ArmeniaNow.com - Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
March 5, 2004


Inside Track: An Armenian View of Life in Armenia


If you live in Armenia , have a big family, have no job nor any hope for a better future, you at least stand a chance to win a car from any of six lottery games.

If you live on the outskirts of Yerevan or in a rural area or have just returned from Russia , where you were seeking for job without success, then your chances are even doubled.

You are the exactly the right person to win a car and be shown by TV.

This is at least what Armenians systematically learn from the TV commercials advertising lottery games.

The winners behave just like the actors do when they are awarded an Oscar. Some laugh, some cry, others fall into hysteria. And everyone thanks.

The only difference is that we watch the Oscar winners once a year. And after watching it few think to become an actor and win an award.

After watching the endless lottery commercials, thousands want to buy a ticket with dreams of winning a car.

Every 20 minutes, the 20-second commercials with charming names of various lottery companies burst onto TV screens to show the cars' winners who share the magic secret of their luck.

The secret fits neatly into five words: “I bought a lottery ticket.”

Real people from real streets win real cars and express real happiness. And of course, it is a fact that unless you buy a ticket you can not win anything.

Yet equally true for most is the fact that they buy tickets regularly and win nothing. The lottery games in Armenia are neither trick nor truth. Just as in the rest of the world, they represent a tricky truth - thousands play, but singles win.

But the organizers of the lottery games together with TV producers have found a simple way to persuade people not to think about those thousands who do not win- they show those single winners thousands of times.

The rarity of winners is masked by the frequency of commercial and while thousands criticize the lotteries as tricks and switch of the hateful commercials, thousands more believe in them and buy tickets.

Because one winner on TV is worth thousands of invisible losers.

The lottery games gradually become lottery fever and the lottery winner is portrayed as the hero of the commercial, which reaches its gripping climax as the car is handed over.

If you have never seen a real Armenian wedding, just watch the lottery commercials and see how the car is welcomed. Imagine a bride instead of car and you get the picture.

Hundreds of people, the winner's neighbours, friends, colleagues, and relatives gather in the yard to await the arrival of the car, tied with a red ribbon. It appears and people applause, musicians play the duduk and zurna, a river of champagne flows, and flowers are thrown into the sky. Women and men start dancing with barbeque or cake, depending on the tradition of the particular lottery game.

And then the winner makes a toast, always something like “dear Armenian people, believe in yourself, just go and buy the lottery tickets of (the name of lottery game)”.

Imagine this all fits into 20 seconds and you will realize that the producers are real professionals.

Paradoxically, almost all of the winners, though of different ages, professions and gender, look poorly dressed and speak regional dialects. In fact they are from the regions.

Without insulting them, they can hardly be called representatives of the middle class or intelligentsia. It seems that other groups of people either all have cars or do not buy lottery tickets, both of which are not true. Perhaps they are simply chased by bad luck.

In Armenia most of the population lives below the poverty line, and yet most of them are ready to give their last Dram not for bread but for lottery tickets.

The fact is that the profit of the lottery organizations comes from the pockets of thousands of Armenia 's poorest people. They pay the price of each car in losing tickets.

Every time I watch the commercials and hear the winner's speech, I feel happy for him and sorry that Armenians became such buffoons that they ready to read any script to get a car that they in fact have already won.

I feel sorry not because the commercials are vulgar and insipid. The producers of these mini-shows do not intend at all that people should love their product - they only want them to believe in it.

The producers do not care how impoverished the winner looks and do not try to hide it in their commercials. Because the less respectable a man looks, the more people will believe in him.

And this makes me sorriest of all.


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