The destruction of Yerevan's built heritage


August 27th, 2015, 9:28 pm #1

Destruction of Cultural Heritage Stimulates Emigration from Armenia ... m-armenia/

The Gradual Demise of Our Collective Memory ... ve-memory/


September 3rd, 2015, 3:20 am #2

Not surprisingly, ArmenianWeekly decided not to publish my comment on the issue.


September 3rd, 2015, 8:09 pm #3

Destruction of Cultural Heritage Stimulates Emigration from Armenia ... m-armenia/

The Gradual Demise of Our Collective Memory ... ve-memory/

The Karen Demirchian sports complex was recently privatized


"When Alexander the Great wished to build a city that should serve
as a monument to his glory, his architect Dinocrates, pointed out to
him how he could build a city on Mount Athos, which place he said,
besides being very strong, could be so arranged as to give the city the
appearance of the greatness of its founder. Alexander having asked him
what the inhabitants were to live upon, he replied, "That I have not
thought of"; at which Alexander smiled, and, leaving Mount Athos as
it was, he built Alexandria, where the inhabitants would be glad to
remain on account of the richness of the country and the advantages
which the proximity of the Nile and the sea afforded them." - Nicolo Machiavelli

The plunder began with the advent of the second Republic of Armenia.

During the presidency of Levon Ter-Petrossian, entire factories were
sold, including land, structures and equipment - built during the
Soviet era - to private individuals for far less than the land value
alone. The buyers in turn sold the machinery and equipment for scrap
to neighboring countries. Thus, began the looting. Thus was terminated
all manufacturing, creating massive unemployment.

While the appetite for bargain buying did not subside, cash strapped
and unscrupulous subsequent administrations continued the "garage
sale." Historic buildings, entire hospitals - land, building and
equipment included - were sold off for pennies on the dollar. In some
instances, the buyer was exempt from repaying the debt owed by the
sold hospital. The list of divested rights, property, and national
resources and treasure is extensive; and unfortunately, the depletion
of national treasures continues unabated.

Everything was up for sale. Nothing was sacred:

- Historic buildings

- Mineral rights

- Wineries

- Telephone and mobile phone networks

- All energy sources

- Hospitals

- Factories

- Airlines

The plunder continues unabated over the last two decades. The proceeds
are not necessarily reinvested in the homeland. Foreign investment
is discouraged if not eliminated, monopolies are rampant and free
competition is frowned upon. This vicious cycle is what is wrong
with Armenia: it is what leads to the creation of "oligarchs," why
foreigners do not invest in Armenia, why and how so much foreign debt
was accumulated, why citizens of Armenia can't find local employment
and ultimately why is there massive emigration. Sadly, the oligarchs
are not yet done usurping the populace.


The latest scandal is the unfortunate saga of the Karen Demirchyan
Sports Complex or "Hamalir," as its commonly known. This ongoing saga
represents the demise of a colossal undertaking that was accomplished
by Karen Demirchian and his generation, who made countless sacrifices,
took astute maneuvering with the Soviet Government, and garnered
the help of dedicated and talented architects, construction experts
and sculptors. The project was the result of Armenian ingenuity,
innovation, persistence and a labor of love dedicated to the citizens
of the homeland.

This structure, the supposed pride of Armenia that was built at the
cost of so much sacrifice in 1983 for 35 million rubles, was first
sold in 2005 to the Moscow based construction company BAMO. It was
subsequently resold for 30 million dollars to an unknown private
investor. The buyer is apparently intent on converting it to an
entertainment center and casino. Some opposition and prominent public
figures have denounced the deal, especially because of its proximity
to the genocide monument.

According to architect Kourken Mousheghian, the sports complex was
built in proximity to the Genocide memorial as a symbol of rebirth
and he cannot imagine any changes to this historic structure. The
widow of the late Karen Demirchian came out against the conversion
and asked that her husband's name be taken off. Armenian intellectuals
also came out strongly against the proposed project.

In an article entitled "The Gradual Demise of Our Collective Memory,"
Garo Armenian laments that "[o]ne after another, everything that
rightfully belongs to our collective heritage is put up for auction
by a pathetic class of elites who are in control of our destiny." He
cites the example of the Historic House of the First Republic that
was turned into a pizza parlor.

Another ongoing fiasco is Air Armenia. Majority shareholder Arsen
Avedisian was reportedly assaulted and severely beaten by the president
of the football federation of Armenia, Ruben Hayrapetyan.

Armenia's Prosecutor General's office announced Tuesday that no
charges would be brought against him. This is not the first time; Mr.

