Anne Hasselmann and Nicolas Blandin
February and March 2014
Anne and Nico spent two months in Spitak and worked on the first historical and cultural guide book of Spitak.
A shared passion for Russian songs and travels in the former Soviet Republics sparked a project idea that materialized like a dream thanks to the support of Katrin Pilling and the YMCA Zurich.
During two months we – the historian Anne Hasselmann and the emerging photographer Nicolas Blandin – were sent to Spitak as volunteers by the YMCA Zurich in order to create a historical and cultural guide.
We decided not to focus only on the earthquake of 1988, but to present the town from a new point of view. So we asked the «Hamamlezis» about the history of their favorite places in town.
Step by step, we uncovered the layers of the city and put together an interesting and diverse collection of material. With great support from the YMCA Spitak team and the inhabitants, we searched for the origins of the new Spitak under inhospitable temperatures, which we managed to face thanks to the many coffees offered along the way.
We asked many questions: Which kindergartens, factories, churches, shops and restaurants did exist before the earthquake? Have they been rebuilt? Why not? How does the new town differ from the old one?
The information gained through interviews and research will be enhanced by carefully selected photographs. The 17 points of interest that we reached in an old Lada with ace driver Tatul Bostanchyan can now be located on the very first Spitak map expertly crafted by Grisha Bostanchyan. After this very exciting and personally enriching experience, we hope to provide Spitak and its guests with a guide that gives new insights into a region and a town that is much more than the epicenter of the 1988 earthquake.
Back in Switzerland, with itchy feet, we have now reached the final phase of the project: Nico is currently processing and editing the analogue photos, while I am editing the last missing texts for the booklet.
After a first German version, which is planned to be published in July 2014, we hope to be able to release an English and French version in autumn/winter 2014. To be continued!
Text: Anne Hasselmann
Translation: Thomals Rodemeyer and Nicolas Blandin