The Grapes Blessing day at the Armenian Church

Sunday, August 17 was marked by the Armenian Apostolic Church as the “Grapes Blessing” day. After the Sunday Mass the priest dressed in gold-embroidered robes blessed the table filled with various sorts of of white and red grapes and invited the believers to share the wonderful fruit of the Armenian valleys with the servants of the Church. The official season of grapes started.
The Grapes Blessing day in Armenia usually coincides with the celebration of Virgin Mary’s Assumption, which is marked by the Roman Catholic Church on August 15th, but which is observed by the Armenian Apostolic church on one of the closest Sundays. This year, however, Assumption of Virgin Mary was marked on August 10th, while Grapes Blessing was done on August 17th.
From what a clergyman explained to me yesterday, there is nothing religious at all with the Grapes Blessing day – it is just a remnant from the Medieval tradition, when the peasants had to pay a 10th of their harvest to the Church, and the Church would instead bless them for it.
Whatever the logic and history of Grapes Blessing date, I have always liked to go to the Church on this particular day – this is one of the days when the Armenian Church becomes so lively and so close to the real people, away from its traditional cold and sober self-important attitude. And I like the small pull-n-push in the crowd rushing to get their hands on the blessed fruit. And although I usually can’t wait for the Grapes Blessing day before I eat my first grapes of the year (I just like the fruit so much, that I can’t wait), from this day on I feel myself a proper Armenian for eating the grapes ‘with the permission and blessing’ of my very own Armenian Apostolic Church.

Armenia Sport

Round 13: Aronian wins 2nd FIDE Grand Prix in style

In what can be considered an excellent last round, Levon Aronian became the glorious winner of the 2nd FIDE Grand Prix Tournament in Sochi, Russia. And he did it in style, defeating Alexander Grischuk in a fine positional game. In a crazy game Radjabov beat Karjakin to finish clear second, followed by Wang Yue and Kamsky who share third place.
Levon Aronian (Armenian: Լևոն Արոնյան; born October 6, 1982) is an Armenian chess player. On the April 2008 FIDE list, he had an ELO rating of 2763, making him number six in the world and Armenia’s number one. He was born in Yerevan.
PS: Someone needs to update the Wikipedia entry about Aronian, to include the latest victory.


FOX news cuts Ossetian girl blaming Georgia's President for war

30 seconds – that’s how much time FOX news, the Bush propaganda machine is prepared to allocate to alternative views on Georgia-Russia war.

In this video posted on you tube, as soon as the girl and her aunt start saying that Georgia was responsible for the attack on their town, the Fox News presenter cuts her off with a bogus claim that they are about to go to commercial break, even though they just returned from one less than 2 minutes before. When they return, he gives them only 10 seconds to speak and then adds “Well, that’s certainly what Russia wants you to think” before cutting their mics.

Armenia Sport

Olympics: Armenian wins gold for Ukraine, national team settles for 5 bronze

With 5 bronze medals collected at the Beijing 2008 Olympic games Armenia is ranked 15th along with Czech, Romania, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Kazakhstan teams as of Saturday, August 16th, 2008. Although the hopes and demands from the Armenian team were much higher initially, this is not a bad company to be in. It is of course ironic for many Armenians to watch Armenian national Artur Aivazian winning gold for Ukraine in Men’s 50m Rifle Prone shooting, while the national team has to settle for bronze, but spirits are high as controversy over country ranking breaks out and Armenia comes on top of all as correlation between the population and medal count reveals, that we’re actually doing better then most having won 3 bronzes at that point, while having only 3 million people to give birth to that many talented sportsmen. Currently our bronze age continues, with 5 bronze medals won in the disciplines of Weightlifting and Wrestling and the Olympics are not over yet.
For those who’re too lazy to check the Armenian medalists page, here’s a snapshot of our successes:

Men’s 69kg
Men’s 77kg DAVTYAN Gevorg
Men’s 85kg MARTIROSYAN Tigran Varban
Wrestling Men’s Greco-Roman 55 kg AMOYAN Roman
Men’s Greco-Roman 120 kg PATRIKEEV Yuri

