Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kocharyan coming back???

Lragir reports that there may be a plan in place to remove Tigran Sargsyan as Prime Minister and replace him with RK via the ARF.
Why does the ARF think, or maybe have, the right to replace members of the government from within their own ranks, without due process? I've brought this very question up before in a very similar situation with the ARF...
Not only that, but they would bring back Kocharyan... I don't even know where to begin with that one, hence the accompanying Munch...

Just Another Brick in the Wall...

"“Haykakan Zhamanak” comments on Sarkisian’s threats to fire schoolteachers and university professors engaged in “political propaganda.” “Tigran Sarkisian thereby ordered the dismissal of schoolteachers and professors making no secret of their pro-opposition views,” “But if we theoretically assume that Tigran Sarkisian wants to do what he is ordering, that is a step directed against Serzh Sarkisian. The thing is that 99 percent of the school principals are members of pro-government parties and the Republican Party in particular. Most of them chair election commissions. They are the ones who mainly rig elections.” says the paper. [from the weekly news roundup on RFE/RL]

This is a nice twist - Sarkisian clearly is masking his threats towards pro-opposition attitudes by addressing all "political propaganda." HZh turns this around nicely, saying that if that were so, then a huge percentage of the principals would fired, as they are part of the authorities' machinery of corruption.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Next Demonstration IS Postponed

It looks like the Demonstration planned for September 5th may be moved to the 12th... I will update this post when I have new information.

UPDATE: The Demonstration has, in fact, been postponed until September 12. The Sit-in on Northern Avenue will also end on Aug 31, and will be walks from 7-10 pm.
Here is the announcement in Armenian: ՀԱՅՏԱՐԱՐՈՒԹՅՈՒՆ.

Briefly, the announcement notes that in light of the upcoming Armenia-Turkey Football game on September 6th, the government of the RoA has imposed further limitations on fundamental human rights. The announcement notes the importance of additional measures aimed at ensuring public order and security, especially with so many fans expected to pour into Armenia for the football match. Three main decisions are announced:

1. The 24h sit in on Northern Boulevard will end after Aug 31
2. The September 5 rally will be moved to September 12
3. The Sit in will be replaced by nightly "walks" from 7-10 pm

The announcement also encourages its supporters to refrain from nationalistic provocations.

I was worried for a minute...

This is a video from a1plusnews on YouTube. It shows a group of people, young and old, singing and dancing, chanting "HIMA." In a couple of segments you can see the police presence in the background - Thank god they were there, that group singing and dancing sure did seem like they could break out into violence at any minute...

Addendum: a1plus has an article which may explain what L. Zourabyan is discussing with the police - apparently the protesters are now forbidden from singing or otherwise making noise after 10pm, though, as the article rightly points out, Yerevan is far from quiet after 10pm.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What is the rally for?

Lragir reports that while the ARF rally/concert planned for September 1 has been turned down by city hall, it will be held on the 2nd in front of the Matenadaran. And, it is supposedly for the day of Freedom of Artsakh.

I thought this event was supposed to be in protest of Gul's coming. But Gul hasn't decided if he's coming. How do you plan a 'welcome party' if you don't know if your guest of honor is coming? Has the entire event transformed, or is this a separate event?

The ARF truly is the master of revisionist history. Despite the ARF's great claims, their true numbers of participation in the war in NK were quite small. NK fighters were given more supplies if they swore an oath to the ARF - that meant that if you did not take the oath, you could see, but were not given, the aid from the ARF... Not to mention that they lay claim to numerous true fighters, who were in fact not ARFers.

#65 - The Other Side of the World- N. Pashinyan

65. Ռուսաստանը` ժամանակից անդին

Վագոն-ռեստորանում սուրճի ընթացքում մեր խոսակցությունը շարունակվեց: Իմ վերջին դիտարկումը Պավելին, որքան էլ տարօրինակ է, կռվան տվեց:

The Other Side of the World - N. Pashinyan

65. Russia, Beyond Time

Our conversation continued in the restaurant wagon. My last comment to Pavel, as strange as it may seem, started a fight. He said that by bringing dead souls to the elections, he helped actualize, much like the heavenly host, that which would take place anyway. I didn’t understand what he had in mind, so he explained:

“It’s all the same. The winners of the election are those who’re supposed to win; so I help them achieve that victory without much of a fuss.”

“Excuse me, but the winners of the elections aren’t supposed to be those who somehow win without much of a fuss, but those who vote,” I said.

“Don’t tell me you’re talking about Democracy,” asked Pavel with a cynical smile on his face, but realizing that I wasn’t appreciating his cynicism, he added, “That is not possible in Russia.”

“And what is not possible?” I asked for clarification.

“Democracy, free elections and things like that.”

“The interesting thing is that they say the same things at all falsified elections, that free elections are not possible in their country,” I said, upset.

“I don’t know how it is in other countries, but in Russia that really is not possible; believe me and understand it.”

“Explain it to me, and I’ll try to understand.”

Pavel began to explain.

“To establish freedom and democracy in Russia would mean to destroy the state,” he said.

“But how is it that other democratic states are not destroyed?” I asked, naively.

“Can you show me any multi-national state with a population that has a firm national identity and is democratic? There can’t be such a state, because Democracy and freedom propel them toward independence, toward the creation of an independent state. The most outstanding example is Czechoslovakia. That country became truly democratic and free but then ceased to exist. The Slovaks aspired for independence and received it. They knew that no one would crush them under tanks for that objective.”

“Like you did with the Chechens.”

“Yes, we crushed them. But I think you yourself understand that in Groznyy it wasn’t the fate of Chechnya that was being decided, but Russia’s. If Chechnya got independence, the next in line would be Dagestan, then North Ossetia. But the important thing is that after the Chechens get their freedom from Russia, they, the people of Dagestan and North Ossetia will slaughter each other. This, by the way, is a matter of opinion, proven in other areas. Yeltsin tried the model of a free and democratic Russia but that which I have described to you had already begun. If we’re talking about democracy and freedom, it means we’re talking about the collapse of Russia. Democracy, if such a thing exists, can exist only in nation states. Let’s take, for example, yours and mine dear Yugoslavia. It has now become a small Serbia and can be democratic. But at that time it had no choice but to be cruel, just so it could survive. They couldn’t be cruel enough, and were destroyed. And Russian rule, if it wishes to keep Russia, should be harsh, as evidence by the fate of your native Serbia.”

“You know, there is truth in what you say, but even your own opinion testifies that what will happen some day is what you’re trying to avoid,” I pointed out.

“What do you mean?”

“What I mean is that if you justify the lack of freedom with the intention of suffocating the goals of people living in Russia, for freedom it means that those aspirations are there, that they are taken seriously, and that one day they will explode. If they haven’t been able to uproot those motivations for 200 years, they you should give up; and you should be prepared for a different scenario, so that at the end it doesn’t become a tragedy for you.”

“Well, my brother, do you know how many people have predicted the collapse of Russia? It’s a familiar tale that will never become a reality; Russia will always have enough power to protect itself and will find a way to protect itself,” said Pavel proudly.

“Don’t tell me your dead souls are included in your concept of protecting Russia,” I asked.

“That’s exactly what I’ve been explaining to you,” he said, surprised.

“You mean that you, by turning the citizens of your country into corpses, are protecting Russia? But isn’t Russia those very people whose voices you silence, to whom you deny their rights?”

“Well, look, you don’t know Russia. Russia is not civil. There are no men and citizens in Russia. In Russia there is a czar and the czar’s subjects who live in the czar’s vast realm, which is called Russia. Russia is the property of the czar and not of the nations or citizens. He who doesn’t want to live in Russia can go to the states. But no on can take from Russia the land that belongs to the czar.”

“Pavel Ivanovitch, tell me, like a brother, that you’re not serious.”

“I swear I’m serious. I’ll tell you a secret. The entire Russian elite, the Russian and not the Jewish-Masonic elite, thinks this way. We don’t expand on it, but you feel it instinctively.”

“Excuse me, but it seems to me that we’re talking about a medieval feudal lord,” I said, troubled.”

“Don’t be offended, but I’ll tell you that time does not exist in Russia; the Middle Ages, the 20th century, the 21st century—those are all worthless things. Russia is always the same regardless of the century, and this is our ‘Tserjava’ charm, my brother. Russia is beyond time and all predictions about its collapse have failed. Do you know why? Because for those predictions to come true, you need time, and time has no effect on Russia. Russia is above time, time does not exist in Russia.”

Pavel Ivanovitch’s thoughts, his smug expression were making me furious. I was constantly looking for some way to counter argue. Finally, I exploded:

“That’s why you not only control your own citizens, but you help enslave other people and assist murdering martinets,” I said.

“Who do you have in mind?” he asked.

