Putin pledges ongoing Russian backing for Caucasus settlement

Putin pledges ongoing Russian backing for Caucasus settlement

Interfax news agency
23 Mar 04


Russian President Vladimir Putin has confirmed Russia’s readiness to
contribute to settlement of the problems of the Caucasus region.

“A peaceful political settlement of the existing problems is certainly
in the interests of ongoing development of cooperation between Russia
and Georgia and of stability in the region. Russia is definitely
prepared to continue to promote this vigorously,” Putin said in Moscow
today at a ceremony for the presentation of credentials by foreign
ambassadors, including the new Georgian ambassador in the Russian
Federation Konstantin [Kote] Kemularia.

“Russia has an interest in having close, good-neighbourly relations
with Georgia,” Putin added.

According to Putin, “February’s visit to Moscow by the Georgian
president opened up encouraging prospects”.

Putin said that Moscow “accords great importance to implementing the
political accords (reached during the visit – Interfax note), accords
on international terrorism and on ensuring the security of our common

“A1+” Facing a Legal Bar

A1 Plus | 20:02:39 | 23-03-2004 | Social |


Which are the privileges of the TV Companies that won at TV and Radio
National Committee’ tenders and now broadcast? Which are the shortcomings of
“A1+” that TV and Radio National Committee has deprived it of the chance to
return to broadcasting area for 7 times and didn’t allow the reasons for
license refusal?

“Meltex” LTD representatives have been applying to the Economic Court for 7
months to get them in written. That trial, hearing of “Meltex” LTD claim
demanding TV and Radio National Committee to let the reasons for not
granting “A1+” the broadcasting license in the tenders for 25th, 31st, 39th,
51st frequencies, has ended today.

At today’s session “Meltex” LTD representative Ara Zohrabyan introduced an
application also demanding TV and Radio National Committee to make public
the bases for refusing the license to “A1+” in the tenders for 3rd, 63rd and
56th frequency ranges.

“The decision on granting a license to a tender winner can’t be commented
otherwise but the decision on refusing a license to other participants of
the tender”, TV and Radio National Committee representative Varser
Karapetyan said, neglecting the requirements of the 51st article of the Law
on “Television and Radio” and the 63rd article of “Regulations of TV and
Radio National Committee”. The 51st article clearly states: An applicant is
informed in written about the bases of refusing the license within 10 days
after the decision is made.

However, as it was expected from the last phase of the legal proceedings
(baseless dragging out of the trial, challenge of TV and Radio National
Committee to the Judge) Judge Robert Sargssyan rejected “A1+” claim against
TV and Radio National Committee.

The Court decision can be appealed against in the Appeal Court within 15


Who stole the kids’ food and medicine?

* Who stole the kids’ food and medicine?
* IGC to probe into oil-for-food deal


Scripps Howard News Service
March 23 2004

Who stole the kids’ food and medicine?

An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan plans to establish an independent
commission to investigate bribery and kickbacks in the
U.N.-administered oil-for-food program for Iraq.

A commission is a fine idea. Iraq will certainly not be the last
U.N.-imposed embargo with a humanitarian loophole, and if the
sanctions are to be effective they must be properly run. Clearly the
oil-for-food program was not.

Records seized in Iraq show Saddam Hussein’s regime made payments to
at least 270 foreign diplomats, government officials and
corporations. One of them was Benon Sevan, the U.N. executive in
charge of the program.

The allegation is that these payments were bribes for the officials
to look the other way while Saddam skimmed off more than $10 billion
that was supposed to go toward buying food and medicine for his

If the allegation is true, we’d like to see the United Nations go
further and see these officials prosecuted, by their own countries
or, if necessary, the international court in The Hague, Netherlands.

First, it’s a matter of simple justice. Crooks should be punished.

Second, the United Nations has an obligation to clean its own house.
The precedent of tolerating kickbacks to its officials and
contractors is not a healthy one.

Third, during the duration of the embargo, its chief supporter, the
United States, took all kinds of abuse for supposedly depriving Iraqi
children of food and medicine. The Iraqi children might have been
sick and starving but the fault was the officials and their abettors
who were stealing the money.

That canard must be shown to the world for the false and baseless
charge it is.

Al-Jazeera, Qatar
March 23 2004

IGC to probe into oil-for-food deal

The programme handled billions in funds for food for Iraqis

Iraq’s Governing Council has decided to launch a formal inquiry into
alleged corruption in the now-defunct UN-administered oil-for-food
programme, a spokesman for council member Ahmad Chalabi said.

“Saddam Hussein was able to loot billions of (dollars of) Iraqi
people’s money under the supervision of the United Nations,”
Intifadh Qanbar, a spokesman for council member Ahmad Chalabi, told a
news conference.

He said the council would hire international legal and accountancy
firms to help the inquiry investigate “all personalities, companies,
families, leaders, politicians all over the world who received these

Media reports have alleged that government officials, foreign firms
and a senior UN official were among those who profited illegally from
the humanitarian programme.

Chalabi heads the US-backed council’s finance committee, which has
been making preliminary investigations.

