Demographic data for January-March 2004 in NKR

Azat Artsakh, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (NKR)
April 8 2004

DEMOGRAPHIC DATA FOR JANUARY-MARCH 2004

Against the months January-March 2003 growth of birth rate was
registered in the region of Martouni (by 25 children), Hadrout (19
children), Shahoumian (9) and Shoushi (4). The birth rate dropped in
Stepanakert (19), the region of Askeran (17), Kashatagh (5) and
Martakert (3). In the months January-March 2004 the death rate in the
republic totaled 412 people, which has increased against the same
months of 2003 by 105 or 34.2 percent. Growth of death rate was
reported in all the regions of the republic. In the mentioned period
of the current year the natural growth of the population of the
Republic of Nagorni Karabakh totaled 57 people, having dropped against
last year by 62.4 percent or 95 people. In the months January-March of
2004 the number of the officially registered comers (including
internal migration) totaled 313 people, and 173 people left the
republic. The mechanical growth totaled 140 people which has increased
against the same period in 2003 by 79 people. In January-March 2004
163 marriages were recorded in the Republic of Nagorni Karabakh,
having increased against the same period in 2003 by 24.4 percent, and
the divorce rate formed 19, decreasing by 6 or 24 percent.

AA

West again throws weight behind dictatorship to guarantee oil supply

Georgia on their mind

The west has once again thrown its weight behind a dictatorship to
guarantee oil supplies

The Guardian (UK)
April 1, 2004

By John Laughland in Batumi

In 1918, when Lord Balfour was foreign secretary, he said: “The only
thing which interests me in the Caucasus is the railway line which
delivers oil from Baku to Batumi. The natives can cut each other to
pieces for all I care.” Little has changed in world geopolitics since
the end of the first world war, when the Black Sea port of Batumi in
Georgia was briefly under British rule. Although an oil pipeline from
Baku to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan in Turkey is planned, it will
take years to complete. When it is built, it will deliver oil
exclusively to the American market, but for the time being Caspian oil
still trundles across the Caucasus to Batumi in trains.

This is why, in Sunday’s partial rerun of last November’s
parliamentary elections, the world’s media concentrated exclusively on
the prickly relations between the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, and the
autonomous region of Adjara, of which Batumi is the capital. This is
in spite of the fact that Adjara, unlike Abkhazia and South Ossetia,
has never declared independence from Georgia. The standard- issue
media fairy-tale pits a democratically elected Georgian president,
Mikheil Saakashvili – who overthrew his predecessor Edward
Shevardnadze in a US-backed coup last November – opposing an
authoritarian regional leader in Adjara, Aslan Abashidze.

This is not how the Georgians see things. In an interview with a Dutch
magazine, Sandra Roelofs, the Dutch wife of the new Georgian president
and hence the new first lady of Georgia, explained that her husband
aspires to follow in the long tradition of strong Georgian leaders
“like Stalin and Beria”. Saakashvili started his march on Tbilisi last
November with a rally in front of the statue of Stalin in his
birthplace, Gori. Unfazed, the western media continue to chatter about
Saakashvili’s democratic credentials, even though his seizure of power
was consolidated with more than 95% of the vote in a poll in January,
and even though he said last week that he did not see the point of
having any opposition deputies in the national parliament.

In Sunday’s vote – for which final results are mysteriously still
unavailable – the government appears to have won nearly every
seat. Georgia is now effectively a one-party state, and Saakashvili
has even adopted his party flag as the national flag.

New world order enthusiasts have praised the nightly displays on
Georgian television of people being arrested and bundled off to prison
in handcuffs. The politics of envy and fear combine in an echo of
1930s Moscow, as Saakashvili’s anti-corruption campaign, egged on by
the west, allows the biggest gangsters in this gangster state to
eliminate their rivals.

History is repeating itself: it was on the back of an anti- corruption
campaign that Shevardnadze became first secretary of the Communist
party in Georgia in 1972. Following his stint as foreign minister of
the Soviet Union under Gorbachev, he returned to his former fiefdom,
which he ran as a brutal dictator from 1992 to 2003. He was as
assiduously lauded by the west then as his protege and successor is
now.

