Norwalk, Conn., Firm Sells Documentary Mini-Series to ME Broadcaster

The Stamford Advocate, Stamford, Conn.
March 30, 2004, Tuesday

Norwalk, Conn., Firm Sells Documentary Mini-Series to Middle East
Broadcaster

By Richard Lee

A Norwalk media company is making inroads into the Middle East with
the sale of “The Genocide Factor,” a four-hour history of religious
and ethnic persecution through the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11,
2001, to the Middle East Broadcasting Centre.

The documentary mini-series, sold by Norwalk-based CABLEready and
produced by Media Entertainment of Tampa, Fla., will premiere next
month on the pan-Arab network Al-Arabiya TV.

The deal follows the January airing of the series on UKTV History in
Great Britain, where time period ratings jumped 21 percent compared
with year-to-date averages.

It also has run on PBS in the United States, Media Park in Spain and
Portugal, and Odyssey in Australia.

“The Genocide Factor,” introduced by actor Jon Voight, features
interviews, historical drawings, paintings, photos and news footage.
Interviews include segments with Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and
former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, as well as
testimonials from survivors of some of the world’s most tragic
religious and ethnic massacres, including those in Armenia, Bosnia,
East Timor, Rwanda, the Ukraine and the Nazi Holocaust.

“In my 25 years of distributing TV shows, I can’t think of any deal
more gratifying to me personally than this one with Al-Arabiya TV,”
said Gary Lico, president and chief executive officer of CABLEready.
“Having ‘The Genocide Factor’ run complete and uncensored on free TV
in the Middle East to a potential audience of more than 130 million
people is truly groundbreaking. Educating viewers worldwide about
these horrors inflicted throughout history can be a great tool toward
ending such acts of violence and hatred.”

Launched by Middle East Broadcasting Centre, which owns MBC TV,
Dubai-based Al-Arabiya is seen in 15 to 20 countries in the Middle
East. When Al-Arabiya went on the air last year, its investors from
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Persian Gulf states promised to provide
objective and quality programming and news content.

“As a company, we have a lot of respect for that,” said Sabrina
Sanchez, director of program marketing for CABLEready. “I’m sure
there will be some negative reaction from audiences, but Al-Arabiya
is pretty good at standing its ground.”

Specializing in news, documentaries and current affairs programs,
Al-Arabiya was organized as a competitor to Qatar-based al-Jazeera
TV. United States officials have criticized both Al-Arabiya’s and
al-Jazeera’s news coverage in Iraq.

Established in 1992, CABLEready has developed as a strong player in
the international market, said Cynthia Turner, publisher of
Stratford-based online television industry trade publication
Cynopsis.com. “Gary has been enormously successful, and he’s
well-respected in the field. In the TV business, your reputation is
everything,” she said. Selling a program on such as serious topic in
the Middle East must have been a challenge, Turner said.

“Nobody will buy a series that nobody wants to see. You can’t
force-feed an audience,” she said.

CABLEready distributes “Inside the Actors Studio,” shown on Bravo in
the United States and airing in more than 100 countries, and
“Forensic Files,” Court TV’s top-rated series, which also has been
shown on NBC. It also has signed a deal with Outdoor Life Network in
Stamford to handle worldwide sales of 595 hours of OLN programs. The
pact covers 1,092 episodes from 41 series and eight specials.

The Norwalk company also will handle sales of future OLN programming
as it becomes available for international distribution. CABLEready
already handles international sales for two other OLN series,
“Mysterious Encounters,” “Samurai Sportsman.”

“It’s the first time that OLN programming has been formally
distributed overseas,” said Sanchez, who next week will attend MIP TV
in Cannes, France, which focuses on the marketing of television
programs.

“We are excited about the international prospects for our
programming,” said Becky Ruthven, senior vice president of affiliate
sales for OLN.

Rights activist beaten in Armenia

Associated Press Worldstream
March 30, 2004 Tuesday 3:08 PM Eastern Time

Rights activist beaten in Armenia

YEREVAN, Armenia

A representative of a leading human rights organization was beaten by
assailants on Tuesday and blamed the Armenian authorities for the
attack, which left him hospitalized in serious condition.

Mikael Danielyan, the chairman of the Armenian Helsinki Foundation,
was attacked by four assailants who cornered him in an alley near his
home, according to his wife and the International Helsinki Federation
for Human Rights.

Danielyan was knocked to the ground and beaten for about 10 minutes,
the Vienna-based rights group said. It said it was “very concerned
about (the) brutal physical attack” on Danielyan, who was
hospitalized in serious condition.

Danielyan, whose life was not in danger, said from the hospital that
he blames the authorities for the attack, which came shortly after he
criticized President Robert Kocharian in a published interview.

Kocharian won a second term in presidential elections a year ago that
sparked mass protests, including nearly daily demonstrations between
the first round of voting in February 2003 and the runoff in early
March.

The opposition alleged widespread violations in both rounds of the
election. Armenia’s Constitutional Court confirmed the results of the
presidential vote but suggested that a referendum be held within a
year to gauge the public’s confidence in the nation’s leaders.

Opposition leaders in the economically struggling former Soviet
republic have pressed for the plebiscite, and have been planning for
renewed protests against the Caucasus Mountain nation’s authorities.

Terror and tolerance

The Washington Times
March 30, 2004

Terror and tolerance

By Jean-Christophe Mounicq

The morning of Jan. 29, upon hearing about the attack on a bus in Jerusalem,
I did not experience the expected emotion. It seemed such a “normal” thing,
and I have not enough tears to shed for people I do not know.
The next day, on Jan. 30, I read an article about one of the victims –
Avraham Belhassen, 26 years old, a young father – and realized that I could
tolerate no more. I can no longer tolerate terrorist folly, Islamist hatred,
the passivity of Muslims, the blindness of the West.
Following the attacks in Madrid, this feeling struck me again. The
reaction of the Spanish people, cringing in fear before the Islamist claim
of responsibility, bothered me even more. I can no longer tolerate such
cowardly Munich-like behavior that leads inevitably to dishonor and war.
The reaction of the European media and political class to the
elimination of Sheikh Yassin – the master of hate and terrorism, and one who
had called for the murder of Jews – pushed me over the edge. I can no longer
tolerate descriptions of the monster responsible for hundreds of deaths and
thousands of wounded as a “spiritual leader,” a poor “paralytic in a
wheelchair.” I can no longer tolerate murderous, barbaric Islamist hatred.
I can no longer tolerate the electoral victories of Islamists in
Algeria, Turkey or France. I can no longer tolerate the indifference of
Muslim leaders and the majority of Muslims to the suffering of non-Muslims.
I can no longer tolerate their affected statements or their perpetual
self-victimization.
I can no longer tolerate the double game of Yasser Arafat, the Saudi
princes or Pakistani leaders. I can no longer tolerate watching Muslims
dance with joy, in the Palestinian territories or in Paris, following
attacks on the World Trade Center or an Israeli bus. I can no longer
tolerate their anti-Semitism, anti-Christianism, anti-Buddhism or
anti-Hinduism.
I can no longer tolerate those who hate liberty but take every advantage
of it. I can no longer tolerate Islamist lack of respect for secularism and
equality, between men and women, Muslims and others. I can no longer
tolerate their lack of respect for the cultures of the very countries that
shelter them. I can no longer tolerate the multiplication of veils on women
in the streets of Paris.
I can no longer tolerate attacks on French officials, abusive complaints
against the police, terrorism against judges, the ban against teaching about
the Holocaust in schools, or the brutalization of male doctors who treat
Muslim women in hospitals. I can no longer tolerate burning cars in
Strasbourg and synagogues in Bondi. I can no longer tolerate catcalls when
the Marseillaise is played during games at the Stadium of France. I can no
longer tolerate the cries of “death to Jews” in their demonstrations or
“death to Christians” written on walls.
I can no longer tolerate concealing the massacres of Christians and Jews
in Islamic countries, Copts in the Middle East, of one-and-a-half million
Orthodox Armenians in Turkey at the beginning of the last century, as well
as a million-and-a-half Christian Sudanese at its end. I can no longer
tolerate Muslim ethnic cleansing in Kosovo or Palestine. I can no longer
tolerate Islamist totalitarianism.
I can no longer tolerate the relativism and masochism of a West
incapable of recalling its own history other than to denounce it. I can no
longer tolerate comparing the Crusades to jihad, when the Crusades were
nothing but a parenthesis in the history of Christianity while jihad is an
integral part of Islam.
I can no longer tolerate the cowardice, weakness and mediocrity of the
majority of Western leaders, or the unwillingness of Westerners to affirm
their own values and the superiority of liberty and democracy over all other
principles and systems. I can no longer tolerate the inability of Europe to
recall its Judeo-Christian heritage.
I can no longer tolerate taxes that the European Union transforms into
subsidies for the Palestinian Authority or that France transforms into arms
for Saddam Hussein. I can no longer tolerate paying the maternity bills for
women ready to sacrifice their infants as suicide bombers or for teaching
children hatred on the West Bank.
I’m going to pray in the memory of Avraham, pray that his death and
those of so many others might finally open the eyes of the cowards in the
West who refuse to face the truth. I’m going to pray for Westerners to
understand that the war on terrorism is in reality a war against Islamism,
and that Islamism is gaining ground among Muslims.
I’m going to pray that moderate Muslims might organize demonstrations
against the terrorists just as Corsicans and Basques have demonstrated
against their own terrorists. Pray that Islam, which is entering its nuclear
era, might become neither conqueror nor warrior, but rather adapt to
modernity before it is too late.

Jean-Christophe Mounicq is a French writer specializing in economics,
world politics and the French political scene. His book “Understanding World
War IV” will be published later this year.

