Romania-Armenian commerce and industry chamber established

March 19 2004


BUCHAREST, MARCH 19, ARMENPRESS: The Romanian-Armenian commerce
and industry chamber was established lately in Bucharest at the
initiative of Varuzhan Voskanian, the chairman of the local Armenian
Addressing the meeting Armenian ambassador to Romania, Yeghishe
Sarkisian, spoke about democratic and economic reforms in Armenia and
its achievements in offering a business friendly environment and
favorable legislation.
A local lawyer, Maria Udrian, member of the Armenian Union board,
was elected chairperson of Romania-Armenia commerce and industry

Yerkir to help resettle 80 families in Karabakh

March 19 2004


YEREVAN, MARCH 19, ARMENPRESS: Yerkir (Country) non-governmental
organization said today it has secured $400,000 in written pledges
from donors to organize resettlement of 80 Armenian families in
Nagorno Karabagh.
The organization’s declared goals are to promote resettlement of
Armenian families in Armenian frontier regions and in Karabagh and to
defend their rights, apart from maintenance of Armenian cultural and
architectural monuments in these regions. Proceeds for implementation
of these projects are raised mainly by Diaspora organizations.
Last year the organization carried out $200,000 worth projects
having resettled also two Armenian families in Karabagh.

“Cultural Genocide, Turkey” exhibition slated for late April

March 19 2004


YEREVAN, MARCH 19, ARMENPRESS: A photo exhibition of destructed
Armenian cultural and architectural monuments in the territory of
modern Turkey will open in Yerevan in late April, timed with the
89-th anniversary of the 1915 genocide. Titled “Cultural Genocide,
Turkey”, it will display photos depicting the current and previous
state of hundreds of Armenian monuments in Western Armenia (now
eastern Turkey).
Samvel Karapetian, chairman of a non-governmental organization
studying Armenian architectural monuments, says the exposition is to
show the policy of Turkey, wishing to stand side by side with
civilized EU countries, towards cultural values.

AGBU’s Commitment to Education: Placing the MEI in Context

55 East 59th Street, New York, NY 10022-1112
Phone (212) 319-6383
Fax (212) 319-6507
Email [email protected]

Tuesday, March 16, 2004



***NOTE: A PDF version of this text in English and Armenian is
available for download at ***

Education has and will continue to be an important program area for
AGBU. Throughout its 98-year history, AGBU has devoted much energy,
thought, and resources to establishing educational programs that meet
the needs of Armenians throughout the world. The emphasis and priority
given to education have been essential in addressing the
organization’s overall mission: To preserve and promote the Armenian
identity and heritage through educational, cultural and humanitarian
programs. Over many decades, AGBU’s pursuit of its educational mandate
has resulted in numerous projects tailored to the specific needs of
individual communities. Such initiatives-orphanages, schools,
scholarship programs, internship programs, study-travel programs and
the like-were established as a response to the demands of the time.

One of the major strengths of AGBU has been its ability to adapt with
each Armenian generation and to establish programs driven by evolving
concerns and requirements. Whereas the promotion and preservation of
the Armenian identity may, at certain times, be appropriately served
through the establishment of schools, at other times such goals may
require the implementation of alternative programs. Education must be
viewed in the broadest of terms, beyond academia, and as an activity
for all age groups.

As AGBU approaches its Centennial, AGBU’s leadership finds itself once
again striving to address the questions of how best to meet its
mission in education, given the complexities and diverse needs of
Armenians throughout the world. What may work in the Middle East is
not necessarily the right approach for Europe; what Armenians in South
America require may be different from what is needed in North
America. In recent years, AGBU leadership has begun reevaluating the
status of its worldwide education programs to determine how best to
address the increasing challenges faced in carrying forth the many
initiatives established during the past century. In particular, the
organization is conducting an extensive evaluation of its day schools,
located in eleven countries, to determine the extent to which they
address the priorities of Armenian youth today. AGBU is identifying
current efforts that have the greatest chances of success, where the
education provided meets high quality standards and where the
economics of the setting, as well as the local population, make the
schools truly viable institutions.

Unfortunately and with regret, certain AGBU schools-similar to many
other Armenian schools throughout the Diaspora-are confronted with
declining enrollments and increasing costs. This decline is caused by
a number of factors: the integration of new generations into the
larger mainstream settings of their countries; the attraction to local
public and private non-Armenian institutions; and the belief of many
young parents that a better future for their children will be secured
by enrollment in non-Armenian schools. While AGBU lauds the many
important contributions of its academic institutions over the years
and commends what has worked well in many settings, it has become
paramount for the organization to reexamine the extent to which the
schools today fulfill AGBU’s education mission. In so doing, it will
be better positioned to make informed decisions, supporting what works
well, improving what could work better, and finding alternative
solutions for what no longer works. Historical Perspective

To shape future directions for education, it is important to
understand and reflect on the historical accomplishments of
AGBU. Three distinct periods with very different needs can be

Following its inception in 1906, AGBU’s efforts in education were
directed toward the requirements of Armenians living under Ottoman
rule. AGBU focused on the provision of grants and subsidies to schools
and orphanages in support of Armenians in their homeland. From 1909 to
1914, the Central Board of Directors established no less than 40
schools in Armenian villages and towns in Eastern Anatolia. These were
precisely the types of educational initiatives that Armenians needed,
and AGBU stepped forward with appropriate responses.

