Books on Armenia
Principal ethnic groups
Update No: 290 - (25/02/05)
Russian blockade of south Caucasus leaves Armenians fuming
Russia's decision to close border-crossing points with Georgia and Azerbaijan,
purportedly to frustrate movements by Chechen militants, has produced widespread
discontent, even anger in Armenia - Moscow's long-time strategic ally in the
Some in Yerevan suggest the move may prompt a reassessment of Armenia's special
relationship with Russia. But this is not very likely. The Armenians have more
serious foes than the Russians.
The 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide
The Armenian government has begun the yearlong commemorative activities planned
for the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, that took place in 1915 in
the Ottoman Empire. Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian spoke on January 24 during
the Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations to mark the
60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. Mr. Oskanian's
remarkable statement, along with several others, was broadcast live in Israel.
Here are excerpts from his remarks that were delivered extemporaneously
withevery appearance of a heavy heart and profound passion:
"On behalf of the people and government of Armenia, and as a descendant of
genocide survivors, I feel compelled to be here today, to join other survivors
and descendants of both victims and perpetrators, to take part in this
commemoration....In the 20th century alone, with its 15 genocides, the victims
have their own names for places of infamy. What the French call 'les lieux
infames de memoire' are everywhere. Places of horror, slaughter, of massacre, of
the indiscriminate killing of all those who have belonged to a segment, a
category, an ethnic group, a race or a religion. For Armenians, it is the desert
of Deir-El-Zor, for Cambodians they are the killing fields, for the children of
the 21st century, it is Darfur. For the Jews and Poles and for a whole
generation of us growing up after The War, it is Auschwitz...."
"After Auschwitz one would expect that no one any longer has a right to
turn a blind eye or a deaf ear. As an Armenian, I know that a blind eye, a deaf
ear, and a muted tongue perpetuate the wounds. It is a memory of suffering
unrelieved by strong condemnation and unequivocal recognition. The catharsis
that the victims deserve, which societies require in order to heal and move
forward together, obligates us here at the UN, and in the international
community, to be witness, to call things by their name, to remove the veil of
obfuscation, of double standards, of political expediency...."
"Recognizing the victims and acknowledging them is also to recognize that
there are perpetrators. But this is absolutely not the same as actually naming
them, shaming them, dissuading or warning them, isolating or punishing
"The Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana admonished us to
remember the past, or be condemned to repeat it. This admonition has
significance for me personally, because the destruction of my people, whose fate
in some way impinged upon the fate of the Jews of Europe, should have been more
widely seen as a warning of things to come."
"Jews and Armenians are linked forever by Hitler. 'Who, after all, speaks
today of the annihilation of the Armenians?' said Adolf Hitler, days before he
"Hitler's cynical remembrance of Armenians is prominently displayed in the
Holocaust Memorial in Washington because it is a profound commentary about the
crucial role of third parties in genocide prevention and remembrance. Genocide
is the manifestation of the break in the covenant that governments have with
their peoples. Therefore, it is third parties who become crucial actors in
genocide prevention, humanitarian assistance and genocide remembrance."
"We are commemorating today, because the Soviet troops marched into
Auschwitz 60 years ago. I am here today because the Arabs provided sanctuary to
Armenian deportees 90 years ago."
"Third parties, indeed, can make the difference between life and death.
Their rejection of the behaviours and policies which are neither in anyone's
national interest nor in humanity's international interest, is of immense moral
and political value."
"What neighbours, well-wishers, the international community can't
accomplish, is the transcending and reconciling which the parties must do for
themselves. The victims, first, must exhibit the dignity, capacity and
willingness to move on, and the perpetrators, first and last, must summon the
deep force of humanity and goodness and must overcome the memory of the inner
evil which had already prevailed, and must renounce the deed, its intent, its
consequences, its architects and executors."
It is noteworthy that during a press conference recently, when the Secretary
General of the UN, Kofi Annan, was asked if holding a Special Session of the
General Assembly for the Holocaust "may open the gate for other groups such
as the Armenians... to demand a similar treatment," he appeared to leave
the door open for a UN commemoration of the Armenian Genocide by saying:
"It is possible that, in the future, Member States would want to
commemorate other events."
The predatory victims
Everybody knows the biblical adage that it is easier to see the mote in
another's eye than in one's own. Armenians were certainly the victims in 1915 at
the hands of the Turks. But much more recently in 1988-94 they were meting out
their own condign version of justice to another Turkic people, the Azeris. Some
30,000 civilians died, as well as innumerable soldiers, in the secessionist war
waged by the Armenian inhabitants of Karabakh against Azerbaijan. More than a
million became refugees.
