“Armenia is a devoted wife, who can be cheated but she won’t complain”

06/03/2007 Karapet TOMIKYAN

“Many people in Moscow think that Armenia is a devoted wife, who can be cheated on but she won’t ever get rid of you. It’s time to change this mentality,” this statement was once made by Galina Starovoytova. “Unfortunately many people in Moscow still think the same way and I think we are guilty,” says NA Deputy, chairman of the National Democratic Party, Shavarsh Kocharyan. And the best examples of “cheating” are the periodical murders of Armenians in Moscow.

The discussion of the Pressing Club of 168-Zham, the theme of which was “Xenophobia in Russia”, was moderated by the newspaper deputy-chief editor, Armen Baghdasaryan. In his opinion the issue must be examined on several platforms – intergovernmental relations, moral and economical. Baghdasaryan mentioned that as about 600-650 million USD of overall 1.2 billion USD of international monetary transfers to Armenia comes from Russia, this kind of acts may reflect on Armenia’s economy as well. “In Russia there are nearly 1.5-2 million Armenians. It means over 1% of the population of the country. It’s assumed that if annually 30.000 people are murdered in Russia then 1 Armenian dies a day. According to the statistics it’s normal. But every time an Armenian is killed in Russia a great noise is made by the Armenian mass media,” said the moderator of the discussion.

NA Deputy, RPA member, Armen Ashotyan mentioned that it’s impossible to avoid either the Russian governmental or societal components. “Because if in any European country a foreigner is killed it creates an environment of mass protests on the part of the civil society. But the Russian media doesn’t mention anything about that. This means that the element of the civil society is absent in Russia. In my opinion that is the main reason why the country doesn’t fight against those phenomena,” said Ashotyan. In his opinion it’s hard to tell whether these phenomena are fostered by the government or not. “But there are a few coincidences. For example, the last protest of the “United Russia”, which is aimed at fighting against nationalistic acts,” mentioned Ashotyan. Ashotyan also blamed the unproductive work of the diplomatic services of Armenia in Russia, who are not able to prevent such acts. “Indeed over 100 events were organized in Russia due to the year of Armenia in Russia and the Russians were supposed to be more tolerant to us. However let’s take the consular service functioning in places, where there is a greater number of Armenians. I have many relatives in Russia and know how difficult it is for them to deal with state paperwork,” said Ashotyan. He also mentioned that although the Russian relations with Georgia have been quite tense but those were not followed by mass murders of Georgians in Russia.

“Russia is our strategic partner. The issue of xenophobia should have interested us even if it was not so often demonstrated to Armenians. As Russia is a valuable partner for us I understand that we don’t wish to spoil our relations with Russia. That’s why we should collaborate with each other even more intensively to resolve the issues of xenophobia,” said the chairman of the Christian-Democratic Union of Armenia, Khosrov Harutyunyan. In his opinion the only statement “Russia for Russians” is not enough to say that there is xenophobia in Russia. Another thing is the reasons of that. “Those may be interesting since we are trying to establish long-term ties with Russia,” mentioned Harutyunyan. He believes that xenophobia is not only prevented by the Russian government but is also supported by it.

What shall our government do? “In fact the work of the executive government is very hard. It’s supposed to regulate all those issues. However I think that we have an embassy and the latter is supported to resolve those issues and facilitate the living standard of Armenians in Russia. But I’m sure that in this process the parliamentary diplomacy is not sufficiently used. Hat the deputies are saying now cannot be said by the executive branch representatives. We must realize an open dialog and speak about the problems by using the parliamentary means even via Russian media,” said Harutyunyan. He reminded of a Russian anti-Georgian program, which hosted only three Georgians – Georgian Ambassador and two more Georgian citizens. “The debate started in an extremely anti-Georgian way. After 30 minute live show the attitude to the Georgians has positively changed. But the behavior of our MPs is pretty indifferent. There is the Russian-Armenian committee. Let it discuss those issues. Let there be 4 Armenian MPs and 44 Russian MPs when discussing this issue. Let us try to make them understand that Russian-Armenian relations are profitable for all of us – MPs, government representatives and people,” said Harutyunyan. In his opinion skinheads are results of mass opinion formed by media. It means a demand is formed, by which many political forces benefit. “The growth of economy of such countries as Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine is provided at the expense of monetary transfers,” reads the report of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. Harutyunyan said that Armenia and Ukraine receive 12 billion USD due to annual transfers; Georgia receives 24 billion USD. “Almost all the workable human resources of those countries work in Russia They are not only workers but also businessmen. And the economic growth of Russia mechanically turns into money, which they transfer to their countries and spend there,” said Harutyunyan. Meanwhile the senior specialist of European Bank, Erik Harutyunyan said to the “RBK” daily that the growth of the Armenian, Georgian and Ukrainian economies is also provided due to the increase of agricultural, industrial product prices. “The growth of such countries is also mainly stipulated by the growth of inner consumption level,” said Harutyunyan.

Shavarsh Kocharyan tried to explain the reason of violence against Armenians. “The Soviet Union collapsed and there may be prerequisites to become a reason to collapse the Russian Federation, which I still an empire. Russians alert that. The eye of all the CIS countries is outside – USA, Europe, NATO,” thinks the NA Deputy. He thinks that Armenia still has to work in that direction as Armenia is not Belarus or Middle East. He noticed that even in the event of tense Georgian-Russian relations Russia is being careful to Georgia.

The director of the “Business Depot International Services” company, Narbe Ter-Mkrtchyan thinks that the expression of such an attitude to Armenians is not something new.

