The Town. The Factory. The Project.

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The bridge across the Debed River connects the highway and the city of Tumanyan. On the other side of the bridge, there is the entrance to the city and a monument to the Armenian writer Hovhannes Tumanyan. He was born in the neighboring village of Dzekh, and in honor of him in 1951 the city was renamed to Tumanyan. Before that it was called Dzagidzor. Dzagidzor was founded in 1926 during the Soviet Union times, and since 1947 it has become an urban-type settlement. At the same time, the architect Sos Manukyan, who developed the general plans for large Armenian cities, villages, workers' settlements, residential and public buildings, created a modern layout for the central part of the city. The city of Tumanyan was recognized in 1995 by the government of Independent Armenia.

What is Tumanyan now? Is it a city, a village, or a settlement? Does this city really have the name of Tumanyan? Many locals and residents of neighboring towns still call Tumanyan Dzagidzor, and if you ask someone to hitchhike to Tumanyan, they will ask: “Are you up to the first or to the second?” If you look at the map, you can see that there seem to be two Tumanyans - this is how Mount Avanakar separates the two parts of the city. The first is the one behind the monument; the second is upstream of the Debed River, behind the so-called “yellow” mountain, where the ruins of factories can be seen.

The name Dzagidzor does not have a single version of origin. While everyone agrees that “dzor” (ձոր) means a gorge, there are disputes over the translation of the particle “dzah” (ձախ). Someone says that it means “grass” or “a shrub that grows in the gorge”; someone - that these are stones which the gorge is covered with. The third version is that “dzah” is the grass that grows in the gorge, from which the stones are made; and the fourth version, relying on that “dzah” is also translated as “left”, that “Dzagidzor” means “the gorge at which the river turns left”.

The majestic three-floors building with a red tuff colonnade is the former Tumanyan school. Once upon a time, cascading gardens grew around it, and the children climbed the stairs to the main entrance - it led to the street above the House of Culture. The school was not built according to a typical Soviet project - it is a Stalinist Empire style project - with high ceilings, arched frames, large spaces and restrained solemn decorations. The windows of the classrooms faced the north side, so that it was not too hot in the classrooms. A beautiful view of the main square and the House of Culture opened from the classrooms, as well as a view to the left and right parts of the city. In 1984, the building was converted into a weaving factory and a new three-building school was opened in another part of the city. The building changed its function woefully easily - a place for education became a place of the mass production. However, even in the modern corridors and spaces of the factory, the surrealistic dichotomy of the factory-slash-children's space has been preserved.

The new factory implemented a full production cycle - the threads here were woven into knitwear, which was cut and sewn into models developed on the spot. Such production was rare and exotic at that time period - it was high-tech and it was quite difficult to implement. Some of the workers ended up at the factory not by their will - they worked out the period of the forced labor here, losing a large part of their salary.

The factory was closed in the 90s - after the collapse of the USSR. For a few more years, it sold the leftovers of sewn, but soon closed completely. In the spring of 2022, thanks to a grant and the participation of the landlord, it became possible to launch the Abastan project on the territory of the former textile factory. An open call was opened for volunteers in creative areas who are ready to create a community together and build an art residence, which is what the participants continue to do. At the moment, Abastan is a registered NGO whose goal is to create space and a creative environment for the implementation of cultural projects.
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