Monday, 12 October 2009

Armenia-Turkey protocols

Armenia-Turkey Protocols signed in Zurich

Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu signed the Protocols envisaging normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations on Saturday. The ceremony took place in presence of Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana, Armenia’s Ambassador to Switzerland Charles Aznavour and Turkey’s Ambassador to Switzerland Oguz Demiral, Slovenia's Foreign Minister, Chair of CoE Committee of Ministers Samuel Zbogar.

Leading figures in the international community have voiced optimism over the signing of two landmark protocols for restoring ties and opening the shared border on Saturday by Armenia and Turkey, with the UN secretary-general urging the parties to swiftly ratify the protocols. The Turkish and Armenian parliaments must now approve the deal, in the face of opposition from nationalists on both sides and an Armenian diaspora which insists that Turkey acknowledge the killings of Anatolian Armenians during World War I as genocide.
“The secretary-general welcomes the signing today in Zurich of the two protocols aimed at normalizing the relations between Armenia and Turkey,” a statement issued by a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon read. “This historic decision constitutes a milestone toward the establishment of good neighborly relations and the development of bilateral cooperation between both countries. The secretary-general is confident that this development will also contribute to peace, security and stability in the South Caucasus,” the statement said.
In a joint statement, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn called the signing “a courageous and far-sighted step forward.” “The signature of the protocols confirms the desire of both Turkey and Armenia to turn a page and build a new future. This opens new perspectives for the solution of conflicts, notably in Nagorno-Karabakh,” the EU statement said.

The ceremony, scheduled for around 8 p.m. Yerevan time was delayed when the Armenian delegation objected to a statement that the Turkish side wanted to add to the proceedings. It is believed that the statement was intended to link the Nagorno Karabakh settlement to the rapprochement process – a condition the Armenians have objected to from the start of negotiations.

The signing ceremony resumed around 11:15 p.m. Yerevan time (8:15 p.m. in Zurich) at the University of Zurich. Neither side issued a statement following the signing as had initially been planned, an idea apparently scrapped as a consequence of the dispute that led to the signing delay.Against the support came a lashing from the powerful Armenian National Committee of America saying: "The Obama Administration's attempts to force Armenia into one-sided concessions . . . is short-sighted and will, in the long term, create more problems that it serves."

Also on Friday, multiple thousands in Yerevan streets voiced the disdain of political parties at home and other Diaspora organizations – most sympathetic to Armenia’s oldest party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaksutsyun. As they have since the protocols were announced August 31, the Dashnaks led the largest anti-government rally seen since February 2008, when oppositionists crowds swelled daily, prior to further events that led to Armenia’s worst violence on March 1, 2008 when 10 were killed and more than 200 injured in street warfare.Opposition to the protocols has centered on two main concerns believed to be implied in the documents.First: The establishment of a historical commission to debate events of 1915-18 in Ottoman Turkey is widely feared at home as legitimizing Turkey’s claims that the deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians has been mischaracterized as “genocide” by the Armenians (and 22 governments that have passed legislation recognizing it), when in fact according to the Turks they, too, suffered at the hands of the Armenians in collateral impact of World War I.Second:

The protocols call for “recognition of territorial integrity” of borders, a condition that has a two-prong impact.
One: It could imply that Armenia must concede its “occupation” of land internationally-recognized as belonging to Azerbaijan around the Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh.

Two: It could mean that, by recognizing Turkey’s current border it would negate legal claims currently in debate by Genocide survivors who have called for reparation and indeed for compensation for land they say was stolen from their ancestors in the 1915-18 displacement of Armenians from what is now Turkey.In any case, ink on the pages put these protocols into the machine of diplomatic process that is next to see them ratified or rejected by parliaments of both countries. With ratification expected, the result would mean that within two months borders between Armenia-Turkey would be opened for the first time since Turkey closed them in 1993.

Friday, 24 April 2009


This is our new shopping center "Berkat" ("Welfare")

Building in front of "Berkat". It's said, all cultural organizations and main library of Grozny will be transfered here...


