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    Exclusive: Jose Mourinho joins Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Armenian Christmas dinner

    Exclusive: Jose Mourinho joins Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Armenian Christmas dinner



    On the evening of Saturday January 6th, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho joined Henrikh Mkhitaryan for an Armenian Christmas dinner at his Manchester residence.

    Having not been a regular in the team for most of the season, speculation of a feud between the two has been ongoing, with newspapers predicting that Mkhitaryan will be leaving the club in January. 

    However in observance of Armenian Christmas, Manchester United’s FA Cup game with Derby County FC had been brought forward to Friday the 5th with Mkhitaryan included in the starting lineup. 

    Despite performing well, Mkhitaryan was substituted at half time with the score at 0-0, replaced by Romelu Lukaku, a forward with 10 goals already this season.

    Manchester United went on to win the game 2-0 with Lukaku scoring one of the goals.

    Sky Sports later reported that Mourinho had sacrificed Mkhitaryan in favor of a more attacking player.

    Mourinho said:

    "Mkhi was the one that I sacrificed but it's something that I don't normally do but I did at half-time and apologised to him in front of other people because he didn't deserve it.”

    As a gesture of goodwill, Mourinho joined Mkhitaryan at his home for an Armenian Christmas meal the following night, bringing with him a bottle of Portuguese wine (Pêra-Manca 2008)

    Outside, Mourinho admitted to reporters that his knowledge of Armenian culture was quite limited, although he stated he had parked his bus near the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, Portugal on numerous occasions.

    Inside, Mourinho was immediately overwhelmed by the abundance of food. 

    The meal kicked off at 8pm. Despite some hard-fought defending, Mourinho conceded his first serving of food in the 13th minute and then soon again in the 22nd. 

    Not recovering from the early onslaught and with no clear game plan, Mourinho conceded food on his plate yet again in the 31st, 34th and 44th minute.

    In the second half, Mourinho tightened up the defence of his plate, avoiding dried fruit, Ferrero Rocher and more cheese boreg, but left his drinking glass wide open and conceded three alcoholic drinks, on the 67th, 77th, and 85th minute.

    Just as the evening looked to be wrapping up, with his guard down, Mourinho’s defence was once again penetrated in injury time with a ladle full of Anoush Abour and a cup of Armenian coffee, catching the United manager by surprise.

    At the final whistle, Mourinho looked depleted. This result marked the heaviest defeat at a dinner table in his entire managerial career.

    Shortly after, Mourinho was seen leaving the Mkhitaryan residence with three medium sized Tupperware containers and a copy of The Promise movie on Blu-ray. 

    Mourinho declined a post-dinner interview, but sources close to the Manchester United management staff state that Mourinho is to organize an Armenian Madagh ceremony (a lamb sacrifice ritual) to express his gratitude.


    This story will be updated as more information is made available.

    Ross Bagdasarian & The Chipmunks: The Armenian Story Behind One of America’s Most Iconic TV Dads

    Ross Bagdasarian & The Chipmunks: The Armenian Story Behind One of America’s Most Iconic TV Dads

    If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, Alvin and the Chipmunks was a permanent staple of your TV diet. And if you were an Armenian kid growing up in the diaspora, finding out Ross Bagdasarian created your favorite show as a teenager probably blew your mind.

    Read more

    Top 5 Reasons You Should See The Promise

    Top 5 Reasons You Should See The Promise


    If you're of Armenian descent and you haven't been living under a coffee cup, you've heard of The Promise - or at least the buzz surrounding the film.

    By this point, you're either excited by the prospect of seeing it or sick of people talking about it.

    No matter what you're thinking, here are a few reasons to contemplate before seeing The Promise when it hits theaters in the U.S. and Canada on April 21st. 


    1. All profits are going to charity

    In a rare move, Survival Pictures, the production company created by Armenian-American businessman and philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian that produced and financed “The Promise” will be donating all proceeds from the theatrical run of the film to non-profit organizations. 

    Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, who produced the title track for the film, will also be donating proceeds from the song to the International Rescue Committee, a global organization that aids refugees and people whose lives have been impacted by conflict and disaster.

    The film's proceeds are slated to go to the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) as well as other human rights and humanitarian groups.

    “The film’s theme #KeepThePromise can be interpreted as keeping the promise to remember and learn from the atrocities of the past, as well as keeping the promise to end AIDS,” Elton John recently told the Hollywood Reporter. “At EJAF, we are committed to #KeepThePromise and raise awareness about this powerful film that uses classic storytelling to inspire people to take action today.”


    2. It was one of Kirk Kerkorian’s last wishes

    Kirk Kerkorian’s life is the quintessential self-made, rags to riches story: born to a poor family of Armenian immigrants in Fresno, Calif., Kirk “Krikor” Kerkorian left school in the 8th grade and went from amateur boxer, to private pilot to businessman, eventually amassing a multibillion-dollar fortune and becoming an instrumental force and pioneer in developing the Las Vegas strip as we know it today.

    Throughout his various business ventures, including building the world’s largest hotel several times over, investing in film production companies and claiming a stake in the American auto industry, Kerkorian gave over $1 billion in charity to Armenia through the Lincy Foundation helping to rebuild northern Armenia after the devastating 1988 Spitak earthquake, renovating cultural institutions and financing the highway connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh. 

    Creating Survival Pictures was in essence the last part of his robust legacy, a homage to his roots he wanted to leave to the world about a forgotten human rights crisis that flung survivors to all corners of the globe.

    Producer Eric Esrailian is the man Kerkorian entrusted with his wish. Esrailian told an audience at the Toronto International Film Festival that The Promise took almost seven years to make.

     “The film…really wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for Kirk,” Esrailian said. “We talked about the film as a concept for several years and he was overexcited about somebody doing it. During his life it was something that he was thinking about, and he put the ball into motion.”


    3. It’s the first time a film about the Armenian Genocide has been successfully made for a mass audience

    Let’s back up a few decades - this isn’t the first time a film has been made about the Armenian Genocide. There’s been “Ravished Armenia” (1919), “Ararat” (2002) and Fatih Akin’s “The Cut” (2014). There was also Elia Kazan’s classic, “America, America,” (1963) which depicted the journey Greek and Armenian Anatolians took to America in the backdrop of atrocities against them. But due to a number of reasons, including budget, execution, limited funds and meddling from Turkey (more on this later) these incarnations never reached their full cinematic potential.

    The making of The Promise is important, because it’s the first time the Armenian Genocide has been depicted for such a mainstream audience on a wide scale.

    Costing nearly $100 million to make and starring Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac of Star Wars fame, Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo and French-Canadian actress Charlotte Le Bon (and several prominent actors of Armenian descent including Angela Safaryan, Kevork Malikyan and Roman Mitichyan) the film follows Kerkorian’s original, focused vision.

    In an interview with Deadline, Esrailian talked about executing the film after Kerkorian passed away in 2015.

    “We wanted a powerful story about our culture and heritage. He said to make it epic, to make sure it had a love story,” Esrailian recalled, adding that Kerkorian specified he wanted it to have leading actors and remind him of the films that people considered great when he was growing up.

    Because of Turkey's continued denial of the Armenian Genocide and various business and political ties between America and Turkey, producing a film about the Armenian Genocide has always been a challenge in Hollywood. In the 1930s, MGM decided to produce an adaptation of the Franz Werfel novel, "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh," before the Turkish government pressured the movie studio to drop it. In more recent years, both Mel Gibson and Sylvester Stallone were tied to reviving it, though their efforts were also stalled by Turkish meddling.

    The Promise itself has faced similar challenges. There were distribution issues, which the filmmakers and others like Atom Egoyan who made the 2002 film "Ararat" have linked to the "denialist lobby" being very well organized. The film's IMDb page fell under the attack of internet bots, receiving over 86,000 user votes for one-star ratings, despite the fact that the movie hadn't even been released yet.


