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Preface Last Updated: 2/24/2004 1:56 AM


Armenia is home to one of the world’s oldest and most durable civilizations. Three thousand years of history tell a powerful tale of conquest, foreign domination and resurgence. Throughout it all, the country’s people have sustained a clear sense of national, ethnic, and religious identity.

Part of the Soviet Union from 1921-1991, a newly independent Armenia is working hard to fulfill the promise of democracy and a market economy. The transition has been difficult. In addition to the natural hardships faced by all command economies undergoing reform, Armenia faces blockades and sanctions resulting from a complex conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Following independence Armenia was virtually without electric power for two years. Its well-developed economy—one of the richest in the Soviet Union—was simply crushed. Recovery has been slow.
Now, however, the worst is over. The dram, the national currency, is stable. Petroleum and gas imports are flowing steadily. Moreover, the power sector has been reorganized to dramatically improve efficiency. As a result, consumers have steady, reliable electrical service.

With traditional resilience, the country is slowly climbing out of an abyss, even though Armenia’s borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey are closed. Although the traditional manufacturing base is shattered, small and medium sized businesses are opening all over the capital, and, to a lesser extent, in the regions. A wide variety of consumer goods are available in local markets, kiosks and stores. The metro is running; car traffic is rolling all day long. Much, however, is contingent on a peaceful political resolution to the volatile Nagorno-Karabakh situation.

Given this dramatic backdrop, Yerevan is an intensely busy post. This is true now more than ever, as the U.S. Government’s emphasis has shifted from humanitarian assistance to sustainable economic development, and our bilateral engagement expands and deepens. The Armenians, among the best-educated people in the entire CIS, are competent and energetic. Personnel assigned to this post can expect many real and exciting challenges at work. Moreover, given the very real nature of the problems here there is a genuine sense of making a difference.

Lastly, given realistic expectations, living conditions for those Foreign Service personnel assigned here—although not the Western norm—are made safe and comfortable by a very capable, well-organized and service-oriented General Services Organization. The amenities will continue to improve as post looks forward to opening the New Embassy Compound on the shore of Lake Yerevan in the spring of 2005.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 11/29/2004 2:03 AM

Armenia is located in the South Caucus, at the intersection of Europe and Asia. It covers a total land area of 29,800 square kilometers, which is slightly larger than the state of Maryland. Armenia is a landlocked country bordered by Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijan-Naxcivan Enclave, Georgia, Iran and Turkey.

The climate is highland continental. It is dry, with an average of 550mm (21.6 inches) in annual rainfall. In the Ararat Valley, where Yerevan is located, there is far less rain; with an average range of from 200mm to 250mm (7.9 to 10 inches).

Seasonal extremes are pronounced in the Ararat Valley. Temperatures can approach the record summer high of 42°C (107.6°F) or plunge towards the record winter low of -30°C (-22°F). Mean temperatures are more temperate, however. July readings give an average high range of from 25°C (77°F) to 30°C (86°F). The January low range averages from -5°C (23°F) to -7°C (19°F). Autumns are long and golden; Armenia enjoys around 2700 hours of sunshine each year. Drought is a perennial problem.

The country rests on a high mountainous plateau cut by fast flowing rivers. The over-grazed hills boast little true forest, but many of the steeper slopes are dressed with small shrubs and second growth. Good soil is plentiful in the Ara River Basin, and sheltered valleys across the country host pastures and prolific fruit orchards. The scenery along the highways is often dramatic, with high mountains shadowing green pastures ribboned with clear, cold streams.

Twenty-percent of Armenia’s land is given over to pasture and 17% to agriculture. Three thousand and fifty square kilometers is under irrigation.

At 4,096 meters, Mount Aragats is the highest point in the country.

The interesting geology consists mostly of young igneous and volcanic rocks including obsidian. Armenia is honeycombed with geologic faults and remains seismically active. The effects of a severe earthquake centered in Spitak in 1988 are still being felt socially and economically—particularly near the epicenter.

(See the Health and Medicine section for a discussion of the precautions recommended for the hot dry climate and the possibility of earthquake.)

Population Last Updated: 12/3/2004 3:27 AM

According to the October 2001 census, Armenia’s de facto population is 3.002 million*. Roughly a third of the population, 1.09 million people, lives in Yerevan. Over all two-thirds live in cities. Ten percent of the population is over 65; sixty-five percent between the ages of 15 and 64, and twenty-five percent are 14 or younger.

According to a breakdown of the ethnic distribution, in 2001 - 97.8 percent of the people were Armenian, 0.5 percent Russian, 1.3 percent Yezidi Kurd, and 1 percent Assyrians – making Armenia one of the most homogenous countries in the world.

*NB: This represents the population present in country. The de jure official number, counting those who work abroad but had returned to Armenia within the year prior to the census, is 3.213 mil.

Armenians have their own highly distinctive alphabet and language. Ninety-six percent of the people in the country speak Armenian, while 40% of the population speak Russian as well. Armenia is totally literate; 99% of the population can read and write.

Most adults in Yerevan can communicate in Russian. English is increasing in popularity, but is rarely spoken with any fluency outside of educated circles. Cyrillic script can still be seen on many older street and building signs. Ninety-four percent of the population claims membership in the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Caucasian hospitality is legendary and stems from ancient tradition. Social gatherings center around sumptuous presentations of course after course of elaborately prepared, well-seasoned (but not spicy-hot) food. The host or hostess will often put morsels on a guest’s plate whenever it is empty or fill his or her glass when it gets low. After a helping or two it is acceptable to refuse politely or, more simply, just leave a little uneaten food.

Armenia is by tradition a male-dominated society. Women moving about alone should be careful about making eye contact or giving friendly smiles to men. Indeed, women traveling or eating by themselves are sometimes harassed without cause, mainly by groups of men in cars who have been drinking. Violence against foreign women in such situations is very rare, but it has occurred.

Ethnocentrism born of the country’s cohesive homogeneity and long isolation occasionally causes problems for visitors. Light-haired or fair-skinned people may receive unwanted attention, as may people of African descent. Occasional acts of aggression are by no means restricted to Americans, and it should be emphasized that virtually all of this behavior comes from children or unruly teens.

Such belligerence appears to be the rare exception. As a rule Armenians both young and old are cheerful, friendly and polite, more curious than anything else. Americans are well regarded, in general. On the whole, Armenia is considered very safe and people posted here move about freely in both town and country, by day and/or by night.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 2/24/2004 3:52 AM

Armenia—“Hayastan” in Armenian—is a republic. On 5 July 1995 the current constitution was adopted through a national referendum.

With the adoption of the constitution ten provinces plus the capital were designated. They are as follows: Aragatsotn, Ararat, Armavir, Gegharkunik, Lori, Kotayk, Shirak, Syunik, Tavush, and Vayots Dzor, plus the capital city of Yerevan.

The head of state is the President, in whom much power is vested.

The head of government is the Prime Minister, who is appointed and dismissed by the President. The President also appoints and dismisses the members of the Government, as proposed by the Prime Minister.

Presidential and Parliamentary elections were both held in 2003. Incumbent President Robert Kocharian was re-elected in a poll criticized for irregularities by international observers. Pro-government parties also retained a majority of seats in the parliament.

The unicameral legislative branch is known as the National Assembly. There are 131 MPs; 75 are elected by proportional (party) list, and 56 from majoritarian (single mandate) districts.
Currently the ruling coalition is composed of the Republican Party, the Country of Law Party, and the Dashnaksutyun Party.

There are several opposition parties, some of which have coalesced into the Justice Bloc. The National Accord Party is the other prominent opposition group.

The country’s legal apparatus is founded on a system of civil law. Currently, the National Assembly is very busy passing legislation in virtually every field. A new Criminal Code was passed and took effect in 2003, replacing Soviet-era laws.

The judicial branch consists of a three-level court system. The highest court is the Court of Cassation, and there are two lower-level courts: first instance courts try most cases, with a right of appeal to the Court of Appeals, and then to the Court of Cassation. The Constitutional Court rules on the conformity of legislation with the Constitution, approves international agreements, and decides election-related legal questions. Judges are nominated based on the scores they receive on a multiple-choice exam, which tests their legal acumen, and on interviews with the Minister of Justice. Once nominated, new judges are by the Council of Justice and by the President. Judges are subject to review by the President, through the Council of Justice, after 3 years; unless they are found guilty of malfeasance, they are tenured until the age of 65.

Many international organizations are represented in Armenia. The United Nations is very active, as is the EU and some national governments. In addition, there are scores of non-governmental organizations. These serve a variety of needs, ranging from humanitarian aid to democratic as well as economic development.

A cease-fire has held in Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian region within Azerbaijan, since 1994. The unresolved confrontation, which has resulted in closed borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey, hinders Armenia’s full economic development. Even with this encumbrance, however, Armenia has been able to accomplish double-digit growth rates. (See section on Commerce and Industry for more details.)

