From the 1920s through the 1980s, Moscow ruled Armenia. The capital, Yerevan, may have been a conduit, but nothing more in carrying out the demands of the Kremlin during the decades of the Soviet Republic of Armenia. After the adoption of the Republic of Armenia Constitution in 1995, local and state government administrations were founded within the country's public administration system.
The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a serious crisis in economy and in agricultural production in the South Caucasus. The communist idea for centralized plan-based households was ruined, resulting in the collapse of the lifestyle of collective and state farms that had existed for several decades. Nearly 20 years later, former Soviet republics, including Armenia, still struggle in developing a market-based farming industry.
Armenia's third president took office at a time when the republic's domestic life had never been so threatened. Citizens were dead and wounded from the unrest that followed Serge Sargsyan's disputed election, United States' aid was withheld, and Armenia's seat at the Council of Europe was in question over the detainment of "political prisoners." Tensions were so high on Inauguration Day, April 9, 2008, that no one was allowed inside the yard of the Opera House while the new president stood alone to review a military parade on what should have been his day of adulation.
Although the economic crisis that hit the world last year has also staggered the Armenian economy, some light can now be seen more and more clearly at the end of the tunnel, which gives hope of rebound. While the economy contracted by 16.3 percent in the first half of 2009 as compared to the same period of last year, the state slowly but surely manages to stay consistent in its adopted anti-crisis strategy and register some positive developments in business.
While Armenia's national chess team holds the honor of World Olympiad Champion won in 2008, the republic also prides itself on the performances of three world champions in the less-cerebral "sweet science": boxing. They all had their different ways to the top of professional boxing, living and training abroad and performing for other nations. But the three brightest Armenians fighting in professional rings abroad have never lost touch with their numerous fans at home.
In what has become the most significant development in Armenian foreign policy since reclaiming Nagorno Karabakh, Armenia and Turkey are edging ever closer to a deal to "normalize" relations, with the signing October 10 of a set of protocols outlining potential agreements between the neighboring countries.
In the Armenia-Turkey border village of Margara, a thick log serves as a sort of demarcation for the neutral zone between un-neighborly neighbors into which visitors are urged not to enter. "Do not go near there. As soon as the border guards see you, they will immediately approach you. Shoot fast and go back," says Margara deputy village head Gharib Tadevosian, escorting a photojournalist. The Armenian flag can be seen on the near-side border posts; and from a distance the Turkish crescent waves over land once belonging to the ancestors of many of Margara's 1,400 residents.
It may seem hard to believe that anyone makes the environment a priority in Armenia. The countryside is strewn with litter—so much that views of Mount Ararat from its valley are framed by the glistening of cellophane bags and plastic bottles mindlessly tossed as if they would be cleaned up by someone, or magically disappear. Officials charged with protecting the environment attempt to railroad through toxic waste-producing industries, while others offer elite hunting tours of endangered species through protected nature reserves. But:
In her white lab coat, tiny Eleonora Gabrielian is dwarfed by the large Sorbus Hajastana Gabrieljan next to her office in the Botanical Garden, a rare white mountain ash tree indigenous to the Sevan region. But she looks upon the tree affectionately, patting it, as if it were a small child. "I planted it in 1952," she says. "In the autumn, it will get scarlet and white flowers, and then red fruits you can eat. It's a beautiful tree." Sorbus Hajastana Gabrieljan, in a way, is her child.
From almost a zero level of trust in Soviet times and lack of stability in early years of independence, Armenia's banking system has shaped itself into one of the most viable sectors of the country's economy that the government says has also withstood the aftereffects of the global storm of recent months.
One of the lessons learned since independence is that the Soviet education system's reputation for high-quality learning could not be sustained in modern Armenia and, in fact, some now question whether its reputation was earned, or was propagandized. And as the world has had better access to Armenian society over the past 18 years, one of the Diaspora's primary concerns has been the general decline in academic performance in the homeland.
In the fairy tale that Hayk Habosian tells his little sister Lili, a gray wolf enters the house of a black kitty, as if to eat the kitten. Instead, the wolf says to the little cat, "How wonderful you are! Shall we dance?" "I want to dance the rumba," says the wolf. "Then," Hayk tells Lili, "the wolf and kitty become such great friends they become dance partners in competitions."
The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in the disruption of normal functioning of the whole healthcare system in Armenia. The budget for healthcare remained the same, but only on paper, as the great empire fell apart, leaving member states such as Armenia to fend for themselves.
When in May of this year, rock music relic Jethro Tull appeared in concert in Yerevan, it may not have signaled the most high-brow moment of the cultural season, but it did make a point: Now, Armenia just about has it all.