Ask locals, and they’ll tell you that a 19th century mountaintop church in the southeastern region of Syunik has a dangerous allure, somewhat like the Sirens of Greek mythology.
“God forbid you go to that place,” one villager told a traveler who wished to visit the Church of the Mother of God. The villager then proceeded to tell the tale of a man whose body was found on the mountainside 40 meters below the church, several days after he climbed to the site. “The land is sliding.”
Landslides are not an uncommon phenomenon in mountainous Armenia. What is unusual, according to geologists and environmentalists, is the government’s inattention to landslide prevention. Each year, landslides strike – 10 so far this year; as many as 19 last year – yet the Armenian government has no budget for landslide prevention and early warning. State funding exists only for clean-ups.
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Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Yerevan and editor of MediaLab.am, funded by the Open Society Assistance Foundation-Armenia. Anahit Hayrapetyan is a freelance photojournalist also based in Yerevan.