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Stories of displacement:
The fate of three generations after decades of conflict

Karabakh residents Nelson, 48, and Susanna Hayiryan, 44, are tired of moving.
The couple has relocated three times since their native village fell to Azerbaijan during the 2020 Karabakh war. Now the de-facto Karabakh government wants them to uproot and move again.
The Hayiryans are among the 38,000 people the Karabakh government estimates lost their homes during the war. After nearly 16 months of ad hoc and temporary housing fixes, the government now has a plan for the displaced. Over the next two years, an estimated 2500 families will be moved into newly built villages across government-controlled territory.
Earlier this year, the Nagorno-Karabakh Housing Committee outlined the new plan. For instance, the government will provide an apartment in Stepanakert (Khankendi) for families of soldiers who died or went missing during the war. Apartments will also be provided for those displaced from the towns of Shushi (Shusha) and Hadrut. Everyone will be relocated to government-provided housing in new communities.


Refugees from the village now live nearby, in a former hotel in Stepanakert.

The planned 957 houses in 10 communities will cost an estimated $94.5 million which will be covered by the state budget, the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund and individual benefactors. The government is also planning to repair houses in Karabakh-controlled territory that were damaged by the war.
The Hayastan All-Armenian Fund already started construction on one new community, near Astghashen. Known as the New Village, displaced families from four villages—Sghnakh (Sığnaq), Mokhshmhat, Madatashen and Jrakhacner—will be resettled there. The New Village is being built by Kapavor LLC, which is owned by a Russian businessman originally from Sghnakh.


Yeghishe Ghahramanyan, who served as mayor of Shgnakh before the war, has been coordinating communication between the builders and the villagers.
“I called all the villagers one by one and asked if they were ready to live in this newly built village,” he said. “All the villagers agreed unequivocally.”
But for some, like the Hayiryans, the policy feels like another upheaval after months of struggle to restart their lives following the war.
The family fled first to Armenia after Sghnakh fell to Azerbaijani forces in 2020. After the war, they moved to Stepanakert, where the government paid for their rent in the city. But when rent prices spiked in 2021, the government assistance was not enough, and they moved to nearby Sosh. Today the government subsidy covers $170 of the $210 monthly rent. They pay the rest from their income selling fresh produce at the local market.
Another move would mean starting over again.
They would need to give up their clients at the market and return to farming on the 1000 square-meters of land provided by the government. Their daughter, Nanar, 23, an art teacher at the school in Sosh, would need to find a new career as no school or kindergarten is planned for the new village.
“I have already adapted to the school and work here, I would not want to leave this job,” she said.
Her father added that the government’s resources could be better spent if it allowed people to decide where they want to live.
"It would be better if they give that money to the villagers directly to build houses. They could build their house wherever they want. Maybe I want to build a house in Armenia, or right here in Shosh," Nelson said.
But the government believes the new policy will help Karabakh “maintain communication and production lines as well as proportionately develop its territory,” according to the housing committee.
In addition, there are not enough apartments in Stepanakert to house all the displaced. The intense demand for housing following the war led to a spike in housing prices in the town: for instance the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment increased from $80 to $200.
Signs of construction are everywhere in Nagorno Karabakh. While New Village is just 19 km from Stepanakert, other new communities are being built around the republic. The government’s plan calls for the settlements to be located near existing villages to make it easier to supply electricity, water and gas.
Some families are eager to move to the new settlements. To date 1500 families have requested houses in the new communities, according to the housing committee.
“We have registered the residents of four villages and 136 apartments are needed to house all the displaced," David Grigoryan, who is managing the construction of New Village, said. In total, 221 apartments will be built in the village by the end of 2022 . All necessary infrastructure, including the roads and electricity, gas and water lines, will also be finished by the end of the year.
Yeghishe Ghahramanyan, the Sghnakh mayor, noted that New Village is being built in stages, so not all families will be able to settle at once. The first houses will go to families who are helping build the new village.

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Gegham Avanesyan, a native of Jrakhacner, who is currently living in Asghashen with his family, is eager to move in. Gegham is even helping to build New Village with one of his former neighbors, Ashot Arustamyan.
“We are currently renting a house in Astghashen and I want to have a permanent home for my three children,” Gegham said. “It's good to work here because we are both earning an income and the chance to be first to receive a new house.”
Anush Lalayan, a native of Sghnakh, has heard about the ongoing construction but she does not plan on joining her former neighbors in the new village. Anush now lives in Stepanakert with her 11-year-old daughter, and, under the government’s plan, they will be able to stay in the city as her husband died in the last days of the war.
“Although months have passed, even now when I wake up, for the first few seconds I cannot believe that I am not in my house in Sghnakh, that life has turned upside down and I have lost both my beloved village and my husband,” Anush said.
“I loved my village very much, and if it were under Armenian control tomorrow, I would be the first to return there. But nothing ties me to the newly built village, especially when my husband is no longer with me.”