Lastly, no discussion of public institutions would be complete without mentioning the vast Armenian Diaspora, both in the U.S. and Europe. It has become a bridge to the outside world for many Armenians and influences the direction of the country with resources and ideas.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 11/29/2004 5:03 AM

Yerevan is the country’s intellectual, as well as its administrative, center. The American University of Armenia, Yerevan State University, the State Medical Institute and the State Engineering University are located in the capital – providing the foundation of the country’s higher education system.

The American University of Armenia has graduate programs in Business and Law, among others. The institution owes its existence to the combined efforts of the Government of Armenia, The Armenian General Benevolent Union, USAID, and the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley.

The extension programs and the library at AUA form a new focal point for English-language intellectual life in the city. Many of the country’s most successful young entrepreneurs are graduates of this institution.

As might be expected from so literate a society, Yerevan is a city of culture. The Matenadaran Library contains a priceless collection of ancient manuscripts, chiefly Armenian, but also Persian, Arab, Roman, and Greek.

The city’s National Art Gallery has more than 16,000 works that date back to the middle ages. It houses paintings by many European masters. The Modern Art Museum, The Children’s Picture Gallery, and the Saryan Museum are only a few of the other noteworthy collections of fine art on display in Yerevan. Moreover, many private galleries are in operation, with many more opening each year. They feature rotating exhibitions and sales.

The world-class Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra performs at the beautifully refurbished city Opera House, where you can also attend a full season of opera. In addition, there are several chamber ensembles highly regarded for their musicianship, including the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia and the Serenade Orchestra. Classical music can also be heard at one of several smaller venues, including the State Music Conservatory and the Chamber Orchestra Hall.

Jazz is popular, especially in the summer when live performances are a regular occurrence at one of the city’s many outdoor cafes.

Also, there are many drama theaters in Yerevan hosting plays in Armenian, Russian, and occasionally English.

Yerevan’s Vernisage (arts and crafts market), close to Republic Square, bustles with hundreds of vendors selling a variety of crafts, many of superb workmanship, on Saturdays and Sundays and few weekdays (though the selection is much reduced). The market offers woodcarving, antiques, fine lace, and the hand-knotted wool carpets and kilms that are a Caucus specialty. Obsidian, which is found locally, is crafted into an amazing assortment of jewelry and ornamental objects. Armenian gold smithery enjoys a long and distinguished tradition, populating one corner of the market with a selection of gold items. Soviet relics and souvenirs of recent Russian manufacture—nesting dolls, watches, enamel boxes etc.—are also available at the Vernisage.

Across from the Opera House, a popular art market fills another city park on the weekends.
Armenia’s long history as a crossroads of the ancient world has resulted in a landscape with innumerable fascinating archeological sites to explore. Medieval, Iron Age, Bronze Age and even Stone Age sites are all within a few hours drive from the city. All but the most spectacular remain virtually undiscovered, allowing you to view churches and fortresses in their original settings.

In Soviet times Armenia boasted very high numbers of scientists and technical specialists – a staggering amount in proportion to its population. Many of the USSR’s most important facilities and institutes were located here. Much of the basic research has stopped, however, due to the country’s impoverished condition

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 12/3/2004 3:28 AM

Armenia's economy collapsed with the fall of the Soviet Union and the closure of its borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan following the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. After recent years of strong recovery, the Armenian economy is now equal to 73.6 percent of its size in 1990. The Armenian government has made great progress in moving Armenia from a centralized state with a planned economy to a democratic society with a free market economic system. Privatization of key industries, especially in the energy sector, has ended the chronic shortages Armenia experienced in the early nineties. Through privatization the country has modernized its telecommunications system, although demand still exceeds capacity and there remains much work to be done to provide adequate and affordable communication services.

Parliament has been implementing an ambitious program of reforms aimed at restructuring the banking and financial services sector, liberalizing trade, attracting foreign investment through improved tax and customs regimes, establishing a western accounting system, and meeting the obligations of its recent accession to the WTO. Armenia has improved land transportation routes to its neighboring trade partners, Georgia and Iran, although borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan remain closed due to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

Largely due to the help of international development assistance and foreign direct investment by Diaspora Armenians, the economy has grown on average 6 percent a year since 1994, with exceptionally strong growth of 12.9 percent in 2002 and 13.9 percent in 2003. This progress and fiscal stability has, in turn, earned Armenia continued support from international institutions. The IMF, the World Bank, the EBRD, as well as other financial institutions and foreign countries have extended considerable grants and loans to Armenia, with total grants and loans to Armenia from 1993-2002 exceeding $2 billion. International aid has sought to reduce the budget deficit, keep the local currency stable, stimulate private businesses, develop the energy, agricultural, food processing, land and air transport and social sectors, as well as continue reconstruction in the area damaged by the 1988 earthquake.

The U.S., the EU and the United Nations are the main providers of assistance to Armenia. In FY 2002, the United States extended $119 million in assistance to Armenia.

The long-term resolution of the country's economic problems will depend on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and establishing diplomatic and trade relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan. A settlement would increase the country's industrial output and allow Armenia to fully utilize its highly educated human resources by expanding regional trade links with Azerbaijan, Turkey and the Middle East.

In the years since independence, services (telecommunications) and agriculture have consistently been Armenia's largest economic sectors. However, other sectors have driven Armenia's recent robust growth. Output in the construction sector--largely due to foreign aid and investment--accounts for the lion's share of domestic growth. Export-oriented polishing of diamonds stands out as Armenia's fastest growing industry and biggest earner of foreign currency. Perhaps because Armenia's relative isolation makes transport costs of other goods prohibitively expensive, the import and export of diamonds for finishing accounts for more than half of Armenia's external economy. There is also a significant and growing high-tech sector.

Prospective on Development:
Despite Armenia's robust growth, income disparities remain wide. This is partly attributable to the government's poor record in tax revenue collection, which has prevented it from raising levels of social expenditure. Wage rates vary widely between public and private sectors. Although real wages rose by more than 10 percent in 2003, many households continue to rely on domestic agricultural production and private transfers from relatives working abroad to meet their consumption needs.

The poverty level remains high, although declining: the number of households living below the nationally defined poverty line fell from 55.1 percent in 1999 to 50.9 percent in 2001. The government's Poverty Reduction Strategy projects gradual reduction in the poverty level to below 20 percent of households by 2015.

Although the economic recovery has led to an increase in employment in those sectors that have benefited from foreign investment, overall employment has stagnated at just under 1.3 million over the past four years. Using International Labour Organization methodology (as opposed to official statistics) the unemployment rate is 32 percent. A major development challenge for Armenia's future is to ensure that a greater share of Armenians enjoy the benefits of growth.


Automobiles Last Updated: 11/29/2004 2:16 AM

A car is very desirable, and though not absolutely a necessity in Yerevan, the New Embassy Compound will be difficult to get to without one. Most housing will be beyond walking range of the NEC, and there are no safe public transportation options for the commute.

In general, taxis are affordable ($1-2 a ride) and a clean and well-run metro line operates in the city center, but not close enough to the NEC to use for commuting. Most people at post have their own vehicle.

Travel outside the city is made much safer and more convenient by having a car. Rentals are expensive, and there are very limited inter-city public transportation options. Several travel agencies plan regular tours, and a car can be hired to get you where you need to go, but with varying quality and at a low level of safety.

Those wishing to import a POV should bear in mind that parts can be hard to obtain locally for American cars, although some parts for popular US models, like Jeep Cherokees, are available. High-end German cars like Mercedes can also be serviced here, as can most Japanese models. The mechanics here are highly skilled, inexpensive, and quick to finish the job if the parts are available. Car theft is not a much of a problem in Yerevan, but stereo theft is. Removable faceplates and other stereo security systems are advised.

Four-wheel drive is needed to get out to all the great archeological sites, and is handy in winter, but a sturdy standard car will do for Yerevan and many other destinations. There have been substantial improvements to the roadways over the past two years, earning Armenia the reputation for having the best roads in the Caucasus.

Buying a car locally is an option. Currently, a new Lada Niva (a tough little Russian-made 4X4) can be had for around $7000. Small Russian-made sedans, like Ladas and Zhigulis, run a little less. Used BMWs and Mercedes are also affordable. In general, used car prices are extremely variable. Buyers will undoubtedly need the help of a local person to shop Yerevan’s weekend auto market where new and used models are sold. It is also possible to import a car from Dubai or Russia duty-free.

Russian made cars are easier and cheaper to repair, and are easy to resell. The bad news is that with a Russian-made car the chances that repairs will be needed are greatly increased. It should also be noted that these cars are well below US safety standards.

A legacy vehicle from someone leaving post is one of the best options – email post before you arrive.

Registration and licensing for imported POV’s is easy if you have clear proof of ownership, therefore, title and registration are essential. There are no restrictions on what kind of car you can bring in.

There are legal pitfalls if you buy locally, but they are easily avoided. If you buy a car here make sure to check that the registration (the technical passport) matches the vehicle in both the engine number and the body number. Also, get a dated bill of sale that names the price and the parties concerned. This may be hand written. Once the title is transferred into your name by the local authorities— a complex process that involves paying a three percent transfer tax on the value of the vehicle—GSO can handle the matter of getting plates from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that are appropriate to your diplomatic standing. It is easy to find someone willing to help you with this process from within Embassy community – cars are a favorite hobby.

