Yerevan Journal – April-May 2008
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During Shoghaken’s six-week winter tour of the US and Canada, it sometimes seemed we hadn’t left Armenia at all. I suppose this was partly because of the daily calls one or another Shoghaken member made or received, often about the then-upcoming election and then the follow-up protests and clashes in Yerevan and elsewhere. One call revealed an observer in Gyumri who said that Serge Sargsyan had come in third, behind Ter Petrosyan and Artur Baghdasaryan. . . . Our connection with Armenia was maintained also by our meetings, both planned and by chance, of Hayastantsi friends and relatives living in and near cities where Shoghaken had concerts. Although most longed to visit or return permanently to Armenia, there was the girl in Chicago who marveled at my moving to Armenia from the West. And there was the fellow who avoided his Hayastantsi friends in Shoghaken, until one of them said, “Aren’t you the same person whom we shared a drink with in Tsakhadzor that day . . .” when it turned out the reason of his reluctance to acknowledge anyone from Armenia was that his relatives in Armenia still thought he was in Europe somewhere, not knowing he had made it to the US, Wisconsin of all places. Another Hayastantsi originally from Charbakh complained about the Hayastantsis living in Glendale, saying very few were willing to work for their money, or at least be willing to conduct some sort of work or business that might take time to develop, wanting instead to make money instantly, showing their friends their BMWs and jewelery, even though often paying huge rent for some mediocre apartment. A pleasant meeting in Santa Barbara, turned out to be with a close relative of Mihran Tumajan, a student of Komitas who recorded songs from Pontus that Hasmik sang during the Shoghaken performances. All in all, our trip/tour was both successful and enjoyable, with good reactions by Armenian and non-Armenian audiences everywhere. As our return to Armenia is imminent, Yerevan Journal will resume soon after April 24 commemorations in Yerevan.
Our return trip to Yerevan took an interesting turn in London, returning by the British airline BMI. I won’t go into our problems with British Air, just to say that after our BMI flight, we won’t be using either airline again. Not only was the gate where we boarded off in a no-man’s land reserved for Central Asian and other flights, but seeing the water served in the airplane labeled “Azerbaijan” and Azeri music on the plane’s music system, not to mention an Azeri steward, we thought enough was enough. After receiving our suitcases, we headed home, almost immediately hearing about the policitcal situation in Armenia, namely the rumors, if they are that, about what the police did to people during the events in early March . . . beatings of already injured protesters, etc. But the truth behind these rumors is hard to certify. Apparently, though, two journalists, both quite well known and respected, recently announced on “Kentron” television that there was no way Serge Sargsyan won on the first round, as was announced. Be what it may, the mood of the people is one of uncertainty, stretching into the business world, where no one really knows what to do, to invest or not, etc. Time will tell. . . . Reaching home, we talked with relatives and opened our suitcases, while we watched the local news. Finally, we saw the new video featuring Sirusho and her song written especially for Eurovision. Realizing it’s a pop song, we still couldn’t help but notice the Arabic-style dancing she did, fine for Arabs but not what an Armenian should be doing, especially with the whole world watching. It would be nice, I thought, if for once Armenians didn’t blindly vote for someone just because they were Armenian, as this might force future contestants to not perform such songs. Wishful thinking. Playing with the remote, I came across Turks dancing a traditional sword dance, similar to one danced by Armenians, the only difference being Turks were doing theirs on television, with an offical political delegation present, while Armenians were promoting Sirusho. . . . Afterwards, we watched part of the two-year-old Vardan Petrosyan performance about the life of Komitas, in which he gave a memorable speech about Armenians and how they blindly trust foreigners, this time especially Europeans, saying that after the Lausanne meeting, each European delegation walked by the Armenians kind of shrugging their shoulders, while the Turks said to them, “For centuries we lived side by side. We always hated you, but respected your intelligence. That’s why we’re surprised you believed this blankety-blank Europe.” Now, another April 24, with Turks still denying, but holding their intentions to themselves, while their Azeri brothers pull no punches. Only the future will tell what comes of it all.
