Sunday, 16 October 2011

Armenia: Portraits of Survival and Hope

An insightful - and relatively unbiased - view of how geopolitics affects ordinary people, this book documents, in words and pictures, the lives of Armenians in the last two decades. Based on intimate interviews with three hundred Armenians and featuring Jerry Berndt's superb photographs, it brings together firsthand testimony about the social, economic, and spiritual circumstances of Armenians during the 1980s and 1990s, when the country faced an earthquake, pogroms, and war. At times shocking and deeply emotional, “Armenia: Portraits of Survival and Hope” is a story of extreme suffering and hardship, a searching look at the fight for independence, and an exceptionally complex portrait of the human spirit, written by Americans Donald E Miller & Lorna Touryan Miller.

A companion to the Millers' highly acclaimed work "Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide", which documented the genocide of 1915, this book focuses on four groups of people: survivors of the earthquakes that devastated northwestern Armenia in 1988; refugees from Azerbaijan who fled Baku and Sumgait because of pogroms against them; women, children, and soldiers who were affected by the war in Nagorno-Karabakh; and ordinary citizens who survived several winters without heat because of the blockade against Armenia by Turkey and Azerbaijan. The Millers' narrative situates these accounts contextually and thematically, but the voices of individuals remain paramount. The Millers also describe their personal experiences in repeated research trips, inviting us to look beyond the headlines and think beyond the circumstances of our own lives as they bring contemporary Armenia to life.

This book forms an interesting counterpoint to the other books I have read regarding neighbouring Azerbaijan and the disputed area the two countries have warred over, Nagorno-Karabakh.

From Armenia, I make my way into the Middle East and Iran, with the novel “Censoring an Iranian Love Story” by Shahriar Mandanipour.

As a UK citizen I need a visa to enter Iran, and I go for a tourist visa. Having not allowed the requisite 8 weeks to arrange for a visa at the consulate, I need to use an ‘Iran Visa Service’ (I opt for Magic Carpet Travel Ltd) in order to get a visa processed in 7 working days. The price for my disorganisation is a charge of £200 (excluding Consular stamp fees).

In order to save some money I opt for the slow – but simple – transport option of a bus from Yerevan to Tehran.

Often used by people conducting import/export business between Armenia and Iran, there are two buses a week traveling between Tehran and Yerevan in either direction. Tourists can also take the bus.

I catch the bus to Tehran in front of Hotel Erebuni. Hotel Erebuni is located behind the arch by the central Post Office on Hanrapetutian H'raparak (Republic Square), opposite the singing fountains, across the park from Hotel Armenia. The bus leaves every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 09:00 and a ticket is $35.

I am able to buy my tickets and get my bus information in the Persian bus office on the second floor of the Hotel lobby. After a gruelling 34-hour journey (which would have been much less without the lengthy border stop), I arrive in Tehran and am dropped off at the Russian Bazaar in Tehran.

No comments:

Post a Comment