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Their Big Armenian Wedding

There are a lot of stories of romantic heroism and good chapters in Armenia’s long history, but for some reason fun historical events rarely record in recent years. But this one is the exception.

Seven hundred couples from all over Nagorno-Karabakh were married during two separate ceremonies on October 16.


After the marriage rites, the couples celebrated, dancing and singing, at the stadium in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian pop stars held a gala concert for the newlywed couples later in the evening. A spectacular fireworks show followed.

Wedding certificates for the 700 couples were passed out during the evening’s celebrations. Leaders from Nagorno-Karabakh, along with guests from Armenia and the diaspora also took part in the daylong celebrations.

This unprecedented event was made possible by Russian-Armenian entrepreneur Levon Hairapetian, a native of Artsakh. Mr. Hairapetian presented each couple with a gift of $2,000 and a cow. He has also promised to bestow a monetary gift upon each child born to the couples. He has pledged to give the first child born to each new couple $2,000; the second child, $3,000; the third child, $5,000 – and for the more adventuresome – upon the birth of a seventh child, a gift of $100,000 to the couple.

In a world where donations are the right thing to do, benefactors almost always work through foundations only. I think Mr. Hairapetian’s direct investment in Armenian families is a better idea than millions of dollars sent by Armenian-Americans to Armenia’s government.

Cut the red tape. Help the people. Hope this program will grow and Armenian benefactors will join Mr. Hairapetian and pledge to help 10,000 people get married (who wouldn’t otherwise because of the economy) by 2010.

The Atlantic: McCain’s Armenia Problem

The Atlantic has an article discussing overwhelming Armenian-American support for Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. Presidential elections.

No Clash of Civilizations in Kosovo Vote

Europe’s only Muslim nation for some, and a secessionist region for others, Kosovo’s bid for recognition of its independence raises many questions with no answers. The question that has interested most of the world is – what precedent does Kosovo set for the rest of the world?

If one believes in the domino effect, Kosovo’s independence may see a boom in more states. But even as some European Union members don’t recognize Kosovo, one wonders if that “domino effect” is boom of self-declared republics recognized by some and unrecognized by others (such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia).

Whatever the case, Hungtington’s clash of civilizations is one theory not working in Kosovo. There is not a clear-cut clash of Christianity and Islam in the conflict – not at least in the walls of the United Nations.

Kosovo, reportedly, is failing to get Islamic support in the face of a Serbian-sponsored United Nations resolution that will ask an international court to consider the legality of Kosovo’s claim to independence.


Ironically, despite the fact that around 90 percent of Kosovo’s two million people are Muslims, only six members of the 57-state Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have recognized its independence.
The day after the independence declaration, OIC secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu issued a statement declaring “our solidarity with and support to our brothers and sisters there.”
“There is no doubt that the independence of Kosovo will be an asset to the Muslim world and will further enhance joint Islamic action,” he said.
But at an OIC summit in Dakar, Senegal, less than a month later, OIC heads of state resisted an initiative led by Turkey and merely voiced “solidarity,” leaving recognition up to individual member states.
The only six to have taken the step so far are Turkey, Albania, Afghanistan, Burkino Faso, Sierra Leone and Senegal.
Analysts attribute the Islamic states’ unwillingness to support Kosovo to a reluctance to anger Russia, Serbia’s historical ally, which strongly opposed the independence move.


While Russia might have influenced such behavior (although we should be observant of conventional anti-Russian explanation lately), the idea of “territorial integrity” is crashing Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” in international relations. Azerbaijan, for one, won’t support Kosovo due to the fear of the “domino effect” on Nagorno-Karabakh, the breakaway Armenian region. What is the future of unrecognized states?

A Turk at the Genocide Memorial in Armenia

More and more Turks have been visiting the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum, Tsitsernakaberd, in Armenia’s capital Yerevan. But one of them stands out. Turkish columnist Hasan Cemal, who is the grandson of one of the masterminds of the Armenian genocide, visited the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan this month. Now he has published an article about his visit. Below is the English translation of the Turkish article.

