Asbarez: Innovate Armenia Comes to USC on May 18

A panel discussion during last year’s Innovate Armenia event

LOS ANGELES—Innovate Armenia, the flagship program of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies, will come to USC on Saturday, May 18, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The one-of-a-kind event is a festival of ideas, music and action, featuring talks by young scholars on ancestral roots, post-revolution leaders from Armenia, art, music, and Armenian beer.

The program is themed around the concept of “OLD ROUTES TO NEW ROOTS.” The Old Routes are those that take us through the historical Armenian lands. Scholars will address issues of geography, genealogy, memory, identity. The New Roots are those being put down in the Republic of Armenia – the new Armenia. Scholars, policy experts and senior members of government will talk about goals, strategies and challenges at this new and transitional time in Armenian history.

Children play chess during a past Innovate Armenia event

The popular music stage will feature innovative musicians from the Armenian world, including the legendary Richard Hagopian with his son and grandsons, and groups from Beirut and Armenia. Last year’s chess platform was a hit and this year, too, grandmasters will be engaging the public in games. Traditions of beer making and coffee drinking will be showcased, with samples and stories.

Nearly 4,000 people from throughout California attended Innovate Armenia in 2017, and another 20,000 watched the day’s events Live, both in Armenian and in English.

“We are proud that INNOVATE ARMENIA has become the destination event that feeds people’s intellectual curiosity and appetite for fun and fulfillment. This year, especially, we are looking forward to the stories that scholars policy makers have to tell about how to build a new Armenia, without forgetting about reconnecting families and traditions after the rupture of the Genocide,” says Salpi Ghazarian, director of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies.

A panel discussion during last year’s Innovate Armenia event

LOS ANGELES—Innovate Armenia, the flagship program of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies, will come to USC on Saturday, May 18, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The one-of-a-kind event is a festival of ideas, music and action, featuring talks by young scholars on ancestral roots, post-revolution leaders from Armenia, art, music, and Armenian beer.

The program is themed around the concept of “OLD ROUTES TO NEW ROOTS.” The Old Routes are those that take us through the historical Armenian lands. Scholars will address issues of geography, genealogy, memory, identity. The New Roots are those being put down in the Republic of Armenia – the new Armenia. Scholars, policy experts and senior members of government will talk about goals, strategies and challenges at this new and transitional time in Armenian history.

Children play chess during a past Innovate Armenia event

The popular music stage will feature innovative musicians from the Armenian world, including the legendary Richard Hagopian with his son and grandsons, and groups from Beirut and Armenia. Last year’s chess platform was a hit and this year, too, grandmasters will be engaging the public in games. Traditions of beer making and coffee drinking will be showcased, with samples and stories.

Nearly 4,000 people from throughout California attended Innovate Armenia in 2017, and another 20,000 watched the day’s events Live, both in Armenian and in English.

“We are proud that INNOVATE ARMENIA has become the destination event that feeds people’s intellectual curiosity and appetite for fun and fulfillment. This year, especially, we are looking forward to the stories that scholars policy makers have to tell about how to build a new Armenia, without forgetting about reconnecting families and traditions after the rupture of the Genocide,” says Salpi Ghazarian, director of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies.

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Asbarez: Fresno’s Keyan School Gets Approval to Increase Enrollment; Opens New Pre-K Class

CLOVIS, Calif.—The Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School (CKACS) announced that it recently received approval from the City of Clovis to increase its student enrollment capacity to 220 students. This milestone comes concurrently to the approval and construction of a new Pre-K Classroom building.

This change increases the NAEYC accredited Pre-K program capacity to 60 students and supports CKACS’s growing enrollment needs. Through Principal Curtis Shamlin’s leadership, the student enrollment has grown to 127 students today.

“This approval to raise our student enrollment cap is a major opportunity for our program to begin the growth which has been talked about for the past few years. We have a great program with exceptional kids, and we need growth to achieve our greater goals of becoming one of the premier K-6 schools in the Central Valley! This provides us with capacity for almost 100 more new students” says Principal Curtis Shamlin.

The two newest additions to the school’s dedicated faculty are Haykuhi Hakobyan and Manoush Sarkis. The classroom features open soft seating areas, open areas for movable furniture, writable wall surfaces, a dedicated parent check-in area. There are about 10 open spots and enrollment is open for the Pre-K Potty Training Class.

The school has served the Central Valley for 42 years and is largely supported by an endowment and community contributions. This project has been made possible in part through generous gifts.

Recent gifts include a $300,000 donation made by Grace Kazarian and the Grace Kazarian Family Foundation, in memory of their mother Agavni Kazarian. The new courtyard, outdoor stage and safe drop-off plaza will soon be dedicated as the Agavni Kazarian Memorial Courtyard. Mrs. Kazarian recently visited the CKACS campus to visit with students and tour the campus construction.

Sharing some insight about her mother, Grace said, “Mother was always for the school, always volunteering on and off campus. She wanted to see it succeed and would be very proud of the changes taking place now.”

The CKACS Board of Education and Administration emphasize the importance of growth and welcome students from diverse backgrounds while preserving our core values of Academic Excellence, Armenian Language Immersion, Christian Values, Small Class Sizes and an Arts Education.