And as for the operetta “revolution” staged against Shevardnadze’s
regime last November, it has allowed a changing of the guard within an
unchanged power structure. Not only was Saakashvili minister of
justice under Shevardnadze, but the thuggish Zurab Zhvania, the prime
minister, had the same job under Shevardnadze, during which the worst
abuses of power (now denounced) occurred. The head of national
security is the same, and all the members of the former president’s
party have converted to the new president’s party. Shevardnadze’s old
party has disappeared.

That November’s “revolution of roses” was stage-managed by the
Americans has been admitted even by the new president himself, who has
said that his coup could not have succeeded without US help.
Abashidze also confirmed it on Saturday in Batumi, when he said that
his discussions with the American ambassador to Georgia, Richard
Miles, had convinced him that nothing can happen in the country
without a green light from Washington. Georgia, Russia’s backyard, and
the country used as a base by the Chechens, is now as thoroughly
controlled by the US as Panama – and for much the same reasons. As in
Central America, economic devastation has been the handmaiden of
political control, reducing what was previously the richest Soviet
republic to a miserable, pre-industrial subsistence.

As we know from Tony Blair’s visit to Libya, the west is happy to make
alliances with dictatorships if strategic interests dictate. Georgia
certainly qualifies on that score. And events in the Caucasus are
connected to events in Iraq. Because of the intensity of Iraqi
resistance to US and British occupation, oil is not flowing from there
as freely as had been hoped. Hence the imperative quickly to secure
other sources of cheap fuel for America’s gas-guzzlers. In Libya as in
Georgia, western support for dictators, in the name of strategy, may
be the oldest trick in the book. But it is also the most
short-sighted.

John Laughland is a trustee of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group

Copyright, Guardian Newspapers Limited, Apr 01, 2004

www.bhhrg.org

Who Were The Sponsors of The Beating Yesterday?

A1 Plus | 21:40:44 | 06-04-2004 | Social |

WHO WERE THE SPONSORS OF THE BEATING YESTERDAY?

The attempts to establish the identity of the young men of athletic figures,
with shaven heads, who beat some journalists and broke cameras, provoked
disorders during the meeting of Artashes Geghamyan with the electorate
continue.

We found from well-informed sources that the most aggressive ones were the
body-guards of MP, known oligarch Levon Sargssyan /Lyovik of Mill
nicknamed/. There were witnesses saying MP was in person watching the
beating.

The young man having attacked “Aravot” Daily correspondent used to be the
body-guard of Gagik Tsarukyan 4 months ago but now protects another man.

http://www.a1plus.am

Armenian opposition leaders tell presser about arrests

Armenian opposition leaders tell presser about arrests

Noyan Tapan news agency
5 Apr 04

YEREVAN

Numerous opposition activists have been arrested in Yerevan and
regions of Armenia over the last two days, the leader of the Justice
bloc, Stepan Demirchyan, and the chairman of the National Unity party,
Artashes Gegamyan, told a press conference at the National Assembly on
5 April.

Gegamyan said that there were many women among those arrested.
According to figures received on the same day, 47 activists of the
National Unity were arrested. The leader of the party said the arrests
were carried out within two days without any legal grounds for them.

Stepan Demirchyan, in turn, also spoke about the arrests, adding that
the numbers are being clarified. In particular, a member of the
political board of the Anrapetutyun Party, Suren Surenyants, has been
arrested. The head of the Armavir territorial organization of the
People’s Party of Armenia and former deputy, Aramais Barsegyan, was
attacked on 3 April.

In the early hours of 5 April, officers of the Arabkir police station
tried to break into the flat of Dustrik Mkhitaryan, member of the
board of the National Democratic Party. Mkhitaryan told a
correspondent of Noyan Tapan news agency that she barred the law
enforcers from her house and called the party leader Shavarsh
Kocharyan, whose arrival at the scene of the incident saved her from
the arrest. Mkhitaryan added that the police refused to show any
documents and explained the search of her flat by a theft which
happened nearby.

