Saturday, 11 October 2014

Armenia’s ex-file

This is perhaps my most pessimistic post to date. Brief and hopeless. Hopeless at least re near future prospects for Armenia.

In Minsk, Armenia’s ruling regime effectively conceded what remained of country’s independence to Russia, by formally signing the agreement of accession to the Eurasian Union, and turning Armenia into Russian province.

In the meantime, on the same day, there was this relatively big opposition rally in capital Yerevan, Liberty square. Ironically, some foreign twitter observers and media wrongly labelled it as anti-Eurasian Union accession protest. This assumption could not be more wrong. In fact, leaders of 2 out of 3 parties that called the rally, did everything possible to silence and discourage within their ranks any sizeable movement against Putin sponsored union, with ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosyan repeatedly using ‘realistic’, fatalistic language, such as “irreversible” and so on for that very purpose.

Instead, ex-president Ter-Petrosyan effectively joined forces with another ex-president Robert Kocharyan, who is behind oligarch Tsarukyan-led Bargavach Hayastan (“Prosperous Armenia”) party, calling for… regime change. To remind, Kocharyan’s years in power remembered for arguably the worst human rights violations in Armenia’s modern history, culminated in 1st March 2008 bloodshed. Not to mention Ter-Petrosyan’s own dubious human rights credentials towards the end of his reign.

What happened on Friday in Yerevan and Minsk was pretty disheartening on different levels, with no light at the end of the tunnel, as long as Putin is in power in Russia, and as long as Armenia’s political scene is occupied by faces from the past. For now, it’s all about the ex-file: backwards to the ex-country and ex-leaders.

[read also: How Armenia ruling regime and Putin’s Russia fooled the EU over Association Agreement and #PUTinOUT - protesters in Armenia say “Putin, you are not welcome”, denounce ruling regime]

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Armine, Sister: Armenia-themed performance by Teatr Zar in London

“The title, Armine, Sister, recalls the first two words of a letter with no clear address, which is doomed to drift around in time and space.”

This was a very unusual Armenia-themed performance combining theatre, dance, music, reflecting the Armenian Genocide from a different angle. It was about memory, about dead souls, about ghosts, the unbearable pain of memory. About witnessing the crime and inaction that made the very crime happened.

This performance could have been a reflection of any such crime, not just the Armenian Genocide, including contemporary massacres and genocides, the ones that are “developing story” right now, in front of our eyes.

Dance acts were so intimate, intense and unsettling that at times pretty difficult to watch. You wanted to turn away, to put a blindfold to cover your eyes, to pretend this is not happening, which was exactly a reflection of what has happened at the beginning of 20th century (and continues nowadays).

Lavash (Armenian flatbread) and pomegranate were organic part of the performance. Performance, that started before it began and continued afterwards.

Audience members were offered to taste lavash after the performance, and to take home a complimentary package of lavash for free. Of course, this lavash did not taste nearly as good as the one you can get in Armenia, but still was a nice touch and yet another connection to Armenia.

Selected extracts from the programme about the project Armine, Sister that is on 2-11 October at Battersea Arts Centre, London:

Armine, Sister refers to the history of the Armenian people in Anatolia and their near-extermination at the beginning of the 20th century. The project enters into the history of Europe’s silence and is a refl­ection on the act and inheritance of witnessing.”

“Rather than focusing on the history of the events of 1915 or the history of the ensuing denial and taboo, Teatr ZAR centres on the history of ignorance that feeds on inaction and leads to inaction on the part of today’s Europeans. On the other hand, the history of ignorance also includes the social story of building an accord of silence around each act of violence. The events in Anatolia in the early 20th century launch us into a wider debate about lessons in “witnessing after witnessing”, which always turn into lessons in identity.”

Armine, Sister not only reveals the history of the Armenian extermination, but also the history of silence and the responsibility for it. ­The work explores what it means to be a witness, and what witnessing means to us today. We cannot and do not want to speak on behalf of Armenians, but we wish our performance to break the chord of silence.”