My Big, Fat, Armenian Wedding! …in Karabakh

An unprecedented wedding ceremony, which married 675 new couples, took place in Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on October 16. The ceremonies took place in St. Ghazanchetsots church of Shoushi and ancient Gandzasar monastery of Martakert. The Karabakh wedding, followed by a solemn dinner and issuance of wedding certificates and wedding gifts in Stepanakert’s republican stadium, was implemented with the initiative of Russian businessman of Karabakh descent – Levon Hairapetyan, who was also the main sponsor of the event.
The couples were presented ‘golden’ banking cards with $2500 worth of AMD on the balance for each new family to spend. The beneficiaries have also thought about future children: following the birth of the first child the family will receive $2000, the second child – $3000, third child – $5000, fourth – $10,000, fifth – $20,000, sixth – $50,000, seventh – $100,000. That’s plenty of reasons for 675 children to be born in Artsakh next year – 2000 reasons starting from the first child 😉
The fact is – Karabakh has a serious population problem, and similar steps are the surest way to tackle it. Earlier this year Hetq published an article which adds another dimension to this story:

All this commotion is not only the result of the planned collective wedding event but also due to the government’s program unveiled in January of this year that calls for providing gifts of 300,000 drams to newly wed couples. To this end the Karabakh government has earmarked 450 million drams out of the 2008 state budget to be allocated to some 1,500 couples. However, it is already apparent that the number of couples that will register to get married this year will exceed this number. This became clear back in April when figures at the NKR National Statistical Agency showed the number of couples registering for marriage at 1,887. This compares to 224 couples during the same period in 2007. Interestingly, a portion of these 1,887 couples have already gotten hitched but the marriages were never properly registered in order that they are able to take advantage of the government’s largesse. In 2007 there were 519 marriages registered in Karabakh and 827 in 2006.

Apart from ensuring record number of marriages and most probably – a boom in next year’s child birthrates, this event will also serve the important purpose of establishing long-lasting relationships between donors and Karabakhis – given the fact, that the beneficiaries of the event are also becoming Godfathers for the newly formed families. No wonder, that the President of Karabakh Bako Sahakyan spoke on the event stressing it’s importance for the country. Overall – this has been the best piece of news I’ve heard so far this year.

Photos via: 517design

Putin Judos, Medvedev Podcasts – the World Watches

Russian leadership is grabbing global media attention. CNN was full of Russian premier Putin the past two days. On Tuesday, he presented an instructional judo DVD that bears his name and shows him throwing an opponent to the mat.

"Let’s Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin" is the product of collaboration between Putin — a black belt — and other judo enthusiasts, including former World and Olympic judo champion Yasuhiro Yamashita. It apparently was privately made and intended mainly for Russians studying judo.

Today, as if to continue the Russian theme on the international media, Dmitry Medvedev spoke about his upcoming address to the World Policy Conference in Evian in his first video address to the Presidential site’s visitors. That’s the first ever Presidential podcast.

In an interview earlier this year, Medvedev said he typically began every day by turning on his PC. “I look at the sites of our major Russian and foreign media,” he told the Financial Times, adding that he browsed sites that were “positive” about the authorities as well as ones in “tough opposition to them”.
Today one leading pro-Kremlin analyst described Medvedev’s inaugural two-minute video blog as “very good”.
“Putin is a post-Soviet leader. Medvedev is a post-post Soviet leader,” Sergei Markov, a member of the pro-government United Russia party told the Guardian. “He is very advanced at using hi-tec technologies. Among G8 leaders he is the most advanced.”

Meanwhile, Armenian President’s website is also updated and very interestingly, features a Creative Commons license on its lower right corner. That’s certainly very progressive too.

Déjà vu: "Moscow" Cinema refused to screen Tigran PASKEVICHIAN's documentary

The premiere of “Expropriation” documentary scheduled for October 10 will not take place in “Moscow” cinema in Yerevan, by the decision of the cinema management. According to the author of the film, journalist and publicist Tigran Paskevichian, in the morning of October 7, the cinema management asked for a copy of the film for watching and announced in the evening that they will not show it, because the film is “political”. Tigran Paskevichian thinks that the film touches only social-legislative issue: the 38 minutes long documentary introduces the problems of the dwellers of Kentron community of Yerevan, whose houses were situated in the territories expropriated with the definition “for the needs of the state”. The film was screened by the order of “Victims of State Interests” NGO under the project supported by the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation-Armenia. As Tigran Paskevichian stressed, the ordering NGO was dealing with the organization of the presentation in “Moscow” cinema, and as far as he knows, it hasn’t yet received a written refusal to demonstrate the film from the cinema management.

