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South Caucasus


nationality human - 2008: yerevan: september 23

Festival in Yerevan
Host: Our today’s subject is “We and others”. Meaning we are preparing to discuss the relationship of Armenians with those who aren’t Armenians, and about, what we feel about the foreigners and how they treat us. Speaking of the subject here are two questions: the flow of foreigners has multiplied in Armenia during the past few years. How do you treat those who come and work and live with us? And how do we treat representatives of ethnic minorities?

Avetisyan Nelly, YSU lector: During thousands of years of our country’s history I don’t recall anywhere where we had any problems with ethnic minorities. We are internationals with all our being and attitude. I don’t want it to sound highly opinionated, I don’t remember where, but I heard that in the olden times, smaller nations wanted for Armenians to come and rule over them. I think that at times we are overly international. But, here I thought what if the ethnic minorities in Armenia became the majority, how would we react? Like the Jews?

While I was watching the film I was thinking if you are strong then you’re not alone. I remember one of the comments to the Russian “Vesti” said: if you are weak – you are an orphan. And you know that is actually true today, thank God we are the majority in our own country. And if a problem occurs in the future then we’ll just have to see. In any way, I believe we will find enough strength within us to solve that problem correctly.

Host: You speak very beautifully but you aren’t anywhere near the question. The existence of ethnic minorities – do we need it or not?

Avetisyan Nelly: Objectively they already exist, and that’s why the question is not formed correctly. We must accept their existence and alongside with that we must conduct politics according to our national interests. I think it’s always wise to think with one’s head.

Meline, geographer: I think we have a big demand for relations with other nationalities, because we are an old nation. We have closed ourselves from the outside world to the point where our ideology has become old as well it literally became decrepit – meaning it lost its content and only the form remains. I don’t think there is a flow of foreigners right now; there is a small number, which cannot be called a flow. We have a layer that has an old fashioned Armenian mentality and treats others with demeanor without the ability of simple human relations.

Host: What do you think is it necessary to have ethnic minorities in Armenia?

Meline: I think they are very necessary for us to have, because, if and when we become secluded from everyone else we will grow old so will our gene pool and our brains. That’s not right. That’s regression.

Marina, Polytechnic University graduate: We don’t have a new wave of foreigners as it is, that’s why I don’t understand, and how is it possible to characterize our relations, our common relations with others. We have Yezids, Assyrians, Jews, a certain quantity of Russians and Molokans with whom our relations aren’t the same as with the others. Meaning they are a part of us, because they have become so much like us, they have Armenianized and it’s difficult to tell the difference, I know a lot of Yezids, I have a lot of friends, and they practically don’t differ from us because they have lived with us for so long. I really am for communication even when Turks and Azerbaijanians come here from Iran. That would be the means for a more broad and liberal worldview for the Armenian youth – In a positive, rather than negative sense. In that case we can discuss the relations between nations – and that’s a positive process.

Georgi Vanyan: I am very glad that within our youth, represented by two graduates of the Polytechnic, I see wonderful, among their thoughts, citizens and that gives me hope… I’d like to also address the respected lector of the State University. At every possible or impossible occasion we like to mention that we are the victors in the Armenian – Azerbaijanian resistance. Today the number one question in Azerbaijan is to return the refugees. On that front as well, we remain the “victors” in front of Azerbaijan, because Armenia doesn’t have a problem with refugees. But let’s be honest and say, that Armenia didn’t overcome the problem of refugees, they, the refugees became strangers here. People from Baku, Dashkesan, Hanlar, Naftalan, Gyanja, Shahumian, Getashen, I can go on forever – they became strangers, stranger than ethnic minorities or foreigners, they turned into “Turks” here because they didn’t speak Armenian and had been demeaned at every occasion. And we, who like to talk about our historical fatherland, announce today that we have won, but in reality we have lost our citizens who have solved their own question, in Russia, in Europe, and scattered all over the world. Meaning as a result of the movement in Karabakh we have begotten a new Diaspora. We must look into that not so distant past in order to understand what happened and what’s happening now with us.

Host: I think that disregarding some of the distraction from our subject, we will take into consideration what you said for future reference in our discussion. I’d like to remind the question: how necessary are ethnic minorities for us?