The Armenian Genocide was to change everything. Between 1915-1921,
the young organization lost one of its most important
strongholds. Gone were all the schools, orphanages, teachers and
pupils. In one tragic stroke, a decade of efforts was
eradicated. Reflecting the needs of the time once again, AGBU was
forced to mobilize quickly and relocate its educational programs to
areas where large numbers of Armenian refugees had congregated.

In the immediate aftermath of the Genocide, AGBU, while making great
efforts to supply humanitarian assistance to refugees, continued on
its vital mission to provide educational programs. Schooling for
refugee children was organized, often under tents or in the open. As
these communities gradually settled, AGBU resumed its earlier practice
of providing grants for the creation of an educational
infrastructure. Within a few short years, Armenians in the Middle
East, specifically in Syria and Lebanon, were once again able to
provide their own education to their own children in their own
institutions. These responses were made possible by the continuing
degree of relative autonomy granted to distinct and highly cohesive
minority groups, such as Armenians, within these regions. With
integration into the larger society not a prime concern among these
communities, Armenians could focus on developing and maintaining ties
to their cultural roots through such programs. Based on this same
rationale, in 1926 Garabed and Krikor Melkonian entrusted AGBU with an
institution to serve as an orphanage in Nicosia, Cyprus: the Melkonian
Educational Institute. AGBU’s concentration on the Middle East
continued into post-war Soviet period. With Armenia and Eastern Europe
under Soviet occupation, the communities of the Middle East were
considered the hope and future of an Armenian nation. Unfortunately,
starting in the 1950s, political upheavals and ensuing instability in
this region prompted Armenians in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and
Iran to begin a new pattern of emigration. Once again, Armenians
sought refuge and the opportunity to preserve their heritage. The new
immigrants found their way to existing communities outside the Middle
East, primarily in the United States, Canada and Australia. These new
destinations provided a completely different environment for
minorities: one which invited, if not required, assimilation to a
Western socio-political culture. Gone were the days of individual
communities distinct from the indigenous population.

AGBU once again recognized and carried out an appropriate means to
respond to the needs of Armenians in these Western communities. Over
the next 35 years, AGBU expanded its fully-accredited educational
institutions. Schools in North and South America, as well as in
Australia, were established with the primary goal of providing
education consistent with the standards of the respective local
communities, while offering curriculum to promote and perpetuate the
Armenian language, culture and history.

The continuous prevailing political instability in the Middle East
region and the attraction to Western culture encouraged the further
emigration of Armenians. Today, the Armenian population in the Middle
East, while continuing to fulfill an important national and
geopolitical role, has been reduced to less than 300,000 from its peak
of over a million. Over the years, the Armenian community in Cyprus
has also been affected, reduced to less than 3,000 as a consequence of
a wave of emigration, mainly to England. In addition, the fall of the
Soviet Union and the independence of Armenia led to a further movement
of immigration into the Western Diaspora and Russia.

With Armenian communities continually displaced throughout the past
century, AGBU has adapted its responses accordingly. As we enter the
21st Century and attempt to address an even more fluid and rapidly
changing social, political and technological climate, it is important
for AGBU to reassess the effective use of its resources, in terms of
both human and financial investments.

AGBU Educational Mission Today

Today, through specific endowments and general donations, AGBU
administers or financially supports 17 AGBU day schools, 7 AGBU
Saturday schools, 3 Children’s Centers in Armenia, the American
University of Armenia, Yerevan State University and 20 non-AGBU
Armenian day schools and Saturday schools. AGBU allocations and
grants for education in over 20 countries, including university and
college scholarships, total over $5,000,000 annually.

In the United States, the Los Angeles-based AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian
School, with an enrollment of over 950 students, runs a successful
operation on a financially self-supportive basis. It will soon benefit
from an expansion of its facilities as it seeks to serve a community
of over 500,000 Armenians. It is well recognized that greater Los
Angeles has become the most densely populated Armenian community in
the Western Diaspora and AGBU, as well as other Armenian institutions,
will appropriately devote further efforts and resources there.
Similarly, in the Detroit area, the AGBU Alex and Marie Manoogian
School (now a Charter school) has more than doubled its population to
about 375 students, and through its academic success has become a
school of choice to many parents.

In Syria, the AGBU Lazar Najarian-Calouste Gulbenkian School in Aleppo
serves about 1,600 students, accommodating a large and stable
community. Through a generous donation from the Calouste Gulbenkian
Foundation, the school recently expanded its premises to accommodate
the growing number of students who will benefit from the modern
facilities. AGBU will continue to support institutions that remain an
essential part of our heritage in selected communities.

The Lebanese and Iranian communities that have suffered from their
respective civil wars in the late 1970s and 1980s remain,
nevertheless, strongholds of Armenian life. Therefore, AGBU shall
carry on addressing the needs of its schools in these areas, but at
the same time, will examine ways to maximize the efficiency of such
operations, in light of new enrollment patterns and local conditions.

AGBU recognizes the important role of its schools in Canada and South
America and will continue monitoring closely the evolution and
development of these institutions. The Montreal, Buenos Aires and
Montevideo schools, with large numbers of students and active efforts
from the local communities, continue to receive AGBU’s support. They
will be afforded opportunities to prosper.

