For the proximity of our people we can speak much; Bulgarians and Armenians have a lot in common


He was appointed extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador under the decree of the President of the Republic of Armenia on January 25th 2011. On April 15th, the Hon. Mr Arsen Shoyan presented his credentials in Sofia. The encyclopaedic knowledge of the Armenian diplomat impresses everyone who knows him, his serious education as well. He graduated from the Moscow State Institute of Food Industry, then the Academy of National Economy under the government of the Russian Federation. In 2002 he graduated from the Law Faculty of Yerevan State University. In 2000, he specialised in the Centre for Conflict Management at Harvard University. Most of his career so far was in the governmental administration and administration of the President of the Republic of Armenia. There, from 2003 to 2007 he was head of the Economical Management, and from 2007 to 2011 he was in the expert-analytical management. He speaks Russian and English. He is married, has a son and a daughter.

- Your Excellency, what were the highlights for you as ambassador to Bulgaria from past 2014?
- It was a year too eventful, and you know, we build the rhythm of our work based on those events. We witnessed the change of three governments, two parliaments and we had to comply with it. If we deepen a little more in the course of events, I can say that our bilateral relations have made a progress, especially our inter-parliamentary ties. During the year, a visit was made by the President of the Parliamentary Friendship Group with Armenia, in our country. The visit was interesting also because of the fact that exactly at that time the first experimental flight Sofia-Yerevan was held. We attribute great importance to this fact. I think that if a regular air service is found between our countries that will contribute to the progress and give a further impulse to our bilateral relations - economic, cultural and any other.
- Our two nations are strongly linked historically and emotionally. What you think is that common quality that makes us so close?
- We are really connected historically and emotionally during our both old and recent history. One of the common things for the two nations is that each considers its alphabet sacred. I am talking about the Armenian alphabet Mesrop and Bulgarian Cyrillic. Last year the 1000 anniversary of the death of Tsar Samuil was marked, and it is known that his mother and his son in law were Armenians. If we keep going on this line, his heirs are also Armenians and certainly we could be relatives. On the subject of the closeness of our nations we can speak a lot, but when you discover or rediscover facts like these, this makes us even closer. Unfortunately, the years of totalitarian regime had a negative effect on our friendship, hiding his roots - religious and others. Today we rediscover that all.
- At what level are our current bilateral relations?
- They have been having a very dynamical development since 1991. During this time two Bulgarian presidents visited Armenia and three Armenian had a visit to Bulgaria. We have more than 60 documents of contractually legal character between the two countries. The relationship between social structures continues to develop and we have twin cities, as Veliko Tarnovo and Echmiadzin - two old capitals of our countries. But we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied with the achievements. The reason for this is the thing that we mentioned in our conversation - the closeness between our peoples.
- How to develop our economic relations?
- There is stability in them, both in terms of trade, and in terms of the types of goods. Of course, in this context, the opening of direct air service can be a major contribution. I will note another fact - last year the Bulgarian government appointed commercial attaché in Yerevan. This will also have a positive impact on deepening our economic relations.
- Which products of ours would be of interest to the Armenian market and vice versa?
- This can be goods that are traditional for our country and which existed in our markets 20-25 years ago. But I think that certain products of today can also find their customers, as long as they are well-informed in time. I will give an example of this - along with the traditional, well-known on the Bulgarian market Armenian cognac, since 2011 our wines are also getting well welcomed in Bulgaria.
- When mentioning Armenia Bulgarians resound the poems of Yavorov. 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the poet. Do you remember him in your country?
- Yavorov has his place among those great poets who wrote about the Armenians. And everything associated with him has always been and will be subject of attention in our country and our community. We are just continuing a tradition that exists - of homage. After 100 years the poet has not lost importance for our nation as it is and will be forever. In Yerevan, after formal decision of the government, there is a school named after him.
- There is something more to associate Armenians with- humour. How do you preserve it in this globalized world?
- It is a compliment when people say that Armenian humour is well-known and familiar. That is because it is an integral part of the driving force of our lives. Humour helps us. It is fitness for the mind; and essential to the human relations. We recognize that we are spread all over the world and that what happened yesterday and raises a laugh in Nagorno-Karabakh, thanks to that worldwide Armenian network, for which is being spoken, tomorrow may be a cause for laughter in Los Angeles.
In fact, humour is another indication of proximity and similarities between Armenians and Bulgarians. Among us the Gabrovo humour is known. I always wanted to reach it and last year's Day of Humour I visited Gabrovo. I do not know another European city that could rival it in this regard. Today it is very modern for different settlements to be declared European Capital of something. I think Gabrovo can be easily called the European Capital of humour.
