Armenia’s Pashinyan meets with French PM Gabriel Attal


YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 22, ARMENPRESS. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has met with French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal in Paris.

Prime Minister Attal welcomed the Armenian PM’s visit and underscored his government’s readiness to consistently develop cooperation with Armenia, the Armenian Prime Minister’s Office said in a readout.

PM Pashinyan once again congratulated Attal on assuming the office of Prime Minister and wished him success. PM Pashinyan attached importance to deepening and enhancing partnership with the French government in various sectors.

A broad range of issues pertaining to partnership and joint projects in trade-economic ties, construction, infrastructure development, energy, water management and tourism was discussed.

Prime Minister Pashinyan attached importance to the French government’s support to Armenia in the direction of diversification of markets and introduction of standards.

The French Prime Minister accepted PM Pashinyan’s invitation to pay an official visit to Armenia.

Armenian Resistance fighter joins France’s Pantheon heroes

Feb 21 2024

Armenian Resistance fighter joins France's Pantheon heroes


A stateless Armenian poet who died fighting the Nazi occupation of France during World War II becomes on Wednesday the first non-French Resistance fighter to enter the Pantheon mausoleum for national heroes.

The honour to Missak Manouchian has been seen as long-overdue recognition of the bravery of foreign communists — many Jewish — who fought the Nazis alongside members of the French Resistance.

"Jewish, Hungarian, Polish, Armenians, communists, they gave their lives for our country," President Emmanuel Macron said this weekend.

"It's a way of ensuring all forms of internal Resistance enter (the Pantheon), including some too long forgotten," he told communist newspaper L'Humanite.

The bodies of Manouchian and his wife Melinee, also a member of the Resistance, will be carried into the Pantheon at around 18:30 pm (1730 GMT).

The names of 23 of his communist comrades-in-arm — including Polish, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish and Romanian fighters — will be added to a commemorative plaque inside the monument.

– Refugee turned fighter –

Manouchian arrived in France as a young man in the mid-1920s, after fleeing World-War-I-era mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as a child to French-mandate Lebanon.

He joined the French communist party's armed resistance in 1943, soon leading dozens of foreigners fighting the German occupiers in the Paris region.

Under his watch they carried out sabotage, derailed trains, attacked German soldiers and assassinated a German SS colonel in charge of the forced enlistment of French workers.

Manouchian was arrested in November 1943 and tortured before being shot dead by firing squad aged 37 with around 20 of his comrades in February 1944.

After their death sentences, a Nazi propaganda poster showing images of ten from the group on a red background, which became known as the "red poster", sought to demonise them as members of a "criminal army".

But it backfired, and later inspired a poem by French poet Louis Aragon, a song and several films.

– Foreign fighters –

Manouchian, who pursued poetry and literature while working in a shipyard and a factory before the war, had requested French nationality in 1933 and 1940, both times without success.

He was one of many foreigners in the French Resistance.

They were mostly "anti-Nazi Germans and Austrians, Spanish Republicans who had fled Francoism, anti-fascist Italians, Poles who had fled anti-Semitism, Armenians, and Jews from eastern Europe and Germany", according to the French defence ministry.

It is unclear how many exactly of the 2.2 million foreigners in France at the time joined the Resistance.

But of the 1,000 Resistance fighters executed by the Nazis at the Mont-Valerien fort outside Paris during the occupation, 185 were foreign, historian Denis Peschanski told AFP.

That was a much higher proportion of foreigners than in the country's pre-war population of around 40 million.

– 'Quiet heroism' –

Under Macron, since 2017 three people have been awarded a place inside the Pantheon: writer Maurice Genevoix, women's rights icon Simone Veil, and US-born entertainer and French Resistance member Josephine Baker.

Baker, the first black woman to receive the honour, had been awarded French nationality before the war.

Last year, Macron said Manouchian would also receive the honour, paying tribute to his "bravery" and "quiet heroism".

At the time, parliament was debating a contentious immigration bill that Macron eventually signed into law earlier this year.

The roughly 2,000 people invited to Wednesday's ceremony include Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and representatives of the French Communist Party.

Far-right former presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has said she would also be attending, sparking controversy.

The parliamentary leader of the anti-immigration National Rally party was invited, but Macron said this weekend that the far right should be "inspired not to be present".

