Jermuk, another autumn

Holiday town in Armenia empty after bombing

The famous holiday destination of Jermuk in Armenia was at the center of fighting on September 13, 2022. The city was bombed. Authorities managed to evacuate tourists, women and children. No civilian casualties were reported.

Photographer Vaghinak Ghazaryan got to the normally crowded town a few days after the bombing. The streets were empty because evacuees had not yet returned, and mostly just men were left. Those who remain are talking about how bad it is for the town that no one is there, autumn being the high season.

The sculpture on the facade of the Palace of Culture in the Ajapnyak region is very large, three stories high. This building is called “Kurzal” ["smoking hall" in Russian - JAMnews] by the locals and was built in the style of Soviet modernism in 1969 by architect Martin Mikaelyan. The Kurzal is located in the depths of a large city park, and although it was abandoned in the post-Soviet period, the original building is popular with vacationers and photographers arrange photo shoots here.

The famous colonnade with mineral springs in the center of the city is considered the symbol of Jermuk. There are five sources of healing mineral water in the hall with temperatures between 30 to 53°C.
The right-bank resort section of Jermuk has been under construction since 1945. The most famous architects of that time took part in the construction ⁠— Georgy Tamanyan, Mark Grigoryan, Samvel Safaryan, Rafo Israelyan. There is also a large city park with a chain of reservoirs.
Armenia claims, and many Western diplomats agree that the armed forces of Azerbaijan began military offensive on the eastern border, shelling the cities of Jermuk, Goris, Vardenis, Kapan and several villages, including Sotk. In Baku, these accusations are rejected and they claim that the fighting was provoked by Armenia.

Azerbaijan established control over dozens of hectares of Armenian territory and several strategic heights along the border. More than 300 people died on both sides.

One of the reservoirs of Jermuk. This is a small man-made lake, one of a chain of lakes fed by water from mountain springs. Overflowing from one lake to another, the water gradually pours into the Arpa River, which flows through a deep gorge.

All cafes are closed due to hostilities. As local residents said, in these cafes local guys often met with tourist girls, and holiday romances began.

Several shops are still open for a few residents who refused to evacuate.
In the late 1980s refugees from Azerbaijan settled in Jermuk ⁠— from Sumgayit, Baku and Mingechevir. The owner of a local shop, a middle-aged woman, said that she wouldn’t be leaving. “I've already been a refugee once - from Baku,” she said standing in the doorway of the store, “I've had enough.” In the evening, she treated everyone to coffee.

A shell-damaged wall of the building of the Jermuk cable car. The cable car itself went into operation relatively recently in 2007. In length it stretches for one kilometer, and the height difference is 400 meters. The highest point of the cable car is 2480 meters above sea level.

Jermuk is located in the southeastern part of Armenia in the Vayots Dzor region. It is located near the sources of mineral waters, which in Soviet days were called the "Caucasian Karlovy Vary”, referring to a Czech spa town famous for its hot springs.
Most of the residents of Jermuk, primarily women and children, have temporarily left the city for security reasons.
There are residential areas on the left bank, but now you rarely see anyone here.
In recent years Jermuk has seen a rebirth. New hospitals were built in the city. The number of vacationers doubled over the last three years, and ski tourism became a draw.

The mineral waters of Jermuk are used for the treatment of various diseases. According to tradition, vacationers came to the open drinking gallery to drink warm mineral water on an empty stomach. The sight of people walking in pairs was reminiscent of scenes from old movies.
In peacetime, in the center of the resort section there was an impromptu bazaar where local residents traded jam (including cone jam), souvenirs and homemade alcohol.
Bombed areas. Shell fragments could be seen on the road leading to Jermuk. One of the shells damaged the roof of a small budget hotel.
City ropeway of Jermuk. The shelling of the city began at midnight, when the cable car was not in operation. There were no victims. Now it stands idle, as there are no vacationers in the city.

The recreation area located at the bottom of the cable car was damaged. From September 13 to 14, when the shelling went on, all hospitals and rest houses in Jermuk were overcrowded with vacationers. The road by which they were hurriedly evacuated is not far from here.

The art gallery of Jermuk exhibits dozens of paintings by prominent Armenian artists of the 20th century, including Martiros Saryan, Sedrak Arakelyan, Sargis Muradyan and others. When the bombing began the director of the gallery, Vardan Avetyan, rushed to save the exhibits and was able to bring them out of the city.

Director of the Art Gallery of Jermuk artist Vardan Avetyan.

Jermuk’s resort area suffered from the bombing. The walls and roofs of the buildings were damaged, in some places fragments of shells pierced windows. Damage assessment has not yet been completed.

Fields on the hills near the city burned up by the bombing.

Grocery stores have been hit.

The symbol of Jermuk is the figure of a deer on a mountain above the city. According to legend, a deer wounded by a hunter's arrow dove into the life-giving waters of Jermuk, after which his wounds quickly healed.

The cemetery of the village of Kechut suffered from shelling.

City life has come to a standstill.

Work in the fields stopped.
Panorama of Jermuk, viewed from the figure of a deer.
Photos and text:
Vaginak Ghazaryan
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