By Hasan Cemal

[email protected]


Alone with my dear Hrant at the Genocide Monument

Let’s first show respect to each other’s pain



I remember, Hrant Dink once said “let’s first show respect to each other’s pain and sorrow.”
Maybe these words of Hrant and the pain he experienced was what brought me, for the first time in my life, to Armenia , and made me experience at daybreak a hurricane of emotions in front of the Genocide Monument .

The Mount Ararat appears and disappears in the fog. It looks sorrowful. How noble, how delicate it looks with its peak in snow. You feel you can catch it if you reach out.

I am alone with Hrant in front of the Monument, thinking of the pain and sorrow.

I think of respecting the pain.

Understanding the other’s pain.

And I think of sharing the pain.

In the strange silence of the daybreak, I am alone with Hrant. And Rakel’s cry is in my ear…

The tragic pain experienced by the Armenian nation and by him had matured Hrant. Maybe this pain helped him to speak and write in the language of his conscience. One always learns something from others. So I learned from Hrant, in his life and in his death.

I learned that one can not escape history.

At the crystal clear silence of the morning, I thought once more, with Hrant in my mind, how meaningless it is to deny the history, and at the same time, how risky it is to be a slave of history and pains and sorrows.

My maternal uncle’s voice came from afar: “Roots don’t disappear, my son!”

He was a Circassian, of the Gabarday tribe.

But he didn’t mention his Circassian identity; he made clear he didn’t enjoyed talking of the “roots.”

This was our “fear of the state.”

When I insisted, he would say “don’t mention these things.” But near to his death he whispered in my ear: “Still, the roots won’t disappear, Hasan my son!”

People’s roots, the land they have their roots in, are very important. As it is a crime against humanity to separate people from their language and identity so it is an equally great crime to separate people from their roots and lands. And to find an excuse for these actions is an inseparable part of the crime.

Armenians experienced that great pain.

They experienced it when they were uprooted from Anatolia . They experienced it in 1915, in 1916. And the longing for Anatolia never stopped in their soul.

Turks had experienced the same pain, too.

They experienced pain when they were uprooted from the Balkans and the Caucasus, and at the time of war in Anatolia .

Kurds experienced the pain, too.

They experienced pain when their language and identity was denied, when they were expelled from their lands.

I don’t compare pain and sorrow.

That would be wrong.

Pain and sorrow can’t be compared.

Hrant’s voice is in my ear: “Let’s first show respect to each other’s pain.”

Hrant tells silently his own pain: “I know what happened to my ancestors. Some of you call it ‘a massacre,’ some ‘a genocide,’ some ‘forced evacuation’ and yet some ‘a tragedy.’ My ancestors had called it, in the Anatolian way of speaking, ‘a butchery.’

“If a state uproots its own citizens from their homes and lands, and without distinguishing even the most defenseless among them, the kids, women and elderly,  expels them to unknown and endless roads, and if as a result of this, a great part of them disappear, how can we justify our deliberations to choose between words to characterize this event. Is there a human way of explaining this?

“If we keep juggling ‘do we call this genocide or evacuation’ if we can’t condemn both in an equal measure, how will choosing either genocide or evacuation help to save our honor.” (*)

Is it necessary to qualify the pain, to categorize it?

Of course, it is not unimportant, insignificant.

But I don’t think it’s a must. The genocide debate locks a lot of things, especially when it becomes a part of the equation among Turks and Armenians, Turkey and Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora.

History gets entangled.

Reason and common sense get entangled.

Dialogue gets locked.

And this entanglement helps “the fanatics.” It becomes easier to produce hate and enmity out of the pages of history.

Yet, what we need is to make the fanatics’ job more difficult. We have to find a way to walk down to road of love and peace without becoming a slave of history, without becoming a hostage of past pain and sorrow.