Georges Duffau-Epstein, whose Jewish immigrant father Joseph Epstein is among those being honoured, said Le Pen was "not welcome".

This was "due to her line of descent, the character of those who founded" her party, he said, alluding to her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, a convicted Holocaust denier.


Ararat Mirzoyan and Louis Bono discuss the latest developments in the region


YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 16, ARMENPRESS.  On February 16, in the framework of the Munich Security Conference, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ararat Mirzoyan had a meeting with Louis Bono, the US Senior Adviser for Caucasus Negotiations, the foreign ministry said.

The interlocutors discussed issues related to the security situation in the South Caucasus and touched upon the recent regional developments.

Views were exchanged on the topics of the Armenia-US bilateral partnership agenda.

Britain lets Armenian president’s family own luxury properties using dark money

Feb 9 2024

The opulent streets of London, long associated with the rich and famous, have become the backdrop for yet another tale of hidden wealth and offshore companies. Recent investigations have unveiled a network of luxury properties owned by the family of Armen Sarkissian, the former president of Armenia, nestled behind the veils of opaque offshore firms.

In a report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), it was revealed that Sarkissian’s relatives, including his wife and sons, own multiple high-end properties in London’s affluent neighborhoods. The ownership, hidden behind offshore entities registered in the British Virgin Islands, has come to light following new transparency regulations enacted in the United Kingdom in 2022.

The properties, including a five-story mansion on Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, and several other prestigious residences, are purportedly owned by Sarkissian’s sister, Karine Sargsyan. These revelations raise questions about the origins of the wealth used to acquire such prime real estate and the implications of using offshore structures to obscure ownership.

Sarkissian, a successful businessman prior to his political career, claims that he entrusted his wealth to his sister in the 1990s, earned from ventures in software development and video games. However, discrepancies arise as the properties were not declared in Sarkissian’s asset declarations during his tenure in public office, as required by Armenian law.

Moreover, previous investigations have uncovered undisclosed assets and foreign citizenship held by Sarkissian, further complicating the narrative. Allegations of constitutional violations regarding foreign citizenship are under scrutiny by Armenian authorities.

The intricate web of offshore companies extends beyond real estate ownership, revealing connections to corporate assets and business ventures. Sarkissian’s family has been linked to companies involved in importing major international brands in Armenia, Georgia, and Uzbekistan, indicating a broader network of financial interests.

Additionally, the transfer of ownership within these corporate entities, particularly to Sarkissian’s son, raises concerns about the transparency and legality of such transactions. Questions linger about the true beneficiaries and motivations behind these intricate financial maneuvers.

The revelations underscore broader concerns about the role of the United Kingdom as a haven for illicit wealth and dark money. Despite recent legislative efforts to increase transparency, the ease of establishing opaque corporate structures and concealing beneficial ownership highlights ongoing challenges in combating financial secrecy and corruption.

As investigations continue into Sarkissian’s family wealth and offshore activities, calls for greater accountability and scrutiny of individuals holding public office resonate. The case serves as a poignant reminder of the intricate nexus between wealth, power, and opacity, and the imperative of robust regulatory frameworks to safeguard against abuse and exploitation.

RFE/RL Armenian Service – 02/07/2024

                                        Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Pashinian Again Defends Plans For New Constitution

        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Armenia - A bodyguard stands near Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian as he speaks in 
the Armenian parliament, Yerevan, February 7, 2024.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian defended his plans to try to enact a new Armenian 
constitution on Wednesday in the face of continuing opposition claims that he 
wants to make more concessions to Azerbaijan.

Pashinian denied any connection between the plans and a peace treaty currently 
discussed by Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“There is an agreed article in the text of the peace treaty, which says that the 
parties cannot refer to their own laws to avoid fulfilling any obligations under 
this treaty. So the issue here is not about the peace treaty at all,” he told 
opposition lawmakers during his government’s question-and-answer session in the 

Some of those lawmakers have been allowed by the Armenian Foreign Ministry to 
read written proposals on the treaty exchanged by Yerevan and Baku in recent 
months. One of them, Gegham Manukian, said the clause cited by Pashinian was 
imposed by the Azerbaijani side and runs counter to Armenia’s current 
constitution. This is why, he said, Pashinian wants to the change the 

The premier responded by accusing Manukian of misleading the public and saying 
that he and the other opposition deputies will no longer have access to details 
of the negotiation process. He went on to again criticize a 1990 Armenian 
declaration of independence, saying that Armenia cannot make peace with 
Azerbaijan as long as it is guided by that document.

