren’t conducted for the international community but for
the people of Artsakh who by proclaiming their independence, chose a
democratic path."

* Larisa Alaverdian, member of Armenia’s Parliament from the
opposition Heritage Party and former Ombudswoman for Human Rights:

"Here they are talking about who won. I believe that the people won in
the realization that these elections are politically significant. I am
convinced that majority of the electors went to the polls to show that
Artsakh exists and that it can conduct democratic elections."

******************************** *******************************************

7. Sedition trial concludes as prosecutor demands three years in
prison for Zhirair Sefilyan

* Verdict is due on August 6

by Tatul Hakobian

YEREVAN — The trial of Zhirair Sefilyan, wartime commander of
Nagorno-Karabakh’s Shushi battalion, and two others on sedition
charges wrapped up last week at the Center and Nork-Marash court here,
with verdicts expected on August 6. Mr. Sefilyan is the head of the
Armenian Volunteers’ Association. On trial with him was association
member Vahan Aroyan and Vardan Malkhasyan of the Fatherland and Honor

In a closed meeting of the Armenian Volunteers’ Association, held at
the Yerevan Dance Academy on December 2, leaders of the organization
made speeches, which according to prosecutors, called for the forcible
overthrow of Armenia’s government.

In court on July 30, prosecutor Arthur Mkrtchian made closing
arguments. He said that although Mr. Sefilyan in his speech had not
directly called for the overthrow of Armenia’s constitutional order by
force, his speech was the "logical continuation" of Mr. Malkhasyan’s
speech, which did.

Mr. Mkrtchian demanded three years’ imprisonment for Mr. Sefilyan
and Mr. Aroyan, and two and half years for Mr. Malkhasyan.

The three defendants and their lawyers were allowed to make closing
arguments on July 31. They said they were not guilty and argued that
their prosecution was politically motivated. Mr. Sefilyan’s lawyers,
Vahe Grigorian and Ara Zakarian, urged presiding judge Mnatsakan
Martirossian to acquit the defendants.

Attorney Mushegh Shushanian likewise urged that his client, Mr.
Malkhasyan, be acquitted.

Operatives of Armenia’s National Security Service on December 9,
2006, arrested Mr. Sefilyan while he was dining with his wife and
Ralph C. Yirikian, general manager of the mobile-phone operator
Vivacell. At the time of his arrest, Mr. Sefilyan had on his person a
loaded Makarov pistol, which was a present from the onetime commander
of Karabakh’s defense forces, Samvel Babayan. On several occasions,
Mr. Babayan has claimed that Mr. Sefilyan was arrested because he and
his sympathizers planned to support Mr. Babayan’s opposition Alliance
(Dashink) Party in Armenia’s May 12 parliamentary elections.

Mr. Malkhasyan was arrested on the same day, while Mr. Aronian was
arrested a few days later.

Mr. Sefilyan and Mr. Malkhasyan were charged under Article 301 of
Armenia’s Criminal Code, which makes it a crime to call publicly for
the use of force in order to change the constitutional order. The
article envisions a minimum of three months’ imprisonment.

On December 19, some Yerevan newspapers published minutes of the
speeches of Mr. Malkhasyan and Mr. Sefilyan at the meeting in

According to these published accounts, Mr. Malkhasyan said that
Armenia was ruled by its enemies; "Being liberated of them is a matter
of the salvation of the Armenian people. When the goal is virtuous,
clean, patriotic, there should be no discrimination in the means;
without delay, with weapons, by armed struggle, by rebellion, with
everything, by all means, we must be liberated of these veiled Turks,
who are only Armenian in their last names. . . . We are dealing with a
group of bandits, criminals, bandits, skinheads, the scum of the
criminal world. It is necessary to fight them in their way, blood,
fire on the enemy, in every way, by every means."

Mr. Sefilyan’s speech, as the prosecutor confirmed, did not directly
incite violence.

In the sharpest passages of his speech, Mr. Sefilyan is reported to
have said nothing will happen until "we organize." He repeated,
"Kocharian, Serge, get out," referring to the president and then
Defense Minister Serge Sargsian. "These people will not get out
through peaceful demonstrations; they are not going to get out by
external pressure. If we can organize and create a serious force with
quality, they will get out."

Mr. Sefilyan then went on apparently to endorse Mr. Malkhasyan’s
call for violence. He reportedly said, "Referring to the admonition of
our comrades: ‘let us not stint in our means; let us not discriminate
among means,’ I agree, but first let us get organized."

In what was presumably a reference to the May 12 elections, Mr.
Sefilyan is reported to have continued, "We have a most important
issue, to be freed of these rulers, which means we must become so
organized in these few months that we are able to stop these people
from reproducing."

****************************** *********************************************

8. Uncertainty surrounds the case of Alexander Arzoumanian

by Tatul Hakobyan

YEREVAN — By a court decision, the detention of former foreign
minister Alexander Arzoumanian, arrested on May 7, has been extended
until September 7. Mr. Arzoumanian, who is accused of money
laundering, has been interrogated four times and has refused to
testify each time.

In an interview with the Armenian Reporter, Mr. Arzoumanian’s
defense attorney Hovik Arsenian said that his client has simply
advised investigators to question "Sashik Aghazarian, and everything
will become clear to you. You will see that my innocence will be

Two investigators, sent to Moscow on the case, have already
interrogated Mr. Arzoumanian’s friend Sashik Aghazarian. Mr.
Aghazarian confirmed that he had sent money to Mr. Arzoumanian and
insisted that it was "clean" money.

The transfers were addressed to nine people. Mr. Aghazarian has
confirmed that the money was transferred at Mr. Arzoumanian’s request,
but refused to explain why it was sent to different people.

Mr. Arsenian, the attorney, offered this explanation: "The bank
withholds additional percentages on transfers of more than $20,000,
which is why the total amount of money, $178,000 was transferred in
portions so as to avoid surcharges, which is not a crime."

Mr. Arsenian insists that the money laundering charges are based on
presumptions and suspicions, not solid facts. He says the prosecution
must prove that the money had been obtained criminally by the sender
and that Mr. Arzoumanian was aware of this.

In May, Armenia’s National Security Service issued a press release,
according to which Mr. Arzoumanian was in Moscow on April 24-26, 2007,
and "after reaching an agreement with Russian citizen Levon Markos,
who has been wanted for financial fraud since 2005, . . . transferred
money from suspicious sources to Armenia."

