Eternal Return
Armenian youth moves to cities, but dreams of good life in rural areas
Far from the village
Soon it will be five years since Zarmo left his home village. At the age of 18, he had to do military service. After two years of life in the army, he moved to Erevan and has lived there for three years since then. It was easy for him to build relationships with people, but it took time.

Currently Zarmo studies in the third year at the Erevan State Economic University. He is majoring in State and municipal government control. He considers his specialization a real art. According to him, it is only with wise management that you can reach success.

Zarmo, 23 y.o., is a good-looking young man of average height, broad shouldered and dark haired with small expressive eyes and confident look, striving to reach his goals.

«My dream is to recreate a previously functional factory in my village that provided for hundreds of jobs».

As any young man, he has his own circle of friends and acquaintances. He enjoys going to cafes and clubs and fills his time with interesting activities. Most of all, thought, he likes to talk to like-minded people about political issues, social and economic state of the country, and new business ideas. He has a clear stance on some issues, which shows in his voice tone and gestures, when he talks about them.

Zarmo begins his day with classes at the university and then he goes to work. Zarmo is a sales assistant in a clothing store. He is courteous and polite with the customers, who need assistance in choosing clothes. He takes care of his appearance to look neat and nice all the time. He says that this work is very important to him, because he gains experience to implement his plans. When he graduates from the university, he intends to arrange textile production in his home village. His dream is to recreate the old factory that used to offer hundreds of jobs to local people.

Zarmo is one of those young people, who left his home village in search of new opportunities. Unfortunately, not everyone manages to get education, find a job, and make their dreams and ideas come true.

Zarmo's village, Arevashog, is 100 km away from the capital. It is located on a hill, which gave it the name "a ray of light". The village is not too far from the town of Spitaka hit by a destructive earthquake in 1988. Thirty years later people still divide the life into "before and after" the calamity. After those tragic events, the country found itself in a difficult economic situation: the Soviet Union collapsed giving rise to a new independent republic (1991). Factories were shutting down one after the other and the war in Nagorny Karabakh was about to start. Since then the life in the rural areas as if came to a halt: some people left for the city, others left the country.

Today the population of Zarmo is about 1500 people. Passing by the village houses, one can see people working in the garden, beehives in the yards, cattle grazing on the hill slopes, and fields of wheat, half of which are not cultivated. The villagers engage in apiculture, agriculture, cattle breeding. They survive by selling or exchanging food products that they produce.

Some classmates of Zarmo left the country, while others live on seasonal work outside the republic. Few people managed to relocate to Europe, since it involves a lot of paperwork and requires a visa. If they succeed, the whole families would go to the Netherlands or Poland. Moving to Russia is relatively easy. Many people have relatives there and airfare is affordable. Armenians speak Russian well, which helps to find a job and talk to people. Even those few young people, who stay in the village, start thinking of moving.
Rural conservatism
Zarmo's classmate Mkrtych completes a distance learning program in the town of Vanadzor, which is 20 km away from the village. He studies law and works in the police department. It shows that Mkrtych has been working out a lot. Broad-shouldered and muscular young man is very friendly, hospitable, and helpful. When he smiles, his eyes are sparkling with life and energy under the dark eyebrows.
Mkrtych sees me outside and invites to visit him at home. As a real gentleman, he opens the door of his car to me. Although the village is small, it is still faster to drive.

«In the city or in the country, it is important to be a kind person.»

Mkrtych monthly salary is about $250. It is not enough. His father helps him. After graduation, he wants to work in the field of his expertise.

When the young man talks about his future, he always imagines himself in Erevan. His parents suggest the same scenario. Every month Mkrtych goes to the capital several times to see his friends from the military service. Every time spends about $50.

He usually spends time in entertainment centers in the city. They do not have them in rural areas and this is something he would like to change. However, he understands that such recreation facilities would not work in the country. The society here is very traditional and most people have a conservative mindset.

In rural areas, everyone knows and discusses each other. A young girl would think twice before going dancing somewhere. It might give rise to gossips and make it harder for her to find a husband. Mkrtych would like to change this situation, too, but he does not know how.

