Sunday, 2 April 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Armenian soldier killed in Azeri firing

Two more concert dates for your diary:  Sergey Khachatryan 

April 6, Royal Festival Hall 
playing Tchaikovsky Violin concerto. 

April 13 , Wigmore Hall 
With Lusine Khachatryan 
Playing Prokofiev, Mozart and Franck
Armenian soldier killed in Azeri firing

28 Mar 2017

Private of the Artsakh Defense Army Artak Rafaelyan (born in 1997) was killed as a result of firing from the Azeri side, when on duty at one of the military units located in the eastern direction of the Defense Army.

Probe into the details of the incident in underway.

The Artsakh Defense Ministry shares the sorrow of the heavy loss and offers its condolences to the soldier’s family and friends. 

http (Russian Language Edition)
Yerevan may use missiles to defend Karabakh, president says
March 25 2017

Yerevan will not hesitate to use Iskander missiles to defend
Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has said during
his visit to Azerbaijan's breakaway region.

"Today, a supermodern strike force is targeting the most important
infrastructure facilities in all corners of our war-thirsting enemy
[Azerbaijan]. And today, if need be, the commander-in-chief of the
Armenian armed forces will order, without batting an eyelash, to use
Iskander missiles. And the neighbour country [Azerbaijan] knows that
well very," website quoted Sargsyan as saying at a meeting
with soldiers in Nagorno-Karabakh on 25 March.

"Last April, we repulsed, in all directions, the enemy [Azerbaijan]
who violated international agreements. We thwarted the enemy's plans
and defeated him in the information war. Over the past year we have
reinforced the border and armed the troops to the extent that the
frontline has become unrecognizable. Today our guys can observe the
enemy movements deep inside his territory," Sargsyan said.

He went on to say that Armenia would not be forced to make concessions.

"No one should have doubts about that - we are the nation whose
dignity cannot be subjected to bargaining, who cannot be intimidated
into making moves that run counter to our dignity, our sense of
justice or international law," Sargsyan said.

Baku has responded by saying that Yerevan will face "irreparable
consequences" if it dares to attack Azerbaijan.

"[Baku's] retaliatory measures will result in large-scale casualties
and destruction in Armenia, leading to tragic and irreparable
consequences for Armenia. Prior to making irresponsible statements of
this sort, the Armenian leadership should think about the fate of its
people," APA news agency quoted the Azeri Defence Ministry as saying
on 27 March.

Yereran and Baku have been at loggerhead over Azerbaijan's breakaway
Nagorno-Karabakh since the 1990s. Dozens of Azeri and Armenian troops
were killed in the April 2016 flare-up, which was the worst escalation
since the sides signed ceasefire deal in 1994.

Armenia received Russia-made Iskander missiles in 2016. 
“Debating isn’t for the clergy” Bekchian responds to Ateshian
29 March, 2017 

Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Germany, patriarchal locum tenens of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul Archbishop Garegin Bekchian responded to the announcement of patriarchal vicar Archbishop Aram Ateshian, Zhamanak Daily reported.

Bekchian reminded that during the October 26, 2016 Church Congress the Patriarchal throne was announced vacant, which was an imperative for holding patriarchal election.

In February of 2017, during a meeting in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiatsin a decision was made to hold locum tenens election, which had to be followed by Ateshian stepping down from his post, and the patriarchal election must have been held within six months. According to the decision, the locum tenens election was held on March 15, with Ateshian taking part as a candidate. Bekchian underscored that despite the agreement, Ateshian didn’t resign after the election and didn’t step down as vicar.

“My Archbishop brother Aram Ateshian talked about balance in his poor announcement. What kind of balance is it? Between who? For what reason and purpose was it created for? How does it work? What makes this balance so vital? Is this balance and its maintenance so important for our community, that despite this many demands, church rules and religious traditions, he wants to maintain the post which he captured through persistence? These questions are valid, but the answers are so painful that we don’t want to hear it”, Bekchian’s letter said.

The announcement mentions that “they treat with sorrow” my initiatives from Cologne. My open and transparent initiatives are made for maintain the honor of our church, dignity of clergy and traditions. They don’t have the purpose of saddening anyone.

Debating isn’t for the clergy. We must speak solely about our holy religion, the dignity of our church, the honor of our people and only the truth.

I will return to Istanbul in a few days. I find it to be my duty to inform the community and the entire public with a wider and comprehensive announcement.

