Attention Armenian Bloggers: BlogCamp CIS and the Baltics 2007

BlogCamp CIS and the Baltics 2007 is the first (BarCamp) in the post-Soviet space that we are aware of. We aim to gather 300 bloggers, new media professionals, and other types of geeks for a week-end in Kyiv in mid-October. Our objective is not only to discuss the wider new media and Web2.0 developments in the region, but also to test if BarCamps have a (bright) future as a peer-learning platform in this region.
We expect to secure enough funding to invite bloggers who would not otherwise be able to attend. More information on this is forthcoming in late August. If you want to attend–at your own expense or with financial assistance from us–please register on the Wiki. Please note that we will be able to help only those residing in the CIS and the Baltics. We are also considering charging a small fee (5-10 USD) to help offset the costs of some meals.
Although we expect that the majority of the presentations at BlogCamp CIS and the Baltics would be in Russian, we are open to hosting presentations in any languages, as long as you are sure that you would have an audience. By our rough estimate, 1/4 of all presentations will be in English–we’ll aim to have at least one English-language presentation during each session.
True to the peer-production spirit of BarCamps, everybody is supposed to contribute. If it’s your first BarCamp, we’d advise you to give a talk/present. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it, there are plenty of other opportunities to get involved and help us organize a better event:

  • sign-up as a volunteer to help during the event
  • if you are from Kyiv, host our international guests at your house (here is a link to the sign-up sheet)
  • bring your camera to record some sessions and post them online later
  • help us promote BlogCamp by putting our event badge on your blog/LiveJournal and writing a post about us
  • if all of this seems complicated, be so kind as to spell-check this Wiki and insert whatever commas are missing!

If you want to help in any other way, please leave a comment somewhere on the Wiki–we’ll get in touch.


The Armenia Times – An Armenian Electronic Newspaper for Young People, built on a blogging engine

Via the Shadows of Moonlight I found out about this unique new publication: The Armenian Times.
First time ever we are seeing an Armenian newspaper build fully on a blogging engine. Everything in the newspaper is commetable and as the editorial to the second issue claims – 27,000 people have visited the site after the release of the first issue. This is indeed an impressive figures for an Armenian newspaper.
The publication claims to be geared towards the younger reader. I didn’t quite like the colors of the web-page overall, but I guess I’m not young enough to decide if its appealing to youth or not. The choice of the topics could also be more interesting perhaps, and the way they are treating titles is the usual Armenian horrible way – you’ll never know what you’re going to read judging from titles like: “The Road was called Tanais-Ecbatana!” or “If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”. But heyl This is a newspaper-blog! And its worth mentioning and showing to other Armenian newspapers. This one is the pioneer – and hopefully others will follow!


Human Rights In The Armenian Police System: Discussion

Institute for War and Peace Reporting/IWPR/ Armenia branch invites you to participate in the discussion “Human Rights in the Police System” on July 31 at 13:00.
The discussion follows the publication of IWPR Caucasus Reporting Service article “Anger at Death in Police Custody” of. Authors of the article, correspondents of and IWPR contributors Gayane Mkrtchian and Arpi Harutyunian tried to raise issues faced by Armenian citizens who appear in police custody.
Representatives of NGOs, international organizations, relevant agencies, parliament members, journalists and human rights activities will take part in the discussion.
The discussion will take place at Armenia branch office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (Eznik Koghbatsi 39)
For further information feel free to contact Seda Muradyan at +37410 53 92 04

Institute for War and Peace Reporting Armenia branch
375010, Yerevan, Eznik Koghbatsi 39
Tel/fax: +37410 53 92 04


Weak Demand from U.S. Further Erodes Armenia Polished Diamond Sector

Polished diamonds have traditionally been one of the biggest drivers of Armenia’s economic growth. After several years of sustained double digit economic development one would anticipate a decline in growth of several. But when it comes to diamonds – it is erosion, and that is quite dangerous. We have been hearing also a lot of complaints from the IT sector: one of the other priority areas. It looks as though anything the government attempts to develop, breaks to pieces in the end. Is it one more proof of incompetence, or is it targeted espionage ;)? I wonder which sector will come next – I suspect a market crash as a result of the real estate boom. Not very optimistic, am I?

