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Around the Foothills

'You could see the notion of power, the notion of will . . . but never the notion of love.

June 28, 1990|DOUG SMITH

Levon Jernazian is looking for work. He has been looking since he resettled in Glendale in February.

It isn't an easy search because his field is narrow and his standards are high. His objective, his resume says, is "a challenging and intellectually stimulating position that utilizes my extensive background in social psychology, Soviet and Armenian studies."

His most recent piece of work is a 35-page dissertation, "Psychosocial Evolution of Soviet Society," which remains unpublished.

Jernazian is making ends meet by working part time as a counselor at the Armenian Relief Society on Glenoaks Boulevard in Glendale.

Dealing with psychosocial issues one-on-one, however, is not what he has spent his 31 years preparing for. He holds a doctoral degree in social psychology from the Institute of Psychology in Tbilisi, Soviet Georgia. He also studied advanced English at Norrington English Center in Oxford, England.

Launching a career in Armenia, Jernazian became an associate professor at the State Pedagogical Institute and lecturer at the State University. He was named director of the Psychological Center, an experimental public high school that became a center of support for the Karabagh Movement through which the Armenian majority in an enclave of neighboring Azerbaijan sought to rejoin their homeland.

In spite of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's program of restructuring, the petition was rejected by Soviet authorities as the movement gave way to bloody civil unrest and repression.

Jernazian insists that he followed the movement in the interests of scholarship, conducting an informal study of the psychosocial aspects of the movement.

"I am not anti-Soviet," he said. "I am not a politician. During the movement, I have always been a scholar, a scientist."

On the other hand, he wasn't a Soviet booster, either.

He refused to teach the standard course, "Methodology of Sociology," which he dismissed as the Marxist-Leninist party line. And he wrote and taught some unflattering things about Stalinism, among them his analysis of a once-popular form of poetry glorifying the Soviet dictator.

He concluded that the verse in books such as "Stalin in the Creation of Poets" represented a form of pagan incantation.

"You could see the notion of power, the notion of will, the notion of aggressiveness, but never the notion of love," he said. "We developed some kind of pagan religion."

There was no applause from the Communist Party.

Meanwhile, Jernazian was getting deeper into the Karabagh movement, attending rallies, collecting photographs, interviewing participants.

He has gathered material for what he hopes will be a major scholarly work on the movement's social implications. But he didn't stay around to do the writing in Yerevan. He was beginning to feel the circle of official disapproval tightening around him.

He was dropped from a television interview. A friend lost his job. In November, Jernazian was squeezed out of his lecturing position.

"I wasn't allowed to be published," he said, with apparently genuine astonishment. His "Psychosocial Evolution of Soviet Society" languished.

Jernazian decided that it was time to join his sister, who had already moved to Glendale.

"I was afraid to be arrested," he said. "I was afraid to be in the jail. I was afraid that some day in the near future, there could be physical danger. I was a humiliated, frustrated young man."

The U.S. State Department granted Jernazian refugee status. He now lives with his wife, his 6-year-old son, his mother and his father in a two-bedroom apartment in south Glendale.

He smuggled out his photos and notes on the Karabagh movement, as well as "Stalin in the Creation of Poets."

He's hoping to publish in America now, perhaps even in the popular market. But the doors haven't opened yet.

"I haven't found the people who would be interested in the work I have done," he said.

In America, Jernazian's work may have two strikes against it.

His style is scholarly in the extreme, as the opening from a paper called "Soviet Media on Karabagh Events in Armenia" suggests:

"To comprehend the real nature of Soviet media presentations of Karabagh events, it is first necessary to grasp some of its peculiarities. This is especially important given some of the illusions borne out of the universal Western euphoria around recent transformations in U.S.S.R."

The second strike derives from Jernazian's viewpoint: "The fact remains that the party leadership disguised in parliamentary gowns is still governing all key positions of the social system--mass media, police, KGB, economy, etc."

In America, he can he say that without a worry. But can he sell it in a marketplace that is flooded with adulation for Gorby "the reformer?"

If not, Jernazian's job picture is at least improving. His counseling job at the Armenian Relief Society is scheduled to become full time next month.

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