“We have historically witnessed such things on the part of Turks. What we see in Russia today may be considered logical. Surprisingly few Russians know who the Armenian is, the history of the country and the culture of the people despite the fact that we have lived with them for over 70 years,” said Ter-Mkrtchyan. “The people, who live in Russia with such a mentality, are the ones, who have been brought up by the Russian state.” He thinks that the best way of preventing xenophobia is to have dignity. “When the Armenians migrated to Persia in 1603-1604 they have lived there for 400 years. They had a lot of money, finances and power but they have not advertised themselves. But recently the list of Russian rich men was added by Armenians living there.”

He mentioned that xenophobia is noticed in the US as well. The difference is that they are more civilized and the demonstration is not done through murders. “The Chinese says that he has to have a school in his language. The government says OK, open your school. But at the end of the year the IRS stops by and says that the Chinese school will have to pay 10.000 USD instead of 1000 USD. This is also xenophobia. However in this case they don’t shed blood,” he said. In his opinion everything depends on self-respect. “Wherever the person goes with self-respect such issues will not rise. The history prompts us that even the worst things, which happened they all had reasons. Hitler was massacring people because of his own reasons. The reason for us is that we are being indifferent because we are pro-Russian oriented and if some day they sell the Russian and the Armenian onions on the streets of Armenia we will prefer the Russian one,” said Ter-Mkrtchyan.

As a person, who been raised in the influence of the Russian culture, YSU lecturer, political scientist, Tigran Hakobyan said that the Armenians have always considered Russia as part of their historical fatherland. “Armenians must learn to live in Russia like they would live in Middle East, Europe or USA. It means an ethnos, which has or hasn’t Russian citizenship but obeys the written or unwritten laws of that country. It’s not like that in Russia. Let me bring an example. One of my friends came to Yerevan from Volgograd and he was telling me about his Armenian acquaintance, who’s very rich, has servants, who he orders and even beats and all that. This cannot stay away from the attention of Russians. This means that the negative opinion about Armenians is also formed because of their bad behavior,” mentioned Hakobyan. In his opinion we slightly exaggerate the negative attitude of Armenians to Russians. “It’s important to differentiate the criminal murders from nationalistic ones. Otherwise this may bring to Russian-phobia, which is not good for us,” said the political scientist.

Ashotyan also spoke about state PR. “According to one of the last decisions of the government CNN and Euro News are going to show videos about Armenia but it seems that we are trying to ignore the post-Soviet information territory. In fact it doesn’t work. Instead works the Mir TV channel, which almost doesn’t have any rating in CIS countries,” mentioned Ashotyan. He also mentioned that the Russian TV channels show programs about Armenia at not very good hours. Tigran Hakobyan mentioned that Russia doesn’t even have its own journalist in Armenia.

In the context of xenophobia Ashotyan signifies the role of both Russian and Armenian media. “There are news agencies, which are trying to find an occasion to make those murders PR actions. It works in our country. Let’s take Oskanyan’s announcement, which he made in Russia, regarding joining some gas pipeline. The next day the Russian media was full with such statements as, “Armenian left us”, which indeed leaves a negative impression on public. I have even entered several Nazi and skinhead forums online and saw how they are making those announcements slogans for themselves and spread anti-Armenian information,” assured Ashotyan. Also, he also spoke about the fact that the factor of national dignity is very important.

Chief Editor of 168-Zham newspaper, Satik Seyranyan also spoke about the work of diplomatic structures. She mentioned how the Armenian consular services are treating Armenians in Russia. Indescribable lines are being formed in front of consular services. “We demand the Russian government to be more lenient but see what our embassy does in Russia. During the celebration of the events organized in the framework of the Armenian year in Russia, we were presenting Armenian barbecue, Kebab and backgammon in front of Kremlin. During that period they were selling graves to Armenians at 50.000 USD in the Armenian cemetery,” mentioned Seyranyan, “How can the honorable consul of Armenia in South Russia, Ararat Gomtsyan be possibly interested in our national issues as he more cares about his cheese business in Doni Rostov?” she said. “I think that the nation should also have dignity. Russians have applied economic sanctions against Georgians but the latter due to their dignity and self-respect proved the opposite and deserved respect. Maybe we should also do the same?” asked Baghdasaryan.

Khosrov Harutyunyan thinks that Armenian-Russian relations must be quite seriously re-arranged. “The formula, which reads, “Armenian won’t go anywhere” is originated because of us. Our history has taught us that we can’t live without Russians. I personally think that Russia is the country we should try to cooperate with. The problem is to what extent we should offer our services to them for the sake of that cooperation. Certain things must be corrected here on our part,” said Harutyunyan. In his opinion in the long-term period our interests with Russia don’t match with Russian interest because Russia doesn’t want to go to Europe but for us Europe provides security. He also signifies the role of media.

The director of the “P-Art” company, Karen Kocharyan emphasized the absence of state dignity. He mentioned that not only Russia but also USA have respected attitude to Armenia, which doesn’t want to appoint an Ambassador here for over a year. “We should do our best to be useful to someone else,” said Kocharyan.

“It doesn’t make sense to speak about dignity under circumstances when prior to elections Armenians are trying to receive the “approval” of Russia or hang the picture of Putin next to Kocharyan’s picture in the their offices,” said political commentator Gevorg Altunyan. He mentioned that till 1999 he hasn’t heard of any cases of violence to Armenians in Russia. “Armenians in European countries behave themselves the way the legislation of those countries demands. That’s why they don’t get killed,” said Altunyan.

“We have a psychology of a disabled person. We have Russian business cards. What is going to happen to us when we drop those? Shall we take American or European ones? If we don’t get rid of this mentality we won’t have a future,” thinks Shavarsh Kocharyan.