Mickey Mouse Funhouse to Celebrate Armenian Culture with ‘Vardavar!’ Episode

Feb 28 2024
Momen Zellmi

Mickey Mouse Funhouse, a beloved animated preschool series, is embracing cultural diversity by spotlighting Armenian traditions in its upcoming episode titled 'Vardavar!' Set to air on Disney+ on March 1, 2024, this episode represents a significant stride towards cultural representation in children's television programming, drawing inspiration from the rich traditions of Armenia's Vardavar festival.

Written by Kathleen Sarnelli Kapukchyan, the 'Vardavar!' episode seeks to introduce Armenian culture to young viewers in an engaging and educational manner. Kapukchyan, inspired by her Armenian husband and aiming to share her heritage with her son, crafts a story where Minnie Mouse faces a relatable dilemma – wearing the wrong outfit for the Vardavar celebration. This storyline not only highlights the importance of cultural awareness but also teaches valuable lessons on adaptability and inclusion.

Vardavar, a festival celebrated with water games and joyous gatherings, is at the heart of this special episode. The festival's inclusion in Mickey Mouse Funhouse is a milestone for Armenian culture's visibility in mainstream media, especially on a platform as influential as Disney+. By showcasing this vibrant tradition, the episode invites viewers to explore and appreciate the diversity of world cultures, fostering a sense of global community among its young audience.

The decision to feature Vardavar in Mickey Mouse Funhouse underscores a growing trend towards cultural inclusivity and representation in children's media. Such initiatives not only enrich the viewing experience for children from diverse backgrounds but also encourage empathy and curiosity about different cultures. As the first-ever representation of Armenian culture on Disney, this episode marks a significant step forward in the network's commitment to diversity and education through entertainment.

As we anticipate the premiere of 'Vardavar!' on Disney+, it's clear that this episode is more than just a story about Minnie Mouse's fashion dilemma. It's a celebration of cultural heritage, a bridge connecting young minds to the world's rich tapestry of traditions, and a testament to the power of storytelling in promoting understanding and inclusivity. Through such thoughtful programming, Disney continues to shape a more inclusive world for the next generation.


Katia Tavitian Karageuzian Discusses ‘Forbidden Homeland’ at Book Talk in Orange County

Dr. Katia Tavitian Karageuzian (center) with guests at a book talk held in Orange County on Feb. 25


The Orange County Armenian Center was packed on Sunday afternoon. Several community organizations partnered to organize a book talk event featuring Dr. Katia Tavitian Karageuzian, author of “Forbidden Homeland, Story of a Diasporan.”

“I am very humbled by the warm reception of the Orange County Armenian community,” said Dr. Tavitian Karageuzian. “As Judge Apkarian said: ‘This is the story of all of us.’ Keeping memories alive is very important for the identity preservation of a people in exile. As Armenians, we should never let go of our truths to appease others. A nation that does not uphold its history jeopardizes its very existence.” Using personal accounts of diaspora, author Katia Tavitian Karageuzian delves into her cultural past to start solving mysteries about her family history with a focus on the Armenian Genocide and the ongoing Karabakh conflict. The story unlocks a discovery that led to a decades-long search to reveal the extensive history of American involvement in the destiny of her homeland and a buried record of those living with generational trauma. 

Ari Guiragos Minassian School principal, Ani Sarkissian, offered opening remarks and welcomed the attendees.

Special guest speaker, Judge Gassia Apkarian, co-founder of The Center for Truth and Justice gave her remarks on the book. She emphasized how this book tells each and every one of our stories, and how “Forbidden Homeland, Story of a Diasporan” can be used as historical documentation.

Dr. Tavitian Karageuzian gave an informative presentation about Armenia’s history starting from before the genocide and an explanation of events that have led us to our current state of affairs. She encourages us all to mobilize and work towards what is rightfully ours.

“I am very humbled by the warm reception of the Orange County Armenian community. As Judge Apkarian said: ‘This is the story of all of us.’ Keeping memories alive is very important for the identity preservation of a people in exile. As Armenians, we should never let go of our truths to appease others. A nation that does not uphold its history jeopardizes its very existence,” Dr. Tavitian Karageuzian said.

AYF members and former AGM School and ARS “Sevan” Chapter Saturday school students, Karine Codilian, Gregory Codilian, and Gregory Mikhanjian read selected excerpts from the book that gave the audience a glimpse into the colorful world described in the book.