The chairman of the New Times party, Aram Karapetyan, was also
arrested, Demirchyan said. Demirchyan and Gegamyan said that the
arrests were likely to continue.

NATO Expansion: More Muscle for U.S. To Flex

THE STRATFOR WEEKLY
02 April 2004

NATO Expansion: More Muscle for U.S. To Flex

Summary

On March 29, NATO took in seven new member states. The
enlargement ensures that the NATO of the future will work as a
reliable arm of U.S. policy.

Analysis

At a 1999 summit in Washington, D.C., the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization welcomed its first new members of the post-Cold War
era: the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. The expansion was
broadly hailed in Europe and the United States as a bridge-
building effort to seal the Cold War rift. Moscow did not agree,
and the expansion condemned Russian-Western relations to the deep
freeze for three years.

Once the brouhaha of the summit died away, however, there were
some uncomfortable questions that NATO’s supporters had to deal
with. The alliance was formed to defend Europe from the Soviet
Union; what would it do, now that the Soviet threat no longer
existed? The answer from the new members was simple: Soviet =
Russian. The answer from the Russians was equally simple: Disband
NATO. Others felt that NATO should evolve into a political talk-
shop, a peacekeeping force, a military adjunct to the European
Union or some other nebulous confidence-building organization.

Five years later — 15 years after the Berlin Wall fell — it is
a different world and a different NATO. On March 29, the alliance
admitted the three remaining former Soviet satellites (Bulgaria,
Romania and Slovakia) and three former Soviet republics (Estonia,
Latvia and Lithuania), as well as a piece of the former
Yugoslavia (Slovenia).
But the expansion did more than add 50 million people and
rationalize NATO’s eastern border.

For the most part, the confusion of 1999 is gone; with the 2004
expansion, NATO knows exactly what it is — even if some members
are not happy with the outcome. NATO is an instrument for Western
(read: U.S.) influence globally. The alliance now has troops
operating in long-term missions in Afghanistan, and soon will
have troops in Iraq. Because the United States remains the pre-
eminent power in the alliance — and in the world — it is
Washington that calls the shots.

Core NATO members such as France and Germany certainly disagree
with this turn of events, but have lacked the influence to stop
it. That has become — and will continue to be — the case
because of the admittance of NATO’s newest members. All of the
fresh blood can be safely grouped into the “new Europe” that U.S.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld so charmingly coined in the
lead-up to the Iraq war. These states all share historical
experience in betrayal by France and domination by Germany and
Russia. It is only natural that such states would search further
abroad for allies to help guarantee their security. In the 1999
Kosovo war, the United States was able to use NATO to generate a
veneer of international respectability for actions that it could
not get the United Nations to sanction. From Estonia to Bulgaria,
the United States now has 10 new — or newish — states within
NATO that Washington can count on for support when such a state
of affairs surfaces in the future. The 2003 Iraq war is a prime
example; Bulgaria practically led the charge at the United
Nations for Washington.

Russia might not be thrilled with this development, but it is
certainly glad NATO’s eyes are casting about the planet and are
not riveted solely on the East. Further smoothing Russian-NATO
relations is the fact that — although U.S. influence over the
alliance is stronger than ever — NATO forces in Europe are
weaker than ever and are only expected to be further downsized.
Germany, long the European bugaboo, has cut its military forces
to the point that it has next-to-zero power projection capacity,
while the United States is openly discussing pulling troops out
of bases across Europe (much to the Berlin’s chagrin, we might
add).

NATO’s home front is not merely secure, it is not even a front
anymore. The only spot on the European continent that requires
forces is the Balkans, and even this is child’s play compared to
the tasks of NATO’s past. Places such as Kosovo will be a
headache for at least a generation, but such brushfires do not
threaten NATO’s core — or even new — members. That has changed
the very nature of NATO from a defensive (or offensive, depending
on your politics) military alliance to a tool of global
influence.

