- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 December 19 , 2003 

History in Decline: Home of writer Abovyan suffers wrath of bad weather and bad neighbors

Pails for collecting rainwater share space with historic relics.

With the Lincy Foundation-funded renovation of Armenia's major houses of culture coming to an end, the neglect of those places not fortunate enough to be included in the $17.5 million project becomes more obvious.

The miserable condition of the home of writer Khachatur Abovyan, located in Yerevan's Qanaqer district, is an example. Relics of the founder of Modern Armenian literature, the pioneer of educating people in Ashkharhabar (New Armenian) are on the edge of extinction.

Metal gates and fences surrounding the museum have been stolen and sold, and the yard belonging to the museum (Abovyan's statue is also placed there) has become a trash heap, public toilet, playground, gathering place for drunks and even a chicken coop.

The museum consists of two buildings - the actual house where in 1809 Khachatur Abovyan was born, and the museum building constructed during the 1970s.

The museum to the great wrier was built in the 1970s.

The paternal home of Abovyan today is a half ruined building with stolen doors and windows, from where management of the museum has taken all the show items. All the drunks of the neighborhood are gathering here every night, have parties and use the great writer's home for their natural needs. Pieces from the buildings are burned as campfires, turning 200 years of history into ashes.

"Even police of the region cannot stop them. Recently they've severely beaten up the guard who tried to stop their misbehaving," says the director of the museum, historian Hovhannes Zatikyan.

The situation leaves little choice but for the historians to become caretakers.

"At the end of working day each one of us takes a plastic bag to clear rubbish brought by neighbors from the territory of the museum," says the director.

Zatikyan has many times asked police for help, however with no result. There are no gates protecting the territory, so there's no security.

It's been a year that Zatikyan is the director of this half ruined museum, inheriting a load of debts and unsolvable problems.

It's director calls it "a long-suffering museum".

It's not only the absence of gates that has given freedom to neighbors; they were provided with an exceptional right to use electricity and phone lines for free. Through some ways unclear to specialists, people living in houses nearby connected to the museum's electricity and phone lines and the management of the museum, despite its sparse budget, has to pay debts of over $300 several times a year.

"Managers of Armentel can't even imagine how someone can dial through my line. The calls are from your numbers, so you have to pay," says Zatikyan.

Together with the wild surrounding, the wind and rains are also damaging the museum. In 1985 the roof was torn off by wind. As a result of the previous director's indifference, until now the building has no roof, while the roofs of neighboring houses are built with the very roofing slate that was once covering the museum.

Because there's no roof, buckets and basins are predominant items displayed in showrooms. The temperature inside is practically the temperature outside. But inside are some 6,000 historical items and paintings that cannot survive such impossible conditions.

Since 1985 there's been no water at the museum; even the toilet does not work. Zatikyan does not have the blueprints of the water system, and says that specialists cannot figure out how to locate the pipes.

Despite this extreme situation the museum has visitors. According to the historians, they're doing everything for schoolchildren to come and have open classes dedicated to Abovyan. Nowadays, there's a city competition on Armenian language and literature taking place at the museum.

"This museum is the only cultural house in Qanaqer. There's a 200-seat hall and other conveniences to carry out events," points out Zatikyan. The director has great plans of making the museum a cultural center for the region, publishing a scientific magazine, organizing various contests, but all of that will be possible only after reconstruction.

"The cultural program of the Lincy Foundation has done calculations for renovation, and if the program has a second stage, our long-suffering building will finally look like a museum," says Zatikyan.

According to Agnes
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