ARKA News Agency – 03/30/2004

ARKA News Agency
March 30 2004

RA Parliament speaker meets Head of Yerevan Office of USAID

NKR Foreign Minister receives Head of International Program for Mine
Clearing and Neutralization of Unexploded Ammunition

RA government and UNDP sign joint Anti-Trafficking Program

AMD 10 to AMD 200 value all banknotes to be withdrawn from
circulation in Armenia since 1 April

Information on missing persons to be solved on mutual readiness of
Armenia and Azerbaijan

RA MFA continues making steps on release of Armenian pilots arrested
in Equatorial Guinea

RA President signs several laws

Children Music-Sports Festival `Spring Mood’ to take place on April
1-2 in Yerevan

*********************************************************************

RA PARLIAMENT SPEAKER MEETS HEAD OF YEREVAN OFFICE OF USAID

YEREVAN/ March 30. /ARKA/ . Artur Baghdasaryan, the Speaker of RA
Parliament met today with the Head of Yerevan Office of USAID Keith
Simmons. As RA Parliament Public Relations and Press Department told
ARKA, Simmons presented to the Speaker Robin Phillips who is to
change him. Baghdasaryan thanked Simmons for his job in the frames of
project `Armenia. Strengthening of Legislative Environment’. As the
press release says continuation of this project will be discussed.
T.M. -0–

*********************************************************************

NKR FOREIGN MINISTER RECEIVES HEAD OF INTERNATIONAL PROGRAM FOR MINE
CLEARING AND NEUTRALIZATION OF UNEXPLODED AMMUNITION

YEREVAN. March 30. /ARKA/. Ashot Ghulyan, NKR Foreign Minister
received Mathew Howell, the Head of International Program for Mine
Clearing and Neutralization of Unexploded Ammunition in NKR. As NKR
Foreign Ministry Press Service told ARKA today, Matthew Howell, whose
authorities in NKr expired presented to NKR Foreign Minister the new
head of the program Ed Row. As mentioned by the Minister, the problem
of mine clearing is still actual for NKR even after 10 years of the
ceasefire in the conflict zone. He stressed that NKR authorities are
interested in continuation of the Program activity on mime clearing
of NKr territory, that according to the Minister is very important
for security of the population and economic development of the NKR.As
reported by Howell the implementation of the program will be
continued for other several years, but the term of mine clearing will
be reduced within limits of possibility. T.M. -0-

*********************************************************************

RA GOVERNMENT AND UNDP SIGN JOINT ANTI-TRAFFICKING PROGRAM

YEREVAN. March 30. /ARKA/. Today, Vardan Oskanian, RA Minister of
Foreign Affairs and Lise Grande, UN resident Coordinator/UNDP
Resident Representative signed Anti-Trafficking Program with the
objection to fight the human trafficking. As RA Ministry of Foreign
Affairs Press and Information Service told ARKA, the main objection
of this two-year project is to facilitate the development of a
national framework to tackle the problem of human trafficking. The
project includes such components as building the institutional
capacity of the key state agencies, strengthening of control of the
national border, reintegration of the victims of the trafficking into
the society, as well as raising public awareness.
The last survey on trafficking in Armenia was conducted in 2001 by
UNICEF, as result of which there were recorded several cases of
trafficking in human particularly to Turkey and UAE.
The RA Government approved national strategy action plan for
prevention of illegal transpiration and human trafficking from
Armenia for 2004-2006. T.M. -0–

*********************************************************************

AMD 10 TO AMD 200 VALUE ALL BANKNOTES TO BE WITHDRAWN FROM
CIRCULATION IN ARMENIA SINCE 1 APRIL

YEREVAN. March 30. /ARKA/. All banknotes with the value AMD 10 to AMD
200 will be withdrawn from circulation since 1 April 2004, as the CBA
press release received by ARKA reads. At the same time, all
aforementioned banknotes will keep their value and are subject to
exchange and will be accepted in all banks, functioning in Armenia,
as well as their affiliates. Simultaneously, as reported by the CBA,
according to the arrangement with Armpost and Yerevan Metro, these
enterprises will accept the aforementioned banknotes withdrawn from
the circulation as a means of payment, including AMD 1000 value
banknote issued in 1994. At the same time, according to the CBA all
other paper banknotes, including AMD 500 issued in 1993 and AMD 5000
issued in 1995 will remain in circulation and are legal means of
payment. T.M. -0–

*********************************************************************

INFORMATION ON MISSING PERSONS TO BE SOLVED ON MUTUAL READINESS OF
ARMENIA AND AZERBAIJAN

YEREVAN. March 30. /ARKA/. Searching information on missing persons
from both Armenian and Azerbaijani side should be solved of the basis
of mutual readiness of the parties, Rita Karapetyan, the Member of
Nagrono Karabakh Committee Helsinki Initiative-92 told ARKA. She
mentioned that this problems was discussed in the frames of the first
conference on `Violent or non-voluntary disappearance of people on
the South Caucasus’ held in Tbilisi on 23-27 March 2004. She said
that the forum was attended by the experts of the international
organizations, from the South Caucasus, that shared their experience
and presented a number of recommendations related to the beginning of
the work on searching and exchange of information on the missing from
both Armenian and Azerbaijani sides. As mentioned by Karapetyan, the
regional conference was quite fruitful and mutually useful.
On 23-27 March the first conference on `Violent or non-voluntary
disappearance of people on the South Caucasus’ was held in Tbilisi.
The conference was attended by employees of the Georgian Office of
the Helsinki Group, the UN experts, OSCE and International Committee
of Red Cross, representatives of NGOs from Armenia and Azerbaijan, as
well as representatives of Helsinki Intiative-92 from Nagorno
Karabakh as well as relatives of the missing in the zones of the
Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
The conference developed a strategic plan of the regional movement
`Yellow Tulips’ for 2004 and adopted a number of documents addressed
to the leaders of the South Caucasus and competent people and
specialists. T.M. -0–

*********************************************************************

RA MFA CONTINUES MAKING STEPS ON RELEASE OF ARMENIAN PILOTS ARRESTED
IN EQUATORIAL GUINEA

YEREVAN, March 29./ARKA/. RA MFA continues making steps on release of
Armenian pilots arrested in Equatorial Guinea, RA MFA told ARKA. RA
Regular Representative to UN turned to UN Emissary in Equatorial
Guinea on this issue.
According to press release, RA Regular Representatives to UN Human
Rights Commission met in Geneva with the members of Equatorial Guinea
delegation that takes part in the works of the Commission. During the
meeting Armenian party insisted that the authorities of the country
treated Armenian pilots in accordance to the demands of international
convention on human rights.
Besides, Armenian representative turned to International Amnesty
organization and to Supreme Office of International Red Cross in
Geneva. According to RA MFA, representatives of IRC left for Guinea
for study of the condition of the prisoners and provision of
necessary assistance. L.D. –0 –

*********************************************************************

RA PRESIDENT SIGNS SEVERAL LAWS

YEREVAN, March 29./ARKA/. RA President Robert Kocharian signed
several laws, passed by RA NA earlier. President’s press service told
ARKA that Kocharian signed laws on implementations of changes to RA
Land Code and to the law on Land Tax, and novels to the law on
licensing. L.D. –0–

*********************************************************************

CHILDREN MUSIC-SPORTS FESTIVAL `SPRING MOOD’ TO TAKE PLACE ON APRIL
1-2 IN YEREVAN

YEREVAN, March 29./ARKA/. Children Music-Sports Festival `Spring
Mood’ will take place on April 1-2 in Yerevan, Vice Mayor of Yerevan
Vano Vardanian stated today at the briefing. According to him, the
festival envisages sports games and concert programs. L.D. –0–

Armenia and Rwanda Established Diplomatic Relations

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Armenia
to the United Nations
119E 36th Street, New York, NY 10016
Tel.: 1-212-686-9079
Fax: 1-212-686-3934
E-mail: [email protected]
Web:

March 29, 2004

PRESS RELEASE

Armenia and Rwanda Established Diplomatic Relations

On 29 March 2004, Amb. Armen Martirosyan, Permanent Representative of
Armenia to the UN, and Amb. Stanislas Kamanzi, Permanent Representative of
Rwanda to the UN, signed a Protocol on the Establishment of Diplomatic
Relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Rwanda.

After the signing ceremony the two parties expressed their interest in
exploring the possibilities for furthering the cooperation between the two
countries as a continuation to the first steps taken.

END

http://www.un.int/armenia/

TBILISI: A Rose Among Thorns – Georgia Makes Good

A Rose Among Thorns – Georgia Makes Good

Foreign Affairs
March / April 2004

By Charles King

“Oh, fatherland! How I think of you now,” lamented Euripides’ Medea,
the princess of ancient Colchis — today part of the republic of
Georgia. “In every way the situation is bad.” Modern Georgians
understand her sentiment only too well. In the first decade and a half
since their independence from the Soviet Union, they have faced civil
war, separatist movements, economic malaise, rigged elections, and
dysfunctional government.

Recently, however, Georgians have started to take matters into their
own hands. In November, they staged a bloodless revolt against their
president, Eduard Shevardnadze, for overseeing fraudulent
parliamentary elections. When Shevardnadze tried to open the new
legislative session, protesters took over parliament peacefully, some
handing out roses to the police. At first, Shevardnadze responded by
declaring a state of emergency, but he soon thought better of his
legacy. Within days, he agreed to resign. New presidential elections,
which international observers deemed generally free, were held on
January 4, 2004. By an overwhelming majority, the vote awarded the
presidency to Mikheil Saakashvili, a 36-year-old Columbia
University-educated lawyer who had led the demonstrations.

During his brief electoral campaign and tenure as president,
Saakashvili has made all the right moves. He has promised to fight
corruption, to reform government-from the structure of the
constitution to taxation policy–and to improve relations with Russia
while maintaining strong ties with the United States. What his
government must do first, however, is find a way to win the allegiance
of all Georgia’s inhabitants, including staunch secessionists in the
north and a prickly potentate along the Black Sea. Before it can
become a real democracy, Georgia must become a real state.

VANISHING LINES

The peaceful ouster of Shevardnadze was a signal event in the politics
of Eurasia-but only because it is unlikely to be repeated elsewhere in
the region. Georgia is the only member of the Commonwealth of
Independent States, the association of 12 former Soviet republics,
that can be said to have genuinely democratic aspirations.

Some–Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova–still use the language of
democracy but have spent the last several years perfecting their own
brand of illiberalism. Others–Azerbaijan, Belarus, and
Turkmenistan–have tired of even pretending since the downfall of
communism, most governments across the region have simply replaced
Soviet authoritarianism with homegrown varieties. Elections–if they
are held at all–are systematically manipulated, either at the ballot
box or, more subtly, through control of the media and harassment of
opposition parties. In Russia, the “dictatorship of law” promoted by
President Vladimir Putin now seems disturbingly close to a
dictatorship pure and simple. If, as the old adage goes, democracy is
a system in which it is safe to lose an election, then Eurasia’s
democrats still need to watch their backs. Georgia’s “revolution of
roses” stands out as the former Soviet Union’s only successful popular
uprising against this trend and the lackluster statesmanship and
corruption that have attended it.

Observers have been quick to draw lessons from the Georgian
experience, for Eurasia and for other parts of the world. The billion
dollars in democracy and development aid that Georgia has received
from the United States since 1991–by far Washington’s largest per
capita investment in any Soviet successor state–seem to have paid
off. Washington at first lauded Shevardnadze as a beacon of democratic
reform, but as the 1990s progressed, his democratic credentials became
more suspect. The United States, along with nongovernmental
organizations such as the Open Society Institute, stepped up support
for the growing political opposition. That assistance was an important
catalyst of change. And it is evidence, observers say, that sustained
political engagement, party training, and civil-society building can
eventually bring down autocrats.

