Friday, 12 January 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... Albert's Song

Seven Year Old Albert 's Song from Border Village, Armenia
Jan 10 2018
Armenian Church of Iran has deaconess for first time in 100 years

TEHRAN. – A deaconess has been ordained for the first time in the last 100 years by the Armenian Church of Iran. 

Ani Kristi Manvelian has been serving at the Church for about 15 years, and she was ordained a deaconess in the fall of 2017, the Armenian Diocese of Tehran informed Armenian 

“The Church law permits a virgin girl to be ordained a deaconess,” said the diocese representative. “In the history of Iran, however, this is the first case in the last 100 years that we have a deaconess.”, Armenia
Jan 10 2018
Dietitian: Armenia residents no longer pay much attention to setting lavish New Year’s tables 

YEREVAN. – People in Armenia have stopped focusing on the lavishness of the New Year’s tables and they try to avoid unnecessary spending, said dietitian Vardanush Petrosyan, at a press conference on Wednesday. 

In her view, this is largely due to the dire socioeconomic present-day situation in the country. 

“Not everyone [in Armenia] can afford a lavish New Year’s table,” said Petrosyan. “But if the [respective] desire is so great, I know cases when some go to the bank and take a special loan for that.” 

JAM News
Jan 10 2018
Women in Armenia are postponing having children due to financial problems

Over the past 25 years, the average age of women having their first child has been increasing. According to official data, in 1990 women gave birth to their first child at age 23, and at 25 in 2016. The number of women having their first child in the 35-39 and 40-44 age ranges have increased as well. 

Specialists believe that the main reasons for this are social problems. Women don’t want to have children because they receive low salaries, or because their husbands can’t adequately provide for the family’s needs. 

Varduhi Gevorgyan, chairwoman of the NGO Union of Progressive Women told JAMnews that women mostly give birth around the same age as when they get married, and are deliberately getting married later now. 

“There are couples that get married, but don’t want to have children because they don’t consider themselves to be well-off, and worry that they will not be able to provide for a child’s minimum needs. Many young people don’t have an apartment and put off getting married until they can solve their housing issue. Girls used to agree to live with their in-laws, but now young people prefer to live separately. So, they wait until they have an apartment,” Varduhi Gevorgyan said. 

One specialist noted that women are often marrying later because career development is important to them and because they can’t find a suitable partner because in Armenia there are fewer men than women. Another reason for late childbirth is men emigrating in order to earn money abroad. 

RFE/RL Report
Sarkisian Demands Government Action On Price Hikes
January 10, 2018

President Serzh Sarkisian expressed concern on Wednesday at the latest
increases in the prices of fuel and some foodstuffs in Armenian,
telling his government to look for ways of mitigating their impact on
the population.

Speaking at an emergency meeting with senior state officials,
Sarkisian also instructed Armenian anti-trust regulators to consider
taking "drastic measures" against a small number of companies
importing those products to the country.

The prices of petrol and liquefied natural gas, which powers most
vehicles in Armenia, rose by roughly 5 percent on January 2 following
the entry into force of a new Armenian Tax Code mandating higher
excise duties on fuel, tobacco and alcohol. Also, Armenia tax
authorities began collecting this month higher customs duties from
around 40 types of imported products, including cooking oil, butter
and poultry. Butter prices in the country already soared in the course
of 2017.

The Yelk alliance, a major opposition group, said on Monday that it
will rally supporters in Yerevan on January 19 to protest against the
price hikes.

Sarkisian spoke of unnamed forces and individuals trying to "somehow
escalate the situation" as he opened the meeting with Deputy Prime
Minister Vache Gabrielian, Economy Minister Suren Karayan, the chief
of the State Revenue Committee, Vartan Harutiunian, and several other
senior officials. He said the government and the supposedly
independent State Commission on the Protection of Economic Competition
(SCPEC) must scrutinize "economic entities having dominant positions"
in consumer goods sectors.

"We have many levers to determine whether the [price] fluctuations in
the markets result from objective processes or the greed of
businesses," he said in remarks publicized by his press office.