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Fwd: Call to people of Armenian descent to digitize 1915 survivors’ written testimonies

PRESS RELEASE
    Association for the Research and the Archiving of Armenian Memory (ARAM) 
    8, bis Place Pelabon 13013 - Marseille FRANCE
Contact: Vartan Arzoumanian Tel: +33 4 91 06 57 36
E-mail: [email protected] Web: https://webaram.com/en/


Call to people of Armenian descent to help collect and digitize 1915 (or 1895) Armenian survivors' written testimonies

The
Association for the Research and the Archiving of Armenian Memory
(ARAM) is an association based in France whose aim is to gather and
archive documents about the life of Armenian communities in the diaspora
(see webaram.com/en/).
The
ARAM association has initiated a program to collect written testimonies
on 1915 (or 1895) and on the exodus of the Armenian communities to
France, Lebanon and the United States (but also Egypt, Bulgaria,
Syria…)
We are earnestly requesting you to contact us if you happen to possess a manuscript written by a 1915 (or 1895) survivor.
We fully understand that these testimonies are very dear to Armenian families and we propose to keep a digital copy only.
These
testimonies are an integral part of the Armenian diaspora’s cultural
heritage and we would like to digitize them in order to make them
available to the general public as well as historians.
These key documents for historians will be archived at the ARAM association’s digital library.
Please, get in touch with us to know more about this digitization program here :
https://webaram.com/en/contact-us

ԿՈՉ 1915-ի  (կամ 1895-ի) վերապրողներու կողմէ շարադրուած գրաւոր վկայութիւններ հաւաքելու նպատակով:

ԱՐԱՄ
Միութիւնը Ֆրանսահայ ոչ-շահաբեր միութիւն մըն է որուն նպատակը պահպանել է
սփիւրքահայերու ապրած կեանքին յիշողութիւնը (տես՝ 
https://webaram.com/hy/):
ԱՐԱՄ Միութիւնը կը փափաքի վկայութիւններ
քաղել 1915-ի (կամ 1895-ի) պատահաներուն եւ հայ վերապրողներու գաղթին մասին
դէպի Ֆրանսա, Լիբանան եւ Միացեալ Նահանգներ:
Կոչ կ'ուղղենք ընտանիքներուն որպէսզի 1915-ի
(կամ 1895-ի) վերապրողներու կողմէ գրուած հին վկայութիւնները տրամադրելի դարձնեն ԱՐԱՄ Միութեան գործակիցներուն:
Այս
վկայութիւնները կարեւոր են Հայերու ցեղասպանութեան յիշողութիւնը
պահպանելու համար եւ մաս կը կազմեն սփիւռքահայերու մշակութային
ժառանգութեան:
ԱՐԱՄ  Միութիւնը գիտակից է որ այս վկայութիւնները
արժէքաւոր են ընտանիքներուն համար։ Ուստի կ՛առաջարկենք պարզապէս թուային
պատճէն մը կատարել միութեան արխիւներուն համար:
ԱՐԱՄ  Միութեան նպատակը
այս վկայութիւններուն տարածումը եւ գիտութիւնը ապահովել է,  թուայնացումի
միջոցաւ թարգմանութիւններ եւ հրատարակութիւններ պատրաստելով:
Յաւելեալ տեղեկութիւններու համար մեզի հետ կապ պահեցէք ՝
https://webaram.com/hy/




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EPIC StartUps Pitch their Ventures at Demo Day

American University of Armenia

40 Marshal Baghramyan Ave., Yerevan 0019, Republic of Armenia  
Tel: (+374 10) 32 40 40; (+374 60) 69 40 40 | Fax:  (+374 60) 61 25 12  

Webpage: www.aua.am

YEREVAN, Armenia – On February 12, 2019, the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) of the American University of Armenia (AUA) organized the first Demo Day of the EPIC incubator program. The event enabled eight EPIC startups from the Fall 2018 batch to present their ventures to the entrepreneur community, investors, accelerator representatives, as well as AUA faculty, students, alumni, and supporters. The event was live-streamed around the world.

The Fall 2018 batch of 32 entrepreneurs started in the EPIC incubator program in October, 2018. They participated in intensive workshops, had one-on-one meetings with their mentors and advisors, and listened to inspiring presentations by local and international entrepreneurs. Each team was also assigned a legal advisor from the Technology and Innovation Legal Clinic (TIL Clinic) of the AUA Master of Laws (LL.M.) program to assist them in legal matters. After four months in the Program, the teams validated their ideas and began building business models.

Davit Mikayelyan, Founder of FinAssist, shared, “EPIC is not a ‘place’ or ‘facility’, it is the ‘people’ we were privileged to work with in the last three months and the fantastic atmosphere. The culmination of it was the Demo Day – eight startups pitching their great ideas on stage before an audience of over a hundred-people. Everything was superb and exciting.”

The pitching was followed by a reception where the teams had a chance to network and answer questions from interested investors and entrepreneurs.

Sona Sharoyan, Co-Founder of BeautyBook, said, “It was an exciting experience to present our startup in front of the entire auditorium. After the event, two girls approached us and literally begged us to accelerate the launch of the app. I want to give big thanks to the whole team of EPIC for providing this opportunity and for continually supporting us. Samson Avetian, previously my micro- & macro-economic lecturer, approached us and told us that he was a member of the Angel Investor Club of Armenia (AICA), and that we could apply for an investment in March. This was very valuable information.” BeautyBook is a mobile booking platform that helps clients to easily make beauty service appointments and acts as a versatile CRM business tool for beauty service providers.

