armenia_map.gifWIKIPEDIA: Djivan Gasparyan is an Armenian musician and composer. He plays the duduk, an Armenian double reed woodwind instrument related to the orchestral oboe. Djivan Gasparyan is widely known as the “Master” of Duduk. MORE

CNN: Armenian President Robert Kocharian declared a state of emergency Saturday night after a day of clashes between police and protesters, a spokeswoman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry said. The protesters claim last month’s presidential election was rigged. The clashes began when authorities used force to clear Freedom Square of thousands of demonstrators who had camped there for the past 10 days, according to a U.S. Embassy official. The embassy official estimated that the demonstrations in Freedom Square grew to as many as 60,000 Armenians at times over the last 10 days.

As of early Sunday morning, Freedom Square was empty, Ghazarian said, but the protesters were demonstrating in a main square elsewhere in the city. “These are innocent people,” she said. “They just want their freedom. They just want to be heard. They are being beaten up, some people have horrible wounds.” She asked that CNN not use herarmeniagen.jpg name because she feared for her safety. As night fell Saturday, the sounds of gunfire could be heard from the direction of the protesters’ gathering, and tracer fire could be seen in the sky, according to another Yerevan resident, who also asked not to be identified out of fear for his safety. The man said his wife saw two demonstrators hit by a police car earlier in the day. The car initially did not stop, he said, but the protesters surrounded the car, dragged the officers out and burned the vehicle, he said. The officers were able to escape, he said, but he did not know the condition of the protesters who were struck. MORE


NEW YORK TIMES: The crowds first gathered after the presidential election on Feb. 19, the fifth since this landlocked country in the Caucasus Mountains gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It pitted a political insider, the current prime minister, Serge Sargsyan, against Levon Ter-Petrossian, an academic who was the country’s first elected president. Term limits barred the current president, Robert Kocharian, from running. While Mr. Ter-Petrossian, 63, put up a real opposition with an aggressive campaign, the rest of the election was straight out of the post-Soviet playbook. Votes were bought. Television coverage was embarrassingly skewed. Big men in large cars bossed vote counters. As a result, the party in power stayed in power, with 52 percent of the vote.

armeniacrackdown.jpgOn Saturday morning, Armenian authorities, saying they suspected a coup attempt, used a favorite method of crowd dispersal: placing hand grenades and guns near some of the protesters as they slept, witnesses said, and then confronting them. A fight followed, and the authorities said 31 people were hurt, 10 of them hospitalized. Obedient state television showed contrived scenes of police officers and sniffer dogs walking up to small piles of shiny grenades and handguns, nestled like Easter eggs in the grass.

By early afternoon, crowds had reassembled, and by evening, they had turned violent, dragging burned cars and windowless city buses to block streets. Men threw rocks and bricks at police officers in riot gear. The officers withdrew from the crowded areas toward midnight, leaving strange scenes in the moonlight. An elaborately decorated cake was atop an upside-down car; loaves of bread spilled out of an open trunk of a car on its side. Drunken men gobbled up expensive chocolates.“The owner of this store is a very bad person,” said Arsen Sarkisyan, 20, who was walking out with a bag of sour cream containers. MORE

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