It is important to note that AGBU will also continue to give serious
consideration to low enrollment levels and high deficits as one of the
determinants of the long-term viability of its schools, particularly
if such institutions no longer fulfill the missions for which they
were established. AGBU believes that any elementary school with a
population of less than 120 cannot easily meet required academic and
pedagogical standards of quality education, which remain a primary
prerequisite for our support. For example, serious consideration
should be given to AGBU’s school in Athens, where enrollment for the
present year consists of 64 students, including its kindergarten, with
a current deficit of about $275,000. Likewise, our school in Sydney,
operating with about 35 students, is of serious concern to us, and we
need to consider alternative programs that could well achieve better
results for the benefit of the community at large.

We believe that some of these efforts can evolve with the assistance
of local AGBU committees, thus creating alternative and more
responsive programs, such as Saturday schools, summer camps, trips to
Armenia, internship programs and Young Professional
groups. Opportunities to merge Armenian schools in some communities
should also be explored, our priority being the survival of Armenian
education rather than the short-sighted promotion of any given
school. In so doing, our members will apply their human and financial
resources toward more productive and rewarding activities. In all
likelihood, some communities can benefit more from the development of
new programs aimed at serving a far larger population.

As for other AGBU schools not specifically mentioned above, we will
continue to do our best to resolve their challenges and issues with
the hope of a brighter future.

The Melkonian Educational Institute

At the noble initiative of the Melkonian brothers, AGBU undertook the
responsibility of MEI as one of its major responses to the
Genocide. MEI’s institutional goal was to educate and care for the
needs of orphans of the Genocide. Over the past 77 years, however, MEI
has passed through several stages of development. A review of MEI’s
history helps us to better understand its exemplary contributions in
the past, as well as the difficult challenges it has faced in recent

Stages of Development

1926 through the 1960s: An Evolving Role and Purpose

During its earliest years and in consort with the Melkonian brothers’
vision, MEI met extraordinary humanitarian goals by providing refuge
to thousands of orphans left destitute on the plains of the Ottoman
Empire. As the years progressed, the Central Board of AGBU,
recognizing the difficult conditions facing Armenians who were
resettling throughout the Middle East, proceeded to expand Melkonian
from a refuge for orphans to an accredited educational institution. As
Armenians in the Middle East became more established in their
communities, MEI became focused on preparing and educating Armenian
youth who would assume leadership roles in their communities – those
who would excel in the arts, education, civic leadership and the
like. MEI prepared editors, novelists, writers, poets and teachers who
would return to their local communities to assume positions as staff
of Armenian newspapers and literary publications, as well as in
Armenian schools and other institutions in an attempt to further
develop and maintain a mainstream Armenian society within the Middle
Eastern communities. At this time, Armenian was actively spoken in
homes, at school and even at work. Armenians socialized within their
own communities and thus lived a life almost segregated from the local
non-Armenian population.

However, this wave of exclusive “Armenianism” began to change in the
1960’s when local Middle Eastern countries, which had acceded to
independence from foreign European powers less than 15 years earlier,
began taking charge and organizing themselves as national, mostly
Arab, states. This imposed a new, more integrated lifestyle for all
communities, including the Armenians. Furthermore, the establishment
of the National Baccalaureate Standards in many of those countries now
required every citizen to meet national standards for entry to local
institutions of higher education and made Arabic the basic primary
language of the national educational system. This created a new
dimension for the education of Armenian youth. Up to this time, the
Armenian population residing in these countries generally did not have
the opportunity, nor did they make an effort, to learn the local
language. Consequently, enhanced educational opportunities were made
available to Armenian students in the Diaspora. Many families chose
local elementary and secondary schools as they sought to provide their
children with the skills needed to excel in their adoptive
communities. Others still chose to move to the West seeking better
options and new lives. As a result, the number of students that MEI
was able to attract from the Middle East diminished significantly,
thereby leading the institution to its third stage of service.

The 1970s and the 1980s: Decades of Transition

In the mid-1970s, MEI experienced increasing difficulty in attracting
students and in balancing constant deficits. This was due primarily to
a vast decline of the population of potential students hailing from
the Middle East (formerly the largest student pool) and Greece. As
such, the Central Board of AGBU seriously considered and resolved in
1975 to discontinue the institution.

However, with serious commitments from MEI Alumni and MEI’s local
school Board, the Central Board opted to give MEI another chance and
reached an understanding with local management to establish a new
trial period. Under these terms, the school would have to attract
students in appropriate numbers, provide a high quality education, and
maintain an acceptable level of operational deficit.

While the overall pattern of emigration from the Middle East and
subsequently away from MEI continued, MEI was given a brief respite
during the Lebanese Civil War and the Iranian Revolution. Families
who, for one reason or another, remained in the region opted to send
their children temporarily to MEI in order to spare them the hardships
of war. In the fall of 1980, for example, 108 children from Lebanon
and Iran were enrolled at MEI (78 from Lebanon and 30 from
Iran). However, this surge in enrollment was short lived (presently
only 40 students from both countries are enrolled in the school). In
other words, if not for the Lebanese civil war and the turbulence in
Iran, MEI would not have had sufficient enrollment to warrant its
existence as a viable institution in the late 1970s.

Despite the fact that the commitments made earlier by the alumni and
School Board were not realized and in order to give MEI one more
chance to prosper, the Board set aside its concerns again in order to
continue offering a residential-based educational setting. In fact, at
this time, in the mid-1980s, the Board took further steps and
attempted to make MEI as attractive as possible by expanding the
boarding facilities of the school, adding two modern buildings with a
capacity to lodge 350-400 students. The aim of the Central Board was
to provide MEI with the infrastructure to compete with Western schools
in order to attract a new generation of Armenian students whose
parents, particularly MEI alumni, had settled in the West.