The evidence that the money was transferred by Mr. Aghazarian, a
businessperson, and not Mr. Markos, who is a wanted man in Armenia,
leads Mr. Arsenian to hope that his client will be cleared.

**************************************** ***********************************

9. The silent screams of phantom monuments

* Part 2

by Armen Hakobyan

Note: Part 1 appeared in the July 28 edition of the Armenian Reporter.

YEREVAN — It turns out that 19th and 20th century historic buildings
in Yerevan are not being destroyed. They are being renovated.
"Renovation" is the precise word that city officials like to use when
discussing these buildings. It is not by chance that they use this
word, because the word in and of itself means to rebuild and redo
something with care and calculation. It also means that these historic
buildings will be restored in their original locations or at the very
least rebuilt and relocated. On the other hand, if any building has
been deemed a historic site, it has to have the corresponding
certificate and be included on the state list of historic buildings.

* Monuments caught between old, new lists

The original state list of historic buildings in Yerevan is no longer
considered valid. A new list was compiled and ratified in 2004. By
that time construction throughout the city was well underway, and many
old, architecturally, culturally, or historically important buildings
were being damaged or were already torn down to make way for new
"elite" buildings.

Marietta Gasparian, a doctor of science in architecture and a senior
lecturer at Yerevan State University of Architecture and Construction,
explained how this new list of historic buildings came to be formed.
According to Dr. Gasparian, there was no particular science or logic
behind which buildings were chosen to be on the list. Her colleague,
president of the Architects’ Union of Armenia, Mkrtich Minasyan
postulates that the timeframe between the old list and the compilation
of the new list lent itself to the destruction of many historic sites.

Samvel Danielyan, the chief architect of Yerevan, maintains that
through the efforts of the city and the Commission on the Protection
of Historic Buildings, a government decree was issued in 2004 to
compile and ratify a list of Yerevan’s historic buildings. According
to Mr. Danielyan the original list was fairly wide in its scope and
included on the list were buildings that did not present any cultural
or historic value. "The 2004 list clarified everything and became for
us a working direction," Mr. Danielyan said and stressed, "Presently,
whatever we do, we consult that list and proceed accordingly."

In response to our comment that in the absence of a list of historic
buildings many buildings whose status was in limbo were either
destroyed or damaged, Mr. Danieylan said the following: "It is true
that due to a lack of a clear agreement on the list, some buildings
were destroyed. Similar instances occurred during the Soviet regime as
well. This situation continued on throughout the 1990s, until a new
decree was issued. Presently, I promise that our activities always
adhere to the list of historic buildings."

The official list of historic buildings of Yerevan in reality is
composed of two lists. One includes buildings which must not be moved;
the other includes those that can be relocated.

On the first list are those historic buildings that are not subject
to relocation, regardless of whether they are restored. We were
informed by Samvel Danielyan that in the city center of Yerevan alone
there are 226 such buildings.

With regard to those buildings that have been deemed relocatable,
the question arises as to why they should be relocated at all. The
problem is that buildings of that category have already either been
destroyed or "renovated" and because there has been significant
construction surrounding these buildings, they have either become
isolated or no longer fit in to their new environment.

Taking this fact into consideration and also added to this, the
continuation of construction particularly around the Main Boulevard
(and earlier, Northern Boulevard), it was decided that there are
historic buildings which should or could be relocated. What would be
the point of moving these buildings? Mr. Danielyan said, "These
historic buildings have been built in a haphazard formation, and in
their positions did not represent any cultural value. But if we were
to bring those buildings and reconstruct them in one location, then
they would represent a civic value. It was in this vein that the
second list was compiled, which includes 14 historic buildings which
during the process of construction may be relocated."

Mr. Minasyan of the Architects’ Union doesn’t agree. He believes the
value of the historic building is lost when it is relocated. "All that
will remain is for us to visually see that these buildings had once
existed but that they have been torn away from their roots."

Ms. Gasparyan and Arsen Kharatian, an activist with the Sksela (It
has begun) youth movement, concurred and added that a building’s
historic value is lost once it is relocated, no matter how well it is
rebuilt, reassembled, or restored.

A number of buildings of cultural and historic value have already
been destroyed, and whether one agrees to relocate them or not is no
longer an issue. However you cannot use the term "relocation" for
everything. And in Yerevan, there is such an example.

* Is the example of relocation exemplary?

There is one example in Yerevan that all our interview subjects
mentioned, including Samvel Danielyan. It is the Soghomonian building,
built during the second half of the 19th century. The Republican Party
headquarters were housed there in the 1990s.

This historic building was located on Toumanian street, at the
corner of Northern Boulevard, where the ironically named Hin Erivan
(Old Yerevan) restaurant now sits. The original building on that site
was relocated, and is now in the building housing once again the
Republican Party headquarters on Melik-Atamian Avenue. This was
according to the chief architect. When asked if this was indeed the
exact same building, he said, "Well, the situation has changed.
Fundamentally it is the same building. Certain changes were made to
it, however."

Is it really the same building? It is interesting that when we asked
Mkrtich Minasyan this question, his response was: "It is the same
building. However in its original location it was built on a vertical
line whereas in its new location it has been restored to be angular."

"It is no longer the same building then in reality?"

"It isn’t the same. I am in complete agreement with you. I want to
repeat that during relocation, certain elements are lost. There is no
argument there. You are completely right. The issue is that in order
not to lose certain architectural elements from the 19th century,
another architectural solution was found."

"That is a style solution; but it is no longer the same building?"

"Of course it’s no longer the same building. It is not in its
original location. And it will be a source of confusion for future

When we asked Dr. Gasparyan about this relocation she had the
following to say: "You said that you are not an expert, but even you
can see how poorly it was restored. Not only have they used new
building materials but the whole architectural logic has been tampered
with. Previously this building was constructed vertically and now it
is angular. This is a case where even the artistic and architectural
appearance of the building was not preserved. That is why relocations
are a negative occurrence."

* What is to happen to Old Yerevan?

According to Dr. Gasparyan, when talking about the relocation or
destruction of historic buildings one has to take into consideration
that today in Yerevan there is no longer any evidence of 19th and 20th
century buildings. For this reason, "we had gone to the former prime
minister, Andranik Margarian, and requested that a segment of the Main
Boulevard (Aram, Byuzand, Yeghnik Koghbatsi, and Abovian Streets),
which in reality was a unique environment and could have presented
itself as a neighborhood or community to preserve these historic
buildings. It is one of the oldest sections of the city, where the
buildings date back to 1830s. This is probably the optimum location."

