Scholarly article on topic 'Letters from the Soviet ‘Paradise’: The Image of Russia among the Western Armenian Diaspora'

Letters from the Soviet ‘Paradise’: The Image of Russia among the Western Armenian Diaspora Academic research paper on "History and archaeology"

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Abstract of research paper on History and archaeology, author of scientific article — Nona Shahnazarian

Abstract The paper deals with the complicated relationships between the Western Armenian Diaspora and Russians. These relations are mediated by the ambiguous attitude of Diaspora to the Eastern Armenians. The study examines two social contexts, the Soviet and Post-Soviet eras. To elaborate the topic the author draws from letters, jokes, and anecdotes taken from different kinds of international interlocutors, ranging from scholars to ordinary people. I argue that the image of Russia is constructed of intertwined discourses of negative and positive meanings. Positive discourses are based around the Russian-(Eastern) Armenians' cultural connections and Russian involvement to the political movement for recognition of the 1915–1923 Armenian Genocide, while negative ones are extracted from (1) the bitter experience of Armenian repatriates to Soviet Armenia (totalitarianism, political reprisals, and harsh social censorship), (2) the low standard of living in the USSR as well as (3) the idiosyncrasies of Russian/Eastern Armenian everyday life in post-Soviet times. So the stereotyped image of Russia is formed at least by three aspects of social life such as political, cultural, and routine. These types of exoticization/stereotyping engender some social distance between the Western Armenian Diaspora and Russians as well as between the Western Armenian Diaspora and post-Soviet Armenians. I conclude that nevertheless a litmus test for the Western Armenian Diaspora attitude to USSR/Russia is the latter's official position regarding the 1915–1923 Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire.

Academic research paper on topic "Letters from the Soviet ‘Paradise’: The Image of Russia among the Western Armenian Diaspora"

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Letters from the Soviet 'Paradise': The Image of Russia among the Western Armenian Diasporaq

Nona Shahnazarian

Center for Independent Sociological Research in St. Petersburg, Russia


Article history: The paper deals with the complicated relationships between the Western Armenian

Recdved 22 July 2011 Diaspora and Russians. These relations are mediated by the ambiguous attitude of Dias-

Accepted 14 September 2012 pora to the Eastern Armenians. The study examines two social contexts, the Soviet and

Post-Soviet eras. To elaborate the topic the author draws from letters, jokes, and anecdotes taken from different kinds of international interlocutors, ranging from scholars to ordinary people.

I argue that the image of Russia is constructed of intertwined discourses of negative and positive meanings. Positive discourses are based around the Russian-(Eastern) Armenians' cultural connections and Russian involvement to the political movement for recognition of the 1915-1923 Armenian Genocide, while negative ones are extracted from (1) the bitter experience of Armenian repatriates to Soviet Armenia (totalitarianism, political reprisals, and harsh social censorship), (2) the low standard of living in the USSR as well as (3) the idiosyncrasies of Russian/Eastern Armenian everyday life in post-Soviet times. So the stereotyped image of Russia is formed at least by three aspects of social life such as political, cultural, and routine. These types of exoticization/stereotyping engender some social distance between the Western Armenian Diaspora and Russians as well as between the Western Armenian Diaspora and post-Soviet Armenians. I conclude that nevertheless a litmus test for the Western Armenian Diaspora attitude to USSR/Russia is the latter's official position regarding the 1915-1923 Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire.

Copyright © 2012, Asia-Pacific Research Center, Hanyang University. Production and

hosting by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

q This paper is translated from the Russian text, which was initially printed in The Independent Journal of Diasporas Ed. Kosmarskaya N. (Vol. 4, Moscow. 2009) under the title: "But what do we want with elephant meat.?: The Image of Russia among the Western Armenian Diaspora" («Да только к чему нам слонятина...? Образы русскоГо, советскоГо и российскоГо у армян диаспоры»). E-mail address:

Peer-review under responsibility of Asia-Pacific Research Center, Hanyang University

1. Introduction

The idea of this study started up in 2001, during my eight-month fieldwork in Nagorno-Karabakh, de facto Armenian state that was resulted the Azerbaijani-Armenian ethnic conflict. That was unique situation generated by Iron Curtain fall in the social context of Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost. The society in Karabakh became multi-segmental during the Karabakh movement and war (1988-1994), when the area swiftly attracted the most heterogeneous groups including, let us call them natives, with their settled norms and ideas about the nation, honour, masculinity and femininity; Soviet army officers and

1879-3665/$ - see front matter Copyright © 2012, Asia-Pacific Research Center, Hanyang University. Production and hosting by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. http://dx.doi.Org/10.1016/j.euras.2012.09.001

soldiers (including those of Armenian background) loyal to the Soviet as well as the Armenian state; volunteers from Armenia with distinctly nationalistic views; representatives of the foreign Armenian Diaspora from the USA and European countries and from Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon and Iran. Such a mixture of cultural backgrounds amidst the military confrontation created a context for various alliances and combinations of values and views. Karabakh swiftly became the axes of concentration of the most heterogeneous groups of Armenian patriots.1 In Karabakh, the interests of all these groups, filled with suspicion and mistrust towards one another (along with a cordial joy and infinite gravity to each other), collided. Misunderstanding and certain emotional aversion could be found on the daily level, on the level of gender relations, as well as on the level of concepts and world views. Among the turbulent judgements of this nature the study's main questions arose. What are the scars and consequences of Cold War in the people's mind? How that long-term global socialism-capitalism resistance forms the image of the USSR assign, Russia?

This study has fairly modest aim:2 to provide an empirically grounded views of image constructions as they are imagined by different layers of Western Armenian Diaspora representatives. The data for this study were collected during my observations and field research in the UK (London, 2003), the USA (California, Massachusetts, 20062007), Canada (Ontario, 2007, 2008), Switzerland (Zurich, 2008), Germany (Frankfurt-on-Main, Kaiserslautern, 2008), the Netherlands (Wassenaar, Amsterdam, 2008), Belgium (Brussels, St. Niklaas, 2008, 2010) and Turkey (Istanbul, 2009, 2010). The paper is based on numerous original interviews, conversations, talks and observations, conducted more pointedly mostly in California County, the USA (involving more than 48 research participants/interlocutors). The total numbers of talks and interviews conducted for this project was about 200, out of which at least seven interviews were with the principal research participants, marked with the longitudinal interaction.