I didn’t want to say Armenia, and mentioned Central Asia, Belarus.

“Just between us, they’re also in Russia. But if you look at them as independent states, well, okay. In those countries our policies are equally simple and understandable. First of all, like I said, freedom and democracy are fatally infectious diseases for Russia and we can’t allow for that infection to spread near our borders. Also, the countries you mentioned got their independence from us, didn’t they? Now we should do everything to make sure that their independence fails, that it becomes a tragedy for them so that they set an example for the others in Russia, who will see that the thing called independence is just a headache. Oh, by the way, the more despots there are in the world, the safer the world will be for Russia. So, this is the whole secret.”

I couldn’t argue with Pavel about this topic because he was talking about Russia’s interests, about Russia’s point of view. I wasn’t the one who would explain Russia’s interests to him. On the other hand, however, I explained my own point of view to him in detail:

“I don’t know how many nations and peoples your policies are destroying, but I have no doubt that it is also destroying Russia,” I said.

Pavel, needless to say, laughed at my opinion. But this conversation served its purpose. We made up. More to the point, I couldn’t actualize my decision to boycott him.

Some time after this conversation, the Russians were fighting for the rights of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to gain independence from Georgia. In reality, the purpose of that war was to make Abkhazia and South Ossetia subjects of the Russian Federation. I thought it was so absurd that the Russians called the Georgian operations in South Ossetia’s capital, Tskhinvali, a humanitarian tragedy. By comparison to what the Russians did in Groznyy, Tskhinvali was a light movie for teenagers.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

# 64- The Other Side of the World - Pashinyan

64. ամբոխները խելագարված

Երբ աչքերս բացեցի, Պավել Իվանիչը էլի նստած էր կուպեի նեղ սեղանի մոտ եւ ուռած աչքերով նայում էր իր առաջ դրած խոշոր բաժակին:

The other side of the world
- N Pashinyan

64. The Mobs Gone Wild

When I opened my eyes, Pavel Ivanich was sitting again by the narrow table of the cabin and with his eyes swollen; he was looking at the large glass before him. He was looking in such a way that I couldn’t decided whether he considered that glass his friend or his enemy. Maybe that’s how they looked at women they loved, the ones they suspected of adultery. In the same way, it wasn’t clear if the glass was a friend or an enemy. This time he didn’t offer me any, and downed the contents of the glass with the expression of someone climbing Golgotha, the cross on his shoulder. I kept witnessing the same scene periodically on the second day, and started to think that he was intentionally waiting for me to wake up. Maybe he needed an audience, maybe it helped when I watched him, or maybe he had to have a quick drink after waking up and head for the bathroom, so that I didn’t use it before he did. He came out of the bathroom all freshened up, shaven. I took a bath as well, but didn’t shave. And when I had dressed up, he said, with certainly, ‘let’s go.’ I realized that he was referring to getting some coffee, but didn’t say anything:

“Aren’t you coming to have coffee?”

“No,” I said.

“You’re not dinking coffee?”

“I will.”



“Later when?”

“Let’s say, in a half hour.”

“Okay, then, in a half hour,” said Pavel and sat down.

“You go ahead,” I advised him.

“I’m drinking coffee in half an hour,”

“I’m the one who’s drinking coffee in a half hour,” I answered, and realized that there was something adolescent in my behavior.

“So are you saying that it’s not when you’ll be having coffee but that you don’t want to drink it with me?”

“I’ve decided that I want to drink it alone.”

“If you have something to say, say it.”

“What should I say? You know what I mean. And then, what would be the use?”

“The meaning of what?”

“Saying anything to you.”

“Let’s say, listening.”

“Listening to what?” I didn’t understand him.

“That, which I will say in answer to you,” explained Pavel and asked, “are you judging me?”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

“And how do you know that I’m saying anything that should be judged?”

“You said it.”

“Very well. So, if you’re so honest, go ahead and tell me something from your own life and activities so that I may have the chance to judge you. I said things to you, I revealed things to you; you should do the same so we’ll be talking on the same level.”

I was quiet and said nothing. Pavel was patiently following my silence:

“Oh, sure, ‘blin’ you’re an angel. Why didn’t I notice it before?” he scorned and continued, “so, admit it, admit it, you’re an angel and I ask your forgiveness on bended knee. I only hope that your name is not Gabriel.”

“Listen, can you come for coffee?” I asked.

“I promise to come, if you promise to confess something from your life, so that I may have the chance to look down at you. I hope you won’t insist that there are no such things in your life.”

“So you’re a father confessor now, are you? Why should I confess anything to you?”

“Didn’t I confess to you?” Pavel was surprised.

“You didn’t confess. You were telling me things to shock me, so that I would admire you and think that you’re a tough guy.”

“Sure; and aren’t I powerful? I have a 10 thousand dollar watch on my wrist.”

“You’re a falsifier, my friend.”

“Yup, that’s true. And aren’t you a falsifier? You falsify in the way you can, and I falsify in my own way, in the way that I can. Forgery-Morgery. And hasn’t it ever occurred to you that honesty is a form of falsification?” asked Pavel.

“Ah, so now you’re a thinker. But I admit, I didn’t think that your kind is so wide-spread in the world. You know, I even agree with your idea that everyone falsifies. But you know that falsifiers are divided into two groups. The first group tries to overcome the forgery, to be free of the forgery they’re stuck with, and to struggle against it, meaning that you struggle against yourself. But the second tries to further enrich the soil for falsification. And do you know how it’s done? It’s done through the use of very simple and readily understandable sentences. It’s all the same, everyone falsifies; everyone will falsify, and nothing changes, all men are animals. Maybe it’s true; maybe all men are animals. But those who comment on that calmly and with smiling faces are simply struggling to keep their right to be animals, they’re simply trying to justify their animalism, and most importantly, not to be responsible for their being animals and turning others into animals. Do you see where the difference is? Both groups make mistakes and are guilty, and those are sometimes of equal weight. But do you know the difference between them?”

“Explain it to me, explain it,” Pavel said, waving his hand and with an unpleasant expression on his face.

“The difference is that, let’s say one group lives untroubled in guile, while the other group moves away from it through an exerted effort. It happens that sometimes that group relapses into excrement; and it’s possible that they may come out of that excrement, and then turn around and fall into garbage.”

“Just a second. I don’t get it. Which one of the two groups is in your heart?” asked Pavel.

“The one that comes out of the trash, and falls into the other, of course.”

Pavel began laughing loudly.

“You’re laughing because you don’t understand. Because the man who comes out of guile, falls into the trash is, however full he may be of guile, is still a man. But he who lives in guile happily and with contentment becomes, even in his own eyes, an insignificant and common hookworm. But he who struggles against his own dirty reality, that is, first of all against himself, his own weaknesses, his own sins, his fears, his brown-nosing, has the chance of finding himself in a totally different environment, has the chance of shaping a totally different environment, and can become a part of a totally different environment. But the others don’t want that chance. They are born as human beings, but die as animals.”

“And do you know anyone who has not died as an animal?” Pavel was trying to counter argue.

“I can give you scores, hundreds of names, but I won’t, because your problem, excuse me, is born of the herd mentality and unfortunately it’s the herd mentality that reigns in may parts of the world today. Do you know what that is? A lot of people think ‘Everyone behaves that way, so will I.’ Or the opposite ‘if someone can do that, than so can I.’ This is the logic of the herd because just as you ask ‘do you know anyone who hasn’t died as an animal,’ I can ask you: do you know anyone who was born before? My friend, isn’t it clear that man differs from the animal in that he, I mean every individual, must have his own unique, irreproducible, path and options? And he who tries to construct his personal life only on the example of others, simply takes the human race closer to the herd.”

“Nobody takes it closer to nothing. The human race is itself a herd,” insisted Pavel.

“You know what, my brother, that’s already a matter of taste. People who think like that only justify the fact that they’re animals,’ I threw out.

Pavel was furious:

“But why, isn’t the thing called people a herd—a mob and nothing else.”

I became equally furious:

“I admit, I can tell you’ve been schooled. If you say mob, okay, let it be a mob. But you haven’t understood, and will not understand, that what you call a mob is only the response to the reality that you and the likes of you create. You consider us animals? Well, then, enjoy what you’ve cooked up, you animals.”

Pavel was worried:

“The mob crucified Christ,” he said.

“It’s you and I who crucify Christ every day. The mob did that which it had to do, that which was predestined for it to do,” I said.

“C’mon, let’s go have some coffee—like brothers,” said Pavel.

“Let’s go,” I said.

How many times...