Repairs: The US Mission uses a short list of local mechanics with whom we have an established track record to service official vehicles. Most Embassy personnel use them for their POVs as well. Again, if you decide to bring a POV, import expendable items like belts, filters, brake pads, motor oil, and brake fluid along with it. With your consumables, send in any special fluids and enough oil to support several changes. Although all of these parts can be obtained here, they are of variable quality and name brands are sometimes counterfeited and substandard product substituted. A factory manual is also not a bad idea.

The Internet offers access to almost any part needed or you might want to prearrange a mailing and payment procedure with an auto parts supplier for unforeseen items. Keep in mind the restrictions of mailing via pouch, and realize that you will be waiting 2-4 weeks for that part to arrive.

Fuel: There is no unleaded fuel at all in Armenia so it is best for POVs to be modified to accept leaded fuel. Remove the catalytic converter if you want to prevent this expensive part from being clogged and ruined. A permission letter from EPA is required if this is done in the US, and can be easily obtained with help from the administrative offices in Washington. It can also be done at post, but should be done immediately, as one tank of leaded gas will kill the converter. The fuel filler neck is usually not a problem, but can also be replaced with one designed for taking in leaded fuel. It is a convenient modification, but is not a necessity. Since US automakers export to countries where leaded gas is the norm, this part is available for many cars.

The “Premium” or “Super” gas available in Yerevan is of sufficient octane and high enough quality that you will notice little drop off in performance or engine health.

Gasoline is available throughout the country from a growing number of modern gas stations. The further you are from Yerevan, the more broadly they are scattered, and rural gas stops can be a trip back in time. In an emergency, fuel is always nearby, sold in liter bottles from roadside stands, though roadside fuel is variable and occasionally poor enough to cause problems. Gasoline currently costs about $0.80 for premium gas per liter, or $0.65 for regular gas. A medium sized SUV will take around 20,000 dram worth of fuel per tank (around $40).

Yerevan’s streets, though improving, are often rough going off the main avenues. A car that can handle potholes (i.e. with clearance and a good suspension) makes driving less harrowing. The national highways outside of Yerevan are mostly in good condition. Main routes are usually well surfaced enough to allow for moderate cruising speeds with occasional bad spots. Secondary routes are sometimes quite degraded. Ongoing construction, slowing traffic in the short term, is positive evidence of the Diaspora funded march toward better infrastructure.

The road culture can be aggressive and undisciplined. Drivers must remain alert for any possible eventuality at all times. Constant jaywalking and poor lighting at night add to the danger in cities and villages. Yerevan’s roads are a place for skilled, confident drivers with quick reflexes.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 11/26/2004 2:49 AM

Public surface transportation in Yerevan is crowded and the equipment is old. There are buses, trolley buses and even a funicular. Taxis are available and reasonably priced. Two dollars is the average fare for a ride within the downtown area. The taxis are not metered so passengers must negotiate, so expect to pay a slight premium if you can’t negotiate in Armenian or Russian. Tips are appreciated, but are not expected.

There are “Marshrutki” (mini bus) taxis as well. They run specified routes at varied rates ranging from 50 to 200 drams (10 to 40 cents). Operation and maintenance of these vehicles can be questionable - RSO discourages American personnel from using them.

A limited metro line operates in Yerevan that is generally clean, timely and uncrowded. The price of a token is 50 drams (eight cents).

There are inter-city buses and a very few trains. The trains are unreliable and are not used by US-Mission employees. Most of the expatriate community move about by private car, on foot, or, on occasion, by charter bus.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 11/29/2004 2:17 AM

There are no regular commercial flights between cities in Armenia. Passenger train service is sub-standard. For example, the train to Tbilisi takes 14-16 hours, runs an erratic schedule, and is uncomfortable. (The same ride by car takes from five to six hours.) Most internal long-distance travel is accomplished by car or bus.

Strained relations with Turkey over Nagorno-Karabakh have closed that nearby land border. Because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, direct travel to Azerbaijan is impossible from Armenia. Official Americans may not travel to Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Armenian leg of the highway to Tbilisi is in good condition, and has been improved by the recent opening of a two-kilometer tunnel, but the Georgian side tends to be slow going. There is roadwork planned on the Georgian side that could cut the trip by an hour. The drive from Yerevan to Tbilisi takes 5-6 hours, depending on weather conditions.

Surface routes through to southern Armenia and Iran are open most of the year.
The regional roads are passable for most of the year, but in the dead of winter some routes close from time to time due to heavy snow in high mountain passes.

Travel to nearby and neighboring countries is generally accomplished by air. The schedule is variable; most flights are weekly, while others leave three to five days a week. The only daily service is to Moscow. Five main carriers currently serve Yerevan: Armenian International Airlines, Aeroflot International Airlines, Czech Airlines, British Airways and Austrian Airlines. Other smaller carriers offering regional flights operate from Yerevan as well.

Though the list seems to change on a weekly basis, there are currently flights to and from Yerevan to the following cities: Vienna, Moscow, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Prague, Amsterdam, Tbilisi, Istanbul, Dubai, Aleppo, Beirut, Tehran, Kiev, St. Petersburg, and a dozen other CIS cities.

Arrival and departure times on the most traveled routes are routinely scheduled for the most inconvenient hours (between 12-midnight and 6am). BA flights to London, and daily flights to Moscow are exceptions.

Communications Last Updated: 2/24/2004 5:43 AM

Yerevan continues to struggle with infrastructure problems. The effects of these are most pronounced in the IT sector, and affect daily life through substandard telephone lines, slow dial up Internet access, and spotty cellular phone coverage. Though improvements are promised, Armenia is years away from a fully developed communications sector.

In light of this, the Embassy is working to fill gaps in service by using in-house technology whenever possible. This is illustrated by the Employee Association administering Internet accounts, and an active push to include embassy extensions in all residences. Through these efforts and with Armenia’s increasing investment in IT, the situation improves every year.

Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 11/26/2004 3:30 AM

All Mission residences come equipped with a local phone line, the cost of which is paid by tenants. At the end of each month , you will receive a telephone bill and you will need to pay the amount due to the cashier within 5 working days.

The quality of the local lines is sometimes very bad. Service can be interrupted and it may take many tries to complete a call. Local lines may not allow the caller to dial internationally, though all phones can receive international calls.

Dialing on to the Internet results in relatively low transmission speeds (32 KPS is typical). Connections can be interrupted regularly, requiring the user to dial back on to the network (for example, an hour of Internet time may require dialing into the network three separate times.) An increasing number of city lines have been made digital allowing for decent voice communication and improved data transmission.

A limited number of mission-provided houses have embassy extensions that allow for inter-embassy communication.

At agency discretion, those Embassy extensions may also be given access to the international voice Geteway(IVG) which can be used for official calls to the US and other US embassies. After 7 PM daily , mission extensions with IVG access may also be used to access US-based lines so that personal calls can be charged to your personal calling card (ATT,Sprint, MCI etc.) at domestic U.S long distance rates.

It is forbidden to use the tie line to contact personal email or Internet providers with US phone numbers.

Wireless Service Last Updated: 11/26/2004 3:11 AM
There is cellular service in Yerevan. At agency discretion and depending upon availability each direct-hire and PSC American employee is provided with one cellular telephone.

Note: personal calls made via the cellular telephone must be reimbursed at the rate of approximately 18 cents per minute.

Internet Last Updated: 12/6/2004 8:19 AM

Most direct hire Embassy personnel have dial-up accounts through the Embassy’s Employee Association for $15 per month. There are several other local Internet providers with varying, but affordable, rates. One of the better known is Arminco. Currently, America Online has a local dial-up number that functions fairly well on city lines. AOL members should check for the latest Yerevan access number(s) before departing for post. Note that there is currently a $6.00/hour network access surcharge for Armenia’s AOL users. Internet cafes are beginning to proliferate, but do not boast the most comfortable atmosphere.

Improved service and access to the World Wide Web is possible with leased lines or a radio modem. These services can run into hundreds of dollars a month. Also, there is high-speed Internet access at the Hotel Armenia I Business Center. The rates are relatively steep, however. Predictably, the Internet scene is changing all the time. (See Reading and WWW Browsing for useful web sites.)

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 12/6/2004 8:19 AM

Embassy Yerevan is not apart of the APO system. All direct-hire US-Mission employees may send and receive mail by Unclassified Diplomatic Pouch, with the following restrictions:

- All incoming parcels and letters must weigh no more than 40 pounds and are not to exceed 60 inches in combined width, length, and height.
- All outgoing parcels must weigh no more than two pounds, be no bigger than a large mailing envelope, and not thicker than two video cassettes.

The following items are restricted and may not be sent or received via pouch:

Use the following addresses to mail items to the American Embassy, Yerevan:

For Official Mail:
Full Name
American Embassy, Yerevan
Department of State
Washington, DC 20189–7020

For Personal Mail:
Full Name
7020 Yerevan Place
Dulles, VA 20189-7020

Radio and TV Last Updated: 11/22/2004 6:59 AM

There are several FM radio stations in Yerevan that play a variety of music. American popular music is ubiquitous, but you also get an interesting mix of Armenian traditional and contemporary, Iranian, Turkish, and Russian music.

