Russia’s military base in Armenia alerted in snap combat readiness check

The Russian military base in Armenia was alerted on Tuesday in a sudden combat readiness check, the press office of Russia’s Southern Military District said on Tuesday, TASS reports.

“The commission of the Southern Military District headed by the District’s Deputy Commander, Lieutenant-General Igor Turchenyuk has started a sudden combat readiness check of the military base located in the Republic of Armenia,” the press office said in a statement.

“During the sudden check, the commission will study the readiness of on-duty forces in the aviation unit in Erenbuni and the military base in the Gyumri garrison for the accomplishment of the tasks for switching to full combat readiness,” the press release said.

Special attention will be paid to practical actions from an alarm call to the deployment of the base’s units in the designated areas for accomplishing combat training tasks in the Kamkhud and Alagyaz training ranges.

The military drills will be monitored with the help of the Navodchik-2 drones.

David Cameron opens EU reform talks with other leaders

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he is determined to reform Britain’s relationship with the EU as he begins discussions with other European leaders on his plans, BBC News reports.

At a summit in Latvia, he will outline changes he wants to see, including restrictions on benefits for migrants.

The prime minister said he expected “lots of ups and downs” but was focused on giving people a “proper choice” in a referendum due to be held by 2017.

EU leaders are in Riga to discuss relations with Eastern Partnership  states.

Mr Cameron said this issue was very important in its own right but that the gathering was also “an opportunity to start some of the discussions about reform of the EU”.

Fortune smiles on cellist from Armenia, and she appreciates it all: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As part of  through which the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is trying to track immigrants from 193 countries in the United Nations, folks who made Pittsburgh their home, the paper has dedicated an article to Armenian cellist Katya Janpoladyan.

Tony Norman

When Katya Janpoladyan says she never takes anything for granted, it is easy to believe why. At 37, the cello player from Yerevan, Armenia, knows what it is like to experience the deprivations of life in a blockaded country.

In 1988, Azerbaijan established a land blockade around Armenia because of ancient political and territorial disputes. Turkey, which shares a border as well as a tragic history with Armenia, also erected a blockade, intensifying the country’s isolation.

There is only a hint of melancholy in Ms. Janpoladyan’s voice as she recalls her youth during the blockade. She was 10 or 11 when she began to understand that her biggest passion in life was music, though she had not yet mastered an instrument.

Unlike most children facing many years of practice and self-imposed discipline, Ms. Janpoladyan had to beg her parents — both of whom are journalists — to let her take music lessons. Her Armenian father and Russian mother wanted to make sure her request wasn’t a momentary bout of enthusiasm, so they didn’t acquiesce immediately.

By the time she was 11, Ms. Janpoladyan suspected she was “too old” for piano lessons, so she started to narrow her choice of instruments. It was only when she heard a student playing a Haydn concerto under the supervision of her future music teacher that she found her life-long companion.

“This is how it started,” Ms. Janpoladyan said, recalling the moment decades later.

From that point, mastering the cello became her priority. She put in years of disciplined practice under difficult circumstances and sacrificed many of the few comforts that were available to her to pursue her dream.

“I missed my prom to get ready for an audition,” she said, “but I never regretted it.”

She remembers the multiple layers of clothing she had to wear in her unheated conservatory. But the chilly conditions under which she had to rehearse didn’t prevent her from winning awards or progressing steadily in her mastery of the cello.

During the blockade, her father was a communications officer, so he wasn’t home a lot. “It was difficult,” Ms. Janpoladyan said. “There was no heat in the house. Because my father was at work, there was no provider. My mom, brother and grandma couldn’t cut the trees [for fire wood], so we collected branches.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Janpoladyan began thinking about leaving Armenia to pursue her art and to live a life that was a little less defined by blockades and ancient conflicts.

A plan to study in St. Petersburg, Russia, fell through, but an opportunity to study with cellist Yehuda Hanani in Cincinnati opened up new possibilities.

In late 2001, Ms. Janpoladyan moved to the United States to attend the University of Cincinnati and to study with Mr. Hanani, who became her mentor and friend.

After completing her master’s degree, Ms. Janpoladyan moved to Pittsburgh in 2008. “I moved here to work with my string quartet,” she said referring to the Freya String Quartet, which formed in 2009.

The quartet recently announced it would soon disband so its members could pursue new opportunities. It specialized in the work of new composers. Ms. Janpoladyan enjoyed the challenge and the opportunity.

“We do a ton of music by new composers. Some of it is really great,” she said.

Ms. Janpoladyan is about to begin a new musical project, but doesn’t want to talk about it yet because it is in the early stages. It will be in Pittsburgh, a region that continues to inspire her creativity.

Still, Ms. Janpoladyan’s initial encounter with the region wasn’t love at first sight. “It takes time to fall in love with Pittsburgh, but I did,” she said. “I love the bridges, the cultural life … a lot is going on here.”

In what could be a first, Ms. Janpoladyan said she “even likes the rain” in Pittsburgh. Now a resident of McCandless, she teaches cello privately to 30 students.

“I like molding and bringing students to perfection,” she said. “I try to create a community with my students so that they know each other and don’t feel isolated.”

Ms. Janpoladyan has a 2-year-old daughter named Maria. Not too long ago, she took Maria to Armenia to introduce her to her family. It was a joyful reunion and she enjoyed seeing her family bond with her daughter.

Looking back on her life in Armenia and contrasting it with her life in Pittsburgh, Ms. Janpoladyan is philosophical.

