Armenia

April 16 - Differences between Yerevan and the Other Parts of Armenia

During the last two weeks, I also spent some days in Yerevan. And like in many countries, the capital is totally different from the rest of the country. It doesn't matter if we talk about the life style of the people, their fashion, their values, or the prices and wages. Whereas in Yerevan young people can find many places to relax and meet in the evening (pubs, bars, places for smoking hookah, etc.), in a small village like Dilijan, there is almost no place to go after 9 p.m. Of course, where there is high demand, there is also high supply of such places. And usually, people in the smaller towns cannot (or don't want to) afford spending so much money at one evening for alcohol and relaxing. Furthermore, in the villages it is just not very common to meet in the evening with friends and drink some beer. People tend to buy alcohol in the shops and drink it at home. So I am curios, how long the newly opened 'Irish Pub' in Dilijan will survive. A few days ago, a current German volunteer and I met there for a beer, but we were the only people beside the owners. But maybe the students from UWC and tourists in summer will make the business more profitable.

Since many young people move to Yerevan after finishing school, you can see a lot of them in the city centre or nearby the universities. There are quite some universities in Yerevan like the Yerevan State University, the American University of Armenia, the Eurasia International University (where I was invited by a friend of mine for giving a short presentation), etc. And it's a well known phenomenon that universities attract young people who often stay at the university location after graduating. At least, just few people move back to their place of origin. This is a huge problem for smaller towns and villages that lose many of their smartest people and with them economic power. I asked some friends why there are almost no universities outside of Yerevan. They answered that the government has once tried to establish such universities, but people still didn't enroll there and also the staff didn't want to move to the smaller cities. Still, you can find some colleges for education in the health or technical sector even in a small town like Dilijan. But they are much too small for developing the local labour markets.

The last difference, I want to stress, is the mindsets of the people. The bigger the city, the more people you will find that are open towards non-traditional life styles. This includes specially gender stereotypes. Whereas in the rural areas, you can meet many men (I don't wanna say that this is the majority, I don't have statistics about that) who don't want there wifes to work but rather to stay at home and care about the children, in Yerevan, there are many self-reliant women who decide by themselves how to proceed in their life. One of the symbols of such an independence is smoking. In villages, it will be very unlikely that you will see any woman smoking because it is connotated with being very easily approachable for men and non-traditional relationships. I would not say that in Yerevan many women smoke, but it is quite rather accepted than in the rural areas.

April 3 - First Impressions after 1 Year Revolution

Coming one year after the "Velvet Revolution" to Armenia, I really want to know how people think and feel about the changes of the last 12 months. As I mostly follow the happenings in this country via English articles on EVN Report, Civilnet.am, JAM news, and OC Media, my view on the revolution and the post-revolutional period in Armenia is a view from the outside. Thus, it is very important for me to talk to people here in Armenia in order to understand their (very subjective) hopes, disappointments and fears.

On the way from Tbilisi to Dilijan, I got to know Artur from Yerevan. He, also being in his twenties, travels a lot and is interested in photgraphing and national art museums. Generally, he appreciated the revolution lead by Nikol Pashinyan, who now is Prime Minister of Armenia. On the other hand, although the people in government changed, there was almost no influence on his life. He is aware of the fact that all the economic reforms cannot happen within one year. But he hopes that a positive economic development can be felt after two or three years. Most important for him is that the mentality of every individual must change.

Talking to my host father in Dilijan, he told that there has been a huge change in how the government communicates with the people. The communication is happening not just face to face but also via the internet. For example, you can even write some ministers on Facebook messenger and he or she would reply on your message. Sometimes, ministers test incognito the state services by themselves in order to check their quality. Already famous got Nikol Pashinyan's live sessions on Facebook during which viewers can pose questions to him. Also corruption has decreased a lot since the revolution. The policemen on the streets are afraid to demand money illegally from car drivers because they could immediately lose their job. In the pre-revolutionary period, such practice was common. Also in other sectors like eduaction or media things have changed to the positive.

Thus, my first impression is that people in Armenia are not anymore full of hate when talking about politics and the political elite. The impact of the revolution on every individual's life might not be as big as some might have imagined, but the overall atmosphere in the country has changed away from hopelessness and resignation towards hope and self-confidence.

I am really excited what other people will tell me about "New Armenia" (how people sometimes call their country after the revolution) during my 20-days stay here!