The declaration cited in a preamble to the current constitution refers to a 1989 
unification act adopted by the legislative bodies of Soviet Armenia and the then 
Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast and calls for international recognition of 
the 1915 Armenian genocide.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on February 1 that Armenia should remove 
that reference and amend other documents “infringing on Azerbaijan’s territorial 
integrity” if it wants to cut a peace deal with his country. Armenian opposition 
leaders portrayed Aliyev’s statement as further proof that Pashinian wants to 
effectively declare the 1990 declaration null and void under pressure from 
Azerbaijan as well as Turkey. They say this is the main aim of the 
constitutional change sought by him.

Opposition Members Ousted From Yerevan City Council

        • Narine Ghalechian

Armenia - Former Yerevan Mayor Hayk Marutian talks to journalists after being 
stripped of his seat in the city council, February 7, 2024.

The ruling Civil Contract party on Wednesday managed to strip three opposition 
members of Yerevan’s municipal council of their seats with the decisive help of 
two other councilors summoned to an Armenian law-enforcement agency on Tuesday.

The ousted oppositionists include former Mayor Hayk Marutian, whose party 
finished second in last September’s municipal election, and two councilors 
representing the radical opposition Mayr Hayastan alliance.

Civil Contract and its local coalition partner, the Hanrapetutyun party, argue 
that they can no longer sit on the city council because of having skipped most 
of the council sessions and votes. The opposition forces dismiss the 
explanation, saying that their absence was part of legitimate boycotts designed 
to scuttle key decisions made by Mayor Tigran Avinian.

“Why did you not oust dozens of your teammates from the previous council who did 
not attend sessions for years? Because they didn’t challenge you,” Marutian told 
Avinian and his political allies during a heated session preceding a vote on 
their seats.

“You are removing us because we are fighting against you and demanding your 
resignation,” charged Marutian.

“If you don’t attend and speak during sessions why would we want to silence 
you?” countered Suren Grigorian, a deputy mayor affiliated with Civil Contract.

Council members from Mayr Hayastan boycotted the session in protest against what 
they too described as a government bid to silence the opposition. The bloc’s 
leader, Andranik Tevanian, called for a fresh municipal ballot on Tuesday.

Civil Contract and Hanrapetutyun lacked a single vote to oust the oppositionists 
and they predictably secured it from the Public Voice party that was until 
recently led by Vartan Ghukasian, a controversial video blogger based in the 
United States.

Two Public Voice councilors showed up for the session and voted for the ouster 
of the oppositionists. One of them, Vahan Avagian, admitted that they were 
summoned to the Investigative Committee on Tuesday.

“I won’t say why because it’s confidential information,” Avagian told reporters. 
He denied opposition claims that he was pressured to back the ruling party’s 
latest initiative.

Public Voice, which campaigned for the September polls on an opposition 
platform, already decisively helped Civil Contract install Avinian as mayor last 
October. Its nominal chairman, Artak Galstian was arrested last year on charges 
of blackmail and extortion and remains in custody. Ghukasian is wanted by 
law-enforcement authorities on the same charges.

HSBC Announces Exit From Armenia

U.S. -- The entrance to a HSBC Bank branch in New York, 10Aug2011

HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, has announced the sale of its Armenian subsidiary 
which will end its nearly 30-year presence in Armenia.

In a statement issued late on Tuesday, the British bank said it has agreed to 
sell the HSBC Armenia unit to the country’s leading bank, Ardshinbank, in line 
with its “strategy to redeploy capital from less strategic or low-connectivity 
businesses into higher-growth opportunities globally.”

Ardshinbank confirmed the agreement in a separate statement. Neither side 
disclosed the terms of the deal subject to regulatory approvals.