NATO’s Neighbors

On the surface, Russia’s strategic situation is miserable. All
its former satellites — plus three of its former republics —
are in an alliance with a nuclear first-strike policy that was
formed to counter the Red Army. Its only reliable allies are an
incompetently led Belarus and militarily insignificant Armenia.
Russian military spending is well up from its late 1990s lows,
but failed nuclear exercises earlier this year and the 2000 Kursk
submarine sinking are real reminders that even the once-feared
Soviet nuclear arsenal is only a shadow of its former self. The
question at the top levels of the Russian government is how to
manage the military decline; they are not yet to the point of
asking how they can reverse it.

In this regard, NATO’s 2004 expansion is a symptom of a much
deeper issue: Russia’s endemic decline. Putin spent the bulk of
his first term simply asserting control over the levers of power.
Now, with a tame Duma and a relatively loyal government at his
beck and call, Putin is focusing Russia’s energies on halting
(and hopefully reversing) Russia’s not-so-slow-motion collapse.
Attempting such a Herculean task will take nothing less than 200
percent of the Russian government’s time and attention, assuming
everything goes perfectly — and in Russia things rarely proceed
perfectly.

In the meantime, Moscow simply lacks the bandwidth to seriously
address anything going on in its neighborhood, much less farther
abroad. Attempts to counter what it considers unfriendly
developments will be flimsy and fleeting. Witness the recent
violence against Serbs in Kosovo: Russia sent a few harshly
worded press releases and some humanitarian aid, and that was the
end of it. The fact that the Baltics made it into NATO with so
little Russian snarling — or that Georgia transitioned to such
an anti-Russian government so easily — is testament to Moscow’s
distraction.

It is also a harbinger of things to come as Russia’s
introspection creates opportunities for power groups far more
aggressive than NATO:
* Uzbekistan hopes to become a regional hegemon, and will
capitalize on its indirect U.S. backing to extend its influence
throughout eastern Central Asia, particularly vis-a-vis Russian
allies Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
* Militant Islamist groups will deepen their influence in the
southern former Soviet Union, particularly in the Caucasus.
* China will continue quietly encouraging its citizens to
populate eastern Siberia while working to lash Kazakhstan,
traditionally Russia’s playground, to it economically.
* India is planting flags in the energy-rich Caspian basin,
particularly in Kazakhstan, while its intelligence services flow
anywhere Kashmiri militants might travel.
* Turkey is deepening its political, economic and military ties
with Georgia and particularly with Azerbaijan where Turkish
military forces often patrol the Azerbaijani skies.
* Japan is looking to carve out the resources of Siberia for
itself and is steadily expanding its economic interests in the
Russian Far East.
* The European Union is pressing its economic weight across the
breadth of Russia’s western periphery. As it brings the former
Soviet satellites into its own membership, Russian interests will
find them cut off from their old partners and markets.
* The United States is making inroads whenever and wherever it
can.

The question is not whether Russian influence can be rolled back
in the years ahead, or even where — it is by how much.

NATO’s Future

Diplomatically, the second post-Cold War expansion was not as
loud an affair as the first. The 1999 expansion also occurred
during the run-up to the Kosovo war. Within a two-month period
Russia saw the three most militarily powerful of its former
satellites join an opposing alliance with a nuclear first-strike
policy, while its most loyal European ally suffered a bombing
campaign, courtesy of that same alliance. Russia fought tooth and
nail in diplomatic circles to prevent the expansion, and quite
rightly felt betrayed. One of the deals made by the
administration of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush in the
last days of the Cold War was that Moscow would allow Germany to
reunite and remain completely in NATO, so long as the alliance
did not expand eastward.

Stratfor does not expect NATO’s next enlargement, likely within
the next five years, to be particularly troublesome. If Russia
had a red line, it drew it at the Baltics — three of its own
former republics — or Kaliningrad, a Russian Baltic enclave that
NATO’s new borders seal off from direct resupply. The next
enlargement is likely to take in the Balkan states of Albania,
Croatia, Macedonia and perhaps Bosnia. All fall behind NATO’s new
eastern “front line” and would not threaten Russia at all.