The United Nations has already begun an in-house probe of its staff
and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week asked members of the
Security Council for their support in a second independent,
high-level inquiry into the allegations.

Annan has been under pressure to conduct an inquiry from US officials
searching for Saddam’s suspected hidden assets.

The inquiry will investigate “all personalities, companies, families,
leaders, politicians all over the world who received these bribes”

Intifadh Qanbar,
Spokesman for Ahmad Chalabi, IGC

One name on a published list was Benon Sevan, who ran the UN
programme that began in December 1996 and ended a year ago.

Oil companies chosen by Iraq put money into a UN escrow account out
of which suppliers of civilian goods were paid to ease the impact of
1991 Gulf War trade sanctions on Iraqis.

Sevan has denied the allegations and UN officials have said they have
not been given any documents.

Foreign companies

Annan, in his letter to Security Council members on Friday, said the
media allegations must be addressed “to bring to light the truth and
prevent an erosion of trust and hope that the international community
has invested in the organisation”.

Annan has been under pressure
to conduct internal UN probe

UN officials say any probe would need to look at foreign companies,
suppliers, middle men who bought the oil and the French bank
BNP-Paribas, which handled the UN-Iraq account.

The oil-for-food programme handled more than $65 billion in funds for
food, medicine and other civilian goods. It was shut down last year
after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam.

The US General Accounting Office, an interagency body headed by the
Treasury, is trying to locate and seize $10 billion to $40 billion in
estimated hidden Iraqi assets.

The GAO said in a report last week that Saddam acquired $5.7 billion
of these assets from the proceeds of oil smuggled through Syria,
Jordan, Turkey and elsewhere.

Armenian Genocide- 1915-1918 – 1,500,000 Deaths

United Human Rights Council
March 23, 2004 6:15:02 AM

Armenian Genocide- 1915-1918 – 1,500,000 Deaths

The first genocide of the 20th Century occurred when two million Armenians
living in Turkey were eliminated from their historic homeland through forced
deportations and massacres.

For three thousand years, a thriving Armenian community had existed inside
the vast region of the Middle East bordered by the Black, Mediterranean and
Caspian Seas. The area, known as Asia Minor, stands at the crossroads of
three continents; Europe, Asia and Africa. Great powers rose and fell over
the many centuries and the Armenian homeland was at various times ruled by
Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Mongols.

Despite the repeated invasions and occupations, Armenian pride and cultural
identity never wavered. The snow-capped peak of Mount Ararat became its
focal point and by 600 BC Armenia as a nation sprang into being. Following
the advent of Christianity, Armenia became the very first nation to accept
it as the state religion. A golden era of peace and prosperity followed
which saw the invention of a distinct alphabet, a flourishing of literature,
art, commerce, and a unique style of architecture. By the 10th century,
Armenians had established a new capital at Ani, affectionately called the
‘city of a thousand and one churches.’

In the eleventh century, the first Turkish invasion of the Armenian homeland
occurred. Thus began several hundred years of rule by Muslim Turks. By the
sixteenth century, Armenia had been absorbed into the vast and mighty
Ottoman Empire. At its peak, this Turkish empire included much of Southeast
Europe, North Africa, and almost all of the Middle East.

But by the 1800s the once powerful Ottoman Empire was in serious decline.
For centuries, it had spurned technological and economic progress, while the
nations of Europe had embraced innovation and became industrial giants.
Turkish armies had once been virtually invincible. Now, they lost battle
after battle to modern European armies.

As the empire gradually disintegrated, formerly subject peoples including
the Greeks, Serbs and Romanians achieved their long-awaited independence.
Only the Armenians and the Arabs of the Middle East remained stuck in the
backward and nearly bankrupt empire, now under the autocratic rule of Sultan
Abdul Hamid.

By the 1890s, young Armenians began to press for political reforms, calling
for a constitutional government, the right to vote and an end to
discriminatory practices such as special taxes levied solely against them
because they were Christians. The despotic Sultan responded to their pleas
with brutal persecutions. Between 1894 and 1896 over 100,000 inhabitants of
Armenian villages were massacred during widespread pogroms conducted by the
Sultan’s special regiments.

But the Sultan’s days were numbered. In July 1908, reform-minded Turkish
nationalists known as “Young Turks” forced the Sultan to allow a
constitutional government and guarantee basic rights. The Young Turks were
ambitious junior officers in the Turkish Army who hoped to halt their
country’s steady decline.

Armenians in Turkey were delighted with this sudden turn of events and its
prospects for a brighter future. Both Turks and Armenians held jubilant
public rallies attended with banners held high calling for freedom, equality
and justice.

However, their hopes were dashed when three of the Young Turks seized full
control of the government via a coup in 1913. This triumvirate of Young
Turks, consisting of Mehmed Talaat, Ismail Enver and Ahmed Djemal, came to
wield dictatorial powers and concocted their own ambitious plans for the
future of Turkey. They wanted to unite all of the Turkic peoples in the
entire region while expanding the borders of Turkey eastward across the
Caucasus all the way into Central Asia. This would create a new Turkish
empire, a “great and eternal land” called Turan with one language and one

But there was a big problem. The traditional historic homeland of Armenia
lay right in the path of their plans to expand eastward. And on that land
was a large population of Christian Armenians totaling some two million
persons, making up about 10 percent of Turkey’s overall population.

