“Penicillin cures, but wine makes people happy.”

Alexander Fleming

The Armenian Diaspora, largely formed because of the Armenian Genocide committed in the early 20th century by the Ottoman Empire, plays a major role in the life of present-day Armenia. With one of the largest diasporas in the world, nearly 8 million Armenians live outside of Armenia as opposed to its 3-million population.

With such a big resource living outside the country, projects should be initiated to maintain and strengthen the relationship between Armenians living in their homeland and millions of others living in communities in all parts of the world.

However, it should be noted that Armenia-Diaspora relations, though not perfect, are quite strong, especially at challenging times and causes that require united efforts, such as the 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan of the Armenian Genocide, independence of Artsakh, and other important issues.

Areni Lodge is a unique micro project the goal of which is to contribute to the development of the village of Armenia, Vayots Dzor Province, and most importantly, reconnect Armenia to Diaspora.

Areni Lodge: Building a Dream Lodge in the Cradle of Winemaking

Areni is a village in Vayots Dzor Province in Armenia. It is also the center of the Areni Municipality. Areni is widely known for its wine production. Once ruled by Persians, Romans, and Byzantines, Areni is a cradle of winemaking. In fact, it is where the oldest known winery was found along with the oldest leather shoe, proving Armenia to be a cradle of civilization.

The beautiful Arpa River originating in Vayots Dzor Province and the majestic mountains surrounding it make a perfect place for a lodge to attract tourists looking for a place to learn about the Armenian culture and history.

The construction of the lodge has already started. The lodge located in an orchard surrounded by water and nature is planned to host its first guests in 2022. Areni Lodge is located only 110 from the capital Yerevan and takes only an hour and a half by road.

Areni Lodge is a part of the Adopt-a-Village project which aims at reaching every Armenian village. Aside from Vayots Dzor, the AAV projects also operate in Ararat and Shirak provinces.

What Is the Adopt-a-Village Project?

The Adopt-a-Village Project is a project aiming at contributing to the development of rural Armenia and strengthening ties with the Diaspora. The project doesn’t involve a lot of financial resources which helps eliminate the risk of corruption. 

The Adopt-a-Village Project operates together with the project Origins. The latter is a one-of-a-kind initiative that has the purpose to make the world learn about the beauty of Armenian, Chinese, Bashkir, and Nepalese culture and history. 

The AAV project and the construction of Areni Lodge provide multiple benefits for the area and local people. 

First off, the project encourages tourism and business in the area. Secondly, it provides jobs for the locals. And lastly, it helps reverse depopulation which has been becoming a major issue on the background of rising tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

As the village of Areni is located closer to the Armenia-Azerbaijan border where the risk of military conflict is still high, the risk of depopulation is high too. Continuing to build and create is important for many reasons, including keeping the locals in high spirits and with hopes for a brighter and peaceful future. 

Strengthening Ties With the Diaspora

One of the primary benefits of the Areni Lodge project is that it is an effective way to strengthen ties between Armenians living in their homeland and those living abroad. 

The AAV project is controlled by the representatives of the Diaspora. It is fully transparent with the budget and expenses published regularly for the Diaspora to review. This helps to build trust which has been partly lost as a result of many frauds and fake fundraisings. 

Projects like Adopt-a-Village are important in reviving the relationship between Armenia and the Diaspora. Despite the strong emotional bond between Armenians living in and outside of the country, there is often disappointment in both which comes from the actions of the government. The problem is, while the latter is always ready to receive help, there are no official regulations to provide the Diaspora’s engagement in the internal affairs of the county. 

The role of the Armenian Diaspora is also vital in providing the security of Armenia as a large number of Armenian communities across the globe always make the country’s voice heard and spread awareness whenever there is injustice against it. 

Building on Uncertainty – Is Areni Under Danger? 

As tensions have been escalating in the neighboring Syunik Province, many are worried about Vayots Dzor too as the latter borders with Azerbaijan on both sides. From the west, the province borders with Nakhchivan – an Azerbaijani exclave, and from the east, it borders the Kelbajar District of Nagorno Karabakh that was handed over to Azerbaijan according to the November 9 agreement signed to end the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh War. 

Azerbaijani armed forces recently advanced multiple kilometers into Syunik, encroaching on the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. The troops of the opponent have also advanced into the province of Gegharkunik which neighbors Vayots Dzor from the north. 

While the situation on the borders of Syunik and Gegharkunik Provinces is significantly more heated, Vayots Dzor is in danger to a certain extent too. Experts agree that in case of another military conflict, Vayots Dzor will also be under attack. And the newly opened military airport in Nakhchivan and the ongoing war games are proof of this. 

It is not surprising that during the special meeting held on May 14 the National Assembly of Armenia considered the situation critical not only in the provinces of Gegharkunik and Syunik but also in Vayots Dzor. 

Perhaps it would be wise to stop all construction processes until the border situation calms down. However, it is part of the Azerbaijani plan to put lots of pressure on people living and working in borderline villages of Armenia. The depopulation of provinces with such strategic locations as Vayots Dzor is the second best thing that can happen to Azerbaijan after allowing it to take over these provinces too. 

Areni Lodge, despite the rising tensions along the border, is proceeding with the construction of the lodge next to the beautiful Arpa River. While it is unknown what turn politics will take and what are Azerbaijan’s intentions, the project continues to support locals and contribute to the development of rural Armenia.