Although more than ten churches have been built in Yerevan over the past two and a half decades, municipal authorities have provided additional space to the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin for church building. Those areas are now deserted, and there are no approved designs.
Levon Zakaryan, member of the “My Step” faction of the Yerevan Council of Elders, made a Facebook post on August 18 about the areas allocated for the construction of churches in a number of Yerevan parks.
“The Armenian Apostolic Church has 3 areas in the city of Yerevan that have been provided for church construction purposes. For years, these three areas, which, by the way, have been given at the expense of parks, are not used for their purpose. They have long since become a garbage dump and look abandoned” Zakaryan wrote, suggesting that those areas be returned to the community.
Fip.am decided to follow in the footsteps of Zakaryan’s statement to understand when and where areas were allocated to the church and why churches have not been built to date.
Church building in Yerevan
According to official data, there are 18 churches in Yerevan. Some churches have hundreds of years of history, some are new.
Hetq wrote in 2017 that more than 100 churches have been built in Armenia and Artsakh since independence, totaling at least $ 50 million. As of 2017, only in the capital 10 new churches have been built in 25 years.
The church building that has been gaining momentum in recent years has been the subject of regular discussions. Questions arise as to whether it would be more expedient to direct the millions of dollars spent on their construction for rehabilitation of existing churches or implementation of other projects.
Anyway, it turns out that three green areas in Yerevan now belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church. Former Yerevan municipal authorities have provided these areas for church construction, but no construction work has been done and the areas are in poor condition today.
Churches at the expense of parks
1) Nor Nork
The largest area in Yerevan allocated to the Armenian Apostolic Church is the park located in Nor Nork 2nd Block, with a total area of almost 4.5 hectares (44,921 sq.m.) of land granted for free to the Holy See by Mayor Taron Margaryan in 2017 by Decree 4608-A dated December 18, 2008. No construction work has been carried out at the park at 2/1 Totovents Street.
There is a monument in the center of the park, but the park is generally in poor condition. The alleyways of the garden are partly ruined and garbage is everywhere.
It is worth noting that there is another park near this one, called Nansen Park, located in the 1st block of Nor Nork. In 2014, the Church of the Holy Mother of God was consecrated in this park. In fact, several hundred meters away, two churches are planned, both at the expense of green space.
The second green area provided by the Yerevan city authorities to the Holy See is located in the Shengavit district, at the crossing of Chekhov-Hayk Hovsepyan Streets, adjacent to the church-owned Shoghakat TV. The land covers 4,350 square meters. The site was allocated to the Apostolic Church back in October 2005, but no further construction work was done here. This park, too, is generally in poor condition, and looks abandoned.
The third area is located in Avan, near school N170. This was also assigned to the Holy See in 2005, but no work was carried out. In fact, the unoccupied area is now used in part by local residents.
Churches built and under construction in parks
One of the churches built and operating in Yerevan during the independence period is in the Nubarashen district. The Holy Martyrs Church in the smallest district of Yerevan was built under the patronage of Gagik Tsarukyan. The church was consecrated on April 25, 2015 and is dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide. It is noteworthy that the Holy See has been allocated half of the Nubarashen central park (0.95 hectares), while the Holy Martyrs Church occupies only a small part of the area.
In the park near the Azatamartikneri Street in the Erebuni district, church construction began as early as 2005 and, in fact, was stopped in 2008, more than a decade ago. Here too, the Holy See was allocated a large area of about one hectare.
In 2013, the Office of the Prosecutor General stated that the director of the construction company for this church had illegally transferred 12,497,257 AMD to the bank account of another company in June 2008, which was cashed and stolen. A criminal case was launched in connection with a particularly large-scale fraud.
In July 2019, a fire broke out in a carriage house in the church construction site.
Looking at the Google Earth satellite images, it becomes clear that church construction has been stalled for the past 11 years. Today the construction site looks like this.
Non-green areas allocated to the church
The Holy See was also provided two non-green areas in Ajapnyak and Davtashen administrative districts, 1 hectare each. In June 2001, the municipality granted the Armenian Apostolic Church a deserted area at the intersection of Shiraz and Janibekyan streets. In July 2004 a similar plot of land was allocated on a hill outside the park between the 1st and 2nd districts in Davtashen.
What does the Holy See say?
In response to a question from the Fact Investigation Platform, Vahram Melikyan, Director of the Information System of the Holy See, noted that these plots were given by the state authorities to the Holy See “so that all districts of the capital would have their own prayer houses for the spiritual needs of the citizens”, and added that land plots are a “compulsory component” of church construction.
“On the basis of these lands, solutions and suggestions are presented to philanthropist Armenians,” was the response of the Holy See.
However, the Holy See did not provide information on when the construction of the churches in the designated areas will start and when they will be completed.
Thus, the municipal authorities of Yerevan allocated a number of areas to the Armenian Apostolic Church for the construction of churches in 2001-2017, five of which have not been completed so far. Three of those five areas are green spaces, but today, in fact, they are abandoned and in poor condition.