«For example, if you ask a young woman in the city about something, she would reply without reservation. In the country, she would like to reply, but she cannot. What would people say? She will keep walking to stay away from trouble».

He smiles saying that he is the only person in the village, who does not think this way.
However, the biggest problem in the village is still the lack of jobs. His father worked outside the republic for many years. Currently he works in the poultry farm near the village. His grandmother, 76 y.o., lives with him helping around the house. She is full of energy despite her age. Mkrtych's sister is married and currently lives in the village nearby. Since Mkrtych started to visit the capital regularly, he has been comparing people and their relationships in the city and in the country. He says that in the country people are more sincere and affectionate. In the city, young people behave in a more relaxed and free manner. He connects it to the quality of life. In the city, salaries are higher, young people have various interests and more possibilities to pursue them.

As for life principles, Mkrtych has only one rule: one should remain a kind person in any situation in the city or in the country.

Mkrtych has a computer at home, he is an active user of social networks. With a smile, he says that he had found my profile before our meeting. He often makes purchases over the Internet, uses search engines to collect professional information. I would like to note that Mkrtych comes from a relatively well-off family in the village.
Geography of choice
Taking into account the mentality of the country, especially in rural areas, young men have more opportunities than young women. According to official statistics, the population of Tsapaty village, 130 km away from Erevan, is about 350 people. Many of them work outside the republic. Some people invite guests from Germany and Switzerland to stay for the summer.

Sometimes they even buy small property there. Quite a few villagers travel to do seasonal work in Russia. The men, who stay in the village, are contracted military officers. Recently, they have constructed a hotel, where 30 villagers work from May till October.

Lusina, 21 y.o., distantly studies geography at Erevan State Teacher Training University named after K. Abovyan. The young girl with hazel eyes looks like her mother. She is short, pale, with a sincere smile and clear eyes. One can tell that she is an openhearted person. Her wavy hair is tied. She is wearing a pink T-shirt, grey sport jacket, and blue jeans that perfectly fit her miniature figure. She feels comfortable in her clothes.

Currently Lusina does not know what she is going to do after graduation. She would not mind working in the school in her village, but she understands that it is impossible. The school has only 20 pupils and they already have a teacher of geography.

Lusina chose her profession herself, since she was keen on geography. Although she has changed her mind, she still thinks that it is already too late to change her major. May be this is because in the village with conservative traditions almost all of her peers already have their own families. She says it with a timid smile, lowering her voice and looking down.

For example, her only classmate ran away with her boyfriend immediately after the last exam at school. Her classmates, who are one year younger than her, are already married, too. She has not arranged her personal life yet, but she knows that her husband will be from Armenia. Lusina does not want to marry a foreigner.

Lusina uses computer only to do her homework. She is not even registered in social networks. She says that she has neither interest nor free time for it. In the morning, she does household chores helping parents around the house.
The house looks very clean, while her hands are untended. Everything is neat with no extra items. The bedroom is also in perfect order together with the collection of dolls that are still wrapped in present paper. In the evening Lusina studies for the exams.
She enjoys studying in Erevan. Twice a year she spends a month with her grandmother, who lives in the town of Sevan, 70 km from the village. The internship time at local schools was her favourite. She says that only during that period she managed to take a few walks in the park with her friends and visit a café spending $2 or $3 every time. She has not been to the cinema or theatre yet because she has to hurry and catch the last bus in the evening. She puts herself on a budget, since she does not earn money herself yet.

Lusina's father works as a guard in a local school. His entire salary covers Lusina's trips to the university in Erevan. There is not ATM in the village and one has to get to the neighbouring town of Sevan to extract cash.

Her mother has a seasonal job in the new hotel in the village. Sometimes the parents take a bank loan to pay for their daughter's studies and sometimes they borrow money from relatives in the end of the month. This year they are expecting their son to return from the military service. He will continue his studies at the Polytechnic University in Erevan, too.