Samson Avetian, AUA lecturer and private angel investor, remarked, “The rapid progress that EPIC has made is impressive. EPIC teams were passionate, their ideas were forward looking, and the atmosphere during the Demo Day was indeed exciting. The outlook for working with some of the teams is quite promising.”    

“The Demo Day was great for our team. Many people liked our startup idea and the model overall. Two investors approached us afterwards. One of them is waiting for our financial model and the other one invited us to pitch to them without going through an application process. We are very excited to launch our startup idea. We just need some funding to cover initial startup costs and we really hope that we will start operating very soon,” told Naira Paronikyan, Head of Marketing at Evi, which helps food businesses to sell their surplus food at the end of the day at discounted prices to earn extra revenue and reduce food waste.

“I’m proud of all the teams. They made tremendous progress over the last four months. With further development of their venture models, a number of them could be positioned for investment and further growth,” added Dr. Michael Kouchakdjian, Director of EPIC.

You can watch a replay of the EPIC Demo Day presentations .

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Peaceful revolutionary: Can Armenia’s prisoner-turned-prime minister govern?

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Armenia-s-prisoner-turned-prime-minister-govern?j=142839&sfmc_sub=13818694&l
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Peaceful revolutionary: Can Armenia's prisoner-turned-prime minister govern?


Why We Wrote This

The Economist declared Armenia the 2018 "country of the year" for its
nonviolent transition of power. But can the journalist and opposition leader
who led his country's sudden turn toward democracy bring lasting change?

By Felix Franz Contributor 
Yerevan, Armenia 

It may not be wise to lecture a judge about right and wrong, particularly if
the judge is about to decide whether you should go back to prison. But Nikol
Pashinyan, the leader of the Armenian revolution who abruptly and improbably
became prime minister, has a history of taking bold actions. 

In 2008, after 10 people had died during political protests in the Armenian
capital of Yerevan, the ruling party made Mr. Pashinyan a scapegoat for
inciting "mass disorder" and sought to throw him in prison. He spent more
than a year in hiding, occupying the top spot on the country's most-wanted
list. Eventually Pashinyan turned himself in when a general amnesty was
announced for political prisoners. But despite meeting the requirements,
Pashinyan's name was conspicuously missing from the amnesty list.

The fiery opposition leader protested his persecution. While presenting his
case in court, he became distracted by a poster on the wall of the judge's
chambers. It displayed several Kalashnikov rifles, with descriptions and
small pictures detailing the inner workings of the weapons. Pashinyan
delivered a passionate lecture on how inappropriate a poster promoting
assault rifles was for a judge's office. His lawyer was aghast at his
brazenness. 

In the end, the judge took the poster down and granted Pashinyan partial
amnesty. His sentence was shortened, but he did serve almost two years in
prison.

The moment was vintage Pashinyan. To his opponents, he's eccentric,
reckless, and self-righteous. To supporters, he is principled and puts
country and people before his own interests - always. There is one thing,
however, both camps agree on: The man who headed a fairy-tale revolution
that has put Armenia firmly on the path to becoming the world's newest
modern democracy is outrageously charismatic. 

For a few days in the spring of 2018, Armenia made headlines around the
world. The tiny country in the southern Caucasus - uniquely wedged between
Europe and Asia, the Middle East and Russia - staged an entirely peaceful
revolution. Hundreds of thousands of people protested against government
corruption and a power grab by then-Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan. The
protests brought the country to a halt through joyous and highly organized
civil disobedience. White confetti wafted through the streets instead of
tear gas.

The Economist declared Armenia, with a population of a mere 3 million, the
2018 "country of the year" for the nonviolent transition of power. While
many independent groups joined the protests, one individual harnessed all
the energy of the demonstrators, united the interests of urban and rural
Armenians, and embodied the desires of young and old alike. That person
built a coalition so strong that after just two weeks of mass
demonstrations, Mr. Sargsyan stepped down with a remarkable mea culpa.
"Nikol Pashinyan was right, I was wrong," Sargsyan announced via an official
statement on his government's website. "The situation has several solutions,
but I will not take any of them.... I am leaving office of the country's
leader, of prime minister. The street movement is against my tenure. I am
fulfilling your demand." 

Few expected Sargsyan, who had been ruling the country for a decade, to
resign so quietly. But the style of his exit was a direct response to that
of the man pushing him out the door. "Pashinyan has a combination of
charisma and political acumen or street smarts that's very rare, especially
in former Soviet republics," says political analyst Richard Giragosian, who
leads an independent think tank in Yerevan. 

The journalist, revolutionary, and opposition leader became prime minister
last May. Now he faces his hardest task yet: governing. History brims with
figures who rode the zeal and idealistic fervor of revolutions to power -
from Nelson Mandela in South Africa to electrician Lech Walesa in 1980s
Poland to Vaclav Havel, the poet laureate of the Velvet Revolution in
Czechoslovakia, after which Pashinyan, artfully, named Armenia's peaceful
revolt. Some of those leaders were more successful than others. One lesson
of street revolutions is that people expect improvements quickly.