Along with the Young Turk’s newfound “Turanism” there was a dramatic rise in
Islamic fundamentalist agitation throughout Turkey. Christian Armenians were
once again branded as infidels (non-believers in Islam). Young Islamic
extremists, sometimes leading to violence, staged anti-Armenian
demonstrations. During one such outbreak in 1909, two hundred villages were
plundered and over 30,000 persons massacred in the Cilicia district on the
Mediterranean coast. Throughout Turkey, sporadic local attacks against
Armenians continued unchecked over the next several years.

There were also big cultural differences between Armenians and Turks. The
Armenians had always been one of the best-educated communities within the
old Turkish Empire. Armenians were the professionals in society, the
businessmen, lawyers, doctors and skilled craftsmen. And they were more open
to new scientific, political and social ideas from the West (Europe and
America). Children of wealthy Armenians went to Paris, Geneva or even to
America to complete their education.

By contrast, the majority of Turks were illiterate peasant farmers and small
shopkeepers. Leaders of the Ottoman Empire had traditionally placed little
value on education and not a single institute of higher learning could be
found within their old empire. The various autocratic and despotic rulers
throughout the empire’s history had valued loyalty and blind obedience above
all. Their uneducated subjects had never heard of democracy or liberalism
and thus had no inclination toward political reform. But this was not the
case with the better-educated Armenians who sought political and social
reforms that would improve life for themselves and Turkey’s other

The Young Turks decided to glorify the virtues of simple Turkish peasantry
at the expense of the Armenians in order to capture peasant loyalty. They
exploited the religious, cultural, economic and political differences
between Turks and Armenians so that the average Turk came to regard
Armenians as strangers among them.

When World War I broke out in 1914, leaders of the Young Turk regime sided
with the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary). The outbreak of war
would provide the perfect opportunity to solve the “Armenian question” once
and for all. The world’s attention became fixed upon the battlegrounds of
France and Belgium where the young men of Europe were soon falling dead by
the hundreds of thousands. The Eastern Front eventually included the border
between Turkey and Russia. With war at hand, unusual measures involving the
civilian population would not seem too out of the ordinary.

As a prelude to the coming action, Turks disarmed the entire Armenian
population under the pretext that the people were naturally sympathetic
toward Christian Russia. Every last rifle and pistol was forcibly seized,
with severe penalties for anyone who failed to turn in a weapon. Quite a few
Armenian men actually purchased a weapon from local Turks or Kurds (nomadic
Muslim tribesmen) at very high prices so they would have something to turn

At this time, about forty thousand Armenian men were serving in the Turkish
Army. In the fall and winter of 1914, all of their weapons were confiscated
and they were put into slave labor battalions building roads or were used as
human pack animals. Under the brutal work conditions they suffered a very
high death rate. Those who survived would soon be shot outright. For the
time had come to move against the Armenians.

The decision to annihilate the entire population came directly from the
ruling triumvirate of ultra-nationalist Young Turks. The actual
extermination orders were transmitted in coded telegrams to all provincial
governors throughout Turkey. Armed roundups began on the evening of April
24, 1915, as 300 Armenian political leaders, educators, writers, clergy and
dignitaries in Constantinople (present day Istanbul) were taken from their
homes, briefly jailed and tortured, then hanged or shot.

Next, there were mass arrests of Armenian men throughout the country by
Turkish soldiers, police agents and bands of Turkish volunteers. The men
were tied together with ropes in small groups then taken to the outskirts of
their town and shot dead or bayoneted by death squads. Local Turks and Kurds
armed with knives and sticks often joined in on the killing.

Then it was the turn of Armenian women, children, and the elderly. On very
short notice, they were ordered to pack a few belongings and be ready to
leave home, under the pretext that they were being relocated to a
non-military zone for their own safety. They were actually being taken on
death marches heading south toward the Syrian Desert.

Muslim Turks who assumed instant ownership of everything quickly occupied
most of the homes and villages left behind by the rousted Armenians. In many
cases, local Turks who took them from their families spared young Armenian
children from deportation. The children were coerced into denouncing
Christianity and becoming Muslims, and were then given new Turkish names.
For Armenian boys the forced conversion meant they each had to endure
painful circumcision as required by Islamic custom.

Turkish gendarmes escorted individual caravans consisting of thousands of
deported Armenians. These guards allowed roving government units of hardened
criminals known as the “Special Organization” to attack the defenseless
people, killing anyone they pleased. They also encouraged Kurdish bandits to
raid the caravans and steal anything they wanted. In addition, an
extraordinary amount of sexual abuse and rape of girls and young women
occurred at the hands of the Special Organization and Kurdish bandits. Most
of the attractive young females were kidnapped for a life of involuntary

The death marches, involving over a million Armenians, covered hundreds of
miles and lasted months. Indirect routes through mountains and wilderness
areas were deliberately chosen in order to prolong the ordeal and to keep
the caravans away from Turkish villages.

