Notes From Hairenik
September 13, 2009
As a follow-up to a previous post on my blog about the Armenian mafia culture and the "Mafia Complex" that I noted back in March, I can say that despite the economic downturn that has hit most of the world during the last 12 months, the supposed "financial crisis" that Armenia has been suffering from is not apparent, namely in central Yerevan. Construction is continuing despite a reported downturn. The number of luxury SUVs and brand new Japanese passenger cars that are sold in dealerships established here is ever increasing. And the emergence of young whippersnappers (aka, the Apero) acting tough and racing their cars dangerously, especially in the evening when traffic is light, is more prevalent than ever before. Meanwhile upscale clothing stores, gift shops and trendy posh restaurants keep opening. All this while the socioeconomic conditions in the regions is ever stagnating.

So what is being reported by the Central Bank of Armenia at least once a month doesn't correspond with reality. Due to the generosity of Russia and the World Bank close to $1 billion in foreign aid has already entered the country, so you can just imagine where some of that cash is going. And people love the mafia shows (namely "Vorogayit" and "Gyanki Kinuh," or the "The Price of Life")--they're even shown in some cafés.

So this is the reality here, and if you live in the midst Armenian society you just have to become accustomed to it by not letting it get to you. There's really nothing that can be done about the transformation of society and the uppity, haughty attitudes that some people have towards others nowadays. This wasn't the case just a few years ago, but now that people have more money to spend and are able to do "European remodeling" in their homes, they are forgetting their roots. Some are unfortunately not as down to earth as they once were.

Obviously you can't simply stay indoors to avoid mingling with these types. If you enjoy socializing and dining out, I recommend going to laid-back places like Pub Che, which can't be rivaled in terms of informality, The Club, Gusto, Café Central and Karma, a pretty good Indian restaurant. If you are looking for more lively atmospheres you can't go wrong with Stop Club, where you can hear great jazz, blues or rock on a nightly basis, and Red Bull pub, both of which are on the intersection of Moscovyan and Tumanyan Streets. All of these establishments are not frequented by people suffering from the Mafia Complex because they can't relate with the vibe and the more cultured clientele. Stop and Red Bull also practice face control. At another bar called Texas, the management keeps the door continuously locked and you have to ring a buzzer for them to let you in. It's bizarre, but it works for them and their customers.

So my advice to repats and expats wondering what the hell is going on in Armenian public life is to simply ignore what they see or hear. Go out and have fun, and don't let anyone spoil your mood.