Saturday, 26 March 2011

Armenia vs Russia EURO 2012 qualifying. No party for tonight...

First, something positive. Look at this picture tweeted live from the Yerevan stadium by @adagamov. Beautiful.

"Стадион забит до отказа, спели гимны. У армян на бумажках цвета флага на др стороне текст гимна"
Now look at his second picture + commentary about poor organisaton of people entry to the stadium by the Armenian side. I can confirm that I’ve heard similar complaints from others who were at the stadium too.

"На входе дикая давка, организация просто из рук вон"
For the first half (apart from 10 mins at the beginning), it was Berezovsky vs Russia. To other players in our team - thumbs down. Second half was more active and interesting. But it was nil vs nil at the end. No party for tonight.

And about Armenian Public TV online broadcast of the match. It sucked spectacularly. It was like a torture to watch, interrupting (“buffering”) every couple of seconds (!!). And no, my Internet connection was OK, many of my friends experienced the same. Wouldn’t it be more honest to simply not have online broadcast?! Luckily, I got a link to different channel, and managed to watch more or less OKish the second half of the match.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Armenia and Georgia, among 85 countries, signed major UN gay rights statement

For details and commentary, see Unzipped: Gay Armenia

Armenia and Georgia, among 85 countries, signed major UN gay rights statement

When opposition leaders in Armenia fail...

I have no desire whatsoever to comment in detail on the ‘hottest topic’ of discussions in Armenia now - why or whether Levon Ter-Petrosyan (LTP) should have approached another prominent oppositionist, head of Zharagutyun (‘Heritage’) party, ex-Foreign Minister Raffi Hovhannisyan who is on hunger strike at Liberty sq in Yerevan. [Read also: Liberty sq. Liberated. ‘Spring of hope’ for changes in Armenia?]

Most reactions I saw are exploiting this topic for their narrow political interests and dirty tricks under the cover of ‘care’ about Raffi or LTP or opposition or Armenia’s future... I just want to say one thing. In my opinion, regardless of political desirability, inter-personal relations, sensitivities, ‘simple’ or ‘complex’ politics, LTP should have approached Raffi. I do not care about all sorts of excuses provided. It was the only right thing to do for ethical and human perspectives. It was also right thing to do in terms of “public relations”.

‘17 March’ should have been a day of triumph for LTP led Armenian opposition. It was. For one day only. Now it's turning into a PR disaster for Levon. As if things were not bad enough, LTP comes up with an “explanation” of his actions and motives, that is beyond words ridiculous.
Armenian National Congress (HAK) leader Levon Ter-Petrossian responded to a question by local daily Haykakan Jamanak (“Armenian Times”) as to why the opposition leader didn’t approach Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovannisian during the HAK rally on Mar. 17 at Liberty Square. Recall, Hovannisian has been camped out at Liberty Square since Mar. 15, the day he began his hunger strike “for freedom.”
“Because that goes against my Christian principles. Christianity for me is before or even more than religion, it is a moral codex. And this codex categorically rejects the piety, mercy, humility, modesty, charity, including a demonstration of fasting, of Christian virtues. When a virtue is put on display, it stops being a virtue. Particularly on fasting, one of the Armenian Church’s most authoritative Fathers, Hovhan  [Hovhannes] Mandakuni, in the 5th century said the following: ‘The Devil destroys both the one fasting and his Lent, when man wants and classifies himself above others, so that his abstinence is drummed by others, and people become aware of and admire his endurance. Such a Lent doesn’t cleanse and justify, but rather pollutes and destroys’ (Matenagirk Hayots, A, p. 1170). On request, a hundred such examples can be brought forth from Armenian and world church literature.
“Anyway, if Raffi Hovannisian instead of publicly fasting, announced a hunger strike with specific political demands, I would not only welcome him, but also announce my full solidarity,” he said.
I mean. seriously, Levon. This is what you are going to do when you come to the power? To preach? And to "explain" your actions by Bible articles, Christian “principles” and “virtues” as opposed to the constitution, human rights and law?

There are few things more off-putting for me than politicians using religion to “explain”, “excuse” or “justify” their actions or inaction.

Now about Raffi’s “demands”. That Raffi started his hunger strike “for freedom” without any specific demands was a bit strange, to say the least. After all the criticism of recent days and the latest from LTP, today he finally revealed what he called Heritage party’s “political demands”. Sorry, Raffi, these are not ‘demands’, but rather empty slogans and populism:

1. Power to the people
2. No to a party state
3. The people are the country’s owner
4. Vox populi, vox Dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God)
5. A free square, free citizen, free country
6. A free citizen, a safe state
7. A dignified future for Armenian youth
8. Employment for the people
9. SOS Armenia is being emptied of Armenians
10. No to injustice, poverty and emigration
11. An end to ruling corruption
12. Strength also lies in morality
13. No to [the Armenian-Turkish] Protocols, yes to Homeland
14. Recognition of Artsakh [the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh]
15. That miraculous country which is ours and will be ours — Armenia.

