Monthly Archives: December 2010

Yerevan’s Mayor Beglaryan Resigns over Scandal

Yesterday, the mayor of Yerevan, Gagik Beglaryan, also known by Yerevan residents as “Black Gago,” resigned as a result of a scandal involving the beating of one of President Serge Sarkisian’s aids.

Apparently, Beglaryan — who became mayor in 2009 — became enraged when his wife complained to him about not being allowed to sit next to the president at the Placido Domingo concert held in Yerevan last Friday. Aram Kandayan, who is an official presidential aid, had asked her to move to another seat, since only the Prime Minister, the Catholicos of All Armenians or other specified dignitaries are allowed to sit beside him. We know that Kandayan was certainly beaten by Beglaryan, but the circumstances related to how and where the beating took place are not definite.

RFE/RL reported that:

Beglarian, who did not attend the concert, allegedly drove Kandayan to one of his properties in Yerevan and beat up the young official there the next day. Reports claimed that Sarkisian was infuriated by the incident and demanded an official apology from the mayor.
“Unfortunately, an incident did take place,” the presidential press secretary, Armen Arzumanian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “But the media have exaggerated it. In particular, there was no kidnapping or brutal beating.”

Yeah, right, of course there wasn’t.

According to Zhamanak newspaper, apparently the general prosecutor’s office is about to open an investigation into the events surrounding Kandayan’s beating. The newspaper also does not rule out that Beglaryan could either be kicked out of the Republican party or else receive a stern reprimand.

The Armenian Observer was one of the first to break the story about Beglarayn. Hetq Online also wrote about the incident. I am sure more juicy tidbits about this story will surface in the hours and days to come.

There’s already rumors circulating about the “real reason” why Beglaryan was forced to step down from his post, which aren’t really worth mentioning.  But one thing is obvious — the ruling authorities are making it clear that nonsense from anyone in a position of power cannot go on unheeded. The mayor of Yerevan must not be allowed to beat people up like a common thug hanging out on the street corner, playing out a scene from the film “Goodfellas.” He made himself look ridiculous, and the president would have been made to look like a total fool if he let Beglaryan keep his job. The president had no choice but to sack him. Obviously, he did the right thing. It’s time to appoint someone with at least some intellectual capacity, not to mention proper manners and self-control to lead this city. There is speculation that Daron Markaryan, son of the late prime minister Antranik Markaryan, may become Beglaryan’s successor.

Let me know what you think in the comments section.

‘Diasporan’ is not a Word

This is a call to all Armenians living in the diaspora and those writing about the Armenian diaspora in general or in a specific context to stop using “diasporan” to describe someone ethnically Armenian who is born and/or living outside the Republic of Armenia or when illustrating a concept that is related to the Armenian diaspora. There is no such word as “diasporan” in the English language.

The term “diasporan” is commonly used as a noun to identify an Armenian who is from a country other than Armenia (e.g., “I am an Armenian diasporan”). It is also used as an adjective to describe the Armenian community thriving outside Armenia or a nuance of the global Armenian experience.

The proper term to describe something characterizing the Armenian diaspora is “diasporic” (e.g., “The Armenian diasporic communities of the Middle East”). To be identified as an Armenian born in a country other than Armenia, simply name your home country (for instance, I call myself an Armenian-American) or explain that you are “an Armenian from its [or ‘the’] diaspora.”

So remember, use “diasporic” (an English word) instead of “diasporan” (a made-up word not in any English dictionary).

The Troubles of Making a Living in Yerevan

The Armenian Weekly recently published an article that I wrote about a gasoline vendor who is based in the Aresh district of Erebuni, Yerevan. Here’s an excerpt:

A truck filled a tank in his garage that held one metric ton of gasoline at least once a week. The gasoline was then poured into 5 or 10-gallon water jugs to be transported to the front of the house and filled into vehicles.

Now, because of the latest in a string of lawsuits filed jointly by his immediate neighbors, Habajian loads the jugs in the trunk of an old Latvian hatchback that barely runs. He tells his customers who pull up in front of his garage to follow him 100 meters down the street, stopping in front of a tiny auto parts store where he fills as much gasoline as his clients need.

The issues with his neighbors began in February. When the authorities arrived to inform him of the complaints, he removed his gas tank. Subsequently, the media televised that the tank had been removed.

The government is required to inspect his premises for safety violations; yet despite protests from his neighbors, nothing dangerous was ever determined to have been transpiring while running his business.

Although owning an independent gasoline station in Armenia is indeed possible, the related operational costs and tax payments offset the advantages of running one. The overwhelming majority of cars are fueled by natural gas, which makes the volume of gasoline sales low by comparison.

You can read the entire article on the Weekly’s web site.

Armenian Drivers Need Auto Insurance

Yesterday I bought mandatory auto insurance for my car, having found out only a month ago that I needed to invest in a policy.

Beginning January 1 all registered motor vehicles in Armenia must have insurance according to a law that was passed last May, otherwise a motorist will be fined 50,000 dram every time he/she is pulled over. That means you could be potentially fined multiple times driving home from work, for instance. And since there is substantial amount of money to be made from violations of this law, I am sure the traffic police will be out in full force. Something tells me whoever’s at the top benefitting from the income this new law brings and its actual enforcement is one and the same person.

According to an article that appeared on the RFE/RL web site on November 25 only one in ten drivers in Armenia have insurance up to date. I don’t think those statistics have changed much since that article was published. Here’s an excerpt:

Vache Gabrielian, the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA), warned them to hurry up, saying that the authorities will not extend the January 1 legal deadline for the introduction of what has until now been a rare practice.

[…]

Gabrielian revealed that despite the approaching deadline only roughly 40,000 drivers have bought such policies to date. “There is an old Russian saying, ‘Until the thunder strikes, the peasant won’t cross himself,’” he said. “The same logic explains the wait-and-see approach of our citizens.”

A friend of mine put me in touch with an insurance agent — there are about nine companies providing auto insurance at the moment. The agency he represents, Roskosstrakh, is actually a Russian company that started doing business in Armenia a year or two ago. We called him in the morning and since there is no mad rush to get insurance at the moment, the policy was signed by mid afternoon. All he needed were copies of my driver’s license, passport, social security card (Armenian) and the vehicle registration/title. To prove that the car is insured, you have to place a sticker that you’re given on the windshield adjacent to the inspection sticker.

The policy only covers the costs of repair for the vehicle that has incurred damage in an accident. Collision insurance–where a motorist at fault in a fender bender is covered for his own damage to his vehicle–costs a few hundred dollars from what I’ve been told, and that’s a separate policy altogether.

The actual cost of the insurance is based on how many years of driving experience you have and how powerful the car’s engine is. Since my Niva only produces around 70 horsepower and has a four cylinder engine, not to mention my 22 year-long driving history, I only had to pay 25,000 dram for my policy, and that’s an annual fee. Hopefully, in a year it won’t increase — if anything it should decrease since my car will be 12 years old then. But since Armenia thrives in a paradox market where the rules of supply and demand are not always in play, I won’t be surprised if I have to pay a little more for insurance next year.

Anyway, that’s one less headache to worry about before the New Year.