👤 I think we do need a new wave of ethnic minorities and foreigners, because on that ground the economy will develop and new jobs will be created.

Marina: I don’t understand the formation of the question. We already have ethnic minorities, which have formed in our society in duration of many years, what we need is to be in touch with the outside world, meaning the creation of good conditions for people from foreign countries to come and stay in Armenia. I can bring an example of a few citizens of Nigeria, who were refused entrance to Armenia, because they were in some sort of black lists. They were normal people who could have come to Armenia as tourists, and eventually establish their own business… If obstacles are put on a governmental level, then what is there left to talk about?

Host: I’d like to open the context of the question “are foreigners and ethnic minorities needed in Armenia?” Meaning do we Armenians recognize that there are people of other nationalities living next to us, or do we prefer not to notice, to force out the thought itself, the thought of non – Armenians living in Armenia.

Manushak Andriasyan: If there are such ethnic minorities in Armenia – that is already a sign that we accept them. And we accept them to the point where, there are Yezids where I live who say “Armenians are leaving and leaving and eventually Armenia will be left to us as a gift”. That’s the level of our acceptance of ethnic minorities.

Ishkhan Petrosyan, Mkhitar Gosh University: I’ve been out of Armenia a lot of times and would like to express my opinion. There is such a saying – make yourself at home but don’t forget that you are a guest. In relations between people, independent of weather you are in another country or you are dealing with a foreigner in your own country, there is the intellect factor to be considered. Meaning the impression received from the representatives, about the people of the country, based on the level of intellect possessed by them. And if you will allow me I have a question for the organizers. The main idea of the festival – is peace and mutual understanding. Did I understand correctly? Now I have a question for Georgi Vanyan, I asked him about this separately, now I’d like to voice my question publically. What do you propose, to open the border with Turkey and Azerbaijan, from one side it seems like a good idea, for example, the standard service in the military will become unnecessary, but from another side, personally I myself cannot forget 1915 or Sumgait, how can we open the borders and feel safe?

Georgi Vanyan: We had a long discussion during the coffee break. It seemed to me that all questions were rendered obsolete. Even in the hallway I explained to Ishkhan, that the festival’s purpose was to create an opportunity for the population in Armenia, mainly the youth, to say what they have to say, because as I said on more than one occasion, in our reality, when people talk about Abkhazia they mean- Bagapsh, about Armenia – Sargsyan, about Azerbaijan – Aliev, but the opinion of the citizens is unheard. The purpose of the festival is to hear you out. If we were an open society, if you, young man were brought up in an open society, you wouldn’t have such a form of a question. I am embittered to say, that You, and that means all of us together have fallen behind on time, which is rapidly progressing forward, we aren’t coming out of the frames of the very same image of thought, which has planted its roots in us from Soviet times.

Anna, Slavonic University: There were interesting ideas voiced here: Beginning from the part where we – the most international nation in the world, with the idea of which I cannot agree, because we see how everything is set up in our country. If a foreigner is walking down the street and if his image differs from the rest – the clothes, the color of skin, have you seen how they are made fun of, ridiculed and demeaned, and the comments that are made about them? And the idea opinion that Manushak made – how Yezids are waiting for Armenians to leave Armenia – that’s extreme. Of course I believe that she has heard something like that, but it shouldn’t be considered as something to be familiarized and say that everybody thinks that way. When the need of ethnic minorities is being discussed, in my opinion it’s is beginning to smell of fascism, the slogan of the skinheads “Russia for Russians”. To say that we don’t need others would have made some sense and if we were a large country with a self-adequate and a blossoming economy, except we are not that type of a nation. It’s wrong to say that there is no need for ethnic minorities in my opinion, but along with that there must be certain parameters.

Temuri Kiguradze: May I ask a question. What do you mean with parameters, is it some sort of percentage co-relation or something else?

Anna: No, it’s more likely to be a percentage co-relation, I consider ethnic minorities must be, it’s a fact that we already have them, and it would be simply ignorant to treat that fact badly.. Meaning we must treat that fact objectively. If there is a person who says that Armenians will leave, and Armenia will be left to us as a gift, then that person should not be treated fairly, he must receive the answer in his own tongue. And in regards to the parameters I meant, that Armenians must preserve their national self-adequacy.