"Civil" clothes for students

Beginning from the 1st of April the security of the Chechen State University (CSU) checks and control not only presence of headscarves on girls’ heads and their size, but also uniform.

Rumors about clothes for students were heard at the end of last year. Most of students hoped it’s just a rumor but - as it usually happens - “there is no smoke without a fire” and a new shop for students called “Elegant” began its work at the end of March.

A jacket, a vest, a neckties for boys and headscarves for girls and, if a boy doesn’t have proper trousers and a girl – skirt, they can buy them right in the shop. So the total cost of the suit is 5 000 rubles (≈$145), while the average monthly grant of the students is 1000 rubles (≈$30).
“Every best European institutions of higher education has its own uniform, it’s an honor of the institution” – says a pro-rector of the university Kerimov M.

As says the pro-rector an idea to introduce the uniform appeared after some brawl which took place not far from CSU. And though there were students of other institutions mass media spread news that the instigators were students of CSU.

“It often happens that students brawl. But wherever it happens it’s said the initiators were the CSU’s students, though there can be students of the Chechen State Pedagogical Institute or students of Oil institute or anybody else. That’s why we want our students to stand out in a crowd. Also we want to inoculate the youth to wear civil clothes; want make them feel proud for their university” says the pro-rector.

Fashions of the uniform were designed in Moscow and made in Turkey. Also the direction is going to open a tailoring shop right in the “Elegant” so students could take the uniform in their figure if there’s need to do it.

Now the uniform issue is solved – every student wears “civil” clothes and anybody who’ll be caught without it can say “Good bye” to CSU.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Friday, 13

Yes, it’s a name of a famous horror movie and some superstitious people may think I’ll tell you now some terrible or mystical story. Relax :) I’m just going to continue previous theme about English language in Chechen Republic and should begin from the 24th of February, when a first round of “English Language Battle-2” took place, and the second one was on March, 13 (Friday). Let’s begin…

On the 24th of February a first round of republican English language competition took place at the Chechen State Pedagogical Institute (CSPI). 10 teams by 4 members from 3 state institutions and students of Isa Magomadov’s school had to show best results in 4 fields of English - vocabulary, grammar, reading/writing, auding/speaking – and prove they deserve the title “winner”. There are two levels - Elementary and Advanced – by 5 teams in each one.

Due to use of IT together with modern English language teaching educational materials the jury could watch and value teams’ performances of tasks.

The 1st round was a kind of preparation for the next round, which took place on the 13th of March at the faculty of foreign languages, CSU. And the last round will be on March, 28.

As say the organizer of the “English Language Battle” Musa Magomadov, Department of Education and Science of CR has agreed to support the competition and award 30 000 rub. (~$1200) the most talented student.

A great help in organizing the battle gave the Grozny State Oil Institute’s (GSOI) direction:

- I’d like to thank a pro-rector of GSOI Ibragim Gayrbekov for his help, - says Musa. – This is second time when he appropriate funds for the competition. Also a direction of (CSPI) appropriated funds for this event. I can’t not to mention that we suggested to CSU’s direction took part in the organization of the “battle”, but they refused our proposal…don’t know why.

For the first time “English Language Battle” took place on autumn, 2007 at the main building of GSOI. Best results those time showed faculty of foreign languages of CSU. Who wins this year we’ll know after March, 28. But the count of points after two rounds shows that CSU has all odds to keep it’s title “winner” – anyway: faculty of foreign languages of CSU – is a faculty of foreign languages…

Thursday, 5 March 2009

What about English?

I wonder how would be our world if all people spoke the same language. The Tower of Babel! If only our ancestries didn’t try to reach the sky – there’s a time for things – we could easily communicate with each other speaking one language and who knows, maybe we could better understand each other and live in peace. Who knows?
It’s necessary today to know at least one foreign language usually English, which widen man’s opportunities for communication and self-development. And be sure, before employer accepts you for employment he’ll ask you about your level of English.
English in Chechen Republic – this is out theme for today.

