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Larisa Paremuzyan

Benefactor Halts Financing of Odzoun Renovations: Issues Still Remain

Moscow based businessman Movses Tzavaryan has stopped financing renovations at the 5-7th century Odzoun church in Armenia’s Lori Province.

Tzavaryan, who has pumped close to $780,000 into the renovation project over the past fifteen years, told Hetq that the important work to stabilize the edifice had been accomplished.

What remains to be resolved is the rainwater removal system.

“There is no project on the books for the water removal issue. Some want to address the issue by employing modern accessories. They can do so, but without me. Why haven’t the Italians restored the Coliseum? The church’s dome was collapsing so we rebuilt it,” Tzavaryan said.

Levik Ghoukasyan, president of LevGouk Ltd., the company that performed the renovations, knows about Tzavaryan’s plan to pull out and has sent a letter to the Hovhannes Imastaser Katoghikos Odznetsi Benevolent Foundation to find out whether renovations will continue.

Ghoukasyan has yet to hear back from them. The contractor claims he hasn’t been given any plans regarding work on the water removal issue.

Father Vrtanes Baghalyan, the Odzoun parish priest, told Hetq that the contractor wants to reconstruct the entrance archway that workers damaged and to correct a few faults here and there. Ghoukasyan also wants to remove construction equipment from the church courtyard.

“If he does, starting work anew next year will be harder,” Father Vrtanes noted.

In 2012, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the RA Ministry of Culture, and the Hovhannes Imastaser Foundation agreed to unite their forces to save Odzoun.

When this reporter contacted the Holy See of Etchmiadzin on the matter, I was told that the church would issue a statement sometime in the future.

Vanoush Shermazanyan, Director of the Imastaser Foundation, told Hetq that Tzavaryan had made known his intent to stop financing in August of last year.

“We explained that the church roof was still open and that it couldn’t remain so. The benefactor refused to pay for this and an additional 50 million AMD to reinforce the walls. He said he didn’t have the money,” Shermazanyan said.

Shermazanyan added that other benefactors are reluctant to finance the remainder of the project because, whatever they donate, Tzavaryan will get all the credit.

Father Vrtanes says that the remaining 50 million AMD of the initial 320 million Tzavaryan donation isn’t enough to finish the work initially planned for Odzoun.

In the meantime, Shermazanyan has written to the culture minister for financial assistance to keep the work going until major donations are located.

Father Vrtanes believes it’s more a question of will than money.