RAPAPORT… The Republic of Armenia’s polished diamond output fell 35 percent to AMD 25 billion (about $74 million) in the first six months of 2007, continuing what has become a four year long decline in the industry.
Gagik Mkrtchian, head of the precious stones and jewelry department at the Armenian Ministry of Trade and Economic Development, explained the decrease is lead by weak demand for diamond jewelry from consumers in the United States.
Other factors affecting Armenia’s diamond decline, Mkrtchian explained, included the appreciation of the country’s currency, Armenian Drams, against the dollar, and a shortfall in anticipated deliveries of rough diamonds from Russia.
Armenia signed an agreement with Russia in 2001 whereby local companies would process up to 400,000 carats of Russian rough annually. The quota was subsequently raised to 450,000 carats for 2005 and 2006, but only a fraction of that actually was delivered in 2005 while no rough arrived in 2006, Armtown reported.
Armtown noted that Armenia’s polished diamond output, once a priority industry for the country, had declined from AMD 117 billion ($345 million) in 2004 to AMD 93 billion ($273 million) in 2006.
Mkrtchian said the bulk of the Armenia’s current rough supply was coming from Israel and Belgium.
Separately, Armenia’s National Statistical Service reported the country’s economy grew 11.2 percent in the first half of 2007.


Derry out of Champions League after defeat in Armenia

There are very few things left in this country that make me happy. One of those things is success in sport: chess, boxing and football (soccer). I mean – yeah! We beat Derry! Great stuff!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Derry City are out of this year’s Champions League after losing the second leg of their qualifier against FC Pyunik yesterday evening.

The Armenian champions won 2-0 in Yerevan following the scoreless draw in last week’s first leg.
Elsewhere, Belfast side Linfield are also out after losing 1-0 in the second leg of their first round qualifier against Swedish side Elfsborg.
Via Belfast Telegraphy.


Protest in Yerevan over Construction in Park

A protest action was held by a group of NGO-s in the city center where a huge construction pit has emerged. Authorities so far have claimed not knowing who was responsible for this pit and were even forced to declare the construction works illegal. Around one or two hundred people collected for an action which involved symbolic dropping of earth into the pit in an attempt to “bury” it.
The issue of destruction of green zones has for several years been a pressing one, after multiple cafes were and are continued to be built in parks, pushing back green areas and and filling them with concrete. This last incident was however outrageous by the scale of the construction and forced action by the civil society.


Armenian Public Radio Refuses To Re-Sign Contract For RFE/RL Programs

Radio Liberty is finished – and that is a fact of life. I guess – all we can do now is – fight, kick and curse, demonstrate, and at least hope for the online version of Radio LIberty.
I sometimes wonder – just how much worse can it get? It seems there’s no end to the downward movement of democracy in this country. Like a good friend told me today – if you start in Yerevan, and drive strictly south, how can you ever expect to get to Paris?
We are officially a dictatorship today – and I have no strength left inside to believe, that there is even a slight chance of democracy in this country anymore.

