Armenian Volunteer Corps

Welcome to the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) blog. Here our volunteers and alumni reflect on their experiences living and volunteering in Armenia. For more information about our programs, visit our website, follow us on Facebook or drop us an email: .

Friday, July 08, 2011

More Notes from Gyumri

Aleksan Giragosian

One of the volunteers here recently began his Armenian language classes. I asked him, "why are you taking Armenian classes, you speak Western Armenian just fine." He told me that the classes were conducted in Eastern Armenian and that he's taking the classes to expand his vocabulary. I laughed and said, "I'm trying to expand my Eastern Armenian vocabulary as well, that's why I'm taking a Russian language class."

All jokes aside, Russian is a hard language. I've studied English, Armenian, Turkish, and French, and Russian has sounds and rules that make it unlike any of the former languages. It has masculine and feminine. It has vowel harmony. It has pronunciations that I doubt I'll ever master. Never the less, if you are going to be in Armenia (or the region) it pays to know Russian. And why not? My classes only cost me about $4.50 per hour. That's at least 4 times cheaper than in the US.

Language isn't the only aspect of Armenian culture that's been influenced by Russia. Armenia's cuisine, its architecture, and its politics have all been permeated by a Russian, post-soviet culture. For example, the other day I walked to work where I passed billboards with Russian writing, I turned the corner and saw a Russian-style house made out of wood. At work, I spoke to my colleagues about corruption with the police department, the courts, and the universities. Apparently, you have to bribe your way into Armenia's best universities (bribery isn't uniquely post-soviet, but if you're in the post-soviet region, you're likely to come across some form of bribery). At my Depi Hayk forum I got to learn about how the mayor of Gyumri is super-rich and is buying up all the public spaces, like their central park, for what I would expect to be a bargain, to put it lightly. Finally, when I got home I got to enjoy the borsh dinner that my host mom made me. True story."

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