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South Caucasus
Festival in Noyemberyan


The festival of the documentary films “Nationality - human” held in Armenia was launched in a small town with a soviet name called Noyemberyan. Anyway, very little is left here from the soviet times. A common provincial “half asleep” town. However, according to the local dwellers it has not always been in a “half asleep” state.

“Over there, behind that mountain you can see Azerbaijan”, a little boy dirty with flour said with those terrible eyes of his. He works in a small bakery and is delighted to have an opportunity to show one of the main sights of the town …

Afterwards, many people used to point to Azerbaijan located behind that mountain across ten kilometers away… Some used tell me that it is from that place where town was fired and they even showed me the place where the shells used to fall. Some people added with pity that before the war they used to go to the neighbouring country with ease. Others added with pride, “but we have won a victory over them!” Others used to tell about the Armenian shepherds killed on the frontier. They also recalled about the cows driven away from the land. When asked who had killed the shepherd, they answered with confidence that they used to fire from over there. True, when answering in such a way for a couple of times the interlocutors added engrossed in thoughts, “Somebody from our side might have helped them.”

The local journalist Voskan Sarkisyan told us that he himself had written many times about the stealing of the cows, but on the whole it is not accepted to write about in the press.

The second “peculiarity” of Noyemberyan is its intimacy and closeness to the Georgian frontier. It looks like the population must know more about Georgia and maintain trading and other contacts and relations. When asked about the reaction of the local dwellers to the August war between Georgia and Russia, they answered, “The prices of the petrol radically increased”… And then we started clearing up who is right and who is guilty.

It should be mentioned here that we feel the intimacy with Georgia. And above all we feel intimacy with car numbers. Many local dwellers buy cars in Georgia and easily make use of them without affecting any customs clearance in Armenia. It is quite enough for them to cross the Georgian-Armenian border and all. Cars de jure keeps belonging to Georgia, de factor keeps belonging to Armenia.

There is one more peculiarity of Noyemberyan. It is the so called its opposition views. During the elections of all the levels, the town voted for the opposition. I ask, “Vote for Ter-Petrosyan?”. They answered me, “Vote for the opposition. And during the times of Levon people voted against him”.

Having decided to buy an Armenian number for the car I came into “Beeline” office. I was given to fill in an application. The application was to be filled in the Armenian. And immediately A strange name “Rossie” caught my eye. After it there was a text written in Armenia. They translated for me the following: “Noyemberyan, Yerevanyan street”. “Is Noyemberyan already joined with Russia”, I joked. “It is not us. It is Beeline’s official form.We do not know anything”, a girl standing behind the desk answered me back in fear.


Festival in Noyemberyan Festival in Noyemberyan
The moderator of festival
journalist Voskan Sargsyan and festival guest Marina Meshvildishvili
Samvel Beglaryan
Samvel Beglaryan
head of the Tavush branch of the Armenian Writers Union
Ruben Gishyan
Ruben Gishyan
of Noyemberyan
public school
Sasun Evanesyan
Sasun Evanesyan
from Koti village
Seryozha Amiraghyan
Seryozha Amiraghyan
Mayor of Noyemberyan
Феликс Меликян
Feliks Melikyan
Head of Koti village administration
The festival was held standard House of Culture which has been functioning since the USSR. It’s strange that running ahead I will say that the most interesting discussions might have been held in this stuffy hall after the screening of the films. A “dual” frontier concept of the town might have played here its role.

Right after the opening of the festival, a fellow came up to the guest from Georgia Marine Meshvildishvili who identified himself as Armen, a student of the college. His inconsistent and confusing monologue cannot be reproduced exactly.

“What can I help you”, he asked Marine. And without expecting her answer he continued: “I was grown up in poverty, I know very well what it’s like. I have been working since my childhood so as to help my family. While in the army my friend was killed. I saw him dying. I don’t want somebody to die… I guess somebody is to blame for the events happening the South Ossetia and I want to help my Georgian refugees in some way or other…” Uttering the entire sentences without taking a breath, he reached out his hand with small coins held in it: “Buy something for the refugees in my name.”

I guess it is not worth talking about the films in detail. The festival program did not include a single film dwelling upon the conflicts in the South Caucuses. The documentation on Arabian-Israel conflict, the war about Chechnya and the life telling about emigration.

The hall was packed mainly with pupils including those from the neighbouring villages. But there were others who attended the festival having learned about it from the posters hung in the town with a proud name “Nationality - human”. One of the local dwellers Samvel by name admitted that he had come to the House of Culture for the sake of its name only.

“We have long forgotten that we are human beings and that we are forced to live with instincts. We have long forgotten that before we had not only lived next to each other, but also next to Azerbaijanians. While watching the film about the Chechnya war, I saw pain in the eyes of the main characters. We come from Noyemberyan and we know what war is like. I saw it myself. I saw death. But we have forgotten it. The film drove us out of our tranquil life. It opened a small window into another world. The films helped us to see that we remain to be human beings ”, Samvel expressed his view after the screening of the film “Three friends”.

