Mass Wedding In Karabakh Results In Baby Boom


Aug 20th, 2009

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)-Medical services in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
are struggling to cope with a surge in child births more than nine
months after a mass wedding that was organized and sponsored by a
Moscow-based Armenian businessman.

The Karabakh-born entrepreneur, Levon Hayrapetian, had 678 local
couples marry in a single open-air ceremony on October 16, 2008
to assist in a government policy that seeks to boost Karabakh’s
population. Hayrapetian covered their wedding expenses and paid each
couple $2,500 as a bonus.

The results of the extraordinary event can be observed at the sole
maternity hospital in the Karabakh capital Stepanakert which is
grappling with a higher-than-usual influx of women preparing to give
birth. Doctors there had to cram extra beds into hospital wards and
draw up waiting lists for delivery.

"We may now have as many as 14 to 15 births a day," the hospital
director, Gohar Hakobjanian, told RFE/RL. "Last month we had a total
of 192 births. We are experiencing difficulties."

"Pregnant women are complaining about waiting lines," she said. "We
are coping with that with extreme strains."

The number of children born in Karabakh already rose by 16 percent to
1,306 in the first half of this year. "The tough war years are gone,
life has improved and people want to have more kids," said Hakobjanian.

Material incentives offered by the Karabakh government to newlyweds are
also a key factor behind the baby boom. The government pays 100,000
drams ($270) for a first and second child born in every family in
addition to a one-off payment of 300,000 drams made to a newlywed
couple. Families having a third child get 500,000 drams from the state.

"Judging from the indicators of the first seven months of 2009, the
results of our policy have been satisfactory," said Samvel Dadayan,
head of the family department at the Karabakh Ministry of Social

Official statistics show the number of marriages in the
Armenian-populated region nearly doubling in the first half of 2009
after reaching the highest level in 20 years in 2008. The authorities
in Stepanakert also reported a 29 percent drop in divorces during
the same period.

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