Hairapetyan's bodyguards severely beat three army medics killing one
of them with complete impunity to Mr. Hairapetyan. The incident raises
questions as to the efforts to reorganize and revive Air Armenia. This
kind of attempt at intimidation may jeopardize the emergency infusion
of 68 million dollars by the East Prospect Fund, a Ukraine based
investment group, who is poised to re-invest in Air Armenia.

With the over-dependence and reliance on big brother Russia, energy
is yet another area of contention. The head of the Solar Technology
lab, Jozef Panosyan, has accused Armenian authorities of impeding
the development of solar energy in the country without elaborating
on the reasons why. The advent of solar energy would clear the way
towards energy independence for Armenia, but would be detrimental to
the energy monopoly.


It is a sad commentary on the state and the future of the Armenian
homeland. When does the looting of national treasures stop? When do
the pilferers and abusers of the system quench their thirst for what
truly belongs to the people of Armenia?

There was a time when revolutionary organizations knew how to stop
those who usurp the people. The movement against a hike in electricity
rates was a sign that the young generation is still attached to the
homeland. Theirs was an attempt to reclaim what rightfully belongs
to the people. Maybe all hope is not lost. However, only proper
organization, push back and popular uprising can stop the endless
looting by oligarchs and government officials.


September 6th, 2015, 2:42 pm #4

Not surprisingly, ArmenianWeekly decided not to publish my comment on the issue.
Well, we would love to hear what you have to say anyway.
The loss of collective memory is certainly something important to talk about, but I doubt most Armenians will understand this concept.

The familiar faces and streets, names disappearing.

If they wonder why some of the more recent emigres all stop going back once their close family pass away and slowly lose touch with their homeland, until they are lucky if the 3rd generation can even pronounce their own last name...


September 11th, 2015, 3:29 pm #5

My comment that Armenian Weekly decided not to publish was mostly a response to the completely inadequate content of the comments made by others. We have one suggesting that everyone should just write letters to the president of Armenia. Write letters to the appointed figurehead of those who are causing the problems! We have another saying that all that is needed is to wait for "new blood" to arrive and who conveniently forgets concepts like inheritance and dynasties which mean that the new blood will be mostly of exactly the same blood as those elites making the problems now.

I went on to say that not only do these elites act with legal impunity, they have no reasons to curb their worst excesses because they have no fear of any retribution coming in any form. I said that the ordinary population of Armenia needs to realise that it is they who should be providing that fear of ultimate retribution. I concluded by rhetorically asking are there no shops in Armenia that sell rope, or no lampposts there strong enough to support the weight of a fat oligarch, or nobody left in Armenia with the skill to tie slipknots?

I guess implying, even rhetorically, that Dodi Gago and his ilk would look nice dangling from the end of a rope was too much for Armenian Weekly!


February 15th, 2016, 5:20 pm #6

Destruction of Cultural Heritage Stimulates Emigration from Armenia ... m-armenia/

The Gradual Demise of Our Collective Memory ... ve-memory/
01:05, February 8, 2016

Marine Martirosyan, David Banuchyan

MPs from four of the six factions in Armenia's National Assembly
responded to the following question: "What do you think about
Yerevan's current architectural profile? Can a new Yerevan be built
by demolishing the old?"

MP Zarhuhi Postanjyan - Heritage Party

I would say yes; we are destroying Yerevan. It's sad and troubling.

Today, civilization isn't trying to control Yerevan but just the
opposite; a nomad mentality is being applied here.

MP Margarit Yesayan - Republican Party

We started destroying old buildings 15-20 years ago. I have thought
about this issue for quite a while and I am very saddened since there
are old buildings that could be rehabilitated, reconstructed and used
for public aims if there was a bit of goodwill.

For instance, take the building that used to stand at 30 Aram Street.

I spent my childhood on Nalbandyan Street and passed that building
often. It was a symbol of Yerevan. No matter how much the authorities
claim that it wasn't included in the list of cultural-historic
structures, that list has no significance for me. Does such a list
even exist? As a Yerevan resident it was a landmark for me and it
was demolished. I was really saddened, as if something close to me
was destroyed and no longer exists.

And today, we hear rumors that other building will be demolished. And
the owners of these sites didn't get property rights today but 10-15
years ago, due to the goodwill of certain individuals. Today, they
are property owners and we are in a country in a free market system,
and we respect property rights. From the perspective of the law, the
owner has the right to do whatever. If an owner wants to demolish an
old building and construct a high-rise, that person has the right. They
should have realized back then, when they were giving away these
property rights, that something exists on that land that mustn't
be destroyed. We are always looking at things in hindsight. Perhaps
it's an Armenian characteristic. We lose something and only then do
we confront reality in the eye. We bemoan the loss after the fact
and ask, why are we destroying all this.