Hamazakayin OC “Siamanto” Chapter representative, and former AGM principal, Kohar Zaher thanked all the community organizations for their collective efforts in bringing this event to fruition: Forty Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church, ARF “Armen Karo” Gomideh, A.G. Minassian Armenian School, Hamazkayin “Siamanto” Chapter, and ARS “Sevan” Chapter.

Rev. Fr. Karekin Bedourian, pastor of Forty Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church, gave the closing remarks and ended the event with a prayer.

“Forbidden Homeland, Story of a Diasporan” is available for purchase online and in select Barnes & Nobles bookstores.

Montreal Honors Renowned Armenian Musician Raffi Armenian in a Stellar Tribute

Feb 26 2024

In the heart of Montreal, an evening dedicated to the legacy of Raffi Armenian, a titan in the realms of music and education, promises to fill Bourgie Hall at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts with melodies that transcend time and borders. Set for February 19, 2024, the event not only celebrates Armenian's illustrious career but also underscores the indelible mark he has left on the cultural fabric of Quebec and Canada. Born to Armenian parents in Egypt, Armenian's journey through music has been one of passion, dedication, and unparalleled achievement.

The tribute evening is poised to be a constellation of performances by some of the most distinguished names in the classical music scene, including Armenian-Canadian soprano Aline Kutan, violinist Van Armenian, and conductors like Jean-Marie Zeitouni. Pianists André Laplante and Olivier Godin will also grace the stage, bringing to life a repertoire that spans the emotional depth and technical brilliance of Mozart, Schubert, and Schumann, alongside the poignant beauty of Armenian melodies. This diverse program not only showcases the breadth of Armenian's influence but also serves as a bridge connecting different musical traditions and communities.

Armenian's career has been a beacon of excellence in music performance and education. As the director of the Atelier lyrique de l'Opéra de Montréal and a revered conductor of leading Canadian orchestras, he has shaped the soundscape of the nation. However, his most profound impact may be in his role as a mentor at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, where he nurtured the talents of aspiring conductors, instilling in them a love for music that mirrors his own. His contributions have earned him numerous accolades, including an honorary doctorate and the esteemed Order of Canada. The tribute event, therefore, is not just a celebration of Armenian's musical achievements but a recognition of his role as a cultural ambassador and educator.

The tribute to Raffi Armenian is more than an evening of exquisite music; it is a testament to the power of art in uniting people across different backgrounds and experiences. It reflects the mosaic of Montreal's cultural scene, a place where diverse traditions flourish and intertwine. Through the language of music, the event honors not only a single musician's legacy but also the broader human story of migration, adaptation, and artistic _expression_. As the melodies of Mozart and Armenian folk tunes fill Bourgie Hall, attendees will be reminded of the enduring beauty that emerges when cultures converge and creativity knows no bounds.


Armenian-French cooperation not directed against anyone – defense minister


YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 23, ARMENPRESS. The Armenian-French cooperation in the military sector is being done for Armenia and is not aimed against any country, Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan has said.

“It is our right to cooperate with both France and Iran, and everyone should take note of this,” Papikyan said at a joint press conference with French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu. “Our French partners respect the cooperation with those partners, and Iranian partners likewise respect this cooperation,” Papikyan said, urging Russian and other partners to do the same, because Armenia doesn’t’ have any taboo in terms of cooperating with different countries for the benefit of Armenia.

The cooperation is being done for Armenia’s territorial integrity and it is not directed against any country, he said. “I think there’s no reason for anyone to be concerned,” Papikyan said.

France to continue supporting efforts for just and stable peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan – Macron


YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 21, ARMENPRESS.  France will continue to support efforts aimed at a just and stable peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. France is convinced that this can only be achieved if international law, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and inviolability of borders are respected.

French President Emmanuel Macron said this during a joint statement with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for media representatives.

"I want to reiterate once again that you can count on France's support for Armenia, its independence, territorial integrity, democratic process and its aspirations for peace.

Our meeting will allow us to discuss negotiations aimed at regulating relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The recent incidents in Syunik prove that the danger of escalation remains real.

France will continue to support efforts aimed at a just and stable peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. France is convinced that this can only be achieved if international law, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and inviolability of borders are respected,'' he said.

He noted that during the meeting held in Prague in 2022, the Armenian Prime Minister reaffirmed Armenia's commitment to the Alma-Ata Declaration and it is necessary for Azerbaijan to resolve the ambiguity regarding the territorial integrity and maps of the Republic of Armenia.

