Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Armenian News...A Topalian -


Armenia seeks deeper cooperation with EU - FM Nalabandian

Armenia's foreign minister expressed the country's interest in
developing a deep and comprehensive cooperation with the EU as he
delivered a speech at a meeting of top diplomats from the Eastern
Partnership member states and the Vishegrad Group.

"Armenia has important objectives to realize with the EU in all the
possible spheres of comprehensive partnership, including a broad
political dialogue, sectoral cooperation, intensification of human
dialogue and promotion of trade and economic cooperation. "

"To intensify our cooperation in sectoral branches we intend to
conclude the negotiations with the [European] Commission over the
scientific and research project Horizon 2020, as well as to initiate
talks to ensure Armenia's participation in the Small and Medium
Enterprise Competitiveness Project. In the sphere of transport, the
Government of Armenia has expressed its willingness to sign the Common
Aviation Area agreement with the EU," Edward Nalbandian said.

"We highly appreciate the EU's continuing assistance and support
provided to our country in the frameworks of the Eastern Partnership
[project], as it had an important role in ensuring the reforms process
and the effectiveness of institutional capacities in Armenia," the
minister added.

The meeting, held in Bratislava, Slovakia, was attended by Vice
President of the European Commisssion   Commission Federica Mogherini
(who is also the  EU high representative for foreign affairs and
security policy), Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and
Enlargement Negotiation Johannes Hahn,and the foreign ministers of
Lithuania (which now chairs the EU), Sweden and Poland.

Addressing the new challenges on the Eastern Partnership cooperation
platform, FM Nalbandian said he thinks that they require new
cooperation frameworks.

"Armenia perfectly realizes the importance of a comprehensive
cooperation in different formats. We support the viewpoint that it is
possible to make a maximum good use of the different integration
frameworks by adopting  a far-reaching approach instead of relying on
incompatibilities. Our purpose is to continue the deep and
comprehensive cooperation with the EU based on the past years'
outcomes," he added.

Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey
May 16 2015
Van awaits restoration, tourists for historic Armenian churches
Deniz Çiyan 

In a city that has been home to various civilizations since the 9th
century B.C., the historic Armenian churches in Turkey's eastern
province of Van await visitors and hopefully restoration - in order to
stop them from being forgotten.

One of the most well-known Armenian churches in Turkey, the Surp Haç
(Holy Cross) Church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van, has stood in all
its glory for the past 13 centuries and was renovated and opened as a
museum in 2007. But other historic churches in the region have not
been as lucky.

The Gduts Church on Lake Van's Çarpanak Island, which dates back to
the 9th century, stands as the only structure on the island, as the
other parts of the monastery complex were ruined over time.

Having undergone restoration in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Gduts
Church was most recently renovated in the 17th century. With the
church's bell tower and ceiling still standing, the scenery of the
island with the church, seagulls flying in front, and Mount Süphan in
the background is worth seeing.

Çarpanak Island, which is a preserved site both naturally and
historically, is home to many seagulls. The tour guides warn visitors
to watch out for seagull nests full of eggs to both preserve the
natural habitat and also avoid an Alfred Hitchockian scene from his
film `The Birds.'

Another historic Armenian church in the region, the Saint Bartholomew
Church, is located in the Albayrak village of Van's BaÅ?kale district
and offers visitors a great example of how big and glorious the
constructions of the 9th century were.

The church was built on the burial place of St. Bartholomew the
Apostle, who is believed to have brought Christianity to Armenians in
the 1st century.

The two bell towers and ceiling of the church collapsed during a
strong earthquake in 1976, a local villager told the Daily News,
adding the church had not been destroyed by treasure hunters, a fate
which the Gduts Church could unfortunately not escape, as the Saint
Bartholomew Church had been inside the Turkish army's territory for

Faith tourism model in Van

Aiming to make the province a popular attraction for tourism by
offering the region's many hidden treasures to explorers, ruling
Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Burhan Kayatürk said they
have initiated a faith tourism model for Van.

`Van has a high tourism potential and various concepts can be
developed to revive this potential. Thus the Faith Tourism to Van
model is one of these concepts,' said Kayatürk.

He said they aimed to use the Akdamar Church as a key to attract
tourists from all over the world but especially Armenians, who would
want to see the churches built by their ancestors.

An interesting story comes up about the Akdamar Church, which entered
UNESCO's World Heritage Tentative List in 2015, when one realizes the
dominance of the color blue on the frescos inside the church.

When the Armenian community living in Van left the region for Armenia
following the 1915 incidents, they covered the frescos with a special
mixture, as they thought they would return to their homes soon. When
they could not do so, the mixture started to meddle into the frescos
and thus today they have a bluish appearance.

