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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Caucasus Radio Is Ethnic Bridge




Long divided by a bloody ethnic conflict, Armenians and Azeris in Moscow now have something they can share: a new radio station.


The Krasny Most, or Red Bridge, radio station was founded three months ago to cater to hundreds of thousands of people from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia living in Moscow.


The station takes its name from the medieval Red Bridge over the Kura River where the three countries meet.


"Even though there has been fighting going on ... we share the same mentality," said Krasny Most founder Tigran Karapetyan, 29, sitting in his tiny office at the Ostankino television tower.


The first day Krasny Most went on the air, the phones in the office were ringing off the hook. People called to say hello over the air to their friends and relatives, order their favorite songs and praise the timely idea of the new station.


"People long for communication," said Enver Mansurov, a native of Baku who DJs at Krasny Most. "News from the [Caucasus] republics is very poorly covered in the Russian media. It [the station] is the outlet for that and an escape for people."


From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, Krasny Most plays Armenian, Azeri and Georgian tunes, including ethnic music, Soviet retro and modern pop. Music is interspersed with news from Yerevan, Baku and Tbilisi, as well as with poetry, recipes and jokes.


The national holidays of the three former Soviet republics are strictly observed and famous people's birthdays celebrated. Stars such as Georgian singer Vakhtang Kikabidze do talk shows.


Living effectively in exile has brought the three peoples closer together, Karapetyan said. There have been no violent clashes between the Azeris and the Armenians in Moscow, he said, despite years of war between those nations.


All, however, are harassed by the police or by xenophobic Russians, and Krasny Most has a talk show dedicated to the problem. Called "Don't Worry, I'm With You" after a film by Yuly Gusman, a Russian director of Jewish origin from Baku, the show features lawyers, prosecutors and sociologists giving advice on how to behave when harassed, or how to geta Moscow registration permit.


Karapetyan said Armenians from Baku are the most fervent listeners of Krasny Most since it is especially difficult, if not impossible, for them to visit their hometown.


Karapetyan came up with the idea for the station after putting together a collection of popular songs from the Caucasus for a karaoke project that then fell through.


He spent $1,200 to print 20,000 leaflets advertising the new station, which were handed out at city markets, where many sellers are from the Caucasus.


For Karapetyan, the radio station is just the beginning. He is planning to create a Caucasian cultural center - complete with a children's playground, a stage where plays could be performed, exhibition space and a dance floor.


Baku, the Azeri capital, and Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, once were cosmopolitan cities with rich cultural lives. Enterprising and artistic Armenians often preferred them to their own capital, Yerevan, which is smaller and offers fewer opportunities, said Yerevan native Karapetyan - who added that he is so homesick he relishes anything made in Armenia, even moldy lavash bread and bad brandy.


As the Soviet system began to collapse, fighting broke out in Nagorny Karabakh, an enclave within Azerbaijan populated largely by ethnic Armenians. Thousands of people fled the 1988-94 war and many came to Moscow.


"Some evil fate has separated us. In Armenia, they chase the Azeris. In Azerbaijan, they chase the Armenians," Karapetyan said. "Here [in Moscow, however,] we don't have any mutual claims."