armenianow – 02/13/2009

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February 13, 2009,

1. Amending an Outcome: "Case of 7" expected to be influenced by
imposed changes in charges

2. Migration: Armenians continue to leave the country in search of jobs

3. Cautious Relief: Experts cite dangers of Armenia’s foreign bailout

4. Weathering the Storm: A commentary on Armenia and the Economics of Power
By Richard Giragosian

5. Strategy of Concern: What implications would Azeri membership
in CSTO hold for Armenia?

6. Summit in Moscow: Will Karabakh become a testing ground for
the newly created "rapid reaction forces"?

7. Smell of Progress: Chicken farms hatch Armenia’s first biogas station

8. Au Naturale: Armenian produce goes organic

9. Hovering abroad: Armenian best ballet dancers perform on
foreign stages

10. Image is Everything: Airbush art making its way from cell
phones to car hoods in Armenia
11. "In-Between" Home: NGO provides care for girls past orphanage age

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By Gayane Abrahamyan
ArmeniaNow Reporter

Armenian authorities set to make amendments and clarify Article 225
("organization of mass disorder, accompanied with violence") and
Article 300 ("usurping state power") of the Armenian Criminal Code. It
is by the application of those articles that some 85 anti-government
demonstrators were arrested following last March 1’s violent and
deadly disorder.

The so-called "Case of 7" in which prominent members of the opposition
are now being tried may be influenced by changes expected to be made
in the articles.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called for
Armenia to re-write the articles last April when it passed Resolution
1620, condemning the use of power by the government here to round up
oppositionists whom PACE later identified as "political prisoners".

Subsequent PACE resolutions have said that the formation of these
articles are indefinite, and that it is necessary to review them.
Moreover, in the 1620 Resolution PACE appeals to ‘quash the cases
initiated according to the Article 225 and Article 300.’ However, the
review of the articles started only because of the serious threat by
PACE warning that Armenia would lose its right to vote at PACE.

"We suggested making amendments in these articles yet in autumn, and
it is offensive that they were scornfully refused. And now the
amendments are being made under the pressure of Europe," says Larisa
Alaverdyan, NA deputy (Heritage Party) and former ombudsman.

Representatives of the authorities who, just a few months ago, were
saying that there were no articles on political persecution now say
the articles are ambiguous.

"The investigation of the criminal cases initiated as a result of
post-election events showed that in different cases people simply
expressed their own political position, and later they appeared in the
network of criminally punished actions," says Artsvik Minasyan, deputy
of the (pro-government) Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF)
faction. And deputy of the same party Armen Rustamyan states that
"political and criminal elements are united in these articles, and it
is necessary to clarify them in order to avoid speculations."

The draft of the amendments will be finished by February 19, 2009 and
envisages making serious amendments in the Criminal Procedure Code,

The stormiest amendment is the permission of the sanction to make a
defendant leave the court hall and to continue the trail without
him/her. Experts assume that it is a serious violation of human
rights, and that currently it is being held to settle the situation
over the "Case of 7".

According to the acting Article 300 and Article 302, a defendant’s
presence at the court hall is compulsory, and if he/she is unhealthy
or has not appeared due to some other reasons, the trial is postponed.

The proposed amendment envisages forewarning a defendant for
disrespectful attitude towards the court and for hindering the trial;
and if such behaviour is repeated, it is allowed to make a defendant
leave the court hall, and to continue the trial without him/her. (In
the "Case of 7", defendants refused to stand when the judge entered
the hall, for which the judge declared the hearings in recess.) Hovik
Arsenyan, attorney of the "Case of 7" defendants says that, acting
this way the authorities "adjust the law to their own interests."

"The court was planning to implement such sanctions long ago, yet on
January 16, 2009, at the trial the prosecutor suggested to carry on
the lawsuit without the defendants, but later they understood that
they have no right to do so, and now they are creating that right,"
Arsenyan told ArmeniaNow.

Tigran Ter-Yesayan, Head of the ‘Forum’ Legal Center, says that it is
not only violation of human rights, but also violation of the
principle of equality of both sides. (Although in some countries
defendants may or may not be present at trial.) Besides, the court may
make such decision due to subjective argumentations.

Artsvik Minasyan, a member of the commission responsible for the
amendments says there is a danger in allowing a subjective
interpretation of the law.

"The decision will be made according to the judge’s discretion, and
the problem is that it is up to the judge to decide what a
‘disrespectful attitude’ is, and what ‘to hinder the trial’ means.
This is one of the shortcomings of our legislation," says Minasyan.

This norm will, probably, affect the "Case of the Seven," because, due
to the law, if an amendment improves a situation, it has retroactive
effect; and according to the RA Minister of Justice, this is an
evident improvement.

"First of all it is an improvement, because if according to the acting
law the days of a trial delay are not included in the punishment
period, then now they will be included. Besides, if the natural
process of the trial is hindered, the defense of human rights of a
defendant is also becoming vulnerable. And in this respect, we are
going to avoid obstacles," says Minister of Justice Gevorg Danielyan.

Initially many NA deputies insisted that this amendment (on courtroom
protocol) does not have a connection with the "Case of 7", now they
say that they "changed the article in the Civil Procedure Code in
order to make the trial continue."

Razmik Zohrabyan, deputy of the (pro-government) Republican Party
says, that "these amendments pursue the goal of depriving those people
of the opportunity of organizing a show."

The RA Ombudsman is against carrying on the lawsuit without defendants
present. He sent an official letter to the RA Minister of Justice;
referring to different international norms, he clarified that this
sanction is a violation of human rights, insisting that "a defendant’s
participation in the trial is one of the most important guarantees of
his right to defense."

There is another amendment connected with the ‘Case of 7.’ It
envisages amending the third part of Article 225 (organization of mass
disorder accompanied with murder). It is suggested to remove the
charge on murders, because, as Minasyan states, "Not always it is the
organizer who is responsible for murders. It is necessary to separate
them, and the murderers must be charged according to a separate
article; the organizer must not be charged with murders he/she did not

If this article is amended it will ease the guilt of the defendants of
the ‘Case of the 7. Former Foreign Minister of Armenia Alexander
Arzumanyan, NA deputies Hakob Hakobyan, Sasun Mikayelyan and Myasnik
Malkhasyan, former mayor of Abovyan Grigor Voskercyan, members of
Armenian National Movement political party Suren Sirunyan and Shant
Haroutyunyan. Currently they are being charged with "organization of
mass disorder accompanied with murder," which means that they are
guilty for the deaths of 10 people killed on March 1, 2008.

Attorney Lusine Sahakyan says that by means of making amendments in
the articles, the authorities simply try to avoid being defamed.

