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A reason to be proud of and a reason to be ashamed....

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Posted 16 October 2000 - 06:50 AM

I just returned from a business trip to Romania. Why am I sharing this with you?
Well , while I was reading the inflight magazine of TAROM ( the Romanina Air Carrier)
I read about " Melik's House - Casa Melik ", which belonged to a dominant Armenian Family in Bucharest. Built in 1760 and renovated by Hagi Kevork Nazaretoglu in 1822 , is one of the oldest houses in Bucharest. In 1921 the House became an Armenian old age people's
house, belonging to the rich Armenian Community. In 1969 it was 'donated' by the Armenian Community to the Bucharest Municipality and in 1971 it became the "Theodor Pallady's Museum".
I was so proud about the whole article , which hosts some nice pictures also.
Actually most Romanians know about Armenians and have big respect about them. I visited also our beautiful Armenian Cathedral in Bucharest , which is really a jewel in the city.

Now , my reason to be ashamed of......
My father and another Armenian family friend just came to visit me from Denamrk. ( my parents and two brothers live in there ). They were telling me about an Armenian gang of 35-37 , who started fighting and killing each other , about the booties (the stolen items), they could not share. They used heavy weapons and did alot of harm. The local newspapers were really furious about the Armenians , whom they had given shelter, money, schooling, social welfare etc. etc. etc.
The people who know that we are Armenians, were really wondering , because most of the Armenians were hard working , honest and good people, until our brothers from Hayastan came to change our good reputation.
I don't want to say anything bad about my Hayastantsi brothers , but for God's sake , Denmark is a heaven for all the misfortunate people in the world. What else do they need.
Definitely poverty is not the reason, what then?
Why should my family feel ashamed ? Why should Armenians be considered worse than Turks (who are plenty in Denmark )? Why ? Why? Why ?

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Posted 16 October 2000 - 07:19 AM


I wouldn't be ashamed of them, though I am certainly angree. You have said yourself that this was a gang of 35-37 people. True, on the surface, these people can make a bad name for the thausands of hard working and honest ones.

Is the assertion here that these people are the face of Hayastantsis?

Those who have been active in the events of 1988-1991 and on in Armenia, had known and had predicted that we are going to have such problems for more than a decade to come.

I have to run, now. In few hours I will introduce a point of view, which may partially explain why do we have these types of guys coming from Armenia.

I have a feeling that our Diasporan Armenians are more sensitive to these 35-37 people, and their types, than the Dutch, or Americans, Germans, etc.

[This message has been edited by MJ (edited October 16, 2000).]

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Posted 16 October 2000 - 12:25 PM

This is going to be a long posting, though would be hard to give a systematic story in the short amount of time I have.

Let me start asserting that Yerevan was one of the safest cities in the former Soviet Union. You could walk all night in the city, without being concerned about being robbed, mugged, etc. I would’ve not dared to do so in Moscow, for example, or in New York and Los Angeles.

In early 1988 the Karabagh movement broke up. We all know the story. It was a movement of national uprising, mass demonstrations, civil pickets, and parliamentary struggle. The civility of the movement was unprecedented on the world scale. Imagine having hundreds of thousands of demonstrator on the streets, and not having a single glass broken, a single store robbed or vandalized, etc. And all this was taking place when the rumors were that our fellow Armenians were being slaughtered by the Azeries and the Russian troops. In 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, and so on, the population of Armenia gave examples of civility to the world.

(Now, compare this with the English football fans. Shame on the Londoners They have discredited the English so badly. Well, clearly, I am just kidding here.)

Something else started to take place in late 1989 and early 1990. The parliamentary conflict between Armenians and Azerbajanies entered a new stage – the military stage. Armenia didn’t have army (neither did Azerbaijan). Earlier, even the hunting rifles of Armenians were temporarily confiscated by the police, so that to “prevent” the escalation of the armed skirmishes. It was done supposedly on both sides of the fence, and out of good, perhaps, intentions.

In late 1989, those who were closely involved with the national liberation movement, started to get increasing signals that Azeries had gotten access to heavy guns, and were accumulating forces on the border of Armenia, Nakhichevan and Turkey. There was some kind of hysteria in the air. Those who knew the history of Armenian-Azeri skirmishes of the early 20th century could exactly read the logic of the coming events. Roughly, something like this was expected: a canon belonging to the Soviet regular Army will be placed on a border hill between Armenia and Nakhichevan, and it will shoot one shell towards an Armenian village, and another shell on an Azeri village. Next morning things will start. It was obvious, that it was going to be provocation, and one could say if you understand it was aprovocation, you should not swallow it. But it is easier said than done. Not responding to the subsequent Azeri shootings would’ve encouraged them to move forward with the killings of some neighboring Armenian villagers, and would’ve reinforced the psychology of the victim – we are powerless against the Turks (meaning Azeries), and we would be helpless without the Russians, who are our sole defenders, so let’s shut up and hope that Russians are always here to protect us from the barbarians. This provocation was an operation masterminded in the headquarters of Soviet Internal Forces.

But Armenian liberation and other organizations indeed were not armed, and there was not much time. It was obvious that within a couple of days or weeks the armed skirmishes were going to start. There was only one alternative – confiscate whatever arms were available. Where can you get arms? Attacking the police stations, first – to get the first level of arms, and then use them to attack the Soviet military warehouses on the territory of Armenia, for the next round of arms. When the police stations were attacked (early to mid January of 1990 - correction -MJ), it didn’t generate much of an uproar by the Soviets. After all, there weren’t any serious arms in these stations. When the military warehouses came under attack, this was a different story.

Now, who were the people acquiring arms? Two types of people – the most patriotic citizens, among them many artists, scientists, producers, writers, etc, and some criminals, who were acquiring arms under the pretext of participating in the defense of the country, and later rushing under the arms of the political organizations, as to look like they were doing so for noble causes. You can ask why was it needed? Because, the Soviet Military and other counterintelligence services knew perfectly well who was behind which attacks, how much arms had they gotten and so on. They could eliminate all these guys within few days. There were only two things stopping them: they needed escalation of the conflict, and they knew that if they do so, the population of Armenia would’ve risen like one person to defend these guys, who were heroes in the eyes of the people. And most of them were heros.