Our practice at Chechen State University has begun last month. As potential English teachers we –the 4th –year students - undergo practice training at schools. All we have to do is visit the English lessons, take part in the teaching process if possible and at least once lead a lesson.
I’ve got second form)). To be honest I was surprised to know our pupils study English from the second form. I remember when I was a pupil we began to study it at fifth form and there was always a problem with English teacher, i.e. with her/his absence. As it’s appeared the problem is still actual. It’s also sad that in XXI century we teach in the traditional way by old methodology – a backboard, a chalk, a copybook in lines and “dry” materials – while Information Technologies have entered to every field of humans’ activities and make a great help in teaching process. How to arise pupils’ interest to foreign language in these conditions?

After my observation of the pupils during the lesson, seeing their passivity and disinterest in I decided to show them that learning foreign language can be interesting and even merry sometimes. First I asked a manager whether the school has projector. It turned out that they have 2 projector which goes with 2 interactive boards (for school with 2 shifts), but they can’t be moved. And there’s always a queue to the lecture room with interactive boards, so it’s not judicious to cross the whole school with 30 children during the 5-10 minutes break just for one lesson. I have some interesting and colourful material in electronic version, wanted to work with it – make children play games, sing songs. Pity(( There was nothing to do but to use traditional “equipment” on our lesson – blackboard, white chalk, paper and a word. When they heard: “Now let’s play a game. Who wants to meet foreigners and talk with them in English?” – their eyes blazed, they became active and seem to like English. Our foreigners were Bob, Sue, Helen, Dave, Mike – foreign children printed on papers. Then we “went to the shop” to buy some vegetables and clothes. I was glad to see their active, taking part in the process and thought: How many things depend on how they will be given to you.

It’s pity, but fact – at our schools and universities people learn foreign languages by old methods and books, while the rest of the world use teaching material of publish houses like Oxford, Cambridge, MacMillan, Longman with active use of IT. I see some reasons of that sad situation:
1) You won’t find books of these publish houses in Grozny shops. And if find, they’ll be too expensive (more than they cost). How can English teacher ask parents to buy these books, if besides English they have to buy all school books and materials on their own money?
2) Law computer literacy and restrict access to the Internet resources. Even if one wants to move on and improve his skills there’re hardly opportunities for it. The Internet could help in this process, could help to find colleagues from other countries, to study on distance courses, by Internet people can exchange points of view, give or get advices, but rather high prices on the Internet leave much to be desired. As I understand, school teachers very seldom use PCs and the Internet (if use at all), at least at school – for sure.
3)There are no lingophone rooms. Maybe, you can find them at gymnasium or presidential lycée, but it’s impossible for every child of Ch.R. to study at 2 schools.
4) English teachers teach as they know and can, as they have been taught. We must use new methods with dominance of communicative methods of studying foreign languages and usage of IT.
5) A law salary – is a big problem too. When your salary hardly enough for way you do every day to get to the school and for food, you can forget about initiative, hard work and so on. This problem concerns not only our republic, but Russian Federation. It’s promised that in the nearest future it’ll be solved by raising teachers’ salary. Well, hope this is true. Because on teachers conditions and satisfaction depends their treatment to their job and children – on it depends pupils and students education.
6) There are no any program on republic level for popularization of English. There are no special-purpose schools with advanced studying of foreign languages. There are no new books, magazines in English in the libraries. Of course, if one has the Internet he/she can practice in reading using the computer, but we have the problem №2 (see above).

Here are the problems I see for today in teaching and learning foreign languages. We talked about schools, but the situation is not better at institutes of higher education.
I hope and believe that in the nearest future things will get better in our republic. Hope, believe and pray.

Next time I’ll tell you about republic competition in English language among our students, where students practice in working with new materials and IT.

I’d be glad so read your comments on the subject with advices, if you have ones.

Best regard,
Your Amata.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Chechen State University

Hello, my dear FD.  
Hope you haven’t be bored without me. If “yes”, we’ll correct it immediately. =)
Today I’ll tell you about The Chechen State University (CSU). 