"They know for sure that they will not manage to find the criminal
group, they have no evidence for accusing those people due to these
articles. The problem is not in the unclearness of the articles, but
rather in the rough violations of the law, which is possible to do
even according to the most perfect law and articles," says Sahakyan.
**************************************** ************************************

By Marina Grigoryan

According to recent research, the overwhelming majority of people who
left Armenia between 2002-2007 are work migrants – 94 percent of

According to the "Migrants who returned to Armenia in 2002-2008"
research conducted by "Advanced Social Technologies" NGO in
cooperation with the Migration Agency of the Ministry of Territorial
Administration of Armenia and the OSCE Yerevan office, only 3 percent
have emigrated for permanent residence abroad, the others have left to
study or with other purposes. In all the groups the majority was going
to Russia.

The Director of the Institute of Philosophy, Sociology and Law,
President of the Armenian Sociological Association professor Gevorg
Poghosyan believes that the deepening economic crisis in Russia and
other countries may lead to the return of a considerable number of
Armenian work migrants.

"Judging by data, the Russian market of job migrants will reduce by 30
percent. One may assume that almost the same percentage of Armenian
work migrants, about 240,000 people, will have to leave Russia. If all
of them return to Armenia, the situation will be quite grave,
especially taking into account the fact that the country is only
capable of providing employment for about 25,000 people a year."

According to the Migration Agency, during January-December 2008 there
were 23,059 more people leaving the country than those entering it.
This is the worst indicator since 2001, when about 60,000 people left
the country. In 2007 the negative balance was only 3,200. The best
indicator, according to official statistics, was registered in 2006,
when there were 22,000 more who returned or entered than who left.
Comparing the reasons for out-migration from Armenia at the beginning
of the 90s and during the above-mentioned period, the authors point
out that the first wave of emigration was connected with the desire to
escape from the difficult consequences of the collapse of the system
and the first years of independence. In the recent years people have
been leaving to earn money to improve the living conditions of their
families who remain in Armenia. About 10 percent of Armenia’s
qualified workers have gone abroad in search of higher salaries. The
researchers point out that higher migration activity is observed among
25-44-year-old males, which affects the demographic indicators and can
later lead to the shortage of work force in the country itself.
Hakob Torgomyan, 50, left for Moscow at the beginning of the 1990s. He
says he was able to set up his own business in just a year’s time from
then. "At that time in Russia it was possible to live and work and
even set up your own business without being a citizen. Then I got
Russian Federation citizenship, I bought an apartment, a car, expanded
my business. In short, things went well."

Ninety percent of the emigrants have been able to find jobs outside
Armenia. At the same time, based on statistics on the RA population’s
employment, the authors arrive at the conclusion that 30 percent of
the migrants would have been jobless had they stayed in Armenia.

According to data, about 24 percent of the migrants, or 55,000 people,
have returned to Armenia within the past 6 years without having the
intention of leaving the country again. Those who have decided to come
back to their motherland are mostly older than those who continue to
live in abroad.

Torgomyan returned to Yerevan last year, but he hasn’t been able to
find a job yet.

"I came back because here I have relatives, friends, a house. No
matter how well things went in Moscow, I always had the desire to
return. But there are no jobs. That is why I have to live on the
income I get from renting out my apartment in Moscow."

As to the reasons for returning home, the interviewed migrants say
that they were rather conditioned by the "alienating" factors in other
countries than by those "attracting" them to Armenia. Among those
factors are the loss of jobs, the growth of alienation and
difficulties of integrating into a new environment, as well as the
aversion to social values (especially in Russia).
The Association of Sociologists of Armenia has studied the reasons
Armenians return from different countries.
"Those who return from European countries are in a pitiful state,"
says Gevorg Poghosyan, the director of the Institute of Philosophy and
Law, a doctor of sociology. "These are the people who failed to
settle in Europe and were deported. When they were leaving Armenia,
they sold all their movable and immovable property, because they
thought they were leaving their motherland for good. And now, having
been forced to return, they have found themselves in a very hard
social situation. Among those who have returned from Europe, only
about 5 percent have the means to start their own business in
Irina Balasanyan, 26, left for St. Petersburg to study 5 years ago.
She is a programmer by education.

"I had excellent opportunities to get a job there, even without having
a citizenship. I was offered a job with an initial salary of $1,000.
But I came back, because during the years of study I was never able to
get used to alien morals and customs. Here I get paid much less, but I
don’t regret having made this decision."

Among the reasons for not returning many Armenians in Russia name the
factor of the children who have already got used to living in a
foreign country that has become their home.

The research states that the problems of migrants returning to Armenia
were conditioned mainly by the discrepancy between their hopes and the
reality that governed the country, which often becomes the reason for
repeated migration.

According to Poghosyan, the reintegration of those who returned to
Armenia is a very complicated process. Rural migrants who have
returned to Armenia face serious challenges not only of socio-economic
nature, but also connected with children.
"This is because the children of migrants – be it in Russia,
Kazakhstan, or other former Soviet countries – go to Russian schools.
And upon return they have to go to Armenian schools, because there are
no Russian schools in villages. And it is mostly high-schoolers we are
talking about here. These and other adaptation issues often lead to
repeated migration from Armenia."
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By Sara Khojoyan
ArmeniaNow Reporter

While the Armenian government is expecting positive responses from
partner states and international financial structures to its request
for financial assistance, experts consider the RA crisis-fighting
policy to be logical, but short-sighted. Many economists say Armenia
has neither financial nor commodity resources to pay back the loans.

Announcing that the first wave of the crisis has been overcome, the
government turned to the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to Russia and China
in January to bring additional financial means into the country and to
resist the forthcoming waves of the economic storm that present a more
real threat.

"We have turned to our main partners to multiply the financial and
technical foreign aid so that we are ready to resist the possible
consequences of the financial crisis," Finance Minister Tigran Davtyan

Russia and the World Bank have already made the decision to provide
500 and 525 million dollars each to Armenia.

Interfax news agency recently published information saying that
Armenia has requested another $2 billion from China. However this
information so far is not confirmed by the Armenian officials.
(Chairman of the Standing Committee on Financial and Budget Matters of
the National Assembly Gagik Minasyan told ArmeniaNow he does not
posses such information, and Irina Ayvazyan the spokesperson for the
Ministry of Finance says that the ministry hasn’t held any
negotiations with China regarding the loan.)

According to the assessment of the Chairman of the Standing Committee
on Financial and Budget Matters of the National Assembly Gagik
Minasyan, soliciting financial assistance is common practice in such

Economist, former member of parliament, Tatul Manaseryan says loans
are necessary, but "one should be concerned about using them
rationally and effectively, appropriate programs should be worked out
that will make it possible to set up or develop productive mechanisms,
which will enable us to pay off the given part of the foreign debt."