These events took place for quite some period of time. It was gradually gaining momentum. Much like the cold war. You know that escalation leads to a dangerous situation, but you cannot stop, because the enemy is doing the same thing. For quite some time, there was no centralized organization involved in acquisitions of arms. The wisdom of the leaders of the movement has been telling them that it would be very easy for the Soviets to eliminate any centralized effort, while it would be almost impossible to eliminate the small, self-organized groups, operating on their personal initiative, and gaining further support as they go. If you would look at it, even today the Armenian regular Army is structured exactly this way. Small self-coordinating groups, under one command-and-control, instead of battalions and armies, throwing into the battlefield human waves. For Armenia’s circumstances, this was considered to be the right structure (and I think rightly so).

Now, in mid to late 1989 it was obvious to some people that the war is going to take large-scale character. If you would’ve spoken about this loudly, you would’ve been considered provocateur. But those in the headquarters of national liberation movements knew exactly where was this headed. Not that they wanted it, but they knew that it was not possible to stop the process. So what have they been doing? Pursuing further the parliamentary struggle and the escalation of civil disobedience, meanwhile organizing training camps for the young people, to enhance their physical fitness, and so on. Taking groups of guys to mountains for months, and providing them military training. Did they know that this was going to have negative consequences for years to come? You bet so. Did they have choices? Not at all. Did they know that some criminal groups were also arming themselves and engaging in robberies in the name of supplying the “fedayee” detachments as they were called at that time? You bet so. What were the political minds doing? Well, when it was possible to do it without shedding blood, they were surrounding these gangs, and disarming them. I know many such instances. Have they been able to disarm all of the criminals? Not at all. It would’ve required dozens of lives, would’ve had demoralizing effect on the population, which was not yet ready to digest the fact that some of his own sons were doing this to the nation, and it was not the right time. Did they discuss the fact that the lack of the centralized military structures is going to generate disobedient “fedayees”? Of coarse. They were very smart guys, and were very noble men. But there was no alternative choice. They knew that even after the war, hopefully after the successful war, Armenia for long time was going to experience a “post-Vietnam” syndrome, and there was no way around it.

The good guys hated the very concept of “fedayee.” They were disgusted by the term itself, and by the idea of “fedayee.” They were not calling themselves “fedayee,” but soldiers of the Army of Independence, or similar terms. In any case, they were solders, not “fedayees.” I still cannot help, but to feel the same disgust towards the so-called “fedayee,” both during the first republic, and during the establishment of the third. But needless to say, I bow my head to our soldiers. The “fedayees” and the “khmbabetner” where the problem of the first republic, and they were being eliminated, unless they would give up and submit to the regular army, when the statehood was established. Nothing different now, either, believe me. Only somehow, they have more power in our days, than desirable.

I have come across with guys who were living on the bordering mountains for months, visiting their families for a day or two a month, and participating in the fights the rest of the time. I have even met guys who have said “I enjoy killing.” You know, the war is not a beautiful site. When you read about it in the context of history, it sounds much different from what it is in the reality. And it is so easy to be judgmental, and condemn these guys, who came home after the war, and could not fit in the peaceful society. Who felt that the nation ows them for the sacrifices that they have taken. They decided that it is the time for compensation. But believe me, the absolute majority did go back to their regular lives either in the regular army, or in the civil sector. But some could not do it.

You might remember that after the establishment of the Independence, for few months, when the old state structures where paralyzed, and the new ones were not in place yet, there was an unprecedented period of hooliganism and robberies, and so on in Yerevan (I think in 1992). The Armenian State structures, including the infamous Vano Siradeghian, started a very though fight against them. In a short while Yerevan regained its reputation as a safe city. And it is one of the safest cities in the world now - much safer than Los Angeles, New York, etc. This is the city where the Hayastantsi population lives and suffers.

I don’t know to continue, or to stop. I know that there are Hayastantsi gangs in Europe and the US. Does it make me feel ashamed of being Hayastantsi? Not a bit. In fact, I am very proud to be Hayastantsi. Why would I be ashamed for, let’s say, the behavior of 1% of the Hayastantsis (maybe even less), if I can choose to be proud of the type of people the other 90% are (I will put the remaining 9% in the category called “Other.” ) I can criticise them, I may try to help them to be better than who they are, and may try to wish them to be better than who they currently are. But I know that I have no moral rights to look at them down, and moreover, enjoying the benefits of the societies built through the effort of other nations, I have no rights to put myself above those ordinary suffereing people, who are going to be again the ones to sacrifice their lives and their well-being, if God forebid, another war breaks up. And I don’t even have the nerve to claim to be ashamed if some of them do things that I feel uncomfortable with. Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of these people, and then see if we would’ve necessarily behaved otherwise. It is so easy to live in a society, which in the same manner, but only earlier has gone through the same process, and may be even through much easier path, and take things for granted and think that we are so much more moral and so much better. The judgements on the morality in a secure and prosperous society are just idle conversations. Let’s not compare apples with oranges. When I will see us experience the same enormous pain that Hayastantsis do, and see all of us maintain our morals and dignity, then I will give more credibility to such claims.

And I would clain that if it is understood properly, these 90% Hayastantsis, who pay the heavy price for the existance of Armenia, are the ones to indeed be proud of.

P.S. There is so much more that has taken place. For most of the people, these things have been just news. For Hayastantsi people, these things have been personal tragedy, loss of the loved ones, loss of property and social basis, loss of dreams for their children, who were supposed to become scientists, doctors, intellectuals, engineers, etc. For Diaspora it is another chapter of the Armenian history. For the Hayastantsis it is personal life. I am sorry to notice that some in this forum cannot relate to the scale of the tragedy that has taken place. If you would only know how many lives have been ruined, and what kind of price have people in Hayastan paid, you would've seen all these events through a different prism.

[This message has been edited by MJ (edited October 16, 2000).]

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Posted 16 October 2000 - 02:07 PM

MJ Even if you WERENT joking about the Londoners, it's the truth. Shame on them . All this football hooliganism had got WAY out of hand, and it's often the "lads" British culture of being a "lad" especially when abroad.

