Mets Tagher, a village in the Hadrut region, is different from all the other villages in Karabakh primarily because it has a teahouse. It seems a luxury of sorts when viewed next to the inaccessible and narrow streets entering and passing through the village.
The teahouse, called Kach, is located in the center of the village. Kach is the old name of Mets Tagher. The teahouse is located on the first floor of one of the old village houses. Garik Voskanyan had long considered the idea of opening a teahouse but managed to make it a reality only two years ago. He renovated his ancestral home and this is what it looks like today. Old photographs of residents of Mets Tagher adorn the walls. Customers include villagers and rare guests visiting the village.
“The main reason why I wanted to open a teahouse was so that the young people of the village, or even the older folk, could gather around a cup of tea and talk, or just relax,” said Garik Voskanyan.
There is a carpet-weaving workshop, also run by Garik, above the teahouse. Carpet weaving has been an established trade in the village for centuries. Before the Karabakh war, the village used to host a carpet factory. Two years ago, Garik Voskanyan decided to revive the tradition.
“We set up that workshop in our village to develop carpet weaving; there are a few workers. They weave, then we transport the carpets to Yerevan and sell them there. The Deputy Minister of Defense, Arthur Aghabekyan, who is also from our village, helps us with these issues,” added Garik.
The carpet workshop is still in the red, but Garik has not lost hope. He is proud to have created ten jobs all by himself.
With around 1,507 residents, Mets Tagher is the largest village in Hadrut. The first thing one notices upon entering the village are the women and children walking on the streets carrying vessels for water. The pipeline supplying the village with water was built 30 years ago, but covers only 30% of the village's water demand.
“A fourteen kilometer-long pipeline was connected to the village with the help of Médecins Sans Frontières. It brings source water to the village at a rate of 750 grams per second, which is enough to solve the water problem in half of the village,” explained Vladik Danielyan, head of the village administration.
The All-Armenian Fund has included the Mets Tagher drinking water pipeline as part of the Hadrut Development Program for its November 23 telethon in Los Angeles. That means that the village will have a secure drinking water supply next year.
Mets Tagher had water supply problems during the Soviet years as well. The Ishkhan River flowed a mere 500 meters from the village, but the Azerbaijani authorities kept making promises without ever actually dealing with the issue. Vladik Danielyan, who has served as village head for nine years, said that the planned new pipeline would yield substantial results in a short period of time.
“At least then these poor villagers won't have to go through three or four villages to reach their vegetable gardens. Just imagine, they cover four or five kilometers on foot everyday to get to a small plot of four or five square meters next to the river, where they grow their vegetables, which they need to get through the winter. They will be free of this. Instead, they'll be able to grow the vegetables in their yards and plots of land next to their houses. Water also has significance for hygiene and could solve other sanitation problems,” he said.
In Vladik Danielyan's view, the assistance of the Diaspora is a necessity during these difficult years for Karabakh, because the local population's modest means cannot solve large problems.
“I wouldn't say that Karabakh should always lean on the Diaspora or constantly require their assistance. But, at the same time, this period of fifteen to twenty years after the war can be called a time of transition. I don't think that any period of transition should last centuries, whether it is in an underdeveloped, developing, or developed country – that's too much time for transition. But we need to look to our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora to help us through this period and to provide whatever assistance they can to their compatriots in Karabakh, so that these problems are solved sooner.
“You know, since we spoke about the Fund, I would like to make a suggestion to all the Armenians in Karabakh, to Armenians born in Karabakh as well as to all the villages here – we have to be the ones building our homes. For those problems which we can solve ourselves, I would propose setting up our own fund. After all, there are Karabakh Armenians living outside as well – some are surviving, others are quite well off and much richer than those in Karabakh. Their financial means could be used to set up a fund in the village. And then small steps could be taken to provide solutions – like the teahouse, or youth leisure areas, or other ways to solve our problems. But our compatriots in the Diaspora must deal with the larger issues,” said the village head.
He is convinced that rebuilding the villages is part of the future of Karabakh. It would be the only way to give people a reason to stay on their land.
“In any case, rebuilding villages is about both constructing houses and binding people to their land and country. People must stay on this territory and not desert it – everyone should focus today on keeping this land populated. So many people live here – how do they live? What do they eat? What do they produce? What do they give this state? How do they benefit this country? This village gave around 380 soldiers to the Karabakh war,” Danielyan said. “These people have to live, don't they, so that we can contribute another 380 in the likely case of another war? Unfortunately, many of those soldiers are jobless today.”