Monday, 26 December 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian... Armenian economy growing by 5%

Web India 123
Dec 24 2016
Bite into history with spicy Armenian Christmas cake

Fruitless Christmas cakes anyone? Try the spicy Armenian variety, a savoury reminder of the community that has made the city home since the 17th century.

Third generation Armenian Brunnel Arathoon has put her oven mitts on to churn out these tasty Christmas delights for her maiden, home-based, bake-to-order initiative, with the hope that people will get to know about the Armenians history and legacy in Kolkata.

"My motivation was to let everybody know that we as a community are still there and lot of people don't know about Armenians and our Christmas celebrations," Arathoon told IANS.
Proud to showcase her roots in the Eurasian nation through food, Arathoon said the uniqueness of the traditional Armenian Christmas cakes lies in the absence of candied fruits.

"They are fruitless. They are made with almonds, walnuts nutmeg and cinnamon. The cake comes out to be spicy and sweet and not extremely sweet that you normally get. So when you open the box you can smell it," she explained.

In a week since she began making them, Arathoon has sold 75 pieces and the demand is growing and along with the buzz comes a newfound recognition and respect for the community.
Kolkata has been home to the Armenian Christians since the 17th century and as many as 30 Armenian families continue to be an integral, yet quiet, part of the bustling metropolis. They celebrate Christmas on January 6.

"We are close to 5000 (that have Armenian bloodline) but not baptized in the Armenian Church. So a lot of us tend to go as Anglo-Indians," she said.

A pivotal aspect of their culture is the nearly-300-year-old Holy Church of Nazareth, located in Burrabazar in the central part of the city.

All in all, there are five magnificent churches across the state and several splendid edifices erected by them, including Stephen's Court in Park Street.

RFE/RL Report
Government Defends More Foreign Borrowing
December 22, 2016
Hovannes Movsisian

The government played down Armenia's rising sovereign debt on Thursday as it sought parliamentary approval of $180 million in fresh loans allocated to it by international lending institutions.

Deputy Finance Minister Armen Hayrapetian insisted that Armenia will not become a heavily indebted country even though its combined debt will soon be equivalent to about 55 percent of Gross DomesticProduct.

"At the end of the year, Armenia's entire debt will stand at
approximately $5.9 billion," Hayrapetian told the National
Assembly. He said $4.85 billion of the sum is owed to foreign
creditors by the government and the Central Bank of Armenia.

Hayrapetian argued that the government has to continue to resort 
to foreign borrowing in order to finance its budget deficit and essential capital spending.

Opposition lawmakers rejected this explanation, saying that the
government is increasing the country's debt burden instead of
improving tax collection and pursuing more sustainable economic

"We just cannot repay this debt," claimed Aram Manukian of the
Armenian National Congress (HAK).

"Do we know where we are headed?" said Naira Zohrabian, the
chairperson of the Prosperous Armenia Party. "Does this government
know what it is going to do?"

"Believe me, each of us is concerned about the rising debt,” 
insisted Hayrapetian. He dismissed opposition claims that the government could eventually default on its debt repayments.

The public debt stood at less than $2 billion before the 2008-2009
global financial crisis plunged Armenia into a severe recession. 
The government has since borrowed heavily from the World Bank, the
International Monetary Fund and other external sources to prevent
massive spending cuts and finance infrastructure projects.

Economic growth in Armenia has been sluggish in the last few years, translating into shortfalls in tax revenue and bigger budget deficits.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetian's cabinet is due to cut its
expenditures next year in line with the state budget passed by the
parliament last month. Finance Minister Vartan Aramian said in
September that the spending cuts will not only reduce the budget
deficit but also help the government keep the debt under control.

"We should be [fiscally] more conservative in the coming years to
prevent further growth of the debt," said Aramian.

David Lipton, the IMF's first deputy managing director, said 
earlier this month that the Armenian authorities intend to "ensure that debt remains below 60 percent of GDP over the medium term."

Armenian economy in 2016 grows by 0.5 percent

Armenian economy in 2016 grows by 0.5 percent
YEREVAN, December 23. /ARKA/. Armenia’s economy has grown this year by 0.5%, down from the 2.2% growth projected by the government, finance minister Vardan Aramyan told the final news conference in the outgoing year.

According to him, the pricing environment throughout the year has been quite modest and therefore ‘ we will close this year  with a lower price environment and almost zero deflator.’

"We expect the gross GDP growth to be about 2%, however, the real GDP is expected to be around 0.5%," - Aramyan said.

The minister blamed agriculture for the decline in the major economic indicators, as other sectors have seen growth. More precisely, the industrial output has grown by 6.2% year-on-year and services have grown by  4.4%.

