once the father of socialism stood
. . .
Where once Vladimir I. Lenin stood bronzed and
pointing the way to socialism, an electronic billboard
now stands in Yerevan's Republic Square, broadcasting
capitalism and the best of Hollywood action movies,
and video clips from the former dictator's nemesis,
the evil west.
When workers were busy putting up the evergreen
State Holiday Tree in late December, other workers
were equally busy constructing the 8 x 6-meter
industrial gray monitor. Visitors to the square
who might have thought the giant screen was there
only for the holiday festivities are now learning
that loud music and MTV images are likely to be
a long-time fixture in the otherwise solemn and
While authorities are looking for a worthy replacement
for Lenin they gave permission to AD Technology
advertising company to put the 15-meter high billboard
where the 18-meter-tall former leader stood until
AD Technology is not much older than its billboard.
This is the first video billboard placed by the
company, but it won't be the last. Nor will it
be the only one near a city cultural center. Another
will go up on Mashtots Avenue, near the Opera
House. A third is planned, but the location is
not yet determined.
Except for 2001, when a giant (and controversial)
cross was placed there to commemorate the 1700th
anniversary of Christianity as the State religion,
Lenin's old standing ground has been vacant.
For several months, the city has been running
a competition for ideas on what should finally
fill the space between the (Marriott) Hotel Armenia
and the Post Office, opposite the National Gallery.
. . capitalism is encouraged through giant
So far nothing has been approved, from 17 entries.
"There are no restrictions; all the ideas are
up to artists. It is not clear yet who or what
the monument is going to be for and in what style,"
says the president of the Union of Architects
Mkrtich Minasyan. "Even though Yerevan tends towards
avant garde, it would be desirable that the monument
corresponds to the general style of the Republic's
classical ensemble. A monument has to reflect
more solid ideas than time or epoch, like in case
of Lenin's monument. So it is very likely that
none of the presented ideas will pass the contest."
So for now (and indefinitely), the "classical
ensemble" shares space with ads for Mika Ltd.
(owners of petrol, insurance, cement and several
other enterprises), Armsavingsbank and the Armenian
version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire", spliced
between music videos and clips from foreign action
Vahram Gharibjanyan, manager of AD Technology
and in charge of technical and program support
of the billboard, says he chooses clips of movies
that are interesting to spectators: such as "Taxi"
The manager himself thinks Lenin's monument
should have stayed, for its historical value.
But since the place is vacant, why not fill it
Permission for installing billboards is given
by the Mayor's Office, and plans are developed
by the department of exterior appearance at the
Municipality's Department of Architecture. According
to the head of the department Razmik Harutyunyan,
Yerevan is divided into twelve communities and
each one decides the amount that has to be paid
to the community's fund for billboards placed
on its territory.
Harutyunyan thinks that people who got used
to the Lenin monument have the impression that
it's taken off temporarily and he thinks that
the billboard will stand here until there is a
Ads on the board cost $2 to $8 per minute, depending
on the number of times it appears.
Citizens of Yerevan who are older and remember
well Lenin's statue say that a new monument is
needed but the screen does not interfere and it's
good that it adds money to the budget.
very different sort of overseer, now at
the square centerpiece
"I am not against the billboard if it brings
income, but still I would prefer to see here the
statue of David of Sasoun. In general Yerevan
needs a culture of city management and a strict
system of city interior," says Ashot Melyan, age
The youngsters and guests of the town cannot
figure out whether a monument is needed here but
say the billboard does not offend the eyes.
"The very center of the city is not a place
for advertisement but you can't stop progress,"
says 23-year-old Yulia from Moldova. "And if a
hip animation billboard with sound effects has
occupied such a place, it looks pretty organic
and goes well with the spirit of the time."
Even in these winter days, it is easy to spot
people standing to enjoy the action on the big
"If you're waiting for someone, then it's more
fun to look at something racing on the billboard
than at a monotonous stream of cars in the street,"
says Mariam, a 17-year-old student.
Meanwhile, Lenin lies across the square, still
as a statue, and out of public site inside the
yard of the Gallery.
Salima Tuayeva, of South Osetia, is a student
at Caucasus Media Institute, a Swiss-government
sponsored training program in Yerevan. New Times
Journalism Training Center (home of ArmeniaNow.com)
provides internships for journalists attending