“Ardshinbank looks forward to welcoming HSBC Armenia customers onto our 
award-winning platform and to further delivering on its strategy to accelerate 
growth and expand product offering for clients,” said the bank’s chairman, Artak 
Ananian. He promised a “smooth and fluid transition” for the 30,000 or so 

Reuters reported last May that HSBC is considering a possible exit from as many 
as a dozen countries after earlier announcements about selling off parts or all 
of its activities in France, Canada, Russia and Greece. HSBC completed the sale 
of its French retail business to CCF on January 1 days after Canada approved the 
acquisition of the bank's Canadian business by Royal Bank of Canada.

Established in 1996, HSBC Armenia is the only local commercial bank controlled 
by a major Western banking group. It currently has total assets worth 290 
billion drams ($720 million) and around 200 billion drams in customer deposits.

HSBC Armenia’s net profit rose from 8 billion drams in 2022 to over 11 billion 
drams ($27 million) last year. By comparison, Ardshinbank reported nearly 63 
billion drams in earnings in 2023.

The 18 banks operating in Armenia nearly tripled their combined profits, to a 
record 253 billion drams, in 2022 amid a dramatic increase in cash flows from 
Russia which followed the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The figure fell by 9 
percent in 2023, according to the publication.

State Radio Chief Censured After Criticizing Pashinian

        • Astghik Bedevian
        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Armenia - Garegin Khumarian, director of Public Radio of Armenia.

A state body overseeing Armenian Public Radio has moved to take action against 
its executive director Garegin Khumarian who has openly criticized Prime 
Minister Nikol Pashinian’s latest statements on the conflict with Azerbaijan.

In a reportedly pre-recorded interview with the state-funded radio aired on 
February 1, Pashinian again took aim at a 1990 declaration of independence cited 
in a preamble to the Armenian constitution. He claimed that Armenia “will never 
have peace” with Azerbaijan as long as there is such reference. Accordingly, 
Pashinian defended his plans to try to enact a new constitution that would 
presumably make no mention of the declaration.

Khumarian took issue with Pashinian’s comments in an op-ed article published on 
Public Radio’s website on Monday. The premier, he said, wants to destroy one of 
the pillars of “our political identity” and to “stop us being who we are.”

“We were told that the Turks are strong and the Armenians weak, the Turks 
massacre Armenians,” he wrote. “This syllogism should have ended with the 
deductive conclusion ‘let's get stronger,’ but what was said instead was ‘let's 
stop being Armenians.’”

Khumarian said that this policy will not prevent Azerbaijani aggression against 
Armenia. He went on to accuse Pashinian’s government of failing to rebuild the 
Armenian army since the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia’s Council of Public Broadcaster, which appoints the heads of state of 
state television and radio, accused Khumarian late on Tuesday of abusing his 
position to express his personal view on the radio website in an “arbitrary” and 
“unchallenged” way. The council will “examine the conformity of the actions of 
the Public Radio Company director with ethical and legal norms,” it said in a 

All seven members of the body have been appointed by Pashinian. None of them 
agreed to comment further on Wednesday.

“I don’t agree with that [statement] and am waiting to see what our company’s 
lawyers will say,” Khumarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

The Public Radio chief insisted that he performed his “professional duty” and 
simply commented on Armenia’s “existential” problems that are “a step above 
politics.” He noted that he had previously posted about a dozen articles on the 
same website and none of them got him in trouble with his supervisors.

Pashinian’s plans to change the constitution have also been denounced by his 
political opponents and other critics. They say that say his appeasement 
strategy will not lead to a lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Reposted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2024 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.


AW: Why do we fear change and not embrace it?

A popular theme in our communities is relating our challenges to our leadership. As illustrated in my last column, there is certainly a leadership crisis in institutions such as the Armenian church. It is important to distinguish between leaders and leadership. Leaders in our communities are appointed or elected. Leadership is a reflection of their impact and can vary among leaders. Limiting our concerns to leaders would be incomplete and shallow. There are certain behavioral traits and cultural values that are both contributors and detractors. We are a community that lives in fear of change. We confuse retaining critical traditions with an intolerance of any change. The lack of change at times reflects the desire of the elite to concentrate and retain authority. How else can one explain not only the shameful division of our church in North America but also the broader jurisdictional issues that remain frozen with the two Sees? Over time, the faithful have developed a loyalty to either See based on personal experience. We feel attached to our local parishes and are less concerned about seemingly distant divisions. If it doesn’t impact our daily lives, then we tolerate the occasional inconveniences. As long as the faithful accept that role, why would the authority structure in either See be motivated to change? We choose to ignore the long-term impact. 