Gayane Dabagyan: I would really want to have that type of a society, where the question considered – do we want to live with ethnic minorities - wasn’t discussed. It’s peculiar. A person must be taught in such a manner so that he or she could get along with all kinds of people regardless of one’s nationality or religion. I don’t mean to unconditionally accept everything bad and good that people bring with them from other countries. I would want for the people who are in relations with others to be a Merrill of patriotism. And not only with others, I met with Armenians, and Armenians from Baku in USA, who would ask me, are you from Yerevan and it seemed they were accusing me in something. All I want to say is that first of all, we must solve our problems not with others, but between ourselves.

Host: As it should have been expected your collective opinion can be resumed as such: let the snake that doesn’t bite me live for a hundred years. Meaning as long as ethnic minorities aren’t doing any damage to us, quite the contrary they’re putting their share of input into the development of the country, their existence is acceptable for us. Now, let’s attempt to approach the subject from the other side. Let’s address to the examples of your personal relations with ethnic minorities. Can you bring some examples of their good qualities or their unacceptably bad actions?

Anahit, Slavonic University: We have many students in Armenia, who have come from different countries, in order to receive an education, because the education here is much more cost effective then anywhere else. I know many students at the Polytechnic University who are constantly maltreated. They get treated very badly and it’s not enough they receive bad treatment they constantly get beaten. I know of a one incident where a guy from India, got attacked by a band of our guys who consider themselves to be righteous at all times, walking down the street. The Indian got beaten until he bled, and when his girlfriend approached they beat her as well, to the point where she received a spinal trauma. To this day she walks with crutches, they literally put her pieces back together. Well, how can that be? Everybody says that we, Armenians are very hospitable people, but no, we treat people like swine, not simply like swine, that’s putting it softly, we treat people horribly, people who have come to us to receive an education, and I’ve seen it more than once. I very often hear that when a person of a different nationality comes…

Host: Please clarify what nationality to be exact.

Replica: What’s the difference?

Host: I want to know specifically what nationalities do we treat badly.

Anahit: What’s the difference, we also treat the Russians badly, and I’ve seen and heard it. I very often see them receive the type of treatment, as if: “you come here for nothing...” But that is not correct!

Host: As a host I don’t have the right to express my opinion, but if I hear anymore of such facts, I will be shocked – I will begin to doubt if I am in Armenia right now. But do not pay any attention to my shock please.

👤 I study at the European Academy. Our Institute has a lot of foreign youth, from Iran for example, they are in a separate course, our course for example has an Assyrian girl and we are in very warm relations, and even if there are any conflicts in student life, well also fights, I never heard that the reason of the fight was someone’s nationality. I want to say something to the previous girl, it’s that what she says is happening in all countries. I think the existence of uncultured people with bad manners is only natural… Armenian students get killed in the very same Russia. We began to speak about Russians; I personally know a few Russians here, and their arrogance, say for example how Russian guys treat Armenian girls, which I know as well.

Armen Voskanyan: Excuse, me what is your name (Anahit). Ok, dear Anahit, I’d like to tell you something, what you are talking about are exceptions, and I think it was right on for the host to ask what nationalities exactly were you talking about. I personally communicate with people in several different languages, with an Arab in his native tongue, with the Japanese in theirs. They are normal when it comes to good relations, what’s concerning the Russians – I myself work in a Russian office and if you begin to act as an equal with them, even if it’s your boss – it just doesn’t seem to work out. If you say Alexey: May I say. He would answer: No you may not. That’s why; with Russians it’s a completely different question.

Emma Manukyan, “Ajakicner” NGO: I want to give my answer to everything that’s been said here today. Once, at a neighboring table in a café where I was sitting I was listening as an Indian student, who was sitting with an Armenian girl, was bragging in front of her about how many others he dated. As I was guessing she was the fifth one. I was listening to everything and would have probably been happy, that she has such a boyfriend. She was calmly listening the stories about how this Indian offended her compatriots. I was very insulted, but I didn’t want to interfere with the conversation and exited the café. And I think, in the fight that you mentioned, it’s possible that those guys (Armenians) were defending their national values. I’m sure you know all the situations.