Regular TV consists of local Russian and Armenian programming over VHF broadcast bands totaling 5-7 channels and CNN International in English (though often with poor reception). A local cable AATV company provides Digital cable TV service with up to 56 international channels, 30 of these channels are in English including CNN, BBC, MTV, HBO, Discovery Channel, Cartoon Network and several others. The installation of the digital Decoder costs $200 , plus a monthly fee of $20 for the full package and you must pay 3 months in advance..

In addition there are many broadcast satellites whose footprints cover Yerevan. Some American personnel have paid to have satellite dishes and tuners installed in their residences. All the equipment required to receive satellite transmissions is available in Yerevan, and there is a reliable local contractor who can install it. The cost is around $650 .Employees often sell this equipment to incoming personnel. Costs, however, must be born by the employee, both for hardware and installation. Reception of the Armed Forces Network is also possible with the purchase and installation of the necessary equipment.

A AFRTS decoder is available for lease through the Employee Association to U.S Direct Hire. A decoder costing approx $ 650 is required along with a $150.00 sat Dish. There are 10 channels of US programming and no monthly fee.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 12/6/2004 8:21 AM

There are two local weekly publications that provide some Armenian news in English: "The Yerevan Times" and "The Noyan Tapan". In addition, The Public Affairs Section maintains a healthy collection of current periodicals for on-site review in their library (the Information Resource Center – or IRC), as well as a large reference collection in hard copy and on CD. Western periodicals in English may be reviewed at nearby English-language American University of Armenia Library as well. Subscriptions mailed through the pouch are very reliable, but arrive 2-4 weeks late. Also, keep in mind that many of leading magazines are now available through Internet subscriptions.

The Public Diplomacy section distributes a daily media review via email for Embassy employees providing English language summaries of the Armenian language press. Ask to be added to the distribution list upon arrival at post, (or before is your are on OpenNet).

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 12/6/2004 2:58 AM

The health unit is housed in the US Embassy. The unit can provide advanced first aid for most medical emergencies, including stabilization after heart attack. There is a physician who maintains visiting hours at the embassy, who is also on call twenty-four hours a day. The doctor, a noted cardiologist, has post-graduate American training and speaks English.

In addition, one local American-trained nurse supports the unit. The unit has formal relationships with several local English-speaking physicians.

For serious emergencies the health unit works in concert with the nearby Malatia Medical Center and Nork-Marash Cardiac Hospital that meets Western standards for cleanliness and, to some extent, technology. Using a combination of supplies from the US Mission’s extensive pharmacy, and the facilities and physicians of Malatia Medical Center, the health unit can competently coordinate most emergencies—an appendectomy, for example—without undue hazard. In sum, most average medical problems can be handled locally. If time allows, complex or unusual problems require medical evacuation for treatment.
The Regional Medical Officer visits twice a year. Based in Tbilisi, the regional Foreign Service Health Provider makes quarterly visits to Yerevan.

Yerevan has several dental clinics that meet international professional standards. There are a number of dental practices that can provide routine cleaning, complete simple procedures, and respond to emergencies. There is also a modern clinic, recently opened by two well-trained American dentists, that can meet a full range of dental and orthodontic needs.

An English-speaking ophthalmologist is available for referrals.

Currently, the health unit laboratory capabilities are limited. Some work is sent to the U.S. as per agency regulations. The health unit extensively uses the Viola Lab, which has been approved by the Regional Medical Laboratory Technician and the Regional Medical Officer. The health unit maintains a walking blood bank program; your participation is welcome.

The health unit is available for use by all direct hire personnel. It is made available to contractors, but only with permission of the health unit, the Regional Medical Officer and the host agency. The health unit can direct people who do not qualify for treatment there(not have valid Medical clearance) to approved facilities that it has investigated.

Community Health Last Updated: 12/3/2004 3:19 AM

Yerevan is a relatively clean city with functioning sanitation services. That being said, litter is a problem. Incomplete construction sites and poorly maintained infrastructure can present a hazard in the form of missing manhole covers, incomplete sidewalks, rusted metal and the like. The majority of stores and restaurants are clean and well maintained.

The city water supply is usually adequate and clean, but it is not treated to U.S. standards. Water from the tap should be briskly boiled for five minutes before drinking. Most household need for potable water is met by large capacity distillers installed in all embassy housing. Bottled water is inexpensive and ubiquitous; bottles range in size from 0.5 to 5 liters.

To ensure that there are no problems with service, GSO provides twice-weekly garbage pick up at embassy residences.

Yerevan is home to a species of white scorpion that presents no serious health risk, but is often a topic of conversation in the summer. The scorpion’s sting is the equivalent of that of a bee or wasp – except in the rare instance of an allergic reaction. Scorpions have been found in some houses, usually in basements and closets, but they are primarily outdoor pests. Check your boots and shoes before slipping them on, especially when camping.

Snakes are a more serious outdoor danger. There are four species of poisonous snake in Armenia: The most poisonous are Vipera Lebetina (locally known as Gurza), Vipera Kaznakovi, Vipera Raddei, and Vipera Ursinii (English equivalents unknown). Fifty-percent of all bites occur in children 12 years old or younger during the summer months of July and August. Take extra precaution when hiking and camping, both popular activities for the Foreign Service community here. Wear high boots and heavy long pants when hiking and keep a sharp eye out. Children should be discouraged from playing in thick grass in high summer—even in some less developed parts of the city.

If a bite occurs, the health unit and most large hospitals have antivenin.

Alcoholic beverages are generally considered true to their labeling, however, throughout the CIS, adulteration of bootleg alcohol with poisonous wood alcohol is known to occur. Armenia is famous for its cognac; buy it, and all alcohol, from reputable sources.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 12/6/2004 2:59 AM

There is a very serious microbial condition known as Brucellosis that can be contracted from some hoofed animals. One vector is unpasteurized milk from goats or cows. There have been outbreaks of this disease in Yerevan. Homemade Armenian cheese from village producers is the main culprit. This rustic salty cheese should be purchased from quality stores and markets, not from street vendors. Cheese made by the larger producers is generally considered safe, as is imported cheese. Be cautious about unfamiliar cheeses. Yogurt and sour cream from commercial producers is considered safe. Again, be careful of village produce.

Giardia, a water-born intestinal parasite, is present. Tap water should be boiled for five minutes before consumption.

Local sparkling mineral waters like Bjni and Jermuk are considered safe.

New arrivals should be aware that strenuous exercise at Yerevan’s elevation could take one by surprise. Serious runners should take it easy at first and ‘test the waters.’ There is a danger of fainting or vertigo.

Armenia is notoriously dry. GSO supplies humidifiers upon request. Order one for your sleeping quarters. Also, stay well hydrated in winter by drinking plenty of water or juice to help avoid upper respiratory complaints. These are common in Armenia.

Required immunizations for Yerevan include Typhoid, Diphtheria-Tetanus, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. People who expect to be out in the country or whose activities could put them in the way of a dog bite, might want to consider a preventive rabies series, although the disease is not reported. Employees of all agencies should double-check with State M/MED regarding pre-arrival inoculation programs.

Familiar brands of American over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceuticals are not available in Yerevan. Substitutions are often available, but you have to know what you are looking for. Aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen are readily available. Bring a full supply of prescription medicines, favorite over-the-counter medications, and health supplies such as corn plasters or Ace bandages. Arrange with a US-based pharmacy to mail in continuing prescriptions. The CVS Pharmacy in Foggy Bottom across from State Department headquarters is familiar with this procedure.

Hats and sun block are a necessity for any prolonged activity outside in the summer. It is also as important to drink lots of juice or water in hot dry conditions. Tea, coffee or soft drinks that contain caffeine are no substitute; caffeine is a diuretic.

Armenia is in an earthquake zone. Without being overly dramatic, and with the full understanding that the possibility of an earthquake at any given place and time is statistically remote, it would nonetheless be prudent to review some materials on how to prepare for, and how to behave during, a seismic event. FEMA maintains literature on this subject. Basic precautions include keeping several days supply of drinking water on hand at all times and remaining indoors if there is a quake; the greatest hazard comes from falling building glass or roofing materials, rather than from complete building collapse.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 2/24/2004 7:19 AM

There are regular opportunities for employment for spouses and adult dependents at the mission. The mission is chronically understaffed and dependents with qualifications have a good chance of finding a part time or full time job.

It is helpful to have as much lead time as possible for staffing positions, therefore, EFMs (eligible family members) are encouraged to contact post administration as soon as they learn of their family members assignment to Yerevan. An updated resume and outline of potential areas of interest will help the Embassy Human Resources Office find a position that will be a best fit for both the Mission and the dependent. Lead time is extremely helpful if a security clearance or other lengthy certification process is needed as well. Any extra time gained by initiating the process before arrival at post will significantly assist with the employment process.

Many jobs on the local economy require fluent written and spoken Russian and Armenian. This can limit the number of available positions for which EFMs are competitive. Successful applicants, if hired in country, are likely to be paid in concert with local salary levels, which are far lower than compensation rates in the U.S. for equivalent work.