Yerevan State University Economist Bagrat Asatryan also points out
that additional means are required to overcome the situation. However,
according to the ex-chaiman of the Central Bank, inner resources
should have been tapped in the first place.

"The price of wheat is a representative example. Last year the price
of wheat in the world market decreased two times. But there was no
such decrease in Armenia. The businessmen who import wheat to our
country are selling it at the same (as before the decrease). That
means profitability in this sphere has grown radically," Asatryan
states, "It would have been a good idea to tax this sector first."

According to the National Statistics Service data, in January 2008 1
kg of wheat cost 164 drams (53 cent), in June-July – almost 20 drams
more – 183 dram, (59cent ),in December – almost 10 drams more than in
January – 173 drams, whereas in March 2008 at the stock market in
Paris the price of wheat decreased at least by 5 percent.

2008 – month Price – dram
January 164
February 163
March 171
April 179
May 181
June 183
July 183
August 181
September 179
October 176
November 174
December 173

"Well , we understand we are (authorities’) hostages, but do have a
little conscience, extra profits should be taxed," says Asatryan,
meaning that the importers often represent the authorities or are the
relatives or friends of authorities. "And trust me, those amounts are
incomparably larger than the amount of the loan taken by Armenia from
any country or the amount of the expected financial aid," the
economist adds, expressing his concern about the time frame for
repaying the loans.

"Nobody ever presents anything to anybody, no matter what amount we
borrow; it is a burden we place on the coming generations. And these
generations will have to deprive themselves from food, from their
development to pay off the debts," Asatryan says.

The Director of the "Political Ecomony" Research Institute, economist
Andranik Tevanyan sees a danger in resisting the crisis by means of
loans, because Armenia’s economy is losing its ablity to compete.

As a proof the economist quotes two indexes: the economic growth of
2008, which, according to the National Statistics Service data was 6.8
percent and the negative balance of the import and export of 2008,
which was more than $3 billion.

"The negative balance shows how much currency has left Armenia and
financed foreign organizations’ businesses, and the local producers
and exporters have found themselves in a difficult state.

"One of the factors affecting the non-competitiveness of the Armenian
produce is also the harsh money loan and tax-budget policy conducted
in Armenia. The policy of ‘strong’ dram is a significant obstacle for
local producers and especially exporters," Tevanyan explains.

By the economists’ assessment, because the Armenian government’s
"anti-crisis policy has reduced just to bringing in loans from abroad,
it is a somewhat of a risky policy."
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By Richard Giragosian

In most countries economics and politics far too often intertwine,
with a nation’s wealthy elite holding too much power and influence.
The dangers from such a close relationship between economic and
political power have long been understood, and have even been
reflected in the historical maxim that "power corrupts, and absolute
power corrupts absolutely."

Recognizing the threat posed by the combination of wealth and
political power, democratic reformers have sought to construct "checks
and balances" designed to counter such power. And although there were
many times when a small wealthy elite was able to acquire and exercise
too much power, the institutional system of checks and balances always
tended to restore a natural balance over the longer term.

But for countries without resilient democratic institutions, there is
little recourse, as they lack the capability to check or balance the
power of the rich. This problem is also evident in the case of the
post-Soviet states, whose transition to market economies and
pluralistic democracies has been beset with profound obstacles. These
post-Soviet countries also face a deeper paradox, whereby essential
political and economic reforms are susceptible to being thwarted by
the very same wealthy elite that they seek to curb and control.

Moreover, the weakness of the rule of law in such transition states
further impede the early stages of reform, exacerbating the inherent
vulnerability to the influence of such elites, well before the
establishment of a durable democracy.

The Economics of Power

For a small country like Armenia, the disparities of wealth and power
become only more apparent, and much harder to correct. And in the
case of Armenia, the economic system has been distorted, with
commodity-based cartels and monopolies garnering a dangerous degree of
power and position within the economy.

In recent years, the convergence of economic and political power
became even further consolidated, as a new "oligarchic elite" was
formally elected to the Armenian parliament. The emergence of such a
dominant and exclusive body raises obvious concerns over the integrity
of governance and public policy in Armenia. More specifically, the
longer term worry is demonstrated by the clear conflicts of interests
and dubious ethics inherent in allowing powerful "businessmen" to be
responsible for formulating and legislating economic and political

Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous

Once the wealthy elite acquired a new, formal role in Armenian
politics, a virtual culture of impunity became even more firmly
entrenched. At the same time, governance in Armenia was increasingly
expressed through a new "arrogance of power," where the state
abdicated its responsibility to serve and protect the public.
Naturally, this only fostered a greater sense of apathy and
disengagement among ordinary Armenian citizens.

Against this backdrop, the current Armenian government faces a number
of external challenges, ranging from a decline in remittances from
Armenians working abroad to an economic downturn that seems to only be
getting worse. Yet even though these challenges pose serious threats
to the Armenian economy, they stem from the broader global economic
crisis that all countries are now weathering.

What is more destructive for Armenia’s long-term economic health is
the set of unique problems only associated with the distortions of the
country’s economic system. These internal problems include
deficiencies in tax collection, an inadequate customs regime, an
artificial "bubble" in the real estate market, and insufficient job
creation. But the deeper danger stems from structural shortcomings,
with economic growth over-reliant on limited sectors, such as the
service industry or diamond-polishing, for some examples, and economic
survival over-dependent on money coming into the country from abroad.

The Power of Economics

It is the very same relationship between power and economics that
holds the key to weathering the crisis now facing Armenia. More
specifically, the inverse of the "economics of power" linkage – the
"power of economics" – is the most effective avenue toward correcting
the Armenian crisis. The "power of economics" offers a new sense of
"creative destruction" capable of overcoming the economic power and
influence of the oligarchic system.

And the power of economics is multifaceted, including the "shocks" to
the closed system from, first, an internal budget crisis driven by low
tax collection and the need to reign in corruption and fight

A second shock to the system would come from an open border with
Turkey and the subsequent competition that an open border would bring
to the Armenian marketplace.

Third, and most significant, is the realization that the Armenian
state can no longer maintain the current economic system. Weathering
the economic crisis necessitates an end to the state’s reliance on the
twin evils of corruption and oligarchic cartels and monopolies. Faced
with an already apparent shortage of political legitimacy, the
Armenian state can no longer sustain the closed economic system that
has deformed and distorted the country in recent years.

Thus, as the impact of the global economic crisis worsens, it is
increasingly clear that simply in order to stay in power, the Armenian
government will have to adopt even bolder reforms and tackle the
powerful "vested interests" who have accumulated such a dangerous
degree of wealth and power.

