By Anna Saghabalian
Culture Minister Hovik Hoveyan risked getting embroiled in another embarrassing row on Monday as representatives of Armenia’s largest folk dance ensemble warned him against sacking their artistic director.
Angry senior staff of the renowned State Dance Ensemble said they are alarmed by rumors that Hoveyan is about to sack their current director, Suren Chanchurian, and appoint a controversial figure in his place. They said such a move would meet with fierce resistance from them and their colleagues.
The man rumored to be Hoveyan’s choice of ensemble chief is Karen Gevorgian, dean of the Culture Department at the Armenian State Pedagogical University. The minister already tried to appoint him as head of Armenia’s main ballet school last September but had to back down after a three-week strike staged by the school personnel.
One of Hoveyan’s deputies, Karine Khodikian, confirmed that the Culture Ministry is considering sacking Chanchurian because it believes his protracted illness prevents him from performing his duties. But speaking to RFE/RL, Khodikian insisted that the ministry has not chosen any replacement for Chanchurian and will ask the dancers to themselves suggest candidacies.
Hoveyan has been dogged by scandals ever since being appointed minister in April 2004. Some of them were sparked by his decisions to appoint members of his Orinats Yerkir Party to run several state-run cultural institutions. One of those decisions was overturned by a Yerevan court.
The flamboyant minister’s public pronouncements have been no less controversial and bizarre. Hoveyan complained, for example, last March, that too many Armenians are now practicing folk dances, suggesting that the phenomenon is a result of socioeconomic hardship.
“The entire republic is dancing today,” he said. “Even those who must never dance.”