"The voice of the people is the voice of God". What a ‘powerful’ ‘demand’, indeed. And so on, and so on...

Come on, Raffi, I was of much-much higher opinion of you. In fact, you were one of the most respected (if not the most) Armenian politicians for me. But this? You can’t be serious. This is a joke. Honestly, when I started reading these points, I burst into laughing. But then I stopped as I realised how sad the reality is.

Yes, I know, I’ve been reminded that this is not specific to Armenia, that politicians suck everywhere, but have to repeat what I’ve said on Twitter and Facebook today. Politicians in Armenia suck... even the good ones.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Now high profie Dashnak MP in Armenia attacks Emo

Says Hrayr Karapetyan, MP from the nationalist ARF Dashnaktsutyun party, head of parliamentarian committee on Defence, National Security and Internal Affairs: “emo movement has become a serious threat for the Armenian youth”. He didn’t stop here and went further claiming that... “if the situation remains unchanged, this movement will threaten the army building process”. (!) But wait, he didn’t stop here. He called for... “parliamentary hearings” on emo.

Whatever I said in past in my relevant post re Armenian police hunting down emo teenagers is totally applicable for this товарищ Hrayr too.

Degradation and stupidity. Police in Armenia hunts down perceived emo teenagers, confiscates ‘weapons of mass destraction’, oh, sorry, souvenirs

Sunday, 20 March 2011

P.S. Ida Kar - Armenian "bohemian photographer" at National Portrait Gallery in London

As I mentioned before - YES! Armenian “bohemian photographer who made history” Ida Kar restrospective at the National Portrait Gallery in London - this seemed to be a must see exhibit in London, and it was. Here are few pics I made at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The exhibition is on until 19 June 2011. Don't miss!

*"Return to Armenia": her works for The Tatler magazine after she visited Armenia for the first time since childhood. On this picture, you may also see the caricature of Ida Kar, with Armenian inscriptions, by local Yerevan artist S. Stepanian, 1957 (also below - as a fridge magnet I bought from the National Portrait Gallery shop).

Few more posters from the exhibit.

And this is perhaps her most provocative work on display at the exhibit: 'Mother and Child' (Hanja Kochansky with her daugther Katya Cobham (née Bebb)).

National Portrait Gallery, London - Ida Kar, 22 August 1974

Related on Unzipped: Gay Armenia - Ida Kar - Armenian "bohemian photographer"- fashionista

Friday, 18 March 2011

Liberty sq. Liberated. ‘Spring of hope’ for changes in Armenia?

From the moment when Liberty sq got seized by the authorities 3 years ago, it became apparent that unless it gets liberated again, there will be no possibility for real changes in Armenia. Apart from the great symbolism that Liberty sq represents, you just can’t have hopes for democracy in your country when you have ‘no-go’ zones there. Not that this is the only pre-requisite for changes, but still...

I can’t help myself but wonder: will today’s event transcend into a ‘spring of hope’ for changes in Armenia? It’s clear that the liberation of Liberty sq happened due to a good will and cooperation between the opposition and the authorities added by biggest (in recent past) people turnout, continuous pressures from the European structures (incidentally, senior PACE rapporteurs on Armenia were in town), worsening of socio-economic conditions of locals and the influence of more global spirit of revolutionary uprisings elsewhere.

My immediate reaction to the liberation of Liberty sq in the heart of Yerevan became “Top Tweet” for #17mar on Twitter.

This is one of the first pictures to appear live from Liberty sq on Twitter.

Picture of the Day. #Yerevan Liberty sq. via @divideetimpera: #Armenia #17mar

Opportunities for something positive for Armenia are there, or as they say, ‘in the air’. It’s now up to people, opposition and the authorities to make them a reality. It would be such a shame to miss this chance again. For the start, there should be no political prisoners in Armenia. Absolutely none.
Along with Liberty sq., at least 2 political prisoners set free today. Senior European delegation in town. #Armenia #Yerevan #17mar
And let’s not forget who directly kick started the latest wave of the “battle for Liberty”. Couple of days ago, prominent oppositionist, head of Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, ex-foreign minister Raffi Hovhannisyan started “hungry for change” hunger strike inside the Liberty sq making it more than ever (over the past 3 years) accessible to protest voices and activists. “On the morning of March 15, 2011 he went on a hunger-strike to put an end to empty promises, corrupt practices and corrosive apathy.” “His actions paved the way for thousands of peaceful protesters, under the leadership of Armenian National Congress (a coalition of opposition groups) to, in the evening of March 17, 2011, retake Liberty Square.” (press release and picture below - FB page - Hungry for Change: Freedom and Justice in Armenia | Ծոմ Ազատության)

