Fioletovo, Lori Region, Armenia © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia
As part of work on contract to UNICEF, I visited Arzni and Fioletovo today to research an article on education for national minorities in Armenia. While I’ve spent a lot of time with the Yezidi and Assyrian communities here, the latter of which is especially fascinating (but I’ll leave that for another time), this was only the second time that I’ve visited the Molokans living in Fioletovo.
The Molokans are a Russian sect, often known as the “old believers,” who left Russia for the Southern Caucasus in 1830 although their origins can be traced back to the 16th century. Often considered the Russian equivalent of the Amish, the Molokans are a closed and very strict community.
Many Molokans don’t like their photos taken, for example, and although my last visit to Fioletovo was surprisingly easy, this time was unexpectedly difficult. Today, the impression really was that they are not used to “outsiders” visiting and to make things doubly hard, the children don’t know Armenian — only Russian.
Nonetheless, the Molokans are stereotyped as hard working and there’s no doubt that they have struggled to keep their village very pleasant and clean compared to many Armenian villages that have given up in the face of adversity and limited funds from the community, regional and state budget. Of course, many have left but even in my neighborhood in Yerevan there is still a sizeable community.
Anyway, until the article is ready, just to say that it’s quite a pleasant albeit very bizarre experience to be in a village in Armenia where most of the children are fiercely blonde, blue-eyed and can only speak Russian. Certainly worth a visit.