Numerous reports have come out now of multiple attacks on not only posters, but protesters, on Northern Boulevard. It seems at least one of the attacks, the first one, was undertaken by skinheads and police working together. Red berets were involved the second time. A1plus has testimony from an 80 year old man who talks about how he was verbally and physically assaulted, as well as testimony from others (see also HIMA's blog, RFE/RL, and others).
As far as I'm concerned, when the police, skinheads, and red berets are all working together, for the same government, and beating up the same people, you've got fascism at work...

Monday, August 25, 2008

#63- Pashinyan- The Other Side of the World

63. մեռած հոգիներ

Մեր գնացքը ռուսական տրանսպորտային տերմինաբանությամբ կոչվում էր «հՍՏՐօռ», այսինքն` արագընթաց:

The other side of the world- N. Pashinyan

63. Dead Souls

Our train was called, according to Russian transportation terminology, “hSDRor” meaning, rapid. It had gained that name, however, not because it was rally rapid like the Japanese and German trains, but because it stopped at the stations of major cities only.

In the beginning, my cabin mate and I showed complete indifference toward each other. I knew only his name, Pavel Ivanovitch, and he knew my name. Then I went to the restaurant wagon, had a light supper and returned to the cabin. Pavel Ivanovitch had lain down and was reading the newspaper. I sat before the window, but it was dark and nothing could be seen. I had bought some newspapers at the station, and started reading. All of a sudden I felt like cognac. I opened my suitcase. I wanted to pull out the half-empty bottle, but thought maybe my companion might like to drink, too. So I took out a fresh bottle and put it on the small table with a little thud. Pavel Ivanovitch got up, pressed the little button to call the attendant, and asked him for two glasses. When the attendant brought the glasses, Pavel Ivanovitch asked him to bring black and red caviar sandwiches. I opened the bottle, filled the glasses; we raised our glasses, said “let’s go”, and downed it. After the first, you don’t eat anything.

Just as it was pleasant to watch football with the Argentineans and have a meal with the French, it is pleasant to drink with the Russians. They do it as naturally as inhaling and exhaling, with such ease that you can’t help but envy them. After the first glass we were quiet and didn’t speak much. Then the attendant, Madvei Ivanitch brought the bite-size caviar sandwiches. Pavel Ivanovitch filled a glass for Madvei Ivanitch and told him to drink it. The latter didn’t resist. I offered him a caviar sandwich. Madvei was surprised:

“After the first one?”

We filled Madvei’s glass again; he drank and gulped a sandwich. Despite our expectations, he didn’t linger and went to his work. Pavel and I drank another each, with the caviar. We said almost nothing, and in that silence, the bottle was emptied. The caviar sandwiches were finished, too. I thought, well, so much for today. But after a short break Pavel Ivanovitch stood up, took out a bottle of Russian Standard Vodka and put it on the table.

I was horrified:

“Pavel Ivanovitch, we began with cognac today; keep the vodka for tomorrow, and we’ll continue with cognac,” I said and took out the other bottle.

“And how was I supposed to know that you had more,” said Pavel Ivanovitch and returned his vodka to the suitcase. Then he called Madvei, told him to bring some red fish from the restaurant wagon. His order was taken care of quickly; this time we were free of Madvei with just one drink. We kept drinking and saying, “let’s go”; it was really pleasant. Armenian cognac with bread and red fish—is there anything more agreeable? We had opened the window; it was very cold, and we were drank in silence.

I remembered my old dream. My dream was to be in a distant Russian village, where people live in wooden houses, and be hosted by an ordinary, welcoming Russian peasant family. I dreamt that the family would set a table without silly modern frills, and we would drink, we would really drink with peasant Russian boys. I don’t know how I got to have this dream, but it’s really a very old dream. When I told Pavel about it, without losing a moment, he said, “We’ll do it.”

We were quiet for a long time and drinking. The second bottle was gone, too. Pavel got up and brought the Standard Russian Vodka again:

“Pavel, today we started with cognac, let’s finish with cognac,” I said and brought the half-empty bottle:

“How was I know you had more?” murmured Pavel.

I was already at the point where I couldn’t drink any more; I was only pretending that I was. Pavel finished the bottle very quickly and felt that he was thinking of the Russian Standard again:

“Pavel, I don’t have any more cognac, but today is cognac day,” I said, belching.

“Are you saying it’s enough? The Vodka is too warm. It should have been put on ice,” said Pavel, regretfully.

I somehow threw myself in the restroom, splashed cold water on my face, and then thought, I shouldn’t sleep with the burden of so much cognac. I got rid of it and laid down to sleep. After a while, Pavel did the same thing. I opened my eyes in the morning to see Pavel hunched over by the table, with a large glass of vodka before him. He was looking at the vodka glass with a horrified look: then he looked up at me:

“Do you want some?” he asked.

I shook my head. As if mad at my negative answer, Pavel raised his glass and forced himself to drink. He got up as he was drinking and exhaled loudly; put the glass on the table and went to the bathroom. Twenty-Twenty five minutes later he emerged from the bathroom shaven, freshened up; there was no trace of his earlier condition. I, too, got up, took a bath, and we went to the restaurant wagon for some coffee. We drank the coffee and talked. It turned out that the chef of the restaurant wagon was a Georgian. I called the waiter and asked if we could order some kebab; “of course,” he said, surprised. Pavel and I decided to have kebab for lunch, or whenever we felt hungry:

“How many bottles of Standard do you have?” I asked.

“Five,” sad Pavel.

“Not enough,” I said, teasingly.

“I have money, too,” Pavel said with a serious tone.

Hunger knocked on our door very quickly. By then we had put the vodkas in the refrigerator, and Madvei was brining them in ice-cold bottles. We asked to have the kebab brought to the cabin. I was waiting impatiently for those hoers d’oeuvres because I really miss the Tchalaghaj of the Armenians; I miss the craziness of the Armenians; I miss the road-side inns where you would have a ball with the guys, get drunk, devour the food, ask for the same song to be played over and over again, danced to the tune of the day over and over again like idiots, and then you couldn’t leave on time because we would go back and forth to decide who could win the right to pay the bill:

“Ah, how well we drank, the whore.”


Pavel made a living by dealing with election issues. He said that their job was to verify election lists, and to make sure of the realization of monitors’ mission during elections. Naturally, this would interest me and I wanted to hear the details of his activities. During the question/answer period, however, I felt that he didn’t want to expand too much on the topic.

I figured he didn’t want to think about the problems at work. But that which Pavel didn’t want to reveal willingly, he revealed with the help of Russian Standard Vodka. When we had had a bottle and a half and I had asked him how they verified voters’ lists, Pavel Ivanovitch asked me an unexpected question:

“Have you heard of Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol?”

“Of course I’ve heard of him,” I said

“Have you read ‘Dead Souls’?”

“I have.”

“So, my brother, I, too, deal with the buying and selling of dead souls,” confessed Pavel unexpectedly.

For a moment I didn’t really understand what he was saying. I thought ‘he’s drunk, he’s confusing things.’ But that wasn’t so. It turned out that he wasn’t really confused and did really deal with the buying and selling of dead souls. This is what he did. There are names of many souls on voters lists. Pavel Ivanovitch created the list of those dead souls by voter precincts and sold them to interested parties, the interested parties being political parties, candidates running for parliament, various election headquarters, which gain percentages through the votes of dead souls. Of course Pavel Ivanovitch doesn’t do this voluminous work in vast Russia all by himself. He has a public organization, which, according to its charter is responsible for removing inaccuracies from voters lists and the realization of the observer mission during elections. Well, they removed the lists of dead people, deleted a few, and then kept the rest with them. But during the monitoring they made sure that the dead appeared at the polls. Needless to say, in all this they cooperated with the corresponding bodies of government. the income from the sales was enough for everyone:

“And are there a lot of dead souls on those election lists?” I asked.

“God has given; he doesn’t spare. In many villages the living are fewer in number than the dead,” recounted Pavel happily.

Something like disgust rose in me, but I continued the conversation to get more information:

“And do you have a lot of customers?” I asked.

“Russia is a big country. When the presidential elections are over, elections for the parliament begin; when the parliament is finished, the provincial parliament starts; provincial parliament is over, the municipal parliament starts and so on. And we bring our humble contribution to the politics of the Fatherland.

I couldn’t take it any more:

“Do you at least understand that what you’re doing is a low, villainous act?”

“What do you mean, villainous? If I don’t do it, someone else will,” Pavel Ivanovitch explained, undisturbed.

“ Do you mean that you prefer to be a villain, rather than leave that honor to others?”

“Yeah—just don’t preach me, okay?” he said, upset.

I went to puke. I was trying not to notice his presence in my cabin.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Proud, Strong and United

Celebrations, Aug 23, on Northern Boulevard, of the Declaration of Armenia's Independence from the USSR in 1990

The speaker, I think, is Aram Manukyan - who in his introduction says he is going to speak from the heart - and he does - he says he has heard from so many of the political prisoners, those actually imprisoned, and those who have gone into hiding, and they all feel the same way, ...