Many critics doubt Pashinyan can unite this still-fragile nation, which
faces ever-present tensions with neighbors and the always awkward
relationship with Russia. But others believe he has the vision and
instinctual skill to bring real, long-lasting change to Armenia - and might
make the country a model for other former Soviet countries struggling to
navigate the transition to a modern democracy.

Charisma is a divine gift, according to its Greek root, which literally
translates to "gift of grace." Science continues to search in vain to
quantify exactly what "it" is, but there's little doubt that you either have
it or you don't. Nikol Pashinyan has it. If you talk to people who know him,
it is the one characteristic that is always mentioned. 

Take Hayk Gevorgyan. The journalist and part-time farmer first met Pashinyan
in 1994, when the two worked together on a newspaper. Mr. Gevorgyan says he
was impressed by Pashinyan's passion about a citizen's right to criticize
the government. This was just a few years after the fall of the Soviet
Union, so questioning authorities was still a relatively new freedom.

"Nikol gave trainings to other journalists in his free time," Gevorgyan
says. "He was the first one to teach people to doubt." Pashinyan was barely
20 years old then. After four years, Pashinyan decided to found his own
newspaper, The Daily. Gevorgyan followed him because, he says, "I knew he
was going to do important things, so I wanted to keep on working with him."

During the parliamentary elections in 1999, The Daily was sharply critical
of the government and was fined for libel. The paper refused to pay. The
government confiscated The Daily's equipment and froze its bank account.
Pashinyan was convicted and sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence. 

As soon as the court case was settled, the same team behind The Daily -
including Pashinyan's wife, Anna Hakobyan, who is also a journalist -
acquired the license of another newspaper, the Armenian Times, which was
struggling at the time. In the following years the Times's readership
continuously grew. By 2007 it had become one of the country's most
successful and highly regarded papers. 

It was in the early days of the Armenian Times that Pashinyan dropped a
thick folder on Gevorgyan's desk and asked him to write an article on the
contents. It was the national budget. An engineer by training, Gevorgyan was
a general assignment reporter who had no deep knowledge of economics. But he
pulled off the assignment and eventually became economics editor. He laughs
and says that if Pashinyan had asked him to cover biology, he would probably
be science editor today. "I trust Pashinyan more than myself," he says.

Others agree that he has the ability to relate to and embolden people. "He
satisfies the part of Armenian society that wants to love their leader,"
says Maria Karapetyan, who was recently elected to the new parliament. She
says Pashinyan cites poems in his parliamentary speeches, and when a
supporter gives him a tie as a gift, he "immediately puts it on, no matter
how ugly it may be. He knows how to make people feel important."

For now, Armenia remains in a collective frenzy over the peaceful
revolution, and Pashinyan is enjoying an extended honeymoon as leader. His
newly founded party alliance, My Step, won a landslide 70.4 percent of the
vote in the parliamentary elections in December. But the adoration of him
has moved beyond political support and developed into what some critics call
a cult of personality - evidenced by his image on everything from T-shirts
to cellphone cases - that could undermine the very ideals behind the Velvet
Revolution. "I think there is a fine line between merchandise and personalty
cult, and I believe this line has been crossed," says Ruben Muradyan, an
information-technology worker in Yerevan who has curated a collection of fan
articles about Pashinyan on Facebook.   

Critics worry that Armenians harbor overly optimistic expectations that the
prime minister can swoop in and move the country away from its autocratic
tendencies. During a press conference right after his election victory in
December, Pashinyan was asked whether he sees his personal glorification as
a problem. He laughed off the question saying, "Many people in the streets
want a selfie with me, and I can't refuse them just not to endanger our
democracy in Armenia."

[Editor's note: The above section has been changed because it had three
sentences that, after a review, were considered unacceptably similar to
another story published on this topic. We have removed those sentences and
rewritten the relevant paragraphs. We apologize for the use of phraseology
that was the same as a story that ran on Eurasianet.]

Muradyan believes that Pashinyan has good intentions but lacks the necessary
education to lead a country. "He doesn't understand why a personalty cult
can be dangerous, and that's very worrying," he says.
***
Pashinyan was born in 1975 in Ijevan, a small city of 21,000 nestled at the
foot of the forested Gugark Mountains two hours north of Yerevan. His mother
died when he was 12 years old, and his father, a football and volleyball
coach, quickly remarried.

Always the agitator and activist, Pashinyan was already organizing student
strikes, marches, and demonstrations in his secondary school years between
1988 and the early 1990s. Most of those were focused on the conflict between
Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of
Nagorno-Karabakh. He was a good student, graduating from secondary school
with honors in 1991.

He then left rural Armenia to study journalism in the capital at Yerevan
State University, where he continued to crusade for change and to pinprick
authorities. Just days before his graduation, Pashinyan was expelled from
YSU without a degree. After a meeting with the university's vice president,
Pashinyan declared that his dismissal was the result of a critical article
he had written about the sister of the dean of the university. The official
explanation was that he had missed too many days of school.

