Tag Archives: armenian business

Armenia’s History Continues to be Destroyed

The Mashdots market
The Mashdots market

Yesterday I learned that the market at the end of Mashdots Street, which is a historical landmark, was slated to be demolished. But today on News.am, I saw a photo of the rear of the building completely destroyed. The photo and story were published late Monday morning (on Independence day of the First Republic). Hetq reported that Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian said the recent work undergone was not authorized.

Two weeks ago while walking by the building I noticed that a steel fence had been erected around the entrance of the building. I thought that meant it was going to be restored since there are renovation projects of building exteriors citywide. Turns out that the building was sold to the oligarch and Republican member of parliament, Samvel Alexanyan who is infamous for controlling a monopoly on sugar and flour imports, gouging consumers, and selling inferior vodka as genuine at high prices in his City Yerevan supermarkets, which are popping up all over the place. He wants to convert the market into yet another gigantic supermarket and destroy it in the process (he says otherwise). People are already starting to protest the demolition but it will take a lot of mobilization to stop him from completely taking the market down, although the Ministry of Culture insists that somehow the architecture will be preserved. Sounds a bit empty considering that half the building is gone.

Questions begged to be asked: Who approved the sale of a historical landmark and who was consulted before the building was sold? Did the transaction occur in secret? If not, was there any movement to stop the sale in the first place? Why weren’t concerned citizens investigating the reason for the market’s closure, especially the sellers? Who else knew about what was planned for the market, and why wasn’t it discussed beforehand? Why didn’t the press break the news sooner, long before the building was damaged beyond repair?

All sorts of unique architecture across Yerevan are being dismantled without warning. Several years ago the Youth Sports complex and guest house that was situated at the top of Abovyan Street on the hill there was dismantled to construct a luxury hotel, which was never built because the developer went bust apparently. About two years ago a new hotel project was announced by the Armenian government with the backing of a Japanese investment firm on the same site. Although the area has been cleared, nothing is being built on the location. About 95 percent of Old Yerevan in the city center has already been wiped off the face of the earth and there’s no telling when the remaining buildings — all architectural masterpieces — will be raised.

In Armenia, there is no system of checks and balances, and there doesn’t seem to be anyone with any ethical standards working in government. Even when citizens do catch word about something about to go drastically wrong, they don’t talk about it until it’s too late. Then these same people complain that the country is not a country, the laws don’t work, etc. There needs to be accountability. No one, no matter how wealthy or “powerful” they are, should be allowed to touch any historical landmark without the public being informed beforehand. In this case, since the Ministry of Culture is making promises about the market’s final transformation not being as bad as it seems, Minister Hasmik Poghosyan, a Republican, is complicit in letting the sale go through (so is Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian, yet another Republican for that matter).

Petty carelessness, whimsical power wielding, and defeatism are bringing the downfall upon the Republic of Armenia. This is applicable to virtually all large-scale business projects sponsored by the government or those with close ties to it. If those in power continue to do whatever they wish without being held accountable for their actions, Armenian citizens will have no one to blame but themselves.

Interview with Levon Zourabyan

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Two days ago I had the opportunity to interview a parliamentary candidate representing the Armenian National Congress, Levon Zourabyan. He was Levon Ter-Petrossian’s right-hand man during his presidency and evidently still is.

In this interview for Hetq, Zourabyan talks about the need to break up the Armenian monopolies, impeachment, the expected rise of the opposition in parliament and government, methods of electoral fraud, and the importance of fair elections.

To watch the interview go to the Hetq web site.

The Protest at Mashdots Park Continues

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These are some photos from this afternoon’s protest at Mashdots Park in Yerevan. The area was chaotic — on the far end of the park there was a backhoe digging up the sidewalk, making a tremendous amount of noise and polluting the air with exhaust fumes and dust. Today a group of about 10 people wearing yellow hard-hats, tools in hand, decided to show up in the hopes of dismantling the rows of kiosks. There were dozens of police on hand to face the peaceful protesters, even some in full riot gear which I thought was over the top. A news site called Asparez was streaming video of the protest live.