That being said, there are a number of international organizations and multi-national companies operating in Armenia. For example, a plethora of NGOs work in a broad range of development areas. Researching potential employment with such organizations before arrival at post can be fruitful and may include a more U.S. standard compensation package.

Officially, there is no bilateral work agreement in place between Armenia and the United States. In practice, a de-facto agreement allows those able to find work on the local economy to accept employment.

American Embassy - Yerevan

Post City Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:16 AM

Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is in the west-central part of the country in the Ararat Valley, a plateau 3,000 feet above sea level. The fertile valley, settled since pre-history, is surrounded by snowcapped mountains, and dominated by view of the famous Mt. Ararat (16,000 ft.). With the exception of the low-lying center city, Yerevan is a town of hills and winding streets. Pockets of old-fashioned charm give way to Soviet-era apartment blocks, with the rural countryside only minutes in any direction. The just renovated Republic Square and Opera House offer the finest examples of the tuff stone facades that color most of Yerevan.

The city is the cultural as well as the administrative center of the nation. With just over a million people it is home to roughly a third of the country’s population. Armenia’s strong economic growth over the past few years is most evident in Yerevan. New boutiques, fancy coffee houses and art galleries have spread all over the city. Shiny BMW SUVs and black-windowed Mercedes weave among the boxy Ladas and industrious Marshrutki.

Security Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:17 AM

The incidence of crime in Yerevan is similar to comparably sized U.S. cities. Violent crime, however, is relatively low in comparison to major metropolitan areas of the United States.

Due to the economic situation, western visitors appear as rich targets and are susceptible to thefts from unlocked premises and pickpockets/purse snatchers. Common sense and good judgment should be exercised in activities by keeping a low profile, and being alert to any signs of surveillance. One should maintain continual awareness of ones surroundings, especially when times and places are predictable, e.g. arriving/departing hotels, parked cars, or scheduled appointments.

Armenia is going through substantial change. While organized crime has increased, it is not as well-developed or entrenched in Armenia as in other CIS countries.

Petty theft, the most common crime, involving pickpockets or purse-snatchers, occurs in crowded public spaces. Certain makes and models of cars are more likely to be stolen or cannibalized for their parts – for example; the Lada Niva is a favorite among car thieves. RSO recommends investing in a steering wheel locking device and/or alarm system that disables the ignition (alarm systems are available and affordable locally).

In general, most individuals report feeling a sense of safety living here, and complete a full tour without being the victim of even petty crime.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:20 AM

The U.S. Mission includes the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Defense Attaché’s Office, the US Agency for International Development, the US Department of Agriculture, and the Peace Corps.

The offices of State, Defense, Treasury, and USAID are all housed in the American Embassy Chancery, which is located at the following local address:

18 Bagramyan Street, Yerevan 37059, Armenia.
Telephone: +374-1-52-46-61, or, 52-16-11, or, 52-13-41; Fax: +374-1-52-08-00.

All of these agencies are scheduled to move in the Spring 2005 to a new embassy compound located on the shore of Lake Yerevan, around two miles from the city center.

Agencies not currently located in the chancery are:

The USDA office – Address: 74 Teryan St., Yerevan.
Telephone: +374-1-560-014; Fax: +374-1-587-928.

The US Peace Corps office - Address: 33 Charents Street, Yerevan.
Telephone: +374-1-524-450; Fax: +374-1-557-991.

Employees arriving at post by air come into Zvartnots International Airport, a 20-minute drive from the embassy. Arrivals are met by an expediter, a local contractor who helps them through the formalities and provides transportation. In the event that an arriving person is not met, he or she should contact the embassy using any of the following numbers: 52-46-61 or 52-16-11 or 52-13-41. After hours, the embassy recording will provide you with the duty officer’s cell phone number. The duty officer will make the appropriate arrangements. Taxies are also available at the airport. A fare into town is about ten dollars.

In some instances arrival to Armenia is effected by surface from Georgia. In these cases arrangements must be made to have an embassy car meet the arrivals at the Georgian border. Currently, there is no reliable public transportation to post from the Georgian border. In light of the closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan, coupled with restrictions on travel through Iran, it is not possible for US officials to enter Armenia over land except through the Georgian border.

Some key administrative points:

· Business hours are from 9:00am to 6:00pm, Monday through Friday, with a one-hour lunch.

· The embassy cashier will cash checks with the following weekly limits: $300 for singles, $500 for families.

· The post has a Community Liaison Office. Its hours are 9:30 am to 6:00pm Monday through Friday. The CLO invites people assigned here to write, call or email with questions. The email address is:

All inquiries will be promptly answered.

Housing Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:21 AM

The housing pool in Yerevan is limited by a scarcity of “western standard” residences, as in most former Soviet cities. Embassy houses and apartments are among the best available.
Interesting quirks to prepare for include large foyers and bathrooms, smaller than average bedrooms, and few closets. Bonuses include – high ceilings, tuff stone facades, interesting architecture, and the abundant fruit trees.

Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:22 AM

The post administration makes every effort to assign permanent housing upon arrival. If this is not possible, arriving personnel will be housed in one of three temporary apartments, or in a hotel with full amenities.

Official visitors are also housed in hotels. The three most commonly used are: The Marriott Hotel Armenia (5 star), The Hotel Yerevan (5 star), and The Congress Hotel (4 star).

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:24 AM

The mission leases U.S. Government-furnished houses and apartments for all direct-hire staff. Houses are detached or semi-detached and are assigned according to FAM guidelines by an Inter-Agency Housing Board. Houses typically have small terraced yards with little or no grass, but are usually planted with fruit trees and grape arbors. Houses are walled and have gates with security intercom systems. Apartments are located in secure buildings and offer the advantage of being sotuated in the center of the city.

The housing pool is currently in the process of a slight geographic shift, with all new residences being acquired in close proximity to the new embassy site, around two miles from the center of town. One of the advantages of this change is that a growing number of residences in the housing pool are newly constructed and built to the Embassy’s specifications.

Furnishings Last Updated: 11/29/2004 4:16 AM

Each home has a standard queen-sized bed in the master bedroom and twin beds in the other bedrooms. Other bedroom furniture, such as dressers and wardrobes, is provided as well, as is living room, dining room and rec-room furniture. Rugs and curtains, mirrors and some bookshelves and desks are also provided. Additional shelving would help if you have many books.

There is furniture available in Yerevan, but it is expensive.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 11/29/2004 4:17 AM

The city water supply can be intermittent. A system of on-site holding tanks and pumps is employed to ensure that all of the US Mission’s houses have 24-hour hot and cold running water. All quarters have telephones, flush toilets, and bathtubs with European shower “hose” attachments, or American style showers. Several homes have boilers, either diesel or electric, installed for heating. All houses have split-unit air-conditioner / heater units.

Electric ranges, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, washers and dryers are provided. Dishwashers are supplied by each agency, if there is sufficient space. Humidifiers are supplied on request.

Electricity is 220v~50hz. There are frequent, sometimes extremely powerful, spikes. Bring surge protectors and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS’s) for computers and any other expensive or delicate electrical equipment. European-style round-prong sockets are used in all housing. Adapter plugs for appliances with power-switching properties are needed and available locally, or should be brought with you. Non-power switching electrical appliances with 110v~60hz input require a transformer. Some appliances like electric clocks cannot be adapted in this way; others, like turntables may require special parts from the manufacturer for full adaptation. Transformers (three 1200 watt units) are provided by GSO, but most old hands know to bring one or two of their own, particularly heavy-duty ones (1000 watts or greater).

Not all houses have grounded outlets, though post is actively upgrading residences to address this concern, so extra care should always be exercised around appliances. Hand-held equipment (hair dryers, shaver) requires extra caution.

All houses are equipped with auto-switching diesel generators to bridge gaps in electric service. These lapses are not as frequent as they once were, but short outages are not uncommon. Generators have the capacity to supply all power needs indefinitely.

Food Last Updated: 11/29/2004 4:25 AM

For most of the year an amazing cornucopia of delicious, very inexpensive raw fruits and vegetables overflow the stalls at the open-air markets. Many of the best fruits and vegetables (the delicious cherries, buckets of raspberries, and sweet peaches, apricots and melons) are only available in season. Winter sees a marked reduction in the selection available. That being said, the basics can be found year round, though for higher prices. Tomatoes, lettuce, bell peppers, oranges, grapefruit, bananas, onions, carrots, garlic, basil, cilantro, mushrooms, even salad greens are always. The architecturally notable covered market in the city center boasts the most consistent supply, and features a variety of imported products.

Fresh pork, lamb, beef, chicken and a limited variety of excellent quality fresh fish are available year round. Fresh farm eggs are available everywhere. UHT boxed milk in 0.5%, 2% and 3.5% fat content, as well as full-fat powdered milk can be purchased at a number of western oriented grocery stores. High-quality butter, yogurt, and a limited variety of very good cheeses are widely sold. (Neither recognizable cheddar nor mozzarella are easy to come by, however.)