Part of Pashinyan's appeal today is a gritty authenticity rooted in his
rural upbringing. In a TV report from 2016, you can see Pashinyan in a
garden - he was an opposition politician in parliament at the time -
skinning a pig with his brother surrounded by the snow-shod hills of his
hometown. He speaks to an interviewer while skillfully burning the surface
of the dead animal with a small flamethrower. None of it feels staged. It's
as if Pashinyan was giving a TV reporter a tour of where he grew up and his
brother happened to need help with a task they had done together countless
times. 

After Pashinyan became prime minister, he and his family moved into the
state's official residence. In an attempt to keep his promise of being more
transparent, he gave a video tour of his new home with his cellphone and
streamed it on his personal Facebook page. The house is spacious and comes
with a sauna, pool table, and large garden. A few weeks after the move,
Pashinyan and his wife gave their old apartment to a family in need. A
single mother moved in with her children.

The gesture was indicative of Pashinyan's skill at appealing to different
audiences. He has established a name with the urban elite through his work
in journalism and parliament for the past 25 years, but he can just as
easily connect with rural Armenians.
In March 2018 he started his demonstration campaign against the former prime
minister's power grab with a 125-mile march from Gyumri, Armenia's second
largest city, to the capital. The campaign was a way to engage people in
villages and regions that have long felt ignored by Yerevan. "[It] gave them
more of a voice, more of a choice in politics ... in other words, tapping
into an ignored constituency," says Mr. Giragosian, the political analyst.

During the march Pashinyan grew a salt-and-pepper beard and wore a
camouflage T-shirt and a baseball cap. It was part of an image makeover to
further distinguish him from the political elite in the capital and, some
argue, to disguise his lack of military experience.

Pashinyan was exempted from compulsory military service because his two
elder brothers had already served. Both previous heads of state in Armenia
were military men from Nagorno-Karabakh. For a country in an undeclared but
stubborn war with Azerbaijan over the contested region, defense and national
security underlie almost every major issue.
"For decades Armenia has been in a state-of-siege mentality," Giragosian
says. "I think [his lack of military experience] is one of his biggest
weaknesses."

What Pashinyan lacks in military experience he makes up for with a record of
conflict-laden street politics. He was jailed for political actions multiple
times, and in 2004 his car was blown up in front of his newspaper's office,
allegedly in an attempt to intimidate him.

A local journalist said she met a taxi driver last summer who knew Pashinyan
from his time in prison. They had been in the same cellblock. He remembered
Pashinyan was always reading, saying he had a plan and that he needed to
keep his mind fresh. He was well-liked there, the former fellow inmate
recounted.

In 2010 Pashinyan became the first jailed candidate in independent Armenia's
history to run for parliament, underscoring his tenacity and resolve.

He was released from prison in May 2011 and was elected to the legislative
chamber in 2012. A year later he founded his own party, taking the final
step away from his career in journalism and committing to politics. A fiery
orator, he was the most outspoken opposition politician in parliament,
always inveighing against people he opposed and trying to hold the
government accountable.

Yet having a stronger opposition in parliament wasn't enough to safeguard
Armenia's young democracy from authoritarian tricks. After serving two
consecutive terms as president, Sargsyan shifted most political power from
the president's office to that of the prime minister and then claimed the
office for himself. What he didn't expect was that his brazen maneuver would
alter the mood of the country. Many Armenians felt the nation was in danger
of becoming a corrupt one-party state. Pashinyan was waiting with tinder to
fuel a populist spark.

"Pashinyan had a much better sense of the pulse of Armenia and a much more
accurate reading of the temperature of the country," Giragosian says. He
remembers that neither the government nor outside experts thought mobilizing
people on this issue would be possible. "The critical mistake the government
made was underestimating Pashinyan," Giragosian says. Within a few weeks,
discontent turned into open dissent.

Since the early 2000s, waves of civic protest have swept Armenia every few
years. The biggest demonstrations happened around alleged electoral fraud
during the presidential election in 2008 and over a 17 percent hike in
electricity rates in 2015. 

Both times saw violent clashes between protesters and police. The
demonstrations in 2018 were different. When it became clear that Sargsyan
didn't intend to leave power, several groups started preparing for a new
round of dissent. Pashinyan and his opposition party were only the most
prominent force. Drawing inspiration from Nelson Mandela, the Vietnam
antiwar movement, and Mahatma Gandhi, Pashinyan and other civil society
groups promoted a no-violence strategy.

"We were told to literally turn the other cheek when we are attacked by the
police," says Karo Ghukasyan, a young activist who worked closely with
Pashinyan. 

One of the movement's tactics was to disrupt traffic without breaking the
law. Over Facebook, Pashinyan asked people to block roads. Small groups of
protesters took turns crossing the street in so-called infinity loops,
making it impossible for cars to proceed. At the height of the protests, on
April 16, demonstrators blocked all bridges and paralyzed the city's entire
subway system. People had massive picnics, danced, and sang in the streets
of Yerevan. An Armenian at the time described the mood in the country as the
"happiest apocalypse in the world."

Almost a year later, the atmosphere in the country is still hopeful. But
weaknesses in the new government are also apparent. Pashinyan is a loyal
person: He has brought many people he learned to trust over the years with
him to government. "He gathered politicians of his kind around him. He is
never surrounded by professionals," the IT expert Muradyan complains.