At the close of the 1980s, MEI once again faced enrollment issues as
the conflict in Lebanon subsided, and the migration to the West
resumed. Within this context, it appeared unlikely that MEI would be
able to meet the Central Board’s earlier stipulated mandates, despite
substantial levels of scholarship aid extended to students. In fact,
MEI has been unable to attract more than 200 or so boarding students
after building those new facilities, a far cry from the anticipated
350-400 enrollment. In short, aspirations that Armenians who settled
in the West would send their children to MEI, or that alumni, who
lived primarily in Western countries, would support the school either
by enrolling their own children or grandchildren or by substantially
helping the school financially proved to be unrealistic and did not
materialize. Even with qualified and dedicated administrators at the
school, and the commitment and leadership of its successive school
boards over many years, MEI was not able to regain its earlier

The 1990s: Redefining MEI Once Again

Following the collapse of the USSR, MEI was introduced to a potential
new student pool that could rejuvenate its declining ranks. The
acceptance of students from Eastern Europe, however, brought with it a
significant demographic shift: the once homogenous and primarily
Middle Eastern student body, which shared a common history and
cultural base, now became one of unquestionable diversity. While this
diversity was celebrated, it also created issues difficult to overcome
for ensuring a homogenous education to all MEI students.

During the 1990s, MEI’s enrollment of students from Albania, Armenia,
Bulgaria, Rumania and Russia rose noticeably. In fact, throughout this
period, students from these countries represented a substantial
proportion of all enrollments. While AGBU remained enthusiastic about
this development, it also viewed it as an opportunity to evaluate the
long-term viability of this new student composition and to examine
MEI’s role within the new context of the Armenian world.

MEI Today: Student Body Demographics

In autumn 2003, MEI’s enrollment of 206 students, came from 16
countries and brought with them various backgrounds, culture and
language skills. Almost 10 percent of the current student body is
non-Armenian. The largest numbers of students come from Cyprus and
Armenia, followed by Iran and then Bulgaria, Lebanon and Greece. While
a number of students hail from Cyprus, it must be noted that the large
majority of Cypriot Armenian parents, in fact, have chosen to enroll
their children in non-Armenian institutions.

The Central Board believes strongly that over time, the post-Soviet
countries will reach their respective levels of maturity and integrate
with the customs of the Western world. The Armenians in Bulgaria,
Rumania and Russia will most likely follow the patterns of Armenians
of North America or France, rather than those of former generations in
the Middle East. Providing education for a few students will not
sufficiently serve the needs of these former Soviet era
communities. These societies will benefit more from alternative local
programs that AGBU should help initiate and develop.

In regard to students from Armenia seeking an education at MEI, who
today represent more than 20 percent of MEI’s student body, AGBU will
continue to support the educational system in Armenia in its efforts
to promote high quality education there and encourage those students
to pursue their secondary education in the homeland.

Furthermore, the number of students from Lebanon, already greatly
reduced compared to prior decades, will continue to diminish. AGBU
maintains three schools in Lebanon that satisfy the academic
requirements of the region at a far more reasonable cost, particularly
since in recent years, the aggregate population of these schools has
been reduced by more than 50 percent of their initial capacity. These
schools are prepared to educate the handful of current Melkonian
students from Lebanon.

MEI students from Cyprus are provided a government subsidy for
education tuition and do not require a boarding school setting. In
fact, the majority of students from Cyprus are currently enrolled as
day students at MEI. Certainly, these students are entitled to quality
primary and secondary education. There are three primary Armenian
schools in Cyprus and the Central Board is considering various
alternatives to secure creditable secondary education for these
Cypriot Armenians.

MEI Today: Financial Considerations

MEI’s continuing deficit levels have been taken into consideration,
but have not been the primary issue of concern throughout the
evaluation process. AGBU has, instead, focused its attention on MEI’s
recent educational performance and its current ability to fulfill a
role similar to that which it fulfilled through the late 1960s. If
MEI’s current structure provided exceptional opportunities to its
students as it had done in the past, substantial subsidization under
those circumstances would be warranted. Unfortunately, this is not the
case, in spite of the diligent efforts of committed School Board
members, the Principal and the teaching staff.

Most MEI students do not cover the costs of attending the school even
though, compared to similar institutions in the area, MEI requires a
relatively much lower financial commitment. In 2002, only 18 percent
of the MEI student body covered their costs in full, while more than
40 percent did not pay for any of the costs and another 40 percent
paid only a limited portion.

The Central Board has assessed carefully MEI’s fiscal requirements
since the 1990s. For illustration purposes, as we review MEI’s budget
for 2003-2004, some major patterns to consider include:

> Annual Operating Projected Budgeted Expenses are 1,107,200 CYP for a
total of 206 students, including 149 boarding students.

> Projected total income is 498,000 CYP, which is 45 percent of the
school’s operating costs (this includes the Cypriot Government
subsidy of 66,900 CYP, income from other AGBU scholarship funds of
42,000 CYP and tuition and fees from parents of 300,000 CYP).

> AGBU’s subsidy of 609,200 CYP supports 55 percent of the operating

It is clear from these figures that substantial external funds are
necessary to operate MEI. On average, AGBU provided a subsidy of
approximately $6,000 for each student in 2003-2004.