Food supplies being carried by the people quickly ran out and they were
usually denied further food or water. Anyone stopping to rest or lagging
behind the caravan was mercilessly beaten until they rejoined the march. If
they couldn’t continue they were shot. A common practice was to force all of
the people in the caravan to remove every stitch of clothing and have them
resume the march in the nude under the scorching sun until they dropped dead
by the roadside from exhaustion and dehydration.

An estimated 75 percent of the Armenians on these marches perished,
especially children and the elderly. Those who survived the ordeal were
herded into the desert without a drop of water. Being thrown off cliffs,
burned alive, or drowned in rivers, killed others.

The Turkish countryside became littered with decomposing corpses. At one
point, Mehmed Talaat responded to the problem by sending a coded message to
all provincial leaders: “I have been advised that in certain areas unburied
corpses are still to be seen. I ask you to issue the strictest instructions
so that the corpses and their debris in your vilayet are buried.”

But his instructions were generally ignored. Those involved in the mass
murder showed little interest in stopping to dig graves. The roadside
corpses and emaciated deportees were a shocking sight to foreigners working
in Turkey. Eyewitnesses included German government liaisons, American
missionaries, and U.S. diplomats stationed in the country.

The Christian missionaries were often threatened with death they and were
unable to help the people. Diplomats from the still neutral United States
communicated their blunt assessments of the ongoing government actions. U.S.
ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, reported to Washington: “When the
Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely
giving the death warrant to a whole race…”

The Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Russia) responded to news of the
massacres by issuing a warning to Turkey: “…the Allied governments
announce publicly…that they will hold all the members of the Ottoman
Government, as well as such of their agents as are implicated, personally
responsible for such matters.”

The warning had no effect. Newspapers in the West including the New York
Times published reports of the continuing deportations with the headlines:
Armenians Are Sent to Perish in the Desert – Turks Accused of Plan to
Exterminate Whole Population (August 18, 1915) – Million Armenians Killed or
in Exile – American Committee on Relief Says Victims of Turks Are Steadily
Increasing – Policy of Extermination (December 15, 1915).

Temporary relief for some Armenians came as Russian troops attacked along
the Eastern Front and made their way into central Turkey. But the troops
withdrew in 1917 upon the Russian Revolution. Armenian survivors withdrew
along with them and settled in among fellow Armenians already living in
provinces of the former Russian Empire. There were in total about 500,000
Armenians gathered in this region.

In May 1918, Turkish armies attacked the area to achieve the goal of
expanding Turkey eastward into the Caucasus and also to resume the
annihilation of the Armenians. As many as 100,000 Armenians may have fallen
victim to the advancing Turkish troops.

However, the Armenians managed to acquire weapons and they fought back,
finally repelling the Turkish invasion at the battle of Sardarabad, thus
saving the remaining population from total extermination with no help from
the outside world. Following that victory, Armenian leaders declared the
establishment of the independent Republic of Armenia.

World War I ended in November 1918 with a defeat for Germany and the Central
Powers including Turkey. Shortly before the war had ended, the Young Turk
triumvirate; Talaat, Enver and Djemal, abruptly resigned their government
posts and fled to Germany where they had been offered asylum.

In the months that followed, repeated requests by Turkey’s new moderate
government and the Allies were made asking Germany to send the Young Turks
back home to stand trial. However all such requests were turned down. As a
result, Armenian activists took matters into their own hands, located the
Young Turks and assassinated them along with two other instigators of the
mass murder.

Meanwhile, representatives from the fledgling Republic of Armenia attended
the Paris Peace Conference in the hope that the victorious Allies would give
them back their historic lands seized by Turkey. The European Allies
responded to their request by asked the United States to assume guardianship
of the new Republic. However, President Woodrow Wilson’s attempt to make
Armenia an official U.S. protectorate was rejected by the U.S. Congress in
May 1920.

But Wilson did not give up on Armenia. As a result of his efforts, the
Treaty of Sevres was signed on August 10, 1920 by the Allied Powers, the
Republic of Armenia, and the new moderate leaders of Turkey. The treaty
recognized an independent Armenian state in an area comprising much of the
former historic homeland.

However, Turkish nationalism once again reared its head. The moderate
Turkish leaders who signed the treaty were ousted in favor of a new
nationalist leader, Mustafa Kemal, who simply refused to accept the treaty
and even re-occupied the very lands in question then expelled any surviving
Armenians, including thousands of orphans.

No Allied power came to the aid of the Armenian Republic and it collapsed.
Only a tiny portion of the easternmost area of historic Armenia survived by
being becoming part of the Soviet Union.

After the successful obliteration of the people of historic Armenia, the
Turks demolished any remnants of Armenian cultural heritage including
priceless masterpieces of ancient architecture, old libraries and archives.
The Turks even leveled entire cities such as the once thriving Kharpert, Van
and the ancient capital at Ani, to remove all traces of the three thousand
year old civilization.

