Reading the cultural landscape of Kond

Living in a particular space in a particular time one rarely gets to ponder upon the cultural heritage of the place. The study of the cultural practices and human activities to the extent that they are spatially related to each other is called cultural geography. It studies the placement and the spread of the materialistic, spiritual, political and ecological culture, art, lifestyle and traditions of the worlds ’population. Armenia, as an ancient nation, throughout its’ history has managed to become a crossroad of different cultural practices. Without going too deep into the history, it is necessary to mention that Yerevan itself has been a place of intersection of various cultures and societies too.

While being considered as an old city itself, Yerevan has, however started to lose the spirit of the ancient due to rapidity of construction and homogenization of the culture. Year by year,newer high-rise buildings are being built replacing the former ones with integrated high fashion restaurants, hotels and stores. There is, however a physical space in the middle of Yerevan, not too far from the Republic Square and heavily constructed Northern Avenue, that has managed to embody the cultural heritage of people who lived there. Kond is one of the districts of Yerevan that have been preserved since the 17th century. Throughout history, Kond has been populated not only by Christian Armenians, but also by Muslims, like families from Persia and Ottoman Empire. By moving in the space and changing their places of living, those societies have traveled their cultural heritage along with them and settled some part of it in Kond. Various cultures have overlapped in this space, making Kond unique for its’ inhabitants. One of the signifiers of the variety of cultural practices is the Tapa Bashi Mosque of 1687 (Islamic architecture), or rather the ruins of it. There are also some constructions of Persian, Soviet (the school named after S.Rustaveli) and Post soviet architecture. Thus, by embodying some cultural memory in it, the place has changed its’ meaning and its’ feeling.

By taking a walk in the narrow streets of this small town “Inside a town” any non-resident of Kond can observe the difference of everyday life of Yerevanians and those who reside in Kond.This can tell a lot about Kond’s everyday life and culture. If Yerevanians live in their private apartments in tall buildings, Kond residents reside in small, half-ruined houses, sharing their roofs and entrance yards with their neighbours. They even call their physical space“Kentroni gyux” or a village in the centre of Yerevan, referring to the fact that their living conditions replicate village life to some extent. This vernacular region is a term, coined by the locals to refer to that area which encompasses people who jointly share a particular historical information, interests and mentality. Back in Soviet times life here was all about limited space for a large number of people, however that’s what used to make life so typical of the space.When most Yerevanians have slowly become less sociable with their neighbours and more privacy centered, people in Kond have still preserved the transparency of everyday life and close linkage of their neighbourhood. Almost everyone were familiar with each other and had utilitarian topics to discuss with each other every day. In the warm seasons most of Kond’s everyday life is spent outside, with old people playing nardi on the benches, children running around and playing hide and seek, climbing on top of the roofs, women hanging the laundry outside the houses.Household utensils, customs, doors of houses, windows, masonry, working tools, even stones at the threshold of the houses eloquently tell about what and how Kond people lived in Soviet era,things they believed in and what they denied, things that made them happy. Not forget to mention that there is still no water and canalization in some areas of Kond, so at some houses people still have to get it from the public pipe in their yards, like they used to do several decades ago. That is the life of these people and their cultural heritage. In fact, some things have changed in Kond from the Soviet times. One can see that some houses have been renovated and enlarged,replacing the older ones. As time goes, less of the former constructions are being preserved leaving current day Armenian with a very few examples of historical and cultural heritage.

Kond used to have a specific atmosphere, mood and visual specifications that differed from the ones the rest of Yerevan conveyed. There are almost no preserved antiquities in the area. The list of protected monuments was gradually “unloaded” as a result of active construction. There are very few historically significant sights left in Kond, one of which is the St. Hovhannes church.

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