Yet the story of Georgia’s awakening is also a cautionary
tale. Development strategies there and in many other parts of the
world have sometimes encouraged democratization programs without
tackling basic problems such as undefined state boundaries or weak
government capabilities. In fairing states, the strategy has been to
build a democracy and hope that, in time, the rest will take care of
itself. But the history of Georgia since 1991 illustrates that leaving
fundamental questions unanswered–Is this one country or several? Who
is sovereign? Where are the country’s legitimate borders?-can stymie
reform and pollute public life.

Development specialists are not wholly blind to this problem, of
course, which is why “governance”-capacity building, institutional
design, anti- corruption campaigns–has recently, become a fashionable
focus of international assistance programs. But “governance” is simply
a euphemism for what used to be known as “politics,” the first
requirement of which is to know where power resides. Since the early
1990s, Georgia has been divided among a weak central government and
several functionally independent regions, with predictably corrosive
effects on national politics. Turning Georgia into a country that is
both functional and democratic is the goal of the post-Shevardnadze
leadership and of Georgia’s friends in the West. The coming months
will show whether it can be achieved without first settling the basic
issue of territorial control. So far, the lesson seems to be that it
cannot.

THINGS FELL APART

Georgia is among the smallest of the former Soviet republics—a
little bigger than West Virginia, with a population of about five
million. Yet it loomed large in Soviet history and post-Soviet
politics. Its capital, Tbilisi, was the site of one of the first major
Bolshevik operations, a 19o7 bank heist that swelled party
coffers. (One of its planners, Iosif Dzhugashvili, would later change
his name to Stalin.) Blessed with an appearing climate, productive
farmland, and legendary hospitality, Georgia was also among the Soviet
Union’s wealthiest republics. After the end of communism, it adopted a
strongly pro Western orientation and learned to leverage its strategic
location on the Black Sea’s eastern shore to become a major player in
discussions about routes for Eurasian oil and gas exports. (The
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline now under construction will be the
primary conduit for transporting hydrocarbons from the rich Caspian
basin to the rest of the world. Transit fees are expected to bring
Georgia billions of dollars in the coming decades.)

The breakup of the Soviet Union was accompanied by the fracture of
Georgia itself. In the northwest, members of the Abkhaz ethnic group
asserted their right to self-determination, and the Georgian army
launched a poorly executed war to prevent their secession. Ethnic
Ossetes also declared their own separate republic in the north, while,
in the south, Azeri and Armenian minorities complained of
discrimination and occasionally rumbled about breaking away. Political
differences, fueled by competition among regional clans and criminal
gangs, escalated even among ethnic Georgians. A full-blown civil war
of Georgians against Georgians raged alongside the secessionist
conflicts.

Because of these disputes, the state known as “Georgia” has largely
been a fiction of recent international diplomacy. Nearly 20 percent of
the country’s territory remains beyond the central government’s
control. Abkhazia and South Ossetia, for example, function as de facto
independent countries, even though no one has recognized them. The
presence of Russian soldiers–in peacekeeping contingents authorized
by the Georgians themselves and on bases left over from the Soviet
era–has discouraged Tbilisi from trying to retake the areas by
force. And Adjaria, a province along the Black Sea, maintains an
uneasy “autonomous” relationship with the Georgian center—and hosts
a Russian military base to underscore it.

When Shevardnadze stepped into the presidency in 1992 promising to
restore Georgia’s territorial integrity and promote ties with the
West, he was greeted as a savior. Relative political calm did return
during his tenure, but he proved unable to solve the basic conundrums
territorial control and state performance. Today still, the central
government’s influence begins to wane just a few miles outside
Tbilisi. Even in the capital, average citizens often do without
electricity or Sunning water. Although the population is highly
educated, the economy is in shambles. Georgia’s per capita national
income is lower than Swaziland’s, and more than half of the population
lives under the poverty line.

Under Shevardnadze, the government’s inherent weakness was exacerbated
by a dysfunctional political system: Parties appeared and
disappeared. Elections were falsified. Corruption became rampant:
police officers extracted fines for imaginary traffic offenses and
government officials misappropriated international aid or helped sell
off state industries to their cronies. In the end, nothing became
Sheyardnadze in power like the leaving of it.

This is the difficult legacy that Saakashvili’s government has
inherited. The secessionists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia will look
no more kindly on the new leadership than they did on the old. There
are signs, in fact, that they may be even less inclined to cooperate
with energetic reformers than they were with the generally
accommodating and avuncular Shevardnadze. As soon as Shevardnadze
fell, the renegade regions appealed to Russia, their long-time
protector, to dissuade the new Georgian leadership from making
aggressive moves. Elsewhere, local elites have become accustomed to
running their own affairs, and efforts by the central government to
rein them in may produce conflict. That is the casee with Aslan
Abashidze, the potentate in Adjaria. Once a rival of Shevardnadze,
Abashidze threw in his lot with the former president and often
manipulated electoral results to guarantee a victory for
Shevardnadze’s party, as he did last November. Abashidze has already
proved to be a thorn in the side of Saakashvili by discouraging
Adjarians from participating in the latest presidential elections and
complicating plans for the next parliamentary ballot.

Then there are the entrenched interests of bureaucrats and business
people who benefited from the largesse and laxity of the Shevardnadze
years. (Off-the-record deals are said to account for 60 to 70 percent
of the country’s total economic activity) Corruption has long
tentacles in Georgia, and setting out to tame the criminal networks
that infest state structures can be a dangerous pursuit. Shevardnadze
himself was the target of several assassination attempts, even though
he was hardly a serious reformer. The murder of Zoran Djindjic, the
reformist prime minister who tried to clean up Serbia after Slobodan
Milosevic, undoubtedly weighs heavily on the minds of Saakashvili and
his cohort.

Georgia’s revolution injects a welcome dose of uncertainty in a region
where political outcomes have become oppressively predictable. It is
unclear, however, whether the country’s new leaders will have the
conviction and deftness to capitalize on Shevardnadze’s
departure. They will have to deal with (or buy off) local power
brokers without prompting them to turn to violence. They will have to
root out the widespread use of public office for private gain. They
will have to find ways to keep the electricity on and the water
flowing. Otherwise, Georgians will begin to wonder whether the end of
Shevardnadze really marked the beginning of something better.

BALANCE OF POWERS

Georgians say that the country’s biggest problem is Russia. The
Russian government has never denied that it takes a keen interest in
its neighbor, and Georgia’s secessionist leaders welcome Russian
support–they even visited Moscow just days after Shevardnadze
resigned. Russia has effectively cemented the status of Abkhazia and
South Ossetia as protectorates by maintaining preferential visa and
passport regimes with them and making it easier for their inhabitants
to obtain Russian citizenship. (It has extended that special
relationship to Adjaria as well.) Russia also operates military bases
in Georgia, in contravention of international agreements to close them
down.

To balance Russia’s influence, Georgia’s central government needs
outside help, especially from the United States, which has been the
country’s most generous backer for a decade. A stable and democratic
Georgia is the linchpin of U.S. policy in the Caucasus, and the
Caucasus, in turn, is a critical part of the strategic future of
Eurasia and the greater Middle East. The Clinton administration gave
Georgia massive amounts of aid, a good deal of which helped
Shevardnadze stay in power so long. Since the “revolution of roses”
last fall, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other senior
U.S. government officials have visited Tbilisi, underscoring
Washington’s commitment to Saakashvili and his associates. These moves
are encouraging to many Georgians, who say that the country needs to
establish the right “pressure gradient” in its foreign policy. They
hope that the United States and its allies will put pressure on
Russia, so that Russia, in turn, will put pressure on the Abkhaz and
South Ossetian leaderships to give up their quest for
independence. With a big enough push from the outside, their logic
goes, Georgia’s territorial problems would go away.

Things are more complicated than this, however. Abkhazia and South
Ossetia certainly depend on Russia. Their trade is oriented almost
exclusively toward the north, and Russian financial assistance,
especially via subsidized energy supplies, is the bedrock of their
existence. Moreover, Russian bases support local economies, even
outside the secessionist zones; closing them down without a plan for
replacing the jobs lost would be disastrous. At the same time,
residents of these regions remember the violent conflicts of the early
1990s and remain understandably wary of the central government. Over
the past decade, they have built their own administrations, security
forces, and–most critically-school systems, with little connection to
the rest of the country. Shevardnadze did little to reach out to the
average people in these peripheral regions or to restore their
confidence in the recognized government. Reversing that practice
should be one of the key criteria by which outside powers judge
Saakashvili’s leadership.

Thinking creatively about what a meaningfully united Georgia ought to
look like, instead of simply condemning Russia’s dark influence, is
the best way forward. There are several ways to bring together the
country’s disparate regions and interests, provided someone dares to
consider and implement them. Federations, confederations,
condominiums, and various forms of limited sovereignty have never
really been put on the table in Georgia, even though these solutions
are already being discussed in other parts of eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union. Until now, the situation in Georgia has not been
sufficiently dire for anyone—at least not for anyone with real
political power-to worry about solving it.

Saakashvili has a chance to change Shevardnadze’s dismal legacy. But
that will require statesmanship in the purest sense of the word,
including articulating a clear case for why residents of Abkhazia,
South Ossetia, and any other part of the country should think of their
future as lying within a state controlled by Tbilisi. Continued
kvetching about territorial integrity and the nefarious designs of the
Russian Federation will only alienate the secessionists further. In
time, even Georgia’s friends may come to wonder whether a country with
fictitious borders and no plan for making them real is a country worth
helping.

Georgia’s strategic location and its pro-American foreign policy first
helped put the country on the United States’ radar screen. The
government’s weakness and Washington’s fear that terrorists might set
up camp in the country’s mountain passes have kept it there. Money has
flowed freely from Washington to Tbilisi for more than a decade, and
U.S. soldiers have helped train the Georgian military. It is only
recently, however, that the U.S. commitment to Georgia has come with
meaningful admonitions about democracy, human rights, and the rule of
law. Washington’s growing honesty about the reality of Georgian
politics helped bring about Shevardnadze’s resignation. The United
States should now help Georgia’s new leadership think creatively about
basic questions of sovereignty, territorial control, and institutional
design. The central government must recognize .he multiethnic and
multireligious reality of the country. It must accept a decade of
state-building in the secessionist regions and allow local governments
to be empowered. If these efforts succeed, Georgia could well become
the positive example for eastern Europe and Eurasia that observers
have long hoped for.

Charles King is Associate Professor of Foreign Service and Government
at Georgetown University and author of “The Black Sea: A History”.

