In October 1998, after being offered a job with the United Nations, I decided to relocate from London to Yerevan, the Armenian capital. In June the same year I had already made my second visit to the country to document the Yezidi minority and it was then that I had been offered the position. Some four years after first setting foot in the Caucasus to photograph the 1994 ceasefire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno Karabakh, having worked on the Kurds in Turkey since then it seemed time for a change for both personal and professional reasons.
London-Armenians warned me against the move, however, saying that it wouldn’t be long before depression set in after witnessing first hand the poverty, corruption and insular world-view that has defined much of the country’s post-Soviet development.
They were right, and eventually my first book, Armenia: Poverty, Transition and Democracy was published in 2004 by the Gomidas Institute following the controversial and bitterly disputed re-election of Armenian President Robert Kocharian in February/March 2003 and Georgia’s Rose Revolution at the end of the same year. Even so, the publisher had suggested another title. Rather than a collection of articles and photographs, the idea of my first-hand account of my experiences in the country, published as Down and Out in Yerevan, was floated about.
The time was not right then, but a few elections and even a war in neighboring Georgia later, it is now. Chronicling a country crippled by economic collapse, political and economic corruption, conflict, and closed borders with two of its four neighbors, this blog will be frank, honest and pull no punches. Coming soon in January 2012.