“They are proud, they are strong, they are united, and you are their support
If this square, this Boulevard didn’t exist, the authorities would have consumed them by now.”

#62-Pashinyan- The Other Side of the World

62. եւ Աստված ասաց` լույս լինի

Կիկուձի սանի ձեռքը սեղմեցի, Յուկիկո սանի ձեռքը համբուրեցի ու մի վերջին անգամ նայեցի նրա մաքուր աչքերին:

The other side of the world
62. And God said ‘Let There Be Light” - N. Pashinyan

I shook the hand of Kikoutzi San, kissed Yukiko San’s hand and looked at her pure eyes for a final time. After saying goodbye I returned to my hotel. I ate at the hotel restaurant, then with a glass of whisky, I began to imagine about Kikoutzi San’s theory of how God created heaven and earth, Adam and Eve.

“There is a planet in the universe called earth, which spins on its own axis. The earth also turns around a star, called the Sun. The sun warms the plants. Around that planet there is a sky, there is land on that plant, and there is water. On the planet lives Adam. He is like me; he is in my own image. He drinks from the water of the spring, is fed by plants that grow in a corner of the globe where living is very pleasant and that corner of the world is called the Garden of Eden. But Adam is not happy being alone, let there be Eve, and let them live with each other nice and peaceful, let them be fed by the fruits of Eden, love each other, have children and be happy. Adam and Eve are free and natural beings. In order for them to benefit from their freedom they should be able to choose. There is a tree in the Garden of Eden, and I tell Adam and Eve not to eat from the fruit of that tree. If you eat the fruit of that tree, you will be expelled from Eden. But this doesn’t amount to freedom because Adam and Eve hear only one call, only one viewpoint, and, in fact, their freedom is not real. They can’t imagine that despite advice and caution, it is also possible to taste that fruit, even though it’s a sin. But they won’t really be innocent if they’re not conscious of the possibility of sin. They can be innocent only if they understand that they can sin, and then choose not to sin. So let there be Satan so he can tempt and confuse them. Let Adam and Eve choose and taste the fruits of their choice,” the Creator must have written and somehow ‘saved’ it, and what took place is what is described in the Bible. I guess that’s just what happened. I guess before the act of creation heaven and Earth were in a state similar to a computer. If not,, then how come humanity in the 20th century went ahead and created the computer? Kikoutzi San is right. Man is making those discoveries that the Almighty allows him to make. Why didn’t man create the computer in the times of Noah? Because no one would put an electrical saw in the hands of his newborn child since the child can hurt himself and that saw is of no use to the child. Man gives his newborn child an electrical saw when he feels that he has a need for it, that it is important to do so, and that he is old enough to use it and benefit from its use. The same is true of the Creator. What did Noah or the resident of ancient Rome need the computer for? The computer was useful for the man of the 20th century, and He gave that man that which he needed.


I decided to go to Vladivostok and from there continue on to Armenia on land. On a fast train, I went from Tokyo to Nicada harbor from where a hauler full of used Japanese cars was going to Vladivostok. That evening our hauler left the Japanese port and the next morning I passed the passport control point in Russia successfully. I went at once to get a ticket because this was Russia where there are millions of Armenians and among those millions of Armenians I have many acquaintances, friends and even family and I didn’t want to meet any of them. That’s why it was important not to stay in one place for long. In the evening I got a ticket for Novosibirsk. I decided to stop here and then try to connect with Zurap and the wise old one, to decide about what to do next. The reader already knows the story of how I stayed at the hotel in Vladivostok. I was going to stay in that hotel only till the evening so I could sleep and rest a little. But that didn’t happen. It was already summer, and Vladivostok was pretty hot and humid. The mosquitoes were bugging me and I was constantly creaking that metal bed on which, as you will remember, the name of the hotel was stamped in black ink. Also stamped were the curtains, the edge of the quilt and the pillow cover. On the side of the little ‘Daewoo’ television set a number had been written in some shade of white. The thin-legged metal table, too, was numbered, as was the chair covered with imitation leather, the small refrigerator, and the toilet seat—in short, everything was numbered. The only things left unnumbered, in white ink, were the backs of the visitors.

It just wasn’t possible to stay in this room for long, especially since the window opened into the street and the honking of the cars filled my room. I couldn’t shut the window because there was no fan and the heat was suffocating. Anyway, I decided to go to town; maybe a glass of beer would help and I could also get something to eat. So I’m walking on the street and I spot a peaceful little grove. It was a green park where a lot of people were walking around and the children were playing in the sand. The shade of the trees was pleasant; they were selling ice-cream and I decided to get one. I was walking along, licking my ice cream, when I noticed two policemen. I sensed that when they saw me their eyes started to shine. I continued to walk; they were coming in my direction. One was an officer, the other a sergeant:

“Visiting us, whore?”

“Sorry? I didn’t get it.”

“What’s there not to get, Khatchik, you whore. Let’s have your passport.”

I had already been traveling around the world for a few months but this was the first time that a policeman had approached me. I took out my passport and showed it to the policeman. The officer was confused for a moment. He had called me Khatchik, which meant that he expected my passport to be Armenian or Russian. But he saw a Serbian passport. He didn’t expect that, but it made him happy. The officer immediately changed his tone:

“ Oh, Hi! You’re one of our brother Serbs?” he asked.

“Yes, sir!” I said as much in a non-Armenian way, as I could.

“Are we gonna piss on those garbage in NATO, or what?” said the policeman, with enthusiasm.

“What’s more, we’re gonna piss on them in urinals,” I further stimulated his enthusiasm.

“Welcome to Russia,” said the policeman.

“Serving the Soviet Union!” I said, smiling.

At that, the policemen relaxed, saluted me and returned my passport.

“If you have any problems, call us,” they said, and left.

I walked around a little in the grove, then back on the street where after a while I came across what looked like a restaurant and went in. They were serving fried potatoes, fried chicken legs and similar things. I ate, drank a large glass of beer, then checked out the Russian girls sitting at the next table (I thought one of them was Armenian). They giggled when they saw me looking at them. Then I got up and left.

On the streets of Vladivostok the cars were basically Japanese, with right hand steering wheels. These were basically used cars which were imported at a very cheap price. In short, there were very few Russian or European cars in Vladivostok.

I went to the hotel again, somehow I took a shower, played with the TV channels a little bit, laid down for a while, then showered again. The hours passed. Then I put my belongings in the only suitcase I had and decided to go to the train station. When I was turning in the key, I found out that I would have to go up to my room again in the company of the woman who worked at the hotel so that the latter would make sure that I hadn’t stolen anything from the room—as if there was anything worth stealing! This, too, was happening to me for the first time in my long journey. In no other place in the world are you submitted to this kind of inspection after you’ve left the room. You just say goodbye, and you leave—after settling your account, or course. But here, as if the rate they charge isn’t enough, they have to make sure that you haven’t stolen their “Daewoo” television set.

I got to the train station in a cab. I was lucky that the Russian trains had started using first class wagons with washrooms. The first class cabin, in which I would travel to Novosibirsk, was for two. When I settled in, there was no one else, but in half an hour a forty-year old man appeared, well-dressed, with a pretty expensive watch on his wrist and a pretty expensive cell phone. I thought, I could have bought a cell phone, but it was already too late. Okay, so this guy and I were to travel together. But I forgot to mention the most important thing. When I was walking around in Vladivostok I saw a big supermarket and went in with the hope of finding Armenian cognac. I did. I bought three bottles of three star “Ararat” cognac, got to the hotel, opened one of the bottles and drank it strait from the bottle; I must have drunk half of it. For the first time in the last four months I tasted my fatherland. And I felt that I was very close to the realization of my goal and was approaching Armenia from the other side of the world.

About face...

If you remember, SS put out an invitation to Turkey's Gul to come watch the September 6 Football game together in Yerevan. The ARF made multiple statements afterwards, stating that if Gul did come, they would launch large protests - here's an example:
Dashnaktsutyun... makes no secret of its disapproval of the invitation. Aghvan Vartanian, a leader of the nationalist party, reaffirmed its plans to stage demonstrations against [the visit]...
“If President Gul visits Armenia to watch the game, there will be meetings, protests and calls against Turkey...”

Well, now there are two interviews on 168Hours online which address this issue. The first one, in English on Aug 17, is with Kiro Manoyan (one of ARF leaders in Armenia), and starts to circumvent the issue- for example, the first question:

Mr. Manoyan, the ARF has stated that it will initiate actions of protest f the Turkish President Abdullah Gull agrees to visit Armenia to watch the soccer match on September 6 as invited by Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan. Have you already decided what concrete steps you are going to undertake?

