By Hrach Melkumian and Anush Dashtents
Spanish bullfights in Yerevan will go ahead next week despite their strong disapproval by the Armenian Apostolic Church, Mayor Robert Nazarian said on Thursday.
“Corrida will definitely take place,” Nazarian declared amid controversy surrounding the first-ever performance of matadors in the former Soviet Union. “It’s a secular event,” he told reporters, reacting to Wednesday’s church statement criticizing the planned “bloody spectacles.”
The church, denying any link between the bullfight and the ongoing celebrations of Armenia’s adoption of Christianity, said corrida violates “standards of Christian morality.” Its supreme leader, Catholicos Garegin II, reiterated this position on Thursday, urging Armenians to boycott the show to be staged at the city’s Republican Stadium from September 7-9. He said: “We are confident that our faithful people will listen to our appeal by displaying an appropriate behavior.”
But Mayor Nazarian argued that the city authorities have given permission to the fights because their organizers promised that there will be “no bloodshed.” A Spanish-Armenian joint venture which is promoting the series of performances has said that none of the 14 bulls airlifted from Spain will be killed in the Yerevan arena.
But Western animal rights campaigners counter that the bulls will still suffer enormous pain. According to a German anti-corrida group, the animals “will be tortured to the extreme” during the show.
But the organizers say they now consider the possibility of opening a “matador school” in Armenia and have already decided to keep the Spanish bulls in the country for breeding purposes. A senior executive from the Valencia LLC venture, Khachatur Khachikian, said the upcoming bullfights will demonstrate whether the show has a future in Armenia. He refused to disclose the cost of the undertaking.
Meanwhile, a similar attempt to stage the first bullfight in Russia ended in disarray on Wednesday, with organizers demanding compensation after the Moscow city authorities changed their mind and banned the show, Reuters reported. City spokesman Sergei Tsoi confirmed that Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov signed an order cancelling the show, which had been planned for September 8 and 9 at Moscow's Olympiisky Stadium. Tsoi said Luzhkov took the decision because "the show involves the brutal treatment of animals, which is banned under both administrative and criminal law in Russia," according to Interfax news agency.