By Nane Atshemian
Authorities in Yerevan cancelled the upcoming concerts of one of Russia’s most popular pop singers on Thursday under mounting pressure from Armenian youth groups angered by his undisguised sympathy for Turkey and public pronouncements seen as anti-Armenian.
The Yerevan municipality and a private firm that organized the concerts scheduled for April 8 and 9 said they have withdrawn their invitation to singer Filip Kirkorov after persistent “requests” from student organizations.
“The student councils of virtually all state universities have appealed to the mayor,” Deputy Mayor Arman Sahakian told reporters. “They asked him to prevent Filip Kirkorov’s concerts. Reacting to the request, the mayor’s office asked the Manukian limited liability company to annul Filip Kirkorov’s concerts and received a positive reply.”
The anti-Kirkorov campaign has been spearheaded by the youth wing of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), an influential nationalist party represented in the government. Its leaders threatened to disrupt the performances.
“Kirkorov has clearly pro-Armenian and anti-Turkish attitudes and recently publicly insulted and humiliated an Armenian reporter [in Russia], deriding her ethnic origin,” Dashnaktsutyun’s Nikol Aghbalian student organization said in a statement on March 24.
Kirkorov, whose father is a Bulgarian-born ethnic Armenian, has long raised eyebrows in Armenia for singing Turkish songs in Russian and wearing a shirt colored as Turkey’s national flag during a concert in Istanbul.
Nikol Aghbalian and other protesters say holding his concerts in Yerevan on the eve of the April 24 commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey would be “immoral and intolerable.”
Kirkorov was embroiled in another major scandal last year after shouting abuse at a female journalist during a news conference in southern Russia. The pop star swore and feigned a Caucasian accent to taunt the reporter Irina Aroyan who questioned his professionalism. Although he later apologized to her, some Russian media and public figures called for a nationwide boycott of the signer.
"If they do not want to see and hear me in Yerevan, then this will not happen," Kirkorov told the ITAR-TASS news agency.
Sahakian, the deputy mayor, and the Manukian company insisted as recently as on Tuesday that the concerts will go ahead despite the outcry.
“We thought that things will work out. But they didn’t,” a spokeswoman for the hitherto unknown entertainment firm said on Thursday. “We are not yielding to the blackmail by a group of adventurist youths and are only taking into account the Yerevan municipality’s opinion,” she claimed.
Among those who have spoken out against Kirkorov’s arrival in Armenia was the influential Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
(Photo: An anti-Kirkorov banner circulated by Dashnaktsutyun's Nikol Aghbalian union.)