Laura Khanamiryan: I think that we aren’t tolerant, first of all to our selves. Why do we talk about not liking the Indians or the Russians? Listen to this: Kharabakhians came and took everything under their control, which one is from Leninakan that means he isn’t’ a good person, and that one is from Abaran – useless for anything… We cannot make others like us when we don’t like us ourselves. And what is concerning other nationalities, I personally lived in Ukraine 6 years, and I am here as a member of the Ukrainian community, I have a lot of relations, but as they say “the fish always thinks about its own water”. And whatever the conditions would be, in any way a human being who has come to a foreign country, no matter how long he or she lives there, they always remain strangers in one way or the other. And when we discuss the intellect… I’d like to bring an example, I called a very highly intellectual individual with the happy news, when we won the first bronze in the Olympics, I said – do you know that Armenia won the bronze in the Olympics, he answered – do you know that the sportsman wasn’t an Armenian… And on that note, ladies and gentlemen there is nothing more to say.

👤 I am from Javakhk, Akhlcikhe. Armenians and Georgian live together there. And when the interests are similar – there are no problems, but when interests aren’t similar – it seems that we don’t need each other. And I think that it’s the same here in Armenia. And in regards to the foreigner that got beaten, well Armenians beat Armenians even more. I have a good Iranian acquaintance, and we are in good relations with one another. It’s the human relations that decide everything.

Host: Let’s add another branch to the conversation. Let’s discuss the following. Due to my profession I also travel abroad a lot and face different problems. Having remembered these individual occurrences, can we offer our options of non – problematic integration, here and there?

Tamara Iskandaryan, student: Of course having relations with other people and nations is necessary and desirable, but in our society there is such a phenomenon as not accepting Armenians from abroad – the Diaspora. Very often I heard, or have been a witness, how our youth from Iran or Libya are complaining that the locals don’t treat them with respect, they call them Persians instead of Armenians. That problem must be solved from the very beginning. What can we say about the rest, if we do not accept them in our country as we should? New approaches are needed here; perhaps we need to create conditions for civilized relations. Due to our mistakes and behavior, Armenians from the Diaspora are forming an opinion about their own people.

👤 I myself am an Armenian from USA. At first some consider – that I am from Iran. Once they find out I’m from America the relationship takes a 180-degree turn. While they think I am from Iran they talk rudely in a demeaning manner. As they understand I’m from America, ooh you’re from America… and that’s all – I’m a cool girl. That’s why it also matters what country you’re from in order to know what kind of a treatment you will receive.

Host: It’s interesting what our guy from Javahk will say. Do you study here work?

👤 I work and study. I have been here for over 10 years already. I didn’t have any problems except for a problem with the language. I had complexes because I didn’t know the language. I’d like to repeat, everything depends on the human qualities and only from that. There are people who don’t understand or understand with difficulties, but that’s not relevant and can smooth out in due time. All that’s important is so that a human being stays human.

Host: Meaning you feel yourself to be complete living here in Armenia?

👤 Yes.

Temuri Kiguradze: Do you speak Georgian?

👤 No.

👤 I don’t fully grasp the topic. Everyone speaks about Armenian’s bad treatment to others. My experience is completely different. My girlfriend speaks Farsi, one day we were passing a group of Iranians, and she said that they expressed derogatory comments about us. Why don’t we speak about that? Why do we say negative things only about ourselves? It’s necessary to be friendly, without forgetting about patriotism.

Georgi Vanyan: Meaning you consider these ideas are opposites of one another?

👤 No, they’re not opposite, but patriotism must not be replaced with something else, and that's the way it should be. We should go to foreign countries in order to work and make money, but it’s better to live on our fatherland.

