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Armenia 2017



As the November dusk falls, lights flicker on in the small khanuts, or shops, that line the streets of every Armenian community. Small-scale entrepreneurs form the backbone of Armenia’s post-Soviet economy, as Armenians struggle with the crumbling infrastructure that accompanied independence in 1991. Outdated resources combine with a spirit of ingenuity that is uniquely Armenian to make repair and creative re-use the bywords of everyday life in Armenia. In good times and bad, cobblers like this somehow always manage to be busy.
– Tamara England-Zelenski ©2013 | PCV Armenian 2011–2013 | Education

Note: Armenian script to come
Southwestern Asia

Area 29.7K km²

Population 3M (101/km²)

Gov’t Republic

Capital Yerevan (1M)

GCP/capita $8,400

Unemployment 18%

In poverty 32%

Life expectancy 74 yrs

Infant Mortality 14/K live births


Literacy 100%

Languages Armenian, Kurdish, Russian, other

Religions Armenian Apostolic 93%, Evangelical 1%, other/none 6%

Labor Force Agriculture 39%, industry 17%, services 44%

PCVs 1992–present CURRENT: 78, English Education, Community & Youth Development; TTD: 945

Adult Books

Passage to Ararat
Michael J. Arlen, 1975

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2nd edition (2006)
Series: FSG Classics
Format: Paperback, 312 pages
ISBN-10: 0374530122
ISBN-13: 978-0374530129

Summary: In Passage to Ararat, which received the National Book Award in 1976, Michael J. Arlen goes beyond the portrait of his father, the famous Anglo-Armenian novelist of the 1920s, that he created in Exiles to try to discover what his father had tried to forget: Armenia and what it meant to be an Armenian, a descendant of a proud people whom conquerors had for centuries tried to exterminate. But perhaps most affectingly, Arlen tells a story as large as a whole people yet as personal as the uneasy bond between a father and a son, offering a masterful account of the affirmation and pain of kinship.

Goodreads: Interesting journey that the author takes to his homeland of Armenia. The interpersonal conflict between the author and other key figures in the story was helpful, as was the internal dialogue regarding Armenian self-identity and making meaning of the first holocaust perpetrated by the Turks over a period of roughly 20 years. A good reminder to treat minorities well wherever you may live.

“More than an excursion into a place...the whole work glows like a jewel with the warmth of humanity and the appreciation, hard won, of both strength and weakness.” ―Eugenia Thornton, Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Beautifully written and stunning in its insight and honesty... One comes to see that the object of Arlen's search is not only, or even primarily, Armenia or Armenians, but himself and his father.” ―David Milofsky, Milwaukee Journal

“[A] moving, passionate book....written with a mixture of passion, puzzlement, sorrow, and outrage.” ―Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

“Beautifully moving.... The reader becomes captivated with exotic tales from the past and joins Arlen's journey with zest in this quite marvelous record.” ―William Hogan, San Francisco Chronicle

National Book Award, 1976


An Armenian Sketchbook
Vasily Grossman, tr. R. & E. Chandler 2013

Publisher: NYRB Classics (February 19, 2013)
Series: New York Review Books Classics
Format: Paperback, 160 pages
ISBN-10: 1590176189
ISBN-13: 978-1590176184

Summary: Few writers had to confront as many of the last century’s mass tragedies as Vasily Grossman, who wrote with terrifying clarity about the Shoah, the Battle of Stalingrad, and the Terror Famine in the Ukraine. An Armenian Sketchbook, however, shows us a very different Grossman, notable for his tenderness, warmth, and sense of fun.

After the Soviet government confiscated—or, as Grossman always put it, “arrested”—Life and Fate, he took on the task of revising a literal Russian translation of a long Armenian novel. The novel was of little interest to him, but he needed money and was evidently glad of an excuse to travel to Armenia. An Armenian Sketchbook is his account of the two months he spent there.

By far the most personal and intimate of Grossman’s works, it is endowed with an air of absolute spontaneity, as though he is simply chatting to the reader about his impressions of Armenia—its mountains, its ancient churches, its people—while also examining his own thoughts and moods. A wonderfully human account of travel to a faraway place, An Armenian Sketchbook also has the vivid appeal of a self-portrait.

“Vasily Grossman is the Tolstoy of the USSR.” —Martin Amis

“Charming. Grossman digresses as nimbly about the master craftsmen of Russian stoves found in the homes of the high-mountain villagers as he does about the touching customs of a rustic wedding he attended. Living among the Armenians, he witnessed a kind of timeless biblical nobility he conveys with artless simplicity in his own work.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Like history, human nature is open-ended; people are capable of doing evil as much as good…[Vasily Grossman] the writer sought to probe the historical fabric and future potential of his society. Perhaps it's because of this stance that his work is finding its way back into print…” —The Nation
“Vasily Grossman’s writing sneaks up on you, its simplicity building to powerful impressions as he records the small things that occur in people's lives as they experience - or endure - larger events.” —The Jewish Chronicle

Kids' Books

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian tale
Lucine Kasbarian, illust. Maria Zaikina, 2011, AGES 4–8

Publisher: Two Lions
Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
ISBN-10: 0761458212
ISBN-13: 978-0761458210

Summary: Retelling of a story about a trickster who is out-tricked: Once there was a sparrow who caught a thorn in his foot. When a kind baker removes the thorn, the sparrow tricks her into giving him some bread. Each time the sparrow meets new people, he tricks them out of bigger and better things. Will the sparrow’s greed get the best of him? Through this endearing Armenian folktale illustrated with mixed media, readers will learn that people who engage in dishonest or selfish behavior may end up losing whatever they gained because of that behavior.