The Central Board has taken significant steps to assess carefully
MEI’s recent performance, the continued challenge of demographic
shifts and their affect on the make up of the student body, and
finally the financial burdens of the institution. The Board has
decided and strongly believes that the greater Armenian community as a
whole would benefit more from a reallocation of the Melkonian
Brothers’ gift in the fulfillment of its mission of the preservation
of the Armenian heritage. New projects, consistent with the vision of
the Melkonian Brothers and the mission of AGBU, will be established
both in and outside of Cyprus.

The Melkonian Brothers’ Donation

The Melkonian Brothers entrusted their resources to AGBU and therefore
the Central Board must and will honor the philanthropists by ensuring
appropriate allocation of these resources. Over the years, AGBU has
carried the great responsibility of managing over 900 permanent
endowment bequests and donations to its organization. It becomes the
fiduciary duty of the organization, through its governing body – the
Central Board – to ensure that the income from such endowments is
directed to its intended purposes, meets the mission of the
organization and adapts as necessary to address the evolving demands
of Armenians throughout the world. Over the past century, many donors
have placed their trust and confidence in AGBU to manage and direct
resources in the most prudent and beneficial way possible. AGBU’s
success in carrying out its mission in the future lies in its ability
to attract and maintain the trust of its donors. The organization
cannot and will not ignore the requests of its past donors, especially
the Melkonian Brothers who stand apart as great benefactors.

Perpetuating the Melkonian Brothers Memory

Garabed and Krikor Melkonian were extraordinary figures of their day,
possessing immeasurable foresight and philanthropic motivations on
behalf of their fellow Armenians. They remain amongst the grandest of
all benefactors of our people today. The Melkonian brothers entrusted
to AGBU the responsibility of managing and directing the proceeds of
their gift and donation toward programs that can be of the highest,
most noble and far reaching value to all Armenians. In addition to
their gift of the MEI property in 1926, Garabed Melkonian in 1930
named AGBU in his will as the sole executor and beneficiary of his
estate. AGBU, through its Central Board, assumed full responsibility
for protecting the value of their bequest by ensuring that appropriate
resources were directed to the perpetuation of our Armenian heritage
through the education and advancement of generations of young
Armenians to come.

AGBU reconfirms its long-held view that “education” is the most
valuable tool in maintaining and strengthening the Armenian presence
and identity. In our current environment, we must carefully examine
who we are trying to educate, in what cultural settings they reside,
and what it takes to build and strengthen ties to a rich and glorious
heritage. New realities create new challenges: the Armenian language
may be spoken less and less by our younger generation, yet the spirit
among our youth remains as strong as ever. We must encourage this new
generation in preserving and promoting the Armenian language and
heritage throughout the 21st Century. AGBU will also continue to
dedicate efforts to Armenians living in Armenia, as the new nation
requires considerable financial and moral support.

In assessing its educational mission, AGBU has realized that about 90
percent of young Armenians in the Diaspora are not enrolled in
Armenian schools. There are roughly 2.5 million Armenians in Diaspora
locations where AGBU is active-at least 400,000 or so are estimated to
be school-aged children. At best, we believe that only 10 percent are
enrolled in Armenian schools. Given this situation, AGBU must also
consider how to reach out to the remaining 90 percent of Armenian
youth not enrolled in Armenian schools. The Central Board strongly
believes the Melkonian Brothers would expect the AGBU leadership to
engage in such bold thinking so that its future programs would have a
significant effect on the entire Armenian community, similar to the
impact MEI had during its earlier years.

Alternative Initiatives

In addition to its existing educational and various other
groundbreaking programs, AGBU has already learned through its
experiences what it takes to attract and meet the aspirations of our
younger generation. Our Young Professionals network, summer internship
programs, summer camps, Saturday schools, evening Armenian language
classes, quality programs in the arts, lectures and publications in
foreign languages promoting the Armenian culture are making steady and
positive progress in captivating our young in unique ways. It is
essential for the advancement and evolution of Armenians in the
Diaspora to explore and establish more innovative programs throughout
the world. We must think globally and locally by creating mentoring
programs and infusing Armenian-based curriculum and extracurricular
activities in non-Armenian schools and universities. In these
fast-changing times, we must explore the great opportunities afforded
to us through modern technology, such as the Internet, and take
advantage of the vast possibilities available in Armenia such as
establishing study and travel programs for our Diasporan youth there.

While deliberating its difficult decision regarding the future of MEI,
the Central Board considered various alternative programs, designed to
reach out to a larger number of Armenians and further enhance the
purpose of the Melkonian Brothers’ gift.

The Central Board believes that one of the strongest approaches for
helping Armenians throughout the Diaspora maintain their identity and
heritage is through their relationship to Armenia. Maintaining the
Armenian language and traditions will continue to be a difficult task
as future generations become more dispersed and integrated with other
cultures. Despite these changes in our Diasporan community, Armenia
will remain the foundation bonding young Armenians to their heritage.