From the papers of history...

CSU was founded in 1972. But in fact its history begins from 1938. First it was Teachers’ institute with two-year program where teachers for primary schools were prepared. 1941 – Chechen-Ingush State Teachers' training institute and on bases of it – Chechen-Ingush State University. In 1995 it was renamed to the Chechen State University (CSU)
In the days of old CSU was a centre of science and education in Chechnya and was one of the best institutions. Unfortunately all of its training buildings, libraries, unique scientific libraries and typography were damaged during the war.  

2000 is a year of revival of the university…revival from the ruins as everything in Chechen Republic including people’s souls, hearts and hopes. 

Today we have more or less good conditions for studying. There are 5 training buildings, 13 faculties, 803 teachers among them 34 DPhils and about 15 000 students in the CSU. 

Nowadays we don’t have a rector as it used to be, but a president of the university – Saidov Zaurbek Aslanbekovich. From 2004 he was a head of the State Committee of Youth Affairs. In 2008 he was appointed the president of CSU by our republic’s president.

University Herald”
It is a name of the CSU’s own newspaper.

1. Steps of revival

Restoring of the main building of the university is in progress. Its majestic facade, decorated with columns and bas-reliefs, was a pride of CSU in the past. The new building won’t become a copy of old one, but, it’s promised, will as beautiful as it and will become a pride not only of the university, but also of the capital.


2.Chechen students abroad

(Interview with pro-rector of International relations of CSU Shavady Arsaliev) 
- Who was the initiator of the project “Studies abroad” and how passed the selection of those who would go for studying abroad?
- First of all I want to emphasize a great role of our president Ramzan Kadyrov in this project. It was by his order that Ministry of Education with the Chechen State University selected students of our 3 institutes of higher education for studying abroad. The institutes: The Chechen State University (CSU), The Grozny State Oil Institute (GSOI), The Chechen State Teacher’s Institute (CSTI). 
- After thorough selection, testing and interviewing the candidates were selected 89 students. 41 of them went to Germany (CSU – 33 students, GSOI – 4, CSTI – 4) and 48 to Great Britain (CSU – 25 students, GSOI – 10, CSTI – 13). 
- It is our first experience, but in spite of this, as show the numbers I’ve presented, we gathered quite large group of students and sent them abroad. 
- Why have you chosen Germany and Great Britain?
- Of course, it wasn’t a random choice. Germany and Great Britain are countries with the most developed system of higher education. There are many prestigious universities with centuries-old history in the countries. To be a student of such universities is a great honour and responsibility for young man, all the more for representative of such long-suffering and fast-developing region as Chechen Republic. 
- It wasn’t randomness that our president Kadyrov R. talked about the responsibility that rests with selected students in his farewell speech. I think, the guys understood that they’d have a difficult travel around Europe. 
- To which professions you gave preferences?
- We gave preferences to professions that are first-priority for our economics, among them: medicine, agronomy, animal technician, veterinary science, produce processing industry, economics of production control, commerce, management, physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, informatics, social service, tourism, ecology, geography and professions relating to petroleum industry.  
- Did foreign partners take part in the selection process?
- Of course! The process was led with active participation of representatives of foreign educational organizations: DAAD (Germany), INTO and Study Group (Great Britain). They checked our guys at all points. A special attention was given to the knowledge of foreign language. 
- All troubles about the selection are in past now and our students are in Europe. They left home in the beginning of January. 
- On what will they live? Will they have grants and whether it’ll be enough for life?
- Of course, they’ll get grants. And the money should be enough for our students to live quite respectable life. The students who are in GB first month will get: 1) those who live in hostels, ₤500; 2) in families - ₤400. Beginning from the second month: 1) ₤400; 2) ₤300. 
- A basic monthly grant in Germany is €410 - it must be enough for student. 
- How will our republic control a learning process of our students abroad?
- A data about every student will be collected and sent us during first weeks of their studying abroad. It’ll contain an information about their progress (in studies), attendance of lessons, etc. We’re getting telephone numbers of our students already. And can contact with them when it’ll be necessary. 
- Besides, at the end of this month we plan to go abroad and visit higher educational institutions where the students are studying. It’ll gives us chance to receive evidence that our students deliver the goods.  