The president of the Architects’ Union confirms this, noting that
several historic buildings are found on Abovian Street, and the area
behind SIL Plaza, which is more or less preserved, is currently slated
as the destination for old buildings. Samvel Danielyan elaborated and
noted that there are five historic buildings from the first list which
will not be relocated along a section of the Main Boulevard, which
borders Abovian and Yeznik Koghbatsi, Aram and Byuzand streets, And if
those are going to remain in their original location, then other
historic buildings will be brought to that location and it is in this
vein that it was proposed to call the area "Old Yerevan."

According to Mr. Danielian, the new area of "Old Yerevan" was
divided up into five lots to be auctioned off and presently all five
have new owners. He went on to say that an important part of the deal
is that these owners have to realize the city’s vision for this area
and they cannot make any fundamental changes. These investors are
considered "special" by the city and they are allowed to add certain
things and complete certain elements, but they have to realize the
city’s project as a part of the deal.

He went on to say, that although all five historic buildings have
been "renovated" during construction, they and other older buildings’
facade and number of floors will be maintained. They will serve the
public functions for which they were originally built: center for
crafts, exhibition halls, and the like, with interior courtyards to
which the public will have access.

Moreover, Mr. Danielyan promised that Yerevan’s City Council
building will also be relocated to this area. But, oddly, the City
Council building is not on the list of the 14 buildings slated to be
relocated to this particular neighborhood.

Yerevan’s City Hall did not answer our question as to who the five
new owners of those lots were and how much they paid for them. It
remains to be seen whether the investors will preserve the buildings
without adding several more floors, and by so doing completely defeat
the purpose of the relocation.

As an example of protecting historic buildings, Samvel Danielyan
spoke of a historic building next to Yeghishe Charents’ home-museum,
which was being restored. In his words, it was being "protected" in
the following method: the old building was staying in its original
location, while a newly constructed complex was built around it. "This
is a method used throughout the world," Mr. Danielyan said.

I went to the mentioned location. It is true. The facade of the
first 2.5 to 3 stories is constructed in the 19th century tradition,
with black stones. You can even see some older stones. But that’s
about it.

Our young activist, Arsen Kharatyan, who is not an architect, has
this to say about all of this:

‘The loss of architectural monuments is a tragedy for a city.
However, we see people at the core of this issue. People who have
lived in those buildings. The history of their lives are within those
walls.Now those people will no longer have the opportunity to dwell
there any more. This has to be at the center of our concerns. As to
the political point of view of the officials, it cannot be more
illogical when you claim public needs and interests at the heart of
your actions and at the same time drive people out of their homes. Did
the public ask for this?"

When foreigners, guests in our city are interested, in a uniquely
Armenian gesture we proudly stick up our uniquely Armenian noses and
recite, "Yerevan is 10 years older than the eternal city of Rome."
Very soon, in only a year’s time, in a way that is unique to us, we
will celebrate the 2790th anniversary of Erebuni, the precursor of
Yerevan. We, Armenians like to be proud of our capital city, Yerevan.
We have every right to be proud. Or, we had….

***************************************** **********************************

10. From Armenia, in brief

* Taxi drivers win a temporary reprieve

YEREVAN — After two days of demonstrations by independent taxi
drivers and cab companies last week the government introduced changes
to new licensing regulations. On March 22, 2007, by decree the
government had introduced and ratified a new licensing regulation for
taxi drivers that required them to pay an annual state duty of 200,000
drams (about $590) for each cab and would subsequently ban them from
using vehicles manufactured more than 10 years ago. This new
regulation caused a storm of protest.

At the last government session, Prime Minister Serge Sargsian stated
that the government must be guided by certain principles when the
rules of the game are to be changed; the government is obliged to give
proper notice and provide a certain amount of time for changes to be
enacted. Therefore a new clause was added to the government decree
which extended the timeframe for all taxi drivers and taxi companies
to comply with the new regulation to April 1, 2008.

The prime minister gave corresponding directives to the ministers of
finance and economy and transport and to the Tax Department to ensure
that this measure is carried out according to the new clause.

* A handful of soil became a tractor full of soil

YEREVAN — Handfuls of soils brought to a protest last week organized
by the Public Ecological Coalition of Armenia, which includes 32
environmental organizations and other NGOs, changed into tractors full
of soil. A huge foundation pit six meters deep in the heart of Yerevan
had caused quite a stir among the city’s concerned citizens. The pit,
located in the Opera Garden by Swan Lake next to Arno Babajanian’s
statue became a symbol of the destruction of green zones in the city.

Organizers had been unsuccessful in determining who the site
belonged to and city officials were not divulging any information.

The coalition therefore had invited an open air press conference and
urged participants to bring a handful of soil with them to place in
the pit as a symbolic gesture of filling up the hole and taking back
their city. And indeed, the city of Yerevan one night filled the pit
and people woke up to see the eyesore gone.

* Robert Fisk in Yerevan

Robert Fisk addressed a capacity crowd at the American University of
Armenia in Yerevan on August 2. Mr. Fisk is a journalist with The
Independent (London) and has authored several critically acclaimed
books. During his lecture at the university, Mr. Fisk maintained that
Turkey has been successful in disseminating its position to world
opinion that Armenians were deported during the First World War in
order to avert a civil war within the Ottoman Empire.

According to, Mr. Fisk said, "After the
assassination of Hrant Dink, I was reading the world press. Reuters
had prepared material from Trabzon, which included everything except
the true motivation behind the murder. It cited social causes, that
young people had access to guns, etc. Moreover, the New York Times
constantly talks about ‘good relations between Armenians and Turks in
the Ottoman Empire,’ but everyone knows that this is not the truth,
but nevertheless it becomes a viewpoint."

Mr. Fisk has authored Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War, which is a
book dedicated to Lebanon’s desperate travails. In his recent book,
The Great War for Civilization; The Conquest of the Middle East, he
dedicated a chapter to the Armenian Genocide. He has cited historical
documents and conducted interviews with survivors of the Genocide who
had settled in Lebanon and Syria.