Georgia-Russia war buries hopes for Armenia's independence

The world is filled with comment and analysis about the Georgian-Russian war and while the active military actions have ceased, the information war is going on full speed. The Guardian has been my main source of information throughout the past 5-6 days of armed conflict in Georgia, along with the Russian version of the BBC, which was a great deal more balanced than its English language version. At any rate, this analysis by BBC’s Paul Reynolds has captured the essence and reality of the Georgia conflict in short and simple formulations, which are hard to disagree with. Observe the following balance sheet:

Winners Losers
1. Russia
2. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
3. The South Ossetians
4. Old Europe
1. The dead and wounded and the refugees, of course
2. President Saakashvili of Georgia
3. The truth
4. The West

The calculation of winning points and losses is still on and looking at how effective the western propaganda means like BBC and CNN are at disseminating cleverly designed half-truths, Saakashvili might just be able to turn this defeat into a victory.
Meanwhile, Armenia kept an uneasy silence throughout the clash of its two vital partners – Georgia, the main trade route to the world and Russia, the actual owner of this country (Armenian gas, electricity, communications infrastructure, railways are all controlled by Russian companies, Russian army guards Armenia’s border with Turkey).
There were a couple of vague and failed attempts to provoke and involve Armenia into the conflict in Georgia. The first of such attempts was the claim that the Russian warplanes bombing the military airfield near Tbilisi had actually taken off from the Russian airbase situated in Gyumri, Northern Armenia. Following refutations from Armenia, Georgian and Russian sources, the news died down, but the damage was done and Russian bases in Armenia were seen as a potential threat. Armenia was once again depicted as the Russian fore-post in the Caucasus – not that it needed proving or any further publicity. A second false rumor concerned the Armenians in Georgia’s Javakheti region – a nationalist Russian website claimed, that Georgia is planning ethnic cleansing in this mostly Armenian populated area, and that Armenians are gathering into armed groups to defend themselves. And although Armenia successfully avoided any involvement into the Georgia-Russia conflict, there are already sings, that the developments have left great impact on us. Making the assumption, that independence and physical safety of citizens are the key assets of a nation, here are some points for us to consider:

  1. We are hanging out with the strongest guy on our block – Russia showed the world who is the boss in the South Caucasus. Sadly though, the big guy has a nasty character – any attempts to demonstrate independence will result in severe punishment. There goes our independence…
  2. There was strong militaristic sentiment in Azerbaijan on the first day of the conflict, when Georgia attacked South Ossetia. Many in Baku were suggesting Azerbaijan should act by force, just like Georgia and attack Nagorno-Karabakh – a seemingly similar breakaway region of Azerbaijan. Following Russia’s violent response, calls for war toned down in Azerbaijan. However, looking at things more realistically, we will see that South Ossetia has nothing to do with Nagorno-Karabakh. There are no Russian peacekeepers standing on the border and Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev has so far been much more balanced in its attitude towards the West and Russia, than his Georgian counterpart, so Russia has no reason to ‘punish’ Azerbaijan if it attacks Armenia, even though Armenia is part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and Azerbaijan isn’t. With the Georgian invasion Russia has proved all it needs to the West already, so it will have nothing to gain and everything to loose by defending Armenia against Azerbaijan. There goes the physical safety…

…and especially for those who believe in ‘collective security treaties’ and century long friendship of Armenians and Russians, my response will be short – LOL!

Armenia Politics

Attack on Armenian journalist… again!

The journalist of pro-opposition “Haykakan Zhamanak” (Armenian Times) newspaper Lusine Barseghyan was attacked on August 11, 2008. The girl was beaten by ‘skin-heads’ and was made to understand, that the attack is related to her professional activities.
This is not the first attack on a journalist in Armenia and it is evidently not the last one. Journalist x, y, z were beaten this year because they criticized a, b, c semi-criminal government official, oligarch, mayor, district head, police chef… feudal lord.
There are today two types of people creating news content in Armenia – real journalists and ‘palace poets’ – those, who say they are journalists, but who will only write something, once they have checked if their owner doesn’t object.
Real journalists in this country are further categorized into those who have been beaten, and those, who haven’t been beaten… yet. Because, you see, in order to practice journalism, the journalist has to mirror the reality in the country. And when this or that ‘feudal lord’ sees their ugly face in that mirror, they send their little army of ‘skin heads’ to beat the journalist who held that mirror to their face.
Can anything be done? I guess no. Because the president of this country is the biggest ‘feudal lord’… because the opposition in this country also consists of similar ‘feudal lords’… because nobody is really interested in having journalists mirror the reality in this country – because the reality is ugly and because those, who have some kind of power in this country, make use of that ugly reality to gain profits and retain that power… because everything has been done since th 90’s to make sure, that the media doesn’t gain power and doesn’t turn into media business which serves the functions of informing people, rather then being the servant of power elites. Unfortunately, the only advice I can give journalists in Armenia, is to carry bandages and pain-killer medication with them at all times… because the beatings will continue.