- Will be the program of studies abroad of chechen students continued?
- The program is planed to be continued till 2019. Depending on the results of the winter term a new reception of applications for studying abroad will be announce a in all three state institutions. Every 1st-, 2nd – year student, who studies for “5”, “4” (without “3” in the student's record book) can apply for the grant except those who studies by correspondence contract basis. 

3. As you eat, you shall study. 

There’s hardly any other point of catering in our republic as popular and called-for as students’ canteen in the central building of CSU. “Feast of stomach” is here! “There's not an inch of room, there's no room to move” at rush-hours.

Recently a Moscow journalist making the round of the university dropped in the canteen and said with admiration: “As I see your students don’t have problems with appetite”. 

Indeed, they don’t have such problem. They are young, healthy, full of energy and they have an appropriate appetite. All the more, when there’s an opportunity to satisfy it right at the university.

Of course, this is not a place for gourmet, but one can easily dull the edge of his appetite. The most popular dishes are round fried meat pies, patties, hot dogs, tea, coffee and cakes. Therewith prices of here are much cheaper than in the near-university cafes. 

- Coasts of dishes set in accordance with cost breakdown, - says the manager of the canteen Malika Abazova. 

Malika is one of the most old workers of CSU’s catering. She came to the university’s canteen 22 years ago. Constancy and devotion to the job are “trade mark” of the canteen. The personnel of canteen consists of 5 members and none of them can be called a “beginner”. For instance, cooks Ayna, Roza and Fatima work here since 1991. The others joined them in 1996. It seems even cookery experts feel themselves safe and comfortableunder the university’s wing. Though, as Malika Abazova says, the history of the canteen was quite hard. During the war in 1994-1996 it was damaged. At the first opportunity in 1996 canteen’s team restored it and began to work as they wanted to provide students at least with some food - round fried pies, patties, tea and coffee.  

Any other café may envy today’s influx of clients of the canteen. Because of the great number of clients there’s always problem with free rooms. At the “prime-times” one can see a queue for vacated chairs – their total number is 120. It’s clear that there’s need to make the canteen wider. 

- There’s need not only to make the canteen wider, but also re-equip it, - says the manager. 

The direction of the university already knows about the problems and the president of CSU Zaurbek Saidov ordered to find means to solve them. 

The Chechen State University has taken the road of modernization recently. No doubts, the new trends will touch university’s catering system. It’s planned to create a complex of nourishment for students, where will be plenty of places and food. 

A sound mind in a sound body! And the sound body needs tasty, salubrious food in a comfort conditions.

4. Well of stamped knowledge

Many years ago before the TV and video industry had become so developed as today, and the Internet wasn’t so worldwide, book depositories were very popular. With appearance of new types of media, in part, the Internet, the number of book readers reduced.

This tendency is a standards for any other library but not for the university’s ones. They are usually full, especially during attestations and examinations’ periods. At this time it’s very important for librarians to react to student’s requests in good time. Youth is full of energy, active and sometimes even impulsive people. And because of these it’s necessary sometimes for librarians to apply some educational measures (steps) against the students (like shouting) – but it happens very seldom. 

Nobody likes fuss in this kingdom of books, and the main enemies of here are dust, moisture and, excuse me, insects that are harmful for papers. 
There are 5 reading halls in CSU at 5 faculties. The main office is situated at the faculty of law. Nobody knows exactly how many books in the library. The reason is that most of books were received as presents and they haven’t been calculated yet. 
- We make an inventory now, - says a director of the library Rezida Shavkhalova, - and very soon we’ll find out an exact number of the books. In general, there are more than 200 000 books in the library. 