According to a statement by the office, Sarkisian said the government
should look into the situation in the domestic fuel market and decide
whether it warrants "drastic measures" by the SCPEC. He told Artak
Shaboyan, the head of the anti-trust commission also present at the
meeting, to consider taking such measures also against other companies
that import wheat and flour.

The lucrative imports of fuel, wheat and other basic foodstuffs to
Armenia have long been controlled by a handful of wealthy
entrepreneurs close to the government and Sarkisian in
particular. Opposition politicians and other critics have long held
the president responsible for the existence of these de facto
monopolies. Government officials have denied, however, that any sector
of the Armenian economy is monopolized.

The price hikes and the fallout from them come ahead of a keenly
anticipated announcement by Sarkisian on whether he will become prime
minister after completing his final presidential term in April. Prime
Minister Karen Karapetian did not attend Wednesday's meeting at the
presidential palace. Karapetian announced through a spokesman earlier
that he will be on vacation from January 8-12. 

ARKA, Armenia
Jan 10 2018
Passenger traffic through Armenia’s airports surges by 20.6 percent 

The passenger traffic through the Zvartnots international airport in Yerevan and Shirak airport in Armenia’s second-largest town of Gyumri surged by 20.6% year-on-year in 2017 to 2,553,914 people, the Main Civil Aviation Department reported. 

In said in December 2017, the passenger traffic through the two Armenian airports grew by almost 8% from the year earlier to 206 659 people. The Zvartnots airport was said to have handled 192,482 people in 2017 December, by 1.8% more than a year ago. 

The passenger traffic through this airport last year grew by 16.3% from the previous year to 2,448,250 people. Cargo transportation through the Zvartnots airport amounted to 22, 324 tons, which is 22.1% more than in 2016. 

The passenger traffic through the Shirak airport in 2017 grew to 105, 664 people against 12, 421 people handled in 2016. In December 2017, the passenger traffic through Shirak airport grew to 14,167 people from 2,557 people in 2016. 

The number of arrivals and departures at Zvartnots and Shirak airports increased by 18% last year., Armenia
Jan 10 2018
Expert: Number of Armenia private companies increased by 7,000 in 2017 

YEREVAN. – In 2017, the number of companies in the private sector of Armenia has increased by 7,000. 

Chairman of the Republican Union of Employers of Armenia, economist Gagik Makaryan, stated the abovementioned at a press conference on Wednesday. In his words, these are primarily small and medium-sized business companies. 

Makaryan added that owing to the increase in these companies, the number of employed in Armenia’s private sector has reached close to 330 thousand. 

As per the economist, however, the poverty level in the country did not drop last year, and this is due to inflation. 

Nonetheless, Gagik Makaryan stressed that industry has grown in Armenia. 

In addition, according to the expert, the country’s exports could have reached 25 percent, whereas imports amounted to 28 percent. 

But as per Makaryan, the number of livestock in Armenia dropped considerably in 2017, and this became one of the reasons for the rise in meat prices in the country. 

“The inflation regulation mechanisms are not properly used in Armenia,” he added. 

At the same time, however, the economist admitted that the fight against corruption continues in the country. Also, he noted that remittances have increased by $250 million in the year past. 

But Gagik Makaryan added that investments in Armenia will not exceed $700 million in the current year. 

RFE/RL Report
Government Defends Higher Income Tax Rates
January 09, 2018

The Armenian government's controversial decision to change personal
income tax rates will place a heavier financial burden only on
high-income individuals, a senior official in Yerevan insisted on

Armenia's new Tax Code which came into effect this month introduced,
among other things, more progressive income tax rates. In particular,
the code raised from 26 percent to 28 percent the tax rate for monthly
incomes ranging from 150,000 to 2 million drams ($310-$4,150). It is
set at 36 percent for those Armenians who earn more.

The 800-page legislation praised by the International Monetary Fund at
the same time cut the tax rate from 24.4 percent to 23 percent for
workers making less than 150,000 drams a month.