Tbilisi: Georgia At A Crossroads

GEORGIA AT A CROSSROADS

Past armed checkpoints into outlaw lands, the author traces the
history of the Caucasus republic, a leading recipient of U.S. aid and
scene of a potential new cold war

Smithsonian
April 2004

By Jeffrey Tayler

FROM THE SOOTY MAW of an unlit tunnel at Rikoti Pass, where the jagged
massifs of the Great Caucasus and Lesser Caucasus mountains come
together, we drove out into flurrying snow and whirling fog, heading
west. The decayed asphalt wound down toward the verdant Kolkhida
Lowland and the port of Poti, on the Black Sea. About 100 miles behind
us was Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, and its tense roadside
checkpoints–grime-streaked booths of cracked glass and dented steel,
concrete barriers at which hulking men in black uniforms, Kalashnikovs
dangling from their shoulders, peered into car windows looking for
guns and explosives.

We soon reached the lowland and its crumbling shacks and derelict
factories–the towns of Zestaponi, Samtredia and Senaki. Bony cattle
and mud-splattered pigs poked around trash heaps; a few people wearing
threadbare coats and patched boots traipsed down slushy walkways. My
driver, a gray-bearded ethnic Armenian in his 40s named Gari
Stepanyan, saw me looking at the remains of an old cement plant. “When
independence came, people tore up these factories, ripping out all the
equipment to sell for scrap,” he said in Russian of the nation’s
emergence in 1991 from the dissolving Soviet Union. Since then,
corruption, economic chaos, civil war and rule by racketeers have
contributed to Georgia’s disintegration. I drove this same road in
1985, and had pleasant memories of it. Now, in December 2003, I
searched the ruins and recognized nothing.

Over the past 13 years, Georgia–a nation about the size of South
Carolina with some five million people–has degenerated from one of
the most prosperous Soviet republics into a faltering state that
hardly qualifies as “independent,” so heavily does it rely on Russia
for oil and gas. At times, Russia has turned off the gas, not only
because of Georgia’s unpaid utility bills but also, many authorities
speculate, to keep Georgia submissive. Since Soviet times, Georgia’s
gross domestic product has decreased by almost two-thirds, to about
$16 billion. With more than half of the population living below the
poverty line, unemployment and low wages are so common that about a
million Georgians have fled the country since 1991, mostly to
Russia. Moreover, of Georgia’s five provinces, three–Abkhazia, South
Ossetia and Ajaria–are led by strongmen with support from Russia and
have essentially seceded. The civil war of 1992-1993 cost 10,000 lives
in Abkhazia alone. Crime is widespread and violent. To put it mildly,
independence has not brought Georgians what they had hoped for.

When I flew to Tbilisi from Moscow this past December, President
Eduard Shevardnadze had just been driven from office by hundreds of
thousands of demonstrating Georgians angered by rigged parliamentary
elections and fed up with corruption and poverty. Their bloodless
uprising, led by the 36-year-old American-trained lawyer Mikhail
Saakashvili, was known to supporters as the Rose Revolution, after the
flowers that some reformers had carried to symbolize their nonviolent
intentions. Saakashvili’s opponents (including members of the fallen
regime as well as the separatist strongmen) have termed the
revolution, perhaps ominously, a coup d’etat orchestrated by the
United States. After the revolution, bomb blasts and shootings
multiplied (hence the checkpoints we encountered in Tbilisi),
allegedly carried out by henchmen of the dispossessed elite hoping to
discredit Saakashvili. But on January 4, 2004, Saakashvili, pledging
to eliminate corruption, modernize the country and restore its
territorial integrity, won the presidential election with 96 percent
of the vote.

With Saakashvili promising to pilot his country westward, but with
Russia still backing separatists and controlling Georgia’s access to
fuel, Georgia has become the arena for a replay of the Great Game, the
19th-century struggle between the great powers for territory and
influence in Asia. The stakes are high, and not just for Georgia. The
United States has given Georgia $1.5 billion in the past ten
years–more aid than to any other country besides Israel (and not
counting Iraq)–and invested heavily in pipelines that will carry oil
from deposits beneath the Caspian Sea. One pipeline (completed in
1999) crosses Georgia and ends at the Black Sea. Another (to be
completed next year) will cross Georgia and Turkey and end at the
Mediterranean. American officials say they are also concerned about
terrorism. The Pankisi Gorge, on Chechnya’s southern flank, has
sheltered both Chechen rebels and members of Al Qaeda. The
U.S. military provides antiterrorist training and equipment to
Georgian troops and has conducted reconnaissance flights along the
Georgian-Russian border–flights that have sparked fears of espionage
and American expansionism among increasingly nationalistic Russian
politicians. Russia, meanwhile, maintains two military bases in
Georgia, and reportedly plans to do so for at least another decade.

The United States may be faced with a dilemma: either abandon Georgia
to Russia’s sphere of influence or risk damaging the strategic
partnership between Moscow and Washington that has formed the basis
for international order since the end of the Cold War (and without
which the fight against terrorism may be compromised). Perhaps not
surprisingly, a State Department official I interviewed disputed that
the United States and Russia may clash over Georgia. But leading
Russian analysts have a different view. This past December Andrei
Piontkowsky, director of the Center for Strategic Studies in Moscow,
told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper, that Russians “look at
the U.S. in the northern Caucasus as a rival” and that Russian
authorities have “declared the new leadership of Georgia to be
pro-American. I’m afraid that in such conditions, one should hardly
expect relations [between Russia and Georgia] to improve.” For his
part, Georgia’s president Saakisahvili said this past February in
Washington, D.C. that “Georgia cannot be a battlefield between two
great powers.” But some experts in Georgia suggest the Great Game is
well under way “A struggle for influence is going on between Russia
and the United States in Georgia,” says Marika Lordkipanidze, a
professor of history at Tbilisi State University.

As Gari and I trundled down the rutted highway outside Poti, he said
of Saakashvili and his pro-democracy team: “The new leaders seem
honest and respectable, so things should improve–if Russia doesn’t
interfere.” Then his voice hardened. “But we told them, ‘Look, we’ll
forgive you nothing. If you make the same mistakes as Shevardnadze,
we’ll kick you out too!'” Like Saakashvili, Shevardnadze and his
forerunner, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, came to power in landslide electoral
victories. Both fled office ahead of furious mobs.

WITH AN EYE ON ITS FUTURE, I journeyed through Georgia in search of
its past, beginning on the Black Sea in Poti, where Georgia first
entered world history 2,800 years ago through contact with Greek
traders during the Hellenic age. (The Kolkhida Lowland was once the
Kingdom of Colchis, where Greek myth places the Golden Fleece sought
by Jason and the Argonauts.) From there I traced a route west to east,
the direction of Georgia’s history until the Rose Revolution. Looking
at the destroyed towns of Kolkhida and the savage mountainscape
beyond, another myth came to mind, one of the first associated with
the country. Either Hellenic or Georgian in origin, it is tellingly
bloody–that of Prometheus. According to the myth, a peak in the
Caucasus was the spot where Zeus had the Titan chained to a rock, and
doomed him to have his regenerating liver pecked out by an eagle every
day for eternity for the crime of having given humanity fire. The
myth’s notions of gory plunder reflect a basic truth: for three
millenniums Georgia has been a battleground among empires, torn apart
by invaders and internal rivalries, and betrayed by allies.

In the first century B.C., Colchis stood with Rome against Persia,
until, in A.D. 298, the Romans switched allegiance and recognized a
Persian as Georgia’s king, Chrosroid, who founded a dynasty that would
rule for two centuries. Then, in A.D. 337, Georgia’s affiliation with
the Greeks led to a fateful event: its king at the time, Mirian,
converted to Christiani–making Georgia only the second Christian
state, after Armenia. Centuries later, when Islam spread throughout
the region, Georgia remained Christian, adding to its isolation.

From Poti we traveled 70 miles south to Batumi (pop. 130,000),
capital of a Georgian territory known as the Autonomous Republic of
Ajaria. Its autonomy has tenuous legitimacy. During World War I, the
territory was seized by Turkey. In 1921, Turkish leader Kemal Atatiirk
ceded it to Russia on the condition that Vladimir Lenin accord it
autonomy, because of its partly Islamic population.

Soon after the USSR fell apart, Asian Abashidze was appointed chairman
of Ajaria’s governing council; he has ruled the territory as his
fiefdom and enforced a Stalinist cult of personality. A Russian
military base outside Batumi and strong ties to Moscow give him the
means to defy Tbilisi and withhold the tax revenues owed the federal
government. Following last year’s Rose Revolution, Russia abolished
visa requirements for Ajarians–but not other Georgians–granting de
facto recognition to Ajaria’s independence. (The United States, by
contrast, does not recognize Ajaria as a separate state.) Meanwhile,
Abashidze also declared a state of emergency and closed the
territory’s borders with the rest of Georgia. Only by paying a driver
the small fortune (for Georgia) of $70 and doling out bribes at
roadside checkpoints did I manage to reach Batumi–a city of
ramshackle one- and two-story white stucco houses, many with ornate
Ottoman-style bay windows. Mosques had green minarets that stabbed the
brilliant azure sky.

The area has been contested before, and then, too, the cause was
oil. In 1918, at the start of the three years of independence that
Georgia would enjoy after World War I cleaved it from Russia, and
before the USSR absorbed it, 15,000 British troops landed in Batumi to
protect an oil pipeline (linking the Mediterranean with the Caspian)
from Soviet and German advances. But good relations with Russia
interested the British more than did tiny Georgia or even the
pipeline, and in 1920 they withdrew their troops. The next year the
Bolsheviks invaded and transformed Georgia, along with Armenia and
Azerbaijan, into the Trans-Caucasian Federative Soviet Socialist
Republic. Georgia gained its status as a separate Soviet republic in
1936.

MY HOTEL had intermittent electricity, but, like most of Batumi,
lacked heat. My breath puffed white in my room. Frost covered the
walls. The town’s two museums, though officially “open,” were
nonetheless closed to visitors–no electricity. Ancient Russian-made
Lada automobiles beeped and rattled on sun-washed cobblestone lanes
overhung by stout palms that stood lush green against the snowy slopes
of the Lesser Caucasus. Trucks adorned with Turkish lettering reminded
one that Abashidze controls Georgia’s lucrative consumer goods trade
with Turkey, the source of much of the republic’s income. The cold and
the lack of heating and electricity told me I could only be in the
former Soviet Union, as did the local Russian-language newspaper,
Adzharia, a pathetic party-line, no-news screed. It lauded Iran and
warned of bandit attacks from Tbilisi. There is no free press in
Ajaria, which seemed never to have known perestroika or glasnost.