A variety of Western soft drinks, candy, cigarettes, ice-cream bars, beer, wine and liquor are available. Diet Pepsi is available, but not Diet Coke. Other than some cereal products, baby foods are not generally available. The embassy commissary is excellent and well-stocked with products unavailable on the local market (peanut butter, chocolate chips) but at higher than U.S. prices due to shipping costs. Many in the embassy community organize orders through the commissary with an international supplier (Peter Justesen) that offers a huge range of products. Membership in the Employee Association is required to access the commissary. The Fee: $60 per year and for one month - temporary $5.

NetGrocer, and other Internet shopping options allow for those with mail privileges to top off their pantries within the restrictions of the pouch (e.g., no liquids).
Dried fruits like raisins, apricots and figs, as well as many kinds of salami and cured meat, can be found in abundance. An excellent selection of international coffees can be purchased whole bean or ground from several new high-end specialty stores and cafes. Also available are pasta, flour, rice, dried beans, baking soda, sugar, and other basic cooking supplies. More obscure ingredients should be included in HHE or consumables shipments.

Though several Western oriented supermarkets operate in Yerevan, their inventory is not always the reliable. A shopping trip might include a run through all of them to find a particular ingredient. Frozen food is available at these stores, but the selection is limited. (Frozen shrimp are definitely priced as an extravagance.) The huge city markets are an entertaining and well supplied, but a little intimidating at first. One will find there most of the goods carried in the supermarkets, and at much better prices, but with none of the convenience.

Plan your food shipment carefully for this post. The great majority of your grocery needs can be met, though the product may not always be immediately recognizable. The price of a few select “staple” items (most notably boxes of cereal) will take you aback, therefore, ask someone at post to give you a list, and bring these items with if possible.

There is a cafeteria-style restaurant at the embassy that serves breakfast and lunch on weekdays. Lunch is about $2.50. A coffee bar that serves hot beverages, fresh pastries, snack food and soft drinks is also open during business hours.

Yerevan is home to hundreds of restaurants, more and more with an international focus. There are Italian, Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Bulgarian, Belgian, Irish, Georgian, Middle Eastern, classic American, and other exotic cuisines to complement the profusion of dining establishments offering tasty Armenian specialties.

Fried chicken, donuts and pizza – as well as croissants and baguettes- are readily available and rival any back home.

Armenia food is excellent. It is a straight-forward cuisine that relies on the country’s excellent produce and demands the freshest ingredients. Lavash (a flat bread), white cheese, and marinated grilled meat provide the non-vegetable foundation of a typical meal. Local wine, beer, or Armenia’s internationally renowned cognac, are served along side a wide variety of fruit juices. (Apricot juice and sour cherry juice are particular favorites.) Fresh fruit, baklava, and other baked goods finish off the meal, washed down with strong coffee or fragrant tea.

Clothing Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:30 AM

The supply of ready-made clothes available here is limited and often not to American taste. Bring all that you need, and be ready to order a lot from the Internet.

The sun can be quite strong, especially in the mountains, so hats, sun block, and good sunglasses are needed. Bring some effective winter gear. It does not stay cold, but temperatures can get very low. Long underwear will be appreciated on some days. Dark clothing is traditional. Keep in mind that many local buildings are not heated.

Washable fabrics should be chosen where possible. Although dry-cleaning services are available here, they are pricey and not as versatile as those in the US.
Sturdy walking shoes are a must; walking is a good way to get around in Yerevan.

NB: Shorts are not worn by men and very rarely by women.

Men Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:31 AM

Officers should bring business suits of different weights for winter and summer. A heavy winter overcoat is very useful.

Tuxedos may be worn at some formal events generally open to all members of the Embassy community, such as the Marine Ball and the Scottish “Burns Ball”. Most evening formal occasions require dark business suits.

Women Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:32 AM

Officers should bring business suits and dresses of different weights for summer and winter.

Floor-length dresses and gowns may be worn at some formal events generally open to all members of the Embassy community, such as the Marine Ball and the Scottish “Burns Ball”. Most evening formal occasions require suits or dresses.

Children Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:33 AM

As with adult clothing, the local market offers a limited selection of high-quality clothing. Sizes are limited and prices are inflated. It is recommended that all clothing is shipped to post or ordered (via the Internet, catalogs etc.) from U.S.-based retailers.

There is a local women’s craft cooperative that does make beautiful high-quality hand-knit children’s clothing. This is not typical everyday wear, however.

Office Attire Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:34 AM

Standard business attire is worn throughout the year.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 12/1/2004 6:06 AM

What you bring by way of supplies is mainly a matter of preference, not absolute necessity. Most household goods are available here, from cleaning supplies to paper goods. But they seldom bear a familiar brand name and often the quality is not up to U.S. standards.

Prices can also be quite high for some things, such as sponges, zip lock bags, welcome mats, high-quality mops, etc.

Basic Services Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:42 AM

The following services are available and adequate (sometimes excellent, and almost always very affordable): haircutting, shoe repair, taxi, tailoring, dress making, upholstery & draperies, auto repair, lock smithy, picture framing etc. In short, most average needs can be met. In addition, the GSO provides many services.

The talent pool available through the US Mission’s local-employee network is large; in all probability, someone knows somebody who can provide any needed service.

Most houses have secured garages for parking at home.

There is street parking near the chancery, but it is becoming increasingly tight during the day. A secure and ample parking area will be available for employees on the new Embassy compound that will open in the spring of 2005.

The Embassy has a dedicated car wash available to employees for a minimal fee.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 12/1/2004 3:42 AM

Domestic help is available and runs about $120 per month for day help ($1.25 -$2.00 dollars per hour). Houses do not have special facilities for live-in maids.

Many people employ gardeners and some also hire drivers.

Nannies are not difficult to find.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 11/29/2004 4:54 AM

Of the numerous churches in Yerevan, most are Armenian Apostolic. That being said, there are also many other local congregations including Baptist, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, Mormon as well as those served by a Synagogue and Mosque. All of these services are conducted in Armenian (sometimes with translation).

Yerevan Protestant Gathering Fellowship - The English Service of the Evangelical Church of Armenia was established at the initiative of the Armenian Missionary Association of America(AMAA) over four years ago.

Services are on Sundays. Sunday School is available for children ages 5 - 8.

There is also a small Jewish Synagogue , the Services are on Saturdays and high hollidays and conducted in Hebrew.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 11/29/2004 2:00 AM

There are several options available for pre-school instruction. Embassy families have organized a cooperative preschool group based out of their homes. Each participating family hosts their child’s classmates and teacher at their home according to a scheduled rotation. Other traditional schools are also available, though few teach in English. There are plans for establishing a pre-school on the New Embassy Compound as well. Contact the CLO for more information.

Currently there is only one school in Armenia suited to the needs of the international community.


The school is governed by the Board of Directors of Quality Schools International, the membership of which is formed as set forth in the Bylaws of Quality Schools International. An Advisory Board, composed of 6 to 10 members who reside in Armenia and are appointed by the president of Quality Schools International and the director of the QSI International School of Yerevan, assists the School in its operation.

The School offers an outcomes-based educational program with a curriculum similar to that of U.S. public and private schools. Instruction, leading to individual mastery, takes advantage of small class sizes and the diverse educational backgrounds of the students. Instruction is in English. The elementary grades are accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

In the 2004-2005 school year, there are 19 full-time faculty members, 6 of whom are U.S.(5) Can (1) citizens and 13 are third-country nationals. In addition, the School has part-time teachers for physical education, Russian, French, art, and music. Soccer, basketball, karate, dance, Brownies, chess, Armenian language, and other activities are offered as after-school activities.

At the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year, the student enrollment is 80. Of the total, 44 are U.S. citizens and 36 from other country nationals. Of the U.S. citizen enrollment, 30 are dependents of U.S. government direct-hire and contract employees, and 14 are dependents of private U.S. citizens.

In August 1999 the School moved to a new location. It is located above the offices located next to a furniture factory. There are, at present, 5 large and 4 small, bright classrooms. The school also has a library, a computer lab, offices, a multipurpose room, and 4 bathrooms. The school grounds include a large playground, a soccer pitch, a volleyball court, and an outside stage. A wall surrounds the school, and there are 24-hour security watchmen. Expansion in 2004-05 will give us 9-11 large bright classrooms and a variety of smaller classrooms.

In the 2004-2005 school year, the School's income derives from regular day school tuition. Annual tuition rates are as follows: pre-school (3-4 years olds): $2,900; Kdg. (5 years olds): $9,200; and ages 6-17: $11,800. The School also charges a one-time registration fee of $100, as well as an annual non-refundable capital fund fee of $1,600 per year or a one-time refundable capital fund deposit of $4,000 for ages 5 and above. These quoted U.S. dollar fees are to be paid in U.S. dollars.

QSI is fully accredited. Currently, the school's financial system and curriculum have both received accreditation from The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and the Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation. The school holds a Provisional Certificate from the Department of Defense.

Contact Information:
QSI International School of Yerevan
c/o DOS – Administrative Officer
7020 Yerevan Place
Washington, DC 20521-7020


Home Page:

International telephone: +3741-391030
Fax: +3741- 397-599

Away From Post Last Updated: 12/1/2004 6:04 AM
The Family Liaison Office in Washington maintains a listing of international boarding schools.

