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The Armenian Reporter | February 28, 2009 17

Armenia

The only remaining village from Armenian Goghtn

It is worth visiting

Karchevan at least

once to see the River

Araks and eat sunripened

fruits

by Tatul Hakobyan

KARCHEVAN, Syunik Province,

Armenia – Of all the villages in

Armenia, Karchevan is the secondfarthest

from the capital city, more

than 400 kilometers. The name

Karchevan is very familiar to all

those who have crossed the Araks

River by land, traveling to Iran or

entering Christian Armenia from

the Islamic Republic. The name

Karchevan is stamped in their passports.

The village bearing the same

name, which was called Kirchavan

in the past, which means a town in

the gorge, is situated five kilometers

north of the Araks river.

Karchevan is on the border of

Armenia with Iran and also with

Nakhichevan, which was handed

to Azerbaijan in 1921 as an autonomous

republic. It is known not only

for its sweet, sun-ripened fruit,

but also for being the only village

of the historic Armenian province

of Goghtn – today called Ordubad

– still remaining within Armenia.

Nakhichevan today has almost

no autonomy. The totalitarian clan

of Vasif Talibov reigns there, with

the the support of the local Aliyev

dynasty, which rules in Baku. It

comprises three historical Armenian

regions: Goghtn, Nakhichevan,

and Sharur. In 1921, when only

10 percent of the population was

Armenian, Nakhichevan was given

to Azerbaijan; only Armenian-populated

Karchevan remained in Armenia.

By 1988, the Armenian residents

of the remaining Armenian

villages in Goghtn, Nakhichevan,

and Sharur had moved out or had

been forced to leave the autonomous

republic.

Sun-ripened fruit

typical to the region of

Meghri – pomegranate,

fig, persimmon, as

well as peach and

grapes – grow in

Karchevan.

Armen Avetisian has been the

head of the Karchevan village since

1994. “The village has a history of

more than 2,000 years,” he said.

“Today it has almost 100 homes

and 400 residents. The residents of

Karchevan are indigenous. In the

Meghri region they are famous for

being hard workers and for their

peculiar dialect, which is a little incomprehensible

at first.”

One of the few residents of

Karchevan who is not from the

village is Svetlana Papyan. She

moved here from the city of Kajaran.

She met her husband here. She is

an English-language teacher by profession;

this year she was appointed

director of the village school.

The Karchevan school, which

goes from the first through the

ninth grades, has a 132-year history

and 47 students. The school is in the

churchyard. Or perhaps the church

is in the schoolyard. The streets are

very steep and narrow. The village

hall, the kindergarten, the house

of culture, the library, and people’s

homes are very close to one another.

This situation has also had an

effect on the character of the local

Armen Avetisian.

residents; it seems as if they all live

together in a big house.

The village does not have room

to expand. If it were to expand, it

would be at the cost of the orchards.

Everything is very compact in the

village. It is surrounded by three

gorges and is very small. That is

part of what gives Karchevan its

special character.

“Forty-seven students study at

the school,” Ms. Papyan said. “We

do not have a problem with specialists;

all of our teachers have graduated

from higher education establishments

and are highly qualified

specialists. Religious instruction

is usually conducted in the church.

Our village is very developed and

the children study very hard. Our

students graduate from the secondary

school in the city of Agarak.”

The school is named after the

famous linguist Edward Aghaian,

who hailed from the village. Other

famous Armenians from Karchevan

include chess player Rafael Vahanian

and academician Artashes

Matevosian.

But the pride of the residents of

Karchevan is, of course, Garegin

Nzhdeh (Karekin Nejdeh); even

though he was born in the village

of Kznut in Nakhichevan, he

frequently visited and stayed in

Karchevan when he headed Mountainous

Armenia’s struggle against

Soviet occupiers. Whereas Armenia

became Soviet in December 1920,

Zangezur became Soviet half a year

later in July 1921.

The village head showed me a

house that belonged to Gurgen

Aghayan, member of parliament

of the first Republic of Armenia.

Nzhdeh stayed in that house when

he visited Karchevan. The most

beautiful spot in Karchevan, a

small waterfall, is located a small

distance from that house.

Karchevan is one of the few Armenian

villages, from which there

has been almost no emigration.

Just as in the Soviet years, now

too most of the villagers work at

the copper-molybdenum factory in

the city of Agarak. Agarak, which

has about 5,000 residents, was

constructed half a century ago as a

workers’ town. The city of Agarak is

also located within the territory of

Karchevan; only two years ago the

government stated that the territory

belongs to the city.

In the second half of March, the

copper-molybdenum factory in

Agarak will stop working because

of the international financial crisis.

The factory, which provided 1,450

jobs, will work only partially and

about 1,100 workers will be laid off.

“There has been almost no immigration

from Karchevan, since there

is employment. Even if they leave,

they go to Agarak, which is four kilometers

away, in order to get an

A factory in Agarak . Photos: Tatul Hakobyan for the Armenian Reporter.

The road from Agarak to Meghri. The border is on the right.

apartment. Most of the youngsters

of the village worked in the factory.

Agriculture had moved to the background.

Now that the factory is not

working, people will start working

in agriculture,” said Mr. Avetisian.

To work in agriculture, however,

land is required. There are mostly

cliffs on the banks of Araks. The

hard-working residents of Karchevan

have found the solution: they

bring soil from other places, lay it

on the rocks, and plant trees. The

same is being done in other rocky

villages in the Meghri region. Sunripened

fruit typical to the region

of Meghri – pomegranate, fig,

persimmon, as well as peach and

grapes – grow in Karchevan. The





The village of Karchevan.

fruits ripened in the Araks gorge

are the most delicious in Armenia,

as no other region receives as much

sun and warmth.

During the Soviet years the

Meghri region was linked with Yerevan

by road and railway, passing

through the territory of Nakhichevan.

Today it takes about 7–8 hours

to reach Yerevan, whereas before it

took only three because the roads

running along the bank of the

Araks to the capital city of Yerevan

and the Ararat valley were open.

“Taking our fruits to Yerevan is

very hard now. After the Karabakh

war, the distance to Yerevan has

doubled,” said Mr. Avetisian.

To say Karchevan or the Meghri


region are completely cut off from

the world would be wrong. The main

and only road going to Iran passes

through here. There are comfortable

and affordable hotels and food outlets

here. Dozens of Iranian tractor

trailers and Yerevan-Tehran buses

pass by here every day.

During the years of the Karabakh

war, when Armenia was blockaded

by three of its neighboring countries

(by doing so Turkey and

Azerbaijan were trying to strangle

newly independent Armenia, and

Georgia had been pulled into the

chaos), this road had become the

only route through which Armenia

kept its links with the outside

world.

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