Hasan, a 25-year-old car tire repairer in Güzelsu village, which is
located right under the HoÅ?ab (sweet water) fortress, said he supports
the initiatives taken to revive tourism in the region, as there are
many hidden beauties which are not known.

`We would want tourism to develop in Van and tourists to come see
these places,' said Hasan, citing economic reasons as his primary
support for the cause.

Hasan is married with a child and another one on the way and works
seven days a week, though he says some days he earns nothing. He says
his work has slowed down since last year, and it is especially bad
right before the general elections on June 7.

Van not only offers ancient churches but also many other historic and
natural beauties. Lake Van itself is a must-see, especially in the
spring season when the mountain tops surrounding the lake are still
covered with snow and the meadows are as green as ever.

The medieval fortress of HoÅ?ab near the Turkey-Iran border, the Van
fortress dating back to the Urartu Kingdom, which had Van as its
capital between the 9th and 6th centuries B.C., and Lake Erçek during
July and the first week of September, when flamingos migrate to the
southern and warmer parts of the world, are some of the other amazing
places the city offers its visitors.

19 May, 2015

YEREVAN, 19 MAY. The painting of Hovhannes Aivazovsky
titled "American Shipping off the Rock of Gibraltar" will be the main
lot of the Christie's "Russian" auction to be held in London. As
"Armenpress" reports, RIA Novosti was informed about it by the
representative of the auction house. The auction will take place on
June 1.

Christie's Russian Art sale on 1st of June will offer a selection of
works by numerous highly sought-after artists including Ilya Mashkov,
Niko Pirosmani, Nicholas Roerich and Ivan Aivazovsky. Session II will
offer Russian Works of Art from the esteemed workshops of Faberge,
private and Imperial porcelain factories and renowned sculptors. This
sale continues Christie's distinctive focus on offering works from
private sources (over 75%), many of which are appearing at auction
for the first time in history.

Ivan Aivazovsky's American shipping off the Rock of Gibraltar is one
of the finest examples by Russia's superlative maritime artist to
ever appear at auction. Of museum quality, this work was painted in
1873 and sold for the first time at Christie's in 2007, establishing
a new world auction record for the artist at £2.7 million, which
was maintained for five years. An artist who enjoyed the patronage
of three successive Tsars, in this work Aivazovsky captures the dawn
of the steam age, depicting an American ship crossing the waters of
the Mediterranean (estimate: £2,000,000-2,500,000,). 

Nikolai Roerich, Before the Rain (1918), oil on wood, 50 by 80cm, est.

£200,000-300,000 Never before reproduced in colour, this panoramic
landscape was last exhibited in 1920 at the Goupil Gallery in London.

The work was recently rediscovered in a French private collection.

* Petr Konchalovsky, Willows, Landscape with Horse (1923) oil on
canvas, 90.5 by 119cm, est. £100,000-150,000 Last exhibited at the
Soviet Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1924, the work was until now
known only from black and white photographs. It is thought to have
been acquired by an Italian collector in Venice and has remained in
Italy ever since.

Ivan Aivazovsky, Evening in Cairo (1870), oil on canvas 110 by
134cm, est. £1,500,000-2,000,000 The painting was last exhibited
almost seventy years ago at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow
in 1950, and has not been shown in public since. This spectacular
view is one of the earliest known Egyptian views by the artist,
painted in 1870 - the year after Aivazovsky attended the opening of
the Suez canal. In terms of its grandeur and topographical detail,
Evening in Cairo is unparalleled.

* Valentin Serov, Nude, pencil on paper, 42.5 by 26.5cm, est.

£10,00015,000 Never exhibited before, the appearance of this drawing
at auction is a great rediscovery. The majority of Serov's nude
sketches from this period are in the Tretyakov Gallery or the Russian
Museum and are smaller in size. This particular drawing was from a
1923 edition of Zhar Ptitsa, an influential Russian emigre magazine
published in Berlin, and comes from the collection of Boris Bakhmeteff,
Russian Ambassador in the United States to the Provisional Government

The Times (London) 
by Paul Bloomfield 
Mountains, monasteries and a glimpse of the land of Noah 

May 16, 2015 

Armenia Armenia is making its way on to the tourist map. Paul
Bloomfield explores its stunning scenery and rich culture

On a balmy summer morning, Ararat was staking a plausible claim for
the title of World's Most Perfect Mountain. White tendrils snaked down
from its snow-dusted crown, nestling in the creases of its mighty
flanks. Hazy clouds cloaked its nether regions, with parallel ranks of
vines in the foreground. It may not have the perfection of Fuji or
Cotopaxi but, from my vantage point 45km south of Yerevan, the 5,137m
summit seemed a worthy contender.