In historical perspective the image of Armenians in the Russian empire was tersely described by Ronald Suny as that of Christians, as commercial, and as conspiratorial.3 In the eyes of their imperious and imperial masters, Armenians (and Georgians) were distinguished among the

otherwise monogenous Caucasian 'native' masses only by their religious affiliation.4

The image of Russia and Russians among Armenians is a vexed one, as is the sheer number and variety of sub/ cultural and local groupings that make up the Armenian experience. This includes such criteria as class, gender and age, across various historical periods (the Imperial, Soviet and post-Soviet ages), geographical locations (Armenians in the Middle East, America, Western and Eastern Europe) and political attitudes encompassing the three main political parties (ranging from Dashnaks, or the National Socialists, through to Hnchaks, or the Social Democrats, to Ramkavars, or the Liberals), as well as those who proclaim no political allegiance. Also part of this experience are those who confess their faith and those who are atheist, and the wide divergence of social status, including academics, school teachers, lawyers, public service volunteers, service industry workers, and so on.5 For the purposes of this paper we will focus on the Armenian diaspora in Europe, the USA and Canada, endeavouring to convey how they see the USSR and Russia, based on the personal testimony of those interviewed. As I am of Armenian descent myself, I was accepted as one of their own and not as a Russian, although those interviewed accepted fully the obligations and advantages of foreign citizenship. The majority of interviews were carried out in an informal environment.

Armenians in the Western diaspora have both positive and negative views of Russia and the Russians. It is perhaps relevant to note here that the majority of my interviewees were residents of the state of California (Los Angeles, Glendale, Pasadena, Ensino). These were Armenians who were able to form easy relationships not only with Armenians of the large-scale post-Soviet emigration from Armenia (regarded as embodying Soviet Russian values), but also Russians.6 It should be added that the reception of these emigres often is coloured by their unedifying attempts to secure material support and their capacity for wheeler-dealing, on both a minor and a large scale.7 In other words, it would be more accurate to say that we are dealing here with various projections of Homo Sovieticus. Thus, in the majority of cases diasporal Armenians who avoid holidaying in Russia because of the language barrier and/or the rumoured poor level of service construct an image of Russia not based on their own experience but on

1 The similar processes, described by Ronald Suny, took place in the refugee camps after the 1915 Armenian Genocide (see: Suny, R. (1993) Looking towards Ararat: Armenians in Modern History, Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana U.P. pp. 217-221).

2 The numerous international field researches were possible thanks to the financial support of Mary Murphy (researcher, Amnesty International), Fulbright Program (FBSSret 06-14. 2006-2007) and The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS) (visiting scholar grant, 2008). Let me also gratefully acknowledge the advice and help received from outstanding scholars from Yerevan, Armenia - Armenuhi Stepanian (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography), Armen Grigoryan (Analytical Center on Globalisation and Regional Cooperation, Yerevan) and Hrach Bayadyan (a professor at the Yerevan State University, Department of Journalism and Cultural Studies, Armenia).

3 R. Suny, Images of the Armenians in the Russian Empire: Looking towards Ararat: Armenians in Modern History, Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana U.P., 1993, p. 31.

4 There are interesting parallels here with the collective European categorization of the many and disparate New World social groups as simply 'Indians'.

5 It is interesting that responses from those in the legal sphere were very critical of the crime-ridden image of Russia, accepting that stereotype while those from academia were less judgemental and more analytical.

6 It is also interesting to note that Jews from Russia were also called 'Russians', not, apparently, on ethnic grounds but more as representatives of a very particular way of life and thought.

7 Those residing in the country illegally, and the incredibly disingen-

uous lengths to which they will go to acquire American citizenship and integration into an American way of life fundamentally at odds with the

socialist patterns of behaviour to which they are accustomed, are the

subject of a different ethnographic study.

the perceptions of Russians, Jews and especially Armenians from the former USSR, Armenia and Russian Federation.

Rose-coloured discourses are ambivalent and, in general, reflect the view that the USSR is to be thanked for the creation of an Armenian state of the Eastern Armenians, even at the expense of allowing Karabakh and Nakhichevan to be unceremoniously ceded in order to contribute to the expansion of the socialist camp and the idea of a single Soviet space. However, the accepted perception is that the historical act of the union of Eastern Armenia with the Soviet state was a choice between the lesser of two evils, while at the same time relations between Armenia and Russia were and continue to be acknowledged as organically genuine, rather than morally abstract, even if dominated by the looming spectre of Big Brother, that tendentious and ideologically-charged metaphor of the Soviet period, as well as the Kremlin policy of forced Russification.8 Moreover, Russia (as the USSR, with rare exceptions), never took sides with Turkey, the country Armenians regard as the enemy of their blood (arm. vox-erim tshnami). The key moment here is the Kremlin's turning a blind eye to the annual commemoration and national mourning on 24 April of the genocide perpetrated by the Turks on the Armenian people in 1915. Permission was even given in 1965 for the construction of a memorial on Tsitsernakaberd Hill in Erevan, an event otherwise unheard of in Soviet times.9 Incidentally, it is this event that persuaded the Armenian nationalist 'dashnaks' finally to bury their differences with the Communists after the savage bloodletting during the Civil War in the early 1920s.

Also of relevance here is the cultural aspect of Russo-Armenian relations. (Eastern) Armenian culture was influenced to a certain extent by Russian culture, especially literature, during the Imperial age and experienced its real flourishing during the Soviet period, maintaining close links to the Russian cultural tradition.10 These links have been noted by members of the Armenian diaspora, especially affinities in the work of the poets Vladimir Maia-kovskii and Eghishe Charents. We should not forget also that the Armenian diaspora is very well versed in the classical literary texts of Lev Tolstoi and Fedor Dostoevskii,

8 On this see James Russell, Voices from the Chorus: On the Art of Translation and Literary Dialogue between the Russian Symbolists and the Armenians, 2009, pp. 3-4. Unpublished article, received from the author in 2009.

9 The memorial comprises a 44 m-long wall divided into two parts that symbolize the division of the nation into the republic of Armenia and the diaspora. Beside the wall is a cone constructed from 12 stone slabs, in the centre of which, at a depth of 1.5 m, burns an eternal flame (designed by S. Kalashian and V. Khachatrian). The memorial took two years to build after the draft was approved, although improvements continue to be made.

10 The G. Sundukian Armenian Drama Theatre was created in Erevan in 1921, and in 1933 the A. Spendiarov Armenian Opera and Ballet Theatre was opened. Among the cultural celebrities of Armenian descent who have established themselves in the Russian cultural consciousness are the composers Aram Khachaturian and Arno Babadzhanian, the writers Marietta Shaginian and Sil'va Kaputikian, the historian Iosif Orbeli, the chess player Tigran Petrosian, and the actors Armen Dzhigarkhanian and Frunzik Mkrtchian, among others.

and in particular the 'dissident' works of Boris Pasternak and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.11

The negative perception of Russia also has several levels and socio-political contexts which make it quite a complex issue, but this paper does not claim to be exhaustive or comprehensive in its suggested conclusions.

It is clear that one of the most important issues to bear in mind is the social experience of the repatriates, which we can trace back to the first formation of the Armenian diaspora (in Armenian 'spiurk').12 The dispersal of Armenians, researchers think, began in the Fourth Century, when in 387 AD Armenia was divided between Persia and Byzantium, when Armenian emigrants began to appear in various parts of Byzantium. L. Abrahamian writes that 'the increasing dispersal of Armenians abroad is a reflection of the changing attitude of Roman Catholicism to the geography of Armenian church influence: in the 9th century they recognised the spiritual authority of Catholicism within the borders of Armenia, whereas in the 12th century this authority was recognised in Cappadokia, Medea and Persia'.13 The Armenian diaspora became established as fact after the wholesale slaughter of Armenians by Turks in 1915, whereby the Western Armenians generally became assimilated into the life styles of Western countries, and the Eastern Armenians became 'affiliated' to Russia and then the USSR. L. Abrahamian continues: 'The primary group divides into two parts, the motherland and the diaspora, which generally behave as a binary opposition. The latter serves as the means for the emergence and functioning of the diaspora and can even be classified as one of its defining characteristics.'14 The British researcher R. Panosian agrees, asserting that there exist 'two Armenian communities - the historical homeland (the Armenian republic, be it Soviet or independent) and the diaspora, which is divided into the internal (Armenian communities in Russia and other former Soviet republics) and external (the Armenian communities in Europe, America, the Middle East). Despite being formally united into a single nation, there are nevertheless fundamentally different in their collective identity and political orientation.'15 The division was evidently along the 'East-West' line, but later became more entrenched by the political stand-off between Capitalism and Communism. In the late 1920s, with the arrival of the Bolsheviks in Erevan, the Armenian diaspora was declared

11 The Hollywood film version of Pasternak's novel Doctor Zhivago was released in 1965. In Los Angeles I met a girl called Lara who was named after the heroine of the film and novel. Lara Aharonian from Canada told me at a workshop in Istanbul (23 May 2009) that when the film was shown in Beirut in 1972 her mother was pregnant with her, and was so touched by the heroine that she named her daughter Lara.

12 There are more than a dozen theories of 'diaspora' in academic discourse. A. Militarev defines it as follows: 'A diaspora is usually described as a process of dispersal of an original social community, aligned with those groups who assimilate from outside'.

13 L. Abramian, Armenia and the Armenian diaspora: divergence and convergence (Diaspory: Nezavisimyi nauchnyi zhurnal, 1 -2, 2000, Moscow, p. 53).

14 Abramian, p. 59.

15 R. Panosian, A complex past. A difficult present, a hazy future (relations of Armenians and the diaspora 1988-1999) Diaspory: Nezavisimyi nauchnyi zhurnal, 1 -2, 2000, Moscow, p. 30.

'an ideologically and politically alien phenomenon' and contacts with it were forbidden. The same policy was followed with regard to the Russian 'White' emigration and was based on the conviction of the Soviet authorities that 'the very fact of residence abroad is sufficient proof of political unreliability'.16

2. Soviet discourses repatriation: 'Let it be Soviet, but it's still Armenia'17

1921-1927. Nevertheless, the first repatriation of Armenians to Soviet Armenia was announced in 1921, with a manageable limit of 150,000. However, they moved into what could be termed a 'republic of refugees' as by that time in Armenia there were approximately 200,000 refugees and more than 10,000 children who had lost their parents. 'The appeal to return was heeded above all by those in the new colonies abroad where Armenians were officially encouraged to leave'.18 When the Armenian question was discussed at the Conference of Lausanne in 1922 two suggestions were put forward: to create an Armenian autonomous region on the territory of Western Armenia or Cilicia, or to extend the borders of Soviet Armenia into Western Armenia. The first proposal was rejected by the Turkish delegates, who declared that 'Armenians can find their homeland in some other country'. The second proposal was rejected by the Armenian delegation, as the Western Armenians did not recognise Soviet Armenia. The question was removed from discussion and transferred to a special refugees' commission at the League of Nations.19 With the collapse of the Armenian project at the international level, and when the hopes to repatriate Armenians to their homeland in Western Armenia were dashed, the repatriation of Armenians took a different turn from 1922 onwards. Soviet Armenia accepted several thousand Armenians from Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Greece, France and Bulgaria. In 1924 the government of Armenia took the decision to resettle in 1924-1925 ten thousand Armenians from Greece, Turkey and Mesopotamia in the Eastern part of Sardarapat. Armenians were repatriated from Batumi, Dzhulfa, and Markara. In the autumn of 1925 a Repatriation Commission was set up in the Council of People's Commissars of Armenia to arrange the acceptance, settlement and employment of returning Armenians. In 1925 the Commissionaire for Refugees at the League of Nations, Fridtjof Nansen, arrived in Armenia as head of a special commission 'in order to study the local conditions and possibilities for the settlement of 50,000 refugees. Nansen hoped to increase suitable land for settlement through

16 E. Melkonian, 'Diaspora in the system of an ethnic minority (the example of the Armenian dispersal)' (Diaspory: Nezavisimyi nauchnyi zhurnal, 1-2. Moscow, 2000, pp. 23-26).

17 Melkonian, p. 27.

18 A.A. Stepanian, G.G. Sarkisian, 'The Repatriation of Armenians in the Early Twentieth Century against the Background of the Demographic Processes of Transcaucasia', Arkheologiia, etnologiia i fol'kloristika Kav-kaza. Materialy mezhdunarodnoi konferentsii. Pervoprestol'nyi sviatoi Echmiadzin, 2003, pp. 302-303.

19 Stepanian, Sarkisian, 'Repatriation', p. 303.

irrigation and other projects, funding for this provided by Armenian organizations abroad. In 1927 the Armenian diaspora in the United States gave $70,000 to the Armenian government, although repatriation was suspended and renewed only in the 1930s.'20

The period 1945-1948 saw another wave of repatriation, with massive immigration into Soviet Armenia encouraged by Stalin's policy at the end of the Second World War 'as part of his objective of territorial acquisition, to return the lands of Eastern Armenia lost to the Turks in 1921. With this aim in mind actions were set in motion in Moscow aimed at engaging the Armenian diaspora, and in a short space of time the communities in Harbin, Teheran, Paris and New York were all aware of the intention to bring these Armenian territories into the purview of Soviet Armenia.'21 From 1946 to the middle of 1948 about 100,000 Armenians from Bulgaria, Greece, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, the USA, Romania, France and other countries were repatriated to Armenia, with the first group of immigrants arriving from Beirut in June 1946. These included doctors, teachers, scientists, artists, and musicians, with financial support again provided by the Armenian diaspora.

Nevertheless, such accommodation did not last long. A radio broadcast of 19 October 1947 about the Armenian composer Komitas, in the course of which the Armenian genocide of 1915 was mentioned, served as the catalyst for the ensuing anti-Armenian campaign. A listener wrote to the Party's Central Committee, warning of a resurgence of the 'Dashnak' threat: 'Why do we allow the West to state that it is not Truman, by helping the Turks to organize their defence against us, but we ourselves who are stoking up the flames of war with our Armenophile defamation of the Turks.' Another letter in similar vein to Beria encapsulated the slogan 'we must heighten our vigilance and crush Armenian bourgeois nationalism.' According to the 'facts' at Stalin's disposal among the Armenian returnees were 'American agents', who were 'preparing an act of insurrection aboard the steamer Victory.' Stalin informed the Central Committee Secretary Georgii Malenkov of this in a telegram. 'I received your telegram about the steamer Victory. Of course, you are right that among the Armenian returnees there are American agents who attempted an act of rebellion before the ship set sail from Batumi to Odessa, after or during the disembarkation of Armenians.' A day later, on 15 September 1948, Malenkov again sent Stalin a telegram: 'The Council of Ministers has issued a decree whereby the repatriation of Armenians from abroad has been brought to an end with immediate effect, and the entry of Armenian returnees into Armenia is now prohibited, regardless of where they have come from. The proposals set out in your telegram about the steamer Victory are now accepted as Politburo decisions.' In this febrile atmosphere the repatriation of Armenians was suspended from the end of 1948. Evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Armenian returnees was not needed. In 1949

20 Stepanian, Sarkisian, p. 305.

21 Melkonian, p. 26.

thousands of Armenian returnees were exiled to the Altai region, and many ended up in the prisons of the Gulag.22 After the death of Stalin in 1953 and the Khrushchev 'thaw' another 30,000 Armenians were repatriated into


3. Letters from the Soviet 'Paradise': epistolary sources, jokes and anecdotes of the period of repatriation

Negative attitudes are political in nature when linked to the historical experience and practice of Western Armenians and the Soviet Union. Basically, criticism focuses on the abuses of the authoritarian system, totalitarianism. Quotations from the letters of returnees (hayrenadartz) addressed to undecided relatives abroad are tragicomic in content. Lebanese Armenians from the USA illustrated their stories with several examples.

Not everyone thought about settling in Soviet Armenia with such abandon. There were many who wavered and asked their more decisive and devil-may-care relatives to write to them on arrival and tell them if uprooting themselves was worth it the journey. At the same time people were not fully aware of just how all-pervasive the control of the secret police would be.24 Nevertheless, returnees would find ingenious ways of getting necessary information through to their relatives abroad in letters that would be scrutinized by the KGB, using Aesopian language and/or hints and signs known only to them in otherwise upbeat letters:

'We were very warmly received here. We are very glad that we have arrived, life here is just a fairy-tale. The whole family was immediately settled in new houses and given work. Come and join us as soon as you can. Our whole family has a very good life here, everyone is pleased, but especially happy is our little Garo... '

When they read this letter, the Armenian relatives living in France unpacked their suitcases because Garo had died in childhood from an infectious disease. In another letter a returnee wrote to his relative: 'Everything here is fine. There is work, we are treated very well, food is also extremely well provided. The shops are full of meat, you can buy elephant meat. But what do we want with elephant meat, we're not used to it, we'd rather have a kilogram of chicken...'25

An anecdote from the Soviet period precisely captures the reality of life: 'An Armenian repatriated from Italy to the USSR agrees with his brother who remains in Italy to write

22 G.A. Avetisian, E.L. Danielian, A.A. Melkonian, The History of Armenia from Ancient Times to Modern, ch. 22, section 8: The Armenian SSR from 1945 to the 1980s, Erevan, National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, 2006. PC CD-ROM.

23 ibid.

24 There is a famous joke from Armenian radio: 'Is the correspondence of Soviet citizens subject to censorship?' 'No, but letters with anti-Soviet content do not reach their destination.' The History of the USSR in Anecdotes, 1917-1991, comp. M. Dubovskii, 'Everest' and 'Bizness-bene-fis', Riga, 1991, p. 317.

25 As related to me in Los-Angeles by O. Simonian, November 2006.

in ordinary ink if life in the USSR is good, in green ink if things are bad. Some time later a letter arrives written in ordinary ink: "Everything is first-rate, I got an apartment, work, the shops are full of stuff. There are shortcomings, but minor ones: for instance, it's difficult to get hold of green ink."'26 Another such joke is told by Kevork Bardak-jian, Professor of Armenian at Michigan State University in Ann Arbor, reflecting the limits of dissatisfaction felt by those returning to face new conditions of life: 'Relatives asked those going back to give them a sign of how things were. If it was dangerous to write then just draw. A person standing upright would mean everything was fine, sitting down meant things were bad. So a letter was sent with a picture of someone lying down...'27

Those returning also encountered huge problems in the absurdities of Soviet everyday life. An anecdote from Armenian radio tells of the routine dissatisfaction felt by those recently arrived with the chaotic slovenliness of Soviet life: 'A repatriated Armenian falls into an open manhole, and when he crawls out he is angry. "In Europe when they open a manhole they put red warning flags around it." The reply: "And when you got on the boat to come here didn't you see the big red flag?"'

4. Problems of adaptation and social boundaries: vertical lines 'from below'

To the regret of the returnees, pressure came not only from the authorities,28 but was exacerbated by ordinary people's impatience and suspicion.29 On the microlevel of personal relationships these hierarchies/boundaries were constructed on the basis of two factors: the depressed economic situation and linguistic difference (lezvi tarber-uthyun). Children of returnees in today's Armenia tell of absurd situations arising from linguistic confusion. For instance, for a long time returnees thought that income tax (podokhodnyi nalog) was actually 'steamer' tax (paro-khodnyi nalog): 'How many years have we been here now and we still haven't settled the bill for the steamer?'30

Several factors hindered returnees from adapting to local conditions, such as politics, attitude, mentality and dialect (lezvabarbarain tarberuthyunnery).31 Dialectical variations within the Armenian language served as a palpable barrier to any swift and painless assimilation of returnees. These variations could entail an amusing collection of words, or the 'translator's false friends', when

26 The History of the USSR in Anecdotes, p. 35.

27 From a private conversation with Professor Bardakjian in Zurich, 14 November 2008.

28 Professor K. Bardakjian told me that 'returnees were not allowed to enter the Faculty of Nuclear Physics because they were not trusted and considered to be spies (Irtes)'.

29 Bayadyan, H. (2009) Demographic Changes In: Atlas of transformation book. html/d/demograficke-zmeny/demograficke-zmeny.html.

30 A. Stepanian, Linguistic Mis-Comprehension between Returnees and Local Armenians (materials from 1946 to 1948), Narodnaia kul'tura Armenii Xii. Materials from the Republican Academic Session. 'Mugni' Publishers, Erevan, 2004, p. 149.

31 M. Bazarian, Letters from the Soviet 'Paradise', Erevan, 1997, p. 12. (In Armenian: Movses Bazarian, Namakner sovetakan "draxtits".)

the opposite meaning of what was intended is achieved. Sometimes dangerous consequences could ensue. For instance, a situation on a construction site as described by Armenuhi Stepanian (based on the different meanings of the words Dzkhi: pull, hold and let go): 'A local labourer says to a returnee: "Pull it towards yourself (Dzkhi, thogh ga)". The returnee answers in confusion: "Let it go on to your head (Intor dzkhem, guluxit kiyna)?"'

These differences had social consequences. They formed the criteria for inclusion and exclusion, falseness and genuineness, mainstream culture and marginality, and drew up clear boundaries between groups of Armenians. At that time a special differentiating lexicon emerged, with condescending and disparaging terms such as 'thazha hay' (the 'new' or 'newly well off Armenian), 'krro' (stubborn, hard-headed), 'yekvor' or 'galma' ('one recently arrived'), 'parzkastantsi' (Iranian), 'gaxthakan' (refugee, colonist).32 The widely used antonym 'axpar' (local disparagement of the Western Armenian pronunciation of the word 'eghbair', meaning 'brother' provides Armenian ethnographers with the justification to speak of the formation of a separate sub-ethnic group of Armenian returnees).33 The word 'axpar' was thus used indiscriminately in relation to any newly arrived Armenian. Such distinctions34 as 'axpar' baptism (aghbarakan knunkh), 'axpar' cuisine (aghbarakan tzash) and 'axparka' (invented by local Russian-speaking Armenians, translated as 'a female returnee') became characteristics of the group, inescapably highlighting their 'otherness'.

5. Red propaganda: 'in our overseas world we called them "zevzeks". Repressions

The processing, or rather transformation, of returnees into Soviet citizens occurred with the help of propaganda, or political re-education. Propagandists and agitators gathered people together for brainwashing and lessons in political literacy. 'Who are they?' the returnees would ask. 'Propagandists and agitators,' would be the reply. 'In our overseas world we called them "zevzeks"' (Menkh mer artasahmany adonts zevzek gsenkh).

Political persecution in Armenia began on 17 June 1949. Wholesale arrests were preceded by exhausting interrogations. 'One returnee was always being called in for interrogation. By that time they had already learned some Russian words. So after another wearying interrogation he gets into a taxi, and the taxi driver asks "Where are we going?", he replies with a shout, "Do you need a report,


32 Ibid., p. 152.

33 A. Stepanian (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography), Formation of the sub-ethnic group of Armenian returnees from the 1920s to the 1940s, in the booklet Contemporary ethno-cultural processes in Armenia. Abstracts, Erevan, 1997, p. 43. (In Armenian: Armenuhi Stephanian (HAI), Hayrenadartzneri Yenthaethnik Xmbi Dzevavorumy 1920-1940-akan Tvakannerin. Erevan, pp. 43-44.) See also A. Stepanian, Linguistic MisComprehension, pp. 149-150.

34 Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, London, Routledge, 1984.

35 From a conversation with Armenuhi Stepanian, Erevan, 17.07.2008.

A consequence of political repressions was that the third stage of repatriations in the 1960s and 1970s occurred in parallel with the emigration of those who had been arrested returning from internal exile. 'When documents for emigration to the USA were being drawn up, Soviet officials would ask, "Who are your relatives abroad?", to which they received the heartfelt reply: "And did we have relatives in Siberia in 1949?"' (49-in Sibirya ugharketsir, hon harazat unei?) (A. Stepanian).

Nevertheless, emigration seemed almost irrational when one considers the traffic in the opposite direction, occasioned by a romantic patriotism and a nostalgia rooted in what modern sociologists call primordial loyalty.36 The turbulence of this movement of people is reflected in the story of one Soviet soldier, Private Tsatur, imprisoned by the Germans in the Second World War and who returned to his homeland from the USA nearly twenty years later, despite all the warnings. He had applied to the necessary authorities from his home in the United States, eventually received permission and in 1960s arrived back in the USSR and returned to his native village. 'For about three days they drank and ate what they could, slaughtered some of the animals, the wine flowed like a river. Then on the fourth day the KGB came and took him, and he was given ten years in Magadan for treason. They say that after he returned Tsatur returned to his native village ill and a broken man. The people would gather in the evenings and ask him what life was like in the States'.

'One lad asked: "Uncle Tsatur, were there any donkeys in


'Yes, there was one.'

'What, only one?'

'Yes, me.'37

6. 'No matter how much you steal from the state you won't get your own back!'38 The economy of double standards

The shadowy sides of the Soviet economy and the shortage of consumer goods are the next much discussed theme. Unrealistic Five Year Plans, false statistical data and window dressing provided the real meat of the unreal, fantasy world of the Soviet economy. Heated debates about State statistics and Gosplan as a feature of socialist economic planning are becoming more widespread and exciting interest that makes them the second most popular topic of discussion after tales about the omnipresent KGB. In Los Angeles a friend of mine told an anecdote that he had heard from a politician friend in Soviet Armenia. 'What was the Soviet economy? Well, probably not much has changed even today. A bridge was built over a river. The bridge had

36 Pierre Bourdieu, The Practical Sense, St. Petersburg, 2001, pp. 168-171.

37 Interview with R. Shahnazarian, b. 1940, from the village of Dagraz in Nagornyi Karabakh.

38 From the series of anecdotes about Armenian radio. The journal "Xachkar", published by the Armenian Cultural Centre, editor-in-chief C. Mxitarian, No 1 (1), 12/2007, p. 39.

to be guarded, so they hired a watchman. They then hired a cashier to calculate the watchman's wages. Then they hired an accountant to keep the books. And a supervisor had to be hired to provide proper leadership, and so on. But then the word came down that there had to be economies, so they fired the watchman.'39

Such an economy of absurdity goes some way to explaining to Western Armenians why their Eastern fellow-countrymen accept corruption and 'shady' economic practices as the norm. They see this as the destabilising legacy of the Soviet regime, which has led to a psychology of collective non-responsibility. It is this feature of the Soviet consciousness, they say, that engendered a hollow economy of excessive regulation and poor quality production. 'My parents visit Armenia, in Soviet times that was the thing to do. My mother was told that there was good quality crystal in the Soviet Union. So she went into a shop and asked if they had any crystal on sale. The shop assistant replied no, they didn't, as we could see. There was a local man with us, and he said so can she sell us any from under the counter (dakits). So my mother bought a set of crystal glasses, but to this day we can't understand what this "dakits" means.' (R. Sherbetjian, male aged 57).

7. Censorship

The infringement of all forms of personal freedom under the Soviets, including the complete censorship of all forms of expression, is a frequent topic of conversation for the overseas Armenians. The intellectuals of the diaspora consider the epitome of absurdity to be the censorship of Soviet musical art. Ronald Suny recounts how the world-famous composer Aram Khachaturian had to apologise for writing bourgeois music.3 Thus false standards in economic life are transferred to the spiritual and educational spheres of Soviet life; the stereotype persisted among particularly radical Armenians living abroad considered that nothing of quality could be produced in the Soviet Union because all free or critical thinking was nipped in the bud. This environment could not produce any clear blue sky thinking, they would say, and social sciences were especially afflicted by plagiarism. All of this, of course, was well known to Soviet citizens, thus giving rise to the witticism that 'there are four types of lie: ordinary, brazen, statistics and quotations.'40

Nevertheless, it is accepted that two areas of activity were the exceptions to the above: classical music and sport. The Soviet culture of rote learning and memorizing is seen as a distinctive feature of the Soviet educational system, giving rise to some universally recited yet dubious compliments, such as 'a nightingale is basically a sparrow that has graduated from the Soviet conservatory.'

But contacts between Soviet Armenians and those living abroad (letters, parcels, telephone conversations) throughout the Soviet and especially the post-Soviet period

39 Interview with R. Sherbetjian, 06.01.2007, an Armenian who had emigrated from Lebanon, and whose forebears had settled there from Turkey, Urfa and Musa dag after being persecuted in 1915.

40 History of the USSR in anecdotes, p. 291.

did not cease. It seemed that the Armenian Soviet republic lived under a particularly benevolent regime and that the Soviet nomenclature were not too bothered about the 'bourgeois' links of Soviet Armenians with the diaspora. During the Khrushchev period and in the 1960s and 1970s Moscow took little action and believed somehow that these contacts contained not a drop of ideology or bourgeois propaganda, but was simply the chattering of relatives.41 This relatively tolerant regime allowed underground shops in Erevan to flourish selling feel-good 'capitalist' wares such as cushions, bobby pins, records, cigarettes and other such 'luxuries', and as a result Erevan gained a semblance of bourgeois comfort and relative prosperity.

This really was an amazing combination of the Communist and the national/nationalistic, the official and the forbidden, the routine active use of Communist ideology for the attainment of healthy and vital ends, without extremes but with some panache. For instance, children in the families of Soviet Armenian state functionaries from an early age would learn the names of members of the Politburo but would also recite for visitors patriotic poems about the great fight of the Armenian forest partisans against the Turks and about how the national hero Serob-pasha was poisoned in the mountains of Western Armenia.

8. The post-Soviet period

Discourses of the post-Soviet period are mainly informal and are linked above all to a way or styles of life and everyday practices. This may mean that post-Soviet rhetoric is less mythologized and based on a direct engagement with actual people, who may be Armenians but who are divided occasionally by the unbreakable Soviet wall of ideology, just as Germans were once divided into East and West.42 R. Panosian writes about the huge distance between the diaspora and its 'historical homeland', exacerbated by the seven decades of isolation and physical detachment.43 Describing the relationship between them following Armenian independence, he divides it into four

41 Some people explain this as a result of the extraordinary compromises and diplomatic genius of Karen Demirchian, First Secretary of the Armenian Communist Party from 1974 to 1988 (L. Kagramanian, female, aged 60). See also S. Platz, '"We Don't Have Capitalism, We Have Kinship": the state, the family and the expression of Armenian identity', Anthropology of East Europe Review, vol. 13, no. 2 (autumn 1995) (Special Issue: Culture and Society in the Former Soviet Union).

42 Andreas Glaeser writes that new social conditions create a new, different German identity that does not disappear immediately with change. The author asks why after ten years or so since the Berlin Wall fell Germany still remains divided. See Andreas Glaeser, Divided in Unity: Identity, Germany and the Berlin Police, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2000.

43 The Western diaspora is also riven with profound disagreements. According to R. Panosian, it is organized around two self-sufficient groupings based on political affiliation and controlling two parallel structures of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Social links and intermarriages between these groupings are very rare. Between these groupings there has intermittently been open conflict (in the 1920s) or a hidden stand-off which waned only in the 1970s and 1980s. There is also a neutral side, particularly broadly represented in North America. See R. Panosian, A Complicated Past, Difficult Present and Vague Future (relations between Armenia and the diaspora, 1988-1999), in Diaspory: Nezavisimyi nauchnyi zhurnal, 1-2, 2000, Moscow, pp. 48, 31.

phases: 1988-1989 (a reluctant working relationship), 1991-1992 (the 'honeymoon'), 1992-1998 (schism and conflict), 1998-1999 (early reconciliation).44 It is of considerable interest that despite the spontaneous acknowledgement of the contribution of the 'internal diaspora' (the Armenian populations of Russia and other CIS countries) as 'a crucial source of economic help to family members remaining in Armenia', it is otherwise largely ignored or even sharply criticised.45

The profound ambivalence of the diaspora towards postSoviet Russia also lies in the sphere of current migration processes, as expressed very unambivalently in the following quotation: 'After the collapse of the USSR one and a half million Armenians left for Russia. Russia swallows up the Armenian identity and remoulds it, assimilates it. At the same time it's clear that life in Armenia is impossible without remittances from Russia. This is depressing, as it means that Armenia can't function as a state' (Sima Abra-hamian, Canada). The current demonization of Russia in the Western media means that 'those who stand against Russia (Georgia, for instance) are cool, and the other way round. Armenia at best therefore remains in the shade, at least for now. But in the French diaspora we are more relaxed (than in the diasporas of other countries)'.46

9. Communicative styles

Freshness, vitality and sincerity in emotional communication at any time of the day or night, and especially mutual support, is noted among the diaspora as a positive trait in post-Soviet people.47 At the same time this change is often explained by reference to the sparse joys of Soviet life. In other words, the absence of privacy and the values of collective living as in the archetypal communal apartment are now rejected, no longer do people need a minimalist life style where bare survival is the order of the day.

Some Armenians living overseas believe that there remain psychological scars from the Communist past, where the lack of freedom of speech and its associated threats of denunciation, persecution, exile and camps for

44 R. Panosian considers that the clearest sign of 'overcoming the split' was the series of ministerial appointments from among the diaspora, such as Zhiraira Libaridian (advisor to President Levon Ter-Petrosian from 1991 to 1997), Raffi Ovannisian (independent Armenia's first Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1991-1992), and Sebu Tashdzhian (Energy Minister, 1992). Later disputes were to take place in the academic sphere, when politically committed Armenian intellectuals went on the offensive to demand a greater voice in discussions on Armenian history that were marred by biased and essentialist readings. As a result of this battle of ideologies many world-famous historians and anthropologists were vilified and became persona non grata. See the 3-h film on YouTube 'The Falsifiers of Armenian History'.

45 Some members of the Armenian diaspora in the United States even denied that Armenians living in Russia were not Armenian at all. Such an outlook was an indirect expression of hostility towards Russia itself.

46 Private conversation with Nubar(ian), library director in Paris, and with Raimond Kevorkian, professor of the University Paris VII, 14.11.2008, Zurich.

47 The flip side of this sincerity is what others consider to be their

sincere rudeness. There are tales of Russian nannies being dismissed because of creating 'a bad atmosphere in the home, are gloomy and don't smile' (interview with S. Gukasov, Boston, 2008).

political prisoners, and other forms of punishment, gave rise to a strange, idiosyncratic and rather dysfunctional form of communication, illustrated by scenes from everyday life. 'To be like everyone else, or be nothing, is one and the same thing. This fear is of literally everything. When asked a simple question, 'how are things?', Armenians from Russia and Armenia reply 'OK (vochinch)'. What does this mean? What does 'OK' (=nothing) mean? It's avoid, emptiness. What kind of style is this?' (Ourfalian, K.)

Alien standards of everyday emotional behaviour which contrast sharply with the optimism and daily 'emotional work' that passes for social obligation, the desire to live among other people and socialise, were expressed in terms of a joke I heard among Armenians from Iran, and reinforce the observation above.

'How are things?' an Armenian from Iran asks an

Armenian from Erevan.

'OK' (vochinch = nothing), replies the Armenian.

The next day the Erevan Armenian asks the Armenian

from Iran.

'How are things, neighbour?'

'Just about (mikhich)'

'What do you mean, just about?'

'At least "just about" is better than your OK (nothing).'

(Gohar Serobian)

If we accept that such a 'minimalist' style of communication is a linguistic calque from Russian into Armenian, then the Russian language is seen as an imposed lingua franca and an embodiment of imperial and colonial intervention.

10. Eating, dieting and heavy make-up

The stereotypes associated with the shortages of consumer goods, especially food and its poor quality, during the Soviet period, have firm foundations. When the Iron Curtain was up relatives who had returned to Soviet Armenia complained regularly about them, and in the postSoviet period the truth became evident through the possibilities of actual direct contact. Our friend from Armenia visited us in London once. While having dinner, we amused ourselves by comparing the names of different types of fruits in Western and Eastern Armenian languages: - How do you call an apple [in Eastern Armenian]? - Khndzor. - Yes, like we do. - But what about grapes? - Khaghogh. - Yes, we also call them? and so on. When we got to exotic fruits, I ask: -How do you call a banana? Our guest thought about my question for a second and answered: - Well, we would probably call it banana if we had one [bananas in our country] (Prof. Susan Patthie, anthropologist, April 2003, London).

But it was this that Armenians of the diaspora felt particularly guarded about. I remember one of my American friends asking in a sort of apologetic and hesitant manner whether it was true that during the Soviet period there were only two types of cheese in the shops, Russian and Poshekhonski. To which I, a bit timidly and looking for the right words, replied that nothing could be further from

the truth, there was all sorts, such as Lori and Chanakh and Bulgarian Feta, no no, there was much more. But then I relented as I remembered an anecdote [joke] from my school days:

'A schoolteacher is reading one of Krylov's fables to her

class: "God sent a piece of cheese to a crow..." One of the

class asks "Does God really exist?" Another asks "Does

cheese really exist?"

