There's a lot of attitude in a cloud of cigar smoke. It says the smoker has found the good life and knows how to enjoy it.
That, anyway, is the notion behind one Moscow-based Armenian's devotion to the art of the smoke as expressed in the magazine he produces, Cigar Clan.
Artashes Shirikian, like those who read the 27,000 copies of his bi-monthly magazine, is a cigar connoisseur. Cigar Clan has its own club for cigar smokers and organizes tasting events that combine fine liquor with fine tobacco. It has an online cigar shop and plans to open a cigar boutique in Moscow. It even runs a three-month course to train cigar sommeliers.
"No doubt, the readers of Cigar Clan are well-to-do people, but not just people with a high level of financial prosperity, but those who have their own idea about the quality of life where cigars are an inseparable attribute," says Shirikian, the publisher, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the ArkMedia Publishing House, founded in 2000.
What brand does he prefer? "Expensive," he says, adding that each cigar has its own taste and should be chosen to complement food or beverage.
Published since 2002 (in Russian), Cigar Clan is distributed in Russia and other republics of the former Soviet Union, Europe and the United States. On occasion over the past two years, the magazine has also been published in Armenian with 7,000 copies.
Another Moscow-based genre magazine, Hecho a Mano (rolled by hand), is published by Arsen Gasparian, former press secretary of Armenia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who now lives in the U.S.
Readers of Cigar Clan find on its pages essays by cigar experts, history of famous tobacco plantations, and necessary tips such as how to combine cigars with cognac, with wine or with a 50-year-old Scotch.
Shirikian is passionate about cigars, but is not defined by them.
He is also engaged in promoting Armenian awareness and is a founder of a relatively young public organization: Compatriotic Union of Western Armenians (CUWA).
"The idea of establishing such an organization emerged several years ago and reflected the reality that the descendants of Armenians of the Ottoman Empire should be empowered to maintain their rights," says Shirikian, a grandson of Armenians from Kars (now a part of Turkey).
"We thought that the descendants of Western Armenians should themselves have an organization that would express their interests and consolidated opinion," he says.
The compatriotic union was set up in 2006 and has about 200 members.
Recently, CUWA attended the first convention of the newly established Forum of Armenian Organizations of Moscow which took place in February. It is said in the statement of the organizing committee that the Forum will "broaden the possibilities of the Armenians of Moscow in solving all national issues and the key to the formation of a Diaspora is consolidation with the preservation of diversity."