For example, the establishment of a large and prominent facility in
Armenia, to be known as the Melkonian Educational Center, can offer
programs for learning, enrichment and cultural identity to a large
number of young Armenians from around the world. Such a Center would
house modern facilities to accommodate hundreds of individuals at any
given time, thereby attracting our young generation in multitudes
throughout the year. By including state-of-the-art linguistics and
computer labs, offering extensive courses, and providing recreational
programs in Armenia, this Center could prove to be most beneficial in
the preservation of our heritage as it would reach out to a diverse
range of Armenians throughout the Diaspora, providing greater
immersion in the Armenian culture. This is one possibility that will
be given further serious and detailed consideration by the Central

Another option is to offer the Diaspora opportunities for education in
Armenia, such as study-abroad or exchange programs, for young
Armenians at the American University of Armenia, Yerevan State
University and other centers of higher learning.

In Cyprus, the Central Board is considering a Melkonian presence by
maintaining a Melkonian High School for the local resident community.
As well, the Central Board is exploring the establishment of a
Melkonian Center for Armenian Research and Studies.

As a token of gratitude and appreciation for the hospitality that MEI
has enjoyed for almost a century in Cyprus, other options may include
the initiation of a joint project in conjunction with local Cypriot
institutions, such as the University of Cyprus or other major European
academic institutions, for the establishment of a Center for European
& Ethnic Studies that would offer educational programs to all
Cypriots, including Armenians, under the banner of the Melkonian

Since the fall of the Soviet Union resulted in a large demographic
shift in the Diasporan Armenian movement, attention must be given to
the needs of Armenians in Russia and Northern and Eastern Europe at
this crucial time. AGBU has been called upon to meet these challenges
and the Central Board has deemed it essential to evaluate the need for
new educational programs and centers to preserve and perpetuate the
Armenian culture, language and history amongst those living in these

In order to pursue the feasibility and implementation of these various
alternative initiatives, the AGBU Central Board will soon appoint an
advisory committee to consider any and all suggestions that might be
submitted in this regard.

* * *

The decision of the Central Board regarding the future of MEI has been
a difficult one to reach. MEI has been a concern of the Central Board
throughout the past 30 years. The public should be assured that each
and every member who has served on the Central Board throughout this
time has struggled with this issue and is aware of the seriousness
with which we have approached the matter. We recognize fully the
concerns of many, but we expect that, in time, our decision will prove
to be the correct path for the benefit of the greater community in
pursuit of our goals to maintain and perpetuate our Armenian heritage
in a fast-changing new global society.

In closing, we would like to thank all our donors, loyal members and
supportive friends for their trust in the work of AGBU for nearly a
century. We are confident that our programs will continue to enrich
the lives of Armenians throughout the world.

AGBU Central Board of Directors
New York, NY

March 16, 2004

***NOTE: A PDF version of this text in English and Armenian is
available for download at ***

AAA: Armenia This Week – 03/19/2004

Friday, March 19, 2004

President Robert Kocharian this week criticized Armenia’s law-enforcement
bodies for not being “active and resolute” enough in fighting crime and
corruption. The criticism came as Kocharian appointed his close ally Aghvan
Hovsepian as Prosecutor-General, the position he held between 1998-99 before
being forced to resign by Kocharian’s political opponents. Kocharian said
that he expects the law-enforcement bodies to follow through in
investigating corrupt practice revealed by the Presidential Oversight

Earlier in the week, head of the Service Vahram Barseghian publicized
results of 2003 inspections, revealing abuse of office and misappropriations
of public property by the customs, transportation, justice and local
government officials. Barseghian particularly singled out the Mayor of
Gyumri Vartan Ghoukasian, who is accused of misappropriating apartments
built for earthquake victims. Ghoukasian, who was one of Kocharian’s key
backers in the last elections, is now facing potential criminal charges and,
if convicted, would be removed from the post. Already dismissed is head of
Armenia’s forest administration, also accused of corruption.

Last November, Armenia’s three-party coalition government adopted an
anti-corruption program and the officials have repeatedly pledged to fight
the problem. While organizations such as Transparency International have
noted some headway against corruption in Armenia during Kocharian’s first
term, much of the Armenian public remains skeptical.

According to a recent poll conducted by the U.S.-funded International
Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), a full 44 percent of 600 people
contacted in Yerevan, Vanadzor, Ararat and Goris never heard of the
government’s anti-corruption plan, while 74 percent were unaware of its
content. Half of those polled did not view the plan as confirmation of the
government’s intention to fight corruption. (Sources: Armenia This Week
10-25, 11-22-02; 6-27, 10-10, 11-7; Arminfo 3-3, 18; RFE/RL Armenia Report
3-12, 18; Noyan Tapan 3-19)

The central government of Georgia and authoritarian leadership of the
Ajarian autonomous republic this week came to the brink of armed conflict
before striking a new power-sharing deal. The standoff had immediate
repercussions throughout the region, with Ajaria’s Batumi port virtually
shut down for days and traffic rerouted through Georgia’s only other port of
Poti. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered a blockade of Ajaria
and both sides mobilized forces after Saakashvili and his security retinue
were barred from entering the republic by local police loyal to Ajarian
leader Aslan Abashidze. Saakashvili and Abashidze have been at loggerheads
for some time, and pro-Saakashvili forces in Ajaria have in recent months
intensified campaigning for Abashidze’s ouster.

While Armenian companies mostly use the port of Poti for their import and
export operations, Batumi’s long-term closure could have potentially
overloaded Poti leading to delays and price increases, especially on
gasoline. The Armenian government publicly urged both sides to settle their
differences peacefully earlier this week. In the meantime, Armenian
companies rerouted shipments of diesel fuel from Ukraine, while another ship
with Armenia-bound sugar was stranded in the port of Batumi.