I couldn’t help thinking how absurd this whole affair is. The Yerevan municipality decided to contradict its very own law that it put into force last year banning these kiosks from existing on sidewalks in the first place. Then these activists keep returning day after day hoping to somehow take the park back on behalf of the public. In the meantime, none of the political parties are taking advantage of the opportunity to win votes in the coming parliamentary elections by lending their support.  The confrontations with the police are a bit pointless because they’re just doing their jobs — defending the position of the authorities. The protesters should realistically be taking up their beef with the city mayor and the Prime Minister, both of whom continue to be inconspicuously absent at each of these events. If you want to legitimately address the concerns of your citizens, go talk to them in person, not in press conferences or through police captains. Apparently, they have better things to do on a Saturday afternoon.

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I know one thing — so long as the protests keep moving forward and continue gaining support from fringe groups like these hard-hat wearing dudes, the authorities will have no choice but to cave. It’s just a matter of time.

Here’s a photo of my revolutionary family who are there almost every day — mom and baby, courtesy of News.am.

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Park Protest Comes to Halt

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The protests at Mashdots Park concluded yesterday after eighty (that’s 80) police officers confronted a small group of demonstrators making them understand that their time’s up. Supposedly three companies/entities/interest groups or whatever you want to call them pledged that they promise to take care of the park during their three-year lease — the government/city hall insists that the kiosks will only remain on the park for that long. Look forward to some quality clothes shopping (the latest styles from eastern Turkey) after you have a coffee at one of the cafes facing the street. Great town, this Yerevan. The whole city center is slowly transforming into a disorganized, cheap bazaar. And no one with any sense of decency from either the government or the opposition bothered to support the teenagers and twentysomethings who decided that enough was enough. This absurd placement of kiosks could have been overturned if the authorities were put under harder pressure.

You can read more about the protests here and here.

Below and above are photos from Thursday.

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Photos by Anushik

In 2012, Armenia Must Innovate, Not Devastate

A dense forest in upper Lori (Photo Christian Garbis)
A dense forest in upper Lori (Photo Christian Garbis)

Last night while out for a stroll with my dog I met my friend Haik who lives next door. We were talking about the advantage of having a garage to keep a car away from gasoline thieves. who love to ravage my Niva’s fuel supply.

While we chatted the upstairs neighbor, who along with his wife and kids has snubbed me for the last five years despite the number of times I’ve said hello, stopped to great Haik and exchange New Years greetings. As they were parting I overheard him telling Haik that he had taken his family to Moscow for the holidays, since staying in Armenia was “meaningless.”

The neighbor, purportedly a banker by profession, is one of these nouveau riche Yerevanites who suddenly found himself with a lap full of cash overnight. Within the span of only a couple of months I recall he purchased two brand new Hyundais and remodeled his home. And now that he has the money to burn, it’s “meaningless” for him and his family to celebrate the holiday season in their own country.  Like it’s all some big joke.

Vacationing outside Armenia for New Years and Christmas is a trendy thing to do nowadays. But this sentiment of meaninglessness is permanent, particularly amongst the wealthy. A glance of the daily headlines will make this obvious — government officials trying to push through deals to excavate hundreds of hectares of land for mining projects, or displacing hundreds of homes for urban development projects, cutting forests to sell the wood, and so on and so forth. For these people, it appears it is “meaningless” to take pride in your country, since as the old ludicrous saying goes, “the country is not a country” to begin with. And since the world is going to end this year as many the naive believe, it’s better to take advantage while you still can. Yet the nouveau riche appears to have been living by this mindset on a daily basis, and I am convinced they have no love for country, only what they can reap from it for fattening their purses. An imprudent generalization, I admit, but there it is.

I can’t say what this New Year will bring for Armenia. But there’s one thing I always hope for — when people with the means to benefit their nation will come to their senses, reset their jaded attitudes and begin to innovate rather than devastate.