- I don’t know as the Supreme Body is in charge of that.

The second article, in Armenian on Aug 24 with Armen Rustamyan, actually starts to backtrack. In fact, he states clearly that the ARF is NOT against the invitation, that they would not be protest actions, per se, but that any actions would be to use the opportunity to bring up issues that are important to the ARF. Of course, he says in the interview, any actions would be polite/appropriate as Armenia is the inviting country, and they wouldn't want to cause disruption to the authorities. Once it is certain that Gul is coming, then they will decide as to what definite actions will be undertaken.

Wow - it sure sounded definite before. What happened??

Saturday, August 23, 2008

LTP's interview with a1plus

LTP just gave a1plus an interview, available in Armenian at a1plus. Below is the english translation.

The first president of the Republic of Armenia answers A1plus' questions

Q: Mr. President, it seems that the significance of the recent Russo-Georgian war was not assessed seriously neither by the Armenian government nor the political parties, and not even by the political experts, while it is obvious that that war indirectly affects our vital national interests.

A: I cannot disagree with your observations, but I would like to make one clarification in that respect: the war was originally Georgian-Ossetian; it was only later that it became Russo-Georgian.

Q: Do you mean to say that Georgia was responsible for the initial offense and that Russia was compelled to be drawn in?

A: I don't mean to say anything. I only want to record the obvious facts. No one can challenge the fact that the war was unleashed by Georgia, with the intention of eliminating the Republic of South Ossetia through the use of armed force. Neither can anyone question the fact that Russia, with its decisive intervention, saved the population of South Ossetia from genocide. If Russian assistance had been delayed even by even six hours, South Ossetia would not exist today.

Q: Many, while accepting the validity of the reasons of the Russian intervention, insist that Russia's response was not proportionate.
A: I do not know of any example in history where the response of the strong was proportionate to the actions against their interests. What is important, as I said, is that Russia, independent of whether the response was proportionate or not, prevented the genocide threatening the South Ossetian people.

Q: What is your opinion of the argument that Saakashvili could not have undertaken the war without having received the approval of the U.S.?

A: I consider those arguments unfounded and non-credible, since we must exclude the possibility that a serious country like the United States of America would goad anyone into this kind of an adventure. It is another thing that President Saakashvili could have incorrectly perceived or interpreted certain friendly gestures from the West.

Q: In that case, what did Saakashvili base calculations on? Could it be that he could not foresee the consequences of his actions, especially Russia's reaction?

A: In my opinion, the calculations made by the Georgian government were based first on the element of surprise; second on the non-guaranteed expectation of assistance from friendly countries that would be faced with a fait-accompli. Thus we are dealing with a typical situation of confusion between wishful thinking and reality, a very instructive example.

Q: If, as you pointed out, Georgians had placed their hopes on the element of surprise, then why didn't they try to block the Roki tunnel by airlifting special forces and with that preventing the advance of Russian forces into South Ossetia.

A: The Georgian government's intention was not the extermination of the South Ossetian people, but their relocation, which would not have been possible if the tunnel had been closed. Saakashvili would have realized that the extermination of the people would not have been forgiven by the international community, whereas relocation could in some way or another be tolerated, as it was in 1995 with the relocation of the Serbs of Krayina.

Q: Can you summarize the main consequences of the war?
A: The war unleashed by Georgia caused heavy losses for the South Ossetian people and Russian peacekeepers, but the main victim of the war became Georgia, which aside from its human losses in the thousands, lost its small enclaves of Georgian populated areas in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and ended up with thousands of more refugees. It is with deep sorrow that I record the national disaster that has fallen upon our brotherly Georgian people and wish that they rediscover, as quickly as possible, their dignity and confidence. This wish is as sincere from the human point of view as it is unambiguous from the political point of view, since Georgia’s stability, strength and development coincide with the interests of Armenia.

Q. How do you assess the mediation role of the French President Sarkozy in the resolution of the Russo-Georgian conflict?
A. That was a timely and productive mission, facilitated by the readiness of the Russian side and the fact that Georgia has no alternatives. Sarkozy’s mission was important because he represented not only France’s but also the European Union’s position.

Q. And how do you assess, in that context, the unequivocal support to Georgia provided by some members of the EU such as Poland and the Baltic Republics, as well as that of Ukraine?
A. That demonstration of concord was, of course, a moving ritual; but that should be assigned a moral rather political significance.

Q. What consequences can the militarized confrontation between Georgia and Russia have on global politics?
A. Despite the wide international resonance the Russo-Georgian war has had, it is obvious that the impact will be local or regional, and it will not have an impact, in essence, on the current strategic relations of superpowers. The harsh anti-Russian rhetoric displayed in the US can be explained by the electoral campaign. There is no reason to see it as a factor that will have long term impact. South Ossetia is not that hotspot that will revive the Cold War.

Q. Can the Georgian-Ossetian war have consequences for the other unresolved ethnic conflicts?

A. No doubt. But not in the sense of facilitating the resolution of these conflicts, but in the sense that it will complicate and prolong them. Once more this war brought out the conflicted position of major powers toward two principles of international law: territorial integrity and peoples’ right to self-determination. As long as the international community does not desist from the practicing of double standards in this respect, as long as it does not find the key to harmonize these principles, it is difficult to imagine a speedy resolution to inter-ethnic conflicts.

Q. And what impact did this war have on Armenia?
A. This war made altogether obvious how tenuous and vulnerable is Armenian’s economy. Military operations in our neighboring country that lasted just a few days immediately disrupted the regularity of transports to Armenia and produced noticeable panic in the domestic market, particularly in the realm of natural gas and petroleum products provisions. The stoppage of activities at the port of Poti, even if temporary, and an explosion on one of the bridges linking the Trans-Caucasian railroad threaten to complicate the situation even more. These should compel the authorities in Armenia to assess this state of affairs seriously and to reach conclusions accordingly.

Q. In your opinion, how should the Armenian government have reacted to the war and what steps should it have taken under the circumstances?

A. If you have in mind the official or diplomatic reaction, then the positive neutrality might have been the maximum the government of Armenia could have displayed with regard to a militarized conflict between two countries w2ith which Armenia has friendly relations. In this respect there are no grounds for complaint against the present authorities. On the practical level, the Armenian authorities should—and to some extent did—undertake specific actions: humanitarian assistance to both the Ossetian and Georgian sides, ensuring the transportation of goods through car caravans, participation in the re-activation of the port of Poti, the reconstruction of the Trans-Caucasus railway, etc.
But when I mentioned lessons to be learned, these are not what I had in mind.

Q. What lessons did you have in mind, then?
A. First, the authorities in Armenia must realize finally what danger the blockade of Armenia and the one-sided dependence on one neighbor represent for our country. That should compel them to undertake genuine steps to resolve the Karabakh conflict and Armenian-Turkish relations.
Second, it should be clear that adventure is the greatest danger for small nations, since its most likely outcome is national tragedy. Small nations have no right to make such mistakes. Such luxury may be allowed to the major powers because, regardless, it is usually not they who bear the consequences of such mistakes; it is still the small nations that suffer.
And, finally, small nations must once and for all reject the destructive policy of relying on third powers; and they must try to resolve their conflicts through their own means and capabilities while respecting rules accepted by international law and the norms of coexistence of peoples.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Some conundrums...

News is out that there is going to be increased security in the first week or so of September in Yerevan, surrounding the upcoming football match on September 5. I agree that this will likely be used as an excuse to (try to) ban the protest scheduled on September 6. But what about the protest that will happen if Gul comes to watch the game with Sarksyan - the protest that has been promised by the ARF? Will that be banned, too? Maybe it will be a good excuse to ban both of them and appear, superficially, to be "consistent"... but then the ARF will be in the coalition that is banning their own protest.

Can SS ban one, but not the other? Can the ARF stay in the Ruling Coalition if they are banned from protesting? Did SS know that the ARF would call for protest if Gul comes?

Of course, all of this rests on whether Gul actually accepts the invitation...

#61- Pashinyan- The Other Side of the World

61. արարում եւ ծրագրավորում

Ես ինձ հայտնաբերեցի անծանոթ մի զուգարանակոնքի գրկում. սակեի չարաշահման հետեւանքներն էին: Երբ դուրս եկա իկեբանայի նմուշներ պատկերող սալիկներով այդ զուգարանից, ինձ ընդառաջ եկավ սեւ կիմոնոյով մի շատ սիրունատես կին.

The other side of the world

61. Creation and Programming

I found myself in a strange restroom, the result of too much Sake. When I came out of the bathroom I ran into a very beautiful woman in a black kimono:

“I’m the wife of Kikoutzi San. My name if Yukiko,” she said.

“I’m sorry I appear in your house in this condition,” I said and started walking directly to a door, which, I thought, was the exit door.

