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Margara is the last village at the border between Armenia and Turkey, the last closed border of Europe. While talks about an eventual reopening is in the air, Russians are still patrolling around the area, where poverty exploded since the collapse of Soviet Union.

By Hrant Mikaelian & Ovsanna Baghumyan

Margara village is located in Armavir province of Armenia, close to Armenian-Turkish border.

During Soviet times, Margara’s village had a connection to Turkey thanks to a bridge: local people could do trade and pass to the other side. Since 1993, date where the Turks completely closed the border because of Karabah’s conflict, there is no possible access to the bridge.

Soviets subsidied a lot local farmers, but since its independance, Armenia has no oil and is not strong enough economically to help its agriculture. Being in a transport deadlock, Margara is in the worst condition that the Armavir.

Most of the village inhabitants remember communist era as a very « prosperous time ». « Guests come to Yerevan and may consider that Armenia lives fine, but that’s not it: look at our village… » – told us 55 years old Arthur.

Villagers have different points of view on recent proposal opening of Armenian-Turkish border. Tatevik told us: « opening the border will be good for village because the trade will enhance » while her uncle and aunt are sure that it’s a threat because many Turks and Kurds will come to Armenia and destroy country.

According to the Armenian Sociological Association, 52% of Armenians opposed the deals signed between Armenia and Turkey to establish diplomatic ties and open the border. But 48% of respondents also said they wanted the border to open, compared with only 41% who wanted it to remain closed.

Local people still are afraid of Turkey, because of the genocide committed by an Ottoman sultan and Young Turks in 1915-1923, when 1.5 million Armenians were killed and the rest deported from the modern day Turkish territory.

Between the village and the river Arax, separating Armenia to Turkey, there is a security zone of one kilometer width, which is under surveillance of Russian troops. Headquarter of Russian peacekeepers seems to be the only well-groomed building in the village.

Villagers can only enter the zone only by getting a permission and it interferes with their work. « There is no money, no projects, no future », says…. « If today the border opens, will Turks and Armenians become friends? I will always thank Russia to keep our borders. »

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