- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
April 09, 2004

Conducting a Challenge for Change: Rejected maestro returns to rally opposition

After leaving Armenia and vowing to never return, veteran conductor Ohan Duryan has returned to lend his name to the movement of political opposition afoot in Yerevan.

Two years ago Duryan left in anger, when Ministry of Culture officials revoked his “life time” contract as chief conductor and musical director of the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet.

The Conductor at rest.

The 80-year old conductor who has performed world wide has since signed a five year contract with the Moscow Symphonic Orchestra. Rosiyskaya Gazeta newspaper in Moscow called him “one of the world’s greatest conductors”.

The conductor’s bitter departure from Armenia was punctuated by him refusing his Mesrop Mashtots and Movses Khorenatsi awards – the highest honors the State bestows on a civilian in Armenia.

He has since spoken out harshly against the regime that he believes betrayed him. And he has written letters to the president that have gone unanswered. But Duryan says his return to join the opposition is not an act of vengeance.

“I am above it,” he says. “Even though I was greatly hurt by the authorities, I am not out for revenge. They will get their punishment from above.”

Duryan says his return is an act of patriotism. He recently attended a meeting of intellectuals where he challenged compatriots to lobby for a change of power.

“I am an artist and I don’t do politics, however the arrogant activity of today’s government and the miserable state of the people cannot leave me indifferent,” he told Armenianow. “I cannot stay silent, that’s the reason why I joined the opposition and I want to help them. That’s why I appealed to the president himself asking him to address his conscience and to see whether it is possible to rule a country with weapons, tanks, guns, barb-wire -- with beating innocent people who wanted to reveal (ballot) falsifications, with terrorist acts. The president, the head of the state in general, has to count with his conscience and do what his conscience tells him.”

Following his own conscience, Duryan is in the mix of a movement that puts him at odds with the government. He says it also has landed his name on “a list of dangerous people”.

According to Duryan the situation is not pleasant for other artists as well, but not all of them keep to their principles.

“There are devoted people among the opposition, however there are also many of those who are obsessed with power mania,” says Duryan. “I respect those intellectuals who remained at their positions, like Silva Kaputikyan (poetess), Gohar Gasparyan (singer), Tigran Levonyan (singer), Vladimir Abajyan (actor), Khoren Palyan (musicologist). These are people who did not abase themselves to please the president and get some benefits.”

The press secretary for the Justice Bloc, the parliamentary representation leading the opposition, says Duryan’s stand is significant.

“People were really waiting for the words of their favorite artists. It is of great importance for society and it of course has great impact,” says Ruzanna Khachatryan.

The Conductor at work.

Duryan says that his wounds have healed somewhat by his return, and that his main concern is from seeing his countrymen in difficult conditions.

“Those who cannot put up with the situation leave. Did we proclaim independent Armenia in order to empty it from Armenians? About a century ago there was a genocide, but now the emptying of Armenia is no less a genocide,” he says.

On March 25 the Chairman of the National Assembly Artur Baghdasaryan met with Duryan and during the meeting he said that it was everyone’s mistake to treat the world known conductor that way.

“I shall do everything to correct that mistake. We’ll see what we can do,” said Baghdasaryan, during a televised interview.

 Minister of Culture Tamar Poghosyan has so far been silent.

“I don’t know that woman. If she wants to meet me she’s welcome to invite me,” Duryan says. “Anyway, I don’t have a position anymore that can be taken away. I have nothing to loose. Today, I only have a hope that the opposition will be firm in their position, and the scum who are in power will leave without bloodshed.”

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