 5. Computer is not so black as it is painted

Students’ folklore says: a student lives from term to term. What does he do during the term, the folklore hushes up. Though it’s easy to see, that examinations and tests’ period is the most difficult one for students, which is full of worries, stresses and intensive preparations for the exams.  

A new numerical-rating system joined with computer testing put additional load of worries and responsibility. Pass exams on computer for “excellent” mark, add one’s rating points, and then get an average “good” mark is not easy. But the students have adapted to the system. It’s seen from their results. And a correspondent of ‘University Herald” got evidence of that by visiting computer examinations at the end of January. 

There were 4 groups passing exam (“Chechen folklore”) that day – 3 of them were philologists, 1 – journalists. The They all passed the exams for “5” and “4” marks. 

- I’m satisfied by their results, - says a candidate of philological science, a teacher of the subject “Chechen folklore” Sharany Djambekov, who was controlling the passing of exam. – Now we need to calculate their total points including current points, which they got during the term (at the lessons). 

And the students too look quite satisfied by results.  

- We were preparing for the exam without any hope for condescension, - says a student Laila. – And I’m very glad we passed it for good marks. 
Computer examinations has become an important part of educational process of CSU. Now there are no doubts of reasonability this new system of evaluation student’s knowledge and traditional system gives way for innovations. 
“University Herald”
№2 (6) February, 2009

Saturday, 10 January 2009

New Year celebrations - The Armenian Way

crosspost from my blog.

The New Year celebration is one of the most anticipated holidays for an Armenian family.
Through the years, the traditions and customs are being kept but also a bit modernized :) Some of the customs come from Soviet times, they are quite similar to the ones in Russia and former USSR, but some are typical only in Armenia. Families with modest means and low income do their best to save money for New Year table. People even do more than they can afford, since it's believed that "You'll spend the year just the way you've welcomed it" and also people will be welcoming guests the following days, so the table has to be as "rich" as possible.
The preparations start weeks before the New Year. People start attacking the food stores and supermarkets, trying to do the shopping beforehand, since the last days many things become more expensive (others like to leave everything till the last moment and the shop owners are earning on it).

The Table
One of the most anticipated New Year table "accessories" is the pork leg. It has become one of the main symbols of the holiday and there are already many jokes connected to that "cult" - like the question "how days in advance do you buy the pork?" asked to everybody or the greeting "happy pork holidays!". It costs about 100$ for an 8-10 kg piece. The recent years, some families that are trying to be original, are replacing the pork with turkey or some fish. In my family, we never betray this tradition since for my father, the pork is a "must-have" and traditionally my mother cooks it the best way. So the pork in our home is something to try out at the new year ;)

a typical table at new year - my uncle's house example

Other traditional things for the table are meat snacks (ham, basturma, sujukh), various salads ("stolichnyj", "olivier", chicken breast with nuts or mushrooms and other), …

On the table you can find pastry (mostly eastern ones - with sweet honey syrup and nuts, since they can stay eatable longer because there's no milk cream), fruits (orange, apples, pomegranate, bananas, grapefruits),   various nuts (pistachio, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, etc...), and the sweet sudjukh - walnuts, threaded and soaked in thick syrup of grape or mulberry juice. Dried sweet snacks from all kinds of fruits (sometimes also vegetables) is also a must-have for the table. Apples, blackberry, peach, apricot, pear, prunes, watermelon, cherries, etc... (my friend's granny makes sweet dried carrots !)

Dried fruits on our table
on the left - Հոն (couldn't find its name in English and even in Russian for translating), apricots on top, peaches on bottom and watermelon slices on the right, figs in the middle.

Sudjukh on the top, sweet dried figs on the left and dried prunes

For the bread we usually put Armenian thin lavash since it lasts longer fresh. For about a week we don't do any shopping (actually we wouldn't be able to do it since the stores are closed), so all that days we are eating the food prepared in advance. Many people's stomachs won't easily survive this holiday.
my favorite eastern pastry on our table
it's Pakhlava on the top (eastern pastry with walnut stuffing and honey) and "rshta halva" on the bottom (again with walnuts and honey)

There's an unannounced competition among the families and housewives - whose table will be richer and more original?. In addition to the traditional dishes, my mother also makes "chicken Kiev" cutlets, and traditional "Ishli kyufta" - chopped meat of different kind - stuffed one in another. Usually meat-stuffed pancakes are also an important part of the new year table, as well as traditional Armenian Dolma made by grape leaves.
No female family member can skip from the responsibility of making these preparations (cutting vegetables, rolling dolmas, and baking pankaces).