Avetisyan Nelly: I’d like to bring in the total of this conversation. I am very glad that the young man from Javakhk feels comfortable here. Because, I witnessed an argument between our students and students from Javakheti – and I told them, they are ours and they must feel themselves like at home – why are you dividing into groups? They are holding the grounds, in a manner that we would wish for Nakhichvanians to hold. I heard the audience out. There aren’t any bad opinions. Everyone is very smart and if you listen to every Armenian individually – everyone will turn out to be very smart. I don’t say this with arrogance, that’s a fact. But do you know what would happen if some people from the audience went to Glendale? They would begin to speak with the accent of Iranian Armenians so no one would suspect that they just came from Armenia. Isn’t that one of the complexes of being incomplete? So I ask one of my college friends who has established himself a long ago, has his own pharmacy, business etc. And he says that a Jew helped him, not an Armenian. And he said that he has isolated himself and doesn’t want to be in any relations with other Armenians there. They don’t even give books to each other there. You will become my opponent – that’s how they think there, and that important book loaned him a Persian. And so I am thinking, since we are so smart what do we lack? We have a lack of a programmed approach. Jews have an entire army of psychoanalysts. So I come up with a question. You for example, are you simply filming all this or will this reach the psychologists, and they will analyze, and come to a healthy conclusion for our nation? There are issues here, what can we do? Everyone wants to do something for his or her country. Let’s gather all this and analyze it to find those solutions, on the basis of which we will enlighten our nation. Otherwise we will remain to be on a family level, no more.

Host: Concerning the results – there are journalists here and I’m hoping that everything that was discussed here was interesting enough for them to write about it. And our Physiologists-Annalists will have a field of research at they’re desire. To be blunter, we aren’t just talking today.

Khachik Kazaryan: I hear the youth discussing private matters, some individual occurrences. And there really isn’t anything new about that. But I’d like to address the first question, about ethnic minorities. Yes we used to have an Azerbaijani minority. Now there are Yezids and Assyrians. And they have a positive effect on our lives, like Azerbaijanis did back in their time. And before just recent times Armenians used to offer other countries only the good. I’d like to speak about integration as a basis for coexistence. There is a young man who says he doesn’t speak any Georgian. But it was his obligation to speak it because he lived in Georgia. Armenians speak in Russian and English. How is it possible to live without a language? But in Glendale today you really don’t need any English; you can pass with Armenian as well. You mustn’t concentrate on individual occurrences you must spread the culture. There were “ara-akhpers” (hidebound boys) in the 70-ies as well, when they would come to our parties we would tell them this is not your place. Now everyone has become one of those “ara-akhpers”. But I think it’s very temporary, sooner or later everything will fall back in its place.

Temuri Kiguradze: Why is integration considered a loss of one’s own culture? I’d like to bring as an example the Georgian Jews. Recently they were celebrating the 26-century anniversary of Jews living in Georgia. I have a lot of acquaintances. Georgian Jews speak fluent Georgian; they respect Georgian culture, festivities, but that doesn’t prevent them from conserving Jewish traditions, to speak the language and attend the Synagogue. I want to say that integration into a society doesn’t mean – loss of one’s own self-being.

👤 I want to say this; Armenians don’t treat each other badly in all foreign countries. I have a sister in Italy and they have a very friendly Armenian community there. It’s the same in Iran. And there is no need to generalize, good relations with Armenians from abroad are being built here as well.

👤 I think the fear needs to be overcome.

Host: What fear did you have in mind?

👤 The fear of strangers coming and assimilating us.

Host: Meaning that we fear to be assimilated in our own country?

👤 Yes. There is a fear of international marriages and a new, mixed generation. We must overcome this fear in anyways. Specifically Hindus, or Iranians, the representatives of the Islamic world, we have a fear and rejection toward them. Islamophobia. Even the darkness in the eye color is unacceptable in our own families. We welcome more, the lightness of complexion in our children; we are more patient with blue-eyed Europeans. I have that feeling personally, and I believe it’s because of the association with Turks.

Host: So we practically returned to the film “Punjabi Taxi” where the Indians are mistaken for Arabs and are faced with troubles in USA.

A student from USA: The weather changed toward Armenians as well, among those people who didn’t have any idea about Armenia and who Armenians are, in USA after the attacks on 9/11 and there were attacks on Armenians as well.

Seyranyan Armen, YSU: If we are going to talk about the positive and negative outcomes of integration, then I would like to say that integration – is a natural and a positive phenomenon. But there is also a Phenomenon such as “otaramolutyun” (worshipping others – e.n.). Something was mentioned about the fear of Islam here; I would say it’s quite the contrary. There is love – Islamophilia. Because if we conduct sociological research for example, or simply look at the way Armenian girls dressed after the soap opera “Clone”, then even the clothing factor can testify about how the ideology changes. We should integrate but we shouldn’t become “otaramol” (A fan of foreign culture and values – e.n.).