The only expansion in the near future that might elicit a rise
would be one that included Finland — which considered submitting
an application in the late 1990s — but even this would not be as
traumatic to the Russians as the now-official Baltic entries.
There is even the possibility that Austria, another of Europe’s
traditional neutrals, might someday join NATO. Vienna is already
more active in NATO exercises than are several full members. Any
serious discussion of a second across-the-Russian-red-line
expansion will be put off until well after 2010, although by that
point Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine could shape up as
possibilities.

NATO certainly has challenges ahead of it. The strain and
political arm-twisting that are likely to precede the expected
Iraq deployment could well reopen wounds that only recently
closed, and competing visions of what NATO should be will
certainly hound it for years. Ironically, this divergence of
perception is part of what will keep NATO powerful, present and
relevant to U.S. policymakers.

While several Western states — and Stratfor — no longer view
NATO as a true military alliance, that view is not shared
uniformly. It is a simple fact that many European countries feel
threatened by the political or military strength of Germany or
Russia. The age-old adage of NATO that it existed “to keep the
Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down” was always
far more than a clever turn of phrase. Many European states still
see this as a core NATO raison d’etre. Such belief is not an
issue of wealth — Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway are just
as pro-NATO and pro-American as Latvia, Hungary and Bulgaria —
it is an issue of place. These countries, by virtue of their
proximity to large neighbors with a past predilection for
domination, want a counterbalance.

So long as that is the case, a majority of NATO’s membership will
be enthusiastic about the alliance as an alliance. Even the
dullest of U.S. administrations will be able to translate that
energy into international influence in Europe — and beyond.
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Armenian education minister not to visit Baku

Armenian education minister not to visit Baku

Arminfo
3 Apr 04

YEREVAN

Armenian Education Minister Sergo Yeritsyan does not intend to go to
Baku to attend a session of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation on
15-16 April, a source at the ministry has told Arminfo. The source,
however, refused to give the reason for the minister’s decision.

Azerbaijan’s Karabakh Liberation Organization KLO had earlier declared
its intention to prevent the Armenian minister from attending the
session. The KLO said that they would stage protests outside the
buildings of state bodies that organize the session, as well as
outside the hotel that will host the meeting.

BAKU: Radical group plans to march to Garabagh

AzerNews, Azerbaijan
April 1 2004

Radical group plans to march to Garabagh

The Garabagh Liberation Organization (GLO) plans to march to Garabagh
on May 8 – the day of the occupation of Azerbaijan’s historic city,
Shusha GLO chairman Akif Naghi told AssA-Irada that members of the
radical group planned to march from Baku to Afatli village in Aghdam
District and further carry on the protest action in the
Armenia-occupied lands of Azerbaijan.

GLO intends to involve representatives from international
organizations in the march which is expected to bring together
hundreds of thousands of people. In December 2003, the GLO demanded
that the government of Azerbaijan take drastic measures against
Armenia by May 8 this year.

“If no measures are taken before the deadline, the GLO has the right
to take urgent steps in this respect,” Akif Naghi stressed.

EP says Turkey lagging in reform in many areas

IRNA Iran
April 1 2004

EP says Turkey lagging in reform in many areas

Brussels, April 1, IRNA — Turkey has made many important reforms
since last year in order to meet the political criteria for EU
membership but still needs to go considerably further and rigorously
implement the reforms in many areas, the European Parliament`s
Foreign
Affairs Committee said Thursday in a draft resolution on Turkey`s
progress towards accession.
The resolution calls on the Commission, as part of the
Pre-Accession Strategy, to systematically address the shortcomings in

the rule of law and the democratic deficit in Turkey.
MEPs criticize the continuing influence of the army in politics,
business, culture and education, continuing torture practices and
mistreatment, the intimidation and harassment of human rights
defenders, the discrimination of religious minorities and the fact
that trade union freedom is not fully guaranteed.
The EU itself must also be prepared, say MEPs, for Turkey`s
possible accession and the consequent new geo-political situation for

the EU.
The Foreign Affairs Committee stresses again that settlement of
the Cyprus conflict was an essential condition for progress on
Turkey`s EU membership application.
It also called on Turkey to reopen its borders with Armenia and
promote good neighborly relations with that country.