There are none operating in Armenia or neighboring countries.

Special Needs Education Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:50 AM

School programs for special needs children are not currently available in Yerevan. The main international school lacks both the faculty and the facilities to provide special needs education.

Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:55 AM

American University of Armenia offers graduate level study in a U.S. accredited institution. Many of the teachers split time with top universities in the U.S. Classes are conducted in English.

There are several other Armenian universities in Yerevan offering undergraduate and graduate level courses, though primarily in Armenian.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 2/24/2004 4:56 AM

A number of sporting activities are available, featuring soccer and tennis, but also basketball, horse back riding, go-carts etc.

The current Embassy includes a brand new fitness center operated by the Employee Association, offering a full series of the Nautilus weight machines, treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes and a stair stepper. Lower-weight barbells, benches and other equipment are also included - as is an excellent sauna.

Facilities will be much expanded with the opening of the New Embassy Compound in the spring of 2005. The 12-acre lakeside recreation area will include a huge lawn with soccer goals and a baseball/softball diamond, a large U.S. standard playground, outdoor basketball and volleyball courts, and a running track. Plans are currently in the works for an even greater array of recreational facilities.

Fishing is an attractive prospect in Armenia, a country with more than 100 mountain lakes, and countless clear fast rivers. Lake Sevan is only about 70 kilometers from Yerevan. It is one of the world's largest mountain lakes, is a popular summer tourist spot, and the reputed home of vast numbers of brown trout.

The Tsakhkadzor ski resort, less than an hour from Yerevan, is a popular destination in both summer and winter. Beautifully situated, it is ill maintained with a lift that is open year round but prone to mechanical problems. You can't beat the $1 lift price, however. The skiing and snowboarding can be quite good, especially after a good snow - but the area has limited grooming equipment, and snowmobiles intermingle with skiers and snowboarders, so ice and uneven surfaces offer a challenge. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing can be accomplished almost anywhere in the countryside you choose. While some equipment is available for rental, for all winter sports it is recommended that you bring your own equipment.

In the spring, summer and fall, there are several peaks to climb, and unlimited hiking trails. If you are up for a serious climb, Mt. Aragats offers the highest peak in Armenia, amazing views, and a strenuous 12 hours of trekking.
For those who like to run and socialize, the venerable Hash House Harriers have an active chapter in Yerevan.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 12/1/2004 6:04 AM

Yerevan is an excellent base for exploring Armenia's many ancient churches, monasteries, and natural wonders.

Some of the oldest Christian monuments in the world can be found here. The architecture is fascinating and the settings dramatic; the mountainous Armenian landscape is unforgettable. Many people like to hike, climb and camp, especially since the countryside is safe for overnight camping.

There is much to see in Armenia: the intricately carved stone crosses, called "khachkars"; the soaring walls of the once impregnable fortress of Amberd; Roman mosaics at the pagan temple of Garni; the huge chambers hewn out of solid rock at the cave monastery of Geghard; dozens of other churches and ruins that hide in the country's rough, wild landscape.

The Cathedral at Etchmiadzin, built in 480, is the spiritual center of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Located about thirty minutes from Yerevan by car, Etchmiadzin Cathedral is short drive away and is especially memorable when visited for Sunday services. The church, its grounds, and museum, contain a fine collection of ancient religious artifacts.

The city of Yerevan itself has a surprising amount to offer. The opera, ballet, and world-class symphony, as well as many museums, are within a short walk of the American Embassy. The symphony performs twice a week much of the year and tickets are very inexpensive.

An excellent open-air art market is held near the opera house every weekend. The Vernisage, a huge open market a few blocks from Republic Square with rows of carpets, Soviet memorabilia, jewelry, and any number of other intriguing artifacts, is central to Christmas shopping, and worth a regular stroll just to absorb the ambiance.

Entertainment Last Updated: 11/29/2004 5:05 AM

Cultural Life:
Yerevan is rich in culture. The capital is home to opera, ballet, and a world-class symphony. The symphony performs twice a week much of the year and tickets are very inexpensive.
The Armenian Song Theater is also excellent, as is the Chamber Ensemble.

The National Art Museum on Republic Square is a must see, as is the Matenadaran Manuscript Library, which houses illuminated tomes from ancient times in Armenian, Greek and Latin.

A visit to the open-air art market held near the opera house every weekend is a must, as are periodic trips to the Vernisage, the large crafts market located in the park near Republic Square.

Victory Park, overlooking the city, is a favorite place for runners and joggers, especially during the warm weather. And there is a small amusement midway in the park complete with a working Ferris wheel and other rides. There are also rowboats to rent on the park pond, which is ringed by several small cafes.

The American University of Armenia has several English-speaking clubs to which members of the American community are welcome.

Several individuals receive personal instruction from world-class musicians.

Recently released movies are shown a couple of times a month in the U.S. Embassy auditorium.

Dining Out:
Yerevan is home to hundreds of restaurants, more and more with an international focus. These restaurants include: Italian, Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Bulgarian, Belgian, Irish, Georgian, Russian ,Middle Eastern, classic American, and other exotics to compliment the profusion of dining establishments offering tasty Armenian specialties.

Friends gather after work or on the weekends on a regular basis. Delicious food and very affordable prices combine to encourage the exploration of new restaurants every week.

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 12/1/2004 6:03 AM
Social activities in Yerevan tend to be focused around friends gathering at each other's homes, meeting regularly at favorite restaurants, and catching up for an after-work drink.
In addition, the Marines hold occasional get-togethers at their house, people watch movies in the auditorium on a regular basis, a large contingent from the embassy participates in the Hash House Harriers, and weekends with nice weather encourage groups to explore Armenia's mountains, monasteries and churches.

Weekly basketball and softball games are usually followed by a group dinner, and other folks gather for a weekly poker game and regular bridge group. The Marines organize paintball and go-cart outings, and a large part of the embassy can be found together at the Water Park on summer days.

Those with kids will find a close-knit community getting together often for play groups, birthday parties ... etc. This is facilitated by post's attempt to house families in proximity with one another.

People even organize dog play sessions - meeting at a local park on weekends.

The recreation facilities planned for the New Embassy compound will provide a further boost to community activities when completed. The large playground, athletic fields, and other community areas will be welcome additions.

International Contacts Last Updated: 2/24/2004 5:12 AM
Armenians are very warm and inclusive people. You are sure to make friends quickly and enjoy their famed hospitality.

Yerevan's small expatriate community interacts often. From formal events, to a Guinness at the pub, you are likely to see your expatriate friends in almost every social situation.

Hash House Harriers is a particularly international group.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 12/1/2004 6:02 AM

Officers are asked to attend official functions organized by the mission, National Day events at other embassies, host country receptions, and other diplomatic luncheons and dinners.

Dark business suits for men and dresses, or suits, for women are recommended as the appropriate attire. Neither tuxedoes nor long formal gowns are required.

All U.S.-Mission personnel assist in hosting the official Fourth of July reception.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 2/24/2004 5:13 AM

The rules of social conduct and etiquette standard in the Foreign Service apply in Armenia.

Business cards are used and can be printed locally in English and Armenian.

Special Information Last Updated: 11/22/2004 7:40 AM

Travel by American officials to Nagorno-Karabakh is not permitted.

TDY personnel should be aware that certain items are proscribed for export and should not be purchased and removed from Armenia without the permission of the Ministry of Culture and payment of a 100% duty. This includes old carpets, old manuscripts, antiques. (Anything older than fifty years is subject to this levy).

*As in any big city visitors should take security precautions.

Post Orientation

All employees receive a welcome packet upon arrival that contains much needed information.

Prior to arrival employees are advised to contact the CLO by letter or email to ask any questions they may have concerning life in Yerevan. The CLO email address is: All inquiries will be answered.

Employees are also encouraged to contact a colleague in their section of the Embassy for guidance on what consultations to schedule before departure from Washington, DC.

A series of one-on-one orientation briefings is usually required and should be scheduled by the employee upon arrival. In addition, post organizes regular orientation assemblies featuring presentations by representatives of each of the mission agencies and sections. Dependents are encouraged to attend. A security briefing by the Regional Security Office is required before the issuance of permanent Embassy badges for employees or their dependents.

In addition, it is requested that all new employees make a separate appointment with the Ambassador upon arrival. Spouses are invited and are encouraged to come.

The New Embassy Compound

Embassy Yerevan looks forward to moving to a new compound in the spring of 2005. On the shore of Lake Yerevan, the 23- acre site is one of the largest embassy compounds in the world. The new chancery will offer over 100,000 sq ft of office space, more than ten times that of our current building. The warehouse and large GSO annex and the Marine house will all be co-located on the site.

The compound is separated into two levels. The main buildings are all at the top of a bluff, offering spectacular views of Mt. Ararat. The lower level, about 12 acres on the lakeshore, will be used primarily as a recreation and community area. A number of recreation facilities are planned.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 12/1/2004 6:01 AM

Five main carriers currently serve Yerevan:
Armenian International Airlines, Aeroflot International Airlines, Czech Airlines, British Airways and Austrian Airlines.