Oh, and btw, this headline from instantly became one of my favourites from today. Լարվածությունը թուլացել է. ոստիկանները ընթրում ու կոկա-կոլա են խմում (‘Tension decreased. Police having a bite to eat and drinking coca-cola)
Ոստիկանները չեն թաքցնում իրենց ուրախությունն առ այն, որ հրաման ստացան բացել շղթան և ցուցարարների նկատմամբ ուժ չկիրառել:
Երիտասարդ ոստիկանների մի խումբ, տեղակայվելով Սայաթ-Նավա պողոտայի կողմից, նստել է ասֆալտի վրա, բրդուճներ են ուտում ու կոկա-կոլա խմում. նրանք առավոտվանից լարված վիճակում կանգնած էին փողոցում:

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Duke (Prince Andrew) and The Despot (Azerbaijan president Aliyev)

Killing headline in today's Daily Mail following revelations in British media of dodgy connections of Prince Andrew as Britain’s “trade ambassador”. The Independent calls this “dangerous liaisons” “damaging him and the country” that turn “royal asset to national liability”.
Ilham Aliyev: Hardline President of oil-rich Azerbaijan, who in 2009 met Andrew with a view to establishing economic ties with Britain. Aliyev is accused by his opponents of electoral fraud, and has blocked media organisations including the BBC from broadcasting from his country. The Duke met Aliyev again at the Davos economic forum this year, while the Duke is also said to be friendly with his daughters, Leila and Arzu.
But Daily Mail’s headline nails it.

The Duke and The Despot

Revealed: Prince Andrew’s ‘close friendship’ with brutal billionaire dictator accused of torture and corruption

This is despite big oil related British interests in Azerbaijan.

And this is against the backdrop of reports coming from Baku re targeted detentions and torture of youth activists ahead of planned ‘Day of Protest’ in Azerbaijan on 11 March 2011.

*picture via Sky News

Monday, 7 March 2011

Daniel Craig in drag to support Equality - 8 March International Women's Day

This is Daniel Craig as you've never seen him before. He appears here in drag as part of the EQUALS project, charity led by Annie Lenox, in honour of International Women's Day.

*via The Huffington Post. Thanks to Onnik for the link.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Russia + Armenia + Azerbaijan: presidents in tracksuits

Apparently, Russia president Dmitry Medvedev likes photography. As reported by, during last meeting (5 March) in Sochi with Armenia president Serj Sargsyan and Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev, he followed his hobby and personally took pictures of Aliyes and Sargsyan wearing tracksuits. Although those (Medvedev) pics are not available, posted other no-tie-but-tracksuit pics from the meeting. Can't say I am impressed with those tracksuits, especially by AM and AZ presidents. But hey, they are all 'smiles'. Well, sort of.
Президент России Дмитрий Медведев, который не раз во время поездок в разные страны и города делал фотоснимки для личной коллекции, на встрече с главами Армении и Азербайджана на горнолыжном курорте Красная Поляна под Сочи 5 марта не изменил своей традиции. Как передает корреспондент Новости Армении –, после официальной части встречи, когда политики сняли галстуки и надели спортивные костюмы, Дмитрий Медведев сделал несколько фотоснимков Сержа Саргсяна и Ильхама Алиева вместе. Затем Медведев продемонстрировал армянскому и азербайджанскому коллегам получившиеся снимки в своем цифровом фотоаппарате. [...] Лидеры встретились у подножия одного из горнолыжных склонов на Красной Поляне и вместе выпили по чашке чая в кафе. Затем президенты на фуникулере поднялись на хребет Псехако.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

YES! Armenian “bohemian photographer who made history” Ida Kar restrospective at the National Portrait Gallery in London

I cannot believe I have not heard of her before... Now I am all excitement in anticipation of the exhibit.

A must see exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, London. From 10 March to 19 June 2011.

"Russian-born, of Armenian heritage, Ida Kar (1908–74) was instrumental in encouraging the acceptance of photography as a fine art. Her subjects were the most celebrated figures from the literary and artistic spheres of 1950s and 1960s Europe and Russia. They include artists such as Henry Moore, George Braque, Gino Severini and Bridget Riley and writers such as Iris Murdoch and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Taken in the environments in which they lived and worked, the photographs on display offer a fascinating insight into post-war cultural life. Comprising several iconic portraits and many never previously exhibited,  the exhibition is drawn from the Ida Kar Archive, acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1999."