Armenia remains in occupation of 20 per cent of Azeri territory, where it is
carrying out a systematic eradication of Azeri cultural and historical
traditions - ethnic cleansing in other words. Thus do the victims become the
victimizers - the predatory victims!
Armenia in profile by ICG report
Azerbaijan and Turkey operate a trade blockade against the Armenians as a
direct consequence. This is certainly stunting its economic growth.
Armenia faces instability unless it takes quick steps to improve relations with
its neighbours, including the Turks, and fosters the rule-of-law at home,
according to a new study that examines the Caucasus nation's political and
economic prospects. The report, prepared by the International Crisis Group (ICG),
urges Armenia to approach the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process
"realistically." It adds that President Kocharian's administration
should "supplement economic success with robust democratization."
Since its publication at the end of last year has come the Orange Revolution in
Ukraine. This gives its conclusions new force.
The report, titled Armenia: Internal Instability Ahead, says the stalemated
Karabakh peace process "looms over all aspects of Armenia's political life
and compounds its instability." A lasting Karabakh settlement is needed to
secure Armenia's long-term economic security, the report maintains. Yet,
Armenian leaders have little room for diplomatic manoeuvre in their negotiations
with their Azerbaijani counterparts, it adds. Yerevan is under heavy popular
pressure, especially from the Armenian Diaspora, to make no concessions on
Karabakh's independence from Baku.
"The [Karabakh] issue previously helped unify Armenia's political elite,
but ultimately, it may polarize popular opinion and society," the report
says. While nearly all Armenians believe that the country should defend
Karabakh's interests during peace negotiations, a growing number in Yerevan seem
to feel the territory's priorities have already eclipsed Armenia's own needs,
including regional economic integration. The Karabakh issue, at the same time,
has become so politically sensitive that Armenian officials are afraid of
disturbing the status quo. The report cites a poll conducted in August 2004,
which shows that almost 50 per cent of Armenians believe war with Azerbaijan is
the country's most serious threat in the coming five years. "Today, the
issue is perceived as dangerous, if not suicidal for Armenian politicians,"
the report said.
The Karabakh dilemma threatens to upend Armenia's economic development, which is
the key to long-term security. Over the past decade, the country has experienced
"substantial macroeconomic growth," with GDP now rising at a 10 per
cent annual rate, the report says. Growth has been unevenly distributed,
however, with per capita income still standing at only US$80 per month. The lack
of a Karabakh settlement may bring economic progress to a halt, the report
stresses. "The Southern Caucasus badly needs economic integration to
sustain its nascent growth," the report states. "Yerevan is excluded
from participation in all major regional trade and East-West pipeline projects,
mostly as a consequence of the unresolved conflict."
The report indicates that achieving a Karabakh breakthrough will require a
re-evaluation of Yerevan's current negotiating stance. "Despite rhetoric,
Armenians acknowledge they share many experiences and interests with other
Caucasian nations," the report says. "They know the future can improve
only if old relations with Azerbaijan - which means addressing the
Nagorno-Karabakh issue realistically - and Georgia are renewed," the report
Boycott of Parliament
Complicating efforts to promote economic growth is the "frozen"
state of domestic politics, in which Kocharian's opponents maintain a boycott of
parliament. The report characterizes Armenia as internally unstable
"because many basic safeguards of a participatory democracy do not
function. ... Elections have been invariably rigged, causing political unrest
The presidential and parliamentary elections of 2003, widely condemned for
widespread irregularities, led to a sharp increase in domestic political
tension. Opposition leaders refused to recognize the voting results and pursued
a protest strategy, leading to a confrontation in April between pro-Kocharian
police and opposition demonstrators in Yerevan. Though the popular protests have
abated, the political atmosphere remains polarized.
The report places the main burden for fostering domestic tranquillity on the
Kocharian administration. Incumbent authority's apparent desire to monopolize
political power is distracting from efforts to improve living standards, it
adds. "Corruption and violations of democratic procedure have disillusioned
a population, half of which still lives below the poverty line," the report
says. "Good governance is perhaps the most important element for fighting
poverty and achieving sustainable development."
Events in Armenia may take a violent turn unless Kocharian takes quick steps to
redress his opponents' grievances. "The number of persons ready to act
outside the law to advance political aims is likely to grow if the government
continues to repress peaceful protests violently and to rig elections -
especially should a charismatic [opposition] leader appear on the scene."