“No, No, where are you going?” Yukiko stopped me, realizing what I was planning to do, “I can’t let you go in this condition. I’ve prepared your bedroom. Kikoutzi San will be upset, too, if he wakes up and doesn’t see you here.”

Dawn was breaking already and my bed in the hotel seemed unreachable at that moment. So the temptation to sleep here and now became insurmountable. Yukiko San took me to a room where a bed had been prepared. She bid me goodnight and left. Butterflies collecting nectar from flowers had been embroidered on the shoulders of her kimono; these were large white butterflies.

I was embarrassed to look into Yukiko San’s eyes. At first I thought it was because of the way I looked. Later on I realized that there was something very pure radiating from this woman and I was afraid that I would cast a shadow on her purity. Yukiko San was one of those women with whom you could easily fall in love with the ardent love of an adolescent, to have great feelings, knowing full well that that feeling will forever remain in your heart, a secret that you won’t admit even to yourself. It’s the kind of love that can burst and crumple and can turn into hatred and disgust at your first contact with your loved one. It’s the kind of feeling which must only remain a dream, exclusively a dream; its realization would only be its death.

Kikoutzi San had in fact overcome this experience. This probably meant that he had met Yukiko San as an adult. That’s what turned out to be the case. They said they had come face to face in the hallways of Tokyo University and independently of each other they had thought: “I will marry this man (or woman.) And that had actually happened. Since then Yukiko San was seriously worried about her husband’s success in the creation of robots. She wasn’t excited by scientific and technological gains in that area, which, in her interpretation, would replace human contact. That’s what Yukiko San thought of television and the computer, and the anticipated creation of robots to serve people, especially people who were alone. And she was terrified that her husband was involved in that:

“I think that nothing causes greater satisfaction, nothing makes a person happier, as contact with other people. And it’s obvious that in the contemporary world people are in contact with each other with more and more difficulty, and join the mania of replacing human contact with technology. Can you imagine how horrible it is to have robots serve people who are alone? This means that you officially keep them from living in a human environment and do everything to stop its return,” Yukiko San said.

And the best approach to preserve the culture of human contact she thought, was the preservation of traditions, as for instance, the tea ceremony which, according to her, is the most beautiful form of human contact in Japan. Yukiko San had a winter garden in their large, 9th floor home with an enclosed space which she had prepared according to the traditions of Japanese tea enclosure. And that’s where she served tea to Kikoutzi San and me, to get us out of our stupor. Yukiko San prepared tea in a uniquely graceful way. She had a stove which she lit with coal and where she boiled water in a kettle. She served tea according to traditional rules, in old-fashioned cups made by Japanese masters, each one, one of its kind and irreproducible. It was very hard for me to sit the way they did, on cushions. But I kept trying and after a while I was able to.

Yukiko San was a history teacher and said that just as people now run away from tradition, sometime later they will run back to tradition.

Kikoutzi San had not told his wife about what had happened with the robots and suffered from that. He didn’t want Yukiko San to know about it but then he also didn’t want to have any secrets from her. That psychological dilemma had pushed him into his drunkenness. I didn’t know how he explained his absence at night to his wife. But there was no expression of nervousness, spite or scolding in Yukiko San’s eyes. The conversation between them would take place after I had left or had already taken place.

Yukiko San kept serving me tea in different cups and I was convinced that each one of those cups gave a unique flavor to the tea, and enriched it. Yukiko San kept talking about the tea ceremony, would ask my opinion on different subjects and compelled me to look into her eyes; there was such purity in those eyes.

At first Kikoutzi San was confused when he saw me in his wife’s winter garden, and couldn’t figure out who I was and how I had gotten to their house. When he did remember, he warned me not to say anything to Yukiko San about the robots. Kikoutzi joined our conversation and said that many people see the hand of the devil and anti-God elements in technological advances:

“In fact, man reveals that which the Almighty allows him to reveal,” she said and underlined that many people who are great scientists are believers and are convinced that they work under the aegis of the Almighty.

“Do you believe in the existence of the Almighty?” asked Yukiko San.

“Yes,” I answered.

“You are a Christian, aren’t you?” she wanted to clarify.

I answered in the positive and Yukiko San made a surprising confession:

“Buddhism, in my opinion, has an important flaw: it lacks the idea of God the Creator. It would be the same if Christianity didn’t have the Old Testament, that is, it didn’t explain how the universe came to be.”

“Are you interested in the Holy Bible?” I was surprised.

“Yes, it’s a professional interest. Don’t we all in some way create?” I was afraid to look at Yukiko San.

“Without shame you admit that you create anti-man,” Yukiko San said, distressed. Her husband pretended that he hadn’t heard the remark.

“And have you thought about how God created the world and people?” Kikoutzi San asked me, unexpectedly.

“What do you mean?” I didn’t understand.

“Well, it’s said that God created the earth and the heavens. But there is no description of the activities he undertook to create heaven and earth.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”

“Look, let’s say that this kimono was made by such and such master. By saying that, we mean that the master picked up the fabric, tailored it, cut it, then embroidered it. And haven’t you thought about the specific actions the Almighty has taken to create the world?”

To be frank, this line of questioning was unexpected and I admitted that I hadn’t thought about it. Kikoutzi San wanted to know if he would be offending my religious sensibilities if he put a theory forth. I told him I was ready to hear his theory:

“You know, in the last years of my activities I’ve started thinking that the earth and everything that takes place on it, the universe in general, is like a computer program. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying a computer program, but something like it. In creating the earth, the Almighty sat down and wrote it like a computer program—but why a computer program, they also write literary creations. Let’s say there are two variants to erect a building on a field. One is to lay the foundations, raise the walls, put a ceiling, etc., which takes some time. Then there is another variant. You sit in front of a computer, or you take pen and paper and write: Once upon a time there was a field and in that field, a building. The rest is a matter of taste. You may write about the number of floors the building has, the color of the walls, and who lives in those building. If we look at all this from the point of view of creation and believe that God created the world in six days, ten it’s much easier to register the creation of the world in six day by computer or human or any other method, and describe what is in it, rather than do it physically.”

“You’re saying strange things, Kikoutzi San. So, none of us is real?’

“No, you didn’t get my point. It’s not that we are not real, but that there are different levels of reality. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about; I wanted to talk about methods of creation, about what specific methods God used to create the world. I’m almost convinced that it was done by a mixture of a computer program language and literary language. Man is equally a masterpiece, like Hamlet is a masterpiece, which is imaginary and real at the same time and to the same degree.”

That’s how our conversation ended because what Kikoutzi San was saying led you to reflect. And for reflection, you need to be alone.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Looking in the mirror...

As Unzipped has pointed out, there has been yet another beating of a journalist in Yerevan, this time of Hrach Melkumian, Chief of Radio Liberty in Yerevan. RFE/RL has the article in Armenian, not yet in English.

It's easy for some, whether they be politicians, Armenians, or both, to sit in another country and sigh, shake their heads, and say, how sad but its not surprising. But it may actually be easier to grasp the significance of these events if they are placed, say, in the US context. What if Dan Rather, Nina Totenberg, or Bill O'Reilly had been beaten up?

And to those who would say that such things, oppression and violence, do not happen in the United States, let them look at the history of the US in the past 50 or so years.

UPDATE: RFE/RL has has posted a Watchdog Blog article about the recent beatings in Armenia.

#60-Pashinyan- The Other Side of the World

60. «Ո՛չ» ռոբոտացմանը

Իր պատմությունը պատմելիս Կիկուձի սանը ահավոր հուզված էր: Խոսելիս նրա ձեռքերը երբեմն դողում էին, աչքերը կարմրել էին, եւ թվում էր, թե ուր որ է դուրս կթռչեն կոպերից:

The Other Side of the world

60. No! to Robotization - N. Pashinyan

Kikoutzi San had become very emotional while telling his story. While he spoke, his hands sometimes shook; his eyes were red and looked like they were about to jump out of his eyelids. I was trying to put a sad expression on my face, with a lot of effort. If I’d been really honest at that moment, I would have said to Kikoutzi San, “my black heart- your flowery brief.”

I knew, of course, that what Kikoutzi San was telling me was a very important and century defining event. But that event didn’t trouble me. At the beginning I didn’t want to admit it and asked him questions to clarify things. I think I wasn’t troubled because I didn’t believe his story. I asked him why the security guard had not noticed the movement in the room, to which Kikoutzi San answered that the online supervision was limited only to the laboratory to the windows and the entryways from the outside, while the other areas were simply videotaped. Those videotapes were looked at only if there was an unusual occurrence. Then I asked why Kikoutzi San was so distressed, considering that robots already assembled automobiles and industrial commodities, to which he answered that those were under human supervision and direction, while in their case they had not given the command to assemble to their robots and had not even planned such activities:

“In general, we are here dealing with a programmatic mutation,” explained Kikoutzi San and said that they have removed the processors from all the robots, and that their programming was being analyzed in detail to find out if there was a new program had emerged there or whether the existing programs were responsible for the consequences.

