TCA Berdzor School Principal Anahit Kosakyan

Armenians Evacuate Kashatagh/Lachin District Including Berdzor and Tekeyan School

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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.

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Until a final decision was given, Kosakyan, like many others, did not abandon her Berdzor residence with all its contents, since that would be expensive and difficult, but she left for Yerevan with some essential belongings on November 27 to wait for more definitive news.

Representatives of the Artsakh Ministry of Education, Science and Culture came to inspect the school from Stepanakert, and saw what shape it was in. They took certain books and items, and declared that if Berdzor will indeed be handed over, they would decide what to do over the next several days, and if necessary, empty out the building. The school’s building custodian stayed several more days to see what would happen.

All the students of the school now are scattered in different places, some in the hotel areas of Tsaghkadzor, others with relatives or in other homes in Yerevan. Kosakyan will try to reestablish contact with them. The teachers of the school also are scattered.

As late as November 29, authorities still were bringing Armenians to Berdzor from outlying regions of the district that were going to be placed under Azerbaijani control, Kosakyan said, and residents were told that the town itself would remain Armenian. However, on November 30, in the morning the Russian military told the Armenians that they had to definitively leave. She said that many people left their home furnishings and goods in Berdzor, as she had done, due to the uncertainty and the difficulty and expense of transportation to the Republic of Armenia.

The Berdzor school

The roads on November 30 were snowy. Kosakyan told one or two needy large families, who had lost everything they had, to take what they could from her Berdzor home. Meanwhile, late in the afternoon of November 30, the school custodian told Kosakyan that Artsakh state bodies were removing furniture, books and presumably whatever else can be salvaged from the Tekeyan School in Berdzor.

Lachin or Kashatagh district is the third and last district controlled by Artsakh, after Aghdam and Karvachar or Kelbajar, to be handed over to Azerbaijan in accordance with the provisions of the truce of November 9. The ultimate fate of Berdzor’s inhabitants still remains unclear. President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan in a December 1 speech (https://en.trend.az/azerbaijan/politics/3342905.html) declared that according to the November truce agreement, Berdzor (the town of Lachin) would be returned to Azerbaijan after the parameters of a new corridor connecting Armenia to Nagorno Karabakh are determined.

There are some Armenians apparently who are remaining in the town. Davit Davityan, a staff member of the local administration, told an Agence France Presse reporter on November 29 that 200 people vital for connecting gas, electric and roads services, could stay. The Armenian administration would give their names to the Russian peacekeeping soldiers and these people would get passes. Also, some Armenians with nowhere else to go remained in the town.

Mayor Narek Aleksanyan told ArmenPress that Russian peacekeepers on November 30 stated that the flag of the Artsakh Republic had to be lowered but that the Azerbaijani flag would not be raised. They did not specify whether Azerbaijani troops would enter the town. Aleksanyan had no information about the aforementioned 200 people with permits but stated that there were many more than 200 people remaining in the town, including himself.

 

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