Rich ard Giragosian is the director of the Yerevan-based Armenian
Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS), and has worked
as a consultant for various international organizations including the
OSCE, World Bank, and regularly contributes to Jane’s, RFE/RL, and
Newsweek International, among other publications. Giragosian is a
former professional staff member of the US Congress. "Weathering the
Storm" is a weekly column exclusively for ArmeniaNow.

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Analysis by Aris Ghazinyan
ArmeniaNow reporter

Like a weather front over the Ararat plane, political processes in the
Caucasus develop rapidly especially since last August’s war in
Georgia. In this context comes news of relevance to Armenia – that
Azerbaijan is being considered for inclusion in the Collective
Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) – the military-political block of
seven post-Soviet republics – Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan,
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Armenia.

Against the background of new geopolitical realities Azerbaijan has
begun to conduct a more flexible foreign policy and has taken the
course of explicit close ties to Russia. (The Azeri position may have
been reflected when neither President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev nor
his Prime Minister went to the airport in Baku to meet then-US
Vice-President Dick Cheney.)

At the CSTO summit in Moscow on February 4 a decision was made to
create Collective Rapid Reaction Forces (CRRF), which, Russian
President Dmitri Medvedev declared, "must become an effective tool in
providing security In the whole territory of CSTO." The territory
itself is massive, taking a total area of more than 20 million square

Immediately after making the decision, on February 9, Azerbaijan’s
"Musavat" party expressed concern in this respect and made the
following announcement: "Russia is again making attempts to take the
ruling position in the post-Soviet space. The signing of this
agreement proves that Russia is not satisfied with the status of a
regional force and intends to become a super-power again. Russia’s
actions pose an immediate threat to Azerbaijan, because part of the
contingent that’s being created may be stationed in Armenia."

The party believes that the only way out of the given situation is the
"strengthening of the strategic relations with the USA, and in
particular, steps should be taken in the direction of membership in

The permanent representative of Russia in NATO Dmitri Rogozin declared
that "the creation of the collective rapid reaction forces is not
aimed against the interests of Azerbaijan, who has always been
considered to be a close partner, and our interests are closely
intertwined. Russia will never act contrary to Azerbaijan’s

According to Rogozin, CSTO is an organization that conducts an
open-door policy and "if Azerbaijan senses any, even virtual, threat,
it can talk to CSTO as an organization and sign agreements necessary
to guarantee its security," Rogozin said, adding "I will do
everything possible for Azerbaijan to feel Russia’s exclusively calm
and steady breath and a friendly hand."

Some analysts perceived Rogozin’s statements as an invitation for
Azerbaijan to return to CSTO. (Azerbaijan withdrew its membership in
1999.) Such a prospect is especially desirable for Russia. In this
case about 70 percent of the territory of the South Caucasus (with the
only exception being Georgia) would automatically become the
responsibility zone of CSTO, which, however, will not be the weak
organization it used to be in 1992 – 1999, but a stronger and a more
ambitious one.

A few days ago it was announced in Moscow that starting from this year
the budget of CSTO will increase by a quarter, and the President of
Russia even pointed out that "the CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction
Forces must be equipped no worse than the NATO troops." Unlike NATO,
practically any state can become a member of CSTO, irrespective of the
degree of development of the "democratic institutes," and, what’s
particularly important, the presence of conflict zones.

In the event of Azerbaijan’s membership CSTO will have a direct and
immediate access to Iran and the Indian Ocean. The scenario of
Azerbaijan’s possible membership in CSTO bears serious changes to the
region: it is capable of freezing for "an indefinite period of time"
some "Armenian projects" that have strategic importance. For
instance, the building of the Armenia-Iran railroad, and in exchange
it can activate the old project Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran along the
following line: Derbent-Baku-Astara-Resht-Kazvin).

At present, the only real reason for Azerbaijan not being a member of
the "modernized CSTO" is the striving to give a military resolution to
the Karabakh issue, which contradicts the organization’s charter.
However, this situation cannot go on endlessly, and possibly in the
near future official Baku will express its desire to join the
organization, and more so because CSTO will accept Azerbaijan within
its Soviet-time borders.

Azerbaijan’s authorities have not yet expressed the official position
on this issue. However, analysts predict forthcoming statement. Many
stick to the opinion that if in the visible future an unplanned
meeting between heads of Russia and Azerbaijan takes place, it will be
prompted by this very issue.

The CSTO block was created in the period of the collapse of the USSR
and was an attempt to
preserve a united military-political space on the territory of the
collapsing state. The initiative of
creating the organization belonged to Moscow.

In 1993 Georgia and Azerbaijan became members as well, almost at the
same time, and by taking this step they were hoping to get support
from Russia in ethnic conflicts. However, in the period of "Yeltsin’s
Russia" Moscow was unable to solve serious political issues, and CSTO,
to a great extent, rather resembled an inner market of buying and
selling weapons than a serious military-political factor. This is why
Georgia and Azerbaijan left the block in 1999.

When Vladimir Putin came to power in Moscow the situation began
changing gradually but drastically. Russia began strengthening its
positions on the international arena, and along with that, the
geopolitical influence of CSTO, especially in the countries of Central

In 2006 Uzbekistan re-joined the organization. At present the general
situation in the region is principally different.

It is symptomatic that several days ago at the latest CSTO summit in
Moscow Kyrgyz authorities announced the decision concerning the
closing of the American military base on the premises of Manas
*********************************** *****************************************

By Naira Hayrumyan
ArmeniaNow Karabakh correspondent

Last week in Moscow, a decision was made at the extraordinary summit
of member countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization
(CSTO) to create Collective Rapid Reaction Forces (CRRF).

CRRF was created as a deterrent to regional military aggression,
leading to speculation in Armenia that the collective forces might
first be tested in the ongoing Karabakh-Azerbaijan conflict.
The collective forces are intended to be permanently stationed in
Russia, and the military subdivisions of CSTO countries will be under
their command. All the forces will have a joint command. The 98th
guard airborne division and the 31st assault brigade of the airborne
troops of Russia may become the basis for creating these forces.
CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Borduzha declared that Armenia is the
most vulnerable country in this respect. (Armenia has been a CSTO
member since 1992. CSTO includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan,
Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Armenia. Georgia and
Azerbaijan suspended their CSTO membership in 1999.)

Political parties and public organizations of Armenia have not yet
commented on the formation of the force relevant to Armenia’s national
interests. In private conversations politicians claim that Armenian
President Serzh Sargsyan had to sign the agreement under pressure from
Russia. They also say that the agreement will most likely remain on
paper and, therefore, is not worth paying great attention to.