Statement by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
(Washington, DC–July 24, 2007) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and its oversight agency, the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), expressed dismay at Armenian Public Radio’s rejection of a new contract to continue carrying programs of RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
RFE/RL Armenian programs have been aired on Armenian Public Radio — Armenia’s top radio network — since 1998, where they have earned the trust of a significant number of listeners. Survey data shows that 15 percent of Armenian adults listen to RFE/RL programs each week.
Three days of discussions in Yerevan, Armenia last week between U.S. and Armenian broadcast officials ended without agreement on a new contract to replace one that had lapsed in February.
“Our delegation was asked to go to Yerevan to iron out some minor technical issues and conclude a contract to extend this successful partnership,” said BBG Chairman James K. Glassman. “All these issues were resolved. Our delegation was told there are no deadlines, and no threat was made to take RFE/RL programs off Public Radio. Yet the contract remains unsigned, and our offers to make payment were refused. It seems clear that whatever is holding up an agreement has nothing to do with legal, contractual, or technical issues.”
“We value our relationship with Armenian Public Radio,” added Glassman, “and certainly want it to continue. We look forward to signing the contract, and making all payments stipulated in the contract, as soon as our partners in Armenia tell us they are ready.”
The Armenian parliament on July 3 did not adopt amendments to the country’s media regulations that would have banned RFE/RL and other foreign broadcasters from public airwaves. One week later, Armenian Public Radio indicated that it planned to stop RFE/RL broadcasts on August 9, citing contractual and payment issues. Last week’s visit to Armenia by RFE/RL and BBG contracting officials was intended to resolve these issues.
“The potential end of our very fruitful relationship with Public Radio has no economic or other legitimate justification,” said RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin. “Armenians go to the polls in eight months to choose their next President, and therefore it is particularly important that RFE/RL’s broadcasts, which are widely respected for their accuracy, objectivity and timeliness, reach the largest possible audience. Our coverage of the May 12 parliamentary elections was singled out for praise by OSCE observers for its balance and thoroughness.”
RFE/RL’s Armenian Service has been on the air since 1953 and produces more than three and one half hours of Armenian-language programming daily in Prague and its Yerevan Bureau. Armenian Service programming is available via satellite, local affiliates and the Internet, at the service’s website and at; English-language news about events in Armenia can be found on the RFE/RL website, at

Armenia Environment

Public Ecological Coalition: Appeal to Yerevan Residents

Dear Fellow Citizens,
Public Ecological Coalition invites you to participate in an open-air press conference and action to be held
on Thursday, July 26, 2007 at 6 pm, in the Opera garden area by the Arno Babajanyan Statue.

We are against all the actions which cause ecological disaster in our city. The greediness of our “elite” is beyond measure. The construction business has purposefully destroyed the green areas and the historical and cultural monuments of the city for the latest decade, turning it into an asphalt-concrete desert.


The big picture of NKR elections

In his daily column Aram Abrahamyan, editor of the Aravot Newspaper, expressed opinion, that the elections in Nagorno Karabakh were important not only for the NKR but could also serve an example for the political field in Armenia. Mr. Abrahamyan finds it noteworthy, that after the vote, Masis Mayilyan congratulated Bako Sahakyan with victory, something that has apparently never happened in the history of Armenian elections.
Similar opinions were expressed by Sergey Markedonov, a member of the election monitoring team. Mr. Markedonov stressed that the elections were neither a succession of power from father to son, nor a “color” revolution.
In an interview Arkadi Ghukasyan, the NKR’s outgoing president commented on the fact, that well before the elections the majority of  political forces in the country had declared support for Bako Sahakyan.  Mr. Ghukasyan expressed opinion that this was probably an endemic phenomenon for the NKR and had come about mostly from the pressure of the unresolved conflict. In fact, the consolidation of political forces behind Mr. Sahakyan, apparently after his victory became more or less apparent, is probably the single most important factor, questioning the pluralism and free spirit of the elections.

Armenia Diaspora Economy Sport

450,000 Tourists To Visit Armenia by Late 2007

YEREVAN, July 23. /ARKA/. 450,000 tourists are expected to visit Armenia by late 2007, and this will guarantee 20% growth in the sphere. According to Mekhak Apresian, Head of the Tourism Department, RA Ministry of Trade and Economic Development, a 25% increase in the average annual number of tourists’ visits has been recorded since 2001. Particularly, in 2005, 318,000 tourists visited Armenia against 381,000 in 2006.
Looking for something more interesting then figures for Armenian tourism sector, I found this article on the “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” Newspaper, about the newly opened Windsurfing club in Sevan, which was opened by RA President Robert Kocharian himself, no wonder it got into the “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” Newspaper 😉
The main building of the club can host 50 people, while 60 are already learning windsurfing in the newly opened club free of charge. I would question why would Hayastan All-Armenian Fund spend 257 million drams on something so silly as windsurfing, and why would the state budget pay for the maintenance fees for the club: these are all details which “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” Newspaper is gladly informing us about, without asking these questions which literally jump into ones face.
But then again – I really like the idea of windsurfing on Sevan, so this time I will just shut up and say, hmm, it’s not such a bad idea after all!