Armenian Odyssey – Discovering The Soul Of Armenia

ESCAPE FROM AMERICA MAGAZINE MARCH 2004

March 18, 2004

Armenian Odyssey
Discovering The Soul Of Armenia ~ by Dorothy Aksamit

“Oh”, said the young woman standing beside us at the baggage
queue at the airport in Yerevan, “they’ve changed already”. Blowing
kisses to the two little girls peeking from behind bouquets of roses,
she told us she lived in Kosovo with her husband who is with the UNDP
peacekeeping mission. “I come home every three months, but children
change so quickly.” I agreed it must be difficult and then she said,
“But of course you know our history. It is important that my children
stay in Armenia and speak Armenian.” The young mother assumed we were
visiting our family.

Armenia sees few “pure” tourists: those not affected by the
Diaspora of the 1915 genocide. Most tourists are visiting their
homeland, or travelers on a pilgrimage to the early churches. We were
neither. You might say we came on the wings of words. Carroll, my
husband, and I knew something of the 1915 genocide of the Armenians
orchestrated by the Turks. We had been introduced to Armenia by the
Armenian-American writer, William Saroyan in “My Name is Aram”. Our
interest was further heightened by Bitov’s lyrical “A Captive of the
Caucasus” and the bittersweet memoir of Peter Balakian’s “Black Dog of
Fate”. We were anxious to see the Low Caucasus Mountain Range, the
early churches in this land that in 310 A.D. was the first to accept
Christianity as a state religion and the imposing Matenadaran housing
illuminated books dating to the fifth century.

Our taxi salaamed around potholes as we entered Yerevan, the
capital of The Republic of Armenia. The city, scattered on either side
of a deep ravine, appeared forlorn. Store windows were empty or
sparsely stocked. Huge cranes, their wrecking ball missing, stood idle
beside staring holes of windowless buildings. Incongruously, the only
construction seemed to be the multiple pools of an aquatic park.
Impressions began to change as we passed between startlingly huge
complexes, one a hillside cognac distillery and the other a former
winery, now a museum. Near the center of town broad leafy avenues named
for poets and writers and several impressive statues lifted our spirits.

Gagik Siravyan, our driver/guide, (we had made arrangements with
Levon Travel on the Internet), perhaps seeing Yerevan through our eyes,
said, “We have a beautiful mountain, but you can’t see through the
clouds today.” and he added, “It’s in another country.” And so, even
before reaching our hotel, Armenia had bared its soul. The palpable
longing for home, land and language would become the spoken and unspoken
theme of our journey.

When we reached Republic Square, the scene changed as quickly as a
mouse click, dropping us into another time, another place. Ornate
buildings of rose or yellow tufa ringed the square of joyful people.
Filled with merry-makers, a coach and four trotted around the square.
The cafe crowd, mostly businessmen and Red Cross personnel, sipped beer
and lattes under umbrellas in front of the Hotel Armenia. A band played
beside the gushing fountain, the centerpiece of Republic Square,
formerly Lenin Square during the Soviet occupation. The square pulsated
with the exuberance of youth. Young women in short black dresses with
frilly white aprons teetered above platform heels, their partners, young
men in black jackets with white lace and rose corsages, everyone
celebrating the last day of school and graduation. Our black and white
entry into Yeravan had, by midnight, turned into Technicolor reflected
in the eyes of the young as the grand finale fireworks lit up the sky.
The major sites that we wanted to see lay in the four cardinal
directions and so each day as we cleared the bruised city we quickly
entered a gentle green land of shepherds whose sheep grazed under cobalt
skies. An ancient church at the end of each road drew us slowly and
inextricably into a pilgrimage..

We stopped the first day at the slender Arch of the poet
Yeghishe Charents. Gagik roughly translated the inscription: “You may
look the world over and never find such a mountain as Ararat.” Often
hidden in clouds, I photographed Mount Ararat framed perfectly in the
arch, but alas, only I could find the snow-capped mountain in the
clouds. How frustrating for Armenians, with Ararat heartbreakingly
close but lying in forbidden territory. Armenians must negotiate a trip
to eastern Turkey through Georgia to visit Mount Ararat where Noah is
thought to have moored his Ark. Armenians call their country Hayastan
and trace their descent from Haik, Noah’s great-great-great-grandson.
Afterwards we visited what looked like a small Roman temple, The Temple
of Garni, dedicated to the sun god Mithra, built with funds and slaves
sent by Nero. But I remember Garni as the place where grandmothers sold
roejik. These delicious sweets hang like curtains of brown candles but
are strings of dried fruit, rolled thin and wrapped around walnuts. We
quickly became addicted and stopped everytime we spotted them.
Each morning Gagik scoured roadside markets for picnic
supplies: lavash, parchment thin bread, to wrap around soft cheese,
olives, green onions, cucumbers and tomatoes.

As we approached Geghard, the 10-13 century monastery, a
scene straight out of my Sunday school coloring book sprang to life. A
family group, leading a sacrificial lamb was met by a group of pied
pipers who piped them into the church. The lamb would later be butchered
and a grand picnic held on the banks of the river. Geghard was also the
church where a group of teenagers sang beside the chapel where stones
are pressed into the wall and if the stone sticks your wish will come
true. Gagik said, “They are singing for the freedom of their friends in
Karabakh.” (An Armenian enclave surrounded by Azerbaijan).

Geghard is an architectural wonder. Carved in solid rock,
it is a collection of several churches chiseled from the mountainside as
a sanctuary for the early Christians. Memorable as Geghard is, it’s
Gagik’s song that I remember. He stood in the center of the original
church surrounded by columns and walls carved from one stone and sang
quietly – perhaps to himself, perhaps to his God, but the curved stone
vault increased the volume until, by the time it floated skyward through
the round opening, it was a heavenly chorus.

On a Sunday visit to Cathedral Echmiadzin we discovered that Gagik
was an artist and the son of an artist. In fact his father had helped
restore the frescos in this beautiful Cathedral famous as the site where
Christ descended from Heaven and pointed to the spot on which the
Cathedral should be built. The elaborate service of the Armenian
Apostolic Church was in progress when we arrived. Under vibrant blue and
gold frescos and sparkling crystal chandlers, the gold mitered, black
robed Catholicos moved slowly through the standing crowd dispensing
blessings and accepting offerings. There was incense, a chorus and at
the altar where Christ descended, a motionless prostrate man, obliging
the faithful to lean over him in order to kiss the stone.

Our favorite trip was to Hamberd, a fortress and church high upon
the slopes of Mount Argats. On the slopes, higher even than the fortress
we found the distinctive rectangular steles of the pagans. These stones
(khatchkars) were later inscribed with intricate filigreed crosses and
thousands of them are found all over Armenia.

As we approached the fortress we saw a school bus and a
rollicking party in progress. It was an end-of-school picnic and the
English teacher suggested that while we looked at the fortress and
church she would make coffee.

The teachers second question after, “Where are you from?”
was, “Have you heard of the Genocide?” One of the women offered to sing
for us and we heard for the first time the poignantly beautiful song,
“Your house is in front of my house, but I don’t see you anymore.” The
teenagers then turned up the boom box and the dancing began. We spent a
couple of hours eating grilled chicken, drinking vodka and dancing. An
added attraction was the daring feat of a local youth who scaled the
fortress wall sans ropes or shoes. It was for us a moment in an
Armenian paradise.

