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Kristine Aghalaryan

Alashkert's Main Priority: Turning Windowless Hulk Back to a Cultural Center

Travel to Alashkert, a village of some 1,800 in Armenia’s Armavir Province, and local residents are more than willing to point out the problems they face.

First off, there’s the road, a mixture of gravel and asphalt, which leads to the village. They’ll next point to the dilapidated kindergarten   and a large building without windows in the middle of Alashkert.

“Guess what that building is,” a resident tells me. The man says it’s the village cultural center which now mostly serves as a public urinal.

The walls stand and residents claim it can be renovated, but it remains neglected and abandoned.

Village Deputy Mayor Derenik Gabrielyan says the cultural center is high on the list of priorities, but quickly mentions a number of reasons why nothing has been done.

“We don’t have the resources,” he says, adding that the entire annual budget for the village is 18.7 million AMD, of which 10 million is in state subsidies.

Municipal Staff Secretary Ara Manukyan says they petitioned the national government in 2010 for assistance with the cultural center. “A bunch of specialists came and drew up blueprints, but that’s the last we heard from them,” Manukyan says.

Deputy Mayor Gabrielyan then launches into naming the other problems of the village.

Topping the list is that the local well water is overly alkaline and villagers have been forced to buy water for drinking at 100 AMD per pail.

“Our people have progressed and now want quality water to drink,” Manukyan jokes.

Hailstorms also hit Alashkert hard this spring, damaging most of the seasonal fruit crop, but Manukyan tells me residents are a hardy lot and have bounced back.

As our conversations come to an end, Ara Manukyan turns to me and whispers, “Please get us some help with our cultural center.”