Towards the end of our Armenia trip, we took a few days to step away from the bustling capital Yerevan and into the countryside. Here, we discovered some true architectural delights. Many old Soviet structures scatter the landscape, most of which are empty and without a renewed purpose. They range from old bus stops to summer houses and larger forgotten monuments. Each piece represents the Soviet-era of Armenia, reflecting this period in history. In this article, we take a closer look at some of the abandoned Soviet structures and the incredible architectural styles that were popular at the time.
Monument to the 50th Anniversary of Soviet Armenia
One of the most striking abandoned Soviet structures we came across was a crown-shaped monument extending high above the trees. The structure is built in 1970 by architects A. Tarkhanyan, S. Avetisyan, and K. Vatinyan. This was fifty years after the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1920. The monument celebrates the fifty-year reign, with each of the crown’s points reflecting a decade of Soviet Armenia. The pointed geometric structure, monochrome colors, and use of materials are also characteristic of the Brutalist design popular at the time.
The positioning of the monument is noteworthy. It is located outside Dilijan, a well-liked hill station among the wealthy that served as an idyllic summer getaway. The area was popular among artists and writers, serving as a retreat for creatives during the Soviet period. Thus, it seems fitting that a prime example of Soviet Brutalist architecture should be erected in such a town. Yet today, the town is stagnant with a shrinking population. Although still a holiday destination, the monument is a mere glimmer of the old Dilijan’s famous and creative bustling city.
Abandoned Khanjian Villa Mansion
Also located outside Dilijan is the Khanjian Villa, a luxurious mansion built initially for Communist leader Aghasi Khanjian in 1936. He was a much-loved public figure in the country, having held the position of First Secretary of the Communist Party of Armenia for six years. As with many other people traveling to Dilijan to escape the heat, the villa was intended as a summer house. However, Khanjian could not enjoy his mansion getaway, as he died during interrogation the same year it was erected. Today, the villa lies abandoned and sits in ruins. And although not open to the public, we managed to sneak inside and take a look.
This abandoned Soviet structure is a prime example of the Modernist style popular during the early 1900s. Breaking away from traditional design, the architects created Khanjian Villa to have a distinctive circular structure. The mansion also sits three stories high, representing the importance of the political figure it belonged to. It is nestled among the trees and mountains that make up Armenia’s natural landscape. Although in ruins today, you can also see the use of pillars and large windows. These further add a feeling of sophistication and grandeur, again appropriate to the homeowner and with great aesthetic appeal.
Monument to the Battle of Bash-Aparan
This time located in Aparan, we also found an old Soviet war memorial. The monument, designed by architect Rafael Israelyan in 1979, is dedicated to the Battle of Bash-Aparan. Between May 21 and 29, 1918, the battle took place and was one of three Armenian World War I victories. The country’s victories here and at Sardarabad and Karakilisa played a pivotal role in ceasing the Turkish invasion. Although short-lived, this success also allowed the formation of the First Republic of Armenia before the Soviets took control in the 1920s.
The monument is again characteristic of Soviet architecture popular at the time. It has a distinctive modular style, with multiple vertical block-like towers positioned across the back of the structure. Around the other side, there are three large tiered archways indented into the stone. Such arches are commonly seen in Soviet design and used in multiple buildings and structures across Armenia’s eclectic landscape. The contrast between the angular cubes seen behind and the curved arches at the front is wonderful. It is an excellent commemoration of one of the country’s greatest victories.
Lake Sevan Soviet Viewing Platform
Finally, we came across an incredible Soviet viewing platform that overlooks Armenia’s Sevan Lake—if traveling in Armenia, visiting this structure is a must. Situated inside one of the country’s National Parks, Lake Sevan is the largest body of water in the Caucasus region. This gives the lake its title as one of Armenia’s “three great seas,” along with Lake Van and Lake Urmia. As a result, the area holds astonishing views of the country’s natural environment. And these are made even better atop the abandoned Soviet structure we found on our travels.
Designed by architect Makabe Manuelian in 1978, passers-by cannot miss the Soviet viewing platform. It sits between the towns of Tbilisi and Yerevan. If driving on the main highway between the two, you can see the structure from the road. The platform has a unique triangular-shaped design reminiscent of the fins of fish found in the waters below. We also love the circular hole in the center. It makes the structure feel less blocky and blend more seamlessly with the nature that.