On the evening before April 24, all the way to midnight, “Armenia” had one of their tasteless comedy shows, which Armenia’s youth, and doubtlessly Armenian youth elsewhere, are eating up. One line had someone saying he had taken video with his cell phone camera of his grandmother taking a bath, afterwards putting it on the Internet. And Armenians, no doubt, will fail to protest such stupidity. A sad result of all this, and the music now being promoted in Armenia, will someday be a youth unwilling to take up arms for Armenia, should the need arise, as why should someone take up arms for a country with no culture, no morals? For now, though, Armenians haven’t all reached that stage, shown by the huge turnout on April 24, far more than previous years. Perhaps the silent movement going on here, beginning after falsifications of the presidential election, has helped move people in other positive directions. Also, on the 24th, at around three p.m., thousands had gathered on Northern Avenue, the meeting lasting for some time, till it was dispersed or participants went to Tsitsernakaberd. Word also has it that the daily silent protests are continuing on Northern Avenue, with some 200 gathering every day, with occasional arrests and videoing of those participating. At the first sanctioned demonstration, several days earlier, thousands gathered at Kirov Park, before being dispersed after their two hour time limit had been reached. Part of the throng then moved to Northern Avenue before finally completely dispersing. Also, a foreign ministry worker was fired after signing a petition stating the election results had been falsified. Obviously, the situation, although quiet, is far from settled.
“Snipers were placed on top of buildings,” the Yerevantsi said. “Without doubt, more than ten were killed that day. There were bodies in the morgues that they wouldn’t turn over to the families unless they signed that the person was killed in an acccident or had had a heart attack, this way keeping the official total low. It’s good that the US and Europe are putting some pressure on the rulers here, or there would be no hope. One thing, if the current president stays in power, for five years, Armenia will cease to exist. I think he’ll leave on his own, though, as he understands that there is a serious movement this time, not like in the past. All seems quiet and peaceful now, but that’s an illusion. I’m telling you, it would be better to have Attaturk in power than these people.”
As the freedom fighter put it: “This is the first time I wouldn’t blame someone for leaving Armenia. I might even take my family from here. But I’m going to wait, to see if the new authorities stay in power. If they do, for another five years, I’ll be forced to leave Armenia.” A manager at a restaurant continued: “For the first time, I’m thinking about leaving the country. The day after the killings I had to go to work, and my children were crying, saying ‘Don’t go to work, they’ll kill you too.’ There was nothing on television. We didn’t know what to do.” An HSBC worker echoed similar thoughts, saying several of his friends were now talking about leaving Armenia. “For now I’m staying,” he said. “But I won’t wait forever.” Another person, a professor, said she wasn’t worried about the political situation, saying things would somehow correct themselves. “On the other hand,” she said, “I’m worried about what they’re doing to the environment. In Lori, they’ve cut 475,000 square meters of forest, and given the remaining 50,000 to villagers to take care of. And, they’re talking about opening the uranium mines in Zangezur, the same mines the Soviets declared too dangerous to exploit, and then shut down. What that would mean to the environment, not only in Zangezur but all of Armenia, is disastrous beyond words.”
A trip to a furniture maker to buy chairs turned into another lesson about the new tax laws and how they’re affecting average businessmen, small and large. “When we sell our last chairs and tables, we’re going to close down, maybe permanently. The new laws are bad. At a time when the authorities should be encouraging business, they’re doing just the opposite. Who is this clan working for? Not for Armenia or Armenians, that’s for sure. In a year, we might be living in Russia, working there. Sad, but if we’re forced to do this, we will.” Concerning culture, while listening to 106.5 radio, a station doing the work National Radio should be doing, presenting music ranging from Komitas to old recordings of Akunk and Maratuk to Ophelia Hambartsumyan, Glakho, and Raffi Hovhannisyan to modern groups such as Shoghaken, a quite interesting recording was presented of Islamicized Armenians living in Turkey singing “Hambartsman Yerkushabti,” a humorous song still sung in Armenia by traditional folk groups. The singers sang in Armenian, backed by clarinet and dhol, adding a little Turkish mugham, but maintaining an authentic sound somewhat hard to find even in current Armenia. The subject of Armenians living in Turkey, Islamicized or not, was then discussed, with the number of Armenians said to be in the hundreds of thousands.
