Friday, 15 February 2008

BBC Radio 4 presents somehow depressing side of routine life in Armenian capital amid upcoming presidential elections

It does not directly touch presidential elections (just a mention at the beginning), but rather presents a kind of background picture of routine life and changes through the eyes of a local resident. A bit too pessimistic, in my opinion, but anyway.

Below are selected extracts. Full transcript is available here

[…] A product of the old Soviet-style education system, Armine speaks five languages, has an engineering degree, and plays the cello expertly.

When I first met her on a visit to Armenia three years ago, she dreamed of setting up a music school for children.

She was fiercely proud of being Armenian and admonished me for my ignorance about the achievements of her people.

Now the talk is only of property and becoming rich.

"It's like so many other places in the old Soviet Union. We gained freedom but somehow we have lost our soul," says Armine.

"The Russians, once again, control most of the economy while gangsters and oligarchs swank about in their limousines and fancy jewellery, all powerful.

"The politicians are hopeless, only filling up their own pockets.

"It's a country that's going nowhere. I just want to make my money and leave."

[…] As Jewish families might buy a second home in Israel, so the Armenian diaspora - present in virtually every major city in the world and many of them extremely wealthy - are buying houses and apartments in Yerevan and the prices keep rising.

[…] The Soviet era was not known for great architecture but old Yerevan had a pleasant, intimate feel.

It is sad to see it disappearing.

The diaspora buys but does not stay, says Armine.

"Meanwhile, locals find they can no longer afford to live here. One day, this could become an empty city."

*photo via BBC


paul said...

I wrote an email of complaint to the author. What kind of an informative article relies completely on the opinions of one citizen of a country of over 3 million? Armine set the agenda of the article complete (or was a vehicle for the author to get across his own view) and some of her notions like that soon Yerevan will be empty is utterly absurd. Notice how not a single positive idea or fact ever comes across; when they walk down the street its through "rubble"- making all of Yerevan sound like a war zone (I guess they weren't walking down North Avenue?), or he's talking about the depressing yellow haze from factories which alledgely hangs over the entire country, or Armine is repeating her mantra of "this place is hopeless".
I'm not against justified criticism of Armenia's current predicament, but that BBC report was an utter pile on pummeling Armenia without a single even neutral let alone positive fact or comment in sight. Even if all those opinions are true, his lack of balance by relying completely on one person (who isn't even a creditibe source with any specialty to be commenting on the current state of society there) is bad journalism. Makes me wonder if he went to Armenia with a reporting motive.

artmika said...

Yes, Paul, agree, it seems that BBC journalist was too much under Armine’s influence. I understand that he wanted to portrait life of Yerevan through the eyes of ordinary people, but at the end this became certainly a one-sided opinion piece. Although I would agree with some of points mentioned, however you can’t just ignore positive changes too, and I am puzzled the way BBC reflect Armenia related things lately (last example - here).

I am from Yerevan, and most of my life lived there constantly. I’ve been mainly away since last couple of years, but when was in Yerevan over New Year holidays, I noticed many positive things too. I would hopefully write more of my ‘Yerevan diaries’ at some point soon, still could not find time. Of course it is different when you permanently live in one place over last years as opposed to visiting for short break, and I know that some of Armine’s views are shared by many, however you can’t just ignore positive changes too which many Yerevantsi are proud of. I really hope that this won’t become a kind of ‘tradition’ for BBC to produce one-sided reports in relation to Armenia.