Some still feel deeply nostalgic about the once-privileged status of their atomograd. “For the older generation who lived through the Soviet-era the city feels like a safe home,” says Hamlet Melkumyan, an anthropologist who has studied Metsamor. “There is a sense of community and mutual trust. People will leave their house keys with neighbours when they are away.”
This sense of pride is exactly what architect Martin Mikaelyan had in mind with his ambitious, idiosyncratic plan for the model town. It was considered an honour to have been chosen as the republic to host the plant, and there is still that sense of national pride in Metsamor. When I visited in March the roof of the sports hall was leaking and shoushabands (homemade covered balconies) jutted out over the courtyards. Though ill-maintained the locals have adapted Mikaelyan’s city to their own needs, relocated its centre, and parked cars on the once-pedestrianised walkways.
Monthly rents are low, between $30 and $60 for a 95sq/m flat, but people are certainly not stuck there against their will, there is a close-knit community.
“Every day people gather outside after work, and discuss the news,” says Van Sedrakyan, who works at the plant and runs Metsamor’s Facebook page. “Our children have places to play, but we prefer that they spend their time studying. I have two girls and I hope they will stay and work in Metsamor because it is our homeland.”
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