time to have house-warmings in Lori.
Last Friday Satik Martirosyan stood outside the
new Charles Aznavour Cultural Center in Vanadzor,
remembering the previous performance hall that
stood on the site.
"À day before the earthquake my son
was singing here, he had perfectly performed,
the hall was full of flowers. How could I know
that the next day he would close the door of his
life forever," she said.
The mother still grieving for her son 15 years
later couldn't bring herself to enter the new
hall, but felt some consolation that her son's
memory might be preserved in such a place.
The new center in fact hardly compares to the
one that was damaged in the 1988 Spitak earthquake.
The hall has been totally reconstructed and includes
modern and comfortable arm chairs for seating
500. In addition, two additional smaller halls
were constructed, as a rehearsal hall and a cinema.
The Vanadzor Cultural Center is one of 35 centers
rebuilt through a $17.5 million donation to Armenia
by the Lincy Foundation, the philanthropic agency
of Armenian-American billionaire Kirk Kirkorian.
Reconstruction of the Vanadzor center was made
possible by a $540,000 Lincy donation and $435,000
allocated from the State budget. An additional
$252,000 went to purchase equipment including
lighting and a sound system.
The opening of the center revives performance
art in Vanadzor - once Armenia's "second"
"There was a time when people like Aram
Khachaturyan and Rostropovich performed in this
Cultural Center. Russian, European and, of course,
Yerevan's most famous actors were on tour here,"
says musician and pedagogue Sveta Arzumanyan.
President Robert Kocharyan toured the new hall,
and said that every time he has passed it since
1988, he was thinking when will it finally be
possible to reconstruct it.
"At last, I won't be ashamed of passing
by it now," he said.
A two-hour performance of choir, recitals and
dance was offered as Lori residents' show of thanks
for the restoration of their art center.
Vanadzor Cultural Center rebuilt by the
means of Lincy Foundation will carry the
name of Charles Aznavour.
There was more than art to be grateful for, however.
In Spitak last Friday 248 families held a mass
house-warming party to signal completion of housing
projects on sites destroyed by the earthquake,
which had its epicenter in Spitak, a city of about
It was the second year Spitak has had reason
to celebrate. Last autumn 276 families moved from
temporary tiny homes and hostels to the new buildings.
In total during the past two years 529 apartments
have been built in Spitak using finances assigned
by the Lincy Foundation. Still, though, 604 families
are waiting for housing.
"A few years ago we didn't believe that
one day we wouldn't be in these rusted domics
(small metal houses) any more and that our children
would attend schools in normal buildings,"
says Karineh Mekhakyan, a resident of Spitak.
Women who lost their houses like Mekhakyan approached
and felt the walls of their new apartments, touching
the floors, amazed at the detailed repair.
Unlike Spitak, construction works of apartments
have already finished in Vanadzor (population
135,000). And in addition to the Aznavour Center
two sports schools and a kindergarten have been
reconstructed. The Abelyan Dramatic Theater is
still under construction.
Four music schools, a music college, a school
of fine arts, and numerous dance, vocal and theatrical
groups are helping keep alive Vanadazor's cultural
The opening of the Aznavour Center is evidence
that the notion of "disaster zone" is
changing year by year.
According to the head of the Lori region, development
isn't just confined to art. Henrik Kochinyan says
industry is in recovery as well and that output
has increased 27 percent in the past year.
Student of Vanadzor Pedagogical Institute Karineh
Karapetyan believes that in their city even little
economic growth has its influence on people's
lives. She is jobless today, but says that even
her decision to stay in Vanadzor is evidence of
"A few years ago after graduating from an
institute or leaving school everyone ran to Yerevan
or if there was opportunity they left the country,"
says Karapetyan. "Today me and many people
like me are full of hopes as we have new apartments
and we are bound to this land, our beautiful Vanadzor
with stronger roots."