Armenians will never learn

On May 27 Charles Aznavour appeared at the Cinema Moscow to sign copies of his memoirs newly translated in Armenian, with a limited printing of 5,000. The event was supposed to have been organized by the youth organization of the Republican Party (headed by Prime Minister Antranig Markarian). Unfortunately, and as usual at Armenian gatherings, nothing was properly organized.

An eyewitness account by Karen, who was there trying to photograph the event for ArmenPress, attests to the fact that there was no attempt of any kind to encourage people to wait in an orderly line. Instead there was a mad rush to the table where Aznavour sat to comfortably sign copies. He was surrounded by people all shoving books in his face in the hopes that he would pick their own to sign. After 10 minutes of chaos, Aznavour was briskly escorted from the theater to the adjacent Yerevan Hotel where he stays whenever in town. Television cameras were there to document the madness, showing images of people pushing each other out of the way and even purchasing books from one another so that they will have their own copy signed.

One man outside the theater after Aznavour had left told a television news reporter that “I must be one of about three people attending this event who has actually read this book. Most of these people here have no idea about who Aznavour really is.” This statement is true. Many Armenians respect Aznavour because he is a famous member of their nation and has a lot of money to donate to or spend in Armenia. Very few understand his music or know much about his career. And if word ever got out that his 1972 controversial hit “Comme Ils Disent” is about a homosexual transvestite, I am sure people would start scorning him. But you never know, perhaps they would simply shrug it off, quietly stating, “vochinch.”

On May 28 the Pan-Armenian Circle Dance was held. The plans for the event were ambitious enough—assemble thousands of Armenians to form a circle at the base of Mount Aragats—Armenia’s highest mountain—to dance for 15 minutes. And it was an excellent premise to symbolize unity among all Armenians worldwide. Armenians from all corners of the country were trucked in on buses, minibuses, taxis, private cars, and even helicopters (President Kocharian’s mode of transport)—over 200,000 people attended according to many reports.

Once again, the result was chaos, as relayed by Karen again present to photograph the event. People paid little regard to constant pleas for assembling to dance, even from the President himself. Bullhorns to direct the masses failed to work. Instead of dancing in a single line, and in unison, participants in some areas—at least in the area televised where President Kocharian and Defence Minister Serge Sargsyan danced together—chose to dance in lines of their own formation, thus tens of rows were formed, one in front of the other. Yet aerial views from a helicopter passing along a two or three mile stretch reveal indeed that people were assembling to form a line dance, but close examination of the footage as well as still shots reveal that there was never any attempt to form a continuous, unbroken circle. Gaps appeared everywhere, as people assembled in individual preconceived groups rather than arriving independently to simply join in. Thus the concept of displaying the unity of all Armenians backfired. As of this writing no reports have confirmed that the circle around Aragats was ever closed completely, as was the original goal.

May 28 marks the anniversary of the first Armenian republic’s independence, when a decisive battle between the Armenians and a weary regimen of Turkish military troops at Sardarabad ended in the Armenians’ favor, resulting in the creation of a nation state that survived for over two years. Yet a random television news poll of people on the street revealed that when asked, many did not know which independence the date marks. Many only knew that May 28 marked a holiday, without understanding which one.

To top of the day of events, the main mode of public transport that by far most Yerevan citizens depend on was completely unavailable for the entire day. All city minivan bus routes—numbering in the hundreds—were used instead to transport people to areas surrounding Aragats. Thus people stood for hours at their regular bus stops eagerly anticipating their minibus to come by, while no one from the Yerevan municipal authorities even bothered to inform them to seek alternate modes of transportation.

What should be shocking to me regarding the arrogant ignorance of the Armenian nation no longer evokes surprise. Perhaps I, too, should finally give in to the fact that Armenians in the end will never understand the world outside of their own, will never learn from past historic mistakes, and will never be able to anticipate what lies in wake for their future. Maybe it’s time to start shrugging things off by sighing, “Vochinch.”

Although I won’t do that, I do know that with no end in sight, “vochinch” continues. But when will ever it stop?


JLD said…
This is a great post about armenia. I spent two years there with the peace corps and can attest to this type of behavior. i would try and pay my phone or electric bill in Vanadzor and there might be 1 person in front of me. Well, if someone would come in behind me, they would try and cut ahead. Armenians do not know how to wait in lines and they do not realize that lines will move faster if there is order. the most frustrating part is their response 'ay vochinch'
Anonymous said…
I just finished reading your piece titled "Armenians will never learn." You are so right. We Armenians won't learn. As the years go by, nothing really changes. Yes, we get older and some get richer and some get poorer, some remain healthy and some suffer illnesses, etc., etc., but one thing for certain, we Armenians just won't learn because we have a problem. And, the problem is a three-letter word called EGO. No matter how much " hats oo baneer " (as in-- der shad hats oo baneer beedee oodes meechev metsanas !" We Armenians have a lot of growing up to do before we even begin to understand what we are doing to each other and our nation. Let's hope people wake up before it is too late.
Unknown said…
Hello JLD,Hairenik and Knarik,
I understand your frustration and dissapointment...I am Armenian born and raised in Georgia and know exactly what you are referring to. I also know that it is always easy to blame and see the negativity all around...It is much harder to think of the ways to change the existing situation..
May be instead of blaming ourselves in having big EGO and seeing only negative sides we should start thinking about how to make a change...may be, instead of waiting for people to wake up we should wake them up by showing them another alternative to their current condition?
I think you got my point...if you are really concerned about the future of Armenia and Armenians start doing something to change it...I know the change is hard, I know it might take another hundred years to see the results...but I am pretty positive that mentality and influences that people developed in the years of Soviet regime will not go away in only few years...It is really heartbreaking to read your blogs because you failed to see the beauty, the goodness of the Armenian people.
We see what we choose to see...
When I first came to New York all I could see were plastic food, morally failed society and stupidity of government employees. I hated the country, it's people, it's moral values and chaos.
I was errogant...I did not want to aknowledge the beauty of the United States, it's history, it's arts and culture...
Lately I was trying to get involved with the not-for-profit organizations that advocate changes in education, in social cervices, organizations that promote excellence in arts and culture...I do believe that one day America will be a better place to live because I want her to change and because I will do evrything possible to make it happen. Armenians or not, you guys should stop seeing the beast and start seeing the beauty.

Hi Marina, thanks for your comment.

I just wanted to point out that post is five years old, and if you have my posts I've written since then and even before it, you will notice that most of my observances and experiences noted on Notes From Hairenik are indeed positive. And I most certainly "see the beauty, the goodness of the Armenian people, contrary to what you think. Most of my friends are indeed Armenians born and raised here, fact is I associate with very few diasporan Armenians (and encourage them that things can be better, mentioning ways to make it so).

Furthermore, if I was pessimistic about Armenia and didn't want to enact change in some way, I wouldn't be living here in the first place.

So I don't understand your criticism quite honestly because, as you probably know, Knarik and I are Armenian-Americans, and being Armenians we want to see progress in Armenian society, it's only natural. But in order to work on problems, they have to be identified, which is what my goal is.

But you and arguably millions of other Armenians like you chose to leave the South Caucasus. You never made any efforts to start "thinking about how to make a change." You've concluded, rather, that "Yerkir@ yerkir chi." Just by keeping this blog as well as Footprints blog and writing articles for news sources, I am trying to identify ideas to bring about that change, hoping they will be put into practice.

Now the question is, what are you going to do about it from New York?


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