No, sometimes I am not very proud of being from London at all.

Even if i lied and said I was from Fresno or Glendale you guys'd figure me out because I dont know all the sayings and events. etc!

Anyway when you realise that people kill each other, not because there is war , but over football??!? It makes you wonder what everything is coming to.

Oh yeah, and in the whole of the post you sent, I still dont understand -between 1989-90 what are they using military violence against each other FOR??? IS there a reason?

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Posted 16 October 2000 - 02:21 PM

Richard's theory on soccer hooliganism:

The game is so boring that you need to get drunk to enjoy watching it. Then when the other team wins, and you're all drunk, you look to a fan of the other team and say 'I sat through this bull$h!t only to watch you guys win!!! Well, I oughtta......' And that's where the rioting starts

Back to the original topic now......

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Posted 16 October 2000 - 02:26 PM

Originally posted by Kazza:

Oh yeah, and in the whole of the post you sent, I still dont understand -between 1989-90 what are they using military violence against each other FOR??? IS there a reason?

Kazza, Please help me to understand better your question. Who do you mean? The Armenian gang members?

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Posted 16 October 2000 - 02:47 PM


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Posted 16 October 2000 - 03:32 PM

Per Raffi's note they "started fighting and killing each other, about the booties (the stolen items), they could not share." I am glad they did, though. Maybe they can finish each other this way...

I don't know anything else about this incident, other than what Raffi tells us.

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Posted 17 October 2000 - 11:12 AM

MJ, your posts are amazing.

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Posted 17 October 2000 - 11:52 AM

Well MJ , your analysis is amazing and very enlighting , however I don't believe that any Danish or foreigner would care to read and analyse the causes and effects of a crime. For them it is very simple, they gave some people their help and what did they get in return?
The bottom line of your analysis , I presume , is that every nation has its criminals, why not also the Armenians. You make it sound so 'natural' that I find it difficult to argue.
I know that we have idealised our Nation and we expect our people to be different than the others, but this is the way we were brought up , this was what was expected of us. We had to be different , we had to be as pure as possible. Well I know it's hard but it is also the Ideal situation. After all if we cannot be different than the other nations ( in the good sense ) , then why all the effort and pressure to preserve something that is only ordinary and common?
Yes I am being emotional , but why not?

I know, i want to think so , that my brothers and sisters in Hayastan went through hell and that their dreams , and ours , were shattered. I cannot see it from the same angle of the prism ,but I can surely relate to that.
All diasporan Armanians went through the same process of adaptation and restructuring of their lifes ,probably in more intense and ackward situations than our brothers are facing. Then again , many Diasporan Armenians, like my family , had to be refugees once more. Let us nor forget Barskastan and Lipanan.
I don't want to go into the details as how my family (parents, brothers ) live in 3 different countries. Nor it is nice of me to narate the real hardships of my parents in proving us with food and education.
I can definitelly relate to my Hayastantsi brothers , but I can not share the complete dismanteling of any moral values.

Having said the above ,let me give you some more details about our 'brothers' in Denmark.
It so happens that my family has very good relations with the local police forces ( my brother plays soccer in their team ), so what they tell us is that the Danish jails are full of Hayastantsis, either for petty shop liftings , or more often , for drug related crimes. The methods they use are pretty new for the forces , because they devise various techniques in all aspects of criminality.
They keep asking us , if we really belong to the same ethnic group as thos , not so few , Armenians. Well , what do we say. It is OK, because you have your own criminals, why not us also ?
The beggining of racism against all foreigners has already started , and we only make it more intense. Frankly speaking , I cannot see any reason as to why a Danish Tax payer should support and assist these people? The differentiation between the good ones and the bad ones is not that easy , so finally a law or policy affecting all foreigners ( good or bad )will be adopted.

I have many stories and details I can write down , but I believe they would be in vein.
My heart is becoming emptier , and I do not see a brightening light from anywhere. ( Pessimism eh? yes , but this is only the beginning.... )

[This message has been edited by raffiaharonian (edited October 17, 2000).]

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Posted 17 October 2000 - 11:59 AM

Now , what about the 'reason of my pride'.
I believe many of us have similar stories to share with the rest of us.
Let's add some color in here...

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Posted 17 October 2000 - 05:03 AM


As far as the crime in Diaspora vs. Armenia is concerned, sure we are not aware of crime in Diaspora, even though the survivors of Genocide have had tough life themselves. But there is one fundamental reason, in my view, as why the survivors of Genocide or their sons have not engaged in crime – they were living in somebody else’ country, they were already scared to death as a result of the Genocide, they have always thought that they may become subjected to new “Genocides,” if they “misbehave.” Growing up in somebody else’ country is very different that growing up in your own. But I agree with you that remaining Armenian in somebody else’ country is also much more difficult, and I have no other words than to commend you, for whatever my commending is worth to you.

It is not my place to defend the criminals or to give the Danish reasons to understand where do Armenian criminals come from. I think the criminals have to be dealt the same way regardless of their nationality. If these criminals have found a safe heaven in Denmark, that indicates to me that their laws and regulations provide an opening for their accumulation. If that was OK for them before the breakup of the Soviet Union, things have changed a lot in Europe since the breakup. So indeed they may need to tighten their laws.

There are all types of Hayastantsis in Europe. About a month ago I received a call from a next door Yerevan neighbor from Switzerland. It turned out that she has left Armenia for Germany with her family for almost 7 years. They have been working there and surviving with their two daughters for several years, until her husband was caught in a stupid violation of the passport regime due to the lack of knowledge, and was deported back to Armenia with no right to enter Germany for 10 years. Fortunately, one of their daughters has gotten married to an Armenian with a German citizenship and has avoided the subsequent problems. The mother and the other daughter have not been able to extend their status, and have been forced to leave Germany, too. Now they are in Switzerland and are trying to get some kind of status there. The daughter is musician, and is teaching kids in an Italian neighborhood – and it barely pays for their food and lodging. I was talking to them and thinking for myself as how many thousands of Hayastantsi families are in the same condition all over the world. These neighbors of mine were middle class, proud people in Yerevan. Imagine now, the father of the family back in Yerevan, one daughter married in Germany, the mother and the other daughter in Switzerland, inquiring if the situation may be better for them in the US. They are not criminals, they are normal people, they are not abusers of the system and are begging for an opportunity to work and to take care of themselves. So far no good. They could’ve equally been in Denmark. I wonder what would’ve you said about them. I bet you would’ve felt ashamed, because even this couple – the mother and the daughter -which by far are not criminals would have looked like a black sheep in the heard, and might’ve made you to feel uncomfortable to belong to the same ethnic group. I bet if you would look at their faces, you would see some strange expression, as if these people are sick, or there is something wrong with them. I am also sure that there will be a lot of Danish who will say that these people are either criminals or potential criminals.

