The Covid-19 pandemic has forced thousands of Armenians, mostly men, to stay at home instead of heading to Russia or elsewhere for seasonal work. While the abrupt end of seasonal work—which often paid better than what was locally available—has presented a hardship for families, it has created new opportunities for some villages.
Every year, between 80 and 100 residents of Berdavan village, a community of 3500 in Armenia’s lush and mountainous Tavush region, leave to work abroad, mainly in Russia. They are among the 75,000 international migrant workers who have left the country since 2017-2018, according to the latest statistics available.
An estimated 65 percent of the migrant workers leave the country for between three and 12 months.
But this year, the migration has changed, according to the head of village administration, Smbat Mughdusyan. If before he witnessed a steady emptying of the village every year around March, in 2020, Armenian families living in Russia sought permission to return to Berdavan to live during the pandemic.
For the men who normally leave to work in Russia for several months out of the year, Mughdusyan says the pandemic has been bittersweet: they were given the chance to spend more time with their families but were robbed of the work they depend on to feed their children.
"There are people who have not felt the sweetness of spending time with their children for many years. They have been away from their children and families, but today they are next to their children. At the same time, this situation affects the human psyche, because a difficult financial period begins, ”he notes.