Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Military Training for the Armenian Youth

Armenian schools are introducing military training within the classrooms and to their students at even younger ages, reports IWPR.
Although military training is compulsory for pupils aged 16 to 18 in Armenia, School No. 99 has introduced it for younger children. Groups involved in children’s rights are worried about the effect an early dose of militarism will have on young minds, not least because the 11 other schools where the government now plans to roll out a similar pilot scheme cater for children from vulnerable backgrounds.

photo is from IWPR website

According to the IWPR report, the teachers wanted to increase obedience and order in the classroom because the children were misbehaving. A headmastress explains that putting them in uniform seems to make them listen to their teachers and are more responsible in the classroom.

One of my favorite quotes within this report is from Sarkis who is only 11 years old. He explains,
“We are studying military science,” said Sarkis, 11. “We learn how to crawl round enemies and kill them."


Apparently, these military trainings are not only limited to the boys in the school but are also including the girls as well. Talk about gender balance.

Yet as Aelita explains,
“We’ve learnt how to handle a machine-gun, and studied some aspects of military strategy, tactics, and ways of surrounding and defeating an enemy… I’d say the girls are treated more leniently than the boys, and they get good marks more easily.”

Interestingly enough, this School no. 99 which is implementing this Military Science class is in a rather poorer region in Yerevan where many of the students come from single parent homes.

So here you have students who are coming from the rather poorer socioeconomic strata within Armenian society being educated and trained in this militaristic fashion at ages as young as 11 or 12 years old. Could this be a way to prepare the men for their compulsory service after they graduate school or university? Or is this yet another tactic to make these students become “obedient” and learn to not think critically? Surely, what these young students need to obtain are these tools to begin to think critically and analytically. Especially since this is an area which seriously needs some development in Armenia and its future generations. It seems that one of the Soviet legacies which have continue to remain prevalent today is the lack of critical thinking and questioning of authorities. One of the most difficult things is asking Armenians to fill out Evaluation forms, because they tend to only praise the event which took place or forum that was organized. No critical comments.

Sidetracked a bit there but I could not help it, I had to add that last bit.

In any case, the IWPR report is extremely interesting and there is much more interesting information so I recommend reading the rest of the report.

Should you be interested in hearing more about this issue…
IWPR is holding a Round Table at their office at 39 Yeznik Koghbatzi on August 2 at 14:00.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Havlabar, the Armenian quarter in Tbilisi

It seems that no matter where you go in this world, you will find an Armenian. Well maybe almost anywhere. In Tbilisi, everyone knows there is a huge Armenian population. And it seemed as though everywhere I went, I was speaking more Armenian than I thought I would …

So we ventured off to Tbilisi last week to welcome our new EVS volunteers to CSI. I thought that I would be able to practice the little Russian that I have been learning while I have been in Armenia. I would signal for a cab and use my two words of Russian that I knew. Then, their next question would be- “Are you Armenian?”
the Armenian Church in Havlabar

Ironically, every time I tried to speak Russian, people would respond to me in Armenian. So much for trying to speak Russian!

Here is a woman whom we asked where a certain place was and she took us all the way to the location. After that, she kept asking us questions and turned out she was Armenian as well... a very adament and persistent Armenian at that!

Havlabar, “the Armenian section”

Next stop is the city of Batumi which is where many Armenians go to take a vacation. Turns out most restaurant owners and entrepreneurs there are Armenian as well. Will report on that soon!

EVS Volunteers in Armenia

So within the long period of absence, I have been to Tbilisi with Artak, president of CSI, and we returned with two EVS volunteers we will be hosting, Fouad (France) and Julius (Lithuania).

They will be here for 9 months and volunteering in the Civil Society Network program. At first they will be living in Yerevan and after they get a few Armenian language lessons, get over the initial "culture shock" and absorb Armenian culture, its history and contemporary situation – CSI will be locating them in the regions. So in most likelihood they will be living in Berd, Dilijan or one of these communities in the Tavush and Gegharkunik marzes, which are the areas we are working in within the Civil Society Network program. And I actually think this will be the first time EVS volunteers will actually be living in the regions…

Last year around this time, Marieke and Sanne had come to Armenia as EVS volunteers from the Netherlands. I believe they sincerely felt welcomed in Armenia by BEM NGO as well as the Armenian people. Sanne returned to her home in Utrecht and started a blog in which she was recording some thoughts and ideas about her experiences. It seems as though she is a bit busy with life and her job so I hope for all the best. Wishing all the best to Marieke as well.

So I will have to ask Fouad and Julius to write a few words about themselves. Right now, they are off to Berd for a few days and then who knows after that... My hope is that Fouad and Julius will also gain just as many invaluable experiences in Armenia as Marieke and Sanne did.

Monday, July 10, 2006

16 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union…

and in Armenia, remnants of the Soviet Union still remain.

These pictures are from the School at Verin Karmir Aghbiur Kyugh aka “Upper Red Well Village”. Verin Karmir is a village just outside of the city of Berd in Tavush marz.

a map of the Soviet Union on the floor of the school
Ironically it is falling apart…

"pionirakan oreruh"

Friday, July 07, 2006


I think there are very few people, who think there is no need of changes in Armenia. Almost every Armenian, almost every day says a bad thing about the whole Armenian nation. For example how impolite they are, how rabiz they are, how corrupt the government is and how everything is bad. However, almost every one who says such things is doing the same things he is complaining about. For example if you ask a man who has just crossed the street at the wrong place about the traffic in Yerevan, he will complain about the owners of Hummers and BMs who drive very fast. He will not even think for a moment that he has also just broken the law. In Armenia every one wants the law to act but no one cares about it and if in Ovir someone asks you for a bribe your not even trying to figure out if it is legal to give 1000 AMD for some dimum. You are just giving that 1000 dram to avoid wasting time. That is not how fair Societies were build. If you want changes, fairness and law, first you have to force yourself not to break the law and than follow that others do not do the same. However, it is easier to blame someone else and show that s/he is breaking the law than to force ourselves not to do the same. In Armenia there is an impression that every one has tired of every thing. There is an impression that no one would stand and fight to change even a little, concerning their every day life. No one would say anything to the driver who stopped his car in the middle of the walkway in the street, s/he will turn around the car and continue passing the street in dangerous place and wont even try to look at the drivers dull animal face staring at you. In Armenia there is a weak belief that s/he is able to protect his/her own rights with the help of struggling for those rights. Well in some point they are disappointed and others can understand them. However, many changes depend just on us. We can change many things but do not want to bother ourselves with such kind of things.