You insist on Armenians being special or different, and this is how you are brought up. I admire your idealism, but it makes me to feel that Armenia for you is indeed an abstract concept from your dreams. Not that I am saying it is bad, but it ain’t real. I have no doubts that you have been brought up to be as pure as you could only be, but I doubt that this has been a way of life everywhere in Diaspora. People in Diaspora are also very different.

You are questioning the expediency of our existence if we are not to be different. You might remember that I have also raised this question in a different thread that you have initiated in a not so distant past. Only I don’t feel that the expediency of our existence should be tied to the fact of us being different. So what that we are different? What is the role that we are planing to play in this world? I think this may be the real reason – we have some kind of plan. And it does not have to be an overwhelming one, or it should not be directed at being the carriers of a newer Testimony. We just may be fine with contributing in a modest way at least to the well being of the world and this civilization. At least by being self-sufficient. I personally don’t need some romantic or biblical justification for the existence of our nation.

You say that you can relate to the hell the Hayastantsis have gone thorough. Forgive me, but let me just say I don’t think so. You say all Diasporan Armenians went through the same restructuring and in more intense and awkward situations. I cannot agree with this statement, and I think it is an exaggeration. This statement of your points only to the fact that you don’t relate to the scale of shocks that the Hayastantsis have been subjected to. You are also talking about complete dismanteling of moral values of Hayastantsi brothers. And you are saying it in such a manner, that I don’t even feel that you are considering them to be your brothers. I use this term when talking about our Georgian brothers, or even Azeri brothers, when I want to communicate a message that we need to live in peace. But in what ways do you claim Hayastantsis have dismanteled the moral values? As far as I can judge, my family lives a very moral life, my brother’s family lives a very moral life, and so do all of those who I personally know. You are talking about the multiple immigrations and adjustments of your family, as if you are so unique. I am also a third generation immigrant. My grandfather and father have been immigrants in Syria, they have been viewed as immigrants in Armenia, and I am an immigrant in the US, though I don’t consider myself to be immigrant. I work, I pay my taxes, I raise my family honorably, I am proud of my children, who have been exemplary children in any place I have lived throughout the US, and the people around us have always had enormous respect for my family and the country it comes from. And I am a typical Hayastantsi. And there are so many of us all over the world. Why are you denying us the very basic human right of being considered moral and dignified people? Are you sure you are so much better?

“The beginning of racism against all foreigners has already started, and we make it more intense.” Well, you know, I am not going to do “kharakiri.” I am going to say shame on the Danish.

Why should a Danish Taxpayers support these people? I think they ought not. Rather they have to give these people the opportunity to work and respect themselves. Because if these people do not respect themselves, they will not respect the others. What do I care if a strict law on immigration will be adopted by the Danish. Don’t mean to say that I don’t care that your family will be affected by it. But every country has to defend its land. And you know, it is tough everywhere and for all of us. Every day of our lives is a struggle. Nothing is given for granted.

And I am not the one to deny you to be proud. Your pride is between you and your soul. I would rather know as a compatriot of yours that you are a proud man, than the opposite.

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Posted 17 October 2000 - 07:38 AM

Well thank you MJ for trying to making me feel ashamed of what I have narated to you.
Anyways you have not managed to do that.
It is obvious to me that you have just managed to become emotional and sensitive on the issue of Diaspora vs Hayastantsi. I see a deviation from your usual scientific and professor-like postings, so I conclude that you have become biased yourself.

I have learned to listen and respect other ideas and make my points stronger ,based on them, especially yours , because they are well founded and strucrturaly correct.

Yes I am emotional on the subject of Armenians, but then it seems we disagree on fundamental issues. It is obvious, at least to me that you think in terms of 'Globilization ' and that's OK for you, but it is not enough for me.
Do you see or read any insult in my previous postings about the decent Hayastantsis? You concluded that I am against all of the Hayastantsis. Well the other readers can draw up their own conclusions.

It is now obvious to me that if you , MJ ; a highly educated and cultured person , cannot understand or even try to understand the emotions and the psychological driving factors of the Diasporan Armenians
( excluding the new arrivals ), then it is impossible for any simple ( barz ) Hayastantsi to feel and understand the reasons that kept us going for so long. There is no effort to understand us, and this is a sad observation, because in essence we have no reasons whatsoever , not to cooperate and work for the better future of Armenia. Hopefully the 2nd or 3rd generations of Diasporan Hayastantsis , will be in our shoes , if of course there will be any Armenians left…….

You can claim the same for us , but I think you’ll be doing a wrong and unbalanced comparison. The reason of our Spiourkahayoutioun was a political one , while the reason of the new immigrants is economical one. You can mumble-jumble , or try to narrate ‘causal-effect’ theories , but then the outcome is the same.

What most Diasporan Armenians think but don’t dare admitting it or saying is that they hate the idea of Armenians abandoning Armenia. Maybe there lies the reason of our unwillingness to help and assist our much troubled brothers and sisters. We fear that by their departure Armenia becomes vulnerable and weak.
‘ You go and live there and try to bring up your children decently ‘ would be their righteous answer, but then we are entangling into a vicious circle of endless arguments. Who will be the judge ? I presume , History….

I am all ears, but please don't try to insult me , I can be nasty or patronizing too, but it is against my nature.

Mind you that my best teacher of Armenian was a Hayastantsi, for whom I have the greatest respect and love. Bedros Bedirian was an inspiration for most of us at school.
I hope he's well in Armenia.

