Thursday, 6 July 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Vote Buying

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Watchdog Decries Vote Buying
July 03, 2017
Anush Muradian

Vote buying was decisive in the ruling Republican Party's victory in
the recent parliamentary elections, Armenia's leading anti-corruption
watchdog claimed on Monday.

In a report on the conduct of the April 2 polls, the Armenian
affiliate of Transparency International, the Anti-Corruption Center
(ACC), said its members recorded 90 cases of vote bribes during the
parliamentary race. Most of them were handed out by the ruling HHK, it

Presenting the report, the ACC's director for programs, Varuzhan
Hoktanian, said that other election contenders, notably businessman
Gagik Tsarukian's Bloc and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation
(Dashnaktsutyun), also engaged in the illegal practice. "But if we
look at the scale [of vote buying,] it was mainly done by the
Republican Party," he told a reporters.

Western observers mostly deployed by the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe said although "fundamental freedoms were
generally respected" the elections were "tainted by credible
information about vote-buying, and pressure on civil servants and
employees of private companies."

In a joint April 3 statement, they did not report significant
instances of other violations such as multiple voting or ballot
stuffing. The United States and the European Union echoed the findings
of the OSCE-led mission, while cautiously praising the overall conduct
of the vote.

An HHK spokesman admitted on April 5 that vote bribes were
distributed. But he insisted that they did not have a "substantial
impact on the election results" that gave a landslide victory to the
party headed by President Serzh Sarkisian.

The ACC report also accuses the HHK of illegally using government
resources in its election campaign. In particular, it says, government
officials and public sector employees worked for HHK campaign offices
or participated in campaign events organized by the party during their
work hours. Also, employees of schools, kindergartens and even
hospitals were pressurized into campaigning for the HHK, according to
the report.

The anti-graft watchdog also accused the Tsarukian Bloc and
Dashnaktsutyun of abusing their administrative resources in a similar
fashion in local communities run by their members.

Hoktanian was very skeptical about several dozen criminal cases that
were opened by Armenian law-enforcement agencies in connection with
reported election irregularities. "I don't think that # that will lead
to some really serious results," he said.

Hoktanian also said that the abuses of administrative resources were
facilitated by the weakness of Armenia's opposition forces. "Money
plays a very important role in politics," he said. "I don't mean to
say that they are weak only because of [a lack of] money. But those
financial problems do exist." 

Tert, Armenia
July 1 2017
Aravot: Corruption perception index reveals decline in Armenia

The annual Corruption Perception Index, published by Transparency
International, shows steady a decline in Armenia.

The country's score was 33 in 2016 against the 35 in 2015, the paper
says, citing the recently released report.

The 2015 record also showed a decline compared to the 37 points in
2014 as Armenia climbed up from the 113rd to the 115th position. 

Panorama, Armenia
July 1 2017
Tobacco production volume up in Armenia 

The data released by the National Statistical Service (NSS) of Armenia show that in January-May 2017 the tobacco production volumes increased by 18.2% in Armenia to compare with the same period of 2016.

As was informed from the NSS, in the same period of 2016, 8 million 304.4 thousand units of cigarettes were produced in Armenia, whereas in January-May of the current year the production volume amounted to 9 million 815.3 thousand units of cigarettes.

The tobacco production share in the general production sphere in Armenia has made up 15.4% due to the registered increase.

To note, surveys indicate that more than 50 percent of Armenia men above 16 and almost 4 percent of women smoke.

UK Government News
July 1, 2017
Joint Concert by British and Armenian Military Bands in Yerevan

The UK Government made the following announcement:

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Establishment of Diplomatic
Relations between the UK and Armenia

On June 23, The Salamanca Band and the Bugles of The Rifles of the UK
Ministry of Defence performed a joint concert with the Honour Guard
Unit and the Military Band of the General Staff of the Armenia
Ministry of Defence at Freedom Square in Yerevan, Armenia.

