New East Digital Archive

Armenia’s pearl: what secrets lie beneath the mysterious Lake Sevan?

22 February 2017

Lake Sevan is situated in Armenia’s picturesque Gegharkunik Province, sandwiched between Yerevan to the east and the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh to the west. Also known as “Armenia’s pearl” the lake is a national treasure, not only because it’s the only large body of water in the landlocked country but as home to several ancient churches, including the famous Sevanavank monastery, which draws snap-happy tourists year after year. In 2015, archeologists thought they might have also found evidence of an ancient city at the bottom of Lake Sevan and there has been much speculation about the great treasures that might be hidden in its depths. Since the 1940s, when the Soviets decided to divert water away for the lake in the same manner which catastrophically drained the Aral Sea, the level of the water has been gradually dropping to reveal its history. Polish photographer Łukasz Zakrzewski travelled there in the summer of 2016 and recalls, “All the places I visited were once located on the bottom of the lake.” Even the Sevanavank monastery, which now sits on a peninsula, once appeared to be rising out of the water. “When the level of the water dropped Armenians built houses, hotels and resorts on the edge of the lake,” Zakrzewski describes the Soviet era when Lake Sevan was the preferred holiday destination for locals, who now spend their time in Batumi or abroad. But water levels have now started to recover meaning this piece of Soviet history will soon be hidden underwater once again. Take a look while you can.