I was curious as to why the problem had come up only after the third robot came into being. Kikoutzi San didn’t have an answer, although he thought that if two people were necessary for human reproduction, for the reproduction of robots three units might be needed. I continued to ask him similar questions, which led Kikoutzi San to think that I didn’t believe him. Finally he showed me a segment of the video on his cell phone. And indeed, three robots, whose bodies were reminiscent of metal tubes one meter and a half in length, were busy doing something. Of course, I could have thought that all of this was made up, but I believed that they were real. The reason was not that I saw the video where three robots were giving life to a fourth, but Kikoutzi San’s genuine distress. He was really confused and agitated.

Nevertheless, the story still didn’t trouble me. By sheer circumstance, I was probably witness to an event which would soon appear on the front pages of the world’s progressive media and in the first few minutes of broadcast news. It could also be kept secret for a long time. Regardless, I wasn’t troubled by it.

Okay, so the robots had gotten out of the control of their creators. A thousand films have been made about it, and a thousand books have been written. What had happened was bound to happen. Kikoutzi San was telling me that the problem was not that the robots had gotten out of the control of their creators, but that they had succeeded in the process of reproduction, that is, they have shown that they can reproduce on their own, and that they can share a common goal:

“How can you not understand? This is a tragedy of cosmic proportions,” said Kikoutzi San.

I did understand it, but that story still didn’t bother me and that those beasts shouldn’t multiply. This can’t bother me because it’s the problem of another world, of a world with which I have no relationship. Would Kikoutzi San be troubled if I were to tell him that my friends are in prison for their political activities? I didn’t even try to tell him because I was convinced that he would think something like “Hey, you idiot, the future of the cosmos is at stake here, and you’re thinking about the imprisonment of a few people.” This would have been the logical answer. Kikoutzi San, in an emotional state, was explaining the significance of what had happened in his laboratory. I realized that he wouldn’t be able to drink till dawn and let him talk as much as he wanted to. What did bother me was the thought that he and I belong to completely different worlds. We can speak in a common language but obviously we didn’t understand each other. Vardan from Armenia and Joe the Korean did not have a common language but they understood each other as if they were brothers.

The idea that Kikoutzi San and I didn’t understand each other was somewhat painful, so I was trying to find commonalities between us. After some searching I found it: “Weren’t you telling me No! to Robotization?” I said, smiling to myself. My smile encouraged Kikoutzi San and he began to talk and drink with renewed vigor. I, too, was drinking, looking at Kikoutzi San but continued my private thoughts. I remembered how the slogan No! to Robotization was born.

I think it was in 1994, wasn’t it, that the skinheads had thrown eggs at the political activists of ‘dhol’ who at that time were considered opposition, and a few other activists gathered before Nairi theatre. Reporters had tried to photograph them, but the skinheads had attacked them and had broken their photo and video cameras. Our newspaper had suffered damages, too. Ridiculous preliminary hearings and court procedures had taken place. But that’s not the essential point here. On the day the court was to hold its first session, our reporter called from the courtroom and said that the situation was outrageous and asked me to go there. The hallway by the court was full of skinheads. The door of the courtroom was guarded by two skinheads, who tried to keep me from going in. I don’t even remember how I eventually got in. In the courtroom, except for the reporters shrinking in a corner, skinheads occupied all the rows of seats and were directing everything.

Judge Rubik Nersessian looked like he had wet his pants. I went in. I don’t know what happened, but I started screaming at Rubik Nercessian: “They’re the bosses here, the owners of the place, are they?” I was saying. The judge didn’t disrobe. Then I turned around and looked at the people sitting in the courtroom. Maybe I’m still under the influence of what Kikoutzi San had told me and the Sake, but the people sitting in the courtroom all looked the same: the same size, the same expressions in the eyes and wore the same clothes.

Kikoutzi San was telling me his story. I wasn’t sure if my memory was right. I got up and went to splash some cold water on my face. But no, memory did serve me right. That’s how they were: the same faces, the same clothes, the same sizes. Then I remembered something even more horrific: I noticed that there was a woman sitting in one of the rows. If I hadn’t been embarrassed, I would have sobbed right there in the middle of the courtroom. She was a woman, but she had the same expression on her face, was of the same size and wore the same things as the other skinheads. On that day was born in one of the niches of my brain the slogan “No! to Robotization.” Alas, I don’t have that scene in my cell phone; otherwise, I would have shown it to Kikoutzi San so that what he called a cosmic event was also familiar to me.

When I returned from the washroom, Kikoutzi San asked me a favor I had not expected:

“Please, let’s go home together. Offering you hospitality would console my wife; she will believe that I continue to be human,” he explained.

Reconciliatory message and Mulling...

is reporting that President Gul sent a “reconciliatory message” and is mulling over a trip to Armenia. One could write a library full of theses on this topic. Here is my question – what is the ARF’s reaction to this going to be, and what does that mean for the future? Here are my musings…

After the events of March 1, the ARF chose to join the ruling coalition. The reasoning? Because stability was what was crucial, that they would work from within to help Armenia. Sorry for the losses, how sad, but let’s try to move on and not cause further instability, is basically what they said. I’m all for stability – stability as a proxy for the health, growth and development of a nation. But, how easy it was for the ARF to gloss over the loss of life, the oppression of fundamental freedoms, the massive corruption and violence leading up to, during, and after the elections. Like I said, I’m all for stability, but when invoking stability we have to ask ourselves: a) is it truly stability and b) what are we trading in for it… I would argue that a) supporting SS/RK pushes Armenia further from true stability and b) I’m not sure there’s much that is worthy of being traded for violence and loss of lives, self (and international) respect, and the fundamental freedoms of humanity – if there is, a false sense of security and stability sure isn’t it. But this isn’t the first time in history that the ARF has supported the side which they thought would win.

The ARF has already stated that it disagrees with the invitation to Gul, and that if he comes, the ARF will protest his presence. Armenia has now waived the entry visa for Turkish fans for the game – there could be 2,500 Turks at the game, that means in Yerevan. Will they protest individual Turks walking in the street (wouldn’t that cause micro- and potentially macro-environments of instability)? This is but one example of the ARF’s role in tensions within the coalition, and certain ARF officials have pointed out from time to time, that they could always separate from the coalition. Several weeks ago, there was an article (Lragir 1/8/08, The Train of Becoming Opposition Left) addressing exactly this issue. I would extend that argument to say that if the ARF left, it would lose any remaining credibility.

I haven’t seen the ARF’s response to Gul’s statements – I’m sure it’s on its way. I wonder how much they’re fighting against this line of actions by the coalition, what they’ll actually do, and if they’ll ever see the mounting piles of undeniable evidence that they are on the wrong side, especially for an organization which is fundamentally socialist. But if the ARF ever dares to split from the coalition, that is, before the coalition loses power, I doubt they will join the Congress, or even Hovanissian’s party. They will likely maintain their complete independence, or rather, isolation, creating yet another division – which in their eyes should amount to instability, I would think.

Monday, August 18, 2008

#59- Pashinyan - The Other Side of the World

59. նախագիծ «Կաեն-2»

Երբ մարդը առօրյա պատկերացումներից ու մտահայեցումից դուրս ինչ-որ տեսարանի ականատես է դառնում, անպայման ուզում է կիսել տպավորությունները, ուզում է հասկանալ, թե արդյո՞ք ուրիշները տեսան այն, ինչ իր աչքին երեւաց, արդյո՞ք ուրիշները զգում են այն, ինչ ինքն է զգում:

The Other side of the world - N. Pashinyan

59. Preliminary Plan “Cain-2”

When a man witnesses a scene that’s different from what he sees and imagines on a daily basis, he wants to share his impressions, he wants to see if others saw what he saw, and if others feel what he feels.

So while watching the “In the Small Planet of Sex” I was looking at the men sitting to my right and to my left, to share impressions with a look or a word. Except for those two, I couldn’t see the faces of the others because the room was semi-dark. I could see the heads of those sitting in front of me and it wouldn’t have been polite to turn around to look at the people behind me. The man sitting to my left had a pointed face, he was probably Chinese, and was following the show with his neck craned and with an expression that showed horror and elation at the same time. It was obvious that was he was in this king of setting for the first time, as witnessed by his craned neck. That posture was not necessary to be able to better see that which was taking place on the stage. The hall was built like an amphitheater: the stage was below and the spectators sat around it on rising tiers. Clearly, there was no problem seeing the stage. But this man, who was not only Chinese but probably from the mountains, had extended his neck out of fear. Obviously, he was thinking that what was taking place on the stage, was being done with his wife, his son or daughter. This is what horrified him. Then, he seemed to realize that his fears were baseless. Next, he was thinking: but what if? and horrified yet again. This process was moving so quickly in his mind that horror and elation appeared simultaneously on his face, and stayed there. It was clear that the man was in shock and there was no use sharing impressions with him. It was better not to bother him.