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Posted 17 October 2000 - 09:39 AM

Dear Raffi,

I have not tried to make you feel ashamed, but rather have emphasized your own words of being ashamed of Hayastantis. “I don't want to say anything bad about my Hayastantsi brothers , but for God's sake , Denmark is a heaven for all the misfortunate people in the world. What else do they need? Definitely poverty is not the reason, what then? Why should my family feel ashamed ? Why should Armenians be considered worse than Turks (who are plenty in Denmark )? Why ? Why? Why ?”

I just wanted to reiterate that if you are attributing these sad events to the morals of Hayastan and Hayastantsi, you are the one who is insulting us. I am not insulting you, I am just inviting you to be more careful with your statements. I know that deep in your heart you don’t mean to insult us, nor I think anybody else gets this impression in the forum. I know that you are in this forum because you love your nation, and you want to share.

Dear Raffi, I really understand the psychological and other dividers between the Hayastantsi and Diaspora. And if anything, I just aspire elimination of these barriers, because I don’t believe in Eastern and Western Armenias (being a descendent of Western Armenians). I believe in one, united Armenia, which is not a dream but a reality. I believe that this is the Armenia we have and will have, and all other Armenias exist only in the history and in our dreams. That’s why I recommend the new learners to study Eastern Armenian, rather than Western though I admire the (Bolsahay) Western Armenian, and have myself cherished its dream.

I completely share your concern that there may be no Armenians left outside Armenia in 2 or 3 generations. That’s why, by the way, among other things I support reasonable Globalization. But this is a different topic.

You give a reasoning as why do the most Diasporan Armenians feel against helping their Hayastantsi brothers to get established. I think it is partially correct. But who has given them the right to make this decision as who has to live in Armenia, and who may from the height of Olympia deny them the basic right for having dignified lifestyle. You see it to be vicious circle to argue that some Diasporan Armenians may need to go back to Armenia and live there. Well, my grandparents have done it. My paternal grandfather was being persuaded by his cousin who had moved to the US before the Genocide to move to the US. The cousin had sent him US entry Visa and travelling expenses three times, but the grandpa felt compelled to move to Armenia, nevertheless. I am not saying that his is what you have to do. As you do, I also think the time will take its action, and will settle all these controversial issues. But I don’t feel that not helping the newly arriving Hayastantsis as not to encourage exodus from Armenia is a justified behavior. So what, that kind of behavior makes the immigrated Hayastantsis return to Armenia, or does it stop the subsequent exodus? And I am not expecting material help. I am just expecting moral help, foremost, because this is what they lack most of all. To the contrary, I think that the circulation of Armenians throughout generations is a very positive thing for Armenia. But this is also a different topic.

Let me give you a story of an Armenian woman, I have met here in my town. She is married to an Azeri, and has come here from Baku. Her Azeri husband is a baker, working for a local bakery. He loves his job, and works something like 18 hours a day. When my wife first told me that she has met an Armenian lady, who is married to an Azeri, I felt the resentment that you would expect. But then, she gave me this story. This lady has grown up as an orphan in Baku – in an orphanage, after her parents have died in an accident. But she has had well-off Armenian relatives in Yerevan, who have refused to take care of her, so she has been left whit the only alternative - the orphanage. She is in her 50’s now, and is still a very good looking lady. So when she has been 16, her future husband – Mohammed - has kidnapped her, and subsequently he has married her. After this marriage, the same relatives have condemned here, and have never spoken to her again for being married to an Azeri. But Mohammed has apparently loved her, worshiped her, has taken care of her. Do you think when I meet her next time I have to turn my face away from her for marrying an Azeri? This story reminds me very much the pretext of our argument.

I am sorry to make a perception of being nasty. That is not my style, nor is characteristic of my emotions to you or anybody else in the forum. Did my postings sound like patronizing? If they did, I regret it.

To the contrary, I felt insulted for myself and the thousands of hard working Hayastantsis around the world.
If I have become biased, that’s too bad. But, normally, I am not biased even to the Turks, how can I be biased to my compatriots. If anything, I am protesting the wall of separation between us. We always hear such condemning statements on Hayastantsi, but we never hear anything of the kind on Diaspora. And if you would go to Hayastan and talk to the people on the street about our Diaspora, they will be so warm and so emotional to them. You will be touched. They worship their Diaspora, they think the Diaspora we have is such an incredible and inseparable phenomenon, so powerful, so humane. They make legends on their Diaspora. Do you think that the Diaspora reciprocates these feelings? Or do you feel most of the Diaspora feels it being below their dignity to associate with these “immoral, lazy, exploiting and criminal” people?

Dear Raffi. I think you are one of the best guys in this forum. I really have no negative feelings towards you. To the contrary, I like you a lot, and more or less anybody else in the forum, though I resent some youngsters. But I am sympathetic even to the causes of their behavior. I just feel compelled to try to remove the artificial barriers between us – whether these are political, geographical, religious, economic, cultural, etc. That’s why I never identify my compatriots based on their affiliation with Christianity or not, with ARF or ADL, with Echmiadzin or Antilias, with Hayastan or Greece, or France or the US. To me, in our days, the only criterion of our identity is the Republic of Armenia and our emotional or factual affiliation with it. I can’t visualize neither Armenia nor Armenians outside this framework. I don’t even see any need for it outside this framework. That’s why Armenia is not a dream or concept to me. It is a real land with all its hardships and its incredible people. It is a land where there are also criminals, who sometimes either are not satisfied with how much they have already robbed their own, or more likely they cannot function in Armenia on that capacity, and look for easier prays in more lax societies. To deny the reality of the existence of criminals in any country is to deny the reality of the country itself. And if these men come from Armenia, it doesn’t mean that this is who Hayastantsis are. If we consider that Armenia has had 3.5 million population 10 years ago, 1% of it makes 35,000. Do you think there are 35,000 criminal Hayastantis in Europe and in the US? Is it just to hold the rest of the Hayastantsis responsible for these crooks?

A final example or two, if I may.

