Saturday, September 30, 2006

To answer the question: "why"

Anoush Tatevossian

Yerevan, Armenia: ATHGO International Symposium
Information & Communication Technology:
Opportunities and Challenges in Landlocked Developing Countries

Personal Statement: Describe your unique qualities and passion for your advocacy work and what let you toward that work or schooling

When geography fates you as a land-locked country with little to no exportable and sustainable natural resources, you must become innovative to survive. And the further the developed world gets from the developing world, the more imperative it becomes that a nation identify its most malleable and flexible resources to attempt to bridge that ever-growing chasm, lest it find itself doomed to be left behind. It is my job as the Executive Director of the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC), a registered non-profit based in Yerevan, to incubate one of Armenia’s most dynamic resources: people.

The Armenian nation is a unique one in that only one-third of its people actually live within the physical borders of modern-day Armenia. Due to several devastating events in its long history, the Armenian people have been severed from one another and scattered across the entire globe. Finally today, Armenia is a free and independent Republic with opportunities to grow into a country that its entire people can be proud to align with. However, ideologically or nostalgically connecting with this country will not help it advance. There are many real-world issues looming over whether Armenia can break out of its current stagnant level of democratization and development, many of which must first be tackled internally. My organization calls on Diasporan Armenians of all ages to volunteer their time, knowledge and energy by living and working in Armenia from one month to one year as an investment of hope in the future of our nation.

By running AVC, I act as a facilitator to help Diasporan Armenians seamlessly integrate into society here because I firmly believe that in a developing country such as Armenia, the presence of each volunteer leaves a footprint in the country's malleable future. I know that the exchange of ideas, values and experience between Diasporans and native Armenians connects human, informal and capital resources which will help rebuild our country.

This is the best and fastest way that Armenia can at least conceptually break out of its land-locked, blockaded position, and actually reach all around the globe. Technology and communication has made it infinitely easier to connect people to resources, to other people, to networks, to opportunities for collaboration. This year I brought AVC to the 21st century by marketing not only the old fashioned word-of-mouth way, but by opening a blog site, bolstering the website, tapping into media outlets, and reaching out electronically to Diasporan Armenians across the world to alert them of this very important call to action. I know that each person who has spent their life abroad, but now comes here and contributes their skills and ideas, is sewing seeds of innovation that create more and more potential opportunities for this country’s growth. And as any gardener can tell you, the more seeds you sew, the more opportunities there are that some will flourish.

I sometimes see myself as that gardener. I take the responsibility of introducing influences into a nascent and changing society very seriously. I carefully and thoroughly scrutinize the motivation of each volunteer applicant before accepting them into our program, and throughout their entire term of service in country I communicate to them that they must be mindful of the delicate nature of the challenge they have taken on.
In today’s globalized and competitive world, where innovation is a necessity for survival, the following ancient saying has regained popularity: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows that it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.” It is my responsibility as a concerned Armenian to play my part in ensuring that Armenia runs faster.

Been working too hard lately... ;-)

Word of the Day for Friday, September 29, 2006

monomania \mon-uh-MAY-nee-uh; -nyuh\, noun:

1. Pathological obsession with a single subject or idea.
2. Excessive concentration of interest upon one particular subject or idea.

One of the themes in the book was the necessity for a leader to be passionate about the work. And sometimes in a corporate setting, passion becomes monomania.
-- "Balancing the Personal and the Professional", New York Times, October 10, 1999

Happy Belated

A few photos from the Independence Day Parade on Sept. 21st. Apparently, there hadn't been a parade of any kind here for about 8 years. Historic day. The "parade" was more a show of the Republic's hardware and military might, than floats and flowers...but it drew a big crowd to Republic Square for an afternoon of patriotic solidarity.

Though, to be honest, of several dozen photos taken that day, my absolute favorite of this adorable little boy impossibly wedged between the knees of hundreds of people trying to watch the parade. Little man, I feel your pain.

Monday, September 25, 2006

No small feat

15 years of independence. phew. a BIG congratulations is in order.
Here is my favorite photo from the eve-of.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


contrast noun |ˈkänˌtrast| the state of being strikingly different from something else, typically something in juxtaposition or close association

both sets of these photos are armenia. both sets of photos are of places you one can stay: a camping area in the northern region of Tavush, and the Golden Palace Hotel in Yerevan. traditional v. modern. pastoral v. cosmopolitan. both sets of photos were taken in September of the year 2006.

i love juxtaposition. uniformity is stagnant, so interest is created by conflict is it not? it's beautiful that both of these spaces exist simultaneously.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Goodbye "Mer Hyrenik"??

Wow. I didn't know about this one. Apparently there's a heated debate "over whether Armenia should ditch its current national anthem and adopt something more modern, more attuned to today's national aspirations. There have been complaints that the song is too wimpy and gloomy." Ha! And it's more than just a debate- there's a commison already in full swing that has reduced the choices down to 5 finalists! I'll have to thank William in Tblisi for even calling my attention to it.