The film about Chechnya aroused a storm of discussions. Thus, the headmaster of School N1 in Noyemberyan Mr. Gishyan said, for example, that the film did not produce any effect on him. He added, “It is a sort of propaganda. We are shown how a hero of the nation becomes a scumbag for another nation.”

Sasun, aged 14 said, “I am very disappointed with Russia because of this film. I have always considered Russia to be our defender. But now I understand that it can sacrifice with the entire nation for its own interests. I do not wish to have a defender like this.”

A woman, aged 35 said, “I remember the war in Chechnya being covered in the Russian mass medias. The truth about the war was revealed later. This film depicts the part of a dark side of the same truth which is being concealed.”

A girl, aged 18, “Nobody wants war. One should not declare that somebody is more peace-loving and somebody is more heartless. May those unleashing a war be cursed!”

Samvel, aged 60, “I was shocked by the episode where the sheep were grazing on the slope of the mountain with the big town in the background. This episode became for me a symbol that all of us are victims and that all of us can be sacrificed for his or her own interests”.

The mayor of Noyemberyan said, “Today, Armenia is not at war but bordering with Azerbaijan, the territory with the length of 38 kilometers is not cultivated which is a social problem. As far as I understand the main idea of the festival is denial from the war. All the problems cannot be solved through wars. They carry the idea of hatred which is endless.”

The head of the administration of Koti village said, “I want to believe that the burden of the festival was a sort of protest against the war. Our pupils, today’s viewers of those films might become politicians tomorrow and remember that the problems and conflicts can be settled only through peaceful negotiations.”

Surely, it is impossible to quote the speeches of all the speakers. Various people of various views got together here. Their estimations regarding the film were also various. According to one of the most active viewers of the festival Samvel Beglaryan, a separate film could be shot after the screening of the film based on the opinions and views expressed here.

The mayor of the town also suggested that a similar festival be held in Noyemberyan every year.


Suren Abovyan
Suren Abovyan
former headmaster of the House of Culture in Kogb
On one of the days we went to the neighbouring village called Koghb. We first visited local school built in 1928. The teaching staff welcomed us at the entrance of the school. It was evident that they were worrying. Anyway, we found out the grounds for their worrying pretty afterwards. According to the teachers, they had a phone call from the administration which informed them that the school was to be visited by … then comes the following quotation, “a serious delegation dealing with patriotic matters”. (!!!) Since we were not considered to be a “serious” delegation, we made up our minds not to raise the patriotic spirit of the pupils.

Afterwards, we visited the local House of Culture and its small museum. Suren Abovyan, a former headmaster of 80 years of age conducted the excursion to the museum. It was apparent that he was proud of his creation. “This is a fragment of the Church built in the 12th century”. He pointed to a small stone with a cross carved on it. “After the earthquake it got down to the ground. Everybody here knows that the Church carried some Georgian and Armenian words on its walls!”

“In general we have been Georgia for 700 years” (he meant the Lori region: author’s comment), he added. This expression did not appeal to the young worker of the House of Culture who interrupted the old man and suggested him showing other sights in the museum. The man waved his hand and coming up to the black and white photographs hung on the wall explained: “These are our villagers. They are photographed with the musicians when they went to the city ”. “Were they were photographed in Yerevan?”, I asked. “No. Tiflis has always been our city”, he pointed to the degraded photo of Tbilisi of the last century.
Stone with the cross
Stone with the cross


On the last bend after which Noyemberyan starts, something is standing resembling a construction trailer. It is the chargrill at the entrance and an inscription reading in Russian “Khinkali” that allows us to see that this place is for public catering. The host of this place Arto by name sometimes call it with pride “cafe” or sometimes a “canteen”.

I must admit that I have never tasted such delicious barbeque in Armenia. Later Arto recalled about the “good times” when he worked in the market in Sadakhlo. “Azerbaijanians also used to taste my barbeque. They are masters to cook barbeque!”

One evening we dropped in at his place to have a snack. A bottle of vodka out of nowhere appeared on the table. Arto sat next to us, drank for peace in the whole world and friendship of nations. The bottle of vodka was emptied. Arto calls the only worker of his Anzhela and asks her to fetch another bottle.

“You have much work to do, but you are sitting here”, she was indignant. Insulted by a similar unawareness of the political situation Arto explained: “Don’t you see we have guests? And I cannot let them go without drinking the farewell toast.” It is worth pointing out that the bottles for the so-called “farewell toast” appeared on the table for several times. And whenever Arto took offence at Anzhela who appeared not to understand that the guests should not go without drinking the farewell toast…

He is missing those days when he worked in Sadakhlo: “They had always been many different people. All of them knew me. I had so many friends at that time! Both Georgians and Azerbaijanians. Ah! What has this war done to us?!”

Irakli Chikhladze
September 2008
Noyemberyan, Armenia

Published: 17-11-08
This article is made during the South Caucasus Film Festival of Peace and Human Rights in Armenia implemented by Caucasus Center of Peace-Making Initiative by support of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation and the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)