I soon had confirmation of this from my guide, a woman I’ll call
Katya. (To protect her anonymity, I have also changed certain
identifying characteristics.) Katya has long shimmering auburn hair
and was well turned out in a black leather jacket and boots and
designer jeans–uncommonly fine tailoring in hardscrabble Georgia. She
had formerly worked in the upper echelons of Abashidze’s government
and had enjoyed a decent salary and other privileges, As we walked
cluttered, trashy lanes toward the outlying seaside district, she
switched with ease from Russian to English to French. Black-suited men
with automatic rifles–Abashidze’s guards–stood on virtually every
corner and glowered at us. At a square near the water, we passed an
artificial New Year’s tree–a conical metallic grid 100 feet tall, up
which men were climbing to affix real leaves. Farther on, an angular
concrete monstrosity rose some 30 feet into the air from a manicured
esplanade parallel to the sea. “Our pyramid,” Katya said. “The Louvre
has one, so we do too.” Her voice sounded flat, as it she were reading
from a script. “Our president builds many things for the people.”

Facing the sea is Shota Rustaveli Batumi State University, a dreamy
white-marble complex of three-story buildings with blue gabled roofs,
apparently designed to resemble the Winter Palace in
St. Petersburg. It was closed for the day, but Katya flashed her
government pass at a guard, led me in and showed me a student theater
with decor worthy of the Bolshoi Ballet: gilt lace curtains and a huge
glittering chandelier and red plush seats. “Our president built this
theater for us,” she said flatly “He is very strong.”

“It’s better than any theater I’ve ever seen in the States,” I
replied. “Do students really need such opulence?” She did not answer,
but interrupted several more skeptical questions, saying, “Our
president is very strong. He does many things for us.” Back on the
street, away from other people, I asked if anyone in town could tell
me about politics in the republic. “Our president is very strong,”
she said. “He has put up barricades to stop bandits from entering our
republic. Our president does many things for us. Just look at the
university! And the pyramid! And the esplanade!”

We walked by the freshly washed silver Mercedes belonging to
Abashidze’s son, the mayor of Batumi. Night was falling, and more
black-suited men with Kalashnikovs were coming on patrol duty. Ahead,
the town proper was dark, without power as usual, but the president’s
office and the state residences blazed with light; the trees around
his mansion were bedecked in Christmas lights, which glittered on the
polished hood of the sole vehicle, squat and polished and black,
parked beneath them. “Our president’s Hummer,” said Katya. On the
corner, a revolving billboard showed photographs of Abashidze visiting
workers, inspecting factories, ministering to the simple man. Beyond
it, a huge array of lights covered the wall of a multistoried
building, flashing in red, white and green the nonsensical message
MILLENIUM 2004 above the dark town.

Finally, I persuaded Katya to tell me how she really felt about
politics in her republic. “We have a dictatorship here,” she said,
glancing around to make sure none of the Kalashnikov-toters was within
earshot. “We’re against our president, but he is strong. Everything
here is for our president. Nothing here is for us. Our government is
one big mafiya,” she said, using the Russian word for mob, “the
biggest in the former Soviet Union.”

The next morning, a taxi took Katya and me to the southern edge of
town, to Gonio Apsar, the ruins of a Roman fortress dating from the
first century A.D. A plaque at the gates recounted Apsar’s lengthy
history of conquest: the fortress was Roman until the fourth century;
Byzantine from the sixth; Georgian from the 14th; Ottoman till 1878,
when the Turks returned it to Russia; and Turkish again after World
War I began. It’s a story close to the consciousness of every
Georgian: armies have ravaged this land time and time again. I said it
seemed naive to believe the future would be different. Katya
agreed. “Our president wants Ajaria to join Russia,” she said. “Oh,
there will be war here, just like there was in Abkhazia! We won’t be
able to stop it. We’re all afraid of war! Oh, I just want to get out
of here!”

JUST 60 MILES northeast from Ajaria is the hill town of Kutaisi,
capital of medieval Georgia and burial place of King David IV,
considered one of the country’s founding fathers. Born in 1073, King
David took the throne after an Arab Islamic occupation that had lasted
from the seventh to the ninth centuries. He annexed the region of
Kakheti (now Georgia’s easternmost province), drove the Seljuk Turks
out of Tbilisi (which he made the capital in 1122), and turned his
country into one of the wealthiest in the region. His followers called
him the Builder. Only the reign of his granddaughter, Queen Tamar, who
enlarged Georgia’s borders to the Caspian, would shine more brightly
than his. The golden age that the Builder ushered in would not last,
however. The Mongols invaded in 1220, bubonic plague devastated the
population and, in 1386, Tamerlane’s armies tore through. After
Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, the Ottoman and Persian
empires fought over Georgia, killing or deporting tens of thousands.

Through Kutaisi, the pewter-hued Rioni River winds between steep stony
banks, and beyond it rise the Great Caucasus. With Marietta Bzikadze,
a 25-year-old music teacher who studies economics, I visited the
remains of Bagrat Cathedral, which dates from the early 11th century
and has had no roof since it was sacked by the Ottomon Turks in
1691. The previous day, a Sunday, I had been surprised to find the
cathedral hung with icons and bristling with bundled-up worshipers
attending morning services in the open air, despite a cold mountain
wind. “We asked the government not to rebuild the roof,” Bzikadze said
in a husky voice. “We see it as a blessing to pray in the cold, the
rain, and the snow. And we have the strength to do it. You see, 99
percent of being Georgian is being Christian.” We stood beneath the
cathedral’s walls and surveyed the monasteries and churches crowning
hilltops around town. “From here,” she said, “you can see the belfries
of Gelati Monastery and St. George Cathedral. They were built to look
out on each other. The priests used to climb them to send signals. In
times of trouble, they would sound the alarm bells to bring us
together for the fight. Always we Georgians have stood together to
face trouble bearers, be they Mongols or Turks.” She crossed herself
three times in the Orthodox manner. “May God grant us peace!”

In the spirit of the early Christian martyrs, David the Builder had
ordered his grave placed at the gates of Gelati Monastery so that his
subjects would have to walk over him on their way in–a gesture of
humility that Bzikadze and I agreed would be inconceivable today. At
least until Saakashvili, modern Georgian politicians have shown their
people little more than vanity and a lust for lucre.

FOR CENTURIES, Georgia was subjected to atomizing blows from the
north. In 1783, after Persia tried to reestablish control, Georgia
sought aid from Russia. Russia, eager to expand across the Caucasus,
signed a defense treaty but broke its word and stood by as the
Persians plundered Tbilisi in 1795. Six years later, Russia annexed
Georgia, exiled its royal family and reconfigured the country into two
gubernias (provinces). In 1811 the Russians absorbed the Georgian
Orthodox Church into the Moscow Patriarchate. Soon after,
revolutionary fervor swept Russia and dismantled the church, a pillar
of czarist rule. Even so, one of the most infamous revolutionaries of
all time came straight from the ranks of its Georgian novitiates.

Gori, some 90 miles east of Kutaisi, is a small town largely without
electricity. Residents had chopped holes in the walls of their
apartment buildings through which to run stovepipes to heat their
homes. A fragrant shroud of maple smoke hung over the deserted evening
streets, and I wandered around them, entranced. With the smoke and
dark hiding traces of decayed modernity I could have been walking
through the Gori of a century ago. Back then, I might have run into a
dashing mustachioed young poet and top-ranking seminary student named
Ioseb Dzhugashvili, the son of an illiterate peasant and a drunken
cobbler. He would adopt the surname Stalin (from Russian stal’, or
steel)and become Gori’s most famous son.

I had stopped in Gori in 1985 to visit Joseph Stalin’s home and the
museum complex devoted to his life and work. At the time, a spry,
middle-aged woman named Jujuna Khinchikashvili gave me a tour of the
museum, which resounded with his radio addresses, Soviet World War
II-era songs and the chatter of tourists (mostly Russians). Nearly two
decades later, she was still there, and still spry, but now, following
the collapse of the empire that was largely of Stalin’s making, there
was no electricity to power the recordings, the halls were dusty and I
was the sole visitor to his frigid shrine. High windows let in the
day’s dying sun–the only illumination. The museum chronicles Stalin’s
rise from seminary student to poet (he published much-admired verse in
Georgian before coming to power) to membership in Georgia’s first
Marxist party to his rise to supreme leader in the 1930s and, finally,
to his death from a stroke in 1953 at age 73. Unlike many Georgians
who speak of their dictator-compatriot with a mix of awe and unease,
Khinchikashvili enjoyed talking about Stalin, for whom she feels
measured admiration. After all, she said (paraphrasing Churchill),
Stalin took over a Russia armed with only the plow and left it with
nuclear weapons.

Among the tools that Stalin ruthlessly employed to push the Soviet
Union into the modern world were mass executions, artificial famine
and forced labor camps–all told, he sent some 18 million of his
countrymen and women to the gulags. Yet favoritism toward Georgia
never numbered among his faults; in fact, Georgians suffered more than
any other Soviet people during his rule. As Lenin’s commissar in
charge of national minorities, Stalin in 1922 drew Georgia’s borders
so that the various peoples of his native land (Georgians, Abkhaz and
Ossetians, among others) could never unite to rebel against the
Kremlin but, if unrestrained by Moscow, would fall into endless
internecine struggles. Lordkipanidze, the Tbilisi historian, described
Stalin’s autonomous entities to me as “time bombs set to detonate if
Georgia became independent.” And indeed, as soon as the Soviet Union
collapsed, civil wars erupted all over Georgia and the other Soviet
republics.

Khinchikashvili ambled down the shadowy corridors of the museum,
chatting about Stalin’s life and pointing out memorabilia. She led me
to a dark room I had not seen before, where a circle of white Roman
columns rose into the black. “Come,” she said, mounting the ramp to
the raised circle of columns and handing me a battery-powered
fluorescent lamp. “Go ahead, climb in! Look at him!” I shivered from
an eerie apprehension as well as the cold, and climbed into the
circle. My light fell on a bronze bust reclining as if lying in
state–an open-eyed death mask taken from the dictator’s face the day
after his passing. The brows were bushy, the mustache thick, the hair
rakishly abundant. It was a good likeness of him, but to me the cold
and darkness seemed a more fitting tribute.

NO LEADER in Georgia’s post-Soviet history has pledged more fervently
to undo Stalin’s legacy of oppression and poverty than Mikhail
Saakashvili. Unlike Shevardnadze, Saakashvili, who was born in
Tbilisi, received a Western education (at the International Human
Rights Institute in France and George Washington University and
Columbia University in the United States). He speaks fluent English
and French. He was working as an attorney in New York City when, in
1995, Zurab Zhvania, then the speaker of Georgia’s parliament,
persuaded him to return to Tbilisi to run in legislative elections. He
was elected, and by 2000, Shevardnadze, impressed by Saakashvili’s
energy, appointed him minister of justice. But Saakashvili grew
disenchanted by his boss’s refusal to back a proposed anti-corruption
law, and he resigned in 2001 to lead the opposition National
Movement. Shevardnadze sealed his fate by rigging the November 2003
elections to ensure his victory over his former protege’s party. On
November 22, Saakashvili led hundreds of thousands of protesters and
stormed the parliament. The next day, he helped persuade Shevardnadze,
who realized he had no better option, to resign. (Shevardnadze still
lives in Georgia and has said he plans to stay there.)