When I moved to US, and got settled in Glendale for a short period of time, the first and the only time I witnessed Armenian crime (after being there for a week only), was seeing how the law enforcement agencies surrounded a group of very well dressed, very good looking 15-17 years old Armenian kids – boys and girls, who were speaking fluent English, but also using Western Armenian expression in their speech, for drug possession and solicitation near the restaurant I was having dinner. Strangely enough, it turned out they were members of the Armenian Youth Federation - a chapter of ARF. Now, this reference of mine doesn’t mean to implicate ARF in any way. Just want to say that things happen across the board. But as in any other society, those with less fortunate families make to the top of news more easily, then the ones with well-off families. Much like in my area of current residence. It is a very upscale white neighborhood, with more than secure families predominantly, with an otherwise very good high school, but with very high level of drag usage and solicitation by the teenagers. There are a lot of feast-fights taking place at the school – much like Yerevan’s infamous “razbirats.” Only in the last school year, we have had 4 or 5 bomb treats. We never hear about these events on local TV stations. But it is enough for something like this to happen in a black neighborhood, and the TV will be all over it. Perhaps because in the impoverished areas the same crimes take place in more graphical manner, and also all societies have their own prejudices.

[This message has been edited by MJ (edited October 17, 2000).]

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Posted 17 October 2000 - 10:58 AM

(before I start, Martin, as a sidenote, to your last comment on bomb threats at your local high school and your statement that had it happened in a black neighborhood the TV would have been all over it, how very biased of you. It's just the opposite. How many high school shootings from white affluent neighborhoods make the 4:00 news and how many from poor minority neighborhoods? (think colorado) With all due respect, I think you're very much mistaken.)

Now, with respect to this topic:

I actually felt physical pain in my heart while reading through all this. This is all very very sad. All of it: our situation as armenians, our situations as armenians in the diaspora, our situation as old diasporians (descendants of genocide survivors) vs new (hayastantsi), our situation as a minority everywhere we go, our situation with regard to our perceptions of each other and infighting, all of it.

MJ, I completely understand and agree with your point regarding the suffering hayastantsis have gone through and how that changes people and that armenians in the diaspora several generations removed from immigrant status are not likely to understand that. But I also have to say there's some truth to Raffi's point about the different kind of a struggle of the segment of the armenian diaspora he comes from.

In the end, to answer the question posed: yes, I do, in fact, feel ashamed at times. MJ, if you're fortunate enough to have removed yourself so far from being lumped together with all hayastantsis and feeling the weight of the stereotypes, I have to say I envy you. I don't think that, personally, I could attain that distance no matter how good of a school district I were to live in in the future. And if you think about it, there's a lot to be ashamed of (and let's speak plainly). While my father drove his beat up buick for nearly 10 years, our neighbors who had arrived here at the same time bought brand new mercedes by cheating the system. Yes, I'm ashamed. I'm ashamed when I see hayastantsi women decked out in their most expensive diamonds and gold sporting food stamps at Jon's. I'm ashamed when I see 16 yr old girls going to school half naked. I'm ashamed when I see boys of the same age getting caught for drug possession. I'm ashamed when I see college age girls whose only purpose in life is to get married. I'm ashamed when I see middle aged hayastantsi men sitting in front of Starbucks for hours ogling young girls or maybe going home after an evening at the bar and beating up their wives. Yes, I'm ashamed. I'm ashamed because all of this reflects on my sister, my mother, my father, and yes, myself. It reflects on us in every aspect of our lives: school, work, social interaction. If there's anything I haven't covered, feel free to add. We have enough obstacles to overcome as we try to make a life for ourselves in any given country. I for one don't need all THIS.

Maybe with time, when my kids go to that local high school in a good school district I'll be able to think differently. But for now, yes, I'm ashamed.

And there's so little to be proud of. Well, there's much, but it's all minimized by the weight of the negatives.

I'm late for class once again...lol...see what being armenian does to me?

ciao for now,

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Posted 17 October 2000 - 12:39 PM

I take it you live in Cali, Gayane? It's gotta be something in the air. One cousin of mine got into drugs out there (then married an odar) and another got arrested for software pirating. Here, my dad was prez of the local bar, Godfather is the mayor, and my gramps was a municipal judge.

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Posted 17 October 2000 - 01:12 PM

Dear Gayane,

So who do I consider to be the example of Hayastantsi Armenian - your father and his alike, or the guys you described in your passionate response?

I am also aware of the different type of struggle Raffi is facing. I am not denying it, and have admitted it right in the first paragraph of my posting, moreover, have commended him.

I have not removed myself from the Hayastantsis, believe me . I am just one of them. When I used to leave in Michigan, some very prominent Diasporan Armenians seeing me used to say “Berev, Hayastantsi!” Nor I have denied the problems you described in your email. You can trace my previous postings to recall how critical I have been in the past. But I do resent the arguments explaining the causes of these troubling phenomenon whether in CA or in Denmark. I do think that unless the causes are properly understood, we cannot eliminate those sad expressions. And, yes, I don’t feel ashamed. Why would I feel ashamed for the crooks. I think they are the ones to be ashamed. Though, I may be disgusted by them. But I am very comfortable in my skin. I will be ashamed only for the shameful things that I may do.

Do you really think that your neighbors bought that new Mercedes by cheating the system, or did they buy it be robbing their own nation in Armenia, if they are new arrivers? And how many such neighbors do you have? How do you feel about the Beyrutsi Jeweler, per se, who is exploiting the system in some other ways, by hiding his income, and underpaying his taxes? You should have had my Jewish friends, so that they would’ve told you stroies on how the Jewish immigrants abuse the system.

My bottom line is that this self-destructive masochism of denying our own, instead of fixing it leads only to a deadlock. I have been posting some selective poetry from Tumanyan, so that to indicate that these types of things have taken in Armenia in pre-Soviet era, too. But the Armenians have an incredible surviving and self-cleansing abilities, and we, along with you, perhaps have an obligation to serve that purpose, rather than to alienate ourselves.

