Tag Archives: shushi

Telethon Raises $15.8 Million

Yesterday, Thanksgiving in the US, the Hayastan All-Armenia Fund during its 12th annual telethon raised $15.8 million from viewers. Nearly $5.3 million of that total was donated by a Russian Armenian alone. It was a sharp 55 percent decrease from last year–$35 million was raised in 2008. On Wednesday night, the European Telethon raised $1.8 million.

I was guessing around the time the protocols were about to be signed that Armenians in the diaspora would be less likely to donate money this year. Armenian diasporan communities were by and large opposed to the protocols. It makes perfect sense that donations would be paltry compared with previous years, last year especially.

Hetq Online has more:

The 12th annual Hayastan All-Armenia Fund Telethon, dedicated to the rebuilding of Shushi, wrapped up at 8 am local Armenian time this morning. Raising a total of 15,875,043 in donations and pledges, this figure amounts to less than half the $35 million contributed last year.

Speculation that the signing of the Armenia-Turkey protocols this fall by RoA President Serzh Sargsyan would turn off many in the diaspora from contributing this year seemed to be a major concern for Telethon organizers and their fears that politics might put a damper on this year’s fundraiser seem to have been borne out, at least in part. During the 12 hour broadcast, it was often stressed that one’s political views should not prevent anyone from contributing to the welfare of the people in Artsakh and the border regions of Armenia. Perhaps too, the global economic crisis had something to do with the significant drop-off in contributions.

I am not discouning the money collected, naturally it’s a fantastic amount. The funds will supposedly go towards investment in Shushi, one of the important historic Armenian centers in Nagorno-Karabagh.

However it seems a little late –Armenians have been waiting around for too long to invest there. I’ve never found any logic in putting off reconstruction and encouraging settlements as well as an economic boost by developing industry, and putting people to work. The local mafias have also ignored Shushi for some reason–maybe it’s for the better.

Granted, with monies collected by the Fund the major highways in the independent republic were constructed, something that had to be done. The main roads outside of the capital, Stapanakert, were atrocious or even non-existent eight years ago when I first visited there.

But during my last visit to Shushi in 2006, the road leading out of the city towards Stepanakert was still in disrepair (although a year earlier the main street in the center of town was recently repaved with new curbstones laid). I don’t know what has changed since then–I am assuming nothing. Only 5,000 people were estimated to be left in Shushi a few years ago. It would be a safe bet to believe that the number of residents has dwindled even more since then. There is nothing there but bombed out buildings and a lack of opportunities. People who are not store owners travel to Stepanakert to work every day.

As I see it, the only way for people to remain in Shushi is though job creation. After you put people to work and even encourage people who left to move back, the community will rebuild, with the construction of new schools, hospitals and the like. No employment, no money being reinvested, it’s a simple rule of economics. The question is–when and how will those jobs be created?

In The News…

I’m just catching up with some headlines printed on Hetq Online that stood out.

First and foremost are statements made by the president of Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh), Bako Sahakyan. He was in Moscow where he made an appearance in a telethon held there to collect money for reconstructing/rebuilding Shushi. President Sahakyan said that “the development of Shushi is a matter of national honor.”

Shushi has been under Armenian control for 17 years now, since the town was secured by Armenian troops. But during these 17 years very little has changed there. A modern hotel was built catering to Armenian tourists from the diaspora, and the church that was standing there was completely restored and is in working condition. The streets in town have been repaved and new curbstones as well as sidewalks were installed, back in 2005 when I was there to attend a wedding. But bombed-out buildings stand, and a scant 5,000 residents (at that time, who can say what the population is now) remain, with no opportunities for work. I remember speaking with someone who told me that he was obliged to travel to Stepanakert every day. It’s only a 20-minute drive there by car, but he shouldn’t have to go there at all. Not when so many Armenians take pride in the town as a beacon of Armenian cultural heritage and a symbol for the change in tide that lead to Armenia’s ultimate victory in the war.

So what I want to know is–why hasn’t Shushi already seen development during these 17 years? Why are there no job opportunities there? How is that the NK government, or Armenian society for that matter, left it ignored all these years? I haven’t been back there since 2006, but I am fairly certain that the town is stagnating and people are still leaving. The fact that Armenians seem to be uninterested in the town’s prosperity doesn’t make any sense, especially when thousands of people died to secure Artsakh’s independence.

Here’s another oddity–Nikol Pashinian, the editor of the newspaper Haykakan Zhamanak and firebrand spokesman of the “Aylentrank” oppositional movement which backed former president Levon Ter-Petrossian in the 2008 presidential race is on trial for apparently no reason. He was on the run for well over a year, wanted by the authorities for his presumed role in the March 1, 2008 attacks, but there is no real evidence to show that he had anything to do with the violence waged by protesters/agitators on scene. He came out of hiding a few months ago and was promptly arrested. Yet how can he be held on trial if there are no solid charges against him?

One more headline to discuss. Turkey’s Ambassador to the US, Nabi Sensoy, recently made a critical public statement in response to the introduction of a resolution in the US Congress that calls for President Barrack Obama to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. He called the bill’s introduction “wrong and sad” and went on to say, “I am hopeful that [the resolution] will not reach the [Senate] floor.”

told Al Jazeera in a recent interview that the subcommision would eventually accept the Turkish line (of denial). The agreement to form such a subcommision was portrayed as an act of goodwill, brotherly love and whatever other nonsense by the Armenian side. Now these bastards are shoving genocide denial in Armenia’s face before the entire world, and President Serge Sarkisian has shamelessly refused to comment about these remarks.

With each passing day, Armenia is looking more idiotic before the entire world for agreeing to sign the protocols. The Turks continue to laugh on a diplomatic level at Armenian (and American!) calls for genocide recognition, even in the act of good faith and trust-building that these absurd protocols were supposedly all about. Yerevan in the meantime is mute. I can’t wait to hear what President Sarkisian will eventually tell the press, if he even dares to.

Presidents Sarkisian, left, and Gul
Presidents Sarkisian, left, and Gul

What the presidents are thinking in this photo (AFP):

Serge—“See, I’m a fun loving, congenial guy who only wants peace along with new opportunities to make more money for myself and my buddies. What’s so wrong about that? Everyone will benefit. Honest (not!).”

Abdullah—“In 50 years there won’t be an Armenian republic once the border opens with our preconditions. Keep laughing, pal.”