The UK and Armenia Ministries of Defence organised the concert as part
of the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of establishment of
diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Minister of
Defence of the Republic of Armenia Vigen Sargsyan, Deputy Minister of
Foreign Relations Garen Nazarian and Her Majesty's Ambassador to
Armenia Judith Farnworth attended the event.

Ambassador Farnworth mentioned in her opening remarks:

Over the last 25 years the United Kingdom and the Republic of Armenia
have developed strong partnerships in a range of areas - political,
economic, commercial, cultural, and, of course, defence. The UK is
committed to building on these strong foundations by further
developing our cooperation for the benefit of Armenia and the United

The Deputy Foreign Minister Garen Nazarian said:

Not incidentally, we are commencing the celebrations with a cultural
event. These type of events are aimed at promoting mutual
understanding and increasing contacts between our societies.

Mr Nazarian also underlined that the two countries cooperate
successfully in the bilateral and multilateral formats, focusing on
the challenges threatening the international community and the issues
related to addressing them. He expressed hope that the positive
dynamics of close cooperation will be maintained through joint efforts
and the interstate dialogue will be raised to a qualitatively new

The sight of the two military bands drew large crowds of appreciative
onlookers who enjoyed the performance of classic and popular British
and Armenian tunes.

Besides this concert, the British military band also performed at the
Yerevan State Conservatory and during the Queen's Birthday Party in

PanArmenian, Armenia
July 3 2017
Same-sex marriages registered abroad are valid in Armenia
Marriage certificates registering the union between two people of the same sex abroad are valid in Armenia, the justice ministry told PanARMENIAN.Net in an emailed statement on Monday, July 3. According to the Family Code, marriages between Armenian citizens, those between Armenian citizens and foreigners or stateless persons, which have been registered outside Armenia, are valid inside the country after consular legalization. Also, the Code stipulates that marriages registered in another country which are in line with that particular state’s legislation, are valid in Armenia. It turns out that in the event of obtaining consular legalization, marriages registered outside Armenia are valid, regardless of the sex of the spouses, as the article makes no reference to the sexes whatsoever.

ARKA, Armenia
July 3 2017
Only 51% of Armenia’s residents have higher education diplomas
YEREVAN, July 3. /ARKA/. Levon Mkrtchyan, Armenian education and science minister, speaking Monday in the National Assembly at the discussion of the 2016 government budget execution, dispelled a myth that all in Armenia want to provide their children with higher education.

“Statements that everybody in Armenia has higher education diplomas have nothing in common with the reality,” he said.

In his words, only 51% of the country’s residents have higher education diplomas, while the median European standard is 60 to 65 percent. 
“We should restore our traditions and create engineering and technical clusters, and the package of the higher education system development is aimed at that,” Mkrtchyan said.

Armenpress News Agency , Armenia
June 30, 2017 Friday
Aeroflot names an airplane after Armenian composer Arno Babajanyan

By the initiative of the Russian Ministry of Transport Aeroflot-Russian 
airlines named one of the airplanes after Armenian composer Arno 
Babajanyan, the press service of the airlines told Armenpress.

The decision was made based on the application sent by the Arno
Babajanyan International Memorial Foundation to the Russian Minister
of Transport. , Armenia
July 3 2017
Armenia athletes won 48 international gold medals in 2016 

In the year past, the athletes of Armenia won 48 world and European gold medals.

The Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs, Hrachya Rostomyan, stated the above-said during Monday’s debates on the 2016 State Budget performance report, at the standing committees of the National Assembly of Armenia.

As per the minister, these athletes competed in 165 international events last year, and they won 48 gold, 60 silver and 62 bronze medals in twelve sports.

In particular, Armenia’s athletes participated at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Greco-Roman wrestler Artur Aleksanyan became Olympic champion, while Greco-Roman wrestler Migran Arutyunyan and weightlifters Simon Martirosyan and Gor Minasyan won silver medals at this event. 