On an initial level I think it's an absurd idea, and will have to agree with
Felix Bakhchinian, director of the Charents Literature and Art Museum in Yerevan. In this RFE/RFL article he is quoted as saying: "We need to solve more pressing problems before we begin talking about the anthem and other state attributes. Right now we have higher priorities to meet."

Though, the meat of that article is enlightening as I never realized that other post-soviets have also gone through the same nationalistic face-lift debacle. In the end though, i'm not budging on this one, so I guess you should just call me a Dashnak.

Friday, September 15, 2006

To a new beautiful generation

Here is a blog intended to make everyone smile. The streets of Yerevan are full of cute children. All the time they can be spotted tottering along side their parents down the crowded streets. School started on September 1st, so now there are even more children out with their backpacks and combed hair cruising around town. Here are some pictures of really adorable kids that I've taken over the last few months.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Interesting cultural trademark whereby we flourish only under someone else's rule...

A big thank you Raffi for leading me to this article.

Two years ago a friend told me an article in an Armenian paper which discussed the trend that Armenians tend to be highly successful living in other countries, under other people's rule.

Generally the Armenian Diaspora flourishes. And yet, Armenians cannot get it together when it must govern itself. This is applicable to every little Armenian community that spends more time having tiffs and skirmishes about petty things than producing actual results, and it is applicable to the fact that we can't seem to govern our country properly.

Furthermore, the Armenians that are successful in the Diaspora seem to do it alone. They are generally not heavily involved with the community, and only use their Armenian-ness as a trump card when it's useful, or once they've already made it for themselves.

At any rate, the positive news is that Armenians are notably doing well for themselves in the UK. Maybe we should just give up our little land mass here in the Caucasus and take over the world by living in other countries ;-)

The Sunday Times

September 10, 2006

Found: migrants with the mostestRobert Winnett and Holly Watt
Survey pinpoints ethnic winners and losers in 'melting pot' Britain

ARMENIAN immigrants and their descendants are the most successful ethnic group in the country, according to an analysis of “melting pot” Britain.

They are followed by the Japanese, Dutch and Greek Cypriots among the groups who are economically and socially most successful. Bangladeshi Muslims and migrants from Sierra Leone and Syria have fared worst.

The new analysis places the 42.2m adults registered to vote in mainland Britain in 200 ethnic groups — on the basis of a person’s surname and first name....

Of the 2,651 people of Armenian descent in Britain, more than 1,600 run businesses and a high proportion live in expensive parts of west London.

Among the most successful is Bob Manoukian, property developer and former agent for Prince Jefri of Brunei. He has a family fortune of £300m, according to The Sunday Times Rich List.
Other successful people with Armenian roots include David Dickinson, presenter of the BBC’s Bargain Hunt, and Ara Palamoudian, chairman of the Armenian community & church council of Great Britain.

He said: “Armenians have always tried to be self-sufficient and not to be a burden on any country. It could be the history of the Armenian people, the way their lives have been over centuries. They had to find shelter around the world.”

Many Armenians fled to England after the first world war, during which up to 1.5m died, amid allegations of genocide by the Turks. Other waves arrived in the 1970s and 1980s.

Full article:,,2087-2350633,00.html

Friday, September 08, 2006

La Bella Figura

I seem to have a penchant for living in countries with similar social complexes.

Of course, as far as geography goes, land-locked, at the cross-roads of East and West resulting in centuries of territorial wars, Armenia surely got the raw end of the deal, but some of the nuances in the cultural-psyche are oddly familiar.

As the President of Nagorno-Karabagh, Arkady Ghukasian, so rationally and calmly explained to my group when we had a special audience with him in Stepanakert recently: "This is our jagatagir (a lovely armenian phrase which means fate). Of course we would love for Germany and France to be our neighbors. But this is not the case. We have to accept our position in the world, understand who our neighbors are, and be smart enough and prepared enough to deal with our reality."

Anyway, who wants to ship me this book so I can read it and continue draw comparisons between the popular mentalities and structural inefficiencies of my lovely stone garden which is Armenia and mia bella Italia...

August 23, 2006
Books of The Times
An Insider Explains Italy, Land of Cheery Dysfunction

In Italy, red lights come in many varieties. A rare few actually mean stop. Others, to the Italian driver, suggest different interpretations. At a pedestrian crossing at 7 a.m., with no pedestrians around, it is a “negotiable red,” more like a weak orange. At a traffic intersection, red could mean what the Florentines call rosso pieno, or full red, but it might, with no cars coming, be more of a suggestion than a command. It all depends.

The red-light mentality, as the journalist Beppe Severgnini sees it, explains volumes about Italy and the Italians. “We think it’s an insult to our intelligence to comply with a regulation,” he writes in “La Bella Figura,” his witty, insightful tour of the Italian mind. “Obedience is boring. We want to think about it. We want to decide whether a particular law applies to our specific case. In that place, at that time.”

