A few months ago I had posted an entry revealing that a historic building
, with a history dating as far back as the late 19th
century, was in danger of being destroyed by a developer and multi-millionaire with government connections. The building housed at least two families, both of whom operated small door-step stores selling sandwiches, bottled soda, candy, and other snacks. To my dismay while walking to work this morning past the Yerevan Hotel, across from which the building is located, I found that two thirds of the two-floor apartment building has been completely demolished, virtually overnight. It was still standing yesterday.
The person responsible for the demolition of the site, according to a story published by Hetq Online earlier in the year, is Gagik Tsarukian, an “oligarch” who is infamously known as “Dodi Gago.” He used to own the majority of the shares in the Kotayk brewery until he sold them off over a month ago. He is considered to be the outright owner of the “Kentron” television station and the conglomerate “Multigroup,” which has a broad area of business interests, with stakes in dairy products, a wine factory, cement, real estate, gasoline stations, and other businesses. He is also a member of parliament, and it is generally accepted that he became one in order to escape any kind of prosecution, as all National Assembly members are apparently immune. Now he is the head of his own political party called “Prosperous Armenia.” He is also closely linked to the top leadership of Armenia, which is another reason why he can do virtually anything he wants.
This building was constructed on what was once a cemetery, where Turkish settlers buried their dead. Most of Yerevan’s center was completely occupied by Turks within the last few hundred years. Even up until the beginning of the 20th century there were Turkish settlements in Yerevan. This should not be a surprise to anyone.
It was made simply from mud, rocks, and straw. That’s all that is left now in a pile next to the disco situated to the left of it. But it was solid and lasted for over 100 years. There is no way of knowing exactly how old it is of course since there are no records to prove when it was constructed. Nevertheless, it is part of Yerevan’s history. It was an intact structure that was not crumbling, that showed no real signs of decay. It had obviously settled and some walls looked a bit uneven, but nothing so bad that it would crumble on top of passers-by. It was just an old building, a landmark, that just needed some care. It was a home and still is partially a home, for now, to families who obviously had an emotional connection to it, and who felt it a duty to protect this ancient structure.
These types of buildings are going away. Some should be cleared out for safety issues, while others just need to be preserved. In all cases such buildings are destroyed for the purposes of developing real estate. For visitors the building may be an eyesore, and an obvious excuse to construct a new hotel, disco, or shopping mall since the other ancient structures on either side of it were torn down long ago. Nevertheless it was another small piece of Yerevan’s history which has all but been smeared away into oblivion. And no one cares about what is happening.
There is now very little to account for pre-Soviet Yerevan’s history. You can no longer point to any 19th-century structure and announce that it is part of antiquity, it is where people used to live and want to live, it is a monument to how old the city really is. I have never heard of such careless, random demolition occurring in any other city in the world, without any thought or understanding of how the past is being wholly discarded for the supposed sake of progress. These narrow-minded actions represent a total disregard for human rights and for cultural and historical preservation. This destruction is a quintessence example of the “vochinch” mentality that is so prevalent in Armenian society, which is spreading like an epidemic. No one seems to care about anything anymore. It’s becoming more and more obvious. And it is really a shame.
Labels: Personal Experiences