At a foggy morning, in front of the Genocide Monument , I listen to the voice of Hrant Dink. He asks: “Do we behave like the perpetrators of the great tragedy in the past, or are we going to write the new pages like civilized people by taking lessons from those mistakes?” 

Let’s first understand each other’s pain, share it and show respect to it.

Things will follow.

Won’t it my dear Hrant?

You always said “not confession, nor denial, first understanding.” And you knew, as you knew your own name, that understanding was only possible through democracy and freedom.

My dear brother;

The sun rises like a red orange in Yerevan . In the beautiful silence of the morning, I lay white carnations at the monument. You and your pain and sorrow brought me to this part of the world.

Yes, let’s first show respect to each other’s pain and sorrow.

* Hrant Dink; “Two People Close, Two Neighbors Afar” International Hrant Dink Foundation, Istanbul , June 2008, p.75

Watch Armenia vs Turkey Online


At 12:00 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Time) or 9:00 p.m. (Armenia time) on Saturday, September 6, 2008

One Thousandth Post and Still Looking Ahead

At times original news, sometimes reposts from other websites and often with commentary, this blog has been reaching thousands of readers since October 2005.


This is my thousandth post, marking a journey that has changed me and, hopefully, some of my readers too. Often when I look back at older posts, I see need for revisions and rewrites. But I hardly edit earlier posts – perhaps trying to please evolutionists and cyberarchaeologists.    


Keeping in line with Gandhi’s advice to ‘be the change you wish to see in this world,’ I hope I will be able to continue bringing my readers news and views on Armenia and the world. If one doesn’t believe in continuous self-improvement, then he is ready to die. I want to live and I will try to keep Blogian alive.  

Hannah Montana has an Armenian Boyfriend

This may be totally inappropriate for this blog, but I am tempted to share the news that America’s “youngest queen” Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) has reportedly an Armenian-American boyfriend – Adam Sevani.

Armenia: Love and Hatred

“If you are Turks, stay on the bus; if you are Armenians, get off and join us!” shouted an angry pro-opposition protestor after stopping a minibus in Yerevan on March 1, 2008. He then angrily looked at a woman with a child silently suggesting her to get off the bus to join Armenia’s former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s post election protest.

“Are you expecting me to get off a bus with my child?!” The angry woman’s response paid off, and she was left alone. That is left alone for a while.





In a few days, after several people were killed on the day of the protest, there was a knock on this woman’s door – now it was the police looking for protestors. “Did you participate in the protest?” she was asked. After saying “no,” her husband was escorted out and taken to the local police department – he hadn’t participated in the protest either. In fact, the couple hadn’t event voted in the elections. Yet they were harassed twice – by the opposition and the government. This is a true story. It happened to someone I have known for all of my life.



In these days there is no middle ground in Armenia. One will laugh at you if you say you are neutral. In fact, being neutral may be seen as something more sinister than being for one or the other. Tensions are high – a couple even divorced over the presidential election. Armenia’s brightest comedian Vartan Petrossian (no relationship to the former president) mentioned this in his “Love and Hatred” – a brilliant and well-attended play about Armenia’s political polarization.



Vartan Petrossian’s message was clear – Armenia’s society needs love. But change should start by changing and improving ourselves. And women in politics can play an important role. Of course he delivered these messages with humor – and one wonders whether most of the audience got the point – especially in regards to women’s rights. In any case, the audience loved Vartan Petrossian.  





There was hardly any love on August 1 – when, according to Agence France Press, 5,000 people attended a pro-opposition protest outside Matenadaran (a manuscript depository). As my cousin and I were approaching Matenadaran, one of the speakers (who we couldn’t see) was urging to send the “current administration to grave.”