Georgi Vanyan: We are constantly furthering ourselves from the subject. Our subject is: others and us. On March 1 there were citizens who were shot, but nothing changed in our society, I’d like to ask why didn’t anything change? Because we live in a false reality and we are governed by false values. The most tragic is that the Armenian intelligence who has in its possession microphones, newspapers, podium, and television – public activists, writers – were saying in unison: let’s leave everything aside (it’s about the shootings), our pain is within the fact that an Armenian killed an Armenian. So I come up with the result that if a Yezid or a Jew or a Georgian was shot instead, then that’s okay. And due to that fact I would like to announce that Armenia lives within a fascist reality.

Silva, YSU: I myself am from Javakheti and I live among Armenians, the communication there is only in Armenian and schools are also in Armenian. In our schools Georgian is taught as a foreign language, on a very low level. Armenians teach it and you can easily not attend the classes. Now they say that they are going be strict about it and Georgianize the schools. How that should be treated, if a person doesn’t want to go to an Armenian school?

Host: If you are asking me, then I can only say one thing: welcome to Armenia.

Laura Khanamiryan: Temuri, I think you didn’t form the question correctly, when you brought the Jewish holidays as an example. We are talking about holidays, which are celebrated by ethnic minorities in Tbilisi – meaning Jews or Armenians. Armenians celebrate the same Georgian holidays and know the Georgian festivities with the same success – but that’s only concerning Tbilisi. Now when we talk about Javakhk, we are talking about a small mono-Armenian population, and to demand for the Georgian language to be known and spoken there, as they know and speak it in Tbilisi – is somewhat incorrect, even though as a Georgian for you it would be pleasant, if the population knew the language and had a pro Georgian orientation.

Host: Yes, it would have been as pleasant as it was when I heard a Georgian young lady, representative of the embassy, speak yesterday in a wonderful Armenian…

Georgi Vanyan: Excuse me but the question here is not about pleasantries. A few years ago when I was in Akhlkalaki, the same question was being discussed – and a howl arose around the round table: Georgians are trying to assimilate us! But the problem concludes only in the fact that Georgian citizens must know the official language of their government. Everyone protested. But during the intermission in the lobby, everyone from Akhlkalak would come up to me and say – you are right, we must know the language we suffer a lot due to the lack of this knowledge. Why not say this publicly? And only the director of the electrical company had the courage to stand up and say – Here we are saying that we don’t get any chances to get ahead in life, we don’t get any of the positions we want, and we are being discriminated against. But here I am - a director of electrical company and all of us were summoned to a meeting in Tbilisi. They all spoke in Georgian and me I was just sitting and counting the tile in the ceiling. Suddenly someone pokes me in the side and says – now they’re talking about you. I bring you his exact words: I sat and nodded my head like an ass, without understanding a word. We are not talking about sympathy or about feeling good or bad. We are talking about being a complete citizen. If the official language in Armenia is Armenian and if a Ukrainian woman, for example, wants to become a minister and raise the question about discrimination, she must be fluent with the language at that. What kind of discrimination in Georgia are we talking about? Let’s call things with own names.

Host: In any way I think this question should be left for governmental activists. Since Javakhk is in Georgia – it’s the Georgian government’s business.

Guy from Javakheti: You say it’s Georgia’s concern, and I say it’s Armenia’s concern.

Replica: What does Armenia have to do with that?

Host: You live in Javakhk and you don’t speak the language – it is your personal problem.

Manushak Andriasyan, senior student at the film-directing department: What is your opinion would there be any territorial disputes if our regions established independence?

Host: Where did that question come from?

Manushak: I saw a segment on T.V.: A girl from a region meets a guy through the Internet; she lies and says she is from Yerevan otherwise they wouldn’t marry her.

👤 There is a pain in the heart of Javakhettian and I don’t want us to avoid that pain.

Host: What pain are you talking about?