    4. The opening weekend’s box office sales are critical in securing a long theatrical run for this film and the continued impact it can have.

    “The Promise” is being released in America and Canada on April 21st, just a few days before the worldwide annual commemoration of the Armenian Genocide on April 24th. Its performance during opening weekend will determine just how many people both in North America and the world see the film, and more importantly, learn about the horrors and aftermath of one of the 20th centuries first human rights disasters.

    "A bad opening will usually kill a movie and kills all the potentials of the movie," says Bob Levin, the former president of worldwide marketing and distribution for MGM, adding that all the other things like television, home video and DVD that are tied to the release. "All those other revenue strings on a global basis are so driven by that success or failure in the domestic box office. And so that is driven by that opening. It becomes critical for the entire lifeline of the movie."

    A 2009 study in the Journal of Academy of Business and Economics also determined that opening weekend box office revenue is not just an important source of income, but "a crucial preliminary indicator of long-run financial performance of a motion picture."


    5. It highlights the connection to the kind of human rights abuses that are still continuing today.

    The Armenian Genocide, or that of Assyrians and Greeks during the same time period doesn't exist in a vacuum. Over 100 years on, humans in various parts of the world have continued to experience immeasurable tragedy - from the Holocaust to the Rwandan, Bosnian, Cambodian and Guatemalan Genocides as well as war crimes and other crimes against humanity that have taken place in Sudan and Syria, where close to 500,000 people have died in the Syrian Civil War, which descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors have also been impacted by.  There are now over 4.8 million Syrian refugees outside of Syria requiring humanitarian assistance. 

    Their stories, in many ways, mirrors the trauma that Armenians suffered a century ago. The film's producers have kept this connection in mind, as recently expressed in a letter by Esrailian.

    "We hope to inspire people to take action to help those in the world today and to promote peace, love and tolerance in the world for people of all backgrounds," he wrote.

    Esrailian also mentioned in a Deadline interview, that Kerkorian wanted to not just make a film, but help people too. "By making films that have this kind of social impact and them making sure the proceeds are donated to help others makes a second impact," he said.

    The fact that The Promise has gotten this far  - made possible by Kerkorian's initial vision - is in itself pioneering. It sets the wheels in motion for not just more people to learn about the events that changed the course of Armenian history forever, but to do more to stop them from happening again. 



    The Forgotten Armenians of Manchester

    The Forgotten Armenians of Manchester

    After weeks of anticipation, Henrikh Mkhitaryan has become the first Armenia international footballer in the English Premier League, much to the excitement of Armenian communities everywhere across the world. 

    The 27-year-old Mkhitaryan, who was born in Yerevan and is Armenia’s all-time top scorer was signed by one of the world's biggest football clubs, Manchester United.

    “I’m very happy that everyone can be proud of me because it’s an honor for me too, to be the first Armenian player in England,” the former Borussia Dortmund forward told Manchester United TV channel, MUTV.

    Though Mkhitaryan's impending arrival in Manchester is a first for the small, landlocked country of Armenia, Armenians have been leaving their mark on the city for almost 200 years, contributing immensely to its rich multicultural history.

    First settling in Manchester as silk merchants in 1835, Armenians from Constantinople and Smyrna set up dozens of textile businesses in the city, a testament to their entrepreneurial spirit. 

    Inside the Manchester Central Library’s archives are the documents of one such Armenian entrepreneur, Simpad Arabian, who grew up in Constantinople as part of the wealthy Armenian merchant class, left Turkey for Egypt during the outbreak of the First World War, and sought work in America before later moving to Manchester to become a textile shipping merchant.

    Certificate of identity issued to Simpad Arabian on 12. Sept, 1929 by the Home Office (Manchester Central Library Archives)


    As their numbers grew after waves of persecution in the Ottoman Empire, first in the 1880s and then during the Armenian Genocide in 1915, they raised funds and established the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church of Manchester in 1870, the oldest Armenian church in Western Europe. The church also became a social center in addition to serving the community’s spiritual needs.

    Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church of Manchester, 1970


    Rev. Haroutune Yegwartian, taken in 1896. (Manchester Central Library Archives)


    In 1908, the Armenian Ladies Association of Manchester was established, pledging to help the social progress of Armenians in England and “help keep the inside of the church bright.”

    (Armenian Ladies Association of Manchester, Manchester Central Library Archives)


    The history of the Armenian community in Manchester is still being unearthed today.

    In 2013, a volunteer at the Manchester Central Library archives began investigating the history of her home named “Massis,” later discovering its Armenian connection and the family who lived there. “Like many Armenians who moved to Manchester, Karnig Funduklian was a businessman, and the family textile/shipping business Funduklian & Sons benefited from the then booming cotton trade within the city,” she wrote.

    Family group showing Mr. K. Funduklian, his wife and 3 children, cousin, and servants in c.1900 (Manchester Central Library Archives)


    Three years prior, artist and author Neil Roland discovered how one Armenian family had lived in the house built in the final years of Queen Victoria’s reign before he bought it. The Arschavir children, Arto, Adrine and Ara were born in the house.

    “Even now, 98 years after the birth of Arto and just three weeks since his death, this house is still offering up secrets and signs of their long and happy tenure here,” he wrote.

    Perhaps the most well-known Armenian-Mancunian connection in recent years comes in the form of David Dickinson (born David Gulesserian), renowned antiques expert host of the British TV show, “Dickinson's Real Deal.” Dickinson, who was adopted, discovered that his biological grandfather Hrant was an Armenian silk merchant who came to Manchester from the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s at the age of 16 to set up a thriving trading company.

    David Dickinson 


    Though the community has since dwindled, the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church of Manchester still exists as does the Armenian Taverna restaurant. Established in 1968, it serves traditional Armenian fare like Ishkan trout and the yoghurt and cucumber salad known as “Jajuk.”

    Just before last year’s Armenian Genocide centennial, BBC Radio produced a five part audio series on the Armenian Diaspora in Europe - with Manchester featured in the first episode.

    “Despite everything that history has thrown at this community, somehow the Armenians have managed to survive all around the world,” says writer Charles Emmerson in the program, as he shares insights from both established and new members of this forgotten community.

    "In England if you say 'I'm Armenian,' people will say 'what do you mean, aluminum?'" one man says.

    As Mkhitaryan gets ready to move up in the football world, his forthcoming contribution to Manchester is sure add to the city's significant Armenian history.


    Ara the Rat / Mkhitaryan tee possibly in the works. Sign up to the Ara the Rat mailing list to be notified of our new products.  

    "Armenians Rule the U.S. Classic Animated Series"

    "Armenians Rule the U.S. Classic Animated Series"


    The following is a translated article written in response to our The Armenians of Springfield blog post by a website based in Azerbaijan. It was launched by an NGO called "For Human Rights" in 2011. They refer to themselves as "an information, analytical and monitoring portal" and state that their mission is to educate society and fight for human rights.


    Armenians Rule the U.S. Classic Animated Series

    All Azerbaijanis who have ever been abroad and talked to foreigners have definitely come across the fact that ordinary people from Europe, America and even Asia do not know about the existence of a country named Azerbaijan. When this happens, we have to hide our disappointment and explain that we come from Azerbaijan, a small country located on the Caspian shore at the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains between Iran and Russia.

    Still, it's a great shame that the country that gave the world the great Fuzuli and Nizami, declared the first democracy in the East, and now supplies oil and gas to almost every European consumer is not known abroad. It's even a bigger shame when people trying to get a clearer idea of where exactly Azerbaijan is located, ask a question: “Is it near Armenia?”

    So, how come we are losing the PR battle to the Armenians and why is Armenia more widely known around the world today than Azerbaijan? This fact overlooked by the public authorities and expat communities is usually attributed to the influence of the powerful Armenian lobby that has penetrated the world. This is why there are calls to recognize the so-called Armenian Genocide or the “independence” of Nagorno-Karabakh, sometimes from places where you would least expect it, such as New South Wales in Australia.