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Highway Upgrades `Mismanaged'
March 29, 2017

Transport Minister Vahan Martirosian acknowledged on Wednesday that an
ambitious project to upgrade Armenia's main highways stretching more
than 550 kilometers to Georgia and Iran has fallen behind schedule due
to poor management.

The North-South transport project worth an estimated $1.5 billion is
aimed at facilitating the landlocked country's access to the Georgian
and Iranian ports. It is also designed to enable Iran to use Armenian
and Georgian territory for large-scale freight shipments to and from

In 2009, the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) lent the
Armenian government $500 million for the planned road upgrades. Only
two highways connecting Yerevan to the towns of Ararat and Ashtarak
have been expanded and repaved to date, costing $70 million. Their
total length of is about 50 kilometers.

Work on about 120 kilometers of other roads running further southeast
and northwest of the Armenian capital is due to be finished in 2018.

In 2015, the government also borrowed $150 million from the
Kazakhstan-based Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) to rebuild a
20-kilometer road currently running through Armenia's highest mountain
pass close to the Iranian border. Most of that money is to be spent on
the construction of a 4-kilometer tunnel.

Martirosian could not say when the entire project initiated by
President Serzh Sarkisian could be completed. "I can't speak right now
of any time frames as to when it will be complete," he told reporters.

He admitted that some of the planned roadworks "have slightly fallen
behind schedule." "We are working with concrete contractors in
connection with that," he said.

Martirosian, who was appointed as minister in October, insisted that
the expensive project has not been a failure. "It's just that it
probably was not or is not correctly managed," he said. "We certainly
have some work to do there."

RFE/RL Report 
Man Held In Georgia Over Armenian `Arms Smuggling'
March 28, 2017

Police in Georgia have arrested an Armenian citizen wanted by
law-enforcement authorities in Yerevan in connection with their
criminal case against Samvel Babayan, an Armenian opposition figure
arrested last week.

The Georgian Interior Ministry said the 40-year-old man identified by
it as Robert A. was detained in Tbilisi on Monday on an Armenian
arrest warrant relating to the alleged smuggling of a shoulder-fired
missile system to Armenia.

Armenia's National Security Service (NSS) claimed to have confiscated
a Russian-made surface-to-air Igla missile along with its launcher
hours before announcing Babayan's arrest on March 22. It said that
Babayan, who is a former commander of Nagorno-Karabakh's army, paid
two other arrested suspects to smuggle the weapon from or through

All three men were charged under corresponding articles of the
Armenian Criminal Code late last week. Armenian prosecutors said they
denied the accusations but "admitted their connection to the illegal

Babayan's lawyer, Avetis Kalashian, dismissed the latter claim as a
"peculiar interpretation" of his client's testimony. Kalashian went on
to declare on Monday that the once powerful general does not consider
himself a political prisoner despite rejecting the accusations.

Babayan is widely regarded as an unofficial leader of the ORO
alliance, one of the main opposition contenders in Armenia's April 2
parliamentary elections. ORO leaders have condemned his arrest as
politically motivated, saying that the authorities are thus trying to
weaken their bloc.

Some Armenian media outlets have cited unnamed government sources as
alleging that Babayan plotted political assassinations or an armed
rebellion against the government on the eve of the elections. ORO
representatives have brushed aside those claims.

Georgia's Interior Ministry did not immediately clarify when the
arrested man will be extradited to Armenia. Georgian Interior Minister
Giorgi Mghebrishvili said earlier that his ministry is cooperating
with Armenian law-enforcement authorities in their investigation into
the alleged smuggling. 
Armenian figure skater Anastasia Galustyan reaches World Figure Skating final 
World Figure Skating Championships 2017 launched today in Helsinki, Finland. In the capital of Finland, the single skaters launched the championship with Anastasia Galustyan representing Armenia among the other 37 participants.

In the Short Program the Armenian figure skater scored 55.20 points and made it through to the final, where the best 24 figure skaters will compete in the Voluntary Program on March 31.

RFE/RL Report
Russian-Armenian Tycoons Set Up Investment Fund For Armenia
March 27, 2017
Emil Danielyan

Armenia - Prime Minister Karen Karapetian (R) and Russian-Armenian
businessman Samvel Karapetian announce the creation of a
Russian-Armenian investment fund in Yerevan, 25Mar2017.

In a further show of support for Prime Minister Karen Karapetian, more
than three dozen Russian businesspeople of Armenian descent launched
over the weekend a multimillion-dollar investment fund which they said
will finance various business projects in Armenia.

Karapetian described the creation of the fund called the Investors
Club of Armenia as an economic "breakthrough" for the country as he
announced it at a special ceremony in Yerevan. He said it will not
only attract "healthy and long-term investments" into the Armenian
economy but also help to create a "new corporate culture."

