By Gayane Danielian
The staff of Armenia’s national ballet school have ended a three-week strike after forcing the government to promise to sack their new director appointed by the controversial Culture Minister Hovik Hoveyan.
The outcome of the row is certain to deal a further blow to the credibility of Hoveyan who has been dogged by scandals since being appointed minister by the Orinats Yerkir Party of parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian last April.
At issue was his decision earlier this month to appoint a high-ranking academic, Karen Gevorgian, as the director of Yerevan’s State College of Dance Arts. It infuriated the college faculty that argues that Gevorgian, who held a senior post at the State Pedagogical Institute, is an expert on folk dance, not ballet. Similar objections have been voiced by several prominent Armenian artists.
Hoveyan was literally driven out of the college building on September 10 as he attempted to introduce the new boss to the teaching personnel. They went on strike two days later. It ended on Tuesday, the day after representatives of the protesters were received by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian.
“The prime minister was very concerned about this dispute,” the deputy director of the school, Hasmik Markosian, told RFE/RL. “He told us that we are not using the right methods, but added that taking into consideration the future of dance art, Mr. Gevorgian will not be our director.”
Markosian said the decision will be formalized this week after Hoveyan’s return from China where he is accompanying President Robert Kocharian on an official visit. “For us the prime minister’s words are a solution to the problem,” she said.
Gevorgian confirmed the information, saying that he too met with Markarian this week. “I told the prime minister that I am ready to quit for the sake of the students and the resumption of the teaching process,” he told RFE/RL.
Gevorgian also denounced the outcry over his appointment as a “false noise” provoked by a small group of people driven by their personal interests.
It is not yet clear who will be named in his place. The college staff have until now demanded that their previous boss, who resigned in uncertain circumstances in August, be reinstated in his post.
Hoveyan’s staffing policy came into question even before this row. The flamboyant minister sparked an uproar by naming members of his Orinats Yerkir Party to run several state-run cultural institutions shortly after his appointment. One of those decisions was subsequently overturned by a Yerevan court.