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Armenia: In Yerevan, No Room Left for the Dead?

Graves in Yerevan’s main Tokhmakh Cemetery are often decorated with marble statues. (Photo: Anahit Hayrapetyan)

A fascination with grandiose graves, built to show respect for the deceased and bestow honor on the bereaved, could mean that the Armenian capital of Yerevan, a city of over 1.1 million people, soon will run out of space to bury its dearly departed.

Graves decorated with huge marble statues and sprawling family mausoleums abound in all of Yerevan’s 21 cemeteries, which now account for about 10 percent of the city’s total land area of 227 square kilometers, experts estimate. That proportion is twice the size of what the city can maintain, they say.

“What is happening now with Yerevan is a disaster,” said Vladimir Badalian, a former MP and sponsor of a 2006 law that set stricter limits for land allotted to graves and family plots. “If you take a bird’s-eye view of Yerevan, you will see that it is surrounded with cemeteries from all sides and the loop is gradually tightening.”

“I myself have seen a grave occupying 260 square meters. If things go on like this, the capital city will become a cemetery one day,” continued Badalian, who now serves as Armenia’s ambassador to Turkmenistan.

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Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Yerevan and editor of MediaLab.am.

Armenia: In Yerevan, No Room Left for the Dead?

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