Nevertheless, the authorities justify this step. "The decision to form
CSTO Collective Forces creates a solid political, treaty-legal and
military foundation for a collective retaliation of aggression against
any CSTO member-state," said the Head of the Institute of National
Strategic Research of the RA Ministry of Defense, Major General Hayk

"Taking into account the sad experience of the war in South Ossetia in
August of last year, forming a real mechanism of resisting aggression
is an additional guarantee of preventing the statesmen who cherish the
hope of the military resolution of Karabakh conflict from taking
adventurous steps that threaten to undermine international security
both on a regional and on a trans-regional scale," Kotanjyan said.

The defense of Armenia may become the first durability test for the
CSTO rapid reaction forces in case of the renewal of military activity
in the zone of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. "The fact that the
president of Armenia has stressed the necessity for urgently creating
joint armed forces of CSTO testifies that he is concerned about the
situation in the Karabakh conflict zone," Victor Yakubyan, Expert on
South Caucasus issues, told REGNUM news agency. "Indeed, the
situation on the front line is alarming, firing from the contact line
of both sides has become an ordinary phenomenon."

The decision to join the collective security forces was made to a
certain extent spontaneously. Although diplomats say that the proposal
about creating CRRF was submitted as far back as the autumn of last
year, the nature of the Moscow summit itself – an extraordinary summit
– suggests that an urgent decision was made. (What remains unclear is
what urged CSTO to take such a step just at this moment.)

"It seems to me that the Armenian syndrome came into force here. Every
country, including Armenia and Azerbaijan, is trying to project
geopolitical events onto their own realities. Armenians say that the
Collective Rapid Reaction Forces (CRRF) will be tested in Karabakh to
destabilize the situation and Azeri’s claim that this is a new
legitimate channel for providing weapons to Armenia. I think the
creation of CRRF was in all likelihood necessary for Russia,"
political scientists Manvel Sargsyan told ArmeniaNow.
He stressed that in the conditions of the toughening domestic
political situation in Russia, given that the Russian police just
refuse to chase away anti-government rallies, Moscow needs forces,
preferably foreign, which could perform police functions. "At least,
one cannot seriously consider a 15,000-contingent as a force to
perform geopolitical functions," Sargsyan said.
However, immediately after it became clear that in Armenia nobody
seriously objected to making that decision, the Ambassador of Russian
Federation to Armenia Nikolai Pavlov announced that "Russia has been
and will be the guarantor of the reached agreements concerning the
process of the Karabakh problem resolution."

"As last year CSTO discussed attributing peace-making functions to
such forces, one may not exclude that in proper conditions a desire
may arise to use these forces in the zone of the Karabakh-Azerbaijan
conflict," independent member of the Karabakh parliament Gegham
Baghdasaryan said in an interview to ArmeniaNow.

On the other hand, he considers this highly unlikely not only because
Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, is not a CSTO member, and because of this,
will hardly agree to locate such forces in the conflict zone, "but
also because the experience of the past 15 years has shown that the
main guarantee for the non-renewal of military actions is the military
balance of the conflicting sides." "And the public opinion in NKR and
Azerbaijan, in my opinion, does not favor the idea of peace-making
forces appearing in our region," Baghdasaryan said.

Meanwhile, starting from the end of January, Karabakh Ministry of
Defense makes almost daily statements about violations of the truce on
the border with Azerbaijan. The Karabakh military claim that the truce
is breached by Azerbaijan. But during the period there were no losses
on either side, leading to speculation that the information about
violations was just a pretext for Moscow’s decision to create CSTO.

In the meantime, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Edward
Nalbandian stated during his visit to Munich that the co-chairmen of
the OSCE Minsk group from Russia, USA and France may visit the region
of Karabakh conflict at the end of February. He also declared that the
militarist rhetoric of Azerbaijan and the growth of its military
expenses create new obstacles in the process of the peaceful
resolution of the Karabakh conflict. "On the one hand, in Azerbaijan
they talk about the necessity of continuing the negotiations, on the
other – they produce the impression that they have forgotten the
statements that the peaceful resolution of Karabakh conflict has no
alternative," stressed Nalbandian.

Last year Azeri President Ilham Aliev stated in one of his interviews
that: "No one can find the obligation in the declaration that
prohibits Azerbaijan from seeking a military resolution to the
****************************** **********************************************

By Siranuysh Gevorgyan
ArmeniaNow reporter

The foul smell of fowl has long distinguished the villages and
surrounding areas of Nor Geghi and Lusakert villages, since 1966 when
poultry farming became the leading industry here, about 26 kilometers
of Yerevan.

But since last November, the acrid smell of chicken dung has become
the odor of energy, as the Lusakert Pedigree Poultry Farm inaugurated
the Lusakert Biogas Plant (LBP).

"Here, we have such conditions which provide effective production of
gas," says Armen Gulkanyan, Technical Director of LBP, stating what
anyone who has ever driven through the plateau in summer already
knows. The stink of chicken droppings producing 3,000 tons of fryers
and 150 million eggs per year is now the smell of progressive and
ecologically-prudent production of methane gas.

"Here the analogical process of marshes is taking place," the
technical director explains. "Organic material is decomposed, and
meanwhile gas, particularly methane (CH4), is produced."

Later the sulphuric acid is removed from the produced gas, which then
becomes usable. The cleaned biogas makes the cogenerator (a
power-generation facility that produces electricity as well as a
byproduct, such as heat or steam, that is used for heating and
cooling) run, and as a result, energy is produced.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) recognized biogas
plants to be the most productive source of energy. Currently in
developing countries such programmes are sponsored by UN Clean
Development Mechanisms (CDM), in case they manage to show that they
reduce carbon emissions.

Lusakert Biogas Plant (LBP) is the first clean development mechanism
in Armenia. It was registered in UN on September 2006, in the
framework of Kyoto Protocol. The Clean Development Mechanism is a
program designed for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, or for
the promotion of investments in absorption projects in developed
countries. The main objective of CDM is the regulation of greenhouse
gases concentration in the atmosphere to the level so that it would be
possible to prevent human detriment to the climate system.

Even though Armenia does not have any international obligations to
reduce methane emissions, Aram Gabrielyan, Head of Environmental
Protection Department at the RA Ministry of Nature Protection,
considers this program a model.

"This is the first fulfilled program in the region as a CDM. It
overcame many obstacles, and it may be considered to be rather
successful," Gabrielyan says.

Armen Valyan, Director of in Lusakert Pedigree Poultry Farm states
that such stations are very expensive, and there was a threat at the
beginning of the project, that it might work at a loss.

"In 2006 being registered as a CDM, many organizations were eager to
invest in this program. For example, Bigadan Organization wanted to
provide the ‘know-how’," says Valyan, General Director of Lusakert
Pedigree Poultry Farm.

The construction of the plant started on August 2007 and was finished
a year later.

