| My colleague Zhanna
Alexanyan brings an interpreter into my office and
with her help tells me: "I can't write any
more stories like this. They are too depressing."
Whose Expense" and you might agree.
Sometimes we argue, Zhanna and I. She's from
the school that says journalists should take action.
I am from the one that says journalists should
inspire action. She wants to topple regimes and
I tell her to instead write stories that build
We agree, though, that the heart is a journalist's
best resource. Zhanna, like some others on our
staff, writes from her heart.
Stories like the one she wrote this week bruise.
But if the tragedy is so powerful to reach emotions
of the detached, how is it possible that people
like Lida and Zhora Balagyozyan survive what this
confounding country sometimes does to its people?
Their boy should have been learning music in
the Conservatory. Instead he was taken by force
to an outpost in Karabakh where another unwilling
conscript shot him to death. They had argued over
who should clean dinner dishes.
It is not the first time we've reported cases
when Armenian conscripts kill each other. It happens
so often that it can't be ignored. And so often
that it sometimes is. The numbers are decreasing.
But what is an acceptable number to reach?
I suggest that the parents of Hovhaness Balagyozyan
and the parents of Artyom Sargsyan and of Artur
Mkrtchyan -- those are merely the ones I quickly
remember -- would say "zero". And so,
perhaps, would the parents of their sons' killers.
Last year there were 69 murders of civilians
in all the country. Sixty-two soldiers died in
their units. Officials will not say how many were
of criminal cause. The Ministry of Defense will
not say how many soldiers it has, so ratios are
inexact. But, for comparison: When a U.S. soldier
was murdered by a fellow soldier three years ago,
numbers released then showed that the U.S. military
- with a force of about 460,000 - averaged about
eight such crimes per year.
There are horribly justified reasons why mothers
like Lida Balagyozyan worry when their boys reach
The fortunate ones pay off officers and officials
to keep their sons out of the service. Pay a bribe,
or pay for a child's funeral must be how they
Lida Balagyozyan's artist son died a soldier's
death, innocent but without honor. Just another
crime. Another incident of soldier-on-soldier
death that will be included in a number that,
thankfully, is diminishing. But not enough to
put music back into the Balagyozyan home.
It is a just response when a journalist feels
the heavy-heart effect of her country's useless
Right or wrong, we mourn the Balagyozyans' loss
with deeper pathos because Hovhaness was a gifted
musician. That shouldn't matter. But to ignore
that it does matter is a losing argument with
The boy shot dead in a remote district of Karabakh
was an artist. He composed music and played piano
in a hall named for one of his homeland's most
famous composers. His own mentors applauded while
his mother stood aside, conscious of her class.
I hope somebody recorded that recital.