The longtime mayor of a big village near Yerevan has raised eyebrows outside his community after having a local street and a school named after him.
The decisions, highly unusual for Armenia, have been approved by Nor Geghi’s local council. They have sparked criticism and ridicule from the Armenian press and especially social media. Activists and commentators in Yerevan have accused the pro-government mayor, Frontik Tevosian, of building a Soviet-style personality cult.
Tevosian, who has governed Nor Geghi for over 30 years, said on Tuesday that the village’s main street and arts school bear his name in recognition of his track record.
Many village residents randomly interviewed by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) backed the street naming, saying that Tevosian has significantly improved the local infrastructure in recent years.
“He has done all the infrastructure upgrades,” said one man. “Look, he has repaired the village club, the heating facility, the school, and had many roads paved. And he has installed street lighting.”
“He has worked for 30 years. Doesn’t he deserve that? Of course he does,” agreed another man.
“It’s better when a person is honored before, rather than after, their death,” reasoned another villager, a middle-aged woman.
The mayor, who is also a well-to-do commercial farmer, is now building a church in Nor Geghi with his own funds.
The choice of the street and school names appears to run counter to rules set by the Armenian government in 2005. According to them, prominent individuals can have streets or buildings named after them at least 10 years after their death.
Andranik Tavoyan, the principal of the Nor Geghi school in question, countered that the government itself named a square in central Yerevan after French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour over a decade ago.
Tavoyan said he would love to see a statue of Tevosian placed outside the school one day. “He has done good things not only for the school but the whole community,” he said.