Armine Matosian, a senior official from the Armenian Ministry of Labor
and Social Affairs, emphasized this fact as she defended the code in
an interview with RFE/RL's Armenian service ( She
insisted that Armenians making between 150,000 and 280,000 drams will
also pay less taxes because of a complex method of income calculation.

"If I, for example, get a monthly salary of 300,000 drams, 150,000
drams of it will now be taxed at a 23 percent rate and the remaining
150,000 drams at 28 percent," explained Matosian. This means, she
said, that only those people whose wages or incomes exceed 280,000
drams will have to pay more.

The average monthly wage in Armenia stood at almost 188,000 drams
($390) as of November 2017, official statistics show.

The Tax Code was passed by the Armenian parliament in 2016 amid strong
criticism from the opposition and even some pro-government
lawmakers. They said that the higher tax rates will encourage more
private employers to underreport their workers' wages. They also
criticized other provisions of code, including higher excise duties on
fuel, alcohol and tobacco.

IMF officials backed, however, government arguments that the new
legislation will improve tax administration and allow a badly needed
increase in public spending. 

Panorama, Armenia
Jan 10 2018 : EU expressed hopes Armenia could one day join the bloc
The European Union is reportedly preparing to welcome its next group of member states by 2025 and hopes the likes of Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosovo will be “well advanced on their European path by then”, reported citing a draft strategy paper due to be adopted by the European Commission on February 14.

According to the source, the EU also does not give up all hope for further integration of the “Eastern European partners” in the bloc.

“The EU has previously expressed hopes its “Eastern European partners”, which include Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, could one day join the bloc. Other nations earmarked for possible membership include Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus,” reads the article.

Serbia and Montenegro have already began accession talks, while Albania and Macedonia hope to begin this year.

World’s longest-running Armenian daily Jamanak celebrates 110th anniversary

World’s longest-running Armenian daily Jamanak celebrates 110th anniversary 
This year marks the 110th anniversary of the world's longest-running minority newspaper, Jamanak, which has chronicled history since its first publication in Turkey's most populous city of Istanbul.

Established by the Armenian brothers Misak and Sarkis Koçunyan in Oct. 1908, Jamanak -- which means "time" in Armenian -- has been published as an evening newspaper for the last 80 years.

Being one of the major newspapers of its time with a circulation of 15,000 and delivered as far as the Balkans and Egypt, the paper witnessed the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of the Turkish Republic.

Though its current weekly circulation is only 10 percent of the initial figure, the daily still covers a wide range of subjects, including arts, science, politics, and sports with its 10-member staff.

The newspaper also launched a digital version in 2013, thanks to which it now enjoys worldwide availability.

After Misak Kçcunyan and Sarkis Koçunyan, Jamanak remained in the hands of the Koçunyan family and was finally passed down to its present head Ara Koçunyan, a fourth-generation member of the family, in 1992, when he became the youngest editor-in-chief in the world at 23.

Printed in Istanbul's Feriköy quarter of the Şişli district, Jamanak is delivered to the doors of Armenian Istanbulites by a team of six-seven.

Istanbul Armenians speak a different dialect of the language called the "Western Armenian", which is also used by Jamanak.

According to Editor-in-Chief Koçunyan, Jamanak was not a minority newspaper in the beginning.

He said Sarkis Koçunyan, one of the founders of the paper, was also the founder of one of the first press agencies in the Ottoman State in addition to being an entrepreneur.

Ara Koçunyan said the readers of Jamanak were marked by three characteristics: "They are citizens of Turkish Republic, they have Armenian origins, and they are mostly members of the Armenian Apostolic Church."

'Positive approach' to minority media

The newspaper covers Turkish politics, world politics, developments in the Armenian world, but most importantly, issues that are of concern to the Armenian community in Istanbul.

"We have a publishing policy of focusing on the problems of the community's institutions and individual members. In addition, the agenda of Armenia and relations between Turkey and Armenia are reflected in our newspaper," Koçunyan said.