Lusina would not like to live in Erevan. She prefers to live in the rural area. She says that Erevan is too noisy and the air is polluted. At the same time, she points out that the city life is vibrant and full of different opportunities. She wishes the life in the village improved and they supplied gas, paved the roads, created places for relaxation and entertainment.

Lusina says she would definitely go dancing if she lived in the city. She missed it when she was a child. Lusina enjoys dancing and every time she talks about it, her eyes shine.

Currently there is a plan to open a cultural center with various classes for children in her home village.
Lusina does not stay in touch with those, who left the village. Communication has stopped and everyone lives in their own universe. Those, who stayed, sometimes see each other. In the summer, they go to the beach together. Lusina's dream is to visit Spain.

When Lusina has her own family, she will pass to her children the values that her parents had given to her. She will try to avoid being too strict and controlling every step of her children. If they misbehave, she will explain their mistakes to them.
Becoming a police office and no one else

Daranak village is 10 km away from Tsapatakha. Unlike Lusina, Christina, 17 y.o., cannot imagine her future in the village.
The girl is tall and well built. She has large and expressive features, her hair is tightly tied in a ponytail. Her gate suggests that she is a self-confident person and our conversation confirms it. She speaks confidently and persuasively.

«If I had a choice, I would prefer to be born in Erevan».

As for the upbringing of children, she says it will be "according to the traditions in her husband's family." At the moment, she is not thinking about it, though. After the 9th grade in the village school, she will continue her studies at the neighbouring village of Pambak. Every day she walks 5 km there and back together with her neighbour Anait.

He friend has not chosen her profession yet. As for Christina, she wants to continue her studies at the police academy. She saw female police officers on TV and told her father about her plan. He supports her choice. Now she is waiting for her brother to give her advice once he returns from the military service.

She discusses all of her decisions with parents, firstly, with her father. In case they are against, she will refuse from her plan, but it has not been the case yet. She is the youngest in the family and everyone is very fond of her. Her brother is stricter with Christina than the parents. For example, he forbade her to register in social networks, but she somehow managed to talk him into it. "There is not much to do in the village of 150 people," she says with discontent and frowns.
In the summer, she spends time with her peers in the newly constructed playground. There are about 15 girls in the group. The boys leave the village after the military service in search of work. Most of them go to Russia.

When they have guests visiting, they usually go to the Sevan lake. With a smile, she says that her father allows her to drive from time to time. She visits her relatives in Erevan quiet often. She would like her village to be more populated with people having more jobs and opportunities to study. If she had choice, though, she would definitely prefer to be born in Erevan.

Her dream is to travel, visit different countries, meet new people, and make friends.
Future architect's dream
Razmik, 17 y.o., from Arevashog has other dreams. He loves his village and he cannot imagine leaving it. He is of medium height, skinny, with a typical Armenian aquiline nose. He has a long face with high cheekbones and small, but determined eyes full of hope.

He dreams of future, where everyone is happy and carefree. Razmik wants to study, become an architect, work and come back home from work every evening. He makes progress at school, especially in mathematics. He takes part in academic competitions at the level of the republic and often comes back home with major accomplishments. He even received a scholarship to study at the Polytechnic College in Vanadzor free of charge, but his parents were not able to cover transportation costs.
His father is not even 40 years old yet, but he has been working in Russia for over 20 years already. His hands are hardened from work. With regret, he says that he often misses important family gatherings. He is very proud of his children's achievements, though.

He sees his children only about a couple of months per year. His wife has to take care of all the family issues. He says that if he finds a job locally with the salary of at least $300, he will not event think of leaving. Currently he works abroad sending $400 back to his family. At the moment, they are about to pay back the bank loan of $6,000 that they took last year to pay for his father's heart surgery.
Razmik wants to find a job in a construction company to be able to help his parents, but they think that he has to continue his studies after school. They say that soon his brother will be able to help once he returns from the military service.

A few years ago, they had 16 pupils in the class. Currently five of them are in Moscow. The rest are planning to leave.