On the subject of Islamicized Armenians in Turkey, Turkish television repeated a show filmed in Ordu several years ago in which several men danced to kyamani and dhol with a renovated Armenian church in the background. The men were likely Hamshen Armenians, although the slight possibility exists they were Pontic Greeks. Ordu is a city and province near the Black Sea, where some Hamshen Armenians still live. The dance the men were performing was quite similar to what Hamshen Armenians dance in the Crimea and in Armenia. While watching the show, I was reminded of what Writer’s Union president Levon Ananyan said on a morning talk show on National Television this week, saying he was disgusted that Armenian television was propagandizing mainly soap operas and shows, or music competitions featuring Armenia’s stars. Amusingly, the hostess of the program was none other than Nazeli, who is involved in nearly every one of the shows Ananyan was referring to, not to mention movies sponsored and produced by National Television. In any event, Ananyan went on to say that Armenians, not wanting to miss out on the soap opera fad, and refusing to rise above it all, have started to produce their own soaps, most of them featuring hoodlums known in Armenia as “goghakan.” Sad, I thought, that while Turks are out filming such things as Hamshenis doing their traditional dances, Armenians are producing soap operas.
On the lighter side, if one can call it that, a friend purchased an expensive Fifth Avenue perfume from the Duty Free section of the Armenian airport, only to find out at home that it was a fake. Also, rumor has it that before the airplane from Europe lands, Armenians remove the expensive vodka, Finlandia for instance, and replace it with cheap vodka, then sell it at Duty Free. The latter is only a rumor, yet with the Fifth Avenue experience, who knows. On the subject of Arshile Gorky, now that plans for celebrating the anniversary of his birthday are underway, a television show here refuted the common belief that he committed suicide, saying that if he did, it was due to unbearable pain caused by a car crash set up by his wife and her sister. According to the show, when his non-Armenian wife found out he was going to gift all his paintings to Armenia, thus realizing she would lose out on future sales, etc., she set up a car crash in which the side of the car Gorky was sitting was smashed into by another car, with the wife emerging without a scratch.
Today’s activities began with a meeting in the Cinema House with Ruben Gevorgyants, Davit Mouradyan, of the Writer’s Union, and Grisha Harutyunyan, in connection with a new film being produced about William Saroyan. The film promises to be different, not merely about the writer’s life and works but about the writer himself, his family, his relatives, in other words, all of what made him what he was. Hopefully this and other works being created on the occasion of the writer’s 100th birthday are worthy of Saroyan, whom I knew both as a relative and as a writer. Leaving the building, I ran into Movses, of the Malyan Theater, who led me into a room where other Malyan actors were meeting, leading to an hour of reminiscing about our first meeting at the Armenia Festival in France in 2000 to several Shoghaken people traveling to Paris with the Malyan actors early last year, as well as about the recent Shoghaken tour in the US. After agreeing to meet again during the Saroyan year festivities, I left and went to the sixteen-story Press House, where I met with an old friend who produces various computer software and DVD and Internet materials. We began talking about the Karabagh situation, and how Seyran Ohanyan, the new Defense Minister, had been on television talking about how Armenian armed forces are guarding the border in northeast Armenia in the Tavoush province. I remembered how farmers there had told me how Azeri tanks had crossed into Shamshadin during the Karabagh war, and how they had somehow repelled the attacks, thus protecting Armenia from eventual doom. I also remembered walking through fields in Shamshadin that I knew were within range of Azeri soldiers in their trenches along the border. I then told my friend how a large number of Armenians from the US had planned to take part in a bike-a-thon in Armenia this year, but backed out after hearing about the events of early March. “Sad,” he said, “that Armenians from the Diaspora only come here if all is peaceful and nice, while they expect us to do the dirty work, the fighting, whatever is needed, when times get tough. I wonder about these Armenians, who might help with their pocketbook, which is nice, but keep their distance when the going gets tough. Just think what strength we’d have if our foreign brothers joined us in good times and bad.”
A truck driver told us he had applied for a tourist visa several times in recent months, and plans to continue until he can join his relatives in Los Angeles. The reason, he said, was the killings on March 1, not to mention the resulting bad business climate here. A worker who helped us with a few new items we bought for our house said pretty much the same thing. A store owner said he notices the tension in people’s faces. “None of us are free of it,” he said. “Anybody normal here is living in stress. Yet, I pity those without patience, who plan on leaving the country. These people, who are running the country, won’t stay in power. They’re here today, gone tomorrow. They have no tie to anything Armenian, our land, our water, our people, nothing. I don’t know if they’ll leave on their own, or be run off. I just know they won’t be here forever. We’re here to stay; they’re not.” Another friend, once an official in one of the ministries, said he resigned to save his conscience. “I couldn’t be part of this system any longer,” he said. “Everything you hear about March 1 is true. I was here. Were there snipers on top of buildings? Of course. Did they give different reasons of death to some killed that day, so the numbers wouldn’t be too high? Definitely. They attacked people while they slept that morning. Innocent people who had done nothing. And our so-called stars. One said, ‘Anybody that was there deserved what they got. They shouldn’t have been there.’ And I was there one day with several cultural figures, the minister, and others, watching as thousands marched passed a certain street. One of our movie people said, ‘Only five thousand have passed.’ Then, ten minutes later, with people still marching by, he said the same thing. We all knew a hundred thousand had walked by. He then shocked us all by saying, ‘They should all be mowed down.’ Later, after they opened fire, at a spot near the St. Sargis church, locals took in several of the wounded. Would you believe it, the next day security people knocked on doors asking who had taken in these wounded people. Even Turks didn’t do that during the massacres. These people are Fascists. What can I say?”
Victory Day passed with the usual fanfare in Yerevan, with concerts and speeches as well as plenty of television shows honoring participants in both the Great Patriotic War, as it’s called here, and the Karabagh war, especially those who participated in the liberation of Shushi. On the morning news, it was announced that some twenty war veterans who had lost limbs, etc., during the Karabagh war were receiving new automobiles. Those who received automobiles were all Karabaghtsis, living in Karabagh. The reaction by some here was that it would have been nice if some of the recipients had been Hayastantsis, as plenty here who fought in the war ended up in the same condition, with many living, or barely living, from hand to mouth. Not that the Karabaghtsis weren’t brave, they say, they just don’t appreciate being forgotten for their deeds, with only Karabaghtsis remembered and honored. . . . In the evening, we were invited by a participant of the Shushi victory for khorovadz, which he made in his well planned fireplace. After discussing various happenings during the war and at Shushi, he talked about how sad it was that the leaders here, who are from Karabagh, lost a great chance at uniting Hayastantsis and Karabaghtsis due to their bad governing and favoritism. “Several Karabaghtsis have told me they no longer like Kocharian or Sargsyan. They say the reason Hayastantsis don’t like Karabaghtisis is because of these two, that if they had run the country normally, the anti-Karabaghtsi sentiment wouldn’t exist.” From his house, we went to an apartment where a painter both works and lives. As I hadn’t seen this painter’s works, I was in shock on entering his studio. There, I saw portraits that, if they didn’t reach those of Rembrandt, weren’t far off. “This is of me, ten years ago,” he said. “Here’s another, of an Englishman. Here is Komitas, and Mashtots. The woman in this picture is a Yerevantsi. She is very good on the violin. She wanted to have a concert here, at the opera house, but they wouldn’t let her. When she told them that if Sirusho wanted to have a concert, they’d never say no, they were silent. This other picture is of another violinist, also excellent, but now living in Europe, and doing quite well there. They wouldn’t let her into the symphony here. I guess she didn’t know the right people.” The painter then went on to tell us that he had planned and made arrangements for an exhibition of his paintings, at the Painter’s Union, but at the last minute, after a year of planning, they called and said his name had been taken off the list of those having exhibitions. I knew a certain sort of cultural mafia controls the music scene here, but didn’t know it reached other branches of culture.