Forty-five days later, Saakashvili won the presidency on a pro-Western
platform. “We have a very confident, young group of people,” he told
the BBC at the time. “They are Western educated, extremely bright,
they speak languages, they know how the modern world functions. We
need to put these people in every level of the government.” In late
February, while in Washington, D.C. to meet with President Bush and
members of Congress, Saakashvili said at a press conference that
Georgia was “ready to meet half way with Russians on many issues as
long as Russia remembers one thing: We have our national sovereignty.”

Georgia’s new leadership aside, the nation’s future depends on rising
above a past that offers no recent precedent for success. For Georgia
to gain true independence, Russia has to renounce ambitions to
dominate the Caucasus. But that prospect seems increasingly unlikely,
given the authoritarian practices and nationalistic policies to which
the Kremlin is returning. Then there is the volatility of Georgian
voters, whose expectations of Saakashvili are astronomic; if he fails
to meet them, his electorate may assume that reform is
impossible–when was it ever successful?–and fail to weather the
transition to a stable government.

THE MAIN ROAD out of Tbilisi, the Georgian Military Highway, runs 138
miles over the Caucasus to the Russian town of Vladikavkaz. Russia
built the highway in the 19th century to ensure control over its two
new gubernias. On one of my last days in Tbilisi, I set out to travel
it as far as Kazbegi, just south of the Russian border. With Rusiko
Shonia, a refugee from Abkhazia’s civil war who now manages Tbilisi’s
historical museum, I hired a car for the three-hour ride.

As we headed north, low clouds obscured the peaks ahead. These
mountains, from ancient times to just a few years ago, held the lairs
of bandits. On various rises and ridges stood churches and their
lookout belfries. A fear of invasion seemed to haunt the ravines. The
highway led into pristine valleys where hot springs, steam-covered in
the subfreezing air, traversed snowfields. Rusiko, who is in her 40s,
has sad eyes and a lilting melancholic voice. “Ten years ago the war
in Abkhazia broke out, and we saw battles,” she said. “My grandmother
and I got lucky and managed to flee while the road was open. But
grandma died of grief after leaving Abkhazia.” The driver slipped into
four-wheel-drive mode. The drop from the icy road was sheer, and
crosses erected to those drivers who had gone over the edge heightened
my anxiety. Finally, we reached the Pass of the Cross and then
Kazbegi, with its icicled huts and snow-covered hovels. We halted
beneath Trinity Church, soaring high above us on a crag. Another world
was beginning here. Russia was only 15 miles to the north. Rusiko
looked back over her country. “In the past, everyone around us has
always wanted a part of Georgia,” she said. “We’ve always, always,
been torn to pieces.” Somewhere to the west loomed Mount Elbrus,
where, as some versions of the legend have it, Prometheus was
chained. We shuddered in the cold wind gusting clown from the slopes
to the north.

MAP: By 2005, the second of two U.S.-backed pipelines spanning
Georgia, a cash-strapped nation of 5 million about the size of South
Carolina, will have opened world energy markets to Caspian Sea oil,
said to be the world’s largest untapped fossil fuel resource.

PHOTO (COLOR): In hardscrabble Georgia (outside Tbilisi), last year’s
Rose Revolution (protesters mob parliament November 22) led to regime
change. But can the new, U.S.-educated president balance Western and
Russian interests?

PHOTO (COLOR): Georgia’s capital and the principal city of the
Caucasus since antiquity, Tbilisi (pop. 1.5 million) has been sacked
dozens of times over the past 1,500 years. “In the past,” says the
manager of a Tbilisi museum, “everyone around us has always wanted a
part of Georgia.”

PHOTO (COLOR): “I don’t believe in military solutions,” 36-year-old
President Saakashvili (with wife, Sandra Roelofs, 36, in January) said
of dealing with the breakaway provinces.

PHOTO (COLOR): A monument to the traditionally Christian nation,
Kutaisi’s 11th-century Bagrat Cathedral still functions as a house of
worship–despite having no roof since 1691.

PHOTO (COLOR): Born in Georgia in 1879, Stalin (his birth shrine in
Gori and 2003 exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of his death)
ruled the USSR for 29 years.

PHOTO (COLOR)

PHOTO (COLOR)

‘BETWEEN EAST AND WEST’

AMONG THE YOUNG reform-minded Georgians swept recently into power is
33-year-old Kakha Shengelia, vice premier of Tbilisi’s municipal
government and a friend of Saakashvili’s. Like Saakashvili, Shengelia
was educated in America (he obtained an M.B.A. from the University of
Hartford). Also like Saakashvili, he worked briefly in the United
States (as a project manager for a communications company in New York
City). He returned to Georgia in 1999, and three years later
Saakashvili, then chairman of the Tbilisi City Council, appointed
Shengelia to his current post. In an interview in the Tbilisi town
hall, he spoke of Georgia’s complex relations with the United States
and Russia and of taking a hard line against Georgia’s outlaw
provinces.

“We won’t tolerate Abashidze,” Shengelia said of the leader of
breakaway Ajaria. “He either has to leave the country or go to
jail. He got his wealth stealing our budgetary funds.” I asked about
Russia’s support of Abashidze and the Russian base near Batumi. “Our
goal is to remove all the Russian bases,” Shengelia said. “If Russia
leaves, the problem is solved.” How would the government persuade
Russia to do so? He didn’t say, beyond promising peace and
security. “But we want no more relations between big and little
brother.”

Yet Georgia’s promise of security, I said, hardly seems sufficient to
prompt Russia to withdraw. Wouldn’t the United States have to get
involved, perhaps pressure Moscow and act as the guarantor of Georgian
sovereignty? Shengelia agreed. Why would the United States risk
relations with the Kremlin? “To the United States we offer
geostrategic interests,” he said. “The oil pipeline from Baku to
Ceyhan [in Turkey] via Supsa, and a gas pipeline. Georgia is a country
between East and West, important in the war against terrorism.”
Shengelia spoke avidly of Georgia’s recent success in joining
international trade and political organizations and of its hope to
join the European Union and NATO. Georgia’s new direction, he said,
will be westward, away from Russia–a reversal of more than two
centuries of history.

I voiced skepticism, pointing out that Russia is a neighbor, while the
United States is distant and might lose interest if the terrorist
threat wanes. He said the reformers were not about to give up:
“Imagine living under Russian rule and surviving. Only our national
aspirations kept us going. Our language, our alphabet–this is
something given to us by God. We have a great sense of country and
love for our people, for family and roots. This is the magic force
that kept us alive during 20 centuries-our love of country.”

Jeffrey Tayler, a Moscow-based writer for the Atlantic Monthly, has
published three books, including Siberian Dawn.

ASBAREZ Online [03-30-2004]

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03/30/2004
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1) Five Armenians Elected to Georgian Parliament
2) Parliament Inquiry Slams Misuse of Loans
3) Coalition Parties Caution Opposition to Practice Vigilance
4) Montana 32nd State to Recognize the Armenian Genocide
5) Never Mind the Bullocks. . . Here is the Skeptik!

1) Five Armenians Elected to Georgian Parliament

TBILISI (Armenpress)–Five Armenians were elected to Georgia’s parliament in
the March 28 nationwide elections. Two Armenians Melik Raisian and Van
Bayburdian, were reelected from a proportional list of the governing
coalition,
while Henzel Mkoyan, Hamlet Movsisian, and Hayk Miltonian were elected by a
single mandate. Six Armenians previously served in Georgia’s parliament.
There was high voter turnout in Georgia’s predominantly Armenian-populated
region of Javakhk, with 90% of eligible voters casting ballots. In the
Akhalkalak region, approximately 30,000 of 33,000 registered voters turned
out;
in Ninotsminda, 17,200 of 18,300; in Tsalka, 9,000 out of 13,000; and in
Akhaltsikha, 11,000 out of 15,000. The majority in all regions voted in favor
of the ruling bloc.

2) Parliament Inquiry Slams Misuse of Loans

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Presenting the findings of a parliamentary commission
studying the use of financial and humanitarian assistance to Armenia, National
Assembly Vice-speaker and commission chairman Vahan Hovhannisian, challenged
government claims that the situation with water supplies in the capital has
markedly improved since the launch of the scheme in 1999.
The interim report was issued by the ad hoc commission of the Armenian
parliament that was set up last September to investigate the use of nearly $3
billion in external loans, grants, and other assistance received by Armenia
since independence.
A $30 million project to improve supplies of drinking water in Yerevan has
failed to achieve its main objectives to due a serious misuse of the funds
provided by the World Bank, according to the commission’s findings released on
Tuesday.
According to the State Committee on Water Resources, the average Yerevan
household currently has running water for more than nine hours a day and will
enjoy the round-the-clock supplies by the end of the year. But Hovannisian,
who
is also one of the two deputy speakers of the assembly, said the official
figure is grossly exaggerated.
He cited the example of the city’s Davitashen district where $5.8 million of
the World Bank loans has been spent. The authorities were supposed to ensure
24-hour supplies there by the beginning of this year. The commission report
says most local residents have running water for between 10 and 12 hours a
day,
despite having installed water meters.
The introduction of meters has been a key element in the government’s
sweeping
reform and restructuring the country’s obsolete water and sewerage network.
Most Armenians have already bought and installed them at their expense. A
typical urban household needed two such devices in their apartments and
paid an
equivalent of $15 a piece. Hovannisian said a water meter was in fact worth
between $5 and $6, accusing the government’s water agency and Yerevan’s
utility
operator of making $6.5 million in “unjustified” profits from their sale.
The commission report also criticizes the fact that 27 percent of the World
Bank funds have been spent on project management, overhead, and logistics.
That
includes $5 million paid to the Italian firm A-Utility that has run Yerevan’s
water and sewerage network since the launch of the project.
Hovannisian said the commission will recommend that the government not extend
its management contract with A-Utility after the project’s completion this
summer. He said the network has failed to reduce continuing huge leaks of
drinking water.
Government officials admit that as much as 60 percent of the water is being
lost before reaching households. They say substantial capital investments are
needed to reconstruct the aging Soviet-era network of pipes.
The publication of the parliamentary report follows last week’s dismissal of
Gagik Martirosian, the longtime head of the State Committee on Water
Resources.
It is not clear if there is any connection between the two developments.
There was no immediate reaction to the report from the government. Officials
at the World Bank’s Yerevan office declined a comment, saying that they have
not yet received the document. They had earlier praised the implementation of
the infrastructure project.