This principle applies to traffic regulations, taxes, solemn laws and personal behavior. Everything is personal and open to discussion. As a result, Italy totters along in a state of amiable chaos, its situation desperate but not serious, which is more or less the way Italians like it, those in charge and those, in principle, being led. “Controllers and controlled have an unspoken agreement,” Mr. Severgnini writes. “You don’t change, we don’t change, and Italy doesn’t change, but we all complain that we can’t go on like this.”

Mr. Severgnini, a columnist for the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera, turned a fond eye on the United States in his last book, “Ciao, America!,” but this time around, on his home turf, he bites harder and deeper. The paradoxes of Italian life engage him. They bring out the reflective wit that, he argues, is native to most Italians and may be their most potent weapon in the struggle with bureaucracy and social dysfunction. Intertwined with native wit is a strong sense of self-esteem enjoyed by even the humblest Italian, as well as a fatal weakness for beauty and surface appeal, “la bella figura.”

Italians, in other words, would just as soon look good as be good. The country suffers from an ethics deficit, most clearly visible in the attitude toward taxes. Lying outrageously about one’s income is considered normal. In the United States the public regards tax evasion as morally reprehensible. If he were to cheat on his taxes in Italy, Mr. Severgnini writes, “two neighbors would come round to ask me how I did it, and two more would loathe me in silence.” No one would report him.

Mr. Severgnini presents his guide as a tour that is partly geographical and partly conceptual. Over the course of 10 days, he travels from Milan to Tuscany to the far south: Sicily and Sardinia. But the places are merely excuses for little treatises on beaches, restaurants, cellphones, airports, condominiums, piazzas, gardens and offices, all sprinkled with clever observations and telling statistics.

The differences between Italian and British flight attendants, illustrated in a hilarious vignette, help explain the Italian sense of personal drama and the national talent for creatively responding to small crises. Italian flight attendants are poor at serving you coffee but good at cleaning it up and sympathizing when you spill it. Some of this is merely glib. Mr. Severgnini, himself no stranger to the lure of la bella figura, would just as soon turn a beautiful phrase as make a point, and he might do well to heed one of his own points about the restlessly fertile Italian brain: “you can’t amaze everyone every three minutes.”

At the same time, Mr. Severgnini, as he skips lightly from one topic to the next, manages to sneak in some revealing statistics. One in three Italians finds a job through a relative. One in five has moved in the last 10 years, half the European average. Telecommuting is virtually nonexistent, engaged in by only 0.2 percent of the work force — in part, Mr. Severgnini theorizes, because it deprives Italians of the social drama of the workplace.

The Italy that Mr. Severgnini describes seethes with frustration. Government works poorly. The legal system barely functions. Too many Italians are crowded into too little space. Fear of failure stymies innovation. Mr. Severgnini is dismayed at the national genius for enjoyment and the Italian inability to plan for the future. “Our sun is setting in installments,” he writes. “It’s festive and flamboyant, but it’s still a sunset.”

Yet in many areas Italians have jumped at modernity and thrown over tradition almost casually. Cellphones are a national mania. They allow Italians to be Italian in new, entertaining ways. The shopping mall (but not Internet shopping) is popular because Italians pretend that it’s a piazza. New nonsmoking laws, widely predicted to be an absolute failure, have been accepted without a fuss. They created new gathering places and new forms of conviviality. One young man cited by Mr. Severgnini started smoking as a way to meet girls. Restaurants go in for all sorts of newfangled gadgets in their bathrooms, and Mr. Severgnini has a field day with the automated sinks, concealed light switches and baroque flush technology that challenge the Italian diner today.

There is one rule, by the way, that cannot be violated. It is wrong, and possibly illegal, to order a cappuccino after 10 a.m. This is worse than eating pizza in the middle of the day. It is nonnegotiable. Discussion over. Rosso pieno.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


2008 European Soccer Championship qualifying game!

Ehh...yes, we lost (1-0), but the excitement just comes from hearing the chant: "Ha-ya-stan! Ha-ya-stan!"

Nation's got its eye set on winning the match against Azerbaijan next year...

Corruption, taxation and car bombs

Recently was informed that the oligarchs, mafia and government are all one in the same here. That they as a collective whole make it virtually impossible for a regular citizen to start even a small or mid size business because they will come after you with ludicrous tax rates unless you pay them off. And if you refuse to bribe, then they will fabricate other reasons why you will be charged extra fees for, in addition to creating other “complications” the business owner. Of course, the money that the “tax department” “collects” does not go to fund social services or pensions, but instead lines the pockets of those well-connected oligarchs with pull in the government.

Clearly, said oligarchs would not be pleased if their practices were put to an end. So, yeah, I guess assasination is one way to deal with it.

"The Armenian government’s top official in charge of detecting and investigating tax evasion was killed in a car explosion in downtown Yerevan early on Wednesday."

However, I really don’t know what to make of the whole thing. If you read through the whole article, the scenario sounds more and more suspicious. I’m sure no one can with good conscience say that Hovasapian was just an innocent civil servant who was martyred for his diligent work at trying to stop corruption in the interest of the average citizen of Armenia.

Problem is that most everything related to the rule of law here seems to fall in that murky grey area…