The first thing that catches your eye as you enter the village of Hermon in Vayots Dzor Marz is a site that looks like a water pool.
It’s actually a small hydro-electric station where the local kids go fishing. The guy we saw fishing when we visited was Taron, who is the station’s security guard.
When we asked Taron who the hydro-electric plant belongs to he answered – His Holiness. He was referring to Bishop Abraham Mkrtchyan, Primate of the Vayots Dzor Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Catholicos Garegin II established the diocese in 2010 and transferred Bishop Mkrtchyan from his post as Primate of the Syunik Diocese.
Hermon Mayor Gai Ohanyan told us that there are actually three small hydro stations in the village and that they all belong to Bishop Mkrtchyan.
Hermon is a small village of 250 residents some 16 kilometers from Yeghegnadzor. Back in the mid-1990s, four two-story stone houses were built here by the American-Armenian benefactors Mike and Sona Ohanian. Seven families of parentless children and those of Artsakh war veterans were relocated to the houses. Each house cost $12,000 to build.
Hermon was chosen as the construction site because it was a small village in need of new residents.
The program has been a failure. Only one of the original seven families, that of Armineh, remains today. She doesn’t even live in the house allotted to her.
The houses have been transformed into vacation bungalows. Residents say the bungalows belong to Bishop Mkrtchyan as well.
Taron took us to the resort bungalows where construction was in full swing. They’re building sports facilities for prospective vacationers. They were also building two hydro plants nearby.
The three Hermon hydro-electric plants owned by Bishop Mkrtchyan are: Yeghegis and Hermon, operated by Elegis Ltd, and the third is registered to Sunrise Electric CJSC.
On the online state registry site, Elegis Ltd. was registered to the name of the Syunik Social Benevolent Organization, who director is Mayis Mkrtchyan. Mayis is the brother of Bishop Mkrtchyan.
It was Mayis who signed an agreement with the seven orphanage families to relocate to Hermon.
The state registry has since pulled all information regarding Elegis Ltd. The same holds true for Sunrise Electric even though it was registered back in 2007.
Director Mayis Mkrtchyan wasn’t around when we visited the village.
Aleksan Aleksanyan, who has been working for three years as the shift coordinator for three years, told me, “They say it belongs to the bishop, but he could have drawn up the documents under another name. I don’t know.”
Aleksanyan said that two of the hydro-stations employ sixteen from Hermon and the adjacent villages. Aleksanyan and his colleagues come from Yeghegnadzor to work.
Gai Ohanyan has been mayor for six years. He says that the plants do not interfere with irrigation. In fact, they are supposed to be of benefit to the community.
“I couldn’t say what the benefit is exactly, but they do provide jobs. Most of the village youth work there,” said Mayor Ohanyan.
The power plants only provide a tiny fraction of the village’s budget. Prior to 2005, when the government supported the construction of hydro-plants, 170,000 AMD annually flowed into the community coffers. Today, that figure from property taxes has dropped to 3,750.
Our telephone conversation with Bishop Mkrtchyan was brief.
- No, they don’t belong to us but I assisted in the establishment
- Who do they belong to? Why did you assist?
- I try to help out everything you see in that area. It was an Armenian from Moscow. He moved there a long time ago.
- So who is this person? Is it a secret?
- No, I don’t want to give out any information on this thing and have it appear in the newspaper that the Bishop said this or that. Do some digging and find the guy on your own.
- Do you have any connection with the Syunik Social Benevolent Organization?
- That organisation closed down.
- Why did it close?
- Write whatever you want
With this Bishop Mkrtchyan hung up.