A NEAPOLITAN SERENADE, OR A MOZART REQUIEM FOR THE MAYOR OF YEREVAN?
ARMAN NAVASARDYAN
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary





Place has been a serious issue of political-diplomatic etiquette for all times and cultures.
Could the world-renowned singer Plácido Domingo have known that his only concert in Armenia in 2010 would have political consequences for that country? It is very unlikely. The idea couldn’t have crossed the minds of the organizers either. And how could the Armenian President Serge Sargsyan’s young officials have known that the usual protocol during that fatal concert was going to lead to a scandal and inner political conflict?
But how did it all start?

Mainly following the protocol rather than their aesthetic needs, most of the members of the elite were in attendance. Naturally, mayor Gagik Beglaryan had to be there, too. The statesman was supposed to sit next to the president with his wife during the Spanish tenor’s concert. However, for some reason, the mayor decided to deprive himself of the aesthetic pleasure and not go to the concert. And his wife invited a friend. Should the ticket go to waste? Unaware of "court” etiquette, the wife and her friend make an attempt to sit next to the president. Here a watchful staff member responsible for the protocol on seating arrangements intervenes and shows the ladies guilty of transgressing the code of conduct their place. The mayor is infuriated by the incident. "How dare you insult my wife?” he thinks and, resorting to medieval methods, acting in a non-diplomatic way, beats up the president’s staff member who had changed his wife’s seat.

A scandal . . .

The rage of the president outweighs the mayor’s loyalty factor and the mayor ends up in the street. It is not in vain that the French say "Cherchez la femme!” One needs the skills of a writer and the agility of an analyst to describe what happened afterwards. It was a real political tragicomedy on the small stage of the Armenian Republic. A storm in a cup of water. There were a plethora of opinions. The former fans and sycophant "friends” of the powerful mayor yearned to see the defamed official if not on the Inquisition bonfire, then at least behind bars. Others criticized President Sargsyan for his ungratefulness recalling the mayor’s machinations and involvement in the presidential elections in his favor.

Of more interest are the analyses and projections about possible consequences on Armenia’s internal and external affairs. One of the leading men from the Armenian Republican Party mysteriously announced that Beglaryan’s resignation was directly linked to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s resignation. There were people who foresaw that Domingo’s concert would create a domino effect, meaning that the government would resign and there would be a change in the government. More daring analysts threatened with a regional crisis and other such ridiculous things. And the anecdote that surfaced after the turmoil proved once again that humor is one of the inherited characteristics of the people of Gyumri. "Please give a concert in Gyumri,” they asked Domingo, hoping that the same would happen in their city, too.

The "place syndrome” is a remarkable psycho-diplomatic phenomenon. In terms of Armenian political reality, it has expanded from inner-governmental relations and entered into the realm of Armenia-Diaspora ties. Here I mean that our compatriots have serious interpersonal issues due to pride and pretensions regarding sitting or standing etiquette: they get indignant and they make others indignant, too. In Beirut, for example, when a Lebanese-Armenian doesn’t get a seat next to the ambassador or a seat that he thinks he deserves during a reception at the Armenian embassy, the consequences can be unpredictably hectic for the ambassador and for the Armenia-Diaspora relations. Hagop Baronian was truly brilliant in his caricature-like depictions of 19th century Armenians who, in a sense, aren’t very different from contemporary Armenians, both living in Armenia and the Diaspora. It is the same comedy, only the props and set design have changed: the car has replaced the carriage, the electric lamp has replaced the candle, e-mail has replaced the letter, and so on.
DIPLOMATIC ESSAYS
639 reads | 05.07.2013
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