This is one letter I wish I never had to
write. Yet now I know I must, because passive resignation and complacency should
no longer be requirements for those of us who call Armenia home, and because I
know, without an iota of doubt, that your political wisdom and sense of
fairness remain beyond reproach.
As you know only too well, Yerevan in
recent days experienced a minor convulsion, in the wake of acting
Minister of Culture Nazenie Gharibian’s
peremptory dismissal of Constantine Orbelian from his position as General
Director of the Yerevan Opera House. I suspect the core reason this development
did not sit too well with the people of Yerevan was that the person who was
being ordered to vacate his position was
not some nasty oligarch, or a corrupt government official, or a longtime tax
evader, but a man who has almost single-handedly brought about the revival of
one of our most beloved national treasures, the Yerevan Opera House.
months prior to Gharibian’s Soviet-style stroke of the pen dismissing Orbelian,
and in view of former Minister of Culture Lilit Makunts’ smear campaign unleashed
against the Maestro, I had been having a sneaky suspicion that the effects of
the marvelous jolt of last year’s velvet revolution had started to wear off, that
the new Armenia which you, Mr. Prime Minister, had helped emerge, was perhaps
just too good to be true.
I was wrong. I
don’t think I’ve ever been happier for being wrong about something. When
highly-intelligent, well-informed, and fair-minded people – first dozens, then
hundreds of them – expressed outrage, hit the streets of Yerevan to make their
protest heard, or signed the petition calling for an immediate reversal of Gharibian’s
action, my faith in the fundamental decency of the Armenian people was at once restored.
Yet I don’t
have to tell you that popular protest is only half the story in the process of engendering
meaningful and actual change. The historic events of April and May 2018 showed
us, once more, that change germinates in the hearts and minds of a people, but
must become systemic in order to be lasting.
bears repeating here that, in the short few years since his appointment, Constantine
Orbelian has helped make the Armenian musical arts a dazzling presence on the global
stage – by promoting the continued artistic excellence of the Yerevan Opera
House, by mounting innovative new productions, and by taking the Opera overseas,
to unprecedented popular and critical acclaim. I think it also bears repeating
that Maestro Orbelian has achieved these strides by often personally financing
the large-scale, and considerably costly, endeavors of a modern opera house.
conclude by reprising the theme of change. Mr. Prime Minister, I think we must
never cease to remind ourselves that even a single instance of nepotism is one too
many; that even one instance of parochialism at the administrative level, even
one instance of abuse of power or conspiracy, is enough to taint the otherwise
spotless stature and reputation of a government dedicated to the cause of reform.
We’re either the society that deserves to be the heir of Armenia’s velvet
revolution or we’re not. We can’t be something in between.
Excellency, I call on you to reinstate Maestro Orbelian as Artistic and General
Director of the Yerevan Opera House. In the wake of the events
that have gripped Yerevan in recent days, I know you will do everything in your
power to help safeguard the absolute highest standards of justice and fairness
within our homeland. We are all counting on you to do the right thing.