With regard to the Karabakh conflict, Mr. Fisk stated,
"Historically, the conflict between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan
was unavoidable." He said that he believes that the Karabakh issue is
part of the larger Armenian Question, although it is not high on the
list of priorities of the international community. "Today the world is
much more concerned over developments in the Middle East. The Middle
East is more dangerous than Karabakh. The borders of countries which
emerged after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, were drawn by France
and Great Britain proceeding from their own interests."

* World Bank provides funds for Armenia’s tertiary canals

On July 31 the Board of Directors of the World Bank approved $5
million in credit for additional financing for the Irrigation
Development Project (IDP) for Armenia. The financing will go toward
the rehabilitation of tertiary irrigation systems.

According to Atibek Ghazarian, director of the Irrigation
Development Project for Armenia, as of 2001, 190 kilometers of
irrigation canals have already been built through a $7.2 million loan
from the World Bank. He stated, "Of course this is only a small
portion because we have 15,000 kilometers of irrigation canals
throughout the whole republic."

But Mr. Ghazarian stressed the significance of what has been
upgraded: that 190 km stretch was one of the most important parts,
where on average there was a water loss of 30 percent. For the
purposes of irrigation, 1 to 1.5 billion cubic liters of water are
used; however only 600 million cubic liters of water reach the fields.
In other words there is a loss of 0.4 to 0.5 billion cubic liters.

It is because of this loss that there will be further funding for
the rehabilitation of the tertiary irrigation systems. Mr. Ghazaryan
cited the example of Massis district in the marz of Ararat. Here they
irrigate the fields mechanically, through the use of pumps. Last year
through this fund they were able to rehabilitate 4.5 km of irrigation
canals but were unable to complete the remaining 1.2 km due to a lack
of funds. With this new funding it will be possible to complete it.

Avetik Dallakian, the executive director of the Water Users’
Association (WUA) of Massis informed us that seven communities were
included in the IDP program. However of those seven only five
districts, Massis, Dashtavan, Hayanist, Dzorak, and Tarakert had their
irrigation systems repaired while the other two will now be completed
with the additional funding from the World Bank. Mr. Dallakian said
that the resulting benefits from the rehabilitation were obvious.

Prior to rehabilitation, it would take eight to nine hours for the
water to reach agricultural fields. Now they are able to supply water
in 15 to 30 minutes. Aside from this, water loss after rehabilitation
is almost nil. The Water Users’ Association services 20 communities in
Massis, which has about 500 km of irrigation canals.

Arshavir Bznuni, a farmer who has a 20-hectare property near Massis,
is very pleased with the rehabilitation of the irrigation canal
system. "This irrigation system for our people was a life saver. Now
we are able to supply our fields with more than sufficient water. Last
year, half the water would be lost due to the failing irrigation

According to World Bank officials this additional funding will
realize some 110 km of tertiary level canals for Water Users’
Associations in 37 communities in Ararat, Yerevan, Armavir,
Gegharkunik, Aragatsotn, and Kotayk marzes.

– Armen Hakobyan

* Community Self-Help Fund allocates $160,000 to nine projects

At an awards ceremony on August 1, the U.S. chargé d’affaires,
Ambassador Rudolph Perina handed out nine Community Self-Help Fund
grants. The Community Self-Help Fund is a relatively new U.S. Embassy
program designed to assist local communities implement small
grassroots projects. The amount of the awarded grants this year total

This was the seventh round, where nine proposals were accepted whose
geography of implementation is Gegharkunik, Siunik, Kotayk, Lori,
Ararat, and Vayots Dzor. The projects include a youth center (Spitak,
Lori Marz, $21,389); renovation of a school gymnasium (Aintab, Ararat
Marz, $14,389); renovation of a water pipeline (Verin Getashen,
Gegharkunik marz $22,279) are some of the grants awarded.

The Community Self-Help Fund was launched in November 2003 and is
managed by USAID and implemented through Save the Children.

During a briefing held at the U.S. Embassy, Ambassador Perina said,
"Even more important than the assistance we have provided is the
community’s ability to help themselves by garnering local resources
and providing volunteer efforts to ensure the success and vitality of
their programs. In fact, local communities contribute more than one
third of the cost of the project."

Since its inception, 1,150 proposals have been submitted, of which
52 have been chosen. Of those 46 have already been completed. This
initiative has already provided $784,000 in grants, which cover a
range of restoration and renovation projects throughout the country.

Ambassador Perina underscored that 65,000 people have benefited as a
result of the realization of these projects. The country director of
Save the Children, Armenia, Irina Soghoyan added that of those who
have benefited, 80 percent are women and children and 562 people have
had the opportunity to secure temporary employment.

The program requires that the recipient community provide or
contribute 20 percent of the project’s resources. Not only have
recipient communities contributed the required amount, they have gone
above and beyond this and figures show that communities contributed 34
percent. In the current round those figures will reach 39 percent.
According to Ms. Soghoyan, this demonstrates that these communities
are beginning to help themselves.

Tamara Hovanissian, principal of the No. 1 kindergarten in the city
of Agarak, in Siunik marz, received $19,150 to renovate her school’s
building. It turns out that she had applied for this grant seven times
and was rejected every time but was never discouraged. She learned how
to write the grant properly and was naturally very emotional that her
grant was finally approved. After the renovation of the kintergarten,
200 children of Agarak will not be denied access to school in the

– Armen Hakobyan

**************************************** ***********************************

11. Commentary: The Orthodox presence in America

Its meaning … and its prospects

by Vigen Guroian

While in graduate school at Drew University during the 1970s, I asked
my teacher, the late Will Herberg, author of the modern classic in
religious sociology Protestant, Catholic, Jew, why he did not include
Orthodox Christianity in that book. He explained that in 1955, when
the book was published, Orthodoxy was not clearly on the radar screen.
It had not yet settled securely beneath the broad religious and
cultural canopy that Herberg named the "American Way of Life." Rather,
Orthodoxy still strongly exhibited characteristics of the immigrant
church, as the third generation had not yet come into its own and
established a distinctively American presence.