By contrast, the man sitting on my right, a Japanese man, was completely indifferent to the show. Once in a while, when the voices in the hall rose in a whoop, would cast a glance toward the stage. Then, resting his head on his right hand, carefully looked at the glass of Sake in his left hand. At the end, this man’s indifference began to interest me as much as the real show. Why had he come here if what was taking place on the stage didn’t interest him? I was drinking Sake, too. There was a little left in my glass, and I raised it toward the man on my right, as if saying ‘let’s drink a toast.’ He notices my gesture and showed me his empty glass.

“Would you mind if I treated?” I asked.

“Only if you won’t have other expectations of me,” he said, smiling, nodding toward the stage, where something like a gay-parade was taking place.

I, too, smiled, as if letting him know that I appreciated his humor. I had learned how to use the monitors, attached to each table, to order drinks. Using the little stick you would click on a file entitled “Drinks” on a monitor slightly larger than those on cell phones, find Sake, write ‘two’ next to it and click OK. The monitor confirms your order, and then less than two minutes later, a waitress in a kimono comes.

We raised our glasses and took a sip.

“As far as I could tell, you’re not interested in the show,’ I said, raising my voice a little because the music didn’t allow for a normal conversation.

“I thought in places like this it would be possible to free yourself from heavy thoughts, but everything seems to have become so serious,” said my drinking partner with some regret and added, “if we’re going to drink together it would be better to go to a more appropriate place.”

Frankly, I hesitated for a moment, but by and large this was a better offer because it offered me the chance to get to know a native in this abnormally large city. We settled our bills and went out. Although it was past two o’clock in the morning, the sidewalks and streets were flooded with people and cars, although lighter in volume and considerably slower in pace. After walking a few minutes, we reached a bar-restaurant with large windows, located on the other side of my hotel. We went in, sat by the large window overlooking the street and ordered more Sake along with some locally made pickled mushrooms.

The name of my new acquaintance was Kikoutzi; I called him Kikoutzi san, according to Japanese tradition. When I downed the first glass of Sake completely, Kikoutzi san said that he would be drinking a little at a time, because he planned to drink the whole night.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I don’t want to go home.”

“Why?” I asked again.

“Because I can’t look into my wife in the eyes.”

“Why not, have you been unfaithful to her?” I asked, yet again.

“Worse: I’ve realized her worst prediction,” he said.

“And what’s that?” I asked again.

“She has always said that I would destroy the world,” said Kikoutzi san.

“Wow,” I thought to myself, “you found yourself a real nut.” Nevertheless, Kikoutzi san left the impression of a modest man and his face inspired a kind of trust. When he admitted that he had “destroyed the world,” my first thought was to say goodbye as soon as possible. But then I thought that if I were to tell him my story, he would think I’m crazy, too. So I came to the conclusion that we were on the same level. But the story of Kikoutzi san was more interesting than could have been predicted, although the word ‘interesting’ didn’t describe the situation in this case.

Kikoutzi San, it turned out, was a doctor of technological sciences, was the leader of a scientific team and had his own laboratory. It was in the laboratory that a tragedy had taken place a week earlier which, if not the destruction of the world, at least made you think of it.

Kikoutzi San’s scientific team produced robots, which is a growing field not only in Japan but in all the advanced countries in the world. You can’t surprise anyone with any type of robot anymore; there are even robots that conduct symphony orchestras. In short, the robot is not an extraordinary thing in advanced countries. Kikoutzi San’s laboratory had one year ago produced a robot whose basic function was to help pensioners and the elderly in their everyday lives. For instance, this robot could prepare tea or coffee, warm and deliver prepared food in the microwave, and perform other similar commands. Kikoutzi San’s robot, whose picture I saw in his cell phone, wasn’t fundamentally different from others, except in one way: based on its sphere of activities, the robot’s creators had had to really develop its hands so that the robot could put together and undo things used in everyday life, so that it function in life situations, and according to the oral commands of its owner. That robot had been successfully tested for six months, and now, Kikoutzi San’s laboratory had received orders for ten such robots, and had gotten to work.

“Because we knew the quantity of the order, we decided to first collect the necessary equipment and prepare the autonomous parts for ten robots and then begin putting the robots together, which would have been done in no time at all. So, on Friday, we finished the preparation of the third robot, the Newborn, tested it, and introduced it to the First and the Middle ones, which were also in the workplace. Everything was in its place, and we left, to return on Monday and continue the work,” explained Kikoutzi San, and went on to say that it was during those ill-fated days when no one was at work that the tragedy took place.

“On Friday, my wife, child and I left for Fujiyama. We realized on the way that the CD we liked was not in the car; I had taken it with me to work. On Sunday evening, when we returned to Tokyo and were passing by the laboratory, my wife asked me to go to the laboratory and bring the CD because she had been wanting to hear it for the last two days and hadn’t been able to. I went up, got the CD, then decided to enter the laboratory to see how our ‘newlyborns’ were feeling. There was a surprise waiting for me. Because instead of three—the First, the Middle and the Newborn—there were four robots there. I called the security guard and asked if anyone had been to the laboratory in the last few days. He said that according to the registration book, no one had. I told him to confirm right then and there, and told my wife to go home without me,” Kikoutzi San was recounting, emotionally.

According to him, the quick investigation had turned out that in fact no one had been at the laboratory in the last few days. In that case, the question rose: who had assembled the fourth robot? To find the answer, Kikoutzi San began to watch the video tape that recorded everything in the room. The videotape clearly showed the three robots voluntarily joined together and having all the necessary parts at hand, assembled the fourth robot.

“This is a tragedy and the prediction that robots can get out of the control of humans has been realized. But what has taken place is even more horrible: this shows that they have the aspiration to reproduce. You’re a Christian, is that right? Then it would be simpler for you if I were to say that what has happened is parallel to the birth of Cain, the first born of Adam and Eve. But if the birth of Cain signified the beginning of human reproduction, the birth of this Cain is the symptom of the opposite,” said Kikoutzi San and emptied his Sake glass.

Open Letter Regarding M. Malkhasyan

Several days ago, an open letter was published by, I think, Malkhasyan's family regarding his situation. The original is on lragir, below is the translation:

Myasnik Malkhasyan, a member of the National Assembly of Armenia and a  
veteran of the Karabakh War, has been in prison for six months. During  
the 2008 presidential election he was a supporter of Levon  
Ter-Petrossian. The freedom fighter was taken into custody on March 2  
and charged with articles 225/3 and 300/1 of the Republic of Armenia  
Criminal Code. The Office of the Chief Prosecutor has been trying to  
isolate Myasnik Malkhasyan from his electors at any price in order to  
block his influence on wide segments of the public.
The government of Serzh Sargsyan is not loathe to use even the
vilest and most lowly methods to eliminate its ideological opponent;  
apparently it has now adopted the path of eliminating political  
prisoners physically. As is well known, Serzh Sargsyan has followed a  
policy of harsh treatment and of fatal destruction of the health of  
those freedom fighters of the Karabakh War who stood with Levon  
Ter-Petrossian, freedom fighters whose health was already seriously  
damaged on the battlefield.  Myasnik Malkhasyan’s health has  
deteriorated seriously during the six months he has spent in prison  
and is now in critical condition. Myasnik Malkhasyan suffers from  
diabetes, a condition that has become more acute in prison and now  
requires laboratory tests and hospitalization. According to the  
European Convention on Human rights, the failure to provide  
appropriate medical assistance to those in prison and to replace  
imprisonment with other means of custody for those under pre-trial  
detention who are in ill-health constitute forms of torture.
Myasnik Malkhasyan, who sacrificed his life and health for the  
fatherland, is now being tortured in prison; and the decision by the  
Chief Prosecutor’s Office to reject bail or some other form of custody  
amounts to the death penalty, since his health is deteriorating day by  
We address ourselves to you, Chief Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepyan, and  
simply warn you that using physical weakness, using sickness with  
serious symptoms to eliminate an undesirable opponent, you are  
assuring that you are immortalizing your name by adding it to the  
black list of traitors to the fatherland. We call upon you to regain  
your senses, since it is not yet too late, and provide an opportunity  
to save the life of a hero of the Karabakh War. Myasnik Malkhasyan 
risked his life on the battlefield for you and your children as well.

Posted in Lragir, August 15, 2008