[Web Wrap]: Armenia Article by Tyler Guthrie.

March 24, 2010

Tyler Guthrie, a freelance writer living in Seattle, visited Armenia and wrote about his impressions for the “Washington Post”. The article caused quite a stir here at our offices. Everybody wanted to chime in and express all kinds of emotions, from joining the Tyler Guthrie fan club to being utterly surprised about his findings.

So we call on you now. Let us know what you think, comment here or on the Washington Post page (or both) and get a conversation going.

Armenia shows signs of a past beset by man-made and natural disasters

By Tyler Guthrie

The bus stopped at the Armenian-Georgian border, and as the only American on board, I was ushered past soldiers lazily holding assault rifles to a shed where my passport was checked. A shirtless border guard who had been cooking soup moments before quickly printed a $15 entry visa from an HP LaserJet but flatly refused Georgian lari as payment. Luckily, I was able to bum enough drams from a stranger on the bus to Gyumri, Armenia’s second-largest city, to cover the cost.

The whole article here.


Credit: Ara Jingirian


  1. Denim skies and stunning clouds, Tyler? The sun must have been out. Then why no notice of black, orange, pink, and yellow stone colors in many of the buildings? Gyumri is not all gray.

    Stand-offish or downright depressed people? Where were you? Sounds like most of America. By the way, next time you’re in Gyumri offer those you meet a piece of candy or gum and see if you still think that’s an accurate description.

    Both Gyumri and Kotayk, the two most popular lagers in the Shirak Region, are by no means mediocre when compared to anything advertised on America’s broadcast television networks. They are crisp but bitter barley-based brews, with more taste then the rice water purchased by the vast majority of people state-side.

  2. […] A Response to a WaPo article about Armenia by Tyler Guthrie. […]

  3. […] FARs Blog « [Web Wrap]: Testimonials to Tragedy – Artifacts, Memoirs and Remembrance. [Opinions]: Old Gyumri in New Drawings. April 13, 2010 FAR Employee Levon Lachikyan’s Response to Tyler Guthrie’s WaPo article about Armenia. […]

  4. The most striking impression from the world philosophical history that I have been haunted by is the Pythagorean cosmic vaults theory, according to which the moving by different trajectories planets produce exquisite melodies during their movement, filling the cosmos by heavenly music. Mankind, however, do not hear those sweet sounds as they are all born with “having them in the ears”.

    I found myself in the similar situation. Being born in Gyumri, I “had its beauties in my eyes”. As I discovered those only decades later, when I was already residing in Yerevan and having visited numerous cities all over the globe: New York, Paris, Venice, Vienna and elsewhere.

    Lately I have visited my home city. Much to capital Yerevan astonishment, where old structures almost have not remained, here they are preserved in whole blocks. It is a real delight to wander around. After Yerevan spread all over pink here the view changes drastically, where in front of you, competing in beauty, there are old black structures framed with red tuff windows. The unutterable beauty can make one breathless. And that made me draw it. I took a pencil that gave a birth to the series “ Gyumri, My love”.

    The earthquake of December of 1988 seems to go beyond the old Gyumri. “What was before it that stayed, what was after it that went”, like to repeat the residents. And really, the subterranean shocks were unable to destroy and ruin the firm buildings constructed by the Gyumri masters. Those, fortunately, endure as a testimonial of the city’s relic of the past as well as a credential of its people soul honesty. I intend to continue to hand over to paper my city’s yards and streets, images of plentiful corners and squares to show that Gyumri is a city to be proud of, a city that has not only the past but also a future.

  5. It may sound absurd that a nation born in the III millennium B.C., the one that was the first to proclaim Christianity as its state religion, one that has a very rich language and alphabet dating back to 405 A.D., one that printed its first book in 1512, has no words to distinguish between flesh and body.

    If one knows Armenia and sees its palette, however, they would understand what is meant by this. An Armenian has a soul irrespective of his body’s shape and color. An Armenian puts his soul into everything he produces and perceives: monasteries, babies. An Armenian is bred as a part of a culture and mentality that is transferred from one generation to the other. An Armenian constructs buildings as a piece of architecture. From multi-colored natural stones that do not need artificial paint, an Armenian restores the Mother Armenia monument and pays attention to it in his thoughts, as it is a symbol of durability and respect to one’s motherland. Unlike the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from France, Armenians constructed and reconstructed Mother Armenia themselves to keep the torch of hope, lost after the earthquake, alive.

    Armenians are the ones that gave their lives to preserve their homeland. They did not escape to distant lands to save themselves. Armenians have deep and ancient roots as people, but lacked a state of their own from 1375 to 1918. They learned how to survive and flourish within multi-ethnic states, such as the Ottoman, Persian, Russian, and Soviet empires. Armenians managed to preserve Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, which was founded in 753 B.C. — 29 years before the foundation of Rome.

    For an American like Mr. Guthrie it may be hard to comprehend how a person can ignore waste management or extinguish a cigarette into water because throughout his entire life he saw perfect roads, waste and litter designated containers, and everything in a normal shape that was taken for granted. He personally did not do anything for that. He was just born in a warm and comfortable maternity building, was taken to his comfortable house with running cold and hot water, then to a modern school, and later to a contemporary university, and an air-conditioned office.

    When he enters a “Bath and Body Works” or a “Body Shop” and cannot decide which shower gel to choose — with a strawberry or raspberry flavor — and it never occurs to him that someone like him, born in Gyumri who has the same body, has no bath to sponge himself with the lotions. It never occurs to him that an Armenian who has two university degrees and is a son of physicians, has to go outside to carry in a bucket of water, heat it on a wood stove, pour it on his body to bath, and dry his hair on the diesel heater. An Armenian is so occupied with solving routine problems that he forgets to extinguish his cigarette in the litter. Allow him to take his time, as only 20 years passed after the natural ordeal and independence, whereas 200 years of American prosperity make Americans to forget what a world with a shortage of bread or electricity means.

    The strength and durability allowed Armenians to produce brandy and beer that are not worse than Cognac or Heineken.

    Let us not wear glasses when we visit other places and see the soul, the flesh and not just the body, which can be worn or outdated. It is better to have an old-fashioned coat than an ugly soul.

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