2017 - 2020
A disputed land in the South of Caucasus, the unrecognized republic of Nagorno-Karabakh has been a conflict zone for decades. A ceasefire, announced in 1994, after a six year war, is violated on the border between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan every day.
Local authorities create incentives for its ethnically Armenian population to grow. The support encourages large families, and one of the benefits offered is a house that a family receives after the fifth or sixth child is born.
But as the families grow it becomes difficult for parents to provide proper and sufficient care for the children. This story follows the realities of a few families in different social and financial situations, all of whom however struggle to support their children. The overall economic hardship in the land affects the living conditions of the children, their development, the food they are or are not able to receive. For many it becomes the norm, and then there is always the joy and playfulness of the children.
Nagorno-Karabakh is quite militarized. Growing the population and having children connects with the idea of protecting the land. Sons are valued greatly in Nagorno-Karabakh, celebrations around maternity wards when boys are born are some of the symbols. At the same time, some of the families I photographed had no fathers. In Charektar village, Alisa, eldest daughter of a single mother of eight Epraqsya, told us she wanted to serve in the armed forces. I told her about the military academy and female cadets in the capital Stepanakert, but Alisa said she would rather stay and work.
Children like the adults in Nagorno-Karabakh know well what a struggle feels like, even if they may not be able to put a name to it.