The young German politician Adolf Hitler duly noted the half-hearted
reaction of the world’s great powers to the plight of the Armenians. After
achieving total power in Germany, Hitler decided to conquer Poland in 1939
and told his generals: “Thus for the time being I have sent to the East only
my ‘Death’s Head Units’ with the orders to kill without pity or mercy all
men, women, and children of Polish race or language. Only in such a way will
we win the vital space that we need. Who still talks nowadays about the

Habitat planning trip to Armenia

Santa Cruz Sentinel, CA
March 21 2004

Habitat planning trip to Armenia

Habitat for Humanity Santa Cruz County is gathering a group that will
build homes for low-income families in Armenia from May 22 to June 5.
Larissa Printzian of the nonprofit group is recruiting 10 people for
the trip. Participants pay their own way, many by seeking donations.

Many Armenia families have been living in metal containers, called
domiks, since 1988, when they were brought to the country as part of
the relief effort after the 1988 earthquake, Printzian said. The
domiks are hot in the summer and provide little shelter from cold
during winter months, she said.

For information call 685-0671 or e-mail [email protected].

John Kems won awards as builder of homes

Cincinnati Enquirer, OH
March 21 2004

John Kems won awards as builder of homes

He was a WWII vet

By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

John O. Kems was an award-winning homebuilder who started the firm
Concept Homes. He also worked as a self-employed market-research
consultant, and as a prospector for uranium.

“He was larger than life, vibrant, and had an independent nature. He
was very family-oriented and always emphasized the importance of
getting a good education to his children and grandchildren. He
encouraged us to do our very best,” said his daughter, Amy Kems of
Antigua, Guatemala.

Mr. Kems died Thursday at his daughter’s home in Anderson Township of
complications from diabetes. The Union Township resident was 79.

Born John O. Kemsuzian in Detroit to Armenian parents, Mr. Kems
shortened his last name as a young adult.

He attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor before entering
the Navy to serve as a pharmacist mate in the Pacific Theater during
World War II.

After being honorably discharged, he returned to Michigan and
attended the University of Detroit School of Law, from which he

Mr. Kems lived for several years in Utah and Montana as a uranium
prospector, before deciding to move to Cincinnati, considering the
city an ideal place for business ventures.

He worked as an independent market-research consultant and then, in
the mid-1970s, began Concept Homes, a home building company that won
an award in the Homebuilders Association of Cincinnati’s Homearama in

“This was quite an honor for him,” said his son, Johann Kemsuzian of
Springfield, Ohio, “to receive recognition from peers in the

Mr. Kems studied violin as a child, and enjoyed listening to
classical music and playing golf.

His wife of 38 years, Mary Anne Kems, preceded him in death in 1995.

Besides his son and daughter, other survivors include a daughter,
Caryn Franke of Mount Washington; two sons, Eric Kemsuzian of
Columbus and Matthew Kemsuzian of Medina; a brother, Dr. Harry Kems
of Waterford, Mich.; and seven grandchildren. Visitation will be 1-2
p.m. Tuesday at Mount Washington Presbyterian Church, 6474 Beechmont
Ave., Mount Washington. Memorial service will follow at the church.

The body was cremated.

Memorials can be made to the American Diabetes Association, Always
and Forever Memorial and Honor Program, Attn: ADA Web, PO Box 2680,
North Canton, OH 44720.

The power of faith

The Journal News, NY
March 21 2004

The power of faith

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Byzantium: Faith and Power
(1261-1557),” which opens Tuesday and runs through July 4, is nothing
short of magnificent – more than 350 golden icons, embroidered
textiles, filigree metal works, jeweled mosaics, illuminated
manuscripts and liturgical objects that convey the majesty of the
Greek Orthodox religion and the Byzantine world. They conjure an age
when empire was resurgent and faith, imperial in its expressivity.

Faith – and its ability to inspire the most soaring of visions, the
most rarified of craftsmanship – is the underpinning of this exhibit.
But there is a distinctly secular aspect as well. Like the Met’s
recent, brilliant “Manet/Velaquez” show, “Byzantium” is about the
tumult of history and the way it can lead to an astonishing artistic

Located where the Bosporus strait joins Europe and Asia in what is
now Istanbul, Turkey, Byzantium was destined to be a cultural melting
pot. In 330, Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to
embrace Christianity, shifted the empire’s capital (and focus) to the
site, establishing the new city of Constantinople. This empire of the
east – called the “empire of the Romans” and perhaps known more
commonly today as the Byzantine Empire – fell to the knights of the
Fourth Crusade, and the authority of the West, in 1204; was restored
in 1261; and then fell again in 1453, this time to the Islamic
Ottoman Turks. (In 1557, the German scholar Hieronymus Wolf
identified the conquered state as “Byzantium,” after Byzantion, an
ancient-Greek town near Constantinople.)

The exhibit’s story begins with the restoration in 1261, under
Byzantine general Michael VIII Palaiologos.

“The people who lived between 1261 and 1557 in Constantinople in the
Byzantine world called themselves Romans and saw themselves as heirs
of the Rome ruled by Augustus and Caesar,” exhibit organizer Helen C.
Evans says on the accompanying audio guide. “And so while Byzantium
is what we are celebrating, if you had gone to Constantinople in
1300, 1400, they would have told you they were Romans.”