Political analyst Giragosian partially agrees. He sees too little expertise
in Pashinyan's cabinet, especially when it comes to economic matters. But,
he notes, Pashinyan has demonstrated a willingness to ask for help. He tells
the story of a woman who contacted Pashinyan after the revolution offering
her expertise. She had left Armenia with her family as a child and
specialized in civil aviation in Denmark. Pashinyan invited her to Armenia
for a face-to-face meeting. Not long after, he appointed her the new head of
the country's civil aviation agency. Now she is instituting sweeping
reforms, including bringing in low-cost air carriers and developing Armenia
as a transit hub. 

Politically Pashinyan is often described as a centrist, a business-friendly
liberal. The prime minister himself, like many politicians, eschews labels.
At a press conference for international media after his election he said:
"There are no clear lines between political ideologies anymore.... In the
21st century, those lines disappeared." He'd rather be labeled only as
"pro-Armenian," he says.
Pashinyan's recurring theme in more than two decades of political engagement
is his fight for democracy. Ms. Karapetyan, the newly elected member of
parliament, says that she and Pashinyan, both members of the same party,
want to see a transition of power through elections in the near future. "You
can never say you're a true democracy if you don't have that," she says. 


Still, countless challenges loom on the horizon. For more than a decade, the
former government had glossed over serious domestic problems. "Anything you
touch here with new legislation is a mine that can potentially explode,"
says Karapetyan.

And foreign policy challenges are just as daunting. Two of Armenia's four
borders are permanently closed, and trade with one of its southern
neighbors, Iran, is becoming more difficult after US President Trump renewed
sanctions. The conflict over disputed territory with Azerbaijan might flare
up at any moment, and Armenia is still heavily dependent on Russia for trade
and security. "Russia may come at some point and say, 'Stop. We want to
remind you of the limits of what you can do here [in establishing a
democracy] in Armenia.' And that's a challenge," Giragosian says.

In the end, a lot hinges on Pashinyan's ability to grow in office without
overestimating his own capabilities. Giragosian, for one, is cautiously
optimistic. He tells the story of how he was supposed to act as translator
in a meeting between Pashinyan and the Swedish ambassador. But suddenly
Pashinyan started talking in English; he had secretly taught himself.

"He knows what he doesn't know and recognizes the need to deepen his
knowledge in areas where he is weaker," Giragosian says. "That's a very
important quality."









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RFE/RL Armenian Report – 02/22/2019

                                        Thursday, 

Armenia Invited To More NATO Drills In Georgia

        • Sargis Harutyunyan

GEORGIA -- U.S. servicemen attend a drill during the multinational military 
exercises "Noble Partner 2018" at Vaziani military base outside Tbilisi, August 
6, 2018

Georgia’s Defense Minister Levan Izoria expressed hope that Armenia will 
continue to participate in NATO-led military exercises held in his country each 
year as he visited Yerevan on Thursday.

Izoria met with his Armenian counterpart Davit Tonoyan for talks which he 
described as productive.

Both men called for closer military ties between the two neighboring states at 
a joint news conference held after the meeting. They also signed a plan of 
joint activities by their ministries for this year.

“I agree with Mr. Izoria on the need to expand our cooperation in the area of 
defense and to include new elements in it,” said Tonoyan. He cited 
“millennia-old friendship between the two peoples” in that context.

Izoria voiced appreciation for the participation of Armenian army officers in 
the “Noble Partner 2018” exercise held near Tbilisi in August. “And I hope that 
the Armenian side will continue to be actively involved in such exercises held 
in Georgia under the NATO aegis,” he said.


Armenia - Armenian Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan (R) and his Georgian 
counterpart Levan Izoria meet in Yerevan, .
The “Noble Partner” drills involved 3,000 soldiers from Georgia, the United 
States and a dozen other nations, including Azerbaijan and Turkey.

The Armenian military did not participate in another NATO-led exercise, 
codenamed “Agile Spirit,” which took place elsewhere in Georgia in September.

Yerevan controversially dropped out of the previous “Agile Spirit” war games 
held in 2017. Armenian officials denied that the decision was made under 
pressure from Russia, Armenia’s main military ally. Moscow has repeatedly 
denounced the annual exercises organized by NATO or the U.S. military in 
Georgia.




Yerevan University Head Under Mounting Pressure To Resign

        • Marine Khachatrian
        • Naira Nalbandian

Armenia - Aram Simonian, the Yerevan State University rector, holds a news 
conference in his office, 29 May 2018.

Education Minister Arayik Harutiunian on Thursday called for the resignation of 
the long-serving rector of Armenia’s largest university who is facing 
corruption allegations denied by him as politically motivated.

Aram Simonian, who has run Yerevan State University since 2006, came under 
pressure to resign following last spring’s “velvet revolution” that toppled the 
country’s previous government headed by Serzh Sarkisian. A member of 
Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) since 1997, Simonian had long been accused 
by his detractors of suppressing student activism and placing YSU under a 
strong HHK influence.

The pressure on Simonian grew in December after the State Oversight Service 
subordinate to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian implicated the YSU administration 
in financial irregularities which it said had cost the state at least 800 
million drams ($1.65 million). The 63-year-old rector angrily denied the 
allegations, linking them to his continuing membership in the former ruling 
party.