"I expect that it will make a qualitative change in our business
environment and business atmosphere," he said, sitting next to Samvel
Karapetian (no relation), an Armenian-born billionaire entrepreneur
and the driving force behind the initiative.

The tycoon and the other founders of the fund issued a joint statement
when Karen Karapetian paid an official visit to Moscow in late
January. They voiced "full support" for "profound reforms" planned by
Karapetian's cabinet and expressed readiness to "participate in
business projects with the Armenian government."

Karapetian said during that trip that Russia's government pledged to
help boost Russian investments in Armenia. This, coupled with the
joint statement by the Russian-Armenian business leaders, was
construed by some commentators in Armenia as an expression of Moscow's
support for the Armenian premier.

The latter lived and worked in Russia from 2011-2016, holding senior
executive positions in local subsidiaries of the Gazprom gas
monopoly. He was appointed as prime minister in September and has
since repeatedly vowed to embark on far-reaching economic reforms.

"We said it in Moscow and we have come here to again say that we
support the Armenian government and its programs that will ensure our
country's prosperity," Samvel Karapetian told a joint news conference
with the premier.

Armenians, the tycoon went on, should expect many pleasant "surprises"
from their prime minister. "It's been just a few months since he
started [working as prime minister] but even I am surprised by such a
combative mood of Karen Karapetian," he said. "We are going to defend
and support him, and I am sure that very soon goals will be scored
every day."

Campaigning for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) for the
upcoming parliamentary elections, Karen Karapetian regularly states
that his government has all but secured $3.2 billion in funding for
around 350 nationwide investment projects to be implemented in the
coming years. At least $830 million of that money will likely be
invested this year, according to him. Armenia's entire Gross Domestic
Product is equivalent to roughly $11 billion.

Karen Karapetian implied on Saturday that he expects the newly
established Investors Club of Armenia to provide a large part of that
money. "We anticipate that with the entry of the club there will also
be other investments apart of the $3.2 billion," he said.

A separate statement by the Armenian government said the
Russian-Armenian fund will invest in new and existing Armenian firms
and also buy commercial estate. It did not specify the amount of those
investments, saying only that they will be channeled into the energy,
mining, manufacturing and tourism sectors. The statement also said
that the fund will be managed by a Russian company, Fora-Capital.

Samvel Karapetian said the fund has already chosen "investment
projects submitted to us." "They mainly relate to the energy sector,"
he said without elaborating.

Karapetian's Tashir Group conglomerate already purchased Armenia's
national electric utility and largest thermal power plant from a
state-run Russian energy giant in 2015. Among his other major assets
in Armenia is a shopping mall in Yerevan. Tashir is expected to open
another sprawling trade center in the Armenian capital later this

According to "Forbes" magazine estimates, Samvel Karapetian's personal
fortune is currently worth $3.5billion, meaning that he is most
probably the richest ethnic Armenian in the world.
World music Komitas Vardapet, forgotten folk hero
Michael Church 

Composer Komitas Vardapet survived a genocide and somehow bridged Armenia and Turkey's musical divide. He should be better known

Sunday 24 April is Easter Day, but for Armenians it is also genocide remembrance day. This is when Armenians all over the world will gather to commemorate the anniversary of the 1915 genocide in which 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey were either slaughtered, or died on forced marches into exile. For Armenians, music is memory. And whenever they gather to honour their dead, the songs they sing are by the composer who speaks for the soul of their nation, Komitas Vardapet. He himself was a victim of the 1915 persecution, and though he survived physically, he was driven into madness by it. Outside Armenia he, too, has been swept under the carpet of history.

Komitas's output was modest: 80 choral works and songs, arrangements of the Armenian mass, and some dances for piano. But as his better-known compatriot Aram Khachaturian acknowledged, he singlehandedly laid the foundations for Armenia's classical tradition. And as a collector and arranger of folksongs, he did for Armenia what Bartók did for Hungary, turning simple material into bewitchingly sophisticated polyphony. After a Komitas concert in Paris, Claude Debussy declared that on the basis of a single song, he deserved to be recognised as a great composer. Yet many classical musicians barely recognise his name.

I first became aware of Komitas's existence when recording the Armenian Chamber Choir in Yerevan in 2001. I was intrigued by the songs' vibrant strangeness: folk melodies so deftly arranged that the raw beauty of the originals glowed the more brightly.

