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Like every kid, the Muradov brothers had their wish for the New Year; they wanted a sister. It came true on January 1; Semiramida was born. She is the 4th child in a family in Upper Dvin; one of the few Assyrian-populated villages in Armenia.


The Assyrian and Armenian flags
Not everyone’s childhood is happy and careless in Upper Dvin
12 -year old Gevorg wants to become a soldier, he says ‘They are strong and defend the fatherland’ , 3-year old Victor doesn’t yet know; a soldier or a policeman.
Little Muradovs are peaceful, they love and care for each other, especially for their little sister.
Upper Dvin
Oksanna and Semiramida
Volodia is the only breadwinner: He mainly grows tomatoes, and sometimes goest to construction sites, earning 2000-3000 AMD per day
The currency of Iraq, which depicts the ‘winged bull’, an assyrian symbol
The hall of the cultural centre is in a poor condition. The classes are currently being held in a small room, because of the cold.
The Assyrian communities collaborate. Periodically Assyrian papers published in other countries are sent to Armenia.
The library is a part of the village administration building. There are mainly Russian books, of old publishing. The number of readers is increasing slowly,
The school named after Pushkin is the only one in the village.
269 children attend this school. Mainly they go to the Russian section.
Assyrian is a mother tongue in Upper Dvin; if not prevailing over Armenian, then used equally.
Pupils of the school.
The handmade pieces of the schoolchildren.
Aida Lazarevna, the headmaster, considers the dilapidatedness the main problem of the school. Though she assures it will be solved soon.
The Assyrian and Armenian alphabets:
At school.
Assyrians are christians. They say, they do not change their religion even in Muslim countries.

Every kid has a New Year wish. Muradov brothers had their own; last year 3-year-old Victor, 12-year-old Gevorg and 10-year-old Nicola wished for a sister. It came true on January 1; the 4th child in the family, Semiramida was born. Knowing that their poor parents have to realize it, they are not writing letters to Santa this year. They help their parents Volodia and Oksanna to share the family burden, via taking care of the housework and livestock.

Despite the load, the children manage to attend also the cultural centre, where they learn assyrian songs and dances. The latter is fully free of charge, and, though comfortless, has 70 students. George and Nicola Muradovs also attend the Russian section of a poorly-equipped and the only school of the village, where since 2007, all the grades take 3 classes of Assyrian language and literature each week. The association of assyrians in Armenia, called ‘Athur’ supplies the school with textbooks every year. But the rest of the school literature is in Russian and Armenian.

Aida Lazareva, the headmaster, doesn’t see any big problem in that; it is a hard work and demands professionals. All the people in the village, even the mixed families speak predominantly Assyrian. So do the Muradovs, though they can also fluently speak Russian, Armenian, and some German and English.

Aida thinks, there is no danger of extinction for them, though assures, that it is hard to preserve the national identity being a minority. Reportedly every year 10 to 12 students go to universities. The state funded program allows minority students to study free, with a job placement in their communities for mandatory 3 years.

The head of Department of Ethnic and Religious Minorities, a governmental organization, Vardan Astsatryan too thinks, that the main issue for Assyrians nowadays is the literature and the retraining of the corresponding professionals.

Assyrians, the 3rd largest ethnic minority after the yezidis and the russians, mainly settled in Armenia in the 19th century. There are 2769 assyrians in RA, according to the 2011 census, with the largest community in Upper Dvin. The half of the 703 families in this village is assyrians, and there is a large number of cross ethnic marriages. The main source of income being agriculture and construction, the village has an aging population due to youth unemployment; around 100-120 families have emigrated so far. There are also serious irrigation problems, and families like Volodia’s sometimes have to rely on 43000 AMD support from the ‘Paros’ state poverty reduction fund and 10-15000 AMD village donation. Lyudmila Petrova, the village head, says there are too many needy families. The yearly growing budget which consists of property rents and state subsidies (42 mln. AMD in 2014), is still insufficient. They have no privileges as an ethnic minority and no special projects.

P.S. "Shlamalokhoun" means "Hello" in Assyrian.

Chai Khana
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