3) Coalition Parties Caution Opposition to Practice Vigilance

YEREVAN (Armenpress/RFE/RL)–Responding to opposition calls to topple
Armenia’s
President, ARF National Assembly faction member Hrair Karapetian, pointing to
the legitimacy of the government, said that attempts to disrupt law and order
would be countered.
“We admonish those announcements whose authors not only insult, but
succeed in
also assaulting and degrading the majority of the population which voted for
the authorities–that assail the president of the republic, as well as those
forces assisting the government. Such announcements seek to only dissolve the
country’s governmental structure, and splinter society to bring about
irrevocable consequences,” Karapetian warned during a special session of
parliament during which factions and individual deputies are able to read out
statements on any issue.
Karapetian offered, instead, the carrying out of political clashes in a
healthy political arena.
“I call on all political forces to sit at the round table and refrain from
making calls disseminating hatred and hostility,” said Samvel Balasanian, the
parliamentary leader of the Orinats Yerkir Party, the Republican Party’s (HHK)
junior coalition partner.
“There is still time and political forces must display the will to address
the
country’s problems through dialogue and political mechanisms,” said Samvel
Nikoyan, a senior lawmaker from the Republican Party (HHK). “We are
prepared to
shoulder responsibility for organizing such a dialogue.”
Opposition leaders, however, said they remain determined to try to oust
President Robert Kocharian with sustained street protests planned for the
beginning of next month.
The opposition lawmakers, who have been boycotting regular National Assembly
sessions for more than a month, showed up to take the opportunity to spread
their tough anti-Kocharian message. They were quick to dismiss the coalition
offer. “We are ready for dialogue with any political force provided that
Kocharian resigns,” said Victor Dallakian of the Artarutyun (Justice)
alliance.

Dallakian added that Artarutyun and the opposition National Unity Party will
jointly start “the process of toppling Kocharian’s regime” before April 13.
“Together we are united and determined to fulfill the people’s will, restore
constitutional order and form a legitimate government in Armenia,” he said.
President Kocharian, through a spokesman, warned that opposition threats to
force him into resignation with street protests are unconstitutional and will
be dealt with accordingly. “The opposition has adopted a baseless and
aggressive position,” the presidential press secretary Ashot Kocharian said.
“The opposition actions carry elements running counter to criminal
legislation. In particular, there are calls for a violent regime change.”
“Unsanctioned rallies are fraught with criminally punishable actions directed
against public order,” the spokesman warned.
The opposition has promised a campaign of demonstrations outside the
presidential palace and parliament building in Yerevan similar to the November
“revolution of roses” in neighboring Georgia. “Kocharian may not resign,
but he
will be unable to control the situation and govern the country de facto,” said
another Artarutyun leader Albert Bazeyan.
Armenia’s leading businessmen have expressed concern at the mounting
political
tensions. In a joint statement issued late Monday, they effectively sided with
the authorities, saying that a destabilization of the political situation
would
have negative effects on the struggling Armenian economy. The statement was
read out by the chairman of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs
Arsen
Ghazarian.
“I myself see no danger in [peaceful] rallies,” Ghazarian said. “That is the
constitutional right of our citizens. I only hope that that it will be done in
accordance with the law and the constitution.”

4) Montana 32nd State to Recognize the Armenian Genocide

WASHINGTON, DC (ANCA)–Montana became the 32nd US state to recognize the
Armenian Genocide, joining with the Armenian American community and all people
of good conscience in honoring the victims of this crime against humanity,
reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Governor Judy Martz, in a letter of recognition sent to the ANCA, stated: “I
am pleased to recognize your achievements to bring awareness and
recognition to
the one and one-half million Christian Armenian men, women and children who
were victims of the brutal genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turkish
Government from 1915 to 1923.” She went on to explain that recognition of the
89th anniversary of the genocide is “crucial to guarding against repetition of
future genocides.”
On Monday, Montana joined 31 states that have already recognized the Armenian
Genocide through Governor proclamations or adoption of State resolutions,
including: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut,
Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts,
Michigan,
Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York,
North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina,
Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
“I am proud of Gov. Martz’s principled stand recognizing the Armenian
Genocide
and joining with our community in this solemn remembrance. I can only hope
that
our legislators in Washington will take similar action through passage of the
Genocide Resolution in the House and Senate,” said Montana resident and
lifelong ANC activist Yedvart Tchakerian.
Armenian American activist Bob Semonian, a long-time friend of the Montana
Governor, played a key role in introducing the matter to Governor Martz.

TEXT OF MONTANA GOVERNOR’S STATEMENT

April 2004

On behalf of citizens of the State of Montana, I am pleased to recognize your
achievements to bring awareness and recognition to the one and one-half
million
Christian Armenian men, women and children who were victims of the brutal
genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turkish Government from 1915 to 1923.
The Armenian genocide and massacres of Armenian people have been
recognized as
an attempt to eliminate all traces of a thriving and noble civilization over
3,000 years old. Recognition of the eighty-ninth anniversary of this genocide
is crucial to guarding against the repetition of future genocide and educating
people about the atrocities connected to these horrific events.
I urge recognition of their plight on April 24th, 2004, which is nationally
recognized as a Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923.

5) Never Mind the Bullocks. . . Here is the Skeptik!

BY SKEPTIK SINIKIAN

For those of you who have been living in a cultural vacuum, I wanted to point
out that the above headline was stripped from the title of one of the few
decent things to come out of Britain–the groundbreaking punk band, the Sex
Pistols. The other notable contribution from the British Isles is the comedy
troupe Monty Python. Save for punk music and the creators of the “Life of
Brian,” all else that has come from England has been an albatross around the
world’s neck.
For starters, take all of the problems in the Middle East or Africa. It was
Britain’s policies of imperialistic expansion starting in the early 18th
century that have resulted in nation states in these regions with borders that
look more like an 8th grader’s geometry homework than actual countries. We’re
still feeling the repercussions of the political meddling of Britain in these
regions to this day. For those of you who are “literacy challenged”, just
watch
“Lawrence of Arabia” to get a layman’s perspective of the mess Britain left
behind in Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and environs. And that hot bed of activity
called Israel? Guess who the geniuses were who drew up that map. I’ll give you
a hint. It was the same group of folks that thought Gandhi and his countrymen
in India were too primitive to govern themselves. One more hint? Fine. But
it’s
your last one. They went to war with Argentina over disputed claims to the
Falkland Islands, a group of islands off the coast of ARGENTINA whose main
export is sheep and wool. God knows those Brits need their wool! But I
guess if
you’re going to play the role of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, then you need all
the wool you can get. Oops, I gave away the answer. For those of you still
scratching your heads…the answer was Britain.
What inspired this particular rant against the British wasn’t their past
policies. After all, no nation is a saint and in the world of politics it’s a
“shoon” eat “shoon” world out there. After all, it was Lord Palmerston, 19th
century British Foreign Secretary, who said “There are no permanent alliances,
only permanent interests.” It was a more recent quote by another British
dignitary with a far more callous tone which drove me to embark on this
diatribe. It was with outrage that I read article after article and email
after
email about the denialist comments the British Ambassador to Armenia Thorda
Abbott-Watt made in reference to the Armenian Genocide. She ascertained that
the events of 1915 did not constitute a Genocide. Her statements are a blatant
disregard of the historical facts of the Armenian Genocide, not to mention an
affront to survivors and Armenians throughout the world.
I wrote a letter of complaint to the British foreign ministry but I don’t
expect any results. As an Armenian American who has studied the history of
Armenia, Britain and its relationship with the Ottoman Empire, I’m not
surprised that Britain would hang the Armenians out to dry on this issue. Why
should they act differently than in previous times? The only times when
Britain
spoke out against the ill-treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were
when it was in their own self-interest to do so – to either leverage
themselves
against Russia or to ensure control over the crumbling Ottoman state. What
will
it take to convince Britain to adopt an honorable position on the Armenian
Genocide? Maybe increasing Armenia’s wool production. More sheep may be the
answer but I have a feeling that even this will not change the British foreign
ministry’s sheepish attitude. After all, as long as they control that o’ so
strategically significant piece of real estate known as the Falkland Islands,
they have all the wool they will ever need.
I have no respect for Ambassador Abbot-Watt after her uneducated and
politically motivated statements. But I also understand that she is the
mouthpiece of her government. As such, she is the monkey who dances to the
organ music when told to do so. And to end this column with a quote from Sir
Winston Churchill, you should “Never hold discussions with the monkey when the
organ grinder is in the room.” Having made the obligatory monkey reference, I
say give the Ambassador a ticket to ride all the way back to Britain, because
it’s obvious that she don’t care. Cheerio!
Skeptik Sinikian is a resident of that rebellious former-British colony
recognized by the National Geographic Society as the United States of America.
Despite his disdain for British Ambassadors to Armenia, he still enjoys
English
muffins and English Breakfast tea, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Benny Hill
Specials, “Faulty Towers” and Shakespeare. He can be reached at
[email protected]

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ANCA Issues Report Card on the Bush Administration

Armenian National Committee of America
888 17th Street, NW Suite 904
Washington, DC 20006
Tel: (202) 775-1918
Fax: (202) 775-5648
E-mail: [email protected]
Internet:

PRESS RELEASE
March 30, 2004
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Tel: (202) 775-1918

ANCA ISSUES REPORT CARD ON THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION

— Review Reveals Largely Negative Policies on Broad
Range of Issues of Concern to Armenian Americans

WASHINGTON, DC – The 2004 Armenian American Presidential Report
Card, issued today by the Armenian National Committee Of America
(ANCA), gave the George W. Bush Administration low marks for its
record of broken promises, neglect, and opposition to more than a
dozen issues of concern to Armenian American voters.

The ANCA Report Card covers fifteen broad policy areas, beginning
with the President’s broken campaign pledge to recognize the
Armenian Genocide, and extending through more than three years of
policy toward Armenia, the Caucasus, and the surrounding region.
While highlighting certain areas in which the Bush Administration
has taken positive steps, the Report Card, on balance, reveals an
Administration that has fallen far short of the Armenian American
community’s expectations.

“Armenian Americans were profoundly disappointed by President
Bush’s decision – only three months after taking office – to
abandon his campaign pledge to properly recognize the Armenian
Genocide,” said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. “Since then, sadly,
the record shows that the President has broken other commitments to
our community – most notably to maintain parity in U.S. military
aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan – and has actively opposed key issues
of concern to Armenian Americans.”