MP Levon Zurabyan - Armenian National Congress

We've always been on a very low level when it comes to urban planning
for Yerevan. What's taking place today can't be regarded as meeting the
basic needs of urban planning for a modern city. For example, we don't
have enough good parks in Yerevan. Go to any European city and you'll
see that parks are the most important asset. We don't have such parks
because the authorities in Armenia and Yerevan, when planning the city,
have a profit motive uppermost in mind and not the basic demands of
constructing a functioning city. These authorities sell such green
zones for construction purposes. They receive huge bribes for the
land and they are ready to violate all urban planning norms just to
get rich. This is what we see unfolding before our eyes in Yerevan.

Old buildings of cultural significance are being demolished to make
way for 15 story buildings and the sale of apartments within. Other
factors aren't taken into account. Is there enough space for parking?

What will be the impact on the surrounding neighborhood? What about
infrastructure? All these are secondary considerations. Making money
comes first.

When it comes to saving such historic buildings, the ANC has
suggested that the parliament compile a list of such buildings and
not the government, which is the case today. The government should
be stripped of such a right so that it cannot, whenever convenient,
remove this or that building from the list.

MP Naira Zohrabyan - Prosperous Armenia

One thing I can say for certain is that Yerevan today lacks any overall
architectural silhouette. It's a mish-mash of structures that have
nothing in common. The city has lost any architectural logic where
all construction norms are overlooked.

I graduated from the Theatrics Institute where we also took a course
in cultural studies. So I look at things from that perspective as
well a bit. Perhaps our touf stone has saved us and that we have a
beautiful city in parts, but overall little has been preserved from
Tamanyan's Yerevan. The city has been turned into a megapolis built on
an incomprehensible architectural logic and an attitude that anything
goes. You want to demolish, go right ahead.



March 6th, 2016, 3:28 am #7

Destruction of Cultural Heritage Stimulates Emigration from Armenia ... m-armenia/

The Gradual Demise of Our Collective Memory ... ve-memory/
Houses to be demolished for “Old Yerevan” project

70-year-old Gagik Ghazaryan still cannot believe that due to the state
needs he will be evicted from his house on 10 Buzand, where he has
lived his whole life. `It is very difficult that I am given money and
told to leave. If you want to preserve Old Yerevan, preserve old
buildings, there was an old house here, why did they demolish it?'
says Gagik Ghazaryan.

According to the decision of the Government the territory enclosed in
Abovyan, Pavstos Buzand, Yeznik Koghbatsi and Arami Streets has been
recognized an eminent domain. The process of the eviction must be over
in a year. `Old Yerevan' project must be realized in this territory.

`Those who have taste understand that between those high-rise
buildings this `Old Yerevan' will be something like props, it won't be
serious, the environment won't be preserved,' says Vardan Geravetyan,
member of `Our city' initiative.

The residents think that they are being evicted not for the state
needs but for business of some people.

`If they want to build a hotel, I also can build a hotel, a
restaurant, I am ready for everything, if they want a statue, we will
put up a statue,' adds Babken Ghazaryan, resident of Buzand Street.

Harutyun Minasyan adds that they were told that there will be one
developer and it will a project worth hundreds of dollars.

`EMC' corporation, which has acquired the territory, noted in its
application that at present the territory is old and dilapidated with
separate houses and buildings, which don't correspond to fire
protection, sanitary and hygienic, urban development norms and may
result in emergency situations. `It isn't run-down, it is a normal
stone house. Under this house there are some lines and tunnels.'

According to the decision of the Government Armen Hasratyan will also
be deprived of his personal business and territory. Still according to
the decision made in 2013, the triangle territory of
`Abovyan-Pushkin-Sakharov' square was recognized an eminent domain and
`Local Developers' company belonging to Samvel Mayrapetyan is the
acquirer. `It is more like a business interest. Why should I pass my
business to another person?' said Armen Hasratyan.

The resident of the eminent domain was offered 41 million 600 thousand
drams for 61 sq/m area, `The market analyses showed that you cannot
acquire a social facility at that money in the Small Center of
Yerevan, the prices are three-four times higher.'

Armen Hasratyan has made a decision, no way will he leave the area.


March 8th, 2016, 4:32 pm #8

So, we will demolish old houses, to build fake new "old houses"
I am confused.