Karabakh’s Lonliest Village


[01:12 pm] 21 April, 2007

The Karapetian family live in total isolation – but long for

The village of Jrkan in Nagorny Karabakh has a population of just two.

Husband and wife Sanasar and Gohar Karapetian are the only inhabitants
– and they are not even natives of this ghostly village.

Jrakn is situated 100 kilometres – a two-hour car journey on rough
roads – from Stepanakert, capital of the unrecognised republic of
Nagorny Karabakh.

The Karapetians have lived here on their own for 11 years, deprived
of human contact. Their nearest neighbours live several km away and
it’s several months since Gohar, 58, and her husband, 63, last spoke
to anyone.

The nearest human habitation is the village of Norashen, a veritable
metropolis by comparison, with a population of 100 people living in
new houses built by the New York-based charity the Armenian General
Benevolent Union.

It’s a half hour walk from Jrakn to Norashen – but when the road
linking the two is covered in mud, which is often the case, it takes
much longer.

"Someone died in the next village," said Gohar. "We heard about it
and attended the funeral. Everybody was staring at us in surprise –
maybe we look different from everyone else. We shared food with them,
stayed there for a while and then came back.

"They also told us there that the United States wants to start a war
against our neighbour Iran. We got scared, and I prayed in my mind
to God asking him to prevent anything bad befalling us."

Sanasar barely takes part in our conversation and according to his
wife, "the poor man has grown shy due to lack of human contact".

The couple ended up re-settling in Jrakn in the south of Nagorny
Karabakh, after they lost their house in the devastating earthquake
that shook the Armenian city of Gyumri in 1988.

Their house was destroyed and nine of their relatives were buried
under the ruins. They were left with a bed, two sets of bed linen
and a fridge.

For a long time, they lived in a garage, before they decided to build
a new home in the Armenian-controlled territory of Karabakh.

Jrakn was also a bleak village of ruins when the couple arrived
– a victim of the bitter 1991-4 Armenian-Azerbaijani war over
Karabakh. Apart from their makeshift house, it still has nothing but
ruins and trees.

The Karapetians chose Jrakn purely by accident.

"Our friends advised us to leave for Karabakh saying it’s easier to
survive there," said Gohar. "We found a map of Karabakh, studied it
and picked Hadrut region.

We managed to reach this village somehow. The landscape is very
beautiful and fertile. So we started living here."

In the two years they spent building a new house, the couple had to
sleep in their car as there was nowhere else to live. "Sometimes I
woke at night in the car and saw the foxes and jackals surround our
car – it was very scary," said Gohar.

The Karapetians’ house looks more like a cabin with a cattle-shed and
a garden full of fruit trees standing in front of it. Sanasar built
a small garage to put his car in, but the car has long since given
up the ghost.

Inside, the two rooms are gloomy and the concrete floor is muddy.

The Karapetians use one of the two rooms of the house as a storeroom,
keeping their crops of pumpkins, nuts and potatoes in one, while
the other serves as their bedroom and dining room. The windows are
covered with an oilcloth because "glassing them over requires lots
of money". The one source of light in the gloomy room is a dim bulb.

For heating fuel, they rely entirely on firewood, which has to be
fetched from a long distance. Water is collected from a nearby spring
and rainwater irrigates the garden. They have one cooking pan, which
they use to prepare food for themselves and their animals.

The couple’s only income is Gohar’s monthly pension of 10,000 drams
(28 US dollars). Her husband earns nothing because he lacks the
required documents.

"Thanks to Karabakh president Arkady Ghukasian my pension went up from
3000 to 10,000 drams. I wrote him a letter telling about my life. I
got nervous and excited when writing, and my tears made the letter
wet. I didn’t have any spare paper to write another one, so I sent
him a damp letter. Perhaps he felt how miserable we were and helped
us. May the Lord help him," said Gohar. She said that she uses the
extra money to pay electricity bills.

The couple are cut off from events in the rest of the world. They have
never had a television set in their house. There are no newspapers
even in the neighbouring village. The house contains neither a clock
nor a calendar. "We only know when it Friday as that’s the day when
soldiers march down by the lower path," said Sanasar.

They are not particularly interested in politics either, and when it
comes to the referendum on the constitution held in Nagorny Karabakh
last year, they say, "We never knew whether it passed or not."

The couple would like some neighbours, however, and according to
the Yerevan office of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, there
are plans to resettle Jrakn. The website of the AGBU says that the
charity plans to build 20 houses in the village by 2008, encouraging
Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan to settle here. It says that the
construction of the first ten houses will be finished by the first
quarter of 2007 and another ten houses will be built by summer 2008.

However, there is no sign of building work and the head of the
Migration, Refugees and Resettlement department in the Nagorny
Karabakh government, Serzh Amirkhanian, says there are no immediate
plans for reconstruction.

Meanwhile, Gohar and Sanasar would love to see their grandchildren
again in Armenia. Ever since they came here, they have not had the
opportunity to visit their family, still living in a garage in their
hometown of Gyumri.

"Every night I dream of Gyumri," said the grandmother.

"I wish at least two of them could come here, marry…and live…"

"We put our whole life into it, didn’t we?" added Gohar, saying that
they would never leave Jrakn after enduring so many hardships.

By Lusine Musaelian in Jrakn

Lusine Musaelian is a reporter of Demo paper published in Nagorny
Karabakh and a participant in IWPR’s Cross-Caucasus Journalism
Network project. Institute for War and Peace Reporting’s Caucasus
Reporting Service

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS