- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 May 16, 2003 

What a Site: Renovation of Republic Square uncovers surprise history of old Yerevan

For the past three weeks Republic Square in Yerevan has looked more like a corral than a public meeting place. Large strips of metal construction fencing have closed off the popular dancing fountains, sidewalks and thoroughfares in the heart of the city.
Not since Lenin's statue was removed about a decade ago has the Square seen such activity. But that renovation had little to compare to what is going on now.

The Square is not simply being renovated but totally rebuilt, redecorated, re-clothed as it were, at a cost of $1 million Lincy Foundation dollars.

The 3,776 square-meter oval in the center is being turned into a mosaic carpet of seven different Armenian stones. Footpaths will become wider and will include ornamental decoration. Streetlamps will get marble-faced, contemporary replacements.

The oval center will become a mosaic of seven types of Armenian stone.

Project director Eduard Bezoyan says the Square is expected to be completed at the end of October.

But the renovation took an unexpected turn last week when an operator made a startling discovery while running his earth mover.

Pulling away the asphalt and dirt has turned the construction zone into an archeological dig, as part of an ancient complex has been unearthed, spreading from the right side of the oval to the front of Armenia Hotel.

Members from the Memorials Preservation Committee have been called in to look at the site and are saying the buried structure is an arched construction two or three hundred years old.

"At this moment we can express our opinion based on naked eye observations," says archeologist Husik Melkonyan. "But we have 10 days to make a final decision about the research. And then we will be able to define to which period of time this construction belongs, what kind of construction it is and to whom it belonged."

It turns out some archeologists knew about these secrets of the Square. Mikael Manaseryan, who was a child when the Square was being built (from 1926-58) remembers that during construction children were entering an underground building in the evenings looking for treasures.

The work must be completed by the end of October. But first, archeologists want to know what's been uncovered.

"Of course we didn't find anything. But those ancient monuments were buried under the soil in one night and nobody had time to examine them," Manaseryan says.

Deputy head of the Memorials Preservation Committee Samvel Mosoyan confirms that during Soviet times no one was allowed to conduct research in the area.

Bezoyan says if the discovered construction is an ancient memorial, conditions for underground works will be created, but the surface has to be covered.

"Regardless of the value of the discovery we have to meet the deadline of the international contract. Otherwise financing will be ceased," he says.

So while archeologists study the relic of the past, some 300 construction workers continue the Square's facelift, facing their million-dollar deadline.


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  Photo of the week
  Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Dr. Lord George

He is already a Lord, and Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And as of Wednesday George Robertson adds an honorary doctorate from the French University of Armenia. Following ceremonies at the university Lord Robertson spoke with students and media.



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