The diaspora has struggled with change for decades. The survivor generation built a community that closely reflected its ancestral upbringing through compatriotic organizations and use of our native language. The succeeding generation, led by American-born Armenians, brought American values into our community as we began to “modernize.” Today it is fair to say that change is a struggle that knocks at our door, yet we often refuse to answer. Denial seems to be a better alternative. Life in the diaspora is a struggle for identity survival. Educational and wealth opportunities are well defined and fuel the sustainability of our community, as long as we are not absorbed by assimilation. This is the major difference between life in the homeland and in the diaspora. Losing one’s ethnic identity is very difficult in a homogeneous homeland where culture, language and personal identity are constants. Armenians who wish to dilute their identity in the homeland find it challenging. In the diaspora, ethnic identity is a choice made personally or by the environment you enjoy. This freedom to choose is the main source of fear. We associate most change with a surrender of our core values. This is particularly true in the church, where change is difficult yet intermarriage and a secular world surround us. Still we cling to the status quo and keep the “lights on” for another generation.

I would like to offer a comparison between today’s diaspora in America and the experiences of our ancestors in historic Armenia. In its long history, Armenia has been invaded, occupied and subdued by nearly every regional force in the Middle East and Eurasia. Invasions brought atrocities and assimilation. The forces of cultural assimilation brought on by invading nations would have destroyed most people. In fact, history is full of former peers of Armenia that did not survive these advances. Yet, Armenia lived to see another day. The greatest catastrophe that Armenians experienced did not destroy the Armenian identity. A majority of the population in the western regions was massacred, a historic homeland usurped and the survivors scattered across the globe. Those scattered seeds built what we today refer to as our powerful diaspora. We have survived through adaptation. In our modern history, when the diaspora was formed, adjusting was not a new behavior. In fact, it was a vital part of our behavior for centuries. 

Eleanor Caroglanian and Seda Gelenian performing with the Gayanne Armenian Folk Dance Group at the New York City World’s Fair, 1965 (Photo: Project Save Photograph Archives, Twitter)

Our faith and our ability to adapt have been the key ingredients in our journey for survival. Much has been written about the central value of our faith. Many of us tend to be critical, speaking against the building of too many churches. Our churches have been destroyed by the Turks and others, but our faith was not lost, because it did not simply reside in a building. The invaders could not steal the faith buried deep in our hearts. Adaptation has been a consistent skill that has enabled our continued presence. 

Vartanantz is a highly visible example of when our ancestors decided to take a stand for over 34 years against incredible odds to preserve our faith and identity. Clearly, our history would have had a different path or ended were it not for the vision in 451-484. Often, our people made smaller compromises to survive. They understood what had to be retained and what could be expended for the benefit of the long term. 

Often, political independence was sacrificed in order for local cultural identity to be secured. The medieval model of Armenian princes operating under foreign conquerors illustrates this point. After the fall of the Bagratuni dynasty in the central highlands and resulting Seljuk Turk invasion, Armenians undertook a mass migration to the Cilicia region in the 11th century. To survive the Byzantine advances and Turkic onslaught, Armenians migrated to a new region and established a thriving kingdom in Sis. It became a cultural and religious center until the Ottoman Turkish genocide in the 20th century. Consider the challenge of moving whole communities and re-establishing viable political, religious and military roots. Does anyone believe that this was accomplished without significant adaptation? Our history tells us that they understood adjusting without capitulating. Armenians are not strangers to the threat of assimilation. They have lived with the impact of Persian, Arab, Byzantine and Turkish invasions yet survived.

Consider the challenge of moving whole communities and re-establishing viable political, religious and military roots. Does anyone believe that this was accomplished without significant adaptation? Our history tells us that they understood adjusting without capitulating. Armenians are not strangers to the threat of assimilation. They have lived with the impact of Persian, Arab, Byzantine and Turkish invasions yet survived.