And like the ancient Romans, they spoke Greek and considered
ancient-Greek culture to be part of their own.

“Byzantium,” then, is also the tale of a cultural revival that
embraced ancient Greece and Western Europe’s Renaissance in a visual
style that was physically muscular, emotionally accessible and
poignantly human.

When we think of Byzantine art, especially the early work, we may
think of formal, almost stiff, icons of Jesus, his mother, Mary, and
the saints and angels, painted in gold and jewel-like colors.

But the icons here – some 40 of which are from the Holy Monastery of
St. Catherine in Sinai, Egypt, considered to be the world’s greatest
repository of icons – are anything but stilted. This is evident in
one of the first works you encounter, a two-sided icon from the
second half of the 14th century that depicts a Madonna and Child
surrounded by scenes from the life of Jesus on one side and from the
Crucifixion on the other. The scenes are cleverly arranged to
juxtapose Jesus’ humanity with his divinity, so that his baptism in
the Jordan is situated above his raising Lazarus from the dead.

But concentrate on the central image and note the unusual way in
which the artist has portrayed the baby Jesus – with his head thrown
back at an almost-impossible angle so that he can nuzzle his mother’s
face while adjusting her veil with his chubby arms.

On the audio guide, Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek
Orthodox Church in America, explains the theological import: “He’s a
baby, yet he’s the one who places the top of this special vestment on
the head of his mother, because he is God.”

“But,” Met director Philippe de Montebello continues, “the tilting
can also be read in human, emotional terms, as the infant swooning
with love for his mother.”

The exquisiteness of this two-sided icon reminds us that for all the
influence of Michelangelo, Caravaggio and other Western artists, our
image of Jesus has also been informed by the East. You could draw a
straight line from the sixth-century icon “Christ Pantokrator” –
perhaps the most famous work at St. Catherine’s Monastery – through
the many later reinterpretations in the exhibit to recent movie
Christs. In each case, there is the same lean, dark, ascetic look,
punctuated by large, haunted eyes.

Christ as Pantokrator – the left hand clasping the Gospels in
authority, the right raised in blessing – is an unbroken tradition,
says exhibit organizer Evans, the Met’s curator for Byzantine art.
One of the great strengths of her show is the way she traces other
such motifs. These include the Mandylion, or holy cloth, imprinted
with the face of Jesus.

According to legend, the sickly Armenian king Abgar of Edessa asked
the painter Ananias to go to Jesus and create a portrait, which would
cure the king of his illness. Though Ananias was unable to capture
the divine image, Jesus wiped his face on a towel (“mandyl” in
Arabic) that left a miraculous imprint for the distraught Abgar.
(This is strikingly similar to the Roman Catholic tale of Veronica
wiping Jesus’ face on the way to Calvary with her veil, which
retained the impression of his suffering features.)

Among the variations on this theme in the exhibit are “The Holy Face
of Laon,” a 13th-century painting of the Mandylion that is a
cherished icon of the Cathedral of Laon in France, and El Greco’s
“Escutcheon With the Veil of Saint Veronica” (circa 1579-late 1590s).
While the El Greco painting – originally part of the high altar of
Santo Domingo el Antiguo in Toledo, Spain – is clearly a Baroque
work, right down to the flourish of Jesus’ handlebar mustache, it is
a reminder that El Greco first trained as an icon painter in his
native Crete.

If “Byzantium” illustrates how the East influenced the West, it also
demonstrates how ancient Greece inspired the late-Byzantine empire.
This is never more touchingly revealed than in the motif of the “Man
of Sorrows,” in which the wounds of Jesus’ Crucifixion are displayed
on his hands and nude torso. In a stunningly elaborate
late-13th/early-14th-century mosaic icon, Jesus’ body crumples in
anguish. The furrowed features and bowed head give way to hunched
shoulders supported by a broad but skeletal chest.

This “sense of a physical presence…of plasticity, of
three-dimensional modeling,” exhibit organizer Evans says, “was a
continuous inheritance of the Byzantine world from its classical

As the exhibit illustrates, the Byzantine world would in turn inspire
such Renaissance artists as Colyn de Coter and Jean Colombe to depict
the Man of Sorrows in all his rippling, blood-stained agony –
although these paintings seem almost sedate compared to “The Passion
of the Christ’s” visceral verisimilitude.

The sheer physicality and weighty pathos of the Man of Sorrows is
echoed in the epitaphios, an innovative textile portraying Jesus’
body laid out for burial that is used in Orthodox churches on Good
Friday and Holy Saturday. There are several examples of the
epitaphios in “Byzantium.” The contrast between the textured
embroidery and the pallid nudity of the dead Jesus is uniquely

These are must-sees, along with two examples of the sakkos, a
sumptuous vestment, on loan from the Kremlin and the Vatican.