👤 The pain concludes in the following, it’s difficult for to live in a foreign country even if we do consider Georgia to be a country that’s close to us. Georgia must be very careful. What are we hearing about Javakhk, besides that there are problems there? And on top of that Armenian writings are being erased from the churches…

Host: I remember there was an opinion about us being assimilated one glorious day and we all would become Yezids or Russians or…

Georgi Vanyan: You misunderstood, he didn’t say it that way, and he was talking about the fear…

Host: Yes, meaning there is fear before the integration…

Replicas: Yes. No. That’s right.

Host: Please, one at a time. I want to clear what fear he meant. Meaning that we fear that ethnic minorities will assimilate us?

👤 Yes. There is a physiological fear. There is such an image of thought as: we are going to live among Armenians and merry with Armenians...

Host: Ok, let’s discuss the influence of the very same soap operas, of Arabic culture, etc… What kind of a process is it? Let’s talk about relating through culture.

Grigoryan Hegine, pharmacist: Why do we need Arabic belly dances or Latin American dances? I think – to be isolated – is not right. That means that you are going to drown yourself in your own culture – only folklore, etc. I don’t see how those dances interfere with us from being Armenian. It absolutely doesn’t interfere.

👤 I am a literature enthusiast, not an expert. What is being taught in our schools? A few lines from Shota Rustaveli, “The last List” from O’Henry and that’s all. The rest is Armenian. Let’s put the show business aside, and take foreign literature, mind you it’s good to be familiar with your own, but the world literature has produced so many masterpieces and treasures… and even now we are so uncultured - I mean the average Armenian – that we don’t know what is happening in world literature. Now we don’t care to know anything only our own Raffi and Charents.

Replica: We are talking about belly dancing not Charents.

👤 Ok, let’s talk about the show business if you wish. What are we supposed to value – the high professionalism or something distasteful, as long as it’s our own?

Host: Please express your opinion, what do you think the spreading of a foreign culture – is it a negative or a positive effect?

👤 All the same it’s a positive. We are only too uncivilized to accept what the world has to offer us.

Anna, Slavonic University: If we talk about the same video clips, we only take all the worst out of them. Why can’t we take something that’s good out of them? Why are our singer’s video clips – Arabic style, and with the dances as well, why do we take everything negative out of them, all those net like pantyhose… Naturally we need to communicate with the outside world so we don’t turn back into apes, but we need to take something positive out of it...

Manushak: I am unanimously against it, because it’s useless. After watching some low caliber soap opera we wrap ourselves in some rags. We even sing Sayat-Nova with an Arabic accent… There must be untouchable values, to which something must be added – it’s a crime in my opinion. And we do only the worst - we infuse Turkish elements into our lifestyle as well.

Host: The last sentence sounded simply mystical, but here I see a boy has raised his hand, let’s hear him out, what’s your name?

Boy: My name is Artavazd, I am in sixth grade of the school “Elita”. When we watch those soap operas and sing and dance like them, why do they not pick up anything from us? (applause)

Host: If I ever, and there is a possibility, become Armenia’s minister of culture, I will find you and we will solve that problem together.

Tatev, working on her Master’s Degree at the Polytechnic University: During Soviet period we had a very limited choice. Now the world has opened up to us and practically there are unlimited possibilities for exchange of information. And the people are in need of something new. Let’s pretend someone takes something and later he didn’t like it, but first he must take it, understand what it is, then decide is it for him or not. It’s just a process of taking something, trying it, then putting it back while continuing the search.

Emma Manukyan: As I understood from what’s been said, that if you are sitting at a table and there is a variety of salads and plates in front of you must try a little bit of everything in order to understand what’s good. But in that case my digestion will be upset. We are talking about spiritual food. And the spiritual must feed from the national, and once in a while try something new, as something exotic, and not fill up your entire life with something that’s not yours.

Host: I have a last question for each of you. How do you feel about the Blue Mosque standing in the center of Yerevan on the Prospect Street? I wish to know.

👤 I accept it calmly because I don’t go there. Muslims go there. There are Christian churches in Iran that are attended by Armenians. It doesn’t influence me if it doesn’t invade my home.

👤 Yes there aren’t any problems here, seeing how there are Armenian churches in Iran.

