An interview with singer Artur Ispiryan
As a civic activist, how would you describe the present state of Armenia?
I never liked the word activist. There are people who really love their country and take its concerns to heart when they see things that are wrong. These people are called patriots, not activists. They are people who love their country, their Yerevan.
So, how do these active citizens regard today’s Armenia? What threats do they see on the horizon?
Armenia has always faced threats. Tragically, Armenia id located in such a geo-strategic location that threats are unavoidable. But the greatest threats are the ungovernable internal ones. Today, in many places, social discontent is invisible, and this pains me. Is it so hard in our small country to create conditions for our people so that this discontent ceases? I believe these problems are quite easy to resolve. It’s a matter of governance. We have to think of ways to create conditions under which people won’t express a desire to leave Armenia. There are border villages in Armenia that are being emptied en masse. We must understand one thing. The unresolved problems of today will get bigger, turning into stereotypes that will be impossible to break.
Are we in that stage of the impossible today?
We haven’t reached it yet, but we are travelling down the road towards the impossible. The government must understand that Armenia is already in a dead-end and that it must begin to work for the good of the people. I get the impression that there is a government body that sits and thinks what steps it can take to make the socio-economic plight of the people worse.
Correct change can lead to a correct path of development for the country. Today, within the government circles, the situation is horrendous; whether in the Yerevan Municipality, the neighborhood councils or the investigative services. They are full of illiteracy and corruption. There is a need for huge change. The authorities don’t interact with these internal circles and, perhaps, this is the reason. Those at the top have no idea what is taking place below.
In other words, the top ranks of government have no clue about what is going on in the lower ranks?
It’s quite possible that they know but remain indifferent. The lower ranks are full of people who got jobs through nepotism and personal contacts. No one looks at their intellect, their qualifications or education. Just look at the staffs at the tax or customs agencies.
I am concerned about our country’s future. What will the Armenia of the future look like if we continue like this? I don’t want to lose the homeland. Rather, I want to see a strong homeland where my children can imitate true heroes. Sadly, such heroes do not exist today.
So, where are we headed?
Like it or not, we have to go towards a brighter future.
For several weeks now there has been a sit-down strike at the Yerevan Municipality calling for the dismissal of two officials. The mayor didn’t even want to talk to them. Given this, is a brighter future discernible?
Our future rests with the best of our youth, who have the power, patriotism and sincerity to change things. I full support their demand that such officials should not be serving in our municipality.
Perhaps, the authorities regard having such officials to be in their best interests?
I believe that such officials, by their deeds, have proven that they don’t belong in government. We need new thinkers and capable civil servants. When I saw video clips as to how these officials were talking to the young people, it was condemnable. It’s sad that there was no follow up on the matter. I also demand the dismissal of those officials.
I miss the Yerevan resident of old; traits that have changed so much. The culture of interpersonal contact has changed and how one behaves towards others. The city has changed. At one time the city belonged to the people. Now it has been split into sections and owners. It’s unacceptable to exert pressure on the people in these conditions. One the one hand we have rate hikes, on the other, the proliferation of traffic cameras. Back in the day, at least you knew that by paying a person you were helping keeping a family afloat. Now, we don’t know where all the money is going. Why should we make some individual rich when we don’t even know who they are? It’s something else if our money is going to improve the city – to pave roads, build playgrounds and parks.
The indifference of the government on every issue, whether the environment or construction, amazes me. Now, there’s a new trend to build high rise buildings in the courtyards of Yerevan. To make construction mistakes in this city has crucial consequences. Today, no one can demolish Northern Avenue and build anew on the grounds that it is ugly and corresponds to no known standards. They should have thought what they were building before they started. Now, it’s too late.
This is a city. It doesn’t belong to those in power to furnish as they like. A few days ago I saw an architect displaying plans for “Old Yerevan”. The guy’s way of thinking stunned me. Plans on paper can seem quite attractive. Perhaps Northern Avenue was pretty on paper as well, with a pretty sidewalk, flower pots, colorful touf stones and bushes. That architect presented a plan to build a huge structure with arches and wood balconies. There was no talk of green spaces. Only four trees are to be planted atop the roof of the building. It was ludicrous and the guy should never get the contract. We have to get rid of these rotten architects for they are true criminals. Look what they’ve done to Yerevan.
In conclusion, have you seen an atmosphere of fear pervade the activist community, especially after the recent beating?
There is a degree of tenseness, but to patriots or activists as you call them, are not concerned with such an atmosphere of fear. They will continue the struggle. It amazes me that the authorities do not collaborate with our bright and energetic young people. You would think that the authorities, seeing these patriots and their sincerity, would want to create opportunities for them to get involved and participate in improving things, whether regarding the environment, the economy or construction. That’s what I would do.
If citizen activists want to participate in municipal council sessions: let them. Why does the government fear them so?