The Armenian diaspora had differing ideas about the regional variations in Soviet food provision. For instance, a British Armenian girl visiting the USSR (actually Moscow) on an academic exchange in the early 1980s complained to another Armenian girl on the same exchange who was based in Krasnodar (North Caucasus, the USSR) that she was 'starving to death and was counting the days when she would be going back home'.48 Soviet citizens themselves believed that foodstuffs, like other consumer goods, were all concentrated in Moscow, where people would converge from all parts of the USSR in search of sausage meat and bananas.

Western Armenians are totally disheartened by the habit Eastern Post-Soviet Armenian men have of knocking back hard liquor in one gulp, just as they are by the precise organization of the ceremonial table and the strict hierarchies of toasting and feasting. They are also shocked by the glamour and pretensions of clothing and the overuse of heavy make-up. All of this is blamed on the Russian influence.

11. Political culture

A different, and presumably lower, political culture enjoyed by one's co-ethnic brethren is another dividing line. Elections are regarded by the majority as the time to cultivate one's network resources and/or improve their material position by selling their votes for a scrap of bread (we note the pre-election manipulation of the peasantry by the members of the Prospering Armenia party and by Gagik Tsarukian, oligarch and member of Parliament). The lack of trust towards political institutions and the absence of any civic tradition, despite the chorused excuses through reference to totalitarianism, the patriarchal order, neo-patrimonialism and particularism, are also worrying distinctions to Armenians living abroad. If the future of the Third Armenian Republic is to be guaranteed then it must be unambiguously free of these excuses, an issue which has raised the rhetorical temperature considerably. The huge gulf in civic culture between the Russian and Western diasporas was clearly exposed during discussions about the 2005 law on dual citizenship (between Russia and Armenia). Members of the Western diaspora were shocked to learn that Russian Armenians desperately wanted this law to be adopted not in order to be able to vote for the candidate of their choice in a Presidential or other election, but simply in order to be able to legitimately and safely buy property in Armenia. This bitter pill, according to the Western diaspora, leaves little hope for the development of

48 Recorded at a Book and Bake Fair in the Armenian church in London (Iverna Garden), 2003.

genuinely neoliberal institutions in the new independent post-Soviet Armenia.

Thus, if we are to sum up our arguments above, we can see that there exists a definite stereotyping and occasionally fetishizing of the concepts and approaches that go towards forming the image of what is Russian. In this construct both negative and positive discourses are cunningly interwoven. The negative discourse amounts to the division and alienation not only of Russian and Western Armenians but also of Western and Eastern Armenians. It is certainly true that this is a result of a long history of migration and diaspora existence, and especially of living through the Soviet experience. It is not fortuitous that the greatest negativity falls on the Soviet period, and this can be easily explained simply through political reasoning, although the Armenian Socialist Republic did not suffer any more than other Soviet republics from the Stalinist repressions and other constraints of the Soviet regime (indeed sometimes less). As can be seen from these interviews, this negative attitude became crystallized in the personal experience of Western Armenians seduced by the blandishments of the Soviet propaganda machine and then cruelly deceived by the State on repatriation.49 It seems totally irrational that there were some intellectuals of the diaspora who settled in the USSR out of ideological sympathies for socialism, such as the feminist poetess Zabel Esaian, who was later exiled to Siberia (1937-1943).50 Why was the pro-Communist poet Eghishe Charents repressed? In 1998 the Armenian public charity AGBU commissioned a documentary film entitled 'Enemy of the People', directed by Zareh Cheknavorian, on the Stalinist purges, which included an interview with the orphaned daughter of the poet, Arpenik Charents.51 'It's not that we rejected Russia, it's rather that we did not accept the hammer and sickle (Murch ev mankhagh chenk sirel'), is how Sima Abrahamian summed it up'.52 The 'red hysteria of McCarthyism' with its 'Hollywood blacklist' and then the Cold War were simply add-ons, though very powerful ones.53

Nevertheless, we can conclude that despite harsh and occasionally patronising attitudes, Russia's official position

49 'It is a noteworthy fact that Russians living in Europe almost all ignored the possibility granted to them by the Soviet government of returning to their homeland' (V. Kostikov, cited in Melkonian, p. 27).

50 From an interview with Talin Suciyan in Zurich, 14/11/2008.

51 J. R. Russell, Charents the Prophet, 2009, p. 8.

52 Private conversation with S. Abrahamian, professor at Concordia University, Canada, in Zurich, 14.11.2008.

53 McCarthyism was a feature of American public life from the end of the 1940s to the end of the 1950s, accompanied by anti-communist rhetoric and a campaign of persecution of left-leaning intellectuals. The Hollywood blacklist was a list of people working in culture and the arts in the USA in the 1940s and 1950s who were barred from their professions on political grounds. The lists were compiled by the owners of the Hollywood studios and included members of the Communist Party of the USA or those suspected of sympathizing with it, as well as those who refused to help the authorities investigate the Communist Party's activities. The first list was compiled by the studios in 1947 after ten screen writers, known as the 'Hollywood Ten', refused to give evidence to the US Congress Commission on Anti-American Activities. Later all received a one-year prison sentence. Those included on the list suffered great difficulties in getting work and found it impossible to work in the film industry. The lists were dropped after 1960. Many Hollywood films were produced in this period which demonized Soviet citizens.

to the events of 1915, the physical annihilation of the Armenians in Western Armenia, remains the true yardstick with which it is measured by the Armenian diaspora. As has already been said, by the mid-1960s the Armenians of the diaspora had changed their view of the USSR into a more positive one given its position on the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923 in the Ottoman Empire.54 The post-Soviet Russian government has continued this stance, and together with France consistently argues for recognition of the Armenian genocide.55 Moreover, on 14 April 1995 the Russian State Duma adopted a resolution 'On Condemnation

of the Genocide of the Armenian Population between 1915 and 1922', which notes that 'the physical extermination of the fraternal Armenian people in its historical homeland was conducted with the aim of creating conditions for the destruction of Russia'.56

It seems likely, then, that Russia's position on this question in future decades will determine to a significant extent the attitude of the overseas Armenian diaspora towards it.

Translated from Russian into English by D. Gillespie, Professor of Russian at University of Bath, UK.

54 At the same time the Ramkavar party recognised the social structure of the USSR.

55 President Barak Obama took a long-awaited political step when he

used the Armenian term for the genocide 'Mets Eghern' in his speech on remembering the victims of 1915.

56 The announcement of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of Russia 'On Condemnation of the Genocide of the Armenian People between 1915 and 1922', 14 April 1995.