On Wednesday, the Armenian police claimed that an unnamed “managing official of 
the university” has embezzled YSU funds and engaged in other corrupt practices 
over the past decade. In particular, a police statement said that in 2015 a 
private firm remodeled the official’s apartment and separate house in return 
for being granted a 400 million-dram construction contract by the YSU 
administration.

The police did not formally charge anyone. Instead, they sent the case to 
another law-enforcement body for further investigation.

Speaking to journalists later on Wednesday, Simonian acknowledged that the 
police statement most probably referred to him. “I see political motives behind 
that,” he said.

Accordingly, Simonian rejected the “ridiculous” allegations, saying that they 
are part of the current government’s efforts to force him out of YSU. He said 
he will not step down before serving out his current term in office in 2020.

Meanwhile, Harutiunian made a case for Simonian’s resignation after a weekly 
cabinet meeting in Yerevan. The education minister said that the YSU head 
should go because he is widely “associated with many negative practices that 
have existed in YSU and the sphere of higher education in general.”

Harutiunian, who taught at YSU before being appointed to Pashinian’s government 
in May, went on to accuse Simonian of trying to “politicize” the corruption 
inquiries and “using many deans and scholars as a shield


Armenian Authorities Confirm Hefty Payout From Sarkisian’s Brother

        • Astghik Bedevian

Armenia -- President Serzh Sarkisian's brother Aleksandr (L) is seen outside 
the parliament building in Yerevan, June 10, 2010.

The National Security Service (NSS) said on Thursday that an indicted brother 
of Armenia’s former President Serzh Sarkisian has paid the state $30 million 
from a bank account that was frozen last summer.

It emerged earlier this week that the NSS is pressing fraud charges against 
Aleksandr “Sashik” Sarkisian. Also, Armenian media reports said that he has 
donated $18.5 million from his frozen account to the government.

The NSS director, Artur Vanetsian, confirmed the reports. He said that 
Sarkisian has also agreed to settle a back tax debt by transferring the 
remaining $11.5 million the state treasury.

“The criminal investigation is continuing and its results will be made public,” 
Vanetsian told reporters.

The NSS chief declined to comment on reasons for the hefty donation made by 
Sarkisian. He denied striking any deals with the ex-president’s brother.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian publicly demanded in September that Aleksandr 
Sarkisian “return the money to the state budget.” Sarkisian rejected 
Pashinian’s demand as illegal but later offered to donate a part of the $30 
million account if his and his family members’ assets are unblocked.


Armenia - An armed officer of the National Security Service guards an entrance 
to the Yerevan house of former President Serzh Sarkisian's brother Aleksandr 
searched by investigators, 4 July 2018.
Sarkisian’s lawyer on Tuesday dismissed the fraud charges brought against his 
client. He said they stem from over a dozen drawings by the 20th century 
Armenian painter Martiros Saryan which were found in Sarkisian’s Yerevan house 
in July. The NSS confiscated the drawings, saying that his fugitive son Narek 
had fraudulently obtained them from Saryan’s descendants.

The 62-year-old Sarkisian, whose brother was overthrown in last spring’s 
“velvet revolution” led by Pashinian, is thought to have made a big fortune in 
the past two decades. He held a parliament seat from 2003-2011.

Also facing prosecution are another former Armenian president, Robert 
Kocharian, and his elder son Sedrak. The NSS said on Tuesday that it has 
charged the latter with evading nearly $2 million in taxes and laundering an 
even larger amount of money. Sedrak Kocharian rejected the accusations as 
“fabricated,” saying that they are part of the current authorities’ persecution 
of his arrested father and broader family.

Vanetsian denied any political motives behind the high-profile case. He noted 
in that regard that Robert Kocharian had also accomplished “many positive 
things” while in power.


Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian (L) and his predecessor Robert Kocharian 
visit Gyumri, 7 December 2008.

Vanetsian announced in September that his agency is scrutinizing what he 
described as hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets belonging to 
Kocharian’s family. A few weeks later, the NSS launched a corruption 
investigation into Armen Avetisian, who ran Armenia’s customs service during 
Kocharian’s rule. It said that Avetisian is suspected of illegal involvement in 
entrepreneurial activity and money laundering.

In particular, it said, he financed the construction of a luxury hotel in 
Yerevan through an obscure company registered in Cyprus. It remains unclear 
whether Avetisian has been formally charged.

Vanetsian confirmed on Thursday that the former customs chief’s son has offered 
to donate another five-star hotel, located in the resort town of Tsaghkadzor, 
to the state. “That process is now in progress,” he said.

During Avetisian’s tenure in 2001-2008, the customs service solidified its 
reputation as one of Armenia’s most corrupt government agencies.



Press Review



“Haykakan Zhamanak” also comments on a $18.5 million donation to the state 
reportedly made by former President Serzh Sarkisian’s controversial brother 
Aleksandr. The latter at the same denies fraud accusations brought against him. 
“This naturally raises the following question: if he doesn’t admit his guilt 
and maintains that he became rich by honest means why did he donate $18.5 
million to the state? Does hope to save his fortune by sacrificing a part of 
it?”

For his part, Robert Kocharian’s son Sedrak is facing similar charges and 
strongly denying them. “Whether or not the law-enforcers will succeed in 
proving those accusations in court is a different question,” says “Haykakan 
Zhamanak.” The pro-government paper say that through “propaganda manipulations” 
Sedrak Kocharian and Aleksandr Sarkisian are trying to make Armenians believe 
that they became millionaire businessmen without benefiting from government 
corruption.