No matter what you may think of my “distance,” I am very well informed of what is taking place in Glendale, Hollywood, etc. My father lives in Burbank. He is 63 years old, and is an as hard worker as I remember him when he was 33, despite the heart attack and the dismemberment of his hand. One of my brother’s lives in Northridge. He goes to CalState during the day, and works at Xerox Corp during the night, to support his family. He never talks about Hayastan vs. Diaspora. When he walks on the street, nobody pays attention, because he is such a low key, humble person. But when he goes to work, he is one of the most respected employees there, whose division manages to significantly outperform all other similar groups. Nobody in his workplace things that Hayastantsis are abusers of the system. He feels perhaps the same way you do about the women with diamond ring pulling food-stamps out of their deck, and the same way I have felt, because I have also shopped in the same Jon’s. And my two daughters have also started their Elementary School in Glendale – right across the Hover High (have forgotten the name). I am bringing these examples not due to my desire to talk about my personal life, but so that to assert that I am not talking about some abstract Hayastantsi. I am talking about real people. And I still have many friends in and around Glendale, as well as some relatives. All of them complain about the indecent behavior of Haystantsis. It is such an absurd... All of the people I am talking about are very decent Haystantsi, and they all complain about Hayastantis behaving indecently. As if they have no impact on the image of Hayastantsi. I think this is some kind of complex...

If we are talking about the abuse of the welfare system, you as a Political Science Student, and as a registered Republican have to know that the characterized abuse has been a wide spread phenomenon in the entire US, and that’s why the Gingrich Congress came so hard on it. They didn’t do it because of the Hayastantis, because it is a bad system encouraging abuses. You also have to know that you have Hayastantsis trapped in that system, because for example, by in large, due to the existing formal criterion, the Barskahay, the Beirutahay, etc don’t qualify for it. You may say, like Raffi does, that we are different. We should not do it. Give me a break... As I have said, sooner we understand we are just another regular nation, as any other nation in our conditions will be, better off we will be. Enough of those imaginary Armenians and Armenias nonsense. Let’s get down to the earth, becauas Aremnian has to exist not in an imaginary world, but in a real one. Let’s be realistic, after all the trouble we have had because of our imaginary self-importance.

I cannot understand when we talk about Hayastantis being this immoral, because this is what they have been taught by the Soviets. Do I have to include myself, my family, my friends, you Gayane, your father, Berj, Alpha, Garo, MosJan, etc, in this list, or do we mean all Hayastantsis except those in this forum? You know what I mean.

I remember going to school in Yerevan, and being raised there. I remember what my parents and my teachers have taught me and my generation (though I am considerably older than you are, I am not that old, yet, and can relate to the problems of your generation ). I remember also those thousands of people – classmates, friends, relatives, teachers, coaches, neighbors, etc. I know where I take my strength from, and who I owe for whatever successes I have or may register. I know where I come from, so that not to get discouraged by my failures.

As far as “this” good school district is concerned, you have no need to envy me. You have a perfect chance for it – you are a smart, courageous girl, you are young and aggressive, and all your life is ahead of you. Just get out of that city when you graduate, and open the world for yourself.

The Hayastantsi man sitting in Starbucks you describe? Yes, we have such problem in our society. You should understand that as a father of two teenage daughters, I couldn’t be pleased about it.

P.S. About the side issue you have raised in the beginning of your posting. We also have a lot of crime in the Southern Suburbs – predominantly black. The TV is all over them. How could the TV keep silent about the Columbine, after the horrible fact?

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Posted 17 October 2000 - 02:56 PM

Sireli hayrenagits,

If we are going to analyse the phenomenon of Armenian "immorality" we should perhaps try to understand the various levels in which it occurs. They are not necessarily closely related.

The most violent and perhaps almost impossible to "rehabilitate" are those criminal elements that were active already in Soviet times. There were criminal Armenian gangs involved in all kinds of activities: drug traficking, especially after Afghanistan, prostitution, blackmarketeering, etc. I am sure many people in this forum could comment on what went on in Agdam, during Soviet times, and the involvement of Armenians and many other nationalities. You also find Armenians taking part of mafiyosi gangs from Odessa for example, in Brooklyn. These were criminals then and are criminals now. This type of crime, based often on previous city loyalties and not ethnic ones is quite common within what is normally defined as Russian Mafia, perhaps one of the truly Soviet institutions that remain. Armenians within these groups pass for Russians, as they mostly speak Russian and are overall culturally more Russified. Armenians had, in relative terms, an imprtant role in Soviet society. They have an important role in post-Soviet crime in the ex-USSR and its ramifications abroad.

All over Europe, even in countries where there were very few Armenians, such as Denmark or Spain, statistics show that there are relatively large numbers of hayastantsis in jail. That is the case in America as well where there are over 2500 Armenian women in jail. This is shocking news, it is not unheard of, even in the post-Genocide emigré population to see an Armenian arrested. But Armenian women ? Never. Unconceivable, in light of our deep seated notion of the "purity" of Armenian women.

Abuse of the system is very common in most emigré populations, especially those cominhg from cultures where the rule of law is not exactly a norm. I remember a very close friend of mine, a German living in Switzerland explaining how the Turks were the absolute experts in everything that has to do with government support mechanisms and ways of taking advantage from it. Why should Armenians be different ? Or should we ?

There are as well the sad consequences, as described in length by Martin, of the difficult adaptation to the new country. Domestic violence, prostitution, drug addiction, alcoholism.

The essential contention by some diasporan Armenians is that their countrymen from Armenia appear not to have started with right foot. Of course the majority pays for the sins of a minority. The problem is that this minority ended up being much worse than anybody in the diaspora could anticipate.

It is quite true that as an Armenian you used to be able to travel almost anywhere in the world and people would respect you for that. I can relate numerous instances of such "recognition" in many European countries for example. This I am afraid is no longer the case, and for some people the destruction of a long cultivated and deserved image that dates from at least the Ottoman Empire.

There is great hope, in my heart at least, that with the passage of time, this problem will diminish considerably. If past evidence is worth, Armenians will progress in America, in Zambia or wherever they may be.
Let me finish with the suggestion that any Armenia from the diaspora that can afford, travel to Armenia. I am not a romantic type, or believe in some kind of Armenian Disneyland sold by some people. I have been to Armenia in the 80s, and 90s. This last time, in May, I made a point of visiting YSU (Yerevan State University) and talk to the students, unbelievable amount of very well informed, smart, easy going and with a tremdnous sense of humour, girls and boys. You can still walk at night in Yerevan, perhaps not as safe as in Soviet times, but quite safe when compared to most places. Some people are just happy by meeting an Armenian, maybe because I live in such a faraway community this is what I feel. Maybe I am a romantic after all.

