- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
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 September 19, 2003 

Young Country: Independent minds mark September 21 anniversary

Children of independent Armenia have no worries but only hopes for their future.

When the juniors of secondary school No 83 are asked if they are happy to live in an independent Armenia they confidently say "yes".

It perplexes them when they are asked why. Some laugh and reply: "Because we live in an independent state."

For the 12-year-old students of this Yerevan school, as for others, questions about independence sound rather rhetorical. The children of independent Armenia know no other condition.

Unlike their parents, who grew up on communist ideas, and their ancestors, who cherished the idea of a sovereign country, this young generation of Armenians was born into independence and has embraced it.

They grew up in the 1990s without heat, light, or proper medicines in a country that was experiencing the full severity of blockade and economic stagnation. Their parents were fighting off despair while coping with a food crisis and cutting trees to heat their homes for a short while.

One day these kids will thank their parents who went to the polling stations on September 21, 1991 and voted in a referendum for the right to live independently. But now they are too young and enjoying their childhood too much to appreciate this moment of history.

Sixth grader Marianna Babayan says she likes to listen to stories about the early years of independence. She was born in October 2, 1991 and tales of dark and cold days sound for her like Gothic fairy tales.

"Recently the electricity in our building was cut off for almost two days. And the water pump did not work without electricity. It was horrible." Marianna says.

Despite all the difficulties that Marianna and Taron had experienced in the first years of independence, they are too young to remember them.

"There was no light, no water. We ate sandwiches and I did my homework by candlelight. I missed several TV programs, which I usually watch; I could not use the computer. It was so oppressive. I can't understand how people lived in such conditions for several years."

School No 83 where Marianna studies experiences difficulties that are typical of the transition period.

The Russian language school, which was considered among the best in Yerevan, turned sharply into Armenian after independence. According to the restrictive "Law on Language" adopted by the newly elected parliament, no foreign language schools were allowed to continue in the country. Teachers were forced to give up their jobs because of this linguistic short-sightedness.

Many teachers left the country to make their living, others started businesses in a period when citizens of independent Armenia citizens were doing all they could to survive.

Manvel Papoyan, the school's director, said the building was in devastating condition when he arrived in 1993. The water pipes, the furniture, everything was broken, while the Government could not cover even minimal expenses.

The situation changed when he found a benefactor. The family of the first Mayor of Yerevan, Hambartdzum Galstyan, a member of the Karabagh Committee who was killed in Yerevan in 1994, supported the school. The building was renovated, new furniture was bought and even a small historic museum was opened at the school.

Young students find entertainment even while studying.

Papoyan says that despite his former education and years of living under the Soviet system he is open to new ideas and likes to see features of this "newness" in young people's behavior. .

He is pleased that they have a chance to study in their native language and learn about national heroes rather than focus their attention on stories about prominent totalitarian leaders of the last century.

"These juniors are smart and curious. May be they are not as disciplined as we were, but most of them realize that their future deeply depends on how they are educated." Papoyan says.

Student Taron Sargsyan's family returned to Armenia from Kazan, Russia last year, after living there for four years. Taron says although he misses his Russian friends sometimes, he is happy to be back in Armenia.

"Life in Russia was more interesting than here, but it was not safe. It was dangerous to leave home after 10 pm. It is different here and I like Armenia more than any other country," Taron says.

Many students of the school have spent several years abroad, living for a time in countries where their parents found work. Others came from abroad to live in Armenia, which although now 12 years old still has a long way to go until many people feel th tangible "fruits" of its independence.

When the young students are asked if they know when Armenia became independent many reply that "it was a long time ago, I was not yet born."

And, like all young people, they have no worries but only hopes for the future.




According to Agnes
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September 15, Progressive Youth Union of Armenia demonstrated its attitude towards ArmenTel by protesting in front of the buiding of the telecommunication company with posters saying, "We demand quality communication". People passing by joined the protesters trampling down telephones. No connection, no need in phones.



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