According to Macron, this is necessary in order to carry out work on the delimitation and demarcation of borders, which will serve as the basis for bilateral withdrawal from the border.

New Bloodshed Threatens Armenia-Azerbaijan Peace Talks

Feb 13 2024
Waqas Arain

A deadly dance of conflict resumes on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, as the first fatal incident since peace talks began claims two Armenian lives. The incident, reportedly instigated by Azerbaijani fire, occurred near the southern Armenian village of Nerkin Hand.

The recent escalation of violence along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border has cast a dark shadow over the ongoing peace negotiations. The conflict, which has claimed the lives of two Armenian soldiers, marks the first major incident since both sides began discussions to end the decades-long dispute.

As tensions rise, the potential for further bloodshed looms large, threatening to derail the fragile peace process. The incident has not only resulted in casualties on both sides but has also led to Azerbaijan issuing stern warnings of more serious measures in response to any future provocations.

The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, characterized by intermittent war and territorial disputes, stretches back over 30 years. The latest incident is a grim reminder of the ongoing tensions between the two nations, despite recent efforts to broker a lasting peace.


The Deadly Clashes of September 2022 serve as a stark reminder of the volatility of the situation. The clashes, which resulted in numerous casualties, highlighted the urgent need for a resolution to the conflict.

In the aftermath of the September clashes, both Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of launching attacks and instigating incursions. The Armenian Armed Forces allege that Azerbaijani military units initiated the recent attack in the Nerkin Khand area, resulting in Armenian casualties. Conversely, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claims that the Armenian Armed Forces targeted their military positions in the Tovuz district.

The border conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has had a profound impact on local residents, particularly in the Armenian provinces. The conflict has led to casualties, displacements, and the significant militarization of the border.

The lack of officially demarcated borders since both countries gained independence has further complicated the situation. Issues of exclaves/enclaves and Azerbaijan's expansionist claims to Armenian territory have added fuel to the already contentious dispute.

As the conflict continues to simmer, the human cost of the border war becomes increasingly evident. The recent fatal incident, which claimed the lives of two Armenian soldiers, underscores the urgent need for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

In the aftermath of the incident, both sides have reaffirmed their commitment to finding a peaceful solution. However, the path to peace remains fraught with challenges, as the recent violence serves as a stark reminder of the tensions that continue to divide Armenia and Azerbaijan.

As the world watches and waits, the people of Armenia and Azerbaijan hope for a future free from the specter of conflict and violence. The recent fatal incident, a tragic interlude in the peace talks, underscores the urgent need for a lasting resolution to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.

Central Bank of Armenia: exchange rates and prices of precious metals – 14-02-24


YEREVAN, 14 FEBUARY, ARMENPRESS. The Central Bank of Armenia informs “Armenpress” that today, 14 February, USD exchange rate down by 0.66 drams to 403.57 drams. EUR exchange rate down by 3.50 drams to 431.98 drams. Russian Ruble exchange rate down by 0.02 drams to 4.41 drams. GBP exchange rate down by 5.68 drams to 506.36 drams.

The Central Bank has set the following prices for precious metals.

Gold price down by 290.58 drams to 25899.55 drams. Silver price down by 1.07 drams to 296.74 drams.

Chef Ararat El Rawi introduces Brooklyn to Armenian cuisine at Café Little Armenia

I was first introduced to the eccentric world of Chef Ararat El Rawi via social media after reading about his gourmet “pop-ups” sprouting around Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, born during the outdoor seating era of the pandemic. 

“I opened the pop-up because I wanted to try catering,” he explained, baffled that these small dinners snowballed into cooking classes and then serious interest in a restaurant. Chef Ararat then spent months looking for a home for his authentic Armenian-style cooking, duking it out with New York City brokers for a lease, painting over lime-green walls with red, blue and orange, and curating the menu for his new eatery – all leading up to a soft opening of “Café Little Armenia” in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in early January 2024. 

Empty booths at Café Little Armenia in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

The jack-of-all-trades chef, who has done everything from working at top-notch restaurants like Esca in Hell’s Kitchen and Harlem’s Red Rooster to dabbling in the carnival scene and brushing elbows with rockstar Prince, was surprised at the success and press that drew in New Yorkers from all boroughs to try Armenian cuisine at his pop-ups. We chatted in a humble wooden booth at his café over a plate of fresh tabbouleh, one of his signature dishes. 

