Google doodle marks February 29

Just like the Olympics, it happens every four years, and Google has marked this quadrennial occasion with its search engine doodle recognising February 29.

Showing one bunny jumping over another two, this cute doodle celebrates the Leap Year, which brought the Gregorian calendar into line with the solar year back in 45 BC.

Back then, there were 355 days in the calendar with an extra 22 day month every two years which spurred Julius Caesar into tasking his astronomer Sosignenes with making things a bit easier.

He came up with the idea of adding the extra hours onto one day. The last day of February was chosen because it was the last month of the Roman calendar.

Pope Gregory XIII coined the term “Leap Year” and declared that such a year could be divisible by 100 but not by 400. This means 2000 was a leap year, but 1800 and 1900 were not.

Pianist Sergei Babayan to perform at Fresno State

Asbarez – Award winning pianist Sergei Babayan will perform in recital as part of the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concert Series at Fresno State. The performance will take place at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9 in the Concert Hall on the Fresno State campus.

The concert is co-sponsored by the Armenian Studies Program of Fresno State. Babayan will be performing works by Schumann, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, and Brahms.

Acclaimed for the immediacy, sensitivity, and depth of his interpretations, Babayan’s performances reveal an emotional intensity and bold energy, equipping him to excel in repertoire ranging from Rameau to Ligeti. Winner of the 1989 Robert Casadesus International Piano Competition in Cleveland, this Armenian pianist returns to Fresno for another display of his “unequaled touch, perfectly harmonious phrasing and breathtaking virtuosity” (Le Figaro, Paris).

One of the most charismatic personalities on today’s concert stage, Babayan’s vibrantly expressive performances have spirited audience acclaim worldwide. Ever since his arrival in the United States, on his first trip outside of the Soviet Union in 1989, his breathtaking virtuosity and a wide- ranging tonal palette have brought him critical praise and accolades.

Babayan was born in Armenia to a musical family and started to play the piano at the age of three. He began his musical studies at the age of six under Luisa Markaryan and later with George Saradjev. He continued his studies at nineteen with Mikhail Pletnev at the Moscow Conservatory and completed post-graduate work there in 1989 as a student of Professor Vera Gornostaeva. He also studied privately with Lev Naumov in Moscow.

After making his New York recital debut in 1990 at Alice Tully Hall to great critical acclaim, Babayan embarked on a busy schedule that has included solo appearances with The Cleveland Orchestra, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Osaka Symphony, among others.

General tickets for the Concert are available for $25 per person, for seniors tickets are $18, and tickets for students are $5.00 per person. Ticket reservations for the concert may be made by calling 559-278-2337.

Parking will be available in Lot P1 (Shaw and Maple entrance to campus). For more information please contact the Armenian Studies Program at 278-2669 or visit

The Concert is supported by The Thomas A. Kooyumjian Family Foundation, The Ararat Foundation of Alexandria, Virginia, Grace Jelalian Shahinian Armenian Concerts Fund, and the Leon S. Peters Foundation.

Eurovision 2016: Voting rules to change

The voting in the Eurovision Song Contest is set to be radically transformed in 2016, according to Eurovision’s official website.

In previous years the results of the professional juries and viewers have been presented as a combined result, each accounting for 50 percent of the final score.

From 2016, the professional juries and televoters from each country will each award a separate set of points from 1 to 8, 10 and 12. This now means the top 10 countries in both the jury and televote will receive points, adding a new level of excitement for hundreds of millions of viewers in Europe and beyond.

After viewers have cast their votes by telephone, SMS or using the official app, each national spokesperson from the 43 participating countries will be called in to present the points of their professional jury. After the presentation of the scores from the juries, the televoting points from all participating countries will be combined, providing one score for each song. These televoting results will then be announced by the host, starting with the country receiving the fewest points from the public and ending with the country that received the highest number of points, building towards a guaranteed climax.

For those wanting to know how their country has voted, the televoting and jury scores from each participating country will be available after the show on

Radio saves lives: Februay 13 is World Radio Day

World Radio Day on 13 February brings attention to the role of radio in managing disasters and recovery in their aftermath.

The theme of the UNESCO day this year is Radio in Times of Emergency and Disaster, in short, as the World Radio Day website so simply puts it, ‘Radio saves lives’.   It can also enhance them.

Radio is recognized as a low-cost medium, specifically suited to reach remote communities and is especially effective in reaching people affected by disasters when other means of communication are disrupted. Terrestrial radio broadcasts are effective in providing timely, relevant and practical information to people who are confused and demoralised by the impact of a crisis. Broadcast information is particularly useful in situations where physical access is difficult and aid responders may take several days or weeks to reach affected communities.

