Special for the Armenian Weekly
NERKIN KARMIRAGHBYUR, Armenia (A.W.)—The border village of Nerkin Karmiraghbyur in the province of Tavush is approximately 200 kilometers from Yerevan and about 500-600 meters away from Azerbaijani military posts. It shares a nine-kilometer border with Azerbaijan, which makes it a target for direct fire.
After April, attacks against the Armenian posts here have been rare. However, village Mayor Manvel Kamendatyan says that this winter and spring will be tough to pass.
“The main source of income here is agriculture. The harvest this time has not been what was expected. The village’s farmers have suffered greatly due to hail, heavy rain, and several other factors. When the agricultural conditions aren’t favorable, the barns remain empty. This makes it difficult to supply for a family,” Kamendatyan says.
The village of Nerkin Karmiraghbyur is home to about 316 families. The Vardanyan family home, which is situated in the center of the village, is in one of the most dangerous locations. If a shot is fired, chances are that it will be headed in the home’s direction.
The Vardanyans harvest grapes and own a small vineyard close to the border.
“Generally, all the fields of harvests including vineyards, wheat fields, and meadows are near the border. Shooting has taken place near all the gardens. But if we don’t cultivate the land, how will we live?” says Haikaz Vardanyan. “We hand the grapes to a factory so there is no issue here. We need to be able to cultivate and collect the crop.”
The Vardanyans have two children—Narek who is currently working in Moscow, and Narineh who is studying in Yerevan.
“My daughter visited home about a month ago. Everything changes when the children come home, because the house becomes filled with joy. Both Narek and Narineh usually come home for the holidays and even help with decorating the tree and hosting our guests,” Haikaz says. “But of course they also come to eat the delicious homemade food prepared for the New Year celebrations.”
On this particularly cloudy and calm winter day, only the sound of old Zhora papik (grandfather) chopping wood with his ax could be heard throughout the village. While chopping the wood, he explained that he has a big family and that his son and grandson both live next to him and work with him.
“The problem in the village is that all the harvesting areas are constantly under the threat of Azerbaijani attack. We have four hectares of land, but are only able to work on a small plot,” says Zhora papik. “When you visited our village, you probably noticed that the road is not in the best condition. It would be ideal if the road from our village to Yerevan was safer, given how far it is from the capital.”
In recent years, the number of students at the village’s school and kindergarten has increased, according to Mayor Kamendatyan. According to him, the youth are not leaving the village. Even if they do leave to study or work, they always return to Nerkin Karmiraghbyur to live, get married, and to serve in the military.
Above anything else, the residents of Nerkin Karmiraghbyur want peace in the region. After years of sharing a border with Azerbaijan, they know well that a few months of peace could be interrupted in one night with an Azerbaijani attack.
And despite the eerie calmness, it is this fact that keeps the villagers alert.
This report was filed by the Armenian Weekly’s contributor in Armenia/NKR Ani Avetyan.