Question remains: who started Georgia conflict?

Roki Tunnel
The Roki Tunnel, which links Russia and South Ossetia in Georgia. When Russian forces moved through the tunnel into Georgia at the war’s start is in dispute.
Published: September 15, 2008 in the New York Times

The New York Times carries an article about new evidence, which Georgia is trying to present as solid proof, that the Georgia-Russian war was in fact started by Russians. Georgia has provided intercepts of phone calls along with English translations to the New York Times, claiming, that it is sufficiant evidence.

The Georgian intelligence service has recorded several phone calls on August 7 and 8, which according to them, prove, that Russia had started moving its armed forces into the territory of South Ossetia via the Roki Tunnel before Georgian shelling of South Ossetia.
By Russian accounts, the war began at 11:30 that night, when President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia ordered an attack on Russian positions in Tskhinvali. Russian combat units crossed the border into South Ossetia only later, Russia has said.
By Russian accounts, the war began at 11:30 that night, when President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia ordered an attack on Russian positions in Tskhinvali. Russian combat units crossed the border into South Ossetia only later, Russia has said.
Russia has not disputed the veracity of the phone calls, which were apparently made by Ossetian border guards on a private Georgian cellphone network. “Listen, has the armor arrived or what?” a supervisor at the South Ossetian border guard headquarters asked a guard at the tunnel with the surname Gassiev, according to a call that Georgia and the cellphone provider said was intercepted at 3:52 a.m. on Aug. 7.
“The armor and people,” the guard replied. Asked if they had gone through, he said, “Yes, 20 minutes ago; when I called you, they had already arrived.”
Shota Utiashvili, the director of the intelligence analysis team at Georgia’s Interior Ministry, said the calls pointed to a Russian incursion. “This whole conflict has been overshadowed by the debate over who started this war,” he said. “These intercepted recordings show that Russia moved first and that we were defending ourselves.”
The recordings, however, do not explicitly describe the quantity of armor or indicate that Russian forces were engaged in fighting at that time.
Competing Accounts
Gen. Lt. Nikolai Uvarov of Russia, a former United Nations military attaché, who served as a Defense Ministry spokesman during the war, insisted that Georgia’s attack surprised Russia and that its leaders scrambled to respond while Russian peacekeeping forces were under fire. He said President Dmitri A. Medvedev had been on a cruise on the Volga River. Mr. Putin was at the Olympics in Beijing.
“The minister of defense, by the way, was on vacation in the Black Sea somewhere,” he said. “We never expected them to launch an attack.”

Make sure to read the full article for more. My opinion? Georgia is just trying to save their face, and the calls might well be fabricated. Even if they aren’t – they don’t prove anything.

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.

Podcast on Eurovision Blogging

With some delay I’m uploading the Podcast of the Radio Hay program broadcast last Saturday, dealing with the Eurovision Blogging, as well as featuring an interview with LiveJournal blogger – Akunamatata_Ser, who is sharing his vision of the internet slang – used mostly in LiveJournal and commonly referred to by bloggers as “Olbanskii” – a strange and funny variety of Russian with strange spelling and lot’s of cryptic signs.

