BERDZOR, ARTSAKH — Azerbaijani forces entered the Kashatagh or Lachin District, which contains the vital corridor connecting the Republic of Armenia to Artsakh, on December 1, while most Armenians evacuated the district. The corridor itself at present is held by Russian troops. Berdzor (Lachin), the capital of the district, is within the narrow corridor, and one of the two schools there which served the population since the 1990s is the Vahan Tekeyan School No. 1 of Berdzor. Anahit Kosakyan, principal of the school, reported what has happened to the school during the current Karabakh war and its aftermath.
The school has some 220 students. The Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada has been providing support to the teachers and staff through its Sponsor a Teacher program, as well as assisting in the renovations of the school’s facilities for a dozen years.
Kosakyan said that from the first day of the war, children and the elderly were evacuated from Berdzor. Kosakyan remained because her son was serving on the frontline, and her husband was there also. On October 19, it became clear that the shelling of the city would become worse, so she took her 81-year-old mother and left. After the ceasefire was announced, she returned, went to Yerevan for two days, and then came back again.
Approximately three or four hundred soldiers from the Armenian forces had been using the school, she said, as a barracks. They ate their meals there and slept in the school. The only other school in Berdzor was being used in the same fashion.
Kosakyan said, “In truth, the school is in a bad condition. There was a lot of destruction and many things were stolen. It is a very sad state of affairs.” While the outside structure of the building was intact, the walls inside were damaged. Papers and books were mixed up and many things stolen. Even her office door was broken. Kosakyan attempted to keep an eye on the school from November 12 or 13, but it was not possible to do much as the soldiers had remained there.
On November 26, the police and security forces told the Berdzor population that the city was being emptied of its civilian population, and that everyone would have to leave by November 30 at 6 p.m. Though afterwards there have been rumors that it will remain Armenian, Kosakyan said, nothing official was stated. Meanwhile, Russian soldiers were defending the roads in Berdzor.