In an annual telethon broadcast from Yerevan and Los Angeles, a pan-Armenian charity has raised about $10 million that will be spent on fresh infrastructure projects in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
They are designed to improve water supplies and expand the use of solar power in Karabakh and Armenia’s northern Shirak, Lori and Tavush provinces. The Hayastan All-Armenian Fund has already implemented over $350 million worth of similar projects since being set up in 1992.
Hayastan received more than $11 million in donation pledges during last year’s telethon. According to its executive director, Haykak Arshamian, that included $3.5 million promised by two wealthy Armenian Americans. They have still not transferred the sum to the fund headquartered in Yerevan, Arshamian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Friday.
At the latest televised fundraiser, Russian-Armenian billionaire Samvel Karapetian made the largest donation worth $1.5 million. This raised to around $25 million the total amount of his financial contributions to Hayastan.
Another $200,000 was contributed by Samvel Aleksanian, one of Armenia’s wealthiest businessmen. No donations by other well-known tycoons from Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora were announced this time around.
Many Armenians expected that funds raised by Hayastan will rise significantly after last year’s “Velvet Revolution” in Armenia that brought to power a new, far more popular and trusted government. These hopes have clearly not materialized so far.
Arshamian did not exclude that wealthy Armenian businessmen are unhappy with the current authorities in Yerevan that have launched criminal proceedings against some of them. “May be they are, but nobody should upset with anyone because Hayastan is a pan-Armenian structure that serves the Armenian people,” he said.
Speaking at a Yerevan TV studio during the telethon, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said the fund will increasingly rely on smaller donations coming from a much larger number of people.
“If five million Armenians donate $200 per year or $20 per month to the Hayastan fund we will have $1.25 billion annually,” said Pashinian. He said he himself will donate 10,000 drams ($21) each month, urging Armenians -- and Diaspora celebrities in particular -- to do the same.
Arshamian said in this regard that the Hayastan management will put a growing emphasis on attracting mass online donations. In his words, some 1,500 people contributed a total of $166,500 in this way during the latest telethon.
Hayastan’s current Board of Trustees is headed by Armenia’s President Armen Sarkissian and comprises Pashinian, other senior Armenian state officials, Catholicos Garegin II as well as prominent members of Armenian communities around the world.
In recent years the fund has partly financed, among other things, the construction of a second highway connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. The 116-kilometer-long road was inaugurated in 2017.