In a deal described as a “temporary truce” by most observers, Abashidze
reportedly promised Saakashvili to stop pressuring opponents in the run-up
to parliamentary elections next week and share more of the profits from the
Batumi port and border crossing with Turkey. The deal came following intense
diplomatic pressure from Russia, Turkey and the United States to avoid an
armed confrontation.

Abashidze, who has ruled the ethnically Georgian and traditionally Muslim
Ajaria as his fiefdom for over a decade, has close relationships in both
Russia and Turkey. There is a Russian base in Ajaria and Turkish officials
have claimed that under Soviet-Turkish treaties Turkey has a right to
intervene in Ajaria (as well as Nakhichevan). But both Georgian officials
and most legal scholars deny that Turkey has any such right. (Sources:
; RFE/RL 3-15, 16; Interfax 3-15, 17; Arminfo 3-15, 17;
RFE/RL Armenia Report 3-16, 17; 3-18; Ekho 3-19)

A first major international sporting event concluded this week in
Stepanakert amid largely unsuccessful efforts by Azerbaijan to undermine it.
The Tigran Petrosian memorial tournament brought together some of the
strongest chess players from Armenia, Latvia, Georgia, Iran, Poland, Russia
and Switzerland. Petrosian, an Armenia native, was the world champion for
much of the 1960s, before being defeated by Boris Spassky. Spassky, now a
French national and retired from the game, was the guest of honor at the
Stepanakert tournament.

Chairman of the International Chess Federation, FIDE, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
sent a letter welcoming the competition as contributing to the “unique
Armenian chess culture.” One of the world’s strongest chess players, Garry
Kasparov, welcomed the selection of Stepanakert as the site for the
tournament as another confirmation that Karabakh has overcome the difficult
post-war legacy. Kasparov, who is an ethnic Armenian on his mother’s side,
was forced to flee anti-Armenian violence in his native Baku in 1990.

The Azerbaijani government put pressure on chess federations of
participating nationals to recall their players and judges, claiming that
their participation was “illegal.” Two players, a Georgian and Iranian were
forced to withdraw towards the end of the tournament, which Spassky
described as a “real chess holiday.”

In the end, Armenia’s Karen Asriyan narrowly won the hard-fought series with
six out of nine possible points. Bartlomiej Macieja of Poland was a close
second with 5.5 points and Gabriel Sargsian of Armenia was third with 5
points. (Sources: ; Azat Artsakh 3-8, 10; RFE/RL Armenia
Report 3-9; Turan 3-10; 3-12; Artsakh TV 3-18; Ekho 3-19; Noyan Tapan

122 C Street, N.W., Suite 350, Washington, D.C. 20001 (202) 393-3434 FAX
(202) 638-4904
E-Mail [email protected] WEB

Melkonian students threatened with expulsion

Melkonian students threatened with expulsion

Phileleftheros daily – Friday, March 18, 2004

By Christina Kyriakidou

NICOSIA – Melkonian students are facing the risk of being expelled,
according to Masis der Parthogh, the vice president of the school’s
Alumni Association.

In statements he made to this newspaper, Mr. der Parthogh argued that
officials of the Armenian General Benevolent Union based in New York,
have sent warning messages that they would expel any school children
who take part in any activities or demonstrations opposed to the
Melkonian’s closure.

The same students, however, seem fearless of any repercussions as
yesterday and the day before they stayed away from classes.
Furthermore, they are getting ready to take part in a large
demonstration on Wednesday organized by the Alumni and the Parents
Association. As said by the vice president of the Alumni, whose
daughter is also a student at the school, the children have lost their
will to attend classes, as they know that in fifteen months’ time,
their school will be shut down. He added, however, that the Armenian
community of Cyprus will not give up so easily and is resorting to use
every legal means possible to overturn the decision made by the AGBU a
few days ago.

Meanwhile, according to our information, the Alumni Association
recently sent a letter to the Presidential Palace, protesting the fact
that the agency that is handling the public relations for AGBU, has
strong ties to a leading political state official.

As reported earlier, the Union’s decision is to terminate the
Melkonian’s operations in June 2005, with the excuse that “the
educational institute no longer corresponds to the challenges within
the parameters of the present day mission of the Armenian people.”

Also, one of the rumoured scenarios is for the Boarding House to close
in June 2005 and the Melkonian to continue as a day school for
Armenian Cypriots. This will result in the student body dropping from
206 today to only 60 (as the remainder come from foreign countries and
until now reside in the boarding house). Based on the projections of
the community, the drastic reduction of the number of students will
lead to a final closure of the school and sale of the 125,000 sq.m. of
land that comprises this property.

(Translated from Greek)

OSS-Zvezda fails to get license for mobile services in Armenia

Prime-Tass English-language Business Newswire
March 18, 2004

OSS-Zvezda fails to get license for mobile services in Armenia

MOSCOW, Mar 18 (Prime-Tass) — Russian-Armenian telecommunications
joint venture OSS-Zvezda failed to receive a license from Armenia’s
Transport and Communications Ministry to provide GSM 1800 mobile
services in Armenia, the company’s information service told
Prime-Tass Thursday.

The ministry refused to provide the license to the company, saying
that another company, the Armenian Telephone Company is currently
licensed to provide mobile services in the country.

In spite of the ministry’s rejection, OSS-Zvezda plans to bid for a
license as well as to open its affiliates in the country acting under
local legislation.