“I’m glad I went through that,” she said referring to the blockade. “It taught me not to take things for granted.”

She ticked down the things she has, including her daughter, her health, food, warm clothing, a car, an income that she refuses to treat as entitlements.

“I’m a lucky person in general,” she said. “Fortune smiles on me.”

James Appathurai: No military solution to the Karabakh conflict

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was one of the key topics NATO official, James Appathurai commented on in his interview with AzerNews.

Appathurai, NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, put a broad focus on efforts towards ending the Armenia-Azerbaijan dispute.

NATO has repeatedly voiced its preference for a peaceful settlement over an armed intervention when it comes to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict’s genuine resolution. The military alliance sees no direct involvement in the negotiation process seeking to find a peace-based end to the conflict.

“NATO has no direct role in the political process to find a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Instead, we support the Minsk process,” he said.

“We are concerned about the deterioring situation on the ground. There is no military solution to the conflict, and I hope that the political process will yield results. The NATO framework can only play a supplementary role – allows for contacts between politicians, diplomats and military from Armenia and Azerbaijan in the margins of multilateral meetings. I hope such contacts can have a positive impact, and I was pleased to see that President Serzh Sargsyan and President Ilham Aliyev met in the margins of last year’s NATO Summit in Wales,” he said.



Exhibit of Armenian artifacts a century after rescue by Russians

By Harut Sassounian
The California Courier

On my way back from the Centennial events in Yerevan last week, I stopped in Saint Petersburg, Russia, to attend the inauguration of an unprecedented exhibit of Armenian artifacts rescued by Russian ethnographers from Western Armenia during the genocide.

Here is the incredible background story of that unique exhibit. In 1916, during the Russian military campaign which temporarily liberated Western Armenia from Ottoman Turkey, Saint Petersburg’s Russian Museum of Ethnography sought Czar Nicholas II’s permission to dispatch a scholarly expedition to the Van area to collect Armenian artifacts from imminent loss. The Czar gave immediate consent in his handwriting: “Approve. Need to hurry.”

A small team of ethnographers led by Alexander Miller arrived in Van on June 10, 1916, after a lengthy and perilous journey. During their two-week stay, they managed to purchase from local inhabitants a total of 513 objects: 396 Armenian, 110 Assyrian, five Kurdish, and two Turkish. The artifacts included traditional Armenian costumes, jewelry, and carpets from the city of Van, the towns of Alur, Bitlis, Moks, Mush, Shatakh, and neighboring villages. During their visit, the scholars took 60 photographs of natural landscapes, historical monuments, buildings, and some residents. All of these materials were hauled back to Saint Petersburg under the protection of the Russian military.

Surprisingly, these painstakingly-collected cultural objects remained in the Russian museum’s basement for 100 years and were never displayed! No one seemed to remember their existence, until two years ago, when Armenia’s Consul General Vardan Hakopyan in Saint Petersburg learned about these artifacts and informed the authorities in Armenia, local community leaders, and the Armenian Jewelry Association.

After extensive joint efforts between the Armenian Jewelers Foundation and the Russian Museum of Ethnography, the items that were kept in storage for a century were finally put on display in Saint Petersburg last week. The Jewelers Foundation and the Russian Museum published an impressive catalog titled, “Treasures of Western Armenia,” which showcased the artifacts collected from the region of Van in 1916, before its recapture and genocidal destruction by Ottoman Turkish forces.

The exhibit was officially opened on April 27, 2015, at the Russian Museum of Ethnography. It was attended by Vigen Sargsyan, the Armenian President’s Chief of Staff, Olga Kazanskaya, Vice Governor of Saint Petersburg, Vladimir Grusman, Director of Russian Museum of Ethnography, Pierre Akkelian, Chairman of Armenian Jewelers Foundation, Gagik Gevorkyan, President of Armenian Jewelry Association, and Karen Mkrtchyan, the Armenian community leader of Saint Petersburg.

Not surprisingly, after it became known that the Museum of Ethnography had in its possession valuable artifacts from the Van region, the Consulate of Turkey in Saint Petersburg contacted the Museum claiming that these items are the property of the Turkish Republic and sought their return. The Museum’s leadership rejected the Turkish request as the objects were purchased from their owners in 1916.

It is ironic that Turkish diplomats had the audacity to request these Armenian artifacts, after having killed their owners, burned their homes, and stolen their possessions! One would hope that the Turkish government would be foolish enough to go ahead and file a lawsuit against the Russian Museum, trying to claim these items. Such a lawsuit would further publicize Turkish responsibility for the Armenian Genocide, the looting of Armenian cultural objects, and occupation of their ancestral homeland!

One hundred years later, another expedition should be dispatched to Turkish museums and libraries to locate and recover all Armenian artifacts, manuscripts and other valuable items plundered during the genocide. Lawsuits should be filed against all Turkish institutions holding such Armenian materials. If local Turkish courts reject the demand, Armenians should then appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in order to recover these long lost and precious fragments of Armenian cultural heritage. Such a legal effort would be yet another means of seeking restitution for the massive genocide-era losses suffered by Armenians a century ago!

The Russian Museum’s remarkable exhibit should go on tour to Armenian communities around the world: Athens, Beirut, Berlin, Boston, Buenos Aires, London, Los Angeles, Montreal, Moscow, New York, Paris, Tehran, Toronto, San Francisco, San Paulo, Sydney, Yerevan and many other cities. Let the world see a small sampling of the vast quantities of valuable cultural artifacts that the Armenian nation lost during the genocide in addition to the 1.5 million human souls.