Chef Ararat El Rawi in the kitchen

“When Esca threw in the towel, that’s when I started the little café. And it just ignited,” he told me with an unwavering smile, still in amazement. “It was kind of staggering to me, you know, like wow – The New York Post is calling, Oatly is calling, even Japanese TV too.”

After gathering momentum, Chef Ararat assembled his closest supporters to help him stockpile funds to turn his dream of opening a restaurant into a reality. And, he made sure to note, it was no easy feat, especially when many well-known restaurants in New York were shutting their doors for good. 

Nostalgia lines the walls of the café

The kitschy aesthetic of the cafe is a clear extension of Chef Ararat’s zany interests and experiences, family history and community that have shaped his culinary experience. We prattled under crooked but charming vintage family photos, drawings and a signed Macy’s advertisement of celebrity chef Andrew Zimmerman. They worked together for a handful of years, and at one point, the Food Network star taught him how to make “life-changing” risotto. There’s also a framed photo of his mustachioed grandfather, a Genocide survivor who relocated their family to Iraq. According to family legend, this very grandfather helped Lawrence of Arabia escape after a chance encounter in a local marketplace upon recognizing his unmistakable blue eyes.  

Of course, there’s a proud Armenian flag greeting hungry Brooklynites upon entrance. And this colorful “ad” works wonders – a captivated customer stumbled into the cafe midway through our interview. 

“You got spinach pies? Man, I’m Greek – when I hear pies my legs start shaking,” he said. “I look forward to eating them my friend, I appreciate you.” Chef Ararat laughed and dished back, “Oh my God, it’s beautiful. I’m a fat Armenian kid; when I hear pie I think of cherry apple.” He later shared the secret ingredient to these spinach pies – cardamom seeds, butter-softened onions and pine nuts, just the way his father made them.

As if the tricolored walls weren’t enough, there’s also a photo of his family with William Saroyan from his early childhood in Minneapolis in the seventies. He recalled his mother magically landing a dinner with the notorious author, which still surprises him today. “My mom somehow called him and got through, you know, and gave him the old Armenian ‘get over here.’ And I remember I was playing football, and my mom came up to me, telling me to put my Armenian clothes on, because William Saroyan was coming to dinner and she had to make tabbouleh.” He laughed, adding, “He just kept pinching our cheeks, amazed that we spoke Armenian in a place where there were no Armenians.” 

“It’s one of life’s crazy moments, and it transcended to me because it’s like – the nerve my mom had to do that…I got the same nerve, you know? To push ahead and do something. You know us Armenians, we’re curious – it’s just in our nature. We love people, I think, and we just love to know what somebody else’s story is.” 

The remaining walls are lined with nostalgia and stories – signed Tony Bennet albums, framed stamps of Edith Piaf, Ramones posters and original pencil sketches from “The Simpsons.” There’s also a handwritten menu, one of his early brainstorms, consisting of tabbouleh, a garden salad, ceviche, pesto chicken, fresh shrimp and a vegetarian sandwich. 

“It’s all very punk rock,” he said with a grin, handing me a handwritten menu. “This menu is like my identity,” he added. 

Fresh tabbouleh at Café Little Armenia

His so-called “family dish” is tabbouleh with fresh bulgur, scallions and a side of pita, just like his mom served Saroyan. His menu of the day also offers homemade spinach pies, mussels and what he calls a “pot dish,” a stew with assorted vegetables inspired by his mom’s “peasant soup” stocked with mint, parsley, dry herbs, squash, potatoes, meatballs with bulgur and a healthy dose of barley at the bottom. It’s his spin on a classic grilled cheese and tomato soup, considering the pot dish comes with a side of cheese bourek. The tabbouleh and spinach pies, he realized, resemble both his parents.“One’s mom and one’s dad,” he shared. 

He also serves an “Armenian plate” – a small smorgasbord of luleh or shish kebab, grape leaves, grilled peppers and onions, all on top of a smattering of rice. Once again, this recipe comes from Dad – the meat is prepped with scallions, parsley, sumac and onions, “just the way Dad used to do it.” Chef Ararat hopes to add a yogurt sauce to the ever-evolving menu. His sous chef Daisy, new to the culinary scene, whips up pupusas as an experimental addition to this mostly Armenian menu. 

Unmistakable Armenian colors at Café Little Armenia

Chef Ararat is also very proud to debut his salmon roulade, a dish with palmed and flattened salmon, later brushed with olive oil and black pepper, fried in a pan with peanut oil and served with leeks.

“This menu is like my identity.”