The company’s total investments into its Armenian project are
estimated at 60 million euros.

The company also plans to build a mobile network to cover the
Caucasus Region, including Georgia, under the brand name Kavkazskaya
Zvezda (Caucasian Star). End

Zvezda to build cellular networks all over Transcaucasia

Agency WPS
March 19, 2004, Friday

Zvezda, a Russian-American-Armenian joint venture, is going to build
cellular networks all over Transcaucasia.

Zvezda has recently applied for a GSM-license for Armenia. It also
plans to obtain GSM licenses for two other Transcaucasian countries –
Georgia and Azerbaijan – and unite all networks under a single brand
Kavkazskaya Zvezda (Caucasian Star)

Russia’s Defense Ministry is among LanRusinvest’s major clients, and
until recently, the company used military communication channels in
exchange for the services provided to the Defense Ministry. Now
LanRusinvest leases telecommunication channels not only from Defense
Ministry and Voyentelecom, but also from civil operators Rostelecom
and TransTeleCom, according to V.Zatynaiko, Director General of

Waiting for the GSM license for Armenia, Zvezda began building an
IP-network there. It also plans to launch IP-telephony business in
Georgia and Azerbaijan. “That will allow us provide communication
services with Transcaucasian countries at low rates. Besides, people
living in these countries will have low rates for calls to Russia
through our network, says Zatynako. Zvezda plans to invest about 60
million euros into IP-telephony and GSM projects in Armenia.

According to General Director of Zvezda E.Akobyan, the company has
applied to Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania with a proposition
to build a unified mobile communications system, which would cover
Georgia and Armenia. Zvezda plans to invest the same amount of money
in Georgia as in Armenia and operate under the single brand name
Kavkazskaya Zvesda in three countries – Armenia, Georgia, and
Azerbaijan. Although the license for Armenia has not been granted
yet, and licenses for Georgia and Azerbaijan have not been even
applied for, Mr Akobyan already gives figures for GSM tariffs in
Svezda network. According to him, incoming and outgoing calls will
cost $0.15/min at $10 /month subscription charge.

Participants of the project do not disclose information about
shareholders’ stakes in Zvezda authorized capital stock. It is known
however, that there are several legal entities and natural persons
among Armenian participants of the project, and also representatives
of Armenian diaspora from the USA and Canada. Alcatel is named as the
most likely provider of GSM equipment for Zvezda networks.

There is only one GSM operator in Armenia so far – local
telecommunication giant ArmenTel, which was recently deprived of its
cellular service monopoly by the Armenian government. This move
enraged Greek operator OTE who had bought 90% shares of ArmenTel six
years ago. ATE filed a lawsuit in London arbitration court against
the decision of the Armenian government who had promised that
ArmenTel’s monopoly would continue for 15 years after the


Russia interested in removing terrorism from Caucasus

ITAR-TASS News Agency
March 19, 2004 Friday

Russia interested in removing terrorism from Caucasus

By Igor Shamshin


Russia is interested in the removal of elements of terrorism and
extremism from the Caucasus. It is closely watching the regional
developments and taking an active part in them. Russia wants the
Black Sea region and Transcaucasia to be a zone of prosperity,
Russian delegation head and Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov
said at an international conference “Development of Europe: New
Horizons” in Bratislava on Friday.

The positive example of regional associations, such as the Vyshegrad
Group and the Vilnius Ten, should be used in the development of the
Caucasian region, he said. The mechanism of interaction between
Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan has proven to be efficient.

The problem of international terrorism is global, Chizhov said. The
recent terrorist acts in the Moscow metro and Madrid have much in
common, both of them are targeted against democracy and humanity, he
said. The whole world must unite to combat terrorism. Russia and
Caucasian nations are cooperating in the anti-terrorist fight, the
diplomat said.

Vneshtorgbank managers to consider expansion in Belarus, Azerbaijan

RosBusinessConsulting Database
March 19, 2004 Friday 11:14 am, EST

Vneshtorgbank managers to consider expansion in Belarus and

Vneshtorgbank might be interested in affiliates in Belarus and
Azerbaijan, senior deputy president of the bank Alexey Akinshin told
RBC. According to him, the bank has elaborated on its regional
expansion program, which suggests expansion into the CIS and European
markets. Vneshtorgbank plans to become the sole shareholder in the
Armenian Armsberbank. Vneshtorgbank is also working to create a
Ukrainian subsidiary.

Earlier Vneshtorgbank top-managers reported that the talks were held
on the possible creation of Kazakhstani and Georgian subsidiaries. A
lot of western rivals are present on the Kazakhstani market now.

As for expansion in Europe, Akinshin said that Vneshtorgbank in
cooperation with the Central Bank of Russia is considering a buyout
of the Central Bank’s stake in OST-West Handelsbank (OWHB) and Donau
bank. Currently the Russian Central Bank owns 51.62 percent in OWHB
and Vneshtorgbank holds a 31.92 stake.

It is too soon to consider the buyout of Vneshtorgbank’s stakes in
Eurobank (Paris) and the Moscow Narodny Bank (London), Akinshin

Vneshtorgbank owns 53 percent in Luxembourg-based East-West United
Bank, 100 percent in Zurich-based Russische Kommerzial Bank, 32
percent in Frankfurt-based Ost-West Handelsbank, 100 percent in
Cyprus-based Russian Commercial Bank and 85 percent in Viennese