As the weather was unseasonably cool, and my visiting brother and nephew had never eaten khash, we broke tradition and served this unique Armenian breakfast in the month of May. Unlike many from the West, they immediately approved, loading their bowls with garlic, salt, and dried lavash for first and second helpings. Along with a little tuti arak, we and an aunt and sister enjoyed this Eastern delight. Afterwards, we were drawn to two of the country’s most important museums, the history museum and Genocide Memorial and Museum. I watched as my nephew, in Armenia for the first time, viewed the large pictures of Armenians in Sivas, Moush, and Bitlis, the homes of his great-grandparents, before the Genocide. We went on to see the endless array of photographs of starving, hanged, burned, and headless corpses of our ancestors, along with countless eye witnesses who often wrote that they couldn’t write on paper what they really saw. My nephew wondered how the Turks could deny these atrocities and that a Genocide happened, and I explained as best I could how some of the denial is due to pure political reasons, and others deny due to ignorance, chauvinism, and similar reasons. . . . Our trip through Armenia then continued outside Yerevan, to the miraculous Hovhannavank and Saghmosavank. After buying goat cheese and sujukh from a friend who lives by the monastery, we walked through the churches and around the back, overlooking the famous Kasakh River canyon. To the north, college students were sitting on large rocks and sketching or painting the monastery, with the river canyon and Massis to the left, a scene nothing short of paradise. From there, we drove to Saghmosavank, where we visited our friends who live next to the monastery, drinking coffee before picking bags of both pipert and yeghinj, plants that used to grow wild in our vineyard near Fresno. Later, in Yerevan, they would be cooked into soup, both for breakfast and supper. Inside Saghmosavank, we lit candles and walked through the gavit and two churches, while Hasmik’s voice echoed with “Ankanim Araji Ko” by Mashtots. Later, after wandering along the edge of the canyon, we headed back towards Yerevan. Nearing Ashtarak, our driver pointed in the direction of the well known restaurant Ashtaraki Dzor. “Did you know,” he said, “that they now have devices in there to listen to people’s conversations? And not only there. Anywhere where people of note, usually with money, start to gather, the government wants to know what’s being said. In Soviet times, this was common. We thought it was a thing of the past. But it’s becoming widespread again. We all have to be careful.” Noticing the driver’s accent, I asked where he was from. “Mardakert. Near Talish, in the north. The Turks have our village. It was paradise. We had the best fruit, nature, the best arak, everything. . . .” I asked him what, as a Karabaghtsi, he thought of the Karabaghtsis running the government. “Don’t ask,” he said. “I was never embarrassed to call myself a Karabaghtsi. Now, I don’t bring it up.”
“And yet,” the Karabaghtsi taxi driver said, “I’d be there in a second if trouble started. I might not like our leaders, who are from my homeland of Karabagh, but what does that have to do with anything? Our nature, our people, I can’t forget anything. My father said that we always have to be ready to fight the Turks. In the 1960s, they took our village, burned everything. Our people went into the mountains. When the time was right, we went down and taught them a lesson. We rebuilt our village. Now, the Turks have our village again. If they think they’re going to keep it, they’re wrong. If they think we’re going to give back any of the territories, they’re wrong. Are they forgetting we were ready to take back everything till the Kur River, and all the way to Baku? Nothing will help them, and they know it. That’s way they’re trying to use the UN and anything they can. If we fight them, they’re finished.”