How? Without sovereignty or freedom, they focused on what was important and foundational to our identity. They accepted the influences of invading cultures but held on to their core. We have different dialects today that reflect various periods of influence throughout our history. It is still the Armenian language. When Armenians from the diaspora go to Armenia for the first time, they are anxious about the eastern versus western dialect. This is a reflection of our political history. Persian Armenians and Eastern Armenians share a common outside influence, reflected in the dialect. When you arrive in Armenia, the anxiety is reduced. The minor inconveniences are forgettable. We are all Armenians. Change reflects adaptation, which enables survival.

Here in the American diaspora, we should not fear change but rather embrace the opportunity. It is far better to manage change rather than allow it to manage us. We are an evolving human species, and Armenians are a part of this world. Change is inevitable and should be encouraged to preserve the core of who we are. Resisting change will accelerate assimilation and cause unnecessary losses. Since last week’s column, I have received many heartfelt comments about the tragic relationship with the Armenian church. Armenians of faith see the church as the primary communal vehicle of our Christianity, yet they are frustrated with its static position in a difficult environment in the diaspora. Instead of addressing our challenges, as our ancestors did when foreigners challenged our identity, we have a tendency to ignore the “elephants in the room.” The impact of intermarriage, for example, is not going away. Our response has essentially been to be “welcoming” to non-Armenian spouses. There is a significant difference between “welcoming” and providing integration programs on church history, structure and canons. Some parishes may need language flexibility based on their demographics, and others may not. We seem to fear change because it could lead to our decline by diluting who we are. My perspective is that ignoring threats is a certain path to decline, and thoughtful change can reverse trends toward decline. We are the stewards of the church. It was given to us by our ancestors when it was brought to these shores. 

We are four or perhaps five generations into the U.S. diaspora experience. Clinging to all of the past will accelerate our decline. We must always remind ourselves that identity is a choice in the diaspora. Far too often, discussions on change conjure up perceptions of a radical dismantling of our identity. The people who advocate change also love the Armenian church and our culture. Their intent is to ensure survival by enabling adaptation. This is no different in concept than what our ancestors did for centuries to survive. Certain miracles have happened in our history, when the strain of survival became too great. Prior to the invention of the Armenian alphabet by Mashdots, Armenia was politically divided and as a result culturally fragmented. Although Armenian was a spoken language, written _expression_ was in the dominant regional cultures such as Greek, Aramaic or Persian. This was both limiting and culturally threatening to the national character. St. Mesrob’s gift from God and the following period of the Holy Translators altered the course of our civilization. In 1918, ravaged by genocide with huddled masses cornered into eastern Armenia, the miracle of Sardarabad defied all logic and prevented the erasure of Armenia from the map of the region. These are not coincidences. In our faith, these are blessings from Our Lord. It has been our responsibility, whether in the fourth century, Middle Ages, in Armenia or anywhere in the diaspora, to make wise forthright decisions that protect our history and future. This requires us to identify the core of our identity and protect it. 

In the case of the church and its sluggish leadership, the faithful have an equal responsibility to ensure we are moving forward. Blaming leaders may quell one’s conscience, but accomplishes little. It is irresponsible for adherents to complain as victims yet do little with their voices to promote progress. In each parish and diocese, we have an opportunity. Make your voice heard and demand results. The same should be applied to community organizations. Do not let the organizations become more than the mission they serve. Raise the expectations. Adapt to changing needs, so you can continue to serve with relevance. This behavior begins when each of us looks in the mirror and says, “What have I done today to overcome our fear of change and make our future in the diaspora more secure?” Even the best of our organizations are susceptible to becoming stale. You are the check and balance to ensure we remain effective.  

Stepan was raised in the Armenian community of Indian Orchard, MA at the St. Gregory Parish. A former member of the AYF Central Executive and the Eastern Prelacy Executive Council, he also served many years as a delegate to the Eastern Diocesan Assembly. Currently , he serves as a member of the board and executive committee of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR). He also serves on the board of the Armenian Heritage Foundation. Stepan is a retired executive in the computer storage industry and resides in the Boston area with his wife Susan. He has spent many years as a volunteer teacher of Armenian history and contemporary issues to the young generation and adults at schools, camps and churches. His interests include the Armenian diaspora, Armenia, sports and reading.

