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Family, Faith, and Flag After the Soviets

Just three decades ago, Armenians and Azerbaijanis lived side by side. Now, they’re on the brink of war.

Shelled house in Jermyk
A shelled house in Jermyk. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Fourteen years ago, Narine Gevorkyan and her husband, Ishkhan Arsatkyan, started building their farmhouse on the outskirts of the quiet Armenian hillside town of Jermyk, famous for its hot springs and clean air. Around their brick and corrugated iron ranch buildings, they put up a ramshackle scrap metal fence to keep in a growing flock of farmyard animals, cats, dogs, and children.

“This is where the first bomb fell,” says Narine, pointing to a patch of scorched earth next to the now-shattered perimeter wall. “We wanted to pack up our things and run,” adds Ishkhan, smoking a cigarette against his fixed-up Soviet-era Lada car, “but this is where we’re from. Where would we even go?”

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