"We projected a positive growth in the agriculture, however, given the recent developments we expect it to decline. However,  we believe that the reason is not economic, but has to do with accounting. This is evidenced by the market prices, which have not changed. Actually, prices are the first to respond to the economic recession", - said Aramyan.  --0--
RFE/RL Report
Four Men Sentenced Over Yerevan Unrest
December 22, 2016
Ruzanna Gishian

Two men were sentenced to three years in prison and two others
received suspended jail terms on Thursday for their alleged role 
in this summer's clashes between riot police and supporters of 
opposition gunmen occupying a police station in Yerevan.

Hundreds of radical opposition supporters fought pitched battles 
with the police near the besieged police compound late on July 20. The angry crowd tried to break through a police cordon, hitting 
security forces and throwing stones at them. The police officers 
clad in riot gear pushed back and dispersed it, using shields, truncheons and stun grenades.

The police said that 46 officers were injured in the clashes that
broke out three days after armed members of the Founding 
Parliament opposition movement seized the compound. The gunmen 
demanded President Serzh Sarkisian's resignation and the release 
of their jailed leader, Zhirayr Sefilian.

The police detained dozens of people in the following hours. Some of them were subsequently prosecuted on charges of participating 
in “mass disturbances" and assaulting policemen.

The four young men convicted on Thursday denied the charges at the
start of their trial. But they later pleaded guilty. Only two of 
them were set free as a result, with a Yerevan court giving them 
three-year suspended prison sentences.

The father of Hayk Hovannisian, one of the defendants who will 
remain behind bars, condemned the verdict, saying that it was 
ordered by Armenia's political leadership. "The court only 
executes orders,” he told RFE/RL's Armenian service (
According to Ara Papikian, a defense lawyer, many of the other men
prosecuted in connection with the July 20 have also decided 
to plead guilty to the accusations in court in hopes of getting 
milder punishments. "We must understand the young men who have 
been in jail for months and want to regain their freedom as soon 
as possible, even through a suspended sentence or probation," said Papikian.

Matenadaran branch to be established at Gandzasar Monastery in Artsakh

22 Dec 2016 17:34:53 +0000

Society 20:09 22/12/2016 Armenia

Matenadaran branch to be established at Gandzasar Monastery in Artsakh

The Cabinet has adopted a decision on establishing a branch of Matenadaran Scientific Research Institute of Ancient Manuscript named after Mesrop Mashtots at Gandzasar Monastery in Artsakh.  The justification for the decision reads that hundreds of unique manuscripts and archival documents are kept at Matenadaran that were created in Artsakh and spread light on the spiritual and cultural heritage of the historical Armenian land.

The decision is aimed at popularization of those values and encouraging research, considering also the fact that in 2015 an exhibition was opened in the monastery that presented over 100 Artsakhi manuscripts dating from early Middle Ages to modern times, unique originals and copies of the documents related to the history of Artsakh, as well as ancient books.

According to the decision, the branch will operate in the seminary of the monastery with its own charter and in line with the Nagorno Karabakh Republic legislation.

Armenia placed 86th in FIFA World Rankin

22 Dec 2016

Armenia is ranked 86th (up from 87th last month) in FIFA World Ranking released today. Armenia’s 3-2 win against Montenegro helped the team jump the largest number of places in the ranking table last month.
Argentina will end the year on top of the world, leading the way in the final FIFA World Ranking of 2016 from neighbors Brazil in second.

Turkey: Historic Urfa Church Given to Islamic School Foundation
December 23, 2016 
The interior of the historic Assyrian Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (Photo:

According to sources, the church was used actively until 1924, when Assyrians (Syriac Christians) left for Aleppo.

Locals call the church “the Regie Church”, because Tekel, the Turkish tobacco and alcoholic beverage company, had once used it as a tobacco factory.  This tobacco factory had been known as the Regie Tobacco Company in Ottoman times, and was nationalized in 1925.

It was also used as a grape storehouse for decades. After its restoration in 1998, it hosted a carpet-making class. In 2002, it became the “Kemalettin Gazezoglu Cultural Center,” named after the governor of the city. Today, a part of it has been given to a foundation that runs the Islamic school at the city’s university.

Turkey has used the historic church for many different purposes—except for its intended purpose: a church.
The courtyard of the historic Assyrian Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (Photo:

Called Edessa in ancient times, Urfa has been inhabited since prehistoric times.  The modern city was founded in 304 B.C by Seleucus I Nicator.

In the late 2nd century, as the Seleucid dynasty disintegrated, it successively became a Parthian, Armenian, and Roman state, and eventually an Eastern Roman (Byzantine) province. It was frequently conquered during periods when the Byzantine central government was weak, due to its location on the eastern frontier of the Empire. It fell to the Muslim conquest in 639 but was briefly retaken by Byzantium in 1031. It then fell to the Turkic Zengid dynasty in 1144, and was eventually absorbed by the Ottoman Empire in 1517.

Edessa was an important early center of Syriac Christianity. For Armenians, too, the city is significant since it is believed that the Armenian alphabet was invented there.