A trip to Echmiadzin was delayed due to the commemoration of William Saroyan’s death, with a gathering organized by the Culture Ministry at Saroyan’s burial place in the Pantheon. Arriving, ceremonies had just begun, with the director of the William Saroyan Elementary School in Ajapnyak introducing several students who then recited several of the author’s well known quotes. Young students recited Saroyan’s earlier quotes, with older students reciting his later words. Possibly most interesting was a young student whose name was actually William Saroyan. After several photographs with the students and us, as Saroyan’s relatives, we left, walking towards the city center. Passing the Justice Ministry, we noticed what appeared to be a political demonstration. A friend was standing at a distance, taking it all in. “What it seems they’re doing is changing the charge from political to criminal, for those they imprisoned for helping Ter Petrosyan. That way the Europeans won’t complain. As if the Europeans don’t know what’s going on, but what do they care?” Our journeys continued the next day with a trip to the monasteries of Sanahin and Haghbat. A couple of comments by a Britisher who traveled with us are worth noting. For one, as the Armenian driver played songs by pop singers trying to sing folk and patriotic songs, he said, “Why is it I can’t find anything truly national in this country? I’m tired of these pop singers, everywhere I turn.” Then, reaching Sanahin, he commented on the bushes growing out of the roof of the monastery, especially the main church. “I’m sure it wouldn’t cost much to clean that up. This is a disgrace. See where the roof is buckling? Even if removing the bushes caused further damage, it could be patched with no problem. Where is your church, your ministries, your government?” Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good answer.
Just before getting into our car on Komitas Blvd., someone sitting in a Niva who was obviously trying to get our attention started waving and honking his horn. “Vonc es,” he said, continuing by telling where he had just come from. “Several of us were just at North Avenue. If the authorities think we don’t have the staying power, they’re wrong. We’re in this till the end.” He paused, then took a more serious note. “First, I thought the Azeris were a force to be reckoned with. But, if they thought they could beat us, they would have started a war long ago. They’re like kids. They destroy our khachkars in Nakhichevan, where we don’t have soldiers, and shoot at us they hide in their trenches. Then they go and cry to the UN. If they didn’t have oil, nobody would listen to their lies. Now, though, we have to struggle against injustice from our own people, the leaders from Karabagh, and some Hayastantsis who are getting rich working with them. But, another thing, the smell of war is in the air. Gas and oil prices rising, food prices, everything, and for no real reason. I fear a bigger war, one we couldn’t handle. If Iran is attacked, our borders will be closed from four sides. The Georgians, who are in love with the Turks, would close the Armenian border immediately if a big war broke out. But we have to be optimistic, and hope it won’t happen. In the meantime, our struggle continues.”
A quite patriotic Armenian asked me if I thought there was any hope for Armenia. Before answering, she repeated what many here are saying. “If Serge stays in power until the next election, we have no hope. Several Armenian intellectuals, whom I know and respect, say the only salvation is to have Levon come back to power. I know that’s hard to swallow for many, but they say his current plan is the only way to go, that only he can clear out the Karabagh clan. I don’t want to say that all Karabaghtsis are bad . . . I’ve spent a lot of time in Karabagh and have met many good people, hard working people who would give their lives in a second for the homeland. But the clan running Armenia has to go. Look at what they’ve done to culture . . . ruined it, in just a few short years. They’ve made pop music, blended with Arabic and Turkish, our national music. Shoved it down our throats, with the help of National Television and ‘Armenia,’ which is even worse. Sirusho was a disgrace (kaytarak) in her performance, but they continue praising her. I guess they learned their lesson when Andre went to Eurovision and people here, serious people, were saying his song was something a Tartar would sing, then they sent their ‘stars’ everywhere saying we should all ‘stick together,’ and now no one has the right to question anything. Besides culture, they have their murderous friends running the country. One provincial governor is a known criminal, murderer, and he does what he wants. Not long ago he beat a youth, I think college age, who had had an argument with his son. There were eye witnesses. The youth almost died. The story reached the Prime Minister, which did no good, as the governor is still in power, doing what he wants. We’re lucky we have the ‘Heritage’ party in Parliament. They’re the only opposition we have. Dashnaktsutyun? Orinats Yerkir? Get serious. Their leaders run casinos and act like criminals when not on television giving speeches. . . . During the March events, Anahit Bakhshyan saved a lot of people from dying, warning them not to take part in the demonstrations, knowing the government was killing people. On the day of Serge’s inauguration, Heritage people, including Bakshyan, were visiting families who lost members on March 1, on their Karasunk. To me, it’s a surprise, how much Heritage people have done. The March events have shown that they’re the only ones in Parliament who care about the people, our country.”
