Thousands flee from Russian “Peace Enforcement” to Armenia


According to today’s Armenian evening news report, since Saturday the 8th, around 8000 Armenian citizens have returned home from Georgian Black See cost – popular summer holiday destination for many Armenians.With the escalation of the situation in Georgia came the warnings of the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Armenian tourists to return home, along with measures taken by the Armenian authorities to provide assistance and transportation for those citizens who need it. (517design has shared his experience of that assistance).

As the roads in Eastern and Northern Georgia have become unsafe and reports of bombing a military(?) airport near Tbilisi have made air travel from Georgia problematic, the diplomatic missions of US and UK have issued warnings for expats and foreign nationals in Georgia on various other missions and business to leave the country. Many have chosen the road South – to Armenia. 2000 foreign citizens are reported to have crossed the Armenian border by now. To cope with the increasing flow of foreigners, Armenian customs officials have started giving visas free of charge (normally a $35 US fee) and with simplified procedure. There are also accounts of many wealthy Georgians bringing their families to Armenia.

Georgian officials are reported to be very nice to all foreigners willing to flee the country, except Russian nationals – who are apparently being illegally held as prisoners. The Georgian authorities have also started illegally confiscating fuel and natural gas destined for Armenia, but that is nothing new for us – our Northern neighbors have always been in the habit of overcharging and stealing from Armenia whenever they had the opportunity.

Seeing, that there will be a lot of foreign guests in Armenia’s capital Yerevan, Katy, who often comments on this blog, has put together a short but very informative guide for the expats:

http://www.armeniapedia.org is THE guide to Yerevan.

Russian works well for getting around. Armenians are much more tolerant of Russian language use than Georgians. English works a bit, especially closer to the center, but don’t expect English from anyone but in the hotels and tourist places.

Our ATMs don’t give out dollars. Try to take out a weird amount (19,000) to get some low bills. Only at nice dining establishments will anyone take a large bill.

300 dram = $1

Have exact change if you can.

Cabs are 500 dram to start and 100 dram for every kilometer after. So a trip in town is 600 dram. Taxi drivers will never give you change. If you were a bit complicated or hard to understand, give ’em 700 dram.

HOUSING:
Envoy Hostel is the cheapest place to stay and is in a great location
http://www.envoyhostel.com/

There is another hostel-type place at 52 Mashtots Prospekt, but is a bit more Soviet.

INTERNET:
There are 3 places to get free wifi easily in Yerevan:
1. The Club on Toumanyan – also has excellent affordable food, good service, and I give it my highest recommendation
2. YumYum donuts on Toumanyan (not the branch on Mashtots Prospekt)
3. Jan Jak French place on Toumanyan

Our Internet is slow here, so don’t expect to be able to Skype or download big files.

TRAVEL AGENTS:
Your best bet for dealing with the travel agents and airlines is to go to their offices. Most of these are located on Sayat Nova street. They will speak English.

DINING:
There are lots of places to eat here. The Club on Toumanyan is great. I’d also recommend Art Bridge on Abovyan. Langoid way over on Nalbandyan is a bit tougher to get to, but has excellent Syrian food and is quite cheap. There is a Thai place on Sayat Nova across from the puppet theatre. Cheap and authentic!
As opposed to Tbilisi, Yerevan is all about open air cafes. Most of these places will also serve basic food. Quality varies.

We’re happy to help with any questions! Feel free to message. Good luck traveling!

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11 thoughts on “Thousands flee from Russian “Peace Enforcement” to Armenia

  1. As Ditord said read the blog entry by user 517design to see how “organized” the government is. 517design was in Georgia and was evacuated.
    If you dont know Russia use a google translator.
    http://translate.google.com/translate_t?sl=ru&tl=en
    It gives some idea

    An excerpt that how the “evacuation” started :


    Called up to the Armenia embassy, they said that nothing concrete is yet known, but on all issues, please contact the consulate in Batumi and gave their phone number, but it was a wrong number, number to a flat, , and the voice of housewife sounded that she was fed up of the calls to “consulate”.

    If Shavarsh Kocharyan is the deputy foreign minister and Serj is the “president” who is partying in China what else can you expect.

    I have been evacuated during the Abkhazia war (89-90) it was a messy event but at least there was some sort of Soviet machine present. They send airplanes to pick up a train load of people but we had to pay for the tickets. If you didnt have money you had to find your way back to home.

  2. payqar – No need to be nostalgic for the Soviet times. I personally think that there are more appropriate times than this to take an unfair swipe at the authorities.

  3. Payqar – I’d be very interested to know, what concrete steps are you (or the Congress for that matter) expecting or proposing the Armenian authorities to do under this circumstances?

  4. “we are proposing that Serj resign as he caused the Abkhaz conflict, the Osset division and tension, and birthed Stain in Gori.”

    OK just kidding (but maybe not far off).

  5. I’ve heard that there are also some “elite refugees” as well. i.e. diplomats and families staying at the Marriott — the most exclusive refugee camp, perhaps?

    Anyway, I’m off to Georgia tomorrow so will be blogging from there. Incidentally, for once I actually agree with Levon Ter-Petrossian on this.

    Moreover, this is a crisis that will affect Armenia even now and especially later, and so the position of the government, authorities is actually quite crucial.

  6. Onnik, there are 0 hotel rooms in Yerevan, so the different organizations are doing what they can. I met people today who are undergrsd researchers staying at the Mariott. Please don’t judge people based on where they are staying.

    Also, a lot of people were asking about SIM cards. VivaCell and Beeline are the two companies.

  7. /* Payqar – I’d be very interested to know, what concrete steps are you (or the Congress for that matter) expecting or proposing the Armenian authorities to do under this circumstances? */

    A good first step would be to have the correct phone number of the Batumi Consulate at the Embassy in Tbilisi.

  8. Katy, I was joking. It wasn’t meant to be so serious and anyway, where would people expect diplomats and their families to stay? A b&b.

    On the other hand, others had no arrangements in Yerevan, but thankfully found places to sleep on the floor at friends here.

  9. Observer
    I am not the Congress and I don’t represent it. But anyway I would write what I expected had to be done.

    – Have correct phone numbers.

    – Deployed assistance and set up help desks/ info shops in locations where Armenians usually spent their holidays. this is to provide information, assist people, register them and provide evacuation and financial means.

    – Send buses to collect people and free of charge. If there is money at the “reserve fund” to spent on Baze camping there should have been funds to evacuate people. Or maybe all the funds were spent on Baze camps or in Casinos?

    – The people who are de facto officials of the country could at least have the decency to return to country and not avoid responsibility. This is enough to demand their resignation.

    All of those are not rocket science and should have been in the country contingency plans. What is the job description of AKhK Artur Baghdasaryan other than doing this? Instead he is enjoying himself in China.

    The reason for making a comparison with the 89 Abkhaz war was because it was about 20 years ago, there were no mobile phones, Soviet was in collups, it was a very unexpected situation for Soviet but still there were people in Yerevan who actually send a number of airplanes to Sochi to pick up people. After 20 years instead of improvements and use of technology the situation was managed horribly. The MFA website wasn’t even updated. The least they could do was to provide a contact list in the front page.

    As what the Congress released can be read at this page:
    http://www.payqar.org/am/5/item/586/

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