The writing on the wall of the church reads “Provincial Special Administration -Governor Kemalettin Gazezoglu Culture and Art Center May 24, 2002 (Photo:

But the traces of Assyrian, Armenian, and Greek Christians have been systematically erased from the city by Muslim governments and residents throughout centuries.
Scholar Ian Wilson describes the current absence of the Christian heritage in his proposal for an archaeological survey of the city as follows:

“For any Christian… Urfa appears to offer nothing of Christian interest even when you get there. To the best of my knowledge there is not a single Christian church, and certainly not an ancient one, the Moslem minaret being all-pervading…Yet if we could turn the clock back just over a thousand years, say to 943 AD, what a different picture of Edessa/Urfa we would find! Despite the city even then having fallen under Moslem control (though Arab rather than Turkish), we would find a full-blooded city, as distinct from a town, almost literally bristling with Christian churches and monasteries, numbering more than three hundred, according to one Arab geographer. At least three different rival denominations were represented, and the Christian pilgrim and tourist trade was then already at least six centuries old.”

All this is history now. Urfa today is an all-Muslim city. Christians were exposed to mass murders several times
ever since Turks arrived from the Central Asia in Anatolia and Mesopotamia in the 11th century.
Between 1894 and 1896, for example, a series of massacres spread through nearly every major Armenian-inhabited town of the Ottoman Empire.

The massacres culminated in the single worst atrocity “with the burning of the Armenian cathedral of Urfa within whose walls some 3,000 Armenians had taken refuge during the siege of their neighborhood,” according to the Armenian National Institute.

Assyrian Christians too were targeted in the massacres. “In October 1895 the Turkish army and Hamidian troops entered Urfa and killed 13 thousand Assyrians,” writes Dr. Anahit Khosroyeva in her article “A History of the Assyrian Genocide.”

But the gravest attack that exterminated the majority of Assyrian Christians in the region happened in the 1915.
Historian Paul R. Bartrop writes in his book Encountering Genocide: Personal Accounts from Victims, Perpetrators, and Witnesses:
“The Assyrian genocide… took place alongside those of the Armenians and the Pontic and Anatolian Greeks, during and after World War 1. At the start of the twentieth century, the Assyrian population in the Ottoman Empire numbered about one million, and was concentrated largely in what are now Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. As with the Armenian genocide, a large proportion of the Assyrian deaths occurred as a result of death marches into the Syrian Desert. Most of those who died were the victims of heat, starvation and thirst, exposure, and incessant brutality… The Assyrian population throughout the Empire was subjected to massacre, deportation, dismemberment, torture, and other atrocities. Whole cities were depopulated, and, when not killed outright, the inhabitants were sent on the aforementioned death marches.”

The Ottoman Turkish party the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) was the planner and organizer of the genocide. According to many scholars, including Professor Bartrop, the major motivations of the perpetrators were the Turkification and Islamization of the region.

“One of the major factors contributing to the Turkish campaign against Christian minorities was the pre-war commitment to the Turkification of the empire. Accompanying this was an Islamic incentive, whereby the Turkish national dimension could be wedded to an Islamic revival for the caliphate… Accordingly, on Oct. 11, 1914, Sultan Mehmet V declared jihad (holy war) against all the Christians living in the Empire. The call to holy war was reaffirmed on Nov. 14, 1914, by the Sheikh al-Islam, the most senior Islamic cleric in the Ottoman Empire. It was directed toward all Christians, hitting particularly hard for those of Armenian, Assyrian and Greek descent,” Bartrop writes

What followed was the confiscation, plunder, and seizure of Christian properties.

“The state-orchestrated plunder of Armenian property immediately impoverished its victims,” according to scholar Umit Kurt, in his article “The Plunder of Wealth through Abandoned Properties Laws in the Armenian Genocide.”

“This was simultaneously a condition for and a consequence of the genocide. The seizure of the Armenian property was not just a byproduct of the CUP’s genocidal policies, but an integral part of the murder process, reinforcing and accelerating the intended destruction. The expropriation and plunder of deported Armenians’ movable and immovable properties was an essential component of the destruction process of Armenians… Genocide does not only mean physical annihilation,” according to Kurt. “What is important is the complete erasure of the traces of the Armenians from their ancient homeland.”

This attempt to erase the traces of the genocide victims has been applied to Anatolian Greeks and Assyrians, as well.

The homes, businesses, churches, monasteries, and other economic, religious and cultural sites of Assyrians were systematically seized by government officials or Muslim locals. Churches and monasteries were either destroyed or used for sacrilegious purposes, such as stables or storehouses.

Turkey today has a smaller Christian percentage of its population than all of its neighbors including Syria, Iraq and Iran. Only less than 0.2% of Turkey’s population is now Christian.

Though the constitution is officially secular, Christianity as well as other non-Muslim faiths are under the constant pressure and attacks at the hands of the Turkish government.  Persecution stemming from this destructive worldview has turned the indigenous and once flourishing Christian community into an almost-extinct, second class minority that are still not allowed to live as equal citizens who can freely practice their faith on their native lands.

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