you ask a taxi driver to take you to Hanrapetutyan
Street in Yerevan, be prepared to also say Alaverdyan.
And do not expect to find Parpetsi unless you
also know that not so long ago it was Ghoukassyan.
When we asked a taxi driver standing under the
falling snow whether he oriented himself quickly
when customers give new names of streets, he probably
thought that our question was the main reason
why he stood in the cold for so long and shouted:
"I am sick and tired of you. Today you give
one name, tomorrow another. Give the street one
name and that's all. They have changed the names
of all communists. But are they no worse than
For more than a decade, street names once familiar
have been changing in Yerevan; some in an effort
to honor heroes and some in an effort to forget
If a stranger tries to understand Armenia's history
based on names of the streets, it will be clear
for him or her that just after the creation of
the alphabet in the fifth century, Armenia entered
into the period of the Karabakh war.
After 1988 when the Karabakh Movement began the
streets were being renamed with lightning speed.
And not only streets, but also schools and other
A school named in honor of Lenin's wife, Krupskaya,
was renamed after Nikol Aghbalyan, Minister of
Education of the first Armenian republic.
Armenia's first president after independence,
Levon Ter-Petrossyan was a philologist with an
appreciation for culture and Armenian history.
His administration wasted no time taking down
Soviet-issue names and replacing them with Armenian
ones. So, the streets started carrying names of
Armenian historians and kings: Tigran the Great,
King Vramshapuh, Khorenatsi, Koghbatsi, Koryun
and others appeared.
And when the first casualties of the Karabakh
war became known, streets and schools got renamed,
especially in outlying regions.
Then there was October 27,1999 and the killings
in Parliament led to the most widespread renaming
Yerevan subway, Sports and Concert Complex, school
number 139 and the Main Avenue - from Saryan to
Koghbatsi Street carry the name of Karen Demirchyan.
The Republican Stadium, House of Officers, one
street and a military institute were named after
Though it is relatively peaceful in Karabakh,
the process of renaming after the killed warriors
and district heads who took part in the war is
still going on.
Mercifully for taxi drivers and tourists, the
renaming slowed last year. Only six streets changed
names in 2002.
Still, it is enough to confuse a public still
getting used to calling Alaverdyan, Hanrapetutyan,
People get used to one name, for example Amiryan
Street, and no matter how many times you tell
them that it is King Vramshapuh Street, all the
same they keep saying Amiryan Street.
There's a committee for such things, the Yerevan
Irina Grigoryan, head of the committee, says
her group is now working out a new system according
to which the deadline for honoring someone with
a street or public building will be extended.
The order of naming any street is determined
by the committee, which receives applications
and decides on a candidate's worthiness to be
Pending its decision, today's familiarity might
be tomorrow's confusion for travelers looking
for a single street with several names.