The House
The preparations are not only for the table, but also for the house. A very important tradition for Armenians is cleaning out the house. These days girls are going upstairs on the stairs cleaning chandeliers and ceilings, also tops of wardrobes, cupboards and other wall units. This tradition is believed to be very important so that the house have to be totally ready to enter the new year clean. If you call an Armenian house on the last days of December, be sure that if you ask what are they doing, they must be either cleaning, or cooking :)

So the new year is traditionally being met with the family. In some families women are busy preparing the table and cleaning the house up to the last minutes of the year. Then we are watching the Catholicos' and President's speeches, watching the Republic Square clock ticking. With the ticking, we raise glasses, say toasts, wishes and start eating :) pork, salads etc...

Later some close relatives may arrive. Some families meet the new year also with the Moscow time (1 hour later), since Russian TV channels are very popular in Armenia and we watch also Russian president's speeches, compare them with ours' :D

Then the fuss with phone calls begins. You have to be very lucky to be able to make a call or have your sms delivered. The telephone operators have the most extensive traffic load this night. It's also funny getting sms from unknown numbers with standard phrases "happy new year, i wish you happiness".
Also, during all the holiday days, with all congratulations and wishes that one is saying to another, one very meaningless and stupid question is being asked always ! It's "How did you spend the New Year?". Of course, it's not about spending upcoming the year, but about the holiday, and you should really do something notable to tell since that question is just un-skippable.

For the recent years it has become a tradition to meet the new year in Tsakhkadzor (a small town that became a winter resort, about 30 mins from Yerevan). All the guest houses and hotels are already fully booked before October! Most of the venues have their new year eve celebration show mandatory to attend and included in the price. It's nice when families can arrange to rent a house with their friends families and spend a week in this popular winter resort, enjoying the snow, skiing and climbing the mountains with the ropeway.
Some families go to the restaurants for the night, where the Armenian pop stars start visiting the whole night. It's their most packed season :)

New Year eve's TV shows of Armenian channels become more and more professional each year and you can notice that their budgets also increase by each year. But still if you switch the channels that night, you'll see the same pop stars singing the same hits :( The most popular shows are humorous films and recordings from previous year's humorous films.

Guest/Host or "tun-tunik"
The next day the holiday routine begins… endless visits and guest welcoming. It lasts from January 1 till 7-8. Families start visiting each other, one after another. In a day on average 3-4 visits are being completed, some people manage to visit more! It's kind of annoying but you may visit the families that visited you, just the next day. I wonder, are there so many things to talk and discuss ? :) On each visit, everybody has to try all the dishes that the hosts have prepared, even if it's your 5th ishli qyufta or pork ham slice. They will insist badly and you won't resist :D
a family visit :) at my uncle's
There's some kind of a priority system for the visits - the first two days are mainly for the close relatives and on Jan.1 it is required to visit houses where somebody has died that year.

Armenian Christmas
Armenian Christmas is being celebrated on Jan. 6. On the eve, people usually go to the church and bring consecrated fire from there (lighted candle that will clean the house from dark spirits). On the Christmas day families gather to eat rice prepared with dried fruits or raisins, eat fish and drink wine. No meat is allowed. Then some people visit a church and light a candle again.
The next day of the main church holidays (including Christmas) is called "merelots" and that day people visit the graves of their relatives. From 2008, all the "merelots" days are declared non-working and are replaced by the nearest Saturdays in the week.

In Armenia the Christmas is not as much anticipated and celebrated as the new year's eve, but i guess it depends on the family traditions.