The Smithsonian Magazine
June 30 2017
12 Unique Ways to Experience Armenia Off the Beaten Path
By Carolyn Rapkievian 

If you are like most first time visitors to Armenia, you are sure to tour the ancient monasteries , explore the national museums and visit the historic brandy factories. But there are many amazing things to do in Armenia beyond the usual guidebook highlights. This past summer, I had a chance to visit Hayastan​, the Armenian name for the country of Armenia, and step off the beaten path. I found myself soaring above alpine lakes, forming ceramics with local artisans and wandering through dusty shafts of light in an abandoned Soviet textile factory. Here are a dozen extraordinary ways to experience Armenia to the fullest. 

1 | Paraglide Over Lake Sevan 
Soar through the skies paragliding above the mountains by Lake Sevan, the largest lake in the Caucasus. Gardman Tour arranges expert guides, many of whom have competed internationally, to provide equipment and tandem instruction for novices. It’s a thrilling and unique way to get to know the Armenian landscape.

Float through the comfortable sunshine (the region averages 256 days of sun per year) and over rocky hills dotted with patches of wildflowers. In the distance, you can see the town of Sevan and the village of Lchashen . Farther off, high above the lake, spot Sevanavank Monastery , founded in the 9th century by Princess Mariam , and beyond that the mountain peaks of the Lesser Caucasus.

2 | Discover Prehistoric Petroglyphs 
Surrounding a small sparkling glacial lake at about 10,500 feet above sea level near the top of Mount Ughtasar, prehistoric petroglyphs, dated 2,000 BCE to - 12,000 BCE, are carved onto the flat surfaces of manganese boulders left behind by an extinct volcano.

The petroglyphs were initially studied in the 1960’s, and archaeological research is still ongoing. Due to the site’s high elevation, the remarkable carvings are covered with snow nearly nine months of the year making them accessible only in summer months. Off-road vehicles take visitors through rocky fields full of flowers and butterflies that flit through the crisp mountain air. Celestial symbols, animals, hunters and even these dragons (pictured above) are evidence of the lives and imaginations of ancient ancestors. 

 3 | Create Porcelain Ornaments with Ceramics Masters 
Visit the ceramics factory of Antonio Montalto. Master artists may even teach you the extraordinary technique of making a decorative egg. The clay is attracted to the porcelain mold creating the hollow form. After the first firing, the egg is decorated with glaze and then fired a second time to create a beautiful ornament. 

 4 | Explore a Mysterious Monolith 
Explore the mystery of Karahunj, an ancient site with a circle of placed stones. Astronomers theorize that this 7,500-year-old archeological site is a celestial observatory pre-dating England’s Stonehenge by more than 4,500 years. Two hundred lichen-covered basalt stones stand tall and approximately 80 of them have small holes that align with bright stars in the night sky. A desolate, windswept site off the main road near the village a Sissian, visit Karahunge (literally translated as “speaking stones”) at dawn or dusk to experience its powerful beauty. 5 | Forge Iron in a Historic City
H. Tadevosyan, AMAP(H. Tadevosyan, AMAP)

In the artistic city of Gyumri, visit the Irankyuni Forge to learn to create a wrought-iron souvenir with the expert guidance of a master blacksmith. Heat the iron in the hot fire and then hammer, with sparks flying, to gradually bend the metal. Historic blacksmithing tools can be seen in the Dzitoghtsyan Mansion Museum of National Architecture and Urban Life , and ironwork can still be found with the black and red tuff stone architecture around this centuries-old “city of arts and crafts.” Top off your visit to the forge with a delicious dinner next door at the blacksmith’s family-owned restaurant .

6 | Explore Spectacular Geological Formations in Mozrov Cave 
Discover flowstone, stalactites, stalagmites, pristine rock “popcorn,” “soda straws,” “bacon-rind” and “draperies” while exploring Mozrov Cave, one of Armenia’s most decorated. The karst cave was discovered in 1965 during road construction. The entrance partially collapsed due to heavy snowfall in 2012, but the 300 meter cave is still accessible.

The cave is ideal for intermediate-level recreational cavers on their own and novice cavers with a guide. Discover Armenia Tours organizes excursions and provides hard-hats, head-lamps, flashlights and transportation to explore this wild and well-preserved cave located in Vayots Dzor province.