Regarding freedom of the press in Turkey, Koçunyan said this notion mattered a great deal to Jamanak's staff.

He said they received many questions, inquiring whether Jamanak was exposed to any problems for simply being an Armenian newspaper.

"We don't face any specific problems in regard to printing in Armenian, neither from the public nor from civil society… I can express this happily," Koçunyan said, adding that they tried to be objective in their coverage of issues related to Turkish-Armenian relations.

"We are affected by the challenges of the media sector in the country but I think the overall approach to the minority media is positive in Turkey," he said, pointing out that they did receive subsidy from the state however nominal it may be.

"These are very hope-inspiring developments that encourage us in our walk in this path. I think it is very positive in terms of demonstrating the state's approach."

He also said that the Armenian community of Istanbul was the biggest supporter of any normalization in the relations between Turkey and Armenia.

Istanbul houses other Armenian minority newspapers, such as Agos, Marmara, Paros and Luys, as well as a publishing house called "Aras", which mainly prints Armenian literature and works on Armenian culture.

National Geographic
Dec 29 2017
Capturing Surreal Life on a Sacred Glacial Mountain 

Mount Aragats is an intersection of divinity, science, and living off the land.
By Alexandra E. Petri
In Armenia, Mount Aragats looms overhead as a permanent fixture in the sky, a four-peaked volcano massif that rises from rivers and plains around its base. The mountain is more than just a physical presence: It’s also a divine symbol. Gregory the Illuminator, the patron saint of Armenia who converted the country from paganism to Christianity in the 4 th century, is believed to have been bathed in light from a holy lantern while praying there, a sign of eternal purity and vision.

As religion dug its roots into Aragats, daily life unfolded. Villages were formed as settlers carved out lives as herders and farmers. In the mid-20th century, new seeds began to grow on the mountain when the U.S.S.R. set up some of its core science initiatives on Aragats. Decades later, its dramatic slopes are home to an aging astronomical observatory, which was once the heart of the Soviet Union's research program, and the Cosmic Ray Division research facility just near the mountain’s summit held together by a team of four dedicated scientists.

And, like much of the global landscape, Aragats is under threat by climate change, its snowcapped peaks and glaciers slowly shrinking.

It was this aspect of the mountain that first captured the interest of British photographer Toby Smith. Partly funded by Project Pressure , a charity documenting the world’s glaciers, and with a grant from the Luminous Endowment for Photographers , he set out to document the way climate change disrupts the communities that still reside on Aragats.

ISmith planned to make the trip in the summer, when he would not only have an easy climb but also be able to document the amount of snowmelt at the summit. But, as is often the case, life got in the way. It wasn’t until that November—when it’s a “bad idea to be on the mountain” due to the harsh weather conditions and drastic temperatures—that Smith was able to embark on his journey.

His chance for the summit happened to come on the day he arrived for his two-week stay in the country. Smith’s local guide, Mkhitar Mkhitaryan, picked him up from the airport and together they headed immediately as far up the mountain as they could by car before settling in for the night to make the climb the next morning.

It was a two-hour charge to the top, which they began in the early morning hours at 3 a.m. When they arrived, there was limited visibility thanks for the blankets of snowfall and snowstorms that tagged along on his climb. They didn’t stay long— they left within about two minutes—but Smith took a photo of a frozen cross on the mountain’s summit before making the descent. That cross is among his favorite images, he says, as it represents a part of the project that began to reveal itself to him as he learned more about this mysterious country.

Smith’s project, which he titled “ Heaven and Earth on Aragats ,” ended up being less about showcasing a retreating glacier than it was about the disappearing livelihood of those who depend on Aragats.

The mountain has a strange way of uniting people from different walks of life and the disparate narratives that began with Aragats but extended far beyond its slopes to the warm hearts and minds of all those who call this country home.

“The shepherds don’t have to do with the physicists, and the physicists don’t have much to do with the [religious sites],” Smith says. “It’s the mountain that bounds them all together.”

You can see more of Toby Smith's work on his website and follow him on Instagram .

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