Fifty eight percent of the plant belongs to Max Concern (the owner of
Lusakert Pedigree Poultry Farm), 16 percent – to the Norwegian ‘Vekst’
Organization, 16 percent – to Bigadan Company, and 13 percent – to
Danish IFU Company. It is expected that the invested money will be
transformed into profit in about 7-8 years. Construction of the plant
cost 5.2 million Euro.

Currently the Lusakert Biogas Plant runs with 50-60 percent capacity.

"In case the plant runs with its entire capacity we will manage to
produce five million kilowatt/hour electricity per year," says Valyan.

The electricity produced at LBP is sold to the State at 40 drams
(about 7.5 cents) per kilowatt.

The next step to be taken by LBP is the reprocessing of organic
fertilizers, which will begin this year.

"When gases are removed from bird droppings, it becomes an organic
fertilizer. If it is not done, the material is dangerous for usage,
since in many cases it burns the soil," explains Gulkanyan.

General director Valyan believes such organic fertilizer is necessary
for Armenia.

"Basically chemical fertilizers are used in Armenia’s agriculture.
Consequently the soil becomes bare and lacks humus (the organic part
of the soil, a brown or black substance resulting from the partial
decay of plant and animal matter). And organic fertilizer can recover
humus," Valyan says.

According to him, the plant is already selling the fertilizer in small
volumes; however, ‘it is necessary to enlarge the production.’

While a novelty to Armenia, and yet experimental in other countries
production of biogas is famous since ancient times. Archeology shows
it was used for warming bath water in ancient Assyria. And as far back
as 1895 street lights in the English town of Exeter were operated on
biogas. In some cities of New Zealand and France public buses run on
*************************************** *************************************

Siranuysh Gevorgyan

Armenian consumers who prefer organic products now have a better way
of identifying such foods. Beginning May 5th, all producers of organic
agriculture must have the certificate of the ‘Ecoglobe’ Organization.

‘Ecoglobe’ (), founded in 2002, is currently the only
organization in Armenia, which provides organic agricultural or
organic food production organizations with certificates.

The certificates given by ‘Ecoglobe’ are currently recognized by the
European DAP (Deutsches Akkreditierungssystem Prüfwesen) Organization.
And the accreditation of this organization covers the whole territory
of the European Union (EU).

"The Armenian organizations that possess this certificate will have
the opportunity to export and sell their products in the EU
countries," states Nune Darbinyan, General Director of ‘Ecoglobe’.

Any company which gets the certificate sells its product with a label
given by Ecoglobe. Now in Armenia organic juices, dry fruit, honey,
dairy products and bread are being produced. But the majority of these
products do not have a certificate confirming their organic
production. The consumer just has to believe the producer.

Yohken Neuendorf, representative of the DAP Organization, who was
present at the January 19 presentation of the program stated that
‘Ecoglobe’ is the first organization in the region, which was granted
certification rights.

Organic agriculture – growing foods without alteration or chemical
enhancement — became successful in Europe beginning in the 1980s, but
is still a novelty in Armenia.

According to Darbinyan, in Europe, organic food represents about 10
percent of production and it has a tendency of growing by 10 percent
every year.

"It’s too early to talk about percents in Armenia because this is a
novelty in our country", Darbinyan says.

Clerks at food stores say that mainly two groups of people are
interested in ecologically clean food – parents having babies, and
people who are on special diets. Organic produce tends to be about
10-50 percent higher than non-organic.

"There are some types of food which are finished the day of their
arrival to the shop, i.e. the ‘Bio-bread’ from ‘Yeritsyans’ Company,"
says Arus Babikyan, a seller of ‘Kiev Gastronom’ food store, which is
situated in the territory of ‘Barekamutyun’ subway station. She adds
that nowadays people pay much more attention to the composition of
food they consume than before.

There are five Armenian organizations that currently have the
certificate of ‘Ecoglobe’ – ‘Tamara Fruit,’ ‘Sis Natural,’ ‘Chir’ (dry
fruit) companies, as well as ‘Mag’ honeybee breeding farm, and
‘Kilikia’ Beer.

"We expect certification of an additional 10 companies in the future,"
says Darbinyan. She mentions that they will mainly be companies
producing herbal tea, and dairy products. She believes that it is much
easier to organize the organic production of especially dairy products
in Armenia if the high alp zones are used for cattle breeding. (Alpine
zones are pure; they don’t use alteration or chemical enhancement.
Pure feeding is the first step of production of organic dairy

The organic products of ‘Tamara Fruit’ are already found in the
European market. The company exported juice to several European
countries last year. According to Armen Stepanyan, General Director of
‘Tamara Fruit’ CJSC, they will continue exporting juice, as well as
ice-fruit and berries to Russia, too.

‘Sis Natural’ Company has certified the production of only
pomegranate, sea-buckthorn, rose-hip juices from the list of its
All the rest of the companies, producing products that have
‘ecologically clean’ label, affirm that they will also get the
certificate if necessary.

"If the certification is not just for the sake of form, and if it
functions properly, we will apply for it," states Seyran Hovhannisyan,
manager of ‘Bio-cat’ (bio-milk) dairy company that produces only for
the domestic market.

Meanwhile, Gevorg Khachatryan, director of a bread factory belonging
to ‘Yeritsyan and Sons’ Company said he had never heard of the

The Law governing organic production was adopted in May, 2008, and it
will be valid since May of the current year.

There are many products in the Armenian market with the label
‘ecologically clean.’ Nevertheless, as Deputy Minister of Agriculture
Samvel Avetisyan mentions, these products don’t always correspond to
their labeling.

"There are 40 organizations, which this way or that are involved in
organic agriculture, yet not all of them are certified. If the company
does not have a certificate, a consumer of a European country will
never believe that the product it produces is ecologically clean. In
this respect, our product will not be competitive either," says

According to the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, it is necessary to
grow and export products with high quality and high price because
Armenia has small land territories and low exporting potential.

"We do have potential for it. We can produce and export ecologically
clean dry apricot, herbals, different types of vegetables and
reprocessed products. So it is very important for us to get it right
to implement the law," says Avetisyan.
*************************************** *************************************

Karine Ionesyan
Special to ArmeniaNow

Yerevan State Choreographic College should be proud of its male
graduates, having seen many find work and popularity. But the work is
not in Armenia and the popularity is not among Armenian audiences.

Armenia’s best ballet dancers say they leave Armenia because they feel
unwanted and not appreciated. Low salaries and the fear of having
careers interrupted by army service makes 14-18 year olds leave the
country as soon as they get invitations from European and American
ballet theaters. Providing foreign countries with ballet dancers,
Armenia itself faces a sharp lack of dancers.

Since1999, 40 male dancers left the college and the country out of
some 100, many of them finding success on the stages in Germany,
Russia, and United States. Now, some 63 boys (age 9-18) study at
Yerevan State Choreographic College.