- Your visit there was combined with the invitation of the Mayor of village Armenite. Did this settlement of ours become twin with a similar one of yours, as the locals wanted?
- I visited this wonderful place, this village of Armenia, where I met with not only the mayor, not only with his spiritual leaders, but I also met personally with all its 200 inhabitants! We have long ago found a twin settlement, and we have offered it. The Armenian village has invited and expects guests from Bulgaria. At the request of the Bulgarian side, the embassy will cooperate. We will be very happy if we increase the list of twinned towns.
- Armenians in Bulgaria are quite a friendly crowd of community. What are your contacts with your fellow countrymen in our country?
- According to unofficial data in Bulgaria there are about 40,000 Armenians. They build their lives as community through organizations that they themselves have created. For a hundred years, these people have built here their cultural and educational hearths, their church. In 2011, the Armenian eparchy was restored in Bulgaria. Armenian community in Bulgaria has its place; it is one of the most compact and powerful within our Diaspora around the world. And 2014, was a year full of anniversaries for it. The 180 anniversary of the Armenian school was marked as well as the 170 years of the establishment of the Armenian Church in Plovdiv. Shumen church "Virgin Mary" also celebrated its 180th anniversary. Varna church did 170 years and the newspaper "Yerevan" celebrates its 70th anniversary. We have noted all these holidays with high spirit and they were attended by most Armenians in Bulgaria.
- In Armenia you have a Ministry of Diaspora...
- It is designed to assist the worldwide scattered compatriots of the genocide.
- This year marks the 100th anniversary of it. Its recognition is one of the priorities of Armenian foreign policy. When are our politicians going to admit it?
- Since 1997, the foreign policy of Armenia is dealing with the issue of recognition and condemnation of genocide and criminalization of its denial. Our authorities judiciously adhere to this process. Many leading countries, including European ones, not only recognized and condemned the genocide, but in many of them the denial of this fact was criminalized. Just two months ago the Greek Parliament recognized, condemned and adopted a declaration criminalizing denial. After that Bolivia did the same.
Bulgaria is compassionate to the fate of the Armenian people, because it opened its borders and has given asylum to 100,000 refugees, it saved their lives. You know, the facts remain. When a refugee passes the boarder, they explain in writing why they are running, who they are running away from, what they have left at home. These things are kept, they remain in the archives. And those 100,000 people who crossed the Bulgarian border, have described it - that they came here fleeing, abandoning their heritage - material, even spiritual and intellectual. And when I hear comments that this is past, I wonder what history has to do with murder, with the plundering of property, illegal deprivation of one's wealth. This is a prosecution’s task. And to speak today for historians and their role means that maybe you are ignorant or you just deliberately do not want to touch this information and to have it. The Turkish court itself sentenced to death the instigators and perpetrators of this crime. It involves even the appearance of the term genocide, adopted by the UN based on the work of Raphael Lemkin. He was induced to become a lawyer, an expert on genocide, the initiator and author of the UN resolution of it, the lawsuit against Sogomon Tayleryan. The Armenian, tried for the murder of one of the main perpetrators of this crime, Talaat Pasha, was tried in Germany and acquitted by the court there.
Unfortunately, we can find things that are in common between Armenians and Bulgarians on this issue as well. In the Museum of Genocide in Armenia can be seen documents showing that the Armenian genocide was carried out in the pattern of the Bulgarian. A bit later this template became a methodical instruction for the implementation of the Holocaust. There is a famous phrase of Hitler, directing the captains to the extermination of Jews, saying: "Who today remembers the Armenian genocide? ..." The main goal that we set in his conviction is to prevent, not to allow such more offenses.
Four more municipal councils in Bulgaria have recognized and condemned the Armenian genocide in 2014: Blagoevgrad, Vratsa, Karlovo and Strelcha.
- What specific events are planned for the anniversary?
- The Armenian community in Bulgaria is very organized. A committee has been set up to organise events for celebrating it. An intense program for 2015 was prepares as each of the Armenians who has settled and lived here, has a story and each one has his own court.
- Priority in your foreign policy has the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh. How far has the date of the solution gone?
- It has been 20 years of the ceasefire agreement, a ceasefire signed in 1994 by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. The question is placed under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group. It conducts and performs negotiations for peace in the region. Unfortunately, Azerbaijan has been violating this truce. The latest example of this was the Armenian helicopter, which performed training flight in Karabakh, near the border with Azerbaijan; after being shot down, for ten days the area around was constantly under fire from Azerbaijani side. Neither representatives of the Red Cross, nor those of the OSCE, could come closer to the discarded machine and collect the bodies of the fallen pilots. It is an act which is contrary to all human values and to all accepted international legal documents. The armed forces of Karabakh had to take military action in order to collect the remains of the Armenian soldiers. This also led to quite large hu