School Library Journal: A homely sparrow turns a thorn in his foot to fine advantage in this simple spin on the familiar folktale of the rising fortunes and eventual downfall of one who overreaches. Revisiting the obliging baker who removed the thorn, sparrow asks for its return. Alas...she has thrown it in the oven. The tale moves forward in alternate bits of narrative atop or below each full-page scene and dialogue set in speech balloons. Either give me my thorn or give me some bread. The sparrow journeys far, conning the folks he encounters and parlaying the loaf of bread into a sheep, which in turn yields a bride from a countryside wedding. The sparrow s trade-ups involve leaving each of his gains for safekeeping with someone along the way who then ends up having to pay a forfeit. Either you give me the bride or give me the lute. Zaikina s expressive portrayals of both animal and human characters, rendered in bold outline and rich color, beautifully convey the tale s goofy fun. Her use of wax and oil paint in a kind of scratchboard technique smartly blends folk and cartoon styles. Though some may find the cartoon arrangement of conversation intrusive for reading aloud, others will find that it moves smoothly, adding nicely to the character portrayals. In the end, of course, sparrow s cockiness results in a fall (literally) from glory with nothing but a thorn in his foot.

"This story about a trickster who is out-tricked is a good choice for reading aloud...The humor and action in the bright illustrations will appeal to young children, as will the triumph of kindness over cheating." –Booklist Online

"This classic Armenian fable (Crime never pays! is the lesson at the end) is retold to the accompaniment of richly chromatic, folkloric scenes by a Moscow native that bring to mind Ukrainian Easter eggs." —ForeWord Reviews

"Armenian folk attire and references to places in Armenia authenticate the tale. It's a rhythmic read-aloud beginning readers can share." —Kirkus Reviews

2013 Nautilus Awards Silver Winner in the Children's Picture Books Category
2012 Honor Book by the Storytelling World Awards Committee


Film: If Only Everyone
Director: Nataliya Belyauskene , 2012
Languages: Armenian
Drama/War ‧ 1h 38m
Summary: The story of friendship between an Armenian veteran of the Nagorno-Karabakh war and the daughter of one of his fallen comrades.

Sasha, a girl from Russia, travels Armenia to find a Nagorno-Karabakh war veteran named Gurgen. After finding him, she tells him that she would like to visit and plant a tree at the grave of her father, who died in the war serving with Gurgen. He, however, is not very interested and directs her to a village to find some of the others who served with her father during the war. Responsibility eventually gets a hold of Gurgen as he steals a car from his mechanic shop and makes the trip with the young girl. After assembling some of the members of Sasha's father's unit, Gurgen has a hard time with the process. He feels guilty for Sasha's father's death since it was his capture that led to the rescue operation that took his life. Furthermore, he doesn't know how to tell Sasha that her father's grave is actually on the other side of the front line. When they eventually reach the military post at the front, the commander in charge refuses to approve their plans.
During the night, Gurgen and Sasha make the trip across and are able to plant the tree. As the sun rises, an Azerbaijani villager sees the two and captures them with his rifle. After questioning them, he finds out the reason they are visiting the grave and breaks into tears, having lost his 10-year-old son during the war. He lets them go with the promise that they'll plant one at the grave of his son on the Armenian side. After planting the tree at the young boy's grave, they begin their trek back to town. While stopping for a restroom break, the bodyguards of the oligarch whose car Gurgen had stolen catch up with them. They beat the veterans and take the car, leaving them stranded. Sasha, who did not see the scene that took place, finds the men and tries to ask in broken Armenian, "Are you alright?" Finding humor in her terrible Armenian, they all break down in hysterical laughter.

NOTE Controversy arose around the film when Azerbaijani writer Elchin Huseynbeyli claimed that the plot of the film contains many of the same elements as his story Sun Blinding (Azerbaijani: Gözlərimə gün düşür), written in early 2010. However, Michael Poghosyan (writer of "If Only Everyone") claims that he wrote the script in early 2010 after meeting with people who lived through the war and the production followed in the spring of 2010. Additionally, Michael Poghosyan stated, "We could similarly accuse the Azerbaijanis of stealing the story of our film Longing, where the main hero crossed a border to die in his homeland."

Armenian entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards, but did not make the shortlist.

Film: Lost & Found in Armenia
Director: Gor Kirakosian, 2013
Languages: English and Armenian
Comedy | 1h 40m
Summary: On a vacation in Turkey after a bad breakup, a parasailing accident leaves Bill stranded in a small Armenian village, where he is accused of being a spy. There he meets a young woman (Angela Sarafyan) who helps him escape from misfortune.

6.4/10 IMDb
67% Rotten Tomatoes


Armen Hovhannisyan – Karmir Nur (Armenian traditional/folk)

Sirusho – PreGomesh (Armenian popular music)

Rouben Hakhverdian – Hin Enker

Traditional Armenian music and songs with national instruments

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