Metro Booksellers Forced out in Yerevan

Despite being named the World Book Capital of 2012, Yerevan has controversially gone ahead with a plan to revamp an area that was known for its mom-and-pop book dealers. In a story that has been shaping up for the greater part of the past year, the final episode of the forced evacuations of booksellers in Yerevan’s Yeritasardakan Metro Station occurred mid-March.

Yerevan’s Yeritasardakan Metro Station
Yerevan’s Yeritasardakan Metro Station

Most of the book merchants are from working class families who have made a living off selling books in the metro’s confines for years. In a video report by CivilNetTV, several booksellers were seen packing their boxes and voicing their opinions on the forced evacuation. For weeks, it was unclear what was to happen to them.

On Tues., March 19, the City Council of Yerevan convened to discuss what would become of the now-vacant area. Yerevan Mayor Taron Margaryan told Republican Party council member Astghik Gevorgyan that he had met with representatives of the booksellers and proposed alternative locations where they could take up their business. Some suggestions included a venue next to the fish market on Saryan St. or the underground alley near the Malibu Coffee Shop on Aram St. These areas will be just as favorable to the booksellers’ business as their previous location in the Yeritasardakan Metro Station was, Margaryan said in a recent story published by CivilNet.

The destruction of several stores in the Yeritasardakan Metro Station began early last year, but all activity ceased until earlier this month, when the compulsory evacuation of the book merchants began. The name of the new owner of the defunct underground bookselling hub remains undisclosed. But the mayor is hopeful that the venue will be returned to the booksellers, and maintains that the new owner of the site has not ruled out that option.

What lies ahead for Yerevan’s former book haven cannot be said decisively. Some believe that the government has purchased the territory to revamp the station with new shops and attractions. Others say the area has been purchased by a private citizen who may turn it into something vastly different.

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Lilly Torosyan

Lilly Torosyan is the Assistant Project Manager of Hamazkayin’s h-pem, an online platform to engage young diasporans in Armenian art and culture. She holds a master’s degree in Human Rights from University College London and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Boston University, where she served on the ASA Executive Board. Her writings primarily focus on highlighting unique facets of, and approaches to, identity, community, art and youth events.

5 Comments

  1. First the kiosks, then “pag shuga”, now the booksellers…what’s left…vernissage…Tigran Medz shuga???? The character of the city is being destroyed by commercial interests. To those who complained about communism I ask, what do you now think about unchecked capitalism?

    • Just as troubling is the fact that most people in Yerevan are doing nothing about it.

      I would not be surprised if the Yerevan political leaders and oligarchs had close ties to their Russian counterparts, since the same process has been ongoing in Russia. Didn’t Yerevan’s last mayor (Karen Karapetian) actually move to Moscow since he was given a cushy job there? From an IWPR article on Karapetian:

      “Earlier this year, he [Karapetian] came under fire for organising Russian-language classes for his staff. The classes were funded by the Russian embassy in Armenia, and opponents of the move – mainly those who want to see greater use of Armenian – said it was another step to strengthen Moscow’s influence in the former Soviet republic.”

      Shows where his priorities are.

  2. Very nice opportunity for the government to create a book area in the city to help these people make a living and an excellent tourist attraction if its developed. When I was visiting Armenia I looked for a book store all week. Just found 2 place that carried a few books.

    But again we’re talking about the government of Armenia, which exists to serve the oligarchs not the people.

  3. This is a corrupt government serving the interests of the Oligarchs and a Yerevan council serving the interest of the Oligarchs.

    No wander people are leaving Armenia in their thousands,only in the past 5 years official figures show that over 200000 have left Armenia,at this rate you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that soon there wont be many left apart from the pensioners.

  4. a very good move by the government… their place was not in the dump humid metro atmosphere exactly… hopefully they can have a proper place now…

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