The last day we stayed too long at the imposing Matenadaran,
the library that holds thousands of books dating to the fifth century
documenting the history of Armenia. But to those in this shrunken
landlocked country that once spread to three seas, The Matenadaran is
more than a library; it is the depository of cultural history and is
spoken of in reverential tones. It is like scaling a mountain to get to
this lofty mausoleum-like building. On the first terrace is a statue of
Mesrop Mashtots who, as every school child in this land of 98% literacy
knows, created the Armenian alphabet in 405 A.D. On the second terrace
are granite statues of writers and finally inside a wide staircase
leading to the exhibition room. Here are the intricately illuminated
manuscripts bound in leather, ivory and filigreed silver and parchment
books of botany, math, science, geography and astrology. Gagik proudly
pointed to the framed pictures and quotes of William Saroyan who in the
early twentieth century introduced the Armenian people to the world in
his plays and novels. He also shyly told us it was his father who showed
Saroyan around when he visited Armenia.

When we finally reached the Genocide Museum, the door had just
been locked but Gagik explained that we had come from San Francisco to
see the museum. Without hesitation we were ushered into the underground
gallery where grainy photographs depicted the suffering of the Armenians
who were “relocated” from ancestral lands by the Turks. Although in
1915 the word “genocide” was not known, over 1,500,000 Armenians
perished in the world’s first genocide. The Treaty of Sevres, the last
treaty of World War I, granted lands lost in the genocide to Armenia and
demanded punishment of the perpetrators. But by 1923, western powers
caught the scent of Ottoman oil and signed the Lausanne Treaty.
Reparation, restitution, retribution and Armenian dreams slipped into
fields of black gold The remaining sliver of Armenia was incorporated
into the Soviet Union until its breakup in 1991.

After visiting the Genocide Monument, 12 leaning stones
surrounding the eternal flame and the slender sky-piercing shaft
representing the hope of the Armenian people, we sat on the ledge of the
courtyard waiting for a last glimpse of Mount Ararat. This is a true
“court” yard formed by a semicircle of 12 basalt slabs inscribed with
statements by politicians, writers and scientists. Each visitor is a
witness who can make his own judgement regarding the Genocide.

Even though the sky had turned fittingly somber, we hoped for a
last glimpse of Mt. Ararat. It didn’t seem strange to sit silently with
Gagik who actually spoke little English and who in retrospect I thought
of as a spirit guide. Gazing over the rooftops of Yerevan, I thought of
my childhood during the depression on the high plains of the Texas
Panhandle, and my mother’s frequent admonition: “Dorothy, please finish
your dinner. Just think of the poor starving Armenians.” If I had had
any inkling of the starving Armenians, I wouldn’t have been able to
choke down a bite. And I thought of what Peter Balakian had written
about his Armenian grandmother in “Black Dog of Fate”: “She was
history knocking on the door of my heart.”

I gave up on Ararat. I knew the mountain was there but this was
to be a “wasn’t” day. Peter’s grandmother had begun all her stories,
not with “Once upon a time,” but with “A long time ago there was and
there wasn’t.” A few drops of rain fell. And then, like an answer to a
prayer, Ararat “was”. The mystical mountain, ephemeral, hauntingly
near and illusively far, billowy clouds becoming mountains and snow
covered mountains tops becoming clouds. A tantalizing glimpse and it
was gone. But I knew that on whichever side of a man-made border Mount
Ararat lies, there lies the soul of Armenia.

www.escapeartist.com

Ruben Torosyan Displeased With Our Court System

A1 Plus | 13:39:32 | 29-03-2004 | Politics |

RUBEN TOROSYAN DISPLEASED WITH OUR COURT SYSTEM

“In fact the Armenian Justice Minister didn’t take any steps to call any
judge-lawbreaker to account”. Ruben Torosyan, Chair of “MP Club”
organization voices concern in this appeal addressed to the Armenian
President.

According to him, analysis by his organization showed Justice Minister abets
corruption rise in the court system and spreading law transgression by the
judges through that inactivity.

Mr Torosyan states that they have informed the Justice Minister about
numerous facts of gross violation by judges for many times but the Minister
hasn’t yet appeared with any initiative over the problem resulting in
appearance of unprecedented negative phenomena in the legal system of the
CE-country, which mock at the principles of “court, democracy and protection
of human rights”.

http://www.a1plus.am