Post encourages the use of Austrian Airlines or British Airways for official travel. The problematic transit through Moscow, i.e., the confusing and sometimes costly transfer between two airports and regular difficulties in attaining the necessary Russian visa, handicap Aeroflot. Armenian International Airlines is simply unreliable.

Other small carriers offering regional flights operate from Yerevan as well.

Though the list seems to change on a weekly basis, there are flights to and from Yerevan to the following cities:
Vienna, Moscow, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Prague, Amsterdam, Tbilisi, Istanbul, Dubai, Aleppo, Beirut, Tehran, Kiev, St. Petersburg, and a dozen other CIS cities.

Flight time examples:
From the East Coast: 6 hours to London, 5 hours to Yerevan.
From Yerevan: 3.5 hours to Vienna, 3.5 hours to Moscow, 3 hours to Istanbul.

Some personnel arrive at post overland from Georgia. This is usually achieved through an arranged “border swap” with Embassy Tbilisi, where an official vehicle from Tbilisi provides for the Georgian leg of the trip, and an Embassy Yerevan driver meets the traveler at the Armenia/Georgia border and completes the drive to Yerevan. Total drive time is approximately 5.5 hours. (You will need both a Georgian and an Armenian visa.)

Customs, Duties, and Passage Last Updated: 2/24/2004 5:20 AM

Specifications for Personal Effects

Air shipments should be sent to:

American Embassy
18 Baghramyan Ave.
Yerevan, Armenia
Full Name

Surface shipments should be sent to:

Full Name ("Agency" - Yerevan)
European Logistical Support Office
Noorderlaan 147
Bus 12A B-20230 Antwerp
APO AE 09724

Shipping times to Armenia tend to be long (two to four months), even for air freight (up to four weeks). Make sure to bring with you the essentials of dress and personal care. Remember that seasons can change in eight weeks. Be sure to bring enough business clothes; they are generally not available. What is available tends to be very expensive and in limited sizes.

All personnel assigned to Armenia must have a visa. The Armenian Embassy is located at 2225 R Street NW, Washington DC 20008.

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 2/24/2004 5:21 AM

An expediter who handles the formalities of Armenian Customs meets all official personnel reporting to Yerevan. Diplomatic cargoes, including UAB, are not subject to import duties, although standard restrictions concerning drugs, inflammables, explosives and firearms of course apply. There are no restrictions on the type of car you can ship in. (See section on Transportation, Automobiles).

When leaving Yerevan book your flights at least two weeks in advance to ensure space.

Items of cultural significance (antiques over fifty years old) must be cleared by the Ministry of Culture before they can be legally exported.

NB: For persons traveling without diplomatic passports the Armenian Customs regime can be strict. There is a genuine problem with smuggled antiquities, some of great value and cultural significance, so inspections upon leaving the country can be thorough. Also, there are currency export restrictions in Armenia: $500 is the maximum. If you are bringing in a lot of money, declare it on your customs entry form along with anything else of substantial value—especially jewelry. Failure to do so could cause problems upon departure.

Pets Last Updated: 12/1/2004 5:59 AM

Armenian regulations are friendly in regards to pets' importation , however most pets must transit though the EU and meet EU transit regulations. All pets arriving to any EU airport will have to meet the following requirements (and they must be completed in this order):

1. Fitted with an ISO (or compatible ) microchip for identifying purposes.

2. Vaccinated against rabies.

3. Have a satisfactory blood test for rabies at an EU-recognized laboratory three (3) months prior to travel.

4. Given an official PET Scheme Certificate from the laboratory to verify the rabies test results.

5. Given a tick and tapeworm treatment 48 to 24 hours prior to departure.

All of the above, must be preformed by a licensed Veterinarian . Be sure to check with the airlines you are using to ensure you have all necessary documentation for your pet(s) to travel.

Please be advised that not all the airlines serving Yerevan will accept live animals for transportation. And some may

refuse to transport pets during hot summer months. Post also highly recommends on transfers with long stopovers

check-in the pets to the stop-over point to have an opportunity to take care of them during extended layover or hire a pet

transporter service such as Goldenway to take care of them.

Airlines and Airport authorities sometimes fail to fulfill their responsibilities in regards to the pet care while in-transit.

If your pet is healthy and accompanied by the proper Animal Health Certificate issued not earlier than 3 weeks before travel it will have no problems when entering Armenia.

It is always recommended to check with the OBC and post to verify current pet transporttation requirements.

Veterinary services in Armenia are rudimentary. Only the most basic shots and non-invasive treatment

is available with any degree of safety. Be cautious about bringing a very old , or chronically ill animal that may require

regular veterinary care.

Dog food and cat food are readily available, though western brands are more expensive than in the U.S.

Cat litter is not available.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 12/1/2004 5:59 AM

The Armenian police authorities state they will permit American personnel with diplomatic passports to import any firearm legally owned in the US.

Armenian authorities request only that owners produce registration or licensing documents proving legal ownership in the US. Authorities also ask owners of such weapons to produce a signed statement as to the purpose of the weapon; that is, hunting, target practice, self protection, etc. Further, they suggest that those who wish to use their weapons for hunting should also join a local hunting society to gain knowledge of official seasons and required licenses. There are no commercial target shooting ranges in Armenia.

The Regional Security Office is designated as the focal point within the Mission for this policy. As such, the office is authorized to process weapons permits with the host government and to make recommendations to the Chief of Mission to either approve or disapprove each request. The following procedures should be completed:

A. For personal firearms, complete a "Request for authorization to utilize firearms" and forward it to the RSO.

B. For official firearms, complete a "Request to carry an official firearm" and forward it to the RSO.

C. The RSO will review the request to determine if it is consistent with this policy and forward it to the Chief of Mission with a recommendation for approval or disapproval.

D. Upon Chief of Mission approval, the RSO will register the firearm with the Mission and notify the employee.

All registered official firearms will be retained by the RSO except when being used in the performance of official duties.

The RSO is the primary point of contact for any individual seeking to import or carry a firearm or wanting additional information on this policy.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 11/22/2004 7:09 AM

The dram is the official currency. It is internally convertible. Currently, one US dollar equals 510-520 dram. This rate is fairly stable, and has stayed within 10 dram (2 cents) for a couple of years.

Armenia is a cash-based economy. Banks are not generally used. There is one Western bank, U.K. operated HSBC Bank

There is an HSBC ATM machine at post, which is located next to the State Cashir.

If you do not have an HSBC account you will be charged a $1.00 transaction fee by HSBC. If you do have an HSBC account then the withdrawal is free. The maximum withdrawal amount is $500 daily.

The cashier will post the HSBC exchange rate for dollars daily.

American Express Travelers Checks are accepted at the largest of the hotels, but there are added fees.

Mission employees may cash personal checks to meet currency needs: $500 per week. There are many money exchanges throughout Yerevan. They operate seven days a week. By law all transactions must be in Armenian drams.

Employees should consider setting up automatic banking services in the US before departing for post. Internet “bill pay” services are particularly handy.
The metric system of weights and measures is used here: fabric is bought by the meter, potatoes by the kilo, gasoline by the liter, and distances are measured in kilometers.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 12/1/2004 6:00 AM

American employees of the US Government are exempt from local value-added taxes and may import personal property duty free.

Automobile liability insurance is required by the State Department. Insurance is arranged automatically through the Employee Association.

Employees may not retain proceeds from sale of personal property in excess of the original cost of the property.

This applies to automobiles as well.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 12/1/2004 6:00 AM

These titles and internet sites are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country.

The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications or World Wide Web sites.


Arlen, Michael J. Passage to Ararat. 1975.

Baliozian, Ara. The Armenians: Their History and Culture. 1980.

Darlymple, William. From the Holy Mountain. 1999.

Der Hovanessian, Diana and Margossian, Marzbed. Anthology of Armenian Poetry.

Der Nersessian, Sirarpic. The Armenians. 1970.

Kaplan, Robert D. Eastward to Tartary. 2000.

Kudian, Mischa. Lamentations of Narek. 1977

Lang, David Marshall. The Armenians: A People in Exile. 1988

Mirak, Robert. Torn between Two Lands. 1983

Suny, Ronald Grigor. Looking Toward Ararat. 1993

Walker, Christopher. Armenia, Survival of a Nation. 1980

Werfel, Franz. The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. 1934.

World Wide Web Sites

U.S. Embassy Yerevan

Armenian Research Center

City.Net’s Armenia Page


National Academy of Sciences of Armenia

State Engineering University (SEUA)

Yerevan Physics Institute (Yerphi)

Yerevan State University (YSU)

Local Holidays Last Updated: 12/3/2004 3:24 AM

Local Holidays

New Year’s Holiday - January 1 and 2
Armenian Christmas - January 6
Army Day - January 28
Women’s Day - March 8
Genocide Memorial Day - April 24
Victory and Peace Day - May 9
First Republic Day - May 28
Constitution Day - July 5
Independence Day - September 21
New Year’s Eve - December 31

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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