Not every work in “Byzantium” is specifically religious in theme.
Tucked into one corner in a display case is a
mid-to-late-14th-century illuminated manuscript of “The Alexander
Romance,” the legendary story of Alexander the Great, which was the
secular best seller in the Byzantine world. The page on view – as
bold in its jeweled colors as the Macedonian king was in his conquest
of the Persian Empire – recounts how the admiring Queen Kondake
commissioned an artist to make a secret portrait of Alexander,
perhaps in the hope of giving it to the famously mercurial conqueror,
whom she also feared. The Byzantine world, it seems, knew a thing or
two about celebrity-gazing and currying favor.

But even Alexander, that purveyor of classical culture and its
pantheon of gods, must yield here to a world of tender Madonnas,
androgynous archangels and martyred saints – rendered in glorious
reds and greens. And at the center of it all, the Man of Sorrows
turned triumphant Pantokrator.

At a time when religion is once again an impassioned issue in our
culture, “Byzantium: Faith and Power” holds up a gilded,
not-so-distant mirror.

BAKU: Three Armenians Killed In Mine Explosion

Baku Today, Azerbaijan
March 22 2004

Three Armenians Killed In Mine Explosion

Baku Today 22/03/2004 16:48

Three Armenian civilians were killed and another six wounded after
their jeep hit a land mine in Azerbaijan’s occupied Nagorno
(Daghlig)-Karabakh region (NK), a London-based demining organization
said on Friday, according to the Associated Press.
The explosion happened Sunday evening, the office of HALO Trust in
NK’s regional capital Khankendi (Stepanakert) said.

NK, Azerbaijan’s mainly ethnic-Armenian populated western region,
remains laced with mines after it was occupied by Armenia in 1991-94
war along with the country’s seven administrative districts – Lachin,
Kelbejer, Aghdam, Fuzulu, Jebrail, Zengilan and Gubadli.
A cease-fire between Baku and Yerevan was signed in 1994, but the
region’s political status is unresolved and Armenian and Azeri forces
face off across a demilitarized zone.

Including the latest explosion, HALO said seven civilians have died
in Azerbaijan’s occupied territories. Nine people died in 2003.

BAKU: EU wants to play positive role in settlement of NK conflict

AzerTag, Azerbaijan
March 22 2004


[March 22, 2004, 22:18:57]

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev received a
delegation led by European Union’s Special Representative for the
Southern Caucasus Heiki Talvitie at the Presidential Place, March 22.

Welcoming the guests sincerely, Head of State Ilham Aliyev expressed
satisfaction with deepening the cooperation between the European
Union and Azerbaijan. He pointed out that the policy of integration
into the European structures is a strategic choice of Azerbaijan, and
the country would be dedicated to this policy in future. `The joint
programs the European Union and Azerbaijan have been implementing for
the last years, and those to be realized in the future let us say
that we will be closer to each other’ the President said.

President Ilham Aliyev touched upon his meetings during the recent
conference in Bratislava describing that with European Union’s
Commissioner Gunter Verheugen as positive.

The Head of State noted he was pleased with the fact that the
European Union lately attached special attention to settlement of the
Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He described the
initial steps taken as promising. `We welcome these steps, and we
would like the European Union to be more actively engaged in this

Pointing out the unwillingness of the Armenian Armed forces to
release the occupied territories, President Ilham Aliyev said
Azerbaijan’s position was that the conflict could be settled only on
the base of the international legal norms, and expressed hope that
the international community would approach the issue exactly from
this standpoint.

President Ilham Aliyev also pointed out other important issues of
mutual interest: `I think the beginning of the dialogue on energy
sphere is very important fact, and we are ready for that,’ he said.
Mr. Ilham Aliyev especially emphasized that in a few years Azerbaijan
would turn into very important country for European consumers.

Turning back to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over
Nagorno-Karabakh, the Head of State mentioned that it threatened
stability in the region and impeded regional cooperation and
integration of the Southern Caucasus countries into the European
family. `I hope the international community will express its fair
stance in relation to this issue, and the problem will be finally
solved,’ President Ilham Aliyev concluded.

Having thanked the President of Azerbaijan for the sincere meeting,
Mr. Heiki Talvitie let him know that he had visited the grave of
nationwide leader of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev. `His bright memory
will live in our hearts forever,’ he said.

The EU’s Special Representative noted that the President Ilham
Aliyev’s Program of Social and Economic Development of the country
had aroused keen interest in Europe.

Touching upon Azerbaijan-European Union relationship, the guest
pointed out the significance of President Ilham Aliyev’s meeting with
EU Commissioner in Bratislava.

Speaking of settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over
Nagorno-Karabakh, Mr. Heiki Talvitie said that his mandate included
rendering assistance to Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the Minsk group, and
that he would be actively involved in the process. `I believe the
European Union is able to play its positive role in the problem’s
resolution,’ he stressed.


Present at the meeting were Head of Azerbaijan delegation to the
European Union, Ambassador Arif Mamadov, Ambassador of Germany in
Baku Klaus Grevlich and other officials.

Carnage in Kosovo: Wheres the Western resolve?

National Review Online
March 22 2004

Carnage in Kosovo
Where’s the Western resolve?

