Saturday, 22 September

Another Armenian Auction

"You will not find anyone in Yerevan who believes that auctions are held fairly," President Robert Kocharyan stated last January 20 during a visit to the Yerevan Mayor's Office.

One such auction was held last year, with a woman named Aida Khachatryan declared the new owner of land adjacent to the Sergei Parajanov Museum in the Dzoragyugh Ethnographic Center in Yerevan, according to Mayoral Decision 445-A of March 5, 2005. In December 2005, the construction of a multi-story apartment building began. Of course, residents of Yerevan knew nothing about the project-no one had asked them if it was a good idea to put up an apartment block next to the Parajanov Museum. Indeed, back in Soviet times, a decision was made to turn this segment of the city into an ethnographic district, with traditional two- or three- story houses.

Who is Aida Khachatryan, who paid only 22,861,000 drams (about $50,000) for 480 square meters of land? "If it had been a fair auction, naturally, no one could have acquired land like that in this part of the city so cheaply. They didn't even pay as much for the land as one apartment costs in the building under construction," a municipal employee told us, asking not to be identified.

It is common knowledge that it is not possible for just anyone to buy land in the city center for a price like that, as the names of the real owners of the "elite" buildings under construction in Yerevan center attest.

"This construction occupying 480 square meters of land will completely block the road to the museum," said Zaven Sargsyan, director of the Parajanov Museum. "The museum building will no longer have the space to accommodate the tourists' buses and cars. Ten thousand people from Armenia and abroad visit the museum annually. This museum is one of the sites in Yerevan that all foreign dignitaries without exception visit on trips to Armenia."

Moreover, the land in question was intended for a monument to Sergei Parajanov.

At a recent meeting of the Town-Planning Council of Yerevan Municipality (which consists of well-known architects and public figures and representatives of various agencies and NGOs) architect Levon Igityan tried to initiate a discussion of the situation surrounding the construction. However, representatives of the Mayor's Office were unwilling to address the issue and so it was never discussed. The Town Planning Council has been kept in the dark regarding all details of the project, including the design of the building.

And the reason for all the secrecy is that the real owner of the building under construction is Member of Parliament Volodya Badalyan - President Kocharyan's in-law.

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