Ferdowsi Market is located on a small street that is named after the Persian poet, in the heart of Yerevan, near the central Republic Square. At tables placed on the street, beneath poor residential buildings, you can buy a variety of products - from household items to inexpensive clothing.
During the first years of Armenia’s independence, in the course of the Karabakh war, the country had to endure a heavy transport blockade. In those years, the southern border with Iran became a source of life for Armenia. Trucks with Iranian products were being unloaded directly on the central square, and, by coincidence, were being sold directly on a street with a "Persian" name, Ferdowsi.
In the beginning, traders were mostly Iranians. Then, over time, when they began to bring in goods from other countries, the demand for Iranian goods fell, and they left, and there gradually began to appear Armenian merchants, " says Lilia, who has worked in the market for around 8 years.
Today, the market offers mostly goods from Turkey and China, and rarely from Iran. According to the traders, the market provides jobs of more than 600 people. Unlike other capital markets, traders are mainly buyers themselves and cannot afford to employ salespeople.
However, according to the authorities, the market has completed its mission, and today at the site of the dilapidated buildings, in the heart of the capital, a modern architectural complex with hotels, business centers and housing estates must appear. The layout area was submitted in June by the Minister of Urban Development, Narek Sargsyan. The cost of the investment project of building block N33, which will be located on the territory of the market, is estimated at $ 300 million.
The whole area of the new project is 200 thousands sq meters.
In an area of 5 hectares, a circular area with a diameter of 85 m is planned to be constructed, under which a multi-storey underground car park will appear. There will be new streets, public and service facilities, business centers and hotels. The total area of the homes and buildings in the project, which is planned to be realized in 3-4 years, is 200 thousand sq. meters.
Busy market life flows directly under the windows of the Ferdowsi street residents. In June, they received a notice from the mayor's office that this area will be developed for state needs. However, it is not the first time they receive such a notice in the recent years.
Naira Grabovskaya lives on Ferdowsi street from her birth. She is worrying of the upcoming move from their homes, like many other residents of the street. Their doubts are based on the sad experience of the evicted residents of the Ferdowsi street, which still have not received the promised apartments, as well as on the examples of residents evictions from other parts of the center of Yerevan, which were developed for state needs as well. Today the government offers to pay residents $ 1,000 per square meter, but many believe that the price for the sq.m. in the heart of the city is much more expensive.
A refugee from Baku, Clara Melkumyan, has been living on this street for 25 years. Despite all effort to repair her house, emergency construction crumbles every year, endangering the life of an elderly woman. Just several wooden beams in the basement of Clara's house are protecting the building from the destruction.
"I met the Minister of Narek Sargsyan, he promised that they will take care about the owners of the emergency buildings first," she says.
At the press conference on June 12, the Minister of Urban Development, Narek Sargsyan, said that the concept and the program for territorial development of the territory were developed, and investment packages were prepared.
"The issue has a long history and is the main problem here - the question of compensation for the many residents, which has not yet been resolved. Situation is under control in all respects: in terms of the the data on the residents and their problems of development , and all the steps that are necessary for development ",-said Narek Sargsyan.
On 4th of August, Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan met with the inhabitants living in the Hanrapetutyan street, which is near to the market and the houses of the people living in this streets were expropriated for public use 8 years ago, but the reimbursement for the houses hasn't been paid yet.
The head of Government promised that those owners who have up to 40 sq.m will be reimbursed $1000 for the 1sq m untill 30th of September. Those who have more than 40sq m have to wait until next year.
According to reports in the Armenian media, within the preparation of the project, multi-level studies and surveys of the residents and workers of the market were conducted by the Ministry of Urban Development.
Meanwhile, many of the traders reported about the new project what they learned only from the TV. They do not seem to believe that the market will really be taken down, because they have heard about it many times in recent years. Some of them cannot imagine working in other markets.
"We have our own clients, in order to regain it we’ll need 2-3 years. 7 years ago, when we still did not pay taxes, we had a very good earnings, but today we are able to earn only a living"- said Hovhannes, one of the "old-timers" of the market. He doesn’t have the best place market and the rent he pays is 20,000 drams (about $ 42) a month.
The woman, who introduced herself as Marina, said that she pays about 100 thousand drams (about $ 210) for taxes and the rent for the space on the market."I will bring the goods to the beginning of the school year at high prices, because they raise the customs duties", - she says. According to Marina, the merchants of the market, which is located next to the former "Russia" cinema pay three times more for the location.
"We got used to the market, but if we still have to move, we would like for us to create the conditions necessary so that we can rent a space in another market at affordable prices for us," - she says.
Ophelia has worked for many years on the Ferdowsi market too. She says that she will not be able to work indoors, since she is used to street vending. Despite the fact that with the advent of new shopping malls and large stores in Yerevan, trading in commodity markets has fallen sharply, according to Ophelia, and their clients are the same low-income families, who can find goods at the lowest cost. "But today, we just cover the cost of the goods, rather than make a profit," - says Ophelia.
Loans taken at a high interest rates from the banks for the purchase of goods is the main problem of the market traders. If it is decided that the market is suddenly destroyed, many of them will find themselves in a critical situation.
"We want to be told as early as possible, when to leave the market. We are all here in debt, we need time to sell goods and prepare for the closure of the market, " - says Lily.
Only in the last three years in Armenia, two large shopping centers were opened, which house a total of 200 brand shops. Gradually, they are replacing such markets, which have become a symbol of the 90s era.
"Markets are dying out, only those who have money for large investments stay," - said Hovhannes.