Yet the peak wasn't the main attraction here. I was peering across at
Noah's landing place from the monastery of Khor Virap, one of
Armenia's most historic and picturesque monuments. It's a key spot in
the country's story - its patron saint, Gregory the Illuminator, was
imprisoned here for 13 years in the late 3rd century before
"illuminating" (converting) his captor, King Trdat III. Although the
monastery was founded a century or so later, "the present buildings
are much more modern," my guidebook intoned in a mildly disappointed
voice. "Construction started in 1669."

That says a lot about Armenia. Even many of the "modern" sites are of
a fine vintage. Its capital, Yerevan, founded in 782BC, is said to be
older than Rome - and there are several spots dating back centuries
earlier. Indeed, legend has it that Armenia was first settled by
Noah's greatgreat-grandson. The country's long heritage is a big draw
for anyone considering a visit, but there are not very many tourists
at present. Those who do come generally sandwich Armenia between
sojourns in neighbouring Georgia and Azerbaijan. I was hoping to do
more justice to this Caucasus republic on a travel company recce trip
- one not yet available for mainstream tourists - including time in
nearby Nagorno-Karabakh, a country that doesn't exist, at least in the
eyes of most of the world.

Armenia might not boast a blockbuster feature - a Taj Mahal, Angkor
Wat or Machu Picchu - but its sights are rarely crowded, and most
offer two-for-one bonuses. Tatev Monastery is, for example, reached
via the world's longest doubletrack cable-car. The field of ancient
khachkars (finely engraved cross-stones) at Noratus overlooks Lake
Sevan, the country's biggest lake. And Khor Virap has that spectacular
view of Ararat - though since the border with Turkey is closed, the
short hop from monastery to mount is verboten. Armenians liken Ararat
to a bride with a white veil; it was a messy divorce, another reason
why this country has yet to become a travel hotspot.

Armenia is, to exploit the cliché, where east meets west. More
accurately, perhaps, it's where east squared up to west, had a
dust-up, nipped home for reinforcements and got back to find north and
south muscling in on the action. If that sounds flippant, it's not
intentional - rather an attempt to simplify a bewildering sequence of
events. Over many centuries Persians battled Greeks and Romans; later
came Arabs and Seljuks, Mongol hordes, Mamluks and Turkmens. The
Ottomans and the Russians conquered and divided before the creation of
the Soviet Republic of Armenia, which endured periodic conflict with
neighbouring Azerbaijan.

A melting pot, then, but its people defiantly claim as "Armenian" much
of what may or may not have been introduced - food, music, you name
it. Those sheets of thin lavash that look suspiciously like Turkish
flatbread? Armenian. Flaky pastry borek? Armenian. Apricots?
Scientific name: Prunus armeniaca. I rest their case.

Our first port of call was Ejmiatsin, a suburb of Yerevan and seat of
the Katholikos, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Its cathedral,
though diminutive by European standards, is immensely important.
Founded in the 4th century, it marks the site where the first
monastery was established by Gregory the Illuminator en route to
converting the entire country - the world's first Christian nation.
Sunday mass was packed with even numbers of locals and tourists. A
typical service lasts nearly three hours, and there are no seats; even
Armenians, having lit candles and prayed, might not stay the course.
But the thrillingly intense voices of the choir, sumptuous frescoes
and incense-laden air combined to provoke a near-spiritual response. I
stood, transfixed for a good half-hour till I was dragged out for a
visit to Yerevan.

The capital is, it is fair to observe, no great beauty, particularly
in summer when hills are parched. Which is not to say it's unloveable.
Broad, café-lined boulevards, absorbing museums and a Mediterranean
pace of life made it ideal for a casual meander. I paused to admire
countless sculptures, then browsed bric-a-brac in the Vernissage flea
market, unearthing a few gems: look for hand-printed etchings, rugs
and duduks - apricot-wood flutes.

A more intimate snapshot of local life can be found at the covered
market. I salivated at stalls groaning with the produce that makes a
visit to Armenia a test for the belt-buckles: mountains of those
apricots, watermelons, dried apples, persimmons, cheeses, basturma
(spiced dried beef, like jerky) and, of course, teetering piles of
lavash. "Try, try!" urged one smiling woman after another, proffering
oranges stuffed with honey-coated sweetmeats, dried-fruit lavash and
flaky baklava.

The domesticity of that bazaar made the contrast with our next stop
all the more poignant. On a hilltop to the west of the centre, 12
giant slabs lean over a sunken flame that has flickered for half a
century, testament to perhaps 1.5 million Armenians killed in the
Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Emotions collide at the
genocide memorial. Sorrow, horror, shame; all seem inadequate
considering the scale of the massacres.

