It feels like we were just talking about Armenia’s performance at the Summer Olympics (because we were!), but Team Armenia has already completed their run at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. In addition to talking about Armenia’s 6 athletes, the internet was abuzz about another athlete who social media more or less adopted as a member of Team Armenia.
For those who weren’t previously aware, American skater Nathan Chen is coached by Rafael Arutyunyan, who began his career on the ice at a young age teaching in Yerevan. Ice watchers quickly made the link between Chen’s choice to skate to the music of Charles Aznavour and his Armenian coach:
[Makes one wonder how many other teams have Armenian coaches.] Chen’s Aznavour performance set a world record for highest score in a short program ever, and he went on to win the gold by a wide margin.
This Olympics Team Armenia featured its first ice dancing pair since 2006, made up of Canadian-Armenian Tina Garabedian and partner Simon Proulx-Sénécal. While Armenia’s summer Olympic teams are predominantly native wrestlers and weightlifters, winter teams have often included diasporans, going back to the very first independent Armenian Olympic team ever in 1994 at Lillehammer. It was there that friends from the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Olympics Ken Topalian & Joe Almasian competed in the bobsleigh. Echoing the at-the-time recent film “Cool Runnings” about an unlikely team of Jamaican bobsledders, the Armenian-American duo acquired a many-decades old second-hand sled from American Samoa of all places, and despite the extremely long odds managed to beat out seven other teams. Another Armenian-American Dan Janjigian represented Armenia in bobsleigh in 2002 with partner Yorgo Alexandrou, and the Serebrakian siblings of California have competed in alpine skiing. When mentioning Armenian Winter Olympians, one must also mention the Mikayelyan family of Ashotsk, Shirak, members of which have been competing at the Olympics for Armenia since 1998. Perhaps a fitting symbol of the contributions of both Armenians and diasporans towards one Olympic dream, at the opening ceremony the Armenian flag was led into the stadium held jointly by Ashotsk skier Mikayel Mikayelyan and diasporan Tina Garabedian.
In other news, by far the most startling and talked about recent occurrence was the announcement by Azerbaijan that it was gearing-up to eliminate any traces from “Albanian” churches and monuments in the areas it captured in the recent war. This is of course a reference to the pseudohistory promoted by the Aliyev regime that all Armenian monuments in the Karabakh region are in fact traces of an ancient Caucasian Albanian civilization and not Armenian at all, meaning that any Armenian inscriptions must be fakes added later on. The above tweet mentioning “Julfa II” is an apt reference to the wholesale destruction to the Jugha medieval Armenian cemetery, part of a wider erasure of any and every Armenian monument in Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave – what some consider the greatest single act of cultural destruction of the 21th century to date.
Much to Azerbaijan’s dismay, a number of outlets including EurasiaNet and OCMedia and RFE/RL jumped on the belligerent announcement, resulting in Azerbaijani officials jumping to make clarifications. With the amount of bad press the Jugha destruction earned Azerbaijan (though not enough to preclude Azerbaijan’s First Lady from becoming a UNESCO ambassador, money talks after all) and satellites now monitoring endangered Armenian monuments in Azerbaijan, Aliyev knows it is more difficult to get away with the wholesale destruction as before. Thus the Albanization process is a convenient way to both negate any traces of Armenian culture by attributing them to a different group all together, which it then conveniently claims to be forerunners of the Azerbaijan nation instead.
It’s noteworthy that this even got the attention of the United States federal government’s Commission on International Religious Freedom, which no longer includes as a commissioner Glendale-based pastor Johnnie Moore who was its lone dissenting voice on matters protecting Armenian cultural heritage. Coincidentally (or not), Pastor Moore, who has been to Baku at least twice to meet with Ilham Aliyev, has ties with Azerbaijan’s Consul-General in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev and can always be counted on to sing Azerbaijan’s praises.
Another story which got a lot of notice was this downright bizarre one published by Daily Sabah, a daily newspaper linked with Turkey’s President Erdogan. The anonymous article found within the paper’s “arts” section for some reason, weaves a paranoid tale of woe implicating whatever bad things might have happened to Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire to not just the Young Turks but a conspiracy of Freemasons, Jews, Dashnaks, the Mekhitarist monks, and so on. With nearly 300 quote-tweets (vs. 51 likes, what Twitter users refer to as a massive “ratio”), many scholars and regular folks decried the article as totally ahistorical victim-blaming and atrociously anti-Semitic.
Not long after, President Erdogan made waves as well with a tweet marking the death anniversary of “The Bloody Sultan” Abdul-Hamid II, notorious for his overseeing of his namesake Hamidian Massacres in 1894-1896. Turkey has been undergoing a period of Ottoman nostalgia as of late and it’s easy to see a connection between the previous article blaming outside forces for the empire’s woes and this honoring of AH2.
Those of you who have lived in Armenia will recognize this tweet as one of those “only in Armenia” serendipitous moments which seem to happen there with much frequency.
We must admit we had no idea, but what better way to represent Armenia?
Finally, if you find yourself in need of some motivation to ward away the winter blues, the Berlin Philharmonic is here to help!