Recent natural and man-made disasters are a major cause for concern to the global community. “In times of crisis and emergency, radio can be a lifeline,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “For people in shattered societies, or caught in catastrophe, or desperately seeking news, radio brings lifesaving information. This year, as we start carrying out the Sustainable Development Goals, let us resolve to use radio for human progress. On this World Radio Day, let us resolve to prove that radio saves lives.”

“Radio plays a very significant part of all our lives.  On average, we will listen to nine years of radio in a lifetime – more than any activity except breathing and sleeping!   However, statistics anonymize the audiences.  The human stories behind the figures are moving and compelling.   In difficult circumstances, audiences can receive advice about their personal safety, and counter loss and isolation.   It can amuse and inform us, as a convenient, flexible way to encounter new ideas, new music and new ways of thinking.    Nine years of listening in an average lifetime is indeed an impressive figure, but the real personal impact of radio cannot be quantified.  World Radio Day provides a great opportunity to reflect on the power of radio,” said Graham Dixon, Head of Radio, European Broadcasting Union.

Listen to Radio Day congratulations from our colleagues all over the world”















EBU Geneva

Czech Republic



Catalonia, Spain




President Sargsyan congratulates Vilen Galstian on jubilee

President Serzh Sargsyan sent today a congratulatory letter to the RA People’s Artist Vilen Galstian on the occasion of his 75th birth anniversary.

“Your long and productive artistic life has been marked with many achievements. You have brought your significant input to the development and propagation of the Armenian and world classical ballet, created unforgettable and lasting images. Today, you continue your patriotic work, bringing the Armenian national ballet to a qualitatively new level. I wish you excellent health, new creative achievements and all the best”, read the congratulatory letter of the President of Armenia.

Messi seeks to meet Afghan boy in plastic jersey

Barcelona star Lionel Messi is hoping to arrange a meeting with an Afghan boy who shot to fame after pictures of him dressed in a striped plastic bag jersey went viral, Kabul’s football federation said Monday, Agence France-Presse reports.

Five-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi idolises the Argentine soccer star but a jersey of his favourite player is beyond the means of his poor family in the volatile province of Ghazni near Kabul.

His elder brother Homayoun, 15, made him the blue-and-white-striped plastic shirt with Messi’s named scrawled in marker pen and posted the photos of Murtaza wearing it on Facebook in mid-January.

Jorge Messi, Lionel’s father, told AFP on Saturday that the footballer was aware of the photos that made waves on social media and “wants to do something” for his young fan.

The Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) on Monday said Messi was keen to meet Murtaza as soon as possible, though no date or venue has so far been finalised.

“Messi has been in communication with the federation to set up a meeting with the young boy,” AFF spokesman Sayed Ali Kazemi told AFP.

“We are working to see whether Messi will come to Afghanistan or the five-year-old will travel to Spain or they will meet in a third country.”

There was no immediate comment from FC Barcelona.

Levon Aronian: How the ‘David Beckham of chess’ became an Armenian national hero

– When Levon Aronian walks down the street in his street in his native Armenia he’s met by cheering crowds; restaurants insist he eats for free; new parents name their babies after him.

Aronian isn’t an actor, activist, or astronaut. He’s a chess player – the fourth best in the world, to be precise. And in this tiny, ex-Soviet, chess-obsessed country, that means he’s also a national hero.

“The first time my fiancé arrived in Armenia we stopped at one petrol station and they said, ‘OK, we’re not going to charge you,’” says the 33-year-old dubbed “The David Beckham of Armenia” by the foreign press.

“So for her this is pretty shocking — but that happens all the time,” he adds, referring to his Australian girlfriend Arianne Caoili, an international chess champion in her own right whose good looks have spurred the nickname “The Anna Kournikova of Chess.”

Armenia’s chess king

The red carpet treatment of players isn’t so far-fetched in a country where chess is compulsory in all schools. Here, even the nation’s President Serzh Sargsyan is also President of the Armenia Chess Federation.

For a nation of just three million, Armenia has one of the highest numbers of grandmasters per capita in the world. Of the past five Chess Olympiads, the national team has won three times — led by noneother than idol Aronian.

“I won’t be humble about that,” he adds with a cheeky laugh. And while Aronian may not have the swagger of a footballer like Beckham, his playful and sincere charm has only endeared him to a country of chess-fanatics.

Home-schooled by his scientist parents in what was then the Soviet Union, Aronian was taught to play chess by his sister as a nine-year-old — and turned pro the same year.

These days the chess prodigy spends around four hours a day training. He usually travels seven months a year — playing at international tournaments offering anywhere between a few thousand and over a million dollars in prize money.

Armenian grandmasters are also paid around $120 per month from the government — a symbolic sum which nonetheless sets it apart from the rest of the world.

But to really understand the country’s love of chess, you must head to the streets.

“You see people playing chess in cafes, in parks, at family gatherings, among young and old alike,” says Professor Aram Hajian, Dean at the College of Science and Engineering at the American University of Armenia, and co-founder of the Chess Academy of Armenia.