When Levon Ter-Petrosyan took over the podium, he was greeted with cheers by most of the crowd (others were seemingly observers like myself). Levon started his long, lecture-like speech making several points – Armenia’s legislative branch has become the tool of the executive branch, even Stalin didn’t pursuit such a totalitarian intimidation of opposition supporters, the current president won’t be able to solve serious problems such as environmental protection, etc. The last one was my favorite part of the speech. At last environment is getting some kind of attention by some group in Armenia – although it was mentioned as part of a long list that merely seemed to point the lengthy load of responsibilities that the government doesn’t work on.


Anyway, Levon’s speech was initially quite interesting. He got my attention when he said that since 1999, after he left politics, Armenia’s parliament had not voted against any proposal by the executive branch or overturned any veto by the president. He said that compared to the statistics when he was president (1991-1998), it “couldn’t be compared.” I am not kidding. I expected Levon to give some details or facts but his comparison was limited to saying that it couldn’t be compared. That was disappointing.


Anyway, I don’t want to sound like an anti-Levon activist. I actually have to agree with one of the people I interviewed that Levon’s presence in politics today is in many ways positive. He has built a very strong opposition and the government is, without doubt, concerned with the situation. Cosmetic or not, the new administration is making some reforms which would be unlikely had Levon been absent from Armenia’s politics.



Yet it is ironic that most people who are for Levon do not love him; they hate Serge – Armenia’s current president. A phone booth had been vandalized with “Mah Serzhikin” (“Death to Little Serge”) resonating with one oppositionist leader’s message, as I have quoted above, to send the current government to grave.


A friend, who is pro-Levon due to being anti-Serge, suggested that the current president has the chance to use the March 1 event as an example of possible further clashes to pressure oligarchs out of economic monopoly in the country.


(Believe it or not, elimination of monopoly would make huge changes in Armenia. Armenia’s most competitive industry is perhaps the taxi service, and it is way the cheapest thing that Armenia offers. A thirty minute drive can cost as little as $3, and most short commutes are usually $2. This is because there are hundreds of taxi services in Armenia – no monopoly whatsoever – that is until the price for the monopoly-controlled natural gas goes up in early 2009.)  


Another thing that needs improvement is the often-government-controlled media. Two hours before the start of the protest, when I was watching state-controlled public television’s 5:00 p.m. news, I didn’t see any information about the upcoming event at Matenadaran. Instead, Haylur – the news program – spent over five minutes talking about a jazz/fashion (not even mentioning where and why it took place) festival that had taken place the day before.


I had actually gone to the theatrical fashion event with several friends. It was pretty good, and I almost fell in love with one of the models there. That’s as close as I got to seeing love in public.   


All photos by the author (copyright

Armenian Navy Band in Los Angeles

For those of you who live or will be in Los Angeles next week, do not commit the crime of not going to Armenian Navy Band’s concert. You have to go – even if you have to charge it on your credit card. Until 2007, I didn’t like the Band at all. But when I went to their concert, I fell in love with them. You will too.

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples


August 9 is the United Nation’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, yet many people don’t know what “indigenous peoples” means. Ironically, the ongoing war in South Ossetia is of interest in indigenous studies.


Even though the notion of “indigenous peoples” sometimes may be vague, a definition of indigenous peoples that most scholars agree with was provided by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority and indigenous communities. Indigenous peoples, according to that articulation, are “…those which having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of societies now prevailing in those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop, and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems.”


I am currently editing an article that talks about Armenians and indigenous peoples. While Armenians, in general, have been considered “indigenous,” given that almost every nation in the Middle East and the Caucasus considers themselves native to their lands, the question of indigenous can be very controversial.


The ongoing war in South Ossetia and Georgia is a good example. While both Georgians and Ossetians have indigenous claims, both parts see each other as trying to steal a land that “belongs to them.” This idea of a land belonging to someone is, in principle, against core indigenous values (especially that of the ones in the western hemisphere). As one Native American chief has said, “the earth doesn’t belong to us, we belong to the earth.” 


Some resources on indigenous peoples: 

Cultural Survival Magazine

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Fourth World Center  

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