Now among those who perform ballet abroad are Davit Karapetyan ( San
Francisco Ballet ) Arsen Mehrabyan, (Hamburg Ballet Theatre), Tigran
Mikayelyan, (Bavarian State Ballet Theatre in Munich),Vahe
Martirosyan, (Zurich Opera House), Arman Grigoryan (Zurich Ballet

The dancers abroad make from $2,500-12,000 a month.

"I was a 16-year-old student at Choreography College in Yerevan when I
was sent to Switzerland to participate in ‘Price de Lorraine’ Contest.
And later I got an offer to continue my education in the same
country," dancer David Karapetyan told ArmeniaNow. "In Switzerland
boys mainly prefer to work in the banking sphere, and there is a lack
of ballet dancers there."

Soon after finishing his education, Karapetyan started dancing in
Switzerland and became a solo performer in three years. After seven
years he was invited to the ballet company in San Francisco.

"Our ballet school (in Yerevan) is very good; however the
opportunities for growth are more in foreign countries," says

Hovhannes Divanyan, chief ballet dancer at the Alexander Spendiaryan
Armenian National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, says Armenian
ballet dancers do not have a future in their home country because the
theater has a poor and rarely refreshed repertoire.

"Let’s imagine that they stayed here. How long would they with their
potential dance in the same performances? Abroad the artists work on
stages every day and play in new performances; new ballets are staged
frequently," says Divanyan with concern.

‘Giselle,’ ‘Gayane,’ ‘Don Quixote,’ ‘Carmen,’ and few others are
performed in Armenia, while such classics as ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ‘Swan
Lake,’ ‘Fountain of Bakhchisarai,’ ‘Masquerade,’ are not staged in
Armenia. It is possible to impress the international public by only
‘Gayane’ Ballet, and yet not by means of techniques, but rather by its
folklore nature.

Divanyan says that the army service is another concern for the dancers.

Armenian boys are taken to army at 18 in Armenia. Consequently, ballet
dancers, serving in army, do not have a chance to attend daily
compulsory practices; they wear rough shoes, and they lose the
physical skills obtained during several years. And once the ballet
dancers return from the army and get jobs, they earn 39,000-89,000
drams (about $ 130-300) per month.

"Under such condition I cannot reproach those boys or men who, in
order to earn their living and support their families do other jobs
(not dance-related) or they dance at other places- something they are
not recommended to do (because other dance types develop different
muscles and that interferes with ballet dancing). Those who dance
classical dances have different muscle systems. As for the other types
of dances, they may spoil what has been gained over the years. There
are even boys who earn money dancing at night clubs," Divanyan says.

The great part of ballet dancers at the theater having leading roles,
are already retiring. One of them is 40-year-old Zaven Harutyunyan,
who has danced for 17 years. Harutyunyan is to retire, yet he keeps on
dancing ballet and non-classical dances, as well as teaches
choreography in order to earn money for his family.

"We lost our best years during the 1990s’ dark and cold times. If I
were not so old, I would leave Armenia immediately," he says.

Last year, RA Minister of Culture Hasmik Poghosyan stated that 72
million drams ($ 240,000) would be allocated the State Budget to stage
operas and ballets. Every year they try to develop a mechanism of
inviting Armenian ballet dancers from abroad to Armenia by long-term
contracts. However, this mechanism is not developed this year either.
The only good news for ballet artists is the newly staged ‘Spartak’
Ballet. One of the best authors of ‘Spartak,’ ballet master Yuri
Grigorovich is especially invited from Russia for this purpose.
***************************************** ***********************************
Gayane Lazarian
ArmeniaNow reporter
Lyuba’s tender and delicate hands easily carry the heavy doors, hoods,
and wings of cars back and forth. One of the doors has fish painted on
it, the other has a war scene, and a few engines are painted on the
hood. For Lyuba each painting has its own story.
"Depending on the brand of the car you can decide what exactly to
paint on it, especially if it is going to be an abstract image. If the
car has been ‘tuned’, more aggressive images are offered, and if the
exterior is more modest, milder elements will prevail," she says.
Lyuba Kirakosyan, 24, is quite famous in Yerevan, at least in the cult
community of spray-painting ("aerograph") fans.
She explains that aerograph means an airbrush or paint sprayer – a
means of paint application that dates to 1878 in the US and that
became a sensation among "hot rod" fans in the 20th century.
"Tuning means transformation of metal parts of the car, and aerographs
appear as an additional part of it," says Lyuba. "While in case of
tuning the car undergoes physical transformation, in this case it
Lyuba regrets she is unable to picture something and show the work
process. Her main working season is summer, so that the paint can dry
in the sun. (Aerographs are more often made in summer, but there are
also special drying devices with the help of which the paint is dried
in cold weather.)
After graduating from the department of artistic metal processing at
the Academy of Arts, Lyuba learned spray-painting techniques and began
to work. Lyuba works with a special air-powered aerograph pen that she
uses to spray paint on the metal from the distance of a few
"It is interesting how the paint settles on metal so smoothly. So
smoothly, that you can’t help but wonder how metal can have so much
tenderness," she says.
Aerograph is art, painting. It brings out your personality. Cars get a
chance to leave the uniformity of serial production through aerograph
and become unique.
The vehicle of 49 year-old Andranik Manukyan is his pride. His car
with forest scenes depicted on it is quite known in Yerevan.
"I am known by my car and I like it a lot. I feel somehow
self-confident and even a little bit cocky. Nobody else has a car like
that, only I do. It is a different kind of freedom for me ", he says.
A winter forest is depicted on the hood of Andranik’s car. There is a
golden ant on one of the tree branches. He says that he has chosen the
ant as a symbol of diligence. There is another winter scene on the
right door, this time with a wolf instead of the ant.
"I am going to order an aerograph very soon on the left door of the
car, which will be a logical continuation of the right one. Look at
the play of light and shadow and light in this picture. My car is
mobile art," he says.
Andranik paid 900,000 drams ($3,000) to have the paint job customized.
Lyuba says that many people want to have their vehicles turned into
"mobile art", yet cannot afford it.
The author of the aerograph on Andranik’s car is a 23-year-old
sculptor Samvel Maghakyan. Just like Lyuba, he points out that spray
painting is an art that gives one the freedom to create.
"Of course, in Armenia it is just beginning to get established. A lot
of people are willing to order, but as it is quite expensive for
Armenian customers, many resist the temptation of making their car
look unique," Samvel says.
An aerograph for one car door costs roughly 90,000 -100,000 drams
($300-400), hood and right or left wing art-painting costs
approximately 240,000 drams ($600-700). Having the whole car
customized costs approximately 600,000-900,000 drams ($2000-3,000).
Lyuba explains that it depends on the nature of the order. As a rule,
it is more difficult with portraits and animals.
"If it is some character, then it is necessary to create a mood, an
environment for it. When the pencil touches the paper, you feel it,
the same happens in case with the brush, but when you blow into the
air, you don’t feel it and the air is the only intermediary, through
which you should feel and be able to skillfully transfer
expressiveness and warmth to the image," she explains.
Like other fashion that eventually migrates to Armenia – usually from
the west and often from "car crazy California" – customized hot rods
aren’t exactly a fad here yet. Lyuba says that in 2 years she has
painted about 15 cars.
Andranik says that he likes to differ from others, and the car helps
him with that. He says that his car was decorated with aerographs in
2005 and so far nobody has told him it’s tasteless.
Lyuba says if they want to emphasize the speed of their cars, she
suggests sea or wind waves in motion. The latest fashion is depicting
a tire on car doors, which makes it visually more effective when the
car is speeding ahead the impression is as if the wheel is really on
the door.
"If abroad more stylish and abstract aerographic pictures are in
vogue, in Armenia people prefer more realistic images: eagles on
mountains, engine on the hood, speakers on doors. Women like flowers
and butterflies," she says. Lyuba says many women are willing to have
their cars spray-painted and they even tell her what aerographs they
would like, but she has not painted any woman’s car so far.
Since its winter and the active work season for her is still ahead,
Lyuba is doing aerographs on metallic parts of cell phones, which is
fashionable now too. One phone aerograph costs 7000-15000drams
21-year-old Lamara Kirakosyan is proud of her cell phone. The author
of the aerograph on her phone is Lyuba.
"I like it when my belongings differ from other people’s belongings.
That’s the way it is now, my phone is unique and extraordinarily
beautiful," she says.
******************************************** ********************************