    Over the last ten years the government of Azerbaijan has made enormous efforts, including economic and cultural promotion to raise the country's international profile. In addition to a variety of international exhibitions and conferences for all industries, Azerbaijan hosted the Eurovision Song Contest and the first European Games. Thanks to the support from Azerbaijani companies, football players from big-league European clubs come on the field in T-shirts with the word “Azerbaijan” on them and the logo of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) sponsoring important international competitions is already a familiar sight.

    However, despite billions of dollars spent on the promotion these efforts do not contribute much to the image and prestige issue.

    Experience has shown that Armenians are doing a good job of making their country famous all over the globe without such huge expenses. First of all, the Armenian propaganda counts on the pop culture and it works perfectly. The reader has probably noticed an increasingly large number of Armenians featuring in recent popular Hollywood films. Armenians are shown as mafia bosses in almost every U.S. action film where Armenia, its history and culture also get a mention and you can hear the duduk playing at the end. Eventually, all this is shaping certain ideas in the minds of the cinema and TV audience all over the world and when the time comes, some of them will definitely remember the “Great Armenia”, probably when talking to you.

    Today, one of the U.S. websites posted a review of The Simpsons, the world-famous animated series. The show has been broadcast in over 100 countries and its audience has long ago reached hundreds of millions of viewers. The authors of the review conclude that most of the characters living in the fictional American town of Springfield where The Simpsons takes place are of Armenian descent.



    It turned out that Principal Seymour Skinner, one of the main characters in the show, is in fact Armen Tamzarian, an ethnic Armenian who has been hiding under the name of Skinner for years. In the episode called “The Principal And The Pauper”, Skinner is celebrating twenty years of his career as a principal. Superintendent Chalmers and the other teachers are throwing a big party for Principal Skinner. All goes well until the real Sgt. Skinner who was passing the school by chance exposes him. It emerges that Skinner (born Armen Tamzarian) is an impostor who once was a street punk in Capital City. The court gave him a choice to go to jail or the army. Having no idea that there was a war in Vietnam going on, he chose the latter.

    There, he was befriended by Sgt. Seymour Skinner, whom he came to idolize. When Sgt. Seymour Skinner was reported missing presumed dead, Tamzarian decided to assume his identity. Skinner's mother deliberately mistook him for Seymour. Since then, Tamzarian made Skinner's dream of becoming a school principal come true. The real Seymour Skinner had been alive after all: he had been taken prisoner and then sent to a Chinese sweatshop where he made Sneakers. After the sweatshop was closed down, the real Skinner returned to Springfield.




    If you think that the appearance of Armen Tamzarian in the show can be considered pure coincidence then think twice about other characters of Armenian descent. In Episode 16, Season 17 of The Simpsons, a Dr. Egoyan appears, also of Armenian descent. When the Springfield football team loses out the finger of blame is on Grampa Simpson aka Abe, who gets depressed and decides to seek out Dr. Egoyan. Instead of helping Abe, Dr. Egoyan tells him about the easiest ways to commit suicide.


    The fans have found one more character of Armenian descent in the show. In the final episode (Episode 23) in Season 10, the main character Homer Simpson says that he has attended the Chuck Garbedian Mega-Savings Seminar. As you can guess, Chuck is also of Armenian descent.




    And, finally, here is the biggest surprise. As it turns out Moe the bartender, one of the funniest characters in the show, is half Armenian. In “Lisa Goes Gaga”, Moe describes himself as “half monster, half Armenian”, which also proves that he is of Armenian descent.


    This is by no means an exhaustive list because after more than 20 years of running, the series was officially renewed with more seasons coming. So we cannot help but wonder how come Armenians feature so prominently in such a popular show. Characters of Armenian descent outnumber those of Spanish, Italian or German descent. Skeptics may call it a mere coincidence but I call it one of the most successful Armenian propaganda projects in popular culture.


     Original article: 

    Author: Murad Samedov
    3rd December 2015



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