The spectre of an Armenian Yushchenko looms large!
Economy in trouble
With output in Armenia still only about 65 per cent of its level in 1990
when it gained independence from the former Soviet Union, the United Nations is
granting a new US$15.3m loan to help boost the economy of rural areas, which
cover about 80 per cent of the impoverished Caucasus country.
Armenian President Robert Kocharian visited the Rome headquarters of the
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to mark the agreement,
which was being signed by IFAD President Lennart Båge and the Armenian
Agriculture Minister Davit Lokyan.
The loan, on highly concessional terms, will support the Rural Areas Economic
Development Programme, building on the progress made by IFAD's three previous
initiatives in Armenia, which involved total financing of US$36.5m to improve
food security in rural areas and meet the challenges of a market economy.
The new programme targets unemployed men and women, small and medium farms,
rural entrepreneurs, agro-processors and traders. It consists of a package of
measures, including: loans for investment and working capital; grant-financing
of small-scale infrastructure; and training in developing a business. It is
expected that thousands of small- and medium-sized enterprises in rural areas
will be created or enlarged as a result.
The programme also aims to increase returns from farm labour, bringing higher
levels of disposable income and to facilitate farmers' access to markets. Most
of the funds will be channelled through private banks and other financial
institutions by means of an innovative refinancing facility.
IFAD is a specialized UN agency dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in
developing countries. Seventy-five per cent of the world's poorest people live
in rural areas and depend on agriculture and related activities for their
livelihoods. Through low-interest loans and grants, IFAD works with governments
to develop and finance programmes and projects that enable rural poor people to
overcome poverty themselves.
Armenia and Iran forge energy ties
A final report of Armenian Foreign Minister, Vardan Oskanyan, for 2004 reads
that the main achievement of the Armenian-Iranian relations in 2004 was the
beginning of the construction of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline's Armenian
section, as well as the commissioning of the second high-voltage transmission
line Agarak-Shinuair, New Europe reported recently.
This report was provided by the Armenian Foreign Ministry information and press
department. The report notes that among the priority tasks of Armenia-Iran
relations in the sphere of the economy is the construction of the Kajaran
tunnel, a hydropower plant on the border river Araks, as well as boosting
cooperation in the field of the alternative power industry.
Yerevan-Moscow relations deepen in all spheres
Armenian Foreign Minister, Vardan Oskanyan, recently said the development and
strengthening of relations with Russia was a priority in Armenian foreign policy
in 2004, New Europe reported.
The minister wrote in a document that Moscow and Yerevan continued to develop
and expand bilateral cooperation in the military-technical, economic and
humanitarian spheres, and in the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent
States and CSTO.
2004 was marked by 3 working visits of Armenian President, Robert Kocharian, to
Russia, an official visit of Armenian Prime Minister, Andranik Markaryan, to the
Russian Federation, visits of the Russian State Duma and Federation Council
Chairmen, Sergei Mironov, and Boris Gryzlov, to Armenia.
The sides discussed mutual cooperation on the global arena and the issue of the
Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. During the 6th meeting of the Russian-Armenian
intergovernmental committee, the participants discussed issues of bilateral
economic cooperation, Interfax reported. They reached an agreement on Armenia's
participation in the construction of the international transportation corridor
North-South, which has strategic importance for Armenia as an alternative route
to the outside world through the territory of Iran.
A railroad ferry between the ports of Poti (Georgia) and Kavkaz (Russia) would
also play an important role in the increase of trade turnover between Armenia
Yerevan, Tehran take a better look at labour
Iranian labour and social Affairs Minister, Nasser Khaleqi, and his Armenian
counterpart, Aghvan Vardanian, have decided to expand ties between the two
countries in labour affairs, Interfax News Agency reported.
Iran and Armenia have had cordial relations for many years and has decided to
increase cooperation in other areas as well. Cooperation in employment and
labour affairs, technical and vocational training, research and other industrial
sectors can improve the quality of goods in both nations.
Experts from the labour ministry are ready to hold discussions with their
Armenian counterparts, Khaleqi added. For his part, Vardanian recalled that the
two nations have had over 2,000 years of friendly relations. He pointed out that
Armenia's labour laws have been rewritten in the post-Soviet era and Yerevan is
eager to cooperate with Iran on employment and labour affairs. "Tehran and
Yerevan have good cooperation in the energy and transportation sector," he
added. The two ministers also initialled a draft agreement, which will be
further discussed and if both sides agreed then it would also be signed. The two
nations are also engaged in various industrial projects.