By Nikolas K. Gvosdev

The world should be watching Kosovo, but it probably isn’t. In the
United States, many believe that the dispatch of additional forces to
the troubled province of Kosovo “solved” the crisis. The problem is,
the damage to NATO’s credibility has already been done – and is
worsening by the day. The alliance that for 50 years was prepared to
spit in Joe Stalin’s eye is frightened to death by rampaging ethnic

The whole premise of the American-led intervention in 1999 was that
the Western Alliance could stop ethnic cleansing “at the heart of
Europe” and bring the conditions necessary for the creation of a
peaceful, multiethnic society. It was an embarrassment, of course,
that in the first weeks of NATO’s deployment nearly 100 Serbian
Orthodox holy sites were destroyed and some two-thirds of the
province’s Serb population (along with other non-Albanian ethnic
groups) were ethnically cleansed. But the line adopted in Washington,
London, Berlin, and Paris was that once NATO was firmly in control of
Kosovo these outrages would cease. The Serbs who remained in the
province took the West at its word.

The latest outbreak of violence, which in a three-day period has
already left 25 churches and monasteries – including UNESCO-protected
sites – in ruins and made nearly 4,000 people homeless took place
under the noses of 18,000 international peacekeepers and exposes the
hollowness of Western guarantees. No one should have been caught by
surprise. “It was planned in advance,” said Derek Chappell, the
U.N.’s Kosovo Mission spokesman. Another put it more forcefully:
“This is planned, coordinated, one-way violence from the Albanians
against the Serbs. It is spreading and has been brewing for the past
week…. Wherever there is a Serbian population there is Albanian
action against them.” International officials have used the terms
“pogrom” and “Kristallnacht” to describe the violence against the

And yet, even in the last few weeks, the NATO mission in Kosovo has
been touted as an example of successful peacekeeping. Over the last
year, proposals have been advanced for deploying NATO forces to keep
the peace in other sensitive areas in the Balkans and the Greater
Middle East such as Moldova and Georgia, among the two communities in
Cyprus, and between Israel and the Palestinians once a settlement is
reached. After the events of this past week, does anyone believe that
others will trust NATO promises?

Two sad lessons have been communicated. The first is that NATO
countries have placed such a high value on “no-casualty” missions
that aggressive and effective peacekeeping – including disarming
militias, hunting down war criminals and combating organized crime
and terrorist groups – takes a back seat to “not stirring things up.”
Even if the deployment of additional U.S. and British forces this
week to Kosovo calms things down, we simply return to the pre-March
2004 status quo.

The second is that ethnic cleansing still works as a strategy,
despite all the West’s moralizing. Throughout the region, there has
been a clear logic at work: When an ethnic community that forms an
overall minority in a country wants to purse self-determination, it
finds it useful to establish itself as the absolute majority in the
territory in question. The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Abkhaz,
and the Turkish Cypriots all found it politically expedient to push
out residents of the titular majority (Azeris, Georgians, Greek
Cypriots, respectively) to bolster their case for separation.

Kosovo was supposed to be different. Then-president Clinton and Prime
Minister Blair stated that the West had to draw the line and stop
this cycle of violence. The immense power of the Western Alliance was
to be deployed to first reverse the expulsion of the Kosovo Albanians
by Slobodan Milosevic, and then to make members of all Kosovo
communities feel safe and secure, so as to construct civil society
and lay the foundations for democracy. The whole justification for
ending actual Serbian jurisdiction over Kosovo and placing it in the
hands of an international authority backed by NATO firepower was to
prevent any further ethnic cleansing.

And now you find that many of the same people who pushed for
intervention in 1999 are arguing that, regretfully, the only solution
is to push for an independent Kosovo. Yet the attempt to advance a
political agenda through the use of violence and terror tactics
should be of particular concern to the West. Apparently NATO, the
grand alliance prepared to stop the forces of the Soviet Union from
overwhelming Western Europe, is unable to prevent mobs from
frustrating the West’s stated desire to ensure that ethnic cleansing
will not be legitimized.

The Bush administration can throw up its hands and do nothing – and,
in so doing, kiss goodbye to any hope of solving the area’s other
protracted conflicts. Or, it can take action to make a reality the
declaration made on Friday by Deputy Secretary of State Richard
Armitage and Foreign Minister of Serbia and Montenegro Goran
Svilanovic that “no party can be allowed to profit or advance a
political agenda through violence.”

And it is essential that the West not abandon its commitment to
“standards before status” with regard to Kosovo. Aid and assistance
must be made conditional upon a fundamental improvement of the
security of the non-Albanian population. As far as the reality on the
ground is concerned, we are back to June 1999: We need to start from
scratch in how we approach the province’s governance. The failures of
the past five years do not provide a workable foundation for further

It may be that the ultimate solution to Kosovo is cantonization
between an Albanian and a Serbian entity (with extraterritorial
supervision for Orthodox sites in an Albanian zone). But that should
come about through negotiation and compromise, not murder and arson.

In Iraq and in Kosovo and elsewhere, the United States has made
promises about providing peace and security. Extremists and
terrorists everywhere are challenging America’s commitment to seeing
its promises through. And others are watching to see how our resolve
holds up.

– Nikolas K. Gvosdev is a senior fellow for strategic studies at the
Nixon Center