The Armenian American Presidential Report Card is provided below:

1) Broken campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide

Almost immediately after taking office, President Bush abandoned
his campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide. This
promise, which he made in February of 2000 as Texas Governor, was
widely distributed among Armenian Americans prior to the hotly
contested Michigan primary. It read, in part, as follows:

“The twentieth century was marred by wars of
unimaginable brutality, mass murder and genocide.
History records that the Armenians were the first
people of the last century to have endured these
cruelties. The Armenians were subjected to a
genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and
commands all decent people to remember and
acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful
crime in a century of bloody crimes against
humanity. If elected President, I would ensure
that our nation properly recognizes the tragic
suffering of the Armenian people.”

Rather than honor this promise, the President has, in his annual
April 24th statements, used evasive and euphemistic terminology to
avoid describing Ottoman Turkey’s systematic and deliberate
destruction of the Armenian people by its proper name – the
Armenian Genocide.

2) Opposition to the Congressional Genocide Resolution

The Bush Administration is actively blocking the adoption of the
Genocide Resolution in both the House and Senate. This legislation
(S.Res.164 and H.Res.193) specifically cites the Armenian Genocide
and formally commemorates the 15th anniversary of United States
implementation of the U.N. Genocide Convention. The Genocide
Resolution is supported by a broad based coalition of over one
hundred organizations, including American Values, the NAACP,
National Council of Churches, Sons of Italy, International Campaign
for Tibet, National Council of La Raza, and the Union of Orthodox
Rabbis.

3) Failure to condemn Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide

The Bush Administration has failed to condemn Turkey’s recent
escalation of its campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide. Notably,
the Administration has remained silent in the face of the decree
issued in April of 2003 by Turkey’s Education Minister, Huseyin
Celik, requiring that all students in Turkey’s schools be
instructed in the denial of the Armenian Genocide.

The State Department’s 2003 human rights report on Turkey uses the
historically inaccurate and highly offensive phrase “alleged
genocide” to mischaracterize the Armenian Genocide. In addition,
despite repeated protests, the Bush Administration’s State
Department continues to host a website on Armenian history that
fails to make even a single mention of the Genocide.
()

4) The Waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act

The Bush Administration, in 2001, aggressively pressured Congress
into granting the President the authority to waive Section 907, a
provision of law that bars aid to the government of Azerbaijan
until it lifts its blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.
President Bush has subsequently used this authority to provide
direct aid, including military assistance, to the government of
Azerbaijan, despite their continued violation of the provisions of
this law.

5) Reduction in aid to Armenia

In the face of the devastating, multi-billion dollar impact of the
Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades on the Armenian economy,
President Bush has, in each of the past three years, proposed to
Congress that humanitarian and developmental aid to Armenia be
reduced.

6) Abandonment of the Military Aid Parity Agreement

The Bush Administration abandoned its November 2001 agreement with
Congress and the Armenian American community to maintain even
levels of military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan. Instead, the
Administration, in its fiscal year 2005 foreign aid bill, proposes
sending four times more Foreign Military Financing to Azerbaijan
($8 million) than to Armenia ($2 million). This action tilts the
military balance in favor of Azerbaijan, rewards Azerbaijan’s
increasingly violent threats of renewed aggression, and undermines
the role of the U.S. as an impartial mediator of the Nagorno
Karabagh talks.

7) Mistaken Listing of Armenia as a Terrorist Country

The Bush Administration, through Attorney General John Ashcroft,
sought, unsuccessfully, in December of 2002 to place Armenia on an
Immigration and Naturalization Service watch list for terrorist
countries. This obvious error was reversed only after a nation-
wide protest campaign. Neither the White House nor the Department
of Justice has apologized for the offense caused by this mistake.

8) Neglect of U.S.-Armenia relations

While the Bush Administration has maintained a formal dialogue with
Armenia on economic issues through the bi-annual meetings of the
U.S.-Armenia Task Force, it has, as a matter of substance, failed
to take any meaningful action to materially promote U.S.-Armenia
economic ties. Specifically, the Administration has not provided
leadership on legislation, spearheaded by Congressional Republicans
and currently before Congress, to grant Armenia permanent normal
trade relations (PNTR) status. Nor has the Administration
initiated any steps toward the negotiation of a Tax Treaty, Social
Security Agreement, Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, or
other bilateral agreements to foster increased U.S.-Armenia
commercial relations.

The President neither visited Armenia nor did he invite the
President of Armenia to visit the United States.

9) Failure to maintain a balanced policy on Nagorno Karabagh

The Bush Administration, to its credit, took an early initiative to
help resolve the Nagorno Karabagh issue in the form of the Key West
summit meeting in 2001 between Secretary of State Powell and the
presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. After Azerbaijan’s failure
to honor its Key West commitments, however, the Administration
failed to hold Azerbaijan accountable for unilaterally stalling the
Nagorno Karabagh peace process.

10) Increased grants, loans and military transfers to Turkey

The Bush Administration has effectively abandoned America’s
responsibility to link aid, loans, and arms transfers to Turkey’s
adherence to basic standards for human rights and international
conduct. The most notable example was the $8 billion loan package
provided to Turkey in 2003 despite Turkey’s refusal to allow U.S.
forces to open a northern front during the war in Iraq.

11) Taxpayer financing of the Baku-Ceyhan bypass of Armenia

The Bush Administration is supporting American taxpayer subsidies
for the politically motivated Baku-Ceyhan pipeline route that, at
the insistence of Turkey and Azerbaijan, bypasses Armenia.

12 Refusal to pressure Turkey and Azerbaijan to end their
blockades

The Bush Administration has not forcefully condemned the Turkish
and Azerbaijani blockades as clear violations of international law,
nor, outside of occasional public statements, has it taken any
meaningful steps to pressure the Turkish or Azerbaijani governments
to end their illegal border closures.

13) Lobbying for Turkish membership in the European Union

The Bush Administration has aggressively pressured European
governments to accept Turkey into the European Union, despite
Turkey’s consistent failure to meet European conditions for
membership, on issues ranging from the blockade of Armenia and the
Armenian Genocide to the occupation of Cyprus and human rights.

14) Down-grading relations with the Armenian American community

Breaking with the tradition of the last several Administrations,
the Bush White House failed to reach out in any meaningful way to
our nation’s one and a half million citizens of Armenian heritage.
While the State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council
maintained their long-standing policy-level dialogue with the
Armenian American community leadership, the White House itself
essentially neglected Armenian Americans as a political
constituency. Perhaps the most telling example of this is that,
during the course of the past three years, despite repeated
requests, the President did not hold any community-wide meetings
with the leadership of the Armenian American community, nor did his
Secretary of State or National Security Advisor.

15) Armenian American appointments

The President appointed Joe Bogosian to an important Deputy
Assistant Secretary position at the Commerce Department, John
Jamian to a key maritime position in the Department of
Transportation, and Samuel Der-Yeghiayan as a Federal Judge in the
Northern District of Illinois.

#####

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5275.htm
www.anca.org

Schools in Martakert restored

Azat Artsakh – Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (NKR)
March 30, 2004

SCHOOLS IN MARTAKERT RESTORED

During the war of Artsakh, in Martakert which became the target of
enemy bombs the school buildings were also damaged greatly. As a
result of the temporary retreat of the Defence Army some of the school
buildings were either ruined or turned into barracks. After the
liberation of Martakert and signing of the cease-fire serious and
consistent efforts were required to restore the damaged and ruined
schools. In this reference in 1994-1995 the operation of the schools
number 1 and 2 needing capital reconstruction and furniture was a
heroic step. And despite the great number of problems the both schools
in the academic year 1994-1995 opened their doors for the pupils. The
school number 1 of the regional center of Martakert bearing the name
of azatamartik Vladimir Balayan on September 1, 1994 could admit 300
pupils; before the war 1600 pupils attended this school and 160
teachers worked there. According to Lydia Petrossian, the director of
the school since 1994, repair works of the school started in 2000. In
about 2 years the French charity “Mission Childhood” repaired the
building of the school. In September of 1994 the number of the pupils
was 204; at the end of the year the number of pupils increased to
300. As a result of move of the families of military officers and
outflow of the population in 1994-2004 the number of the pupils
dropped from 420 to 378. Today 47 teachers work in this school. The
school has 2 male teachers, there is need for more men
teachers. Before the war the school had a Russian department. Since
1995 the Russian department has had 7 classes, and in the academic
year 2003-2004 it will give its last graduates. The school N1 of the
regional center is sponsored by Armenian benefactor, the chairman of
the Toronto body of the All-Armenian Foundation “Hayastan” Mkrtich
Mkrtichian. He provided 6 computers to the school and promised to
furnish the computer study room. According to the director of the
school, one of the primary problems of the school is the Internet
connection. “As a personal donation M. Mkrtichian provided a car to
the school, and I am sure in case of applying to him with any urgent
problem we will not be refused help,” mentioned L. Petrossian,
emphasizing that the teachers of the school are interested in solving
the numerous problems of the school, be it problems with the socially
insecure pupils or organizational matters. The school regularly holds
cultural and sport events. In February of this year the school
celebrated the anniversary of azatamartik Vladimir Balayan. Here at
school there is a museum devoted to the memory of the azatamartiks
killed during the war in Artsakh. The school has a gallery, where
recently the pupils of the school have exhibited their works; part of
these works were bought by foreign benefactors. Lydia Petrossian said
this year 28 pupils of Martakert, of them sixteen from this school,
took part in the republic competitions in school subjects and achieved
considerable success. The school number 2 after Vardan Minassian in
the regional center Martakert, according to director Rafael
Petrossian, has 190 pupils and 20 teachers. The school was repaired by
the international organization “Catholic Aid Service”. Due to several
French charities computer study rooms were opened here with 8
computers. And the All-Armenian Foundation “Hayastan” provided the
school with furniture. According to Rafael Petrossian, on December 3
he met with the NKR minister of education, culture and sport Armen
Sarghissian and discussed the question of providing the school with
Internet. “I know that the government has an agreement with “Karabakh
Telecom” to provide the schools of the republic with free Internet
connection. We applied to the minister and he promised to help,
however, the solution of the problem is postponed for unknown
reasons,” mentioned the minister. Among the unsolved problems are
those of opening specialized laboratories and providing them with
necessary equipment (the school N1 has the same problem). The school
lacks teachers of English, singing and music. The only teacher of
English works in the other school too, and work overloading, according
to the director, may negatively affect the quality of her
work. According to Rafael Petrossian, the anticipations from the
reforms in the system of education are not many, whereas new and fresh
way of thinking lacks. According to him, retraining of teachers,
which was one of the best traditions of the Soviet years, is of urgent
need today. Nevertheless, despite many problems yet unsolved, the
school does not deviate from its mission. The teachers and pupils
organize different cultural and sport events, the pupils take part in
different competitions in school subjects. In other words, the school
lives with a lively routine.

NVARD OHANJANIAN