Armenpress: Reservist Arthur Grigoryan dies as a result of fire incident

 22:03, 6 February 2024

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 6, ARMENPRESS. On February 6, around 13:20, a reserve soldier Arthur Varuzhan Grigoryan (born 1985) died as a result of a fire that broke out under unknown circumstances in a cabin located near the shelter of the combat position of guard post N of the Defense Ministry's military unit. The fire was localized and extinguished, the defense ministry said.

An investigation is currently underway to thoroughly understand the circumstances of the incident.

The Ministry of Defense extends its condolences and support to the family members and relatives of the reservist.

The power of skills: women paving the way to their own business in rural Armenia

Jan 23 2024

Unlike large urban centres, rural areas in Armenia often lack jobs to offer to women, regardless of their age. The region of Shirak in the north-west of the country is one such case, where female unemployment rates remain high. This was the challenge addressed by ‘Lightning’, a local NGO, with a series of small but very concrete steps. Thanks to EU support, the NGO was able to help local women to get new professional and financial skills, which empowered them to self-employment.

“After losing my home in Nagorno-Karabakh I found myself in a very difficult situation. I moved to the Akhuryan community [in Shirak Province] and was looking for a job to earn a living for my seven children,” says 41-year-old Diana Masuryan. “I acquired a profession following a three-month nail-dressing course that also provided the necessary materials and supplies. Now I work as a nail dresser in one of the oldest salons in Gyumri. This work is crucial for me: it helps me to provide for my children and bring food to the table.”

“I am a single mother with two small children,”  says Gjulnara Aghaqhanyan, 38, from Bayandur village in the region of Shirak. “Thanks to a four-month hairdressing course I have learned various aspects of hairdressing, including haircuts, hairstyles, and colouring. In parallel to the theoretical knowledge, I had a chance to practice: the models were my own friends and relatives. Now I provide home hairdressing services to the community’s residents.”

Diana and Gjulnara have many things in common: they are both mothers who need to sustain their families. They both needed new skills to find a job. And this is what brought them,  together with other women, to the local initiative on promoting women’s self-employment, launched by Lightning in 2022. The initiative is part of a bigger programme, the CommunityPoverty Reduction “Know How” project, supported by the European Union through CRRC-Armenia and the Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF). The initiative helps to combat unemployment among women in Akhuryan and Gyumri communities of the Shirak Province by enhancing their entrepreneurial knowledge, skills and opportunities.

“The key challenge addressed by our organisation was to provide training in new professions for women who lacked skills on the labour market,” explains Arevik Mkrtchyan, the head of the Lightning NGO. “We targeted economically or socially disadvantaged mothers, single mothers, women with children whose husbands had been killed or wounded in the war. The public Integrated Social Service Regional Centres helped us with the selection of participants and interviews.”

The initiative offered the ten selected participants courses in hairdressing, nail dressing and financial literacy. In this activity, Lightning – a relatively new organisation – relied on assistance and guidance from the Eurasia Partnership Foundation and local CSOs. For example, the ‘Speak Up’ training centre was selected to deliver nail dressing and hairdressing courses: it provided professional coaches, a comfortable venue, and an opportunity for practical exercises. Another NGO, ‘We’, conducted four online sessions on financial literacy, which equipped the target women with knowledge on the management of personal and family finances, as well as on planning the income and expenses of their small businesses. And finally, graduates from the ‘Arm Strong’ NGO’s School of Skills initiative organised a two-day course on social media to teach the participants how to engage customers online. Talking about the achievements, Arevik Mkrtchyan; the head of the Lightning NGO underlines: “Six women out of ten maintained their self-employment after the courses ended. To support their continued efforts, we provided the women with the necessary materials and tools to work with clients.”

One important outcome of Lightning’s experience was the collaboration and partnerships established with various organisations, extending beyond the region of Shirak – such as the Unified Social Service Local Office – which leveraged additional resources for implementation of the activities. This has motivated the NGO to work on new initiatives in the field of women’s employment in Armenia: “I want to introduce the concept of ‘Women’s Self-Employment’ in the framework of the programme on ‘Developing the Capabilities of Non-Formal Initiative Groups’ [another EU-funded programme to which the NGO is applying], allowing women from our initiative to share their expertise in nail dressing and hairdressing with other unemployed women to amplify its impact,” saysArevik. “I hope that this idea will be selected, and we will bring it to life. Organisations like ours, have a great potential for changing people’s lives and shaping a more resilient and prosperous society.”

