Armenian emigration creates 'women-only' villages

Armenian emigration creates `women-only` villