[lg policy] Fwd: FW: "Russian Lesson" Provokes Fury in Armenia

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jul 3 20:33:24 UTC 2014

Forwarded From: Fierman, William <wfierman at indiana.edu>

[image: Image removed by sender. Institute for War and Peace Reporting]

Published on *Institute for War and Peace Reporting* (http://iwpr.net)
 "Russian Lesson" Provokes Fury in Armenia

Outspoken Moscow media official suggests Armenia should adopt Russian as an
official language.

By Arpi Harutyunyan <http://iwpr.net/people/arpiharutyunyan> [1] -

30 Jun 14

Opposition politicians in Armenia have attacked the government for hosting
a top media figure from Moscow who made insensitive remarks about the poor
knowledge of Russian in the country.

Comments by Dmitry Kiselyov, head of the Russia Today news agency and
deputy head of the Russian state broadcaster have reinforced fears that
Armenia is well on its way to being swallowed up by its longstanding ally.

On a visit to Yerevan, Kiselyov told a meeting of the Russian-Armenian
Parliamentary Club on June 11 that he was shocked at how poorly local taxi
drivers spoke Russian.

Highlighting Moscow’s role as Armenia’s key strategic ally, Kiselyov went
on to complain that “there are almost no Russian [language medium] schools
in Yerevan, and Russian is dying out in Armenia. It follows that Russian
culture is also dying, and the link with Russia will gradually weaken. This
is a very dangerous trend.”

He suggested that the best way to preserve Russian would be to formalise it
as a second state language on a par with Armenian.

Kiselyov’s comments provoked outrage from the opposition. Nikol Pashinyan
of the Armenian National Congress demanded an official rebuff.

“Such disrespectful comments from foreigners must meet with the strongest
condemnation from state and society,” Pashinyan told parliament. “I think
the foreign minister should consider declaring Dmitry Kiselyov persona non
grata in Armenia.”

The inter-parliamentary meeting was attended by deputy speaker Hermine
Naghdalyan and three politicians from the ruling Republican Party.

Opponents of the government said it had set itself up for humiliation by
giving such a high-level welcome to a man who has become notorious for his
abrasive on-screen style.

“If you give a platform to some lying analyst, then you end up with an
ill-educated lout who decides to try to teach us a lesson,” said Naira
Zohrabyan of the opposition party Prosperous Armenia.

There was further anger that the meeting was conducted exclusively in
Russian, despite a legal requirement for all official proceedings to be
translated into Armenian. The speaker of parliament, Galust Sahakyan,
promised to provide simultaneous translation during forthcoming events.

Deputy speaker Naghdalyan said she understood why people were angry, but
denied the government had been humiliated.

“The Armenian-Russian friendship club will function in Russia as well, and
Armenian parliamentarians will be able to express their opinions there,”
she said.

Another deputy speaker, Eduard Sharmazanov, who is a leading figure in the
Republican Party, attempted to play down the furore, saying, “Kiselyov
isn’t such a significant individual that we should be talking about him for
days on end.”

Education minister Armen Ashotyan released a statement insisting that “the
Russian language has no constitutional status in Armenia, and we see no
need for this since Armenia is a monoethnic country”.

The controversy reflects broader unease at Armenia’s increasingly close
ties with Russia at a time when the latter is increasingly asserting its
might, for example in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

With unfriendly neighbours – Turkey and Azerbaijan – on either flank,
Armenia has retained close security links with Russia since the break-up of
the Soviet Union. Moscow has a military airfield in Yerevan and an army
base in Gyumri, and the two countries agreed in 2010 to extend the Russian
presence until 2044.

Since last September, Armenia has been on a course to join the
Russia-Belarus-Kazakstan Customs Union, a move some see as an erosion of
national sovereignty. (See*Armenia Faces Delay to Joining Moscow-Led Union
<http://iwpr.net/report-news/armenia-faces-delay-joining-moscow-led-union> *
*[2]* on recent developments in the process.)

In recent months, Yerevan has handed Russia’s Gazprom *control of its
domestic gas pipeline network*
[3] and a monopoly on purchases and sales, and it is considering*selling a
major chemical plant*
 [4] to another firm, Rosneft.

Finally, Moscow is now offering fast-track citizenship to Armenians and
other post-Soviet nationals if they are fluent in Russian and are prepared
to renounce their own countries’ passports. (See *Armenians Enticed by
Russian Passport Offer*
<http://iwpr.net/report-news/armenians-enticed-russian-passport-offer> [5] on
the implications.)

With all these moves in train, Kiselyov’s abrasive style caused further

“Is Armenia a Russian province or is it a sovereign state, for the status
of Russian to be enhanced?” prominent theatre producer Levon Mutafyan
asked. “Everything starts from the policy of our government which accepts
its status as a Russian vassal.”

*Arpi Harutyunyan is a reporter for Armnews television in Armenia.*

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*Source URL:*

[1] http://iwpr.net/people/arpiharutyunyan
[2] http://iwpr.net/report-news/armenia-faces-delay-joining-moscow-led-union
[5] Armenians Enticed by Russian Passport Offer - Institute for War and
Peace Reporting - P212



 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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