They want to change many things in their village. It would be great to open a gym. There was no childcare center, but they constructed a school.

Razmik takes most of his decisions upon consulting with parents. He says that he would not want to have the life as difficult as theirs, surviving the earthquake and the war. Peace on Earth is very important to him.

Simple pleasures
Razmik's fellow villager Gaik, 30 y.o., has not just dreamt about peace, but also fought for it. In 2003, he was wounded during the military service. Now Gaik is a disabled person of group II with an allowance.

He looks older than his age due to hard life circumstances. Despite that, he is cheerful, active, and hard-working young man with plans for future.

His narrow forehead is covered with thick hair. He speaks in a gentle voice with a smile on his face. Most of the time he goes to the city to do shopping. He visits neighbouring towns of Spitak and Vanadzor almost every day. Trips to Erevan are less frequent, about twice a month. He runs a store in his village to make a living.

«At the moment I have a specific purpose: complete the construction of my house, get married, and have children».

He likes to spend his free time with friends. They get together and play cards. Whoever loses, invites the rest of the group. In the summer, they go to the mountains and spend time outside. When fellow villagers comeback home from their seasonal jobs, sometimes they go to restaurants.

He has not managed to complete the construction of his house yet. During the last 10 years, he has built the walls. They already distributed the rooms among the family members, but there is still a lot to be done. He is not married and he has no girlfriend yet. He wants to create all the conditions first and only then start a family.

«To tell the truth, respect, love, and help people is my life motto».
Few people in the village have a job. About 20 people work in the poultry factory earning about $200-250 per month. Those who do farming and raise cattle somehow manage to make a living. Gaik's family sells meat, vegetables, and fruit.

Gaik was an average student at school. Despite his low grades, he considers education to be one of the most important things in personal development. After school, he studied at the Civil Engineering College, but his wound prevented him from working within his field of expertise. He does not even remember what aspirations he had at school. Currently, his main goals are completing the construction of his house, getting married, and having children.
He does not pursue fashion. He prefers comfortable clothes. He is against luxury. His clothes is simple, but neat, his shoes are brightly polished.

He considers himself an active citizen and always votes at the elections. He rarely watches TV and detests low quality shows. He mostly follows the news and watches movies. He finds all the necessary information on the Internet, although at times he abandons his computer for a long time. He is on social networks, but prefers live communication.

There is a medical station in the village, where one can receive first aid. In grave cases, they take people to the center, to the town of Spitak.

After the earthquake, it is only now that one can notice a change in people's mood, despite their mourning over the losses. They rarely have festivities here and even those are dull. Usually it is only children, who are cheerful. There are few young people around. However, Gaik pays little attention to all that. Almost all of his peers left the village, only 5-6 people stayed. He would leave, too, if his health condition allowed for that.

Gaik would not trade rural life for life in the city. He likes to be close to nature and he cannot stand high-rise buildings. He approves of the way his parents raised him and he is going to raise his children in the same way. To tell the truth, respect, love, and help people is his life motto.

He cannot imagine a woman of a different nationality next to him. He says this thought has never crossed his mind.

A vicious circle
Similar to Gaik, Zarmo has never thought of getting married to a woman from a different country. However, upon remembering his foreign friends in Erevan, he says that the most important thing is the character and qualities of the person. If he has feelings, the color of skin and nationality will not matter for him. Zarmo considers his mother to be a perfect woman. She is a nurse, but most of her time she devotes to raising her children. When Zarmo was small, his father worked abroad. His mother was very strict to her three sons, but now he admits that it was necessary.

In about 15 years, he sees himself as a father of a big family and he wants his children to grow up in rural area. However, Zarmo also admits that the situation in Erevan is much more favourable for his professional growth and it is unlikely that he comes back to the country.

Most of all Zarmo appreciates sense of purpose and determination in people. He says that he will do everything to achieve success and be useful to the society. He is confident that it will allow him to contribute to the well-being of his village.

He sees the future of village communities in the young people and he is confident that the youth should be encouraged to stay in rural areas.

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