Russia's Dmitry Medvedev announces an end to Georgia-Russia war

“I have reached a decision to halt the operation to force the Georgian authorities to peace,” Medvedev said. “The aggressor has been punished and has incurred very significant losses. Its armed forces are disorganized.” Despite the Russian president’s announcement, it is still unclear, whether this means an end to the war, or not. However, some conclusions can be drawn even today.
The cost of the 6 day war, that started with Georgia’s genocidal attack against the peaceful population of its breakaway South Ossetian region and ended with Russia’s response action followed by Russian intrusion into Georgian territory, blockade of Black See ports and opening of second front from Abkhazia, another breakaway region of Georgia, has been horrible for Georgia. According to Russian claims, there are 2,000 dead and over 30,000 refugees from the South Ossetian population of around 100,000 people. Georgian army and military infrustructure suffered a deadly blow from the Russians, whose massive “peace enforcement” campaign turned into a full scale invasion into Georgia, with conflicting reports of taking Gori, Zugdidi, Seneki, etc.
Even now it is hard to understand who were the conflicting sides? There are suggestions, that it was 1. Georgia, 2. Russia, 3. USA, 4. NATO, 5. South Ossetia and Abkhazia – sorted according to the degree of their involvement. At this point it is also hard to understand who won – Russia? The West? One thing is clear – peaceful population of South Ossetia were the ones who paid the horrible price for geopolitical ambitions and divisions of influence.  It is also beyond any doubts, that Georgia lost badly and the world has yet to study the lessons of the Georgia-Russia war, one lesson learnt is – Kosovo precedent has everything to do with the burning and frozen conflicts in the South Caucasus. Perhaps it is the right time to think about the consequencies for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?


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:


4500th anniversary of Hayk's victory over Bell

The year 2008 marks the 4500th anniversary of the victory of the Armenian Patriarch Hayk against Bel at the battle of Hayots Dzor (south of Lake Van). Movses Khorenatsi (V century) depicted Bel as the head of the evil forces trying to conquer the world: Patriarch Hayk was engaged in peaceful work on the Armenian land, when Bel made an attempt to subjugate him. Hayk killed Bel with his trident (the triple spear) arrow shot from his wide bow in the battle of Hayots Dzor. Hayk’s victory symbolized the victory by the forces of Light over the forces of Darkness.

The struggle against foreign invadors forms the axis of the millenia-long history of Armenia. Hayk’s victory, standing at the very source of that struggle, became a token of future victories. The day of Hayk’s victory was marked as the starting point of the Armenian calendar and if calculations are correct, on August 11, 2008 marks the turn of 4500th anniversary of the Armenian calendar.

While the figure of 4500 is much smaller then the 5768th year of the Hebriew calendar, it is certainly much greater than the 1429th year of the Islamic calendar, or the 2008th of Gregorian or Julian calendars. Indeed, we have every reason to be proud.


Pain and Prayer for South Ossetia, Georgia, Russia

Innocent lives of our brothers in South Ossetia and Georgia became the cost of hypocrisy and imperial ambitions of the US, NATO and Russia. A half-witted, semi-fascistic marionette – Mikhail Saakashvili willingly became the tool in the hands of the daemon.
I pray for peace in this troubled region. I pray for those many friends I have in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Georgia of whom I have no news. I pray for those brothers of mine, whom I have never met before, but who are my brothers all the same. I pray for all those who are now in grave danger.

I will say of the LORD,
“He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
Surely He shall deliver
you from the snare of the fowler
and from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
and under His wings
you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid
of the terror by night,
nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence
that walks in darkness,
nor of the destruction
that lays waste at noonday.
Psalm 91:2-6