Human rights activist Mika Danielyan attacked by former leader of ultra-right party

Upon hearing the news, that there’s been an attack on the head of Armenia’s Helsinki Association Mikael Danielyan, my first reaction was, that it must be related to his interview to A1plus yesterday, where the breave human right’s activist was criticizing the activities of the Armenian law enforcement bodies in addressing the demands of the PACE Resolution 1609, related to the release of “political prisoners”, and noting, that the Armenian authorities are following the example of Azerbaijan, which did not release its political prisoners even after a PACE Resolution.
There was another attack on Mika Danialyan back in 2004, which was never properly investigated, and the human rights defender claimed, that the offenders back then were connected to Armenian special services. Today, as reported by A1plus, at around 3:00, when walking along the pavement with a friend, Mikayel Danilyan had stopped to salute a friend, when a BMW had started signalling from behind. Then, in response to Danielian’s inquiry, as to what the signalling meant, a fellow had come off the car, calling the human rights activist a “CIA agent” and “defender of gay rights”. According to A1plus, “Afterwards, he took out a gun and shot at Danielian’s chest. Fortunately, the wound wasn’t serious as according to the preliminary investigation the criminal had shot from a gas pistol.”
A friend of mine who visited Mika Danielyan at the Police Department noted, that Danielyan was feeling all right, and was giving evidence to the police. He also noted, that Tigran Urikhanyan, former leader of the ultra-right “Progressive Party”, was also in the police department – and apparently he was the offender.
What I am most concerned in this story, is that nobody seems to take it serious. I am sure, that the police will try to hush up the matter, and state connected Tigran Urikhanyan will happily walk away, while the human rights activist, who is known for his criticism of the Authorities, will be left crying for justice. All the likes of Urikhanyan will see it as a “sign of heroism” to attack human rights activists, call them spies, verbally abuse them. Yet another signal will be sent out, that people striving for human rights are second class citizens, especially if they’re criticizing the state machine. The society will see once again, that when even the rights of human rights defenders are not protected – what could they expect for themselves? Yet in another example, we will see human rights and democracy harassed in this country. Is there a solution? I guess not…

Plans to boycott Sirusho at Eurovision

Boycott blog – set up a couple of weeks ago to promote the concept of civil-boycott of various things – boycottable, in sign of protest of the 2008 Presidential election results and the reaction of authorities that followed opposition protests, has now come up with a discussion, whether it is acceptable to boycott the Eurovision song contest and Armenian representative – Sirusho. While I see some logic in that – I just watched the “Qele, qele” song – Armenian Eurovision entry, and felt, that it would be unjust towards the artist – Sirusho, who is basically still just a kid, especially as the song sounds like a winning one to me. Moreover, considering the fact, that this year is Azerbaijan’s first entry into the Eurovision contest, I have that little twitch of pride inside me, telling we have to do everything to make sure the Armenian artist wins. On the other hand, it is not just about Sirusho – it is the Armenian Public TV – that is taking part in the contest – and if this boycott could serve to teach a lesson of public mistrust towards the Public TV – for all the disgraceful media coverage of the election process over the past several months, maybe it is a justified more? I really don’t know. What do you think?
Here’s a Podcast of the Armenian Blog roundup made about this topic.

A1+: 6 years off air…

 “(For years) They tried to ban A1+ TV, they sort of succeeded, but they was not able to ban A1+, for me – the symbol of free speech in Armenia. A1+ continued its life online“: source – Unzipped.

As far as I’m concerned, today A1plus is by far the best source of information in Armenia, when comparing to anything else that is available on offer. A while ago I posted an entry about the statistics of A1plus – and every figure I wrote there for the year 2007 – looks bleak when comparing the hits that the website enjoyed in the presidential election period – and the tendency continues also today. Hopefully I will be soon able to produce another report on their statistics from the start of the year, and also explore the A1plus blog and A1plus YouTube channel phenomena. I am proud, that I have my modest input into creation of the last two resources, especially the A1plus YouTube channel, which has been in the YouTube top lists of most viewed channels from the first week of its establishment.

As Artmika rightly says, today, it’s 6 years since A1+ is off air… but still on…

More then a dozen people arrested in Northern Avenue

The “political walks” taking place in Yerevan’s Northern Avenue are followed by arrests every day. Today more then a dozen citizens were arrested.
The video above shows a woman crying and telling the police, that she had come there with her husband with no “political” intent – just to walk, to which police respond, that there is probably a mistake and they’ll release her husband soon.
Arsen Kharatyan a prominent member of the youth “Sksela” movement is among the arrested today, along with Lyudmila Sargsyan, chairwoman of Social-Democratic Hunchakian Party and Gagik Nersisyan, member of governing body of “Democratic Fatherland” party. Continue reading “More then a dozen people arrested in Northern Avenue”

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