“Zhoghovurd” reports that the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE 
Minsk Group will not visit Stepanakert during their latest tour of the 
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. A senior Karabakh official, Davit Babayan, is 
quoted as playing down this fact, saying that “such exceptions happen 
sometimes.” Babayan also argues that the main purpose of the co-chairs’ trip is 
to organize another meeting of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and 
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The paper notes that an official press 
release on Pashinian’s meeting with the mediators held on Wednesday made no 
mention of the next Armenian-Azerbaijani summit.

“Zhamanak” comments on Georgian Defense Minister Levan Izoria’s visit to 
Armenia which begins on Thursday. “Armenia and Georgia are on different 
security vectors,” writes the paper. Nevertheless, it says that they have 
“common interests” and are in a position to jointly contribute to regional 
security. “These are vital interests as they involve issues conditioning the 
continued existence of the Armenian and Georgian states,” it says.

(Lilit Harutiunian)


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2019 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
www.rferl.org


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EBRD launches new green economy financing facility for Armenia

CEE Energy NewsWatch Today
Thursday
EBRD launches new green economy financing facility for Armenia
 
 
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) launched a new Green Economy Financing Facility (GEFF) for Armenia, co-financed by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), on February 19.
 
ArmSwiss Bank, which is the second bank in Armenia to join the GEFF scheme, will receive a (EURO)2.5mn loan for lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and corporates. The first bank to benefit from GEFF in Armenia was Ameriabank.
 
The EBRD said it is stepping up its efforts to strengthen energy efficiency in Armenia. Funding will be available for investments in green technology, especially in climate adaptation and mitigation technologies, the EBRD said.
 
The development bank went on to outline potential investment areas, which include thermal insulation, photovoltaic solar panels, geothermal heat pumps and water efficient irrigation systems.
 
"Developing the financial sector and improving access to green finance is one of our key priorities in Armenia. We are pleased to work with Ameriabank and ArmSwissBank to support both energy efficiency and water resource efficiency investments," commented the EBRD's head of Armenia, Dmitri Gvindadze, according to a statement from the bank.
 
"Today, we have partnered with the ArmSwissBank which has a strong client base, and so we can better reach out to private sector players both in Yerevan and the regions."

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Film: Vigen Chaldranyan quits as Chairman of Armenian National Film Academy

Panorama, Armenia
Feb 22 2019
Society 20:29 22/02/2019 Armenia

Honored Art Worker of Armenia, film director Vigen Chaldranyan quitted as Chairman of Armenian National Film Academy. As the President of the Union of Cinematographers of Armenia Harutyun Khachatryan told reporters on Friday, Chaldranyan informed about his resignation in a letter sent from the US, explaining his decision with poor health condition.

“We were informed about his decision three months ago yet expected him to change his mind, hoping also for improvement of his health condition. Now it appears his decision is final,” Khachatryan said.

To remind, Vigen Chaldranyan has served as the Chairman of Armenian National Film Academy since September 2017.

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Chess: Manuel Petrosyan wins at Round 2 of Aeroflot Open

Panorama, Armenia
Feb 22 2019
Sport 20:06 22/02/2019 World

The second round of the Aeroflot Open chess tournament was held in Moscow with only one representative of Armenia Manuel Petrosyan winning his game in A tournament. As the chess federation reports, Tigran Petrosyan, Hayk Sargsyan, Aram Hakobyan and Shant Sargsyan played draw.

After two rounds played, Hayk Martirosyan has scored 1.5 points, Tigran Petrosian and Manuel Petrosyan – one point each, while Aram Hakobyan and Shant Sargsyan – half a point.
To remind, 15 Armenian players, including six grand masters are taking part in the tournament. The festival comprises of three open tournaments (A, B and C) made up according to the rating of the participants and are 9-round Swiss tournaments.

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Music: Armenia’s Otri Trio ensemble releases its debut album

Panorama, Armenia
Feb 22 2019
Culture 14:18 22/02/2019 Armenia

Otri Trio ensemble of the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra has released its first CD album titled “Flight of Imagination” under the label of Halidon Music – one of the major music distributors in Italy.

Halidon Music has also concluded a five-year contract with the ensemble, under which the recordings of Otri Trio will be available on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, and other music platforms, the Symphony Orchestra told Panorama.am.

The world-famous label will be dealing with the trio’s promotion and distribution of its performances in the next few years.

The first album will go on sale in Europe, US, Canada and Mexico, as well as in the Italian bookstore La Feltrinelli selling CDs of renowned musicians.

Otri Trio’s CD has been recorded with support of Armenian State Symphony Orchestra led by conductor Sergey Smbatyan.

Flight of Imagination features music pieces by Armenian, German, Austrian, French and Russian composers.

Otri Trio is comprised of the musician-laureates of national and international competitions – Ruzanna Tovmasyan (flute), Anzhela Hovhannisyan (violin) and Arevik Kosyan (viola).

The trio’s special and unique sound is the result of the combination of two different types of instruments – woodwind and strings. The name of the ensemble has Latvian origin, meaning ‘alternative’. Thus, Otri Trio suggests an alternative version of the classical trio. 

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