In a bitter farewell to his home of 21 years, Garo Dadevusyan wrenched off its metal roof and prepared to set the stone house on fire. Thick smoke poured from houses that his neighbors had already torched before fleeing this ethnic Armenian village about to come under armenians Azerbaijani control.
The village is to be turned over to Azerbaijan on Sunday as part of territorial concessions in an agreement to end six weeks of intense fighting with Armenian forces. The move gripped its 600 people with fear and anger so deep that they destroyed the homes they once loved.
The settlement — called Karvachar in Armenian — is legally part of Azerbaijan, but it has been under the control of ethnic Armenians since the 1994 end of a war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. That war left not only Nagorno-Karabakh itself but substantial surrounding territory in Armenian hands.
Muslim Azeris and Christian Armenians once lived together in these regions, however uneasily. Although the cease-fire ends the fighting, it aggravates ethnic animosity.
“We are homeless now, do not know where to go and where to live. Do not know where to live.
“Why has Putin abandoned us?” Dadevusyan said.
On Saturday, miles-long columns of cars and trucks carrying fleeing residents jammed the road to Armenia.
Any returns could be wrenching. Settlers will confront the burned, empty shells of houses — or worse.
For the Dadevusyans, their sudden relocation is overwhelming beyond words.
“When you spent 21 years here and now need to leave it…,” Garo Dadevusyan said, trailing off, as smoke from nearby burning houses choked the air. Soon, he knew, his house would be one of them.