The road to Nagorno-Karabakh is flanked with more reminders of the
past, both recent - a monstrous Soviet-era cement factory - and
ancient. We visited monasteries, of course: Khor Virap and Noravank,
picturesquely perched in Vaycollapse ots Dzor ("Gorge of Fears") - but
also passed older remains: petroglyph-etched caves yielding more
evidence of Armenian firsts. "The earliest shoe, dating from 3500BC,
was discovered here," proclaimed our guide, Frunze, "along with the
oldestknown wine-making equipment." Thankfully, that latter tradition
survived periods of Islamic rule, and Areni reds fill Coke bottles
stacked on roadside stalls. Fruity and slightly sweet, they complement
the ubiquitous barbecued pork.

That afternoon's drive took us via the Bronze-Age standing stones of
Karahunj, the aerial tramway to Tatev Monastery and the deserted
troglodyte village at Khndzoresk, to the southeastern border.

And that's where the confusion started.

After a short wait at a checkpoint, we chugged under a flag that's
almost, but not quite, the same as Armenia's, into a state that's
almost, but not quite, Armenia. Arbitrarily (or perhaps spitefully)
annexed to Azerbaijan by Stalin in 1921, after the of the USSR the
territory of Nagorno-Karabakh was beset by a vicious war between Azeri
troops and the majority ethnic Armenian population. The latter
prevailed, and since the 1994 ceasefire it has functioned as a
de-facto independent republic. It has an elected government, it issues
visas, it flies its flag - but it's recognised only by Armenia.

Its attractions are, in the main, similar to those of Armenia.
Statues, sculptures and monuments are omnipresent, notably "We Are Our
Mountains", a pair of monolithic red heads overlooking capital
Stepanakert. Known locally as Mamik yel Babik (grandma and grandpa),
they adorn countless postcards and carved trinkets.

Monasteries and forts dominate, too, but reminders of the conflict
linger. Wires remain strung across valleys, rigged to destroy Azeri
warplanes; bulletholes and shell damage still scar the former capital,
Shushi; a tank sits above the main road. We passed Aghdam, formerly an
Azeri settlement of 80,000 but now so decrepit that to call it a ghost
town would disparage phantoms. By contrast, the capital is thriving.
During an evening promenade I strolled alongside relaxed citizens in
lovingly rebuilt thoroughfares lined with busy shops. There's an air
of confident prosperity, a palpable pride dented only slightly by the
region's non-status. Stepanakert feels like a city that's getting
there - or, rather, getting back to where it had been before, back to
some remembered heyday.

A similar feeling imbues its motherland, too. Armenia, for centuries
in the thick of the action, may now be on the fringes of things -
certainly in the minds of potential British tourists. But that could,
and should, change. As a whole, it's safe, it's comfortable, the food
is good, the scenery is dramatic and, frankly, it's like nowhere else
you'll ever www.go.No wonder Noah's clan bagged it www.first.Be the
first to go - take a recce tour Five years ago it was Burma. Ten years
before that, Cambodia was the new frontier for organised tours.
Colombia, long a no-go zone, is now the hot ticket in South America.
Let's be honest: many of us love to claim dinner-party bragging rights
... but how do you stay ahead of the curve? One answer is to join a
recce trip. The idea is simple: a small group of travellers acts as
guinea pigs for an untested itinerary while the tour operator smooths
out the rough edges.

Clearly, you take a punt. Hotels may not have been checked by your
operator; routes and timings exist on paper only, and your guide might
never have visited the destination before.

In truth, though, most recces are designed by experienced product
managers in co-ordination with local agencies. If you're exploring a
really left-field destination, there's always the chance that
political or natural upheavals could wreak havoc, but the risk is low.
On my trip to Armenia, the only hitch was a route change to sidestep
the Azeri border where snipers had been reported.

Along with Wild Frontiers ( www.wildfrontierstravel.com) , who arranged
my Armenia trip, Steppes Travel ( www.steppestravel.co.uk ) and Simoon
Travel ( www.simoon.com ) offer recces - the latest from Simoon is to
Rajasthan for a folk festival. Explore ( www.explore.co.uk ) is also
considering breaks in which you get a chance to enjoy unique,
unplanned experiences accompanied by experts.

Need to know Paul Bloomfield was a guest of Wild Frontiers ( 020 7736
3968, www.wildfrontierstravel.com) , on its 9-day group tour of
Armenia, which costs £1,440, departing on August 8. The company also
has a 9-day horse ride in Armenia for £1,495, departing on September
19, and a 15-day Across the Caucasus group tour visiting both Armenia
and its neighbours Georgia and Azerbaijan for £2,545 in July. Tour
prices include all meals but not flights, which cost from £350.
Tailor-made trips can also be arranged The Bronze Age standing stones
at Karahunj; below, the Mother Armenia monument in Yerevan The
monastery at Khor Virap, with Mount Ararat and, below, Tatev monastery
and the Church of Peter and Paul

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