Host: So what you’re trying to say is that the presence of Armenian churches in Iran makes you loyally treat the Iranian Mosque. But after all you are walking down the street and there is a Mosque standing in the middle of the street – doesn’t it bother you?

👤 No. When you asked that question I had a thought, that this festival should change its name to “Nationality - Armenian”. A Mosque cannot bother someone who is civilized.

Host: Аnd who said that society is civilized? I am simply allowing myself to ask that question because I know for a fact there are people in the audience whose nerves are shattered by that Mosque.

👤 It doesn’t bother me.

Host: Thank you let’s hear the others out.

👤 Some time ago we were talking about cults holding a small number in our society, so they cannot harm us in any way, so let them stay. But now, 50 percent if not more are cult members. That’s why it’s very possible that they will become a threat for us in a few years. We have become accustomed to accept what we see. But as they do in Turkey, where the crosses are taken down from the steeples of the Armenian churches, the same limitations must be done here, so it doesn’t enter into our families.

Laura Khanamiryan: I want to say that regretfully the only well preserved Armenian churches are in Iran. The situation there is better than here in Armenia. And it is our duty to be tolerant to their Mosques. A Mosque is a source for spiritual food. We must be tolerant and respect other religions.

👤 The most important thing is the content. What goes on in that Mosque? I know there is an Armenian girl who teaches Farsi. She married with a Persian and took up the Persian religion, that’s where the danger is. And Farsi is being taught there with specific ceremonies. That’s where the danger is. Not in the fact that there is simply a Mosque on the street. That’s history let it remain. But we must be attentive to the content. That type of semi-literate teaching of Farsi creates the danger for our people.

Host: Unfortunately that’s the last opinion we will hear today because we have already extended the discussion time twice, and we could talk about any of the questions which were brought up here today endlessly. Tomorrow we will have more time for relations with the guests of the festival.

The end of the festival day, after viewing the film “Shahin”

Edvard Antinyan: There is such a problem. When we want the world to recognize our genocide and we often wonder, why is the world so indifferent to it, and we think to ourselves, why don’t they want to understand such a simple thing, that we had genocide, and Armenians were killed. Are there a lot of us who are nervous about what’s happening in Dartford, were many of you interested what started the holocaust, beginning from the “crystal night” in Munich, as a result of which 6 million people died. Or during Polpot in Cambodia – 1.5 million, in Uganda close to 900 thousand people were terminated. Why do I talk about this? If we want the world to be concerned about us, we must be obliged to be concerned with the world’s problems.

If we want to talk about the genocide with someone anywhere, we must start the conversation from all human-related problems, to involve the one you’re conversing with, and only after that, by the way, mention about our genocide. Take for example; there were many opportunities, we spoke about Japan, we sometimes wonder, how it is possible for anyone in Japan, which has a population of 100 million, not know the height of our mount Ararat. Do a lot of us know the height of mount Fujiyama, if you want a country with such a large population to be humble enough to know the height of 3 million in population Armenia’s holly mountain, then first say it like so: Wow your Fujiyama is so beautiful, what a wonderful mountain, just like our Ararat, then slowly approach the subject of the height of the mountain, that Ararat is almost as tall as Fuji, and that its only 1389 meters taller than Fuji. Show your advantage, but also respect him, so you can prove yours as delicately as possible.

Why should the world recognize you if you’re not going to communicate with the outside world? And in the question “us and others” I would like us to begin from the following, we tell the world “when we had a theatre - you were up on trees”, but we aren’t prepared for the second question: and what was that theatre like? Lets hold a survey on the street downtown Yerevan and ask a hundred people, how many of them will know what that theatre was like, where was the show conducted, who conducted the show. But we want to make them wonder with the point that, they were up on trees. They have come down from the trees a long time ago. Yet we aren’t the inheritors of that theatre, we aren’t continuing that civilization. We should have known that for ourselves and not to surprise anyone. Thank you.

Recorded by Luiza Poghosyan
South Caucasian Documentary Film Festival of Peace and Human Rights in Armenia implementing by Caucasus Center of Peace-Making Initiatives with support of Eurasia partnership foundation - Armenia and the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

So-organizer of festival in Yerevan:
Edvard Antinyan