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Posted 17 October 2000 - 03:58 PM

Dear Boghos,

I have to say thank you for your intervention. You amaze me by the level of your well-informed and balanced opinions. Frequently I think you are a closeted Hayastantsi

On a more serious note, of coarse, the crime has always existed in Armenia. There was a rumor that the first organized crime elements in Armenia have been brought together by the order of Stalin – the so called “gvardias,” so that to control the criminality. We have slightly discussed it with you in some of our past postings.

I would be very insincere to deny it, or to defend it. If I had my way, I would show to them no mercy. But what I resent is the oversimplification of the issue. Somebody has said that in every complex problem there is a simple solution which is wrong. I think this is one of these cases.

And I agree with you that the post-Soviet Armenian crime is perhaps more brutal than normally expected by a Diasporan Armenian. But no other Armenian group has been in same social, economical and psychological conditions. If anybody thinks that the post-Genocide “fedayee” have not done it – better think again. But what is strange about it? This is what I have been trying to reiterate. Consider the conditions from which it originates. Sure, no French Armenian will probably get involved with such activities. Where may his urge to engage in them come from? This is to say that the Armenian crime has special social and economical grounds, on which it thrives.

I agree that there are expressions of “immorality” in our Armenia society. But not only among Hayastantsis, but also the others. This “immorality” is expressed in different ways in different social and cultural groups. If the Haystantsi gangs are expressing it the way they do, it is because their lives have no value to them. Then how can one expect that others’ lives would have more value to them than their own? This also means that they are desperate, frequently mentally sick people. And there were a lot of reasons to become mentally sick. The stress of the 1988-1995 had to manifest itself in some way. I remember right after the earthquake a lot of American psychologists arrived to Armenia to conduct research on the post-earthquake behavior. They were saying that the horrible consequences of the earthquake would be felt for many years to come. I know for sure that a lot of the Armenian criminals operating in Russia are survivors of the earthquake, for example. You can tell it by their accent. Wouldn’t be surprised to find out that some of them are members of that Denmark gang. This is just another source. You know, I am not saying that the sources of crime mitigate the crime itself. I am saying that we have to make the right conclusions so that to deal with it. If we are going to attribute it to the Soviet regim, then all of us who have also grown up in that regime are going to become targets of such mentality.

I have no information regarding the post-Afghanistan large-scale drug trafficking operations in Armenia, though I know that there has been drug use. But it was sort-of on the fringes, in my view. But I have no detailed knowledge about this. About prostitution, pimping, so on? Maybe Armenians in Russia might’ve been involved with it, but I don’t recall anything explicit of the kind in Armenia in the Soviet era.

You are right that most of the Armenian mafiyosi go for Russians. I don’t know how many Armenians are in jails in Europe and elsewhere. I remember Ararat was saying that there are 8000 in the US. But I would expect that these convicts represent a large spectrum of crimes - from shop lifting to heavy ones.

The point of my postings was not to deny the fact of the existence of such Hayastantsi criminals. Note that they exist primarily outside Armenia. The point of them was protesting the simplification that this is what they have taught us in Soviet Armenia. As I said before, if this is the explanation, we all should be suspected to have such inclinations, because we all have gone to school in Soviet Armenia, and have been subjected to the same Communist propaganda, have gone through the same brainwashing. But by far, not all of us have become criminals. There were a lot of positive things in the Soviet regime, too. For one thing, we could educate our children much better there, because we could afford it. Don’t take this point as a support for socialism : )

I can see how shocking the Armenian criminality may be to an ordinary Diasporan. But the attitude towards Haystantsis being contested by me has started long before the wide spread expressions of criminality by the Hayastantis. It has started I think in early 70’s, perhaps, with the first wave of immigration from Armenia.

It is sort of considered to be a safe topic to criticize Armenians from Armenia. But try to criticize the Diaspora – that is a taboo...

One final comment is that historically, the Armenian Diaspora has been more communistically and socialistically oriented, then many in Armenia.

I hope you don’t also think that I am biased : )

P.S. I have been told that after the collapse of ASALA, many members of that organization (of which I as Armenian am not pruod of at all due to its senselessness), have become drug trafficers and mercenaries. Clearly, I have no facts to support these allegaitions.

[This message has been edited by MJ (edited October 17, 2000).]

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Posted 17 October 2000 - 04:15 PM

Originally posted by Gayane:

And there's so little to be proud of. Well, there's much, but it's all minimized by the weight of the negatives.


Your post was exactly how I was feeling prior to hooking up with this forum a week or so ago.

I thought it would be great to live in Glendale amongst many Armenians. Five years later, somehow through the Glendale News-Press, the idiots that race up and down my street or whatever, I was beaten down into thinking the heydays of being Armenian in the US were years ago. This forum has reminded me of the good aspects of being Armenian in today's world.

Because WE CARE , we are only seeing the negatives. All of us in this forum have taken off our rose-colored glasses and see the real issues going on in our communities. Again, because WE CARE , when we walk out our doors we see the problems, not the good sides. I recommend everyone not forget all the good people and good things Armenians continue to do. Not Armenians of decades ago, but Armenians today.

My posts in this forum tend to be non-serious for two reasons: 1) I am nowhere near as well informed as others here and 2) I guess I arrived at this forum looking for happy aspects about being Armenian today . It was not a conscious search, but I now realize it.

Don't fret, there are still many beautiful Armenian things in Glendale. Next time you go out, purposely try to look for something Armenian-related that makes you smile They're out there, I promise.

You know those fond memories you have as a child in the Armenian community??? Those are going on today at this very moment for little kids throughout our city and the world.

I do not mean to be a Polyanna here, but I am realizing some of us (myself included) all need a big picture perspective on our people. Yes there is suffering going on, the majority of the discussions here relate to that, but there is also alot of good going on too.

Who's up for a nice haleh in a park on a summer's day?

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