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Russian and Iranian emigrants discover safety in former Armenian factory; a haven for new beginnings.

Abandoned Armenian Textile Factory Transformed into Artistic Sanctuary

A Haven for Artists and Emigres

In the town of Tumanyan, Armenia, a disused textile factory has found new life as a sanctuary for artists and emigres from Russia, Iran, and Ukraine. These individuals, whose lives have been upended by war or political turmoil, have turned the abandoned factory into a creative space where painters, puppet-makers, and photographers can thrive. This project, known as Abastan, meaning “shelter” in Armenian, has breathed new life into a declining town.

A Welcoming Community

When the strangers first arrived in Tumanyan, the locals were puzzled by their presence. However, through public events, personal relationships, and the shared love for art, a connection was formed. Polina Ivanova, one of the co-founders of Abastan, believes that slowly but surely, the locals and the artists are getting to know each other.

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A Refuge from Turmoil

For artists like Arghavan Majd from Iran, the atmosphere in Abastan feels “more free” compared to their home countries. Majd left Iran amidst protests and political unrest, and she has no intentions of returning. Similarly, Torfeh Ekhlasi, a puppet maker also from Iran, escaped the overwhelming negativity and “bad news” that paralyzed her in her home country. In Abastan, she found a community full of life and positivity.

Seeking a New Beginning

Danil, a software engineer from Russia, left his homeland after disagreeing with the political agenda and feeling unsafe due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. He sought a fresh start and found solace in Abastan. The project was established as a charity, supported by an anonymous American-Armenian philanthropist. Currently, the sanctuary hosts artists from various backgrounds, including Iranians, Ukrainians, Armenians, Georgians, and Russians.

An Oasis of Creativity

Abastan has not only provided a haven for artists but also a means of sustenance. Some rely on their savings or support from their families, while others sell their artwork or work online. However, challenges arise, such as a Russian artist who lost his source of income when his company stopped allowing remote work. Despite these obstacles, the artists find joy and support in Tumanyan.

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Revitalizing a Declining Town

The arts venture has brought newfound happiness to Tumanyan, a town that has suffered from factory closures, unemployment, and emigration since the collapse of the Soviet Union. One local resident, Ararat, witnessed the transformation when he stumbled upon the factory, now illuminated with lights, music, and young people dancing. The presence of Abastan has injected vibrancy into the once-forgotten town.

Through Abastan, a disused factory has been transformed into a thriving artistic community that offers refuge and inspiration. This initiative has not only breathed new life into a declining town but also provided a platform for artists and emigres to rebuild their lives amidst the chaos. As Tumanyan continues to welcome individuals from different cultures and backgrounds, the power of art and community shines brightly.

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