Author: Volha Prokharava

Pashinyan responds to Azerbaijan’s statements on Armenia’s arms acquisition

 23:59, 13 January 2024

YEREVAN, JANUARY 13, ARMENPRESS.  At the session of the initiative group of the 'Civil Contract' party held in the city of Gavar on Saturday, the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, referred to the statements made by Azerbaijan regarding Armenia's implementation of reforms in the army and arms acquisition.

“On the one hand, Azerbaijan presents territorial demands to Armenia, announces that it will strengthen its army, on the other hand, complains that Armenia is buying weapons from France and India.What is the logic here?

Any country has the right to have an army, no one can question it," Pashinyan stated.

According to him, it is understandable that all this should be put in the context of regional security. “Armenia may have concerns regarding Azerbaijan's armaments, and Azerbaijan may have concerns about Armenia. This is the reason why we say: let's sign a peace agreement in a way that does not make war possible,' said PM Pashinyan.

Digital Archive of Armenian Music Accessible via Armenian Museum of America Website

Jan 15 2024

The following piece was provided by the Armenian Museum of America:

By Jesse Kenas Collins

Over the past year, the Armenian Museum of America’s Sound Archive program has taken a giant step forward. Each month, the Museum posts a handful of songs digitized and restored from its collection of 78 rpm records on its website along with a historical writeup about the artists.

Along with more conventional musical recordings, some of the recordings touch on Armenian cultural, political, and educational history, as well as the history of recording technologies. The program is sponsored by a generous grant from the SJS Charitable Trust.

The Museum hosted musicologist Ian Nagoski to its galleries to weave the story of the influential but largely forgotten soprano Zabelle Panosian, who was born in Bardizag and emigrated to Boston in 1907. Ian’s talk drew from his recently published book “Zabelle Pansoian: I Am Servant of Your Voice,” co-authored with Harout Arakelian and Harry Kezelian.

In November, the Museum welcomed the world-renowned composer and musician Ara Dinkjian. Speaking to a packed house, Ara discussed the early history of some of the first recordings of Armenian music through the 1940’s. The presentation built on Ara’s book and CD compilation “Armenians in America on 78 rpm.”

“As we approach our fourth year presenting the Sound Archive at the Armenian Museum of America, we are proud to make this content available to people around the world,” says Executive Director Jason Sohigian. “For half a century now, the Museum’s collection of 78 rpm records has grown thanks to generous donors who have been entrusting us with their personal collections.”

“This music was almost lost to history at least twice in the past 100 years alone,” adds Sohigian. “First as a result of the Armenian Genocide, and then when audio technology has changed from records to other media in the 21st century. The Museum is now at the forefront of preserving and sharing these treasured archives of Armenian history and culture.”

The Sound Archive explores the Museum’s extensive collection of recordings including some that serve as more than entertainment, anchored by a series of articles about moments of cultural and political history. In one segment, listeners can eavesdrop on a party at the home of the writer Hamasdegh (Hampartzoum Gelenian) on the night of June 10, 1939. The commemorative disc opens with an introduction by none other than William Saroyan.

A second article covers an NBC San Francisco radio broadcast from June 24, 1945, highlighting the Armenian National Chorus as well as advocacy work about the Armenian Question from celebrity chef George Mardikian and attorney Souren Saroyan of the Armenian National Committee.

Most of the posts focus on the most influential Armenian artists recording during the 78 rpm era. The Museum highlighted two post-war music icons, The Gomidas Band, a group at the frontier of kef style, and Guy Chookoorian, an artist and musical comic with a character and approach all his own.

Writing, research, and audio digitization is undertaken by this author along with Harout Arakelian and Harry Kezelian. To explore the archive of digitized recordings and articles dating back to 2021, please visit:

About the author: Jesse Kenas Collins is a digitization specialist responsible for the transfer of analog recordings to digital files for the Armenian Museum of America. Jesse is a museum professional and music preservationist with more than a decade of experience working in collections care, exhibitions production, and audio digitization. Jesse’s preservation work and research into the music of the Middle East extends into his work with the restoration of historical musical instruments.