Armenia’s southernmost village feels isolation amid natural beauty
July 16, 2004

Last Stop: Armenia’s southernmost village feels isolation amid natural

By Aris Ghazinyan
ArmeniaNow correspondent

The last Armenian village before reaching Iran, Nyuvadi is buried in the
rich foliage of the Araks river valley. It is home to 45 families, and the
southernmost settlement of 13 villages in the sub region of Meghri (Syunic
Nyuvadi is connected to the center, Meghri, by a 30-kilometer road that is
little more than carved rock.

The distant village is isolated
“Despite the fact that on all the maps this section is classified as a
normal transport thruway, it actually looks more like an extreme rally quite
capable to compete with the famous Paris-Dakar route,” points out Hrachya
Harutyunyan, a veteran driver for Agarak copper-molybdenum plant. “In
different parts of Meghri region it’s still preferable to travel on pack
animals since a traveler never knows what to expect around any turn. And
besides, the road itself lies on the edge of the canyon.”
The distance between Yerevan and Nyuvadi is about 450 kilometers, about the
same as to Baku, Azerbaijan. But while it takes 7 hours to reach the capital
of Armenia, the capital of Baku can be reached in four and a half hours (via
the Iranian side).
“The road from Iran to the Azerbaijan capital runs through slightly bent
lowland,” the truck driver explains.
On the Iranian bank of the Araks, the renovated highway can be seen with
considerable traffic, especially for the region.
“There was no highway about five years ago,” Harutyunyan says. “Only a
narrow road was seen on which mainly pack animals were walking. The Turkish
population of the Easten Atropatena province of Iran is in fact the
connecting link between Nakhichevan and Baku. They built the existing road
to provide a direct land connection between the two places.”
But Nyuvadi does not enjoy such a connection with its capital.
“High passes, which reach up to 2,500 meters above sea level, make
transportation rather difficult and the average driving speed is 60 km per
hour or 1 km per minute,” says Harutyunyan. And the crossing through Tashtun
pass is not only spectacular, but challenging. The road drops (or rises) two
kilometers over a 20 kilometer stretch.
“Nowhere else in Armenia one can feel a 10cm slope per one meter of road,”
says the employee of Meghri road exploitation department Armen Vahanyan.
“The winter lasts for about 6 months at such heights, so our department
works almost without having rest. The Meghri territory is a part of Armenia’
s state highway that guarantees the connection with Iran and the trucking
industry which is of such importance to us. On average, an Iranian truck
passes over that road every sixteen minutes.”
Despite all the complex communication between Yerevan and Meghri, it wouldn’
t be a great exaggeration to say that the 30 km section that connects the
regional center with Nyuvadi is less laborious. The village enjoys
subtropical nature, where there are almost no winters and in December and
January persimmon, kiwi and pomegranate start blossoming. It is not just the
road, but nature itself that isolates Nyuvadi.
Vladimir Bayanduryan, 78, is one of the 153 residents of the village. Like
most of the residents of Nyuvadi he is a refugee from Azerbaijan.
“By some mystic coincidence the year when I was born, 1926, became an omen
of my wondering destiny,” Vladimir says. “It was in that very year that the
government of Bolshevik Azerbaijan made an administrative territorial reform
in the republic, as a result of which parts of North Karabakh populated by
Armenians in no time flat became parts of Shamkhor and Khanlar regions.
“In the same year the government of Azerbaijan refused the request of
Armenian refugees from Nakhichevan to return to their native land. So, I, an
Armenian born in Getashen, was destined to be a refugee. On April 30, 1991,
the Soviet Army and the Azerbaijani emergency platoon carried out a military
operation called ‘The Ring’ on deportation of Armenians from Getashen,
Shahumyan and Martunashen. So, and my family and I became refugees.”
Bayanduryan, twice a refugee, has been living in Nyuvadi since 1991, but is
still not used to his surroundings.

It is easier to pass along the canal than on the “road”.
“There are no living conditions,” says his son Yeghishe. “There are no roads
in the village, no shops, no irrigation water, no production, no doctors and
probably no future prospects. There’s only one phone number and one SUV for
the whole village. Wonderful natural-climatic conditions are not likely to
be able to fill in these gaps, since we’re practically unable to take out
our agricultural production to the market. Excellent persimmons and
pomegranates are rotting right in the gardens and as a result end up as
cattle food.”
However, the most irritating thing for the villagers is the attention of the
officials to their problems. Or, it is more correct to say, the absence of
any attention.
“Even the houses in which we’ve lived for more than 10 years, are not our
property,” says Vladimir Bayanduryan. “Since we have no jobs, we’re not able
to pay 60 thousand drams ($115) per square meter of the area for
privatization, as the government requires. So, the land is ours but the
houses are not.”
During Soviet times around 180 hectares of land were under cultivation.
Today only 52 hectares are cultivated.
Crops in Nyuvadi must rely on irrigation from the Araks, but villagers say
the unused cropland is not due to water supply. Simply, there is no need to
produce more than villages can consume, since transporting goods to Yerevan
is too expensive.
“It’s the time to include the residents of Nyuvadi in the Red Book of
Armenia, since this really is an endangered species,” says a math teacher
Lyuba Muradyan. “During Soviet years the number of school children reached
900. Today, all the school contingent including the 14 teachers doesn’t even
reach 45 people. That’s how we get settled in the new and, as they say in
the capital, ‘strategic’ village. While just 10s of kilometers from here in
Nakhichevan, there’s Agulis, a place where 1600 years ago the modern
Armenian alphabet was born.”
Nevertheless, today Nyuvadi – an Azeri name – is being renamed into New
Agulis. That’s the wish of the residents themselves.
Villagers say they feel a connection to their national history. And, in
fact, a connection to the history of civilization. Some say that 6,000 years
ago in this very territory, the copper age was born.
Sometimes, it seems not much has changed since.