- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
March 5, 2004

Withered Vines: Diaspora settlers find it too hard to put down roots

“Only me and the program are left,” says Nazareth Liparityan from Lebanon , who has been living for the past five years in Ditsmayi village in the south of Karabakh's repopulated Kashatagh region.
In the maple tree park.

Gevorg from Syria is the only other Armenian from the Diaspora remaining here. He married in Kashatagh and is raising three children, but he too plans to leave Ditsmayi.

The period of great excitement has ended. The optimistic days were in 1999, when with the help of a Dashnak party program 35 Diaspora Armenians from Syria , Lebanon , Cyprus and Iran were resettled in Ditsmayi village close to Kovsakan (see previous story).

The intention was to populate this settlement and two neighboring villages as part of a plan eventually to settle the whole area down the border with Iran . But virtually everyone has fled. One of the last to go sold his car to raise the money to leave the village as quickly as possible.

But Liparityan, from Beirut , has no intention of leaving, saying: “I'm going to stay here until the moment when they say these are not the lands of our ancestors.”

A transformer, a tractor, a bus, a truck, and 15 Finnish domics (temporary huts and trailers) are also left as a result of the program. So is a newly constructed school.

Four teachers work there, including Liparityan, an English teacher. He did not come to the village to be a teacher but the school, which has 20 pupils, simply lacked staff.

“If you have children of school age you will prefer not to stay here. But even if there is only one pupil in the school I will not allow this school to be closed,” he says.

People don't stay here. Eleven of the 33 families who came to populate three villages have gone already and others are planning to leave.

To assist the migrants, the Dashnaks have paid each family $50 per month for the past one and a half years. It has not been enough to persuade people to stay, however.

“If I had no TV then I'd have no idea about political situation and everything would be great. They prepare people for the fact that the lands will be returned,” says Liparityan.

Nazareth Liparityan will be the last to leave.

His Finnish domic is equipped in the European style: a kitchen-dining room, though its planked walls are already discolored; 24-hour hot and cold water, a lavatory. Apart from the other domics, only one or two houses in the whole area enjoy such conveniences.

A park of silver maple trees behind the house is the only green space. The mountains of Kashatagh have been scalped of trees, with only stumps left, and the border separating Armenia from this territory underlines the difference between the landscapes.

Liparityan says people came to cut down the trees near his home but he refused to allow it after their documents showed they had no permission to take the wood.

A river flows through the park and fish shoals can clearly be seen in its clean waters. Fishery, fowling and drinks are his primary amusements.

Liparityan came here with great plans to starting a winemaking business. A winery with the necessary equipment was set up next to his house and he spent thousands of dollars hoping to make wine from the vineyards of Zangelan. However, everything was in vain.

“We had huge territories but we couldn't make use of them because at the beginning of each spring and the end of each summer some people set fire to them. They did that out of envy so that we couldn't make use of these vineyards. And you know who do that? Armenian Azeris,” he says.

In the first year he bought grapes in the Ararat Valley and made wine from them but he could not afford to buy any the following year.

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