The Guardian writes about forthcoming exhibition of Ida Kar: “Unlike many of her famous subjects, Ida Kar, a once sensational bohemian photographer, has slipped into obscurity.”

Below are selected extracts form The Guardian review, accompanied by some of Ida Kar’s works via the National Portrait Gallery in London.
“Ida Kar was an Armenian, a bohemian and a fiercely distinguished artist who made history. Her exhibition at the Whitechapel in 1960 has been described as the first one-person photography show to be held in a major London gallery. It made her name, but her fame has been slowly slipping away over the decades. It should now be revived thanks to a new look at her work at the National Portrait Gallery, full of striking images of familiar and unfamiliar faces. Some of her subjects, like herself, have drifted away towards neglect and obscurity, but others – Ionesco, Braque, Sartre, Shostakovich, Bertrand Russell, TS Eliot, Andre Breton, Doris Lessing, Bridget Riley, Ivon Hitchens – have held the frontline. She knew how to get hold of the famous and the about-to-be famous. She was a hustler [...]”

“Born Ida Karamian in 1908 to Armenian parents in Russia, she served her apprenticeship and found both friends and a metier in modernist Paris in the late 1920s. In the 30s she rejoined her family in Egypt, where she married an Egyptian photographer with whom she set up a studio."

© National Portrait Gallery, London: Ida Kar, Still Life, Egypt, early 1940s

"She married her second husband, the artist and writer Victor Musgrave, in Cairo during the war, and the couple came to England in 1945, to austerity and Soho and the Colony Room club, to a land of coffee bars and struggling writers in bedsits."

© National Portrait Gallery, London: Ida Kar, late 1950s

"London became her home terrain, which she conquered by camera and from which she set off on excursions to other settings and other countries – to the St Ives of Patrick Heron and Peter Lanyon, to a Stalin-haunted Moscow, to an ethnically dressed Armenia, back to Paris and some of her most famous sitters, and on to Cuba in 1964. This was a hardworking freelance life with no institutional support and little comfort, at times awkwardly poised between art, photojournalism and celebrity portraiture. (At one point she was reduced to accepting a commission to photograph zoo animals, a move that did not serve her well.) She felt strongly that photography was undervalued as a form and treated without respect, and she was right: David Sylvester, discussing her Whitechapel exhibition on The Critics on the Third Programme, denied that photography could ever be "a true art".

“She told the Whitechapel's director, Bryan Robertson: "We are going to make this show the most exciting photographic event since The Family of Man." And she had her wish. It was a sensation.”

“As a woman, Kar had to fight her way, and her struggle to be taken seriously made her at times difficult, temperamental and autocratic. She was no feminist. Politically she was of the old-fashioned left, a sympathiser of Moscow, East Germany and Cuba, and she was certainly not in the vanguard of the rising feminism of the late 50s and early 60s. When asked by Queen magazine why she photographed so few women, she replied: "I photograph famous people, and famous people are mostly men. Beauties leave me cold."

© National Portrait Gallery, London: Ida Kar, Unknown man; Ronald Frederick Henry Duncan, 1951

"And if one looks carefully at the portraits of the women who did receive the accolade of her solicitations, she really does not do some of them very well.”

© National Portrait Gallery, London: Ida Kar, Gina Lollobrigida with her bust by Sir Jacob Epstein, 1952

“Those who live by the camera shall die by the camera, and be resurrected by it. Ida Kar (who also liked to wear a hat) is back on view at the National Portrait Gallery, outfacing mutability and the unimaginable touch of time.”

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Armenian police: the lowest possible denominator

I like the caption of this picture: "good morning police". I I like the title of blog post by Bnamard: FUCKAKENTRON VOSTIKANUTYUN

Says pretty much it all.

*video via

"Police can be seen pushing, shoving and yelling at protestors in Yerevan’s Republic Square, including Heritage Party MP Armen Martirosyan. Also seen in the video caught up in the scuffle are Heritage Party MPs Anahit Bakhshyan and Zaruhi Postanjyan, and activist Mariam Sukhudyan. Officers then pick up activist Vardges Gaspari and shove him in a police van standing by."

Good round-up of today's news via RFE/RL (AM)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

#1mar - Yerevan, Armenia, 3 years on...

#1mar is 'official' Twitter hashtag proposed by opposition activists to refer to live news / events / commentary marking the 3rd anniversary of 1 March 2008 bloody crackdown on the opposition in the aftermath of falsified presidential election in Armenia. Depending on events, I will probably write a more comprehensive blog post later today, tomorrow or some time this week. Until then, follow my twitter updates @unzippedblog and live news (via Twitter) from Yerevan, Armenia re #1mar.
UPDATE 2 March 2011:  BBC video report