Habits of the Heart (1985) and The Naked Public Square (1984) were
arguably the two most influential books of the 1980s on the religious
situation in America, but they too said little or nothing about
Orthodoxy. Robert Bellah and his collaborators apparently did not
interview Orthodox Christians nor feel the need to report on them in
Habits of the Heart. And only in the closing pages of The Naked Public
Square did Richard John Neuhaus raise the subject. In a disclaimer, he
opined that he saw no need to mention Orthodoxy. "In the context of
the present discussion," Neuhaus wrote, " [it] is almost possible to
pass over the Orthodox completely." This was because Orthodox
Christians continue to be "uncertain about whether" they constitute
"the church in America, an American denomination, or the Eastern
Orthodox Church in Exile" (1984: 263). A decade after my conversation
with Will Herberg, Neuhaus was repeating what Herberg had told me.

In the early 1990s, James Davison Hunter’s Culture Wars: The
Struggle to Define America (1991) came on the scene. Once more, the
Orthodox were not present, but for a cryptic comment that "the Greek
Orthodox [had] threatened to withdraw from the National Council of
Churches because the council opposed both Bible reading and prayer in
public schools" (1991: 270), which, in any case, was certainly not the
whole story.

What were the reasons for this silence about Orthodox Christianity
in these important, influential books on religion and American life?
The academy’s ignorance of Orthodoxy and indifference toward it played
no small part. Nearly 30 years in the profession have demonstrated to
me first hand how little attention is given to Eastern Christianity in
seminaries and theological schools, as well as departments of theology
and religious studies, and what little will there is to correct that
situation. Yet this ignorance alone does not account for the silence,
the near invisibility of the Orthodox churches in these studies.

There is more than a smidgen of truth in Neuhaus’s disclaimer. Even
today, Orthodoxy has not articulated a clear, public vision of its
identity and purpose vis-à-vis the other major religions and American
culture at large. In recent years, though, Orthodox Christians have
begun to see themselves as members of a denomination much like the
vast numbers in Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church here
in America. That conformity to the American Way is something my old
teacher Will Herberg could certainly have addressed — though it
betrays the high "churchly" ecclesiology that Orthodox Christianity
brought to America. Furthermore, fourth- and fifth-generation Orthodox
and a growing number of converts are dropping the ethnic nomenclature
to describe their faith to others. For better or worse, they are
catching up with the Protestants, Catholics, and Jews that Herberg
described in his book.

Nevertheless, most Orthodox parishes, even today, remain at least
nominally Russian, Syrian, or Serbian, and the major jurisdictions
continue to use the national and ethnic nomenclature. Many parishes,
in all jurisdictions, stubbornly retain an immigrant church mindset,
owing particularly to the impact of new immigrations from the Middle
East and the former Soviet Union. Nevertheless, even in the ethnic
parish, the social imperative to define one’s faith in
contradistinction to the Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, or Roman
Catholics down the street is a constant of everyday life. In other
words, a denominational mentality is next to "natural" in America, and
Orthodoxy has yet to prove that it is an exception to that rule.

"Denominationalism," of course, contradicts Orthodoxy’s catholic,
"churchly" ecclesiology. Yet what happens among ordinary believers and
church attendees on North American soil does not always coincide with
formal theological pronouncements and church dogma. Whether, on the
one hand, there is or should be an American Orthodoxy or, on the other
hand, whether one should speak, instead, of Orthodoxy in America or of
America, is secondary to this denominational sense of religious
belonging that seeps into Orthodox consciousness and affects Orthodox
behavior in America. That is why I choose to begin with a discussion
of the historical roots and complexion of this denominational
mentality in America and among Orthodox Christians in particular.1
Though in the latter half of the essay I will turn to the specific
question of whether or not it is useful to speak of an "American
Orthodoxy" or alternatively of "Orthodoxy in America," and draw some
conclusions about the future of Orthodoxy in America.

The Heresy of Denominationalism

During the entire span of their participation in the modern ecumenical
movement since the turn of the 20th century, the Orthodox have
strenuously denounced denominationalism. They have maintained that it
contradicts the fundamental unity of the church. The Orthodox report
at the third Assembly of the World Council of Churches, held in New
Delhi in 1961, is a good example. The delegates declared: "The
Orthodox Church, by her inner conviction and consciousness, has a
special and exceptional position in the divided Christendom, as bearer
of, and witness to, the tradition of the ancient, undivided Church,
from which all existing denominations stem, by the way of reduction
and separation." They insisted that under no circumstances anywhere or
at any time would the Orthodox accept "the idea of a ‘parity’ of
denomination" or any sort of "interdenominational adjustment"
(Limouris, 1994: 30) as the basis for church unity. They drew this
argument from Orthodox Christology, Trinitarian theology, and
ecclesiology, and it is dogmatically correct.

It is the Orthodox position that the mystical unity of the Church in
Christ must be expressed in a tangible, visible unity. In other words,
to merely declare unity of belief, whilst remaining institutionally
divided into denominations, even with a high level of cooperation, is
no real unity. I do not quarrel with this stance. Indeed, I affirm it
wholeheartedly. My quarrel is that the Orthodox churches have not
adequately scrutinized their own behavior in pluralistic societies.
Indeed, they are complicit in the rise and growth of denominationalism
in North America. This self-study would also sharpen and make more
persuasive the high ecclesiology and goal of unity that Orthodox

Here I can only suggest on what basis this self-critical analysis
should proceed and to what conclusions it might lead. Orthodox
spokesmen continue to insist that their church is unique and has
avoided the denominational and sectarian traps into which Protestants
and Roman Catholics have fallen. They maintain that Orthodox
Christians have lived more successfully by the church’s high standards
of catholicity and unity than others. And they argue that Orthodox
ecclesiology is a "prophylactic" against division and fragmentation.
It is highly debatable whether Orthodox ecclesiology is a
"prophylactic" against division, but it is certain that it is no
"vaccine" against denominationalism.

The ironic, next to tragic, reality is that in North America,
Orthodox Christians live and work together as citizens but are divided
as Orthodox Christians. Not national boundaries but transported
jurisdictional structures, ethnic identities, and rivalries, as well
as diverse cultural practices keep Orthodox divided in America. There
is positive value in these institutions, identities, and practices.
National origin and ethnic identity, language and culture, help to
bind the religious community together, at least for a time. That which
is binding, however, may also keep apart religious communities who
share the same faith and, as a result, contribute to the growth of
separate and distinct denominations.

H. Richard Niebuhr made that important observation in his classic
study The Social Sources of Denominationalism (1929). "The cultural
quality of nationalism … rather then [simply] its ethnic character
must be considered as one of the probable sources of
denominationalism." Niebuhr observed that denominations, like the
transplanted national churches from which they originate, "are
separated and kept distinct by differences of language and of habitual
modes of thought" more than by "physical traits, and the former are
only incidentally rooted in the latter" (1957: 110). In sociological
terms, therefore, the situation of the Russian, Greek, or Armenian
churches in North America is quite similar to the German or Swedish
Lutheran churches and the Dutch Reformed of an earlier time.

The national church: Its origin and legacy as an American denomination

It is a bitter pill for Orthodox to swallow that they are complicit in
denominationalism. But let me be clear. The issue is not localism or
regionalism. While the structure, mentality, and practices of the
transplanted national church have become building blocks for future
denominations, the situation in Russia, Greece, and Armenia was

Regionalism is not necessarily incompatible with the essential unity
of the church. As far back as at least "the fifth century, beyond the
borders of the empire, there were independent [Orthodox] churches,"
(Meyendorff, 1982: 224) notably, the Armenian and Georgian churches,
headed by local primates. Virtually from their beginning, these
churches established distinct identities theologically and along
cultural and ethnic lines. They reacted against and stubbornly
resisted Byzantine universalism and imperialism, but they were not
schismatic. Later on, independent Orthodox patriarchal sees came into
existence among Bulgarians, Romanians, Serbians, and others. "The
original ideology of these churches was Byzantine. They, therefore,
accepted the principle of a united universal Christian empire,"
observes John Meyendorff. "The failure of Bulgarian and Serbian
leaders, [however], to secure the imperial throne for themselves led
in practice to the creation of monarchies and regional
patriarchates"(1982: 224), Meyendorff continues. Yet even in these
instances "there were no canonical obstacles to the existence of …
patriarchal pluralism. To the contrary, the ancient canons of Nicaea
and subsequent councils were still serving as the backbone of Orthodox
canon law, and these ancient rules sanctioned ecclesiastical
regionalism [with]in the framework of a universal faith" (1982: 225).

Nevertheless, social, cultural, and political forces ultimately
intervened to engender environments far less hospitable to unity.
These include the decline and dissolution of the Byzantine Empire, the
invasion of the Turks, the rise and agonized demise of the Ottoman
Empire, the birth of imperial Russia, and, last but not least, the
birth of modern nationalism and the nation state.

The national churches consciously sought to cultivate Orthodox
people-hood, and by this process arose the idea of a Christian nation.
Alexander Schmemann argues that the national Orthodox church was in
itself justified, particularly as "the ideal and reality of the
universal Christian empire and its counterpart, the ‘imperial’ church,
were wearing thin." In the history of the Orthodox East," he
continues, "the ‘Orthodox nation’ is not only a reality, but in many
ways a ‘success,’ for in spite of all their deficiencies, tragedies
and betrayals, there indeed were such realities as ‘Holy Serbia’ or
‘Holy Russia,’ there took place a national birth in Christ, there
appeared a national church" (1979: 99) — though it was fraught with
ambiguity and danger. The Orthodox national church became a bearer and
symbol of ethnic and national identity. Schmemann concludes, "There is
no need to think of this as a ‘deviation’ — in merely negative and
disparaging terms" (1979: 99).

The trouble is that the rise of secular nationalisms and other
modern intellectual and social movements transformed virtually all of
the national churches into nationalistic churches. The spirit of
nationalism overran the theological norm of universality and undercut
the missionary character of the church. These churches became churches
for the nation, barring all others, and they made compromising
concordats with the secular state. In virtually all instances, whether
among Russians or Serbians, Greeks or Armenians, religio-nationalist
myths and secular ideologies justified the subservience of the
national church to the secular goals of nation building and statehood.

Since at least the French Revolution, the otherwise intelligible
distinction between nation and nationalism has been problematic.
Modern nations and national movements create and embrace nationalism.
Nationalism becomes the "religion" of the modern nation state. And it
is in some real sense obligatory, or, at the very least, highly
convenient, for the national church to pay obeisance to nationalism.
Nationalism becomes the religion of the church as well. A golden calf
is set up inside the holy sanctuary. As Schmemann says, the national
idolatry subverts and threatens to replace the true worship. The very
essence of the Church "begins to be viewed in terms of …
nationalism," This has marked "an alarming … [internal]
deterioration" (1979: 99) of Orthodoxy in the modern era, he adds,
which is eroding the catholic consciousness of Orthodox Christians.

In summation, the Orthodox brought the whole of this history, all of
this cultural and political baggage, with them to America in the first
great waves of immigrations at the start of the 20th century.
Something similar has continued with the new immigrations from the
former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In America, an
instrumentalism, which in the homeland placed the church in service to
nationalism, quite "naturally" transmutes the ethnic parish into what
is functionally speaking a denomination. Under the American Way of
Life, old world nationalism evolves into a distinctively American form
of ethnicity and culture religion that within ecclesial bodies
establishes a mindset that measures ecclesial life not by the great
marks of the church as "one holy, catholic and apostolic church," but
over and against other "churches" that occupy the same space and time.
Even when the ethnic factor dissipates, even when Orthodox of Greek,
Russian or Ukrainian background let go the national or ethnic
nomenclature, the denominational mentality endures. The American
denomination is frequently the "religious" residue of the disappearing
ethnic church.

This, briefly, is the historical and sociological background of
Orthodoxy in North America. But let me be clear: the historical and
sociological analysis does not and cannot yield internal
ecclesiological criteria with which the North American status of the
Orthodox churches can be evaluated theologically. These criteria of
catholicity, apostolicity (evangelism and mission), and unity are
located in creed and confession, liturgy and sacrament. Thus, while at
any given historic moment or physical location, the church may fall
short, these norms remain relevant and binding. Historical
miscalculation and accident do not override the norm of catholicity:
sociological "law" does not negate the freedom of the church.

Orthodox leadership has discussed how to unite the various churches
administratively in America. Neither the content of the faith nor
liturgy are what divide. Such a unity would act to halt the slide into
denominationalism. But after nearly 40 years of serious engagement on
this matter that vision is not reality. Orthodox canon law calls for
this. A state of multiple jurisdictions and dioceses in a single
location is non-canonical. Nevertheless, this problem of unity is not
the principal subject of this essay. It is, rather, the question of
what the Orthodox presence in America means for Orthodoxy, and to
suggest what future course Orthodoxy might take.

* * *

References in this article

Bellah, Robert (1985). Habits of the Heart. University of California
Press. Berkley and Los Angeles, California.