Yesterday a Culture Ministry official called and invited us to an event at Sardarabad celebrating Armenian independence (May 28). The same caller rang today and said that, due to unstable weather, the event had been postponed. A friend who sings in a classical music choir called and said that there had been a bad accident during rehearsal in Sardarabad yesterday just before dark, saying that a sudden wind and rain storm had hit the area around Sardarabad, as it did in Yerevan, causing the stage lighting and technical equipment to come crashing down, badly injuring several dancers and a singer. The dancers were from the State Opera, as was the singer. It was thought that the singer, who plays the part of Mosi in Anush Opera, was in quite serious condition, with serious spinal injuries. Although the storm did come on quite suddenly, one wonders why those rehearsing weren’t immediately removed from the stage, but such details will apparently come later. Hay Lur revealed this evening that one of the dancers, Lusine Hakobyan, died from injuries, while the above-mentioned singer remains in critical condition. Hay Lur then switched to the Sassuntsi village of Ashnak, showing a walnut tree that winds had uprooted, as well as hail, which had accompanied the unusual late spring storms.
“The victory in Sardarabad was one of the three defining moments in Armenian history,” our guest said. “The others were the Battle of Avarayr, and the invention of the Armenian alphabet.” I told him I wasn’t sure about the first two, in spite of their obvious importance, yet the importance of Sardarabad goes without saying. Such began our May 28, toasting those who fought and gave their lives ninety years ago in the battles of Sardarabad and Bash Aparan. National Television featured old clips of a former Maratuk singer named Sahak singing patriotic songs and a documentary about General Dro and his activities before and during the first Armenian republic. Also on National Television, a historian told about General Andranik and his activities before finally leaving the homeland for Fresno. In Nakhichevan, in 1919, he said, General Andranik and his soldiers were ready to defend the area against inevitable Turkish incursions. His soldiers hungry, Andranik asked the Nakhichevan Armenians for money to buy weapons, and for food. The Nakhichevantsis answered by saying they wouldn’t have any problems with the Turks, thus refusing Andranik’s requests. Hungry, the soldiers left Nakhichevan. The massacres of Agulis and elsewhere followed. . . . During the course of the day, appropriately, I thought, a friend helped hang a picture of General Andranik in Fresno in 1920, with the Armenian Society of Moush, the picture including several of my grandmother’s uncles and cousins.
News from Turkey had a well known singer/musician revealing he was in fact Armenian. The musician said he had thought all along he was a Turk, and that his passport read simply that he was a Moslem Turk. His parents, he said, had just told him they were Armenian, having had lived in fear to reveal such news. The musician plans on changing his passport to state his Armenian Christian roots. Odd that in Armenia, on the other hand, people seem to be drawn to Turkish and Moslem culture in general, seen in the influence Turkish and other Moslem-based music has on currently produced Armenian music, most notably perhaps being Andre’s song in the Eurovision of two years ago, which many here were labeling as “Tartar,” and Sirusho’s Arabic-style song of this year. As an academician from the Academy of Science said, “None of this should be a surprise. We lived side by side with Arabs, Turks, and other Moslems for centuries. A lot of these cultures have become part of our own. Do you think today’s Armenian is the same as the Armenian of the fifth century? In culture, or in bloodline? We have turned from being a people with an advanced civilization to hardly better than barbarians. Look at our leaders. But are we better than our leaders? They say that a people is worthy of its leaders. You can take almost any given Armenian, be he Hayastantsi or Spyurkahay, and they’re the same. Give them the position and power, and they’ll do what Serge, Robert, and the others are doing. But never fear. We’ll be back, as a people, with an advanced culture. In spite of it all.”
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