Astghashen is the historical Karaghbyur. Like many Armenian villages in Soviet Karabakh, it was given a non-Armenian name, Dashbulagh. In the first years of the movement, when the process of renaming Armenian villages began in post-Soviet Artsakh, it got its name from Artsakhashen and then Astghashen because of the stars discovered here. The stony remnants of this astronomy stand out for their exclusivity; It is thought that they are 165-145 million years old. It is also assumed that there was once an ocean in the area of Astghashen, where the remains of small animals gradually became stony. In fact, this site with its unique stones has not been seriously investigated to date. The first attempt was made only 5-6 years ago by archaeologist Levon Yepiskoposyan, who headed the archaeological expedition to Azokh Cave.
According to him, the soil layer in this part contains remnants of seagrasses, and the stellar fossils are in fact star-shaped bones, stems that belong to these species. The villagers say they have taken samples of the stars that have been sent overseas for research.
Faced with a choice
Local self-government elections were held in Astghashen days ago. Former Mayor Zori Ghazaryan, who has been in charge of the village for four years, relinquished the post to Arthur Grigoryan earlier this week. We met with the two mayors: the former shared what he had accomplished; the second shared his vision of village development.
The mayor who organized the election process estimates it as normal. There has been healthy competition between the two candidates. The candidate for the party "Free Homeland" won. The incumbent mayor did not nominate himself. Zori Ghazaryan is ready to use his experience to help the newly elected local authorities.
The former mayor has managed to solve a number of important community issues during those years. Zori Ghazaryan notes with pride that he managed to solve the problem of 24-hour water supply. In the past, the residents of Astghashen received drinking water for 15-20 minutes a day. Today, all families are supplied with water from an artesian well drilled in the village. It also serves the purpose of irrigation. It’s true, the villagers are skeptical about the effectiveness of the program. Some claim that the water supplied to the village is for irrigation purposes only and is not suitable for drinking and domestic use, and that they have to reach a distant source. More than 1km of different width roads have been refurbished in the village. The rural road improvement plan is not completed; it is ongoing. The church of the village has been recently renovated and the area has been renovated. After completing the renovation of the apartment near the church, a pastor will be invited. Both these and a number of other projects are being implemented through the funds of a fellow villager, Vilen Karapetyan. There is also support from other charities and the state. A number of other projects are being implemented with the help of a villager, Vilen Karapetyan. There is also support from other charities and the state.
Zori Ghazaryan informed that the village currently has 512 inhabitants. Since 2015, 5 million drams have been allocated to the socially vulnerable families of the village. At the same time Karapetyan donated about 2.5 million AMD LED lamps for all the families of the village, and a $ 1,000 donation was made to each newborn living in the village. For this purpose, 38 thousand dollars have been provided in the last few years.
There are a number of urgent community projects in progress. A kindergarten is being built here. It will come to an end under the new mayor. It is planned to be put into operation on the eve of the New Year. The community has 25 preschool children who will be attending kindergarten from January next year. Last year the renovation of the celebration house also began. The village has street lighting, and the lights are added year by year. The village has a monument to both the Great Patriotic War and the memory of those killed in the Artsakh war.
The project for the construction of a water network in Astghashen has been jointly funded by the state and French SPFA charitable organization. The latter changed the internal water supply network, and the state funded the drilling of the artesian well and the pipeline leading to the village's reservoir. As of today the main problem of the community is the asphalting of the 20km section of the road leading to the village. Hopefully in the near future we will be able to put it on the agenda.
There is a great need for a normal, functioning culture house with the amenities needed to organize youth entertainment. Sporting events are organized only at the school level.
The school has been operating in the best conditions for 5 years now. This three-storey school is named after Jean Andrian. Unfortunately, today it has only 57 students. According to the former head of community, there has been natural growth dynamics over the last few years.
We must build our village, our home!
"We need to build our village, our home," the old and new mayors say confidently. All residents of Astghashen agree with the local authorities.
As in other villages of Artsakh, there is also the problem of youth employment, many of them leaving - temporarily or permanently.
The majority of the population here are farmers, but few are involved in cattle breeding. In recent years, they have also become interested in gardening. The main fields are cereal crops, but also sow fodder and vegetable crops. The village has 1268 hectares of agricultural land, of which 826 hectares is arable land. It is fully cultivated, equipped with agricultural equipment. Some of the youth are militaries. The villagers are mostly provided with housing, and if necessary use state assistance programs.
In the middle of the village were gathered elderly and the youth. Seeing our journalistic group, the teenagers stopped. They avoided recording and photographing. The older people were more active, moreover, happy to have the opportunity to present their problems. In this little pavilion they spend their free time playing chess. They pointed us to the pathway to Patara, lost in clay, impassable, noting that it was a newly refurbished road. They also almost unanimously complained about the newly constructed water line, the water line that the mayor was telling us about as a recently resolved problem. Providing water to the village from artesian wells round-the clock, according to residents, caused more harm than good: it mixed with previously used water and disqualified it.
The newly elected mayor presents his vision for resolving these issues. Artur Grigoryan was also the mayor of Astghashen from 2007 to 2015. Back in those years he had a pre-election program for village development: roads were planned, a new school building, a kindergarten, an art school, a children's playground and so on. Some of them were carried out by him, some by his community leaders. “Serious attention should be paid to the sanitary condition of the village. Garbage collection is a serious topic. The community does not have the opportunity to organize centralized garbage collection and there must be wells in different parts of the village to collect garbage,” said A. Grigoryan. In order to raise funds for community development, they are planning to set up a Development Fund for Astghashen, where will invest the villagers, if desired, or other people from around the world. It will be governed by the Board of Trustees.
In response to our question about the treatment of residents' complaints about the newly constructed water line, Grigoryan replied that the problem of drinking water is present in almost all the villages of Artsakh. Since 1998, in almost all meetings with the government, the issue has been raised at the reporting meetings. During the summer months, there was hardly any water in Astghashen. Now the question has been resolved to some extent. The villagers complain that the artesian well is located near the river and that the water is not clean at certain times of the year. The first step for the newly elected mayor would be to have the water tested in a laboratory. If it is suitable for drinking it will be notified, so that the population can use it. Otherwise, the drinking water will flow to the village from the site called Siseraghbyur. As for the newly refurbished inter-village road, the residents' complaint, it turns out, is not groundless: it has not been properly leveled, no assertions have been made. "The complaints are justified; this road is an important intercommunity road, serving the Patara, Khantsk communities as well. The issue is also known in the regional administration, and the deputy elected from our region has come and seen it, "he said." The problem will be settled according to the agreement ".