“The Armenian dishes are very traditional, ones that we made in my house. They’re not things I learned from a book – it’s what I learned in my family. My heart has always been in the kitchen,” he shared. His father, raised in the villages of Rawa, blended Iraqi cuisine and spices with Armenian cooking growing up. “We [Armenians] are always going to cook, but we adapt to our influences. The Iraqi influence from my dad came in the form of cumin, a lot of black pepper, fused with the Armenian scallions, onions and little things like that.”

The “Armenian platter” at Café Little Armenia

His recipes are also a testament to his mother’s cooking. “When my mom came here, she couldn’t get tomato sauce or paste, so she had to adapt to ketchup – and it was delicious. She’d cook it slowly and add water to it.” This took him back in time to his small Armenian tribe in Minneapolis and his mother insisting the kids remain true to their ethnic roots, especially through their family dinners. “It was important to my mom that we ate Armenian food and that we spoke the language. We cooked so much in my house. I have very real memories of tugging at the bottom of my mom’s dress and walking around the kitchen watching her cut tomatoes and chopping and rolling grape leaves.” 

“I think that food is probably the only form of art that we participate in that we need to survive.

He reminisced on fond summertime childhood memories, stuffing plastic shopping bags with hand-picked grape leaves from their backyard, watching as the matriarchs of his family rolled dolma while laughing at Jerry Lewis films. “We share when we eat, we share when we cook, and you know, it’s the one thing that keeps us together. I think that food is probably the only form of art that we participate in that we need to survive.

To be clear, the café isn’t completely ready, and his small team still has a lot on their proverbial plates. Chef Ararat, passionate about his dishes and eager to serve Brooklyn real Armenian food, quietly opened his doors regardless. He admitted that the place isn’t as polished as it could be, but he remains steadfast that his café will rise to the top. He is still amazed that the world, even New York, has not discovered Armenian food in the way Korean cuisine or Japanese ramen have taken over Brooklyn. “I just struggle to come to grips with that in today’s world. It’s 2024!” 

Dessert at Café Little Armenia

Evidently, Chef Ararat is striving to make Armenian cuisine known to the world, starting with Greenpoint, playing the long game in New York’s ruthless restaurant scene. We ended the interview with a filo dough “bird’s nest” and date cookies to-go; he had to start prepping for dinner and predicted it would be a busy night. “Saturday night in Brooklyn – it’s going to be great.” 

You can visit Cafe Little Armenia at 1035 Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint via Instagram reservations at @littlearmeniacafe. 

Carolina Gazal is a writer for the AGBU Magazine where she covers timely topics on Armenian identity and culture. She is also a freelance lifestyle writer at Insider, where she was previously a Freelance Fellow editing articles on food, entertainment and travel. She holds a BA honors degree in English and Communications from Boston College with a concentration in Creative Writing, where she received the Senior Honors Thesis Grant to travel to Sivas/Sepastia and pen her family history.

Azerbaijan leads peace talks into deadlock, Speaker warns Czech counterpart


YEREVAN, JANUARY 31, ARMENPRESS. Speaker of Parliament Alen Simonyan has held a meeting with the President of the Chamber of Deputies of Czechia Markéta Pekarová Adamová.

Simonyan and Adamová held a one-on-one meeting followed by enlarged-format talks involving the delegations, the parliament’s press service said in a press release.

Speaker Simonyan said that Armenia greatly values the development of its friendly relations with Czechia. The sides noted that the two countries have managed to develop strong interstate relations and a multilateral agenda of cooperation ever since establishing diplomatic relations.

Speaking about the 2023 ethnic cleansing campaign perpetrated by Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, Speaker Simonyan briefed the Czech parliamentarians on the current issues, particularly on the negotiations process and the Armenian captives held in Azerbaijan.

“Armenia’s position regarding the establishment of peace in the region is clear, we must establish peaceful relations based on the mutual recognition of sovereignty and territorial integrity. The policy pursued by Azerbaijan recently, however, has been leading this process into a deadlock,” the Speaker of Parliament of Armenia said. He added that a long-term EU monitoring mission is of vital importance for Armenia in terms of security. “We appreciate Czechia’s contribution in this issue,” he said.

The President of the Chamber of Deputies of Czechia Markéta Pekarová Adamová praised Armenia’s efforts in the direction of establishing peace in the region and expressed confidence that Czechia will try to contribute to the resumption of Armenia-Azerbaijan peace talks.

The sides also discussed the opportunities for developing inter-parliamentary relations.

The need for continuously expanding the agenda aimed at democratic values was highlighted.