Soghomon Soghomonyan – his original name – was born in 1869 to Armenian parents in Turkey , where the Christian minority endured routine discrimination. His parents (who both died when he was young) were noted singers: he inherited their gift and was talent-spotted at 12 by an Armenian bishop, and enrolled at the Etchmiadzin seminary near Yerevan. There, he was the class comedian who could mimic the songs he found in villages on the slopes of Mount Ararat: even in his teens he was a pioneer ethnomusicologist. Using the notation he had learned in the Armenian liturgy, he wrote down what he heard, devised three-part arrangements, and formed a student choir to sing them.

Soghomonyan's appetite for songs was voracious – one day, he noted with pride, he collected 34. His account of the ploughing song he found in the Armenian village of Lori reflects a remarkable ear: in his transcription, music, movement, and complex social relationships are seamlessly interwoven. In another village, he observed a girl singing to her dead mother: her plangently disordered song, he wrote, "expresses the sadness of her lot, and her inner world. If other orphans had heard it, they would have joined in. But after a while, that song would be forgotten. Because for the peasant, creating a song is as ordinary and natural as casual conversation is for the rest of us." As an encapsulation of the essence of folk music, this could still not be bettered.

Meanwhile he was trying to crack the code of "neume" notation, denoting changes of pitch, used in Armenian liturgical chants in the early middle ages. Altered in oral transmission over the centuries, Soghomonyan was determined to rediscover their original form.

At 25, Soghomonyan was ordained a Vardapet – a celibate priest – and renamed himself Komitas after a seventh-century religious poet. But Etchmiadzin was a small world, and he needed to spread his wings. He went to study in Berlin, then moved to Paris, where he founded a choir and began to attract big audiences for his folksong recitals. Regarded as the musical voice of Armenia, he was now a European celebrity, but his secular performances of sacred Armenian music put him on a collision course with his church. He also courted trouble through his relationship with Armenian singer Margaret Babayan, with whom he snatched an improbable holiday on the Isle of Wight. It will never be known if they had a love affair, but his letters suggest as anguished a wrestle with his soul as over his never-ending battle with the church traditionalists. He was at once a sensualist and an ascetic: he wanted to submit to discipline, but couldn't deny his artistic calling.

Komitas went on to found expatriate Armenian choirs in Alexandria and Constantinople, where even Turks began to celebrate him. This was grimly ironic, for in 1913, when Komitas and a group of fellow intellectuals were embarking on an oral-history project to celebrate the Armenian community in Turkey, Turkish Muslims were encouraged by politically insecure rulers to loot Christian Armenian villages and murder the inhabitants. Turkey's Armenians were ghettoised, disarmed (even of kitchen knives), and finally, on 24 April 1915, deported en masse. Komitas was among 291 prominent figures trucked off into the mountains. When the secret police came for him, he submitted to his arrest with a Kafkaesque fatalism.

The rest of his story has terrible pathos. At first he was the comforter of his friends as they were shunted from one town to another, with word filtering out that they were destined to be shot. One day he was brutalised by a guard, and something in him snapped: from that point on, though he was among the few who were reprieved (after intervention by the American ambassador, one of his fans) he retreated into a paranoid world, spending his remaining 20 years in an asylum.

Post-traumatic stress disorder was clearly the trigger for Komitas's breakdown, but his biographer, Rita Soulahian Kuyumjian, argues that its real roots lay in his doomed struggle to "preserve" his dead parents through the songs they sang, and to do the same for two ecclesiastical father figures by cracking the code of the neumes. Dr Vrej Nersessian, priest at the St Yeghiche Armenian church in Kensington, agrees: "Komitas's real tragedy was the loss of his research. His will was broken." In Nersessian's view, it would be an insult to Komitas's memory if he were consigned, as he often is, to a box marked "Armenian genocide victims".

Komitas claimed to have cracked the code of the neumes, but his key is lost. Scholars still search for what could open a fascinating window on remote musical history. Meanwhile, by refusing to recognise any divide between the folk musics of Turkey and Armenia, Komitas showed a way in which the antagonism between the two could be dissolved. But his choral works are his monument.

Armenia's leading composer, Tigran Mansurian, recently wrote a cello concerto with the richly symbolic title, Where Is Your Brother Abel? As a child of Armenian genocide survivors, Mansurian is still pursuing closure, and his guide in this pursuit is Komitas. "His garden of sounds," says Mansurian, "covers a vast territory in time, stretching across millennia." But where, in the garden of western classical music, is Komitas?

Isabel Bayrakdarian's Gomidas Songs is on the Nonesuch label.

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