In border Tavush

Berkaber: Tale of a Fisherman


For some, fishing is an instinct which has unwittingly been passed down to us for thousands of years, for some it’s a way of catching a break from everyday life, and for border guard 29-year-old Tatul Mayilyan in Berkaber, fishing is a way of life.

Every other day a young fisherman fishes in the reservoir right in front of the enemy’s eyes. Half of the fish he takes home, the other half he sells in Berkaber and other nearby villages, and treats village guests as well. In the past, at the time of the shootings, Tatul was fishing in the dark so that he would not be noticed. The enemy has shot at him more than once, but he was not harmed. Maybe he was just lucky, or maybe the enemy just tried to frighten him with a warning shot.

We agreed to go fishing together in the morning with Tatul. We were near the Joghaz reservoir, and Tatul saw ducks in the water and had to shoot. Before he managed to pull out his rifle, the ducks flew off. Tatul laughed and said, “If you weren’t here, I would’ve gotten them.” I looked at him with surprise as he smiled and, “It was a Turkish duck, a spy, that’s why I wanted to kill it.”

We took the boat out to the reservoir. He asked, “Aren’t you afraid?” I said, “No.” He was silent, he didn’t say anything, but I realized that the main topic of conversation in Berkaber’s evening gathering would be my trip to the reservoir.

In the previous article, I’ve already talked about the fact that the Berkaber community of Tavush province, about 200 meters from the Azerbaijani posts, is known for the Joghaz reservoir. The reservoir built in the 1980s was a source of irrigation water for Soviet Armenian and Azeri residents of nearby villages. But everything changed in 1992. After the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, the reservoir serves as a water border.

Just like the crops in Berkaber, the fish is also delicious. The water in the reservoir collects from two rivers, with the water naturally feeding the fish with nutrients from the forests, without any chemical additives.

Tatul told us that once he caught a large fish of 22 kilograms. That was only once. He’s also caught 15, 13, 12 kg. But the skilled fisherman says that the more a fish grows, the more clever it becomes and the more difficult it is to catch it. He also shared a secret. It turns out that deeper a fish dwells, the pricklier it is.

We were out on the reservoir, in the open space, when I noticed that on the opposite side, Azerbaijani villagers were working in the gardens. I asked if anyone fished in the neighboring village. Tatul said that they are not like us, they don’t eat fish that much. He also added that when the village is calm, you can hear people’s voices from the village across the way. And in times of occasion, music can be heard.

“I don’t care about danger because if I look at it like that, I may as well never leave the house,” Tatul smiles and rows out to the center of the reservoir and says, “Let’s go drink tea in the next door village and come back.”

It turns out that there are four children in Tatul’s family. He has a twin sister who does his homework for him in school. Their brother and sister are both married. He isn’t yet, but to the question of what his future wife should be like he answered, “The most important thing is to understand each other.” It’s not just enough for the girl to be social and good-humored.

After a long silence, Tatul said, “I won’t leave the village, anywhere else is foreign. My place is here.” For the remainder of the time we joked about the Azerbaijanis, we talked about fish and fish dishes, and eventually, as his assistant for the day, shared a piece of fish, and then he said, “The hunter is obliged to give half of the catch to those who accompany him.”

My evening meal was fish dolma, flavored with the stories we talked about during our fishing trip.

I’ve only told you part of the story. For the rest, you have to visit Berkaber. 🙂

Read also: Berkaber: One reservoir – two countries

The material was prepared with the support of Berkaber NGO

Translator Alice Ananian




Lilit Khachaturyan
Armenia, Yerevan

Hi there, It’s me Lilit! And this is my journey! This blog is one of the best ways to describe my paths. Each and every story reflects what I have seen, felt and experienced. I’m in love with long roads, books and colors I can’t resist sweets and until now I’m scared of grasshoppers and village water closets (WC-s). Welcome to my world.