 7 | Step Back in Time in an Abandoned Soviet Textile Factory 
Explore an abandoned Soviet textile factory in the Vayots Dzor Province deserted in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. The site sits frozen in time with yarn still threaded in machines, lockers filled with photos and tools and folktale murals on the wall of the factory-workers’ children’s day-care. The now-silent rooms can be toured with the local owner in arrangement with Discover Armenia Tours.

8 | Join a Public Sing-a-long 

Sing along at a public song workshop at the new Komitas Museum-Institute in Yerevan. The “Lullabies” workshops (held every-other month on selected Saturdays) recently won the “Best Practice Award in Museum Education” from the International Council of Museums . On other Saturdays, the workshops feature seasonal songs that Komitas, a celebrated ethnomusicologist who is considered the founder of the Armenian national school of music, collected and arranged. Knowledgeable staff teach each line of the song and visitors of all ages are encouraged to lift up their voices in Komitas’s sometimes spiritual, sometimes playful folk songs. 

 9 | Cook Up Traditional Recipes 

Cook delicious gata and other Armenian treats with TV-cooking-show star Zara Karapetyan, director of Tasty Tour . Under the trees, next to her herb garden and orchard, stir-up the ingredients, roll out the dough and cook the sweet bread in a tonier, a traditional oven usually buried in the ground. Then dig in to a delicious lunch of local Ushi village favorites!

10 | Spot Rare Birds in Lake Arpi National Park 
An extraordinary number of species of birds - over 350 - can be found in Armenia because even though the country is small, there is a great range in elevation and diversity of landscape. Luba Balyan, a noted ornithologist, forest ecologist and founder of a bird conservation organization in Armenia, is one of several field researchers who lead exciting bird-watching tours aimed at both devoted birders and the casual tourist.

One particularly rich site to visit is Lake Arpi National Park in the northwestern corner of Armenia. Over 190 species of birds have been recorded in the park, including the globally threatened Dalmatian pelican, Egyptian vulture and European roller. Other birds include greater spotted and imperial eagles, red-footed and saker falcons, great snipes and semi-collared flycatchers. Plus, the park hosts one of the world’s largest colonies of Armenian gulls. 

11 | Hear Ancient Chants in Geghard Monastery
Listen to sacred chants in the ancient monastery of Geghard , located in the Upper Azat Valley. The Unesco-recognized site is partially carved out of the colorful rock cliffs and hosts a healing spring in the oldest chamber. The Garni Ensemble is one of the incredible a capella groups that performs by special request. In the near-darkness inside the tomb of Prince Papak, the acoustics are extraordinary – nearly a 90-second reverberation. The haunting harmonies of the 5-member ensemble sound as if you are hearing a 100-member choir.

12 | Sip Modern Wine Made With Ancient Techniques 
Celebrate with a visit to Trinity Canyon Vineyards in the Vayots Dzor highlands. The region's high altitude, sunny skies and volcanic soils create a unique terroir that the vineyard founders say allows for the cultivation of several wine styles.

“Trinity’s main focus,” the founders say, “is to reveal the potential of Armenian indigenous grape varieties by drawing on the best organic viticulture practices.” Using the Areni grape, the winery produces a wine that has been described as “silky, powerful, with refreshing acidity.”

The Voskehat, another prominent grape endemic to Armenia, is used for their ancestral line of wines made in karases (ancient Armenian terracotta vessels). The resulting varieties range in style – from light and crisp to “bold, skin-macerated orange wines.”

Their tasting area is a pleasant patio of rustic picnic tables near a garden set up for music and other special events with a demonstration vineyard on the hillside. Raise a glass to toast executive director-poet-musician, Hovakim Saghatelyan, enthusiastic winemaker Artem Parseghyan and the rest of the staff as you reflect on the winery’s deep connection to the land and its gifts.

With such marvelous and unique opportunities in Armenia, you will hope to return as soon as possible!

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