“It’s generational — most of the people I have met who play chess, when asked, mention a parent or grandfather who introduced them to the game.”

Nurturing a nation of prodigies

Even for a small and chess-loving nation like Armenia, rolling out the sport to every single school in 2011 was no easy task.

“The single biggest challenge has been the training of chess teachers,” explained Hajian.

“There’s also integration into the national school curriculum, and overcoming logistical challenges of equipment and materials.”

For the Armenian government, the benefits of nurturing a nation of chess players far outweighed the logistical nightmare.

And it’s an approach being watched closely by educators around the world.

“Children playing chess are exposed to such topics as strategy, planning, sacrifice, creativity, logic, and learning how to be a gracious winner – and loser,” says Hajian.

“Kids love games, and if you can identify a way to teach all these topics in the context of a game, I think you have struck upon a scholastic goldmine.”

The ‘grandfather of chess’

Armenia’s modern-day love affair with chess owes a lot to one man — 1960s world champion Tigran Petrosian.

The moment Petrosian beat Soviet Mikhail Botvinnik to become 1963 World Chess Champion (a title he held until 1969), has been likened JFK’s assassination in America — everyone in Armenia remembers where they were at the time.

“The collective euphoria that the nation experienced was a real watershed moment for the Armenian people,” explained Hajian of the games which were projected onto giant screens and watched by thousands in the capital Yerevan’s Opera Square.

“At the time, Armenia was one of the smallest constituent republics of the Soviet Union. While national expression was discouraged by the Soviet authorities, the rise of Tigran Petrosian galvanized the spirit of the Armenian nation.”

For a country with such a tumultuous history — including one of the most horrific massacres of the 20th century — chess has now also become an important source of Armenian national pride.

“We’re not just a nation of people who struggle and fight. We’re also a nation of people who can come back to the days of our glory when we were a big country, a country who set new rules,” explained Aronian.

“When you travel to Armenia you see all those monasteries, all those universities that are 1,500 years old and you always feel ‘this is what we are.’ We have been a nation that had a lot of intellectual capability.

“So I think what drove people to chess, is to bring back the feeling that we were once a scientific nation.”

And if Aronian is any indication — it’s a winning move.

Armenia should review its foreign policy: Giro Manoyan




Will the failure of the anti-Armenian resolution at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe restrain Azerbaijan’s aggression? “No,” says Giro Manoyan, Head of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau’s Hay Dat and Political Affairs Office.

“They have to divert attention from a growing number of problems inside the country,” Manoyan told reporters today. “Rejection of one anti-Armenian report and adoption of another one is like keeping the false balance,” he added.

According to Giro Manoyan, “one thing is clear, Armenia should make corrections in its foreign policy.” He suggests initiating new reports emphasizing Azerbaijan’s’ violence at the Armenian border, their actions against the peaceful population, the anti-Armenian statements of Azeri leaders.

Manoyan commended the latest statement of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs released before the discussion of the two reports. “We appreciate the interest paid by PACE members, but urge that steps not be taken which could undermine the Minsk Group’s mandate from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe or complicate ongoing negotiations,” the Co-Chairs had stated.

Professor Richard Hovannisian inducted into Accademia Ambrosiana of Milan

Asbarez – Professor Richard G. Hovannisian of UCLA, Chapman University, and the Shoah Foundation at USC has been inducted as a Fellow of the prestigious Accademia Ambrosiana of Milan, Italy. Nominated by the Great Chancellor of the Academy, Archbishop of Milan Cardinal Angelo Scola, for having distinguished himself in the field of Armenian and Oriental Studies, Hovannisian was inducted as a lifetime fellow of the 400 year-old Academy in formal ceremonies held in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana on the evening of November 9, 2015.  His diploma was presented by Monsignor Franco Buzzi, president of the Academy.

On November 10, Dr. Hovannisian delivered a memorable inaugural address on the significance of the centenary of the Armenian Genocide and the advances since 1915 in the historiography of the Mets Yeghern (Great Crime) and its significance in comparative perspective. Other talks on Armenian subjects during the three-day assembly were given by invited scholars Marco Bias, Raymond Kevorkian, and Aldo Ferrari. Professor Levon Chookaszian of Yerevan State University also attended as an inductee of the Academy’s Classis Orientalis.

Richard Hovannisian has authored and edited 30 books and nearly 100 articles and chapters on Armenian, Near Eastern, and Caucasian history and culture.  He is a Guggenheim fellow, a full member of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, and a recipient of numerous scholarly, ecclesiastic, civic, and professional awards.  He is currently collaborating with the Shoah Foundation on the integration of Armenian survivor testimony into the Foundation’s permanent holdings, while also completing work on the Armenian translation of volumes 3 and 4 of his magnus opus, The Republic of Armenia.