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All hands on deck: Yerevan sails into election week

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If British folk-rock legends Jethro Tull materializing in the country last week -- with the Armenian prime minister going hell for leather in his return from Kazakhstan so he could catch his favourite band perform live in Yerevan -- was bizarre enough, then nothing could prepare anyone for the latest surreal development in post Soviet Armenia. Faced with a crucial municipal election in the capital this weekend, how on earth do you find a reason to block off access to the main venue for the opposition to hold rallies?


Actually, it's quite simple really. In the past the government would suddenly hold children's concerts in the same venue although after last year's bitterly contested and controversial  presidential election they tried a different approach, deciding to instead build an underground car park in Yerevan's Liberty Square to keep it off-limits to everyone until Autumn 2010. But now the opposition are holding rallies at the manuscript museum in Yerevan, what do you do then? 

Well, bear with me here for a while. It does make sense, really. Centuries ago, Armenia stretched from sea to sea, and a few years ago a replica of a 13th century Armenian ship was constructed in this now land-locked country to sail across the globe and no doubt stimulate a thousand and one wet dreams among nationalists the world over. Conveniently, the ship is also wide enough to block entrance to the latest venue used by the opposition to stage their rallies. Of course, that's probably just coincidence.

Nevertheless,  A1 Plus reports that the Cilicia ship was tonight used as a stage at the said location for a concert "dedicated to its first navigation," although cynics might suspect that it was a last minute thought just three days before the next planned opposition rally. Yes, we know the municipal election is crucial and yes, we even know that there already concerns being expressed. Yes, even paper ballot boxes and the sudden asphalting of backyards is understandable albeit reason for concern, but this?  There were barely 100 people in attendance.

The unexpected appearance of "Kilikia" sailer near the Matenadaran has created a stir in Yerevan City.


The ship has been kept in the territory of a Yerevan salt mine for three years. [...] link

Still, despite the fact that the ship has been out of sight and mind for so long, the pro-opposition media reports that the muncipality promises it will be removed in time for the next rally by the former president and extra-parliamentary opposition leader, Levon Ter-Petrossian, but  let's see. Until then, there's nothing more to say on the matter apart from to post the initial tweet that pushed me to run down with my Nokia N82 to see if the absurd had actually occured as well as a few reactions.

kilikia ship.gif

'Nuff said. Elections, Armenian style. You gotta love 'em...

Photos: © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2009

1 Comment

Onnik Krikorian | May 27, 2009 4:53 PM | Reply

Have just come back from the Matenadaran to check up on whether the boat has been removed and it has. Instead there was a pre-election campaign rally by the Orinats Yerkir party, a member of the ruling government coalition. Stumbled upon that by accident, and I'll be posting something a little later, but for now some thoughts on the boat.

Firstly, the concert it was moved for didn't strike me as a genuine one. For a start, when I got there at the end Shushan Petrosyan, one of Armenia's most famous singers, was performing. However, there were only about 100 people in attendance which means there was no advertising or publicity for the event.

Secondly, it is normal for concerts to be held either in Liberty or Republic Square. However, the first has been closed off because of the opposition rallies last year, and questions have to be asked about why the other night's show wasn't in Republic Square.

Indeed, there have NEVER been concerts held at the Matenadaran in the 10 years I've been living in Armenia and the last time the Kilikia ship was seen in public it was in Republic Square. Therefore, I can not but think this concert was connected somehow to the election.

Basically, a precedent for concerts has been set at only other main venue left which the opposition stages its rallies at, and usually without authorization. We shall see if the ship or any other events are similarly suddenly staged at the Matenadaran following election day.

Of course, this also depends on how the vote on Sunday goes. On that, I'm not sure as it's hard to get a feeling on the situation. All seems calm at present, apart from a few isolated incidents between activists from rival parties, and interest in the vote seems low.

Still, let's see.

What do you think?