Herberg, Will (1960). Protest-Catholic-Jew. Anchor Books revised
edition. Garden City, New York.

Hopko, Thomas (1982). All the Fullness of God. St. Vladimir’s
Seminary Press. Crestwood, New York.

Hunter, James Davison (1991). Culture Wars. Basic Books. New York.

Limouris, Gennadios, ed. (1994). Orthodox Visions of Ecumenism:
Statements, Messages and Reports of the Ecumenical Movement 1902-1992.
WCC Publications. Geneva.

Meyendorff, John (1982). The Byzantine Legacy in the Orthodox
Church. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Crestwood, New York.

Meyendorff, John (1987). The Vision of Unity. St. Vladimir’s
Seminary Press. Crestwood, New York.

Niebuhr, H. Richard (1968). The Social Sources of Denominationalism.
The World Publishing Company. Cleveland and New York.

Neuhaus, Richard John (1984). The Naked Public Square. William B.
Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Schmemann, Alexander (1964) "Problems of Orthodoxy in America: The
Canonical Problem." St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, 8/2: 67-85.

Schmemann, Alexander (1979). Church, World, Mission. St. Vladimir’s
Seminary Press. Crestwood, New York.

* * *

Vigen Guroian teaches theology and ethics at Loyola College in
Baltimore. He is the author of Incarnate Love: Essays in Orthodox
Ethics, Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a
Child’s Moral Imagination, and most recently, The Fragrance of God.
The above essay will appear in a forthcoming collection titled
"Religious Pluralism in 21st Century American Public Life: Challenges
and Opportunities for Orthodox Christianity," ed. Elizabeth Prodromou
(Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2008). An online audio interview with
Prof. Guroian appears on

* * *

I am aware of the argument that in America we are entering a
post-denominational era, Robert Bellah and his co-writers may not have
examined the beliefs of Orthodox believers and churchgoers in Habits
of the Heart, but if they had, I suspect they would have detected,
even in the 1980s, and especially among American-born Orthodox, the
same wrestling with radical individualism, voluntarism, and commitment
Habits suggests is behind the widespread and accelerating serial
church membership that blurs denominational identities. While among
Orthodox these phenomena may be mitigated by the continuance of strong
ethnic ties and a deeply ingrained sense of religion as "destiny" and
not "choice," and church as a corporate body and not a voluntary
association, nevertheless, the Orthodox have joined the American
religious parade. In an essay written some 30 years ago titled
"Orthodox Christianity and the American Spirit," Thomas Hopko
concludes: "At present there is little doubt that within American
society the adoption of the American view of religion, and the
American religion itself, by the majority of the Orthodox is once more
a following of the path taken [previously] by Roman Catholics,
Protestants, and Jews" (1982: 151). Hopko’s description of the
American religious character and worldview is not new. His
observations are noteworthy, however, precisely because he finds these
characteristics and values in Orthodox Christians. "The content of the
"common faith" of Americans, as I see it," Hopko writes, "is the
doctrine that a person may believe and do whatever he or she wishes as
long as this belief and action does not conflict with rights of others
to do the same…. According to this tenet each individual is obliged
to follow his way privately, with like minded, freely consenting
adults, while publicly supporting freedom of conscience for all in
‘private matters’" — among which religion is included. (1982: 152)

******************************************* ********************************

12. Living in Armenia: The lexicon of the ancients?

by Maria Titizian

Isn’t it time we had a serious national conversation about unifying
the spelling of the Armenian language? This is a question which begs
an answer. Life, however and its many perplexing and unexpected
revelations has demonstrated that there is another national
conversation we need to have before we begin public discourse on
whether the Mesrobian spelling or the much later simplified spelling
that was imposed by the Soviets in the beginning of the 1920s should
be the official spelling of the official language of the Republic of

The other conversation I am talking about involves comprehension —
pure and simple comprehension. The fact that the Mesrobian spelling is
baffling to those who were raised on the later Soviet spelling is
further compounded by the differences between the Eastern and Western
Armenian languages, and to add oil to the fire if you will, is a new
phenomenon we’ll dub Yerevan-Speak.

Yerevan-Speak, in its purest form can be an utterly incomprehensible
jargon, which mixes in slang, decimates words, and proper grammatical
expressions, adds new terms, primarily Russian, sometimes Turkish, and
then discards anything that it feels no longer fits its mold. One
brilliant soul several years ago just before the first
Armenia-Diaspora Conference published a small dictionary for the
befuddled diasporan Armenians flooding into our ancient capital and
who would most likely have absolutely no clue what the Yerevantsis
were saying. It was called "’Chotki’ Hayeren." Chotki, a Russian word,
roughly translates into ‘exact’ or ‘precise.’ The following passage is
an example of Yerevan-Speak provided by the author:

"Svetaforuh cher ashkhatum. Pavaroti vra tormuz tvetsi, benzakalonki
mot. Skorosti ruchken jartvets. Karochi avaria tvetsi. Mi kerp kyasar
jampekov mta hayat."

Translation: The traffic light [Russian] was broken. On the curve
[Russian], I slammed on my brakes [Farsi] near the gas station
[Russian]. The stick shift [Russian] broke. To make a long story short
[Russian], I had an accident [Turkish], took a short cut [who knows
what language] and barely made it back to the hood [Farsi].

Aside from the slang, even when speaking literate Armenian, the
different definition of words or variations in pronunciations have
been the root of many misunderstandings and tension. I can’t tell you
how many times I have walked out of a store in such frustration only
because the salesperson hadn’t been able to understand what I had
requested — sometimes something as simple as milk which I pronounce
as ‘gat’ and they pronounce as something like ‘kaat’. As much as it
irritated me, I now understand where the confusion comes from. If
someone were to say in English, "That child’s behaviour is pat,"
instead of "bad," I too would be confused.

Friends of ours visiting from Canada relayed an incident that will
go down in my own personal history as one of the most unbelievable
instances of misunderstanding. This is not their first trip to
Armenia; they come every year. They have a home here, a business, a
car, and with all its flaws, a deep commitment to this country. The
reason for the history lesson into their lives is to underscore the
fact that these people are not unfamiliar with the many differences of
our spoken language and most times are relatively successful in being
able to be understood. A few days ago they had gone up to a resort at
Lake Sevan, called Harsnaqar, which has a pool, a mini-waterpark,
access to the lake, basketball and tennis courts, jet skis for rent,
and pretty good barbequed Ishkhan fish. You can spend the day at
Harsnaqar by purchasing a day pass and it usually serves as a repreive
from the dust and heat in Yerevan.

At the entrance to this resort, my friend whom we’ll call Mher,
asked the ticket seller, "Avazane dakatsvats e?" To a Western
Armenian, this means, is the pool heated? First of all in Armenia,
when referring to a swimming pool, they say "basayin," which I believe
is Russian, and not "avazan." "Avazan" for the locals means basin. So
when my friend asked if the "avazan" was heated, the ticket seller for
some reason gave him a look of disgust and waved him off. My friend,
at this point agitated, asked what the problem was. The ticket seller
asked him how it would be possible to heat the "avazan" to which my
friend replied, "There are certain advances in technology which allow
for a pool to be heated."

The ticket seller, apparently became even more disturbed and began
making gesticulations with his hands, implying that Mher was a little
light in the head.

In the midst of this exchange, another employee tapped Mher on the
shoulder and said, "Sir, the pool is heated." Mher looked at the
ticket seller, the ticket seller looked at Mher, and then it dawned on
my poor friend what had just transpired. The ticket seller had
understood the question as follows: "Is the basin heated," i.e., "Is
Lake Sevan heated?" He turned back to the ticket seller, trying hard
not to strain his vocal chords and said, "Did you think I meant Lake

When the ticket seller nodded, Mher lost most sense of decorum and
asked, "Do I look like I have horns on my head? Why would I ask if
Lake Sevan is heated? When I said, ‘avazan,’ it means pool!"

To which the ticket seller retorted, "Then why didn’t you just say, basayin?"

This story has been making the rounds in several social circles
around town. It illustrates quite vividly that a national dialogue
addressing the issue of spelling or the inherent differences that
divide Eastern Armenian from Western Armenian is pointless if we have
difficulty simply understanding one another. We need to delve deeper
and take a more thoughtful look at the things which separate us apart
from the obvious. There is a psychological impasse we need to
negotiate. Pronunciation, different meanings to words or expressions
are simply the manifestations of that which alienates us from one
another. The brutal division of our nation imposed by history and
seemingly perpetuated by our own ignorance will continue to fester
until such a time that we become so foreign to each other that we no
longer have the willingness to understand what the other is trying to

I see this scenario being played out time and time again and it not
only saddens me, but it infuriates me. If we do not have the
willingness to come together, to try and understand each other and
build bridges across the tide of history then our enemies will have
won the game once and for all. We do not need anyone to destroy us for
we will have done a fine job of doing that to ourselves, thank you
very much.

******************************************* ********************************

13. Letters

* OSCE and Artsakh: the short version


Tatul Hakobyan took an entire page to explain the hypocrisy, on the
part of the OSCE Minsk group and others, surrounding the independence
of Artsakh ("Doublespeak and double standards — over democracy in
Karabakh," July 21), when he could have summed up the situation in one

"The Minsk Group (and others) do not recognize the independence of
Artsakh because Washington doesn’t want it, and Washington doesn’t
want it because Ankara doesn’t want it."

End. Ende. Fin. Fine. Finis.

Then, there would have been room for: "And Washington is fighting
for the separation of Kosovo from Serbia because Ankara wants it."

Were I writing such a piece, I would close my brief essay with: "It
is common knowledge that when Ankara speaks, the White House and the
State Department fight each other to be the first to kiss the Turkish

Very truly yours,
Avedis Kevorkian
Philadelphia, Pa.

* A delight to read


I just read your July 14 Arts & Culture Section from cover to cover,
and I am amazed at the material published week after week. The variety
of stories, from the interview with Huberta von Voss to the San
Francisco dancers, were a delight to read. I look forward to your
insightful coverage every week.

Thank you for bringing such joy to my life every week.

Very truly yours,
Flora Istanboulian
Fresno, Calif.

****************************************** *********************************

14. Editorial: Toward the primaries

Writing after Turkey’s parliamentary elections last week, a columnist
for the Turkish Daily News pointed out that the voting there was by
old-fashioned paper ballot. Recalling the fiasco with voting by
punched ballots in Florida in 2001 and the flawed electronic voting
system now used in many U.S. states, the columnist argued that the
system used in Turkey "is much more efficient, simple, and
democratic." (Advena Avis, "Let’s praise Turkey’s election," July 28)

The column was an apt reminder that people around the world measure
their democracy by reference to the United States. At its best,
America can serve as a beacon of democracy. At its worst, American
practice becomes an excuse for arbitrary rule.

How America practices democracy matters profoundly to us as American
citizens. It matters to us also as advocates for freedom in Armenia,
in its neighborhood, and around the world.

Should people in budding democracies accept as a universal fact of
life that the law does not apply to the powerful, that officials can
flout the law with impunity? Just over a year ago, New Jersey’s
attorney general got a call from her companion, saying he had been
pulled over for driving an unregistered vehicle, and the van was about
to be impounded. She showed up — to collect their belongings, she
later said. But her presence could be seen as an attempt to intimidate
state troopers into letting her companion off easy. She resigned under

Recounting one of any number of such stories from America tells
people abroad that it is possible to have and enforce a high standard
for official conduct. The outright politicization of the U.S.
Department of Justice in the current administration, on the other
hand, sends the opposite message: that it’s natural for high officials
to use the criminal justice system for partisan advantage.

This is not good for American democracy and it hurts our collective
efforts to build democracy abroad.

We can make similar arguments for the importance of American
leadership by example in a range of important areas.

The environment is one such area.

Diversification of energy sources is a second.

Nuclear nonproliferation is a third. It goes hand in hand with a
commitment to persuasion and diplomacy as the primary way to resolve

* * *

As we prepare to vote in the Democratic or Republican primaries, we
have some tough questions as Armenian-Americans for the would-be
nominees for president.

Clearly, candidates must say unequivocally that there is never an
excuse for genocide, or for genocide denial, and the United States
must be a leader in the struggle against both. We will have serious
doubts about the integrity and fitness for office of any candidate who
cannot convincingly say as much.

But that is only the beginning. Armenian-Americans, we believe, are
sophisticated voters who will take a holistic view of each candidate.
Anyone can talk about America’s military strength and material wealth.
We will look to candidates who can go beyond that and have a
commitment to an America that leads by example.

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