Gayane Lazarian
ArmeniaNow reporter

Nineteen-year-old Lilit brings in a tray of cups filled with coffee
and says this home-made coffee is delicious. Psychologist Margarita
Hovsepyan adds: "Our girls make good coffee."

This home isn’t just a home, but a non-governmental charity
organization, where 11 girls transferred from the Gavar orphanage

Tigranuhi Karapetyan, president of the organization, says that within
one year four girls got married, and seven are engaged.

"Children move in here only after coming of age. At this age they
usually leave children’s home and enter into grownup life. They grow
up deprived of love, sweetness, caresses and motherly good-night
kisses. We try to complement the work done in children’s home; we try
to compensate."

Telling the prehistory of their organization, she says their working
activity started as Children of Armenia Sponsorship Program (CASP)
founded right after the earthquake in Spitak. This became a reality
owing to the efforts taken by Julia ArshekIan, one of the secretaries
of the Women’s Guild of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern
Diocese), and, from the Armenian by Stepan Karapetyan, Tigranuhi’s
husband. The program’s objective was to help orphans and orphanages,
where Tigranuhi had her share of help assisting her husband.

"My soul was aching when seeing how upon leaving Gavar orphanage our
dear girls were taking a wrong path which would eventually lead to
destruction. I was thinking of somehow helping them. It is not their
fault that they were left by their parents, and we had to do
something, to prevent them from making fatal mistakes particularly at
that age," she says.

According to Armenian law, children must leave state-sponsored
orphanages – such as the one in Gavar – upon turning 18 (after which
the state should provide housing for them- a hostel, or apartment).

Our Home was founded in 2005 and girls have been coming to live here
since 2006. Tigranuhi says the idea to found such an institution was
hers, although there would have been no chance to realize it without
the benefactors’ support.

Benefactor Julia Arshekian, recognized the Best Armenian in 2001-2002
at the Eastern Diocese of America, is head of the American branch of
Our Home. Its headquarters are located in U.S.. It is due to her
efforts that Armenia has an educational program such as Our Home.

Prior to moving to Our Home NGO, an agreement is signed between the
children and the NGO administration, specifying each party’s rights
and responsibilities. A priority is given to those who show a craving
for knowledge and who wish to continue their education in college or
university. The girls are obliged to demonstrate high moral values,
stick to the rules of the institution and respect time. The
institution, in its turn, takes up the responsibility for taking care
of all their needs.

Today all of them study at Grigor Lusavorich University in
Echmiadzin. Their tuition fees are cover by Fund for Armenian Relief,
and Armenian Educational Foundation, run by a United States citizen
Hrant Ter-Sargsyan. After classes the girls take English and computer
courses, instructed by Our Home teachers. They learn cooking, ethics
and religion, as well, and on week-end a psychologist works with them.

Our Home is a large, renovated, and finely equipped and furnished
two-storey house.
Here everyone knows their jobs; no cooks and janitors work there;
housework is equally divided between girls.

It is Lusine’s and Lilit’s shift in the kitchen. The dinner’s ready,
the kitchen’s cleaned up. They invite guests for tea. Several kinds of
marmalade appear on the table. Lusine says that some of the marmalade
had been made by themselves, and the one made from watermelon had been
brought by Liana.

Liana is one of the married girls. She already has a child and she
visits Our Home frequently. Tigranuhi comments that marriage is a
serious matter for them. Before proposing to any of the girls, a man
must first approach Tigranuhi for permission.

"I care for the destiny of each as if they were my own kids. Above all
we aim at making sure that they form good families and become strong
members of the society. Certainly their feelings decide the matter,
however we inquire about their fiancés and potential in-laws", says

Four traditional weddings have already been taken place here. Two of
the girls are mothers now. Wedding pictures are attached to the walls,
carrying various captions, like "The first love of Our Home", or "The
first wedding of Our Home".

Psychologist Hovsepyan confesses her affection and individual approach
while working with them.

"You must live with them, share their concerns, they like attention,
like to talk about their problems", says Hovsepyan. "The most
important thing is the mutual trust that we have gained, and that is a
result of continuous effort."

According to the contract, the girls spend four years in Our Home.
Meanwhile they graduate from colleges or universities, get an
apartment from the state and enter life with more confidence.

"The existence of Our Home is very important for the society. If more
of this kind of organizations existed in Armenia, our society would
become healthier. We all know that these children had lived a wrecked
life, therefore it is essential that they reach harmony and happiness
in their families", says the psychologist. "They themselves understand
the importance: they often admit that when they have children of their
own they will love them by all means, this is an outcry of protest on
their part."

The monthly budget of Our Home makes almost 1,530,000 AMD (roughly
$5,000). Tigranuhi is worried about the world economic crisis and
dollar depreciation.

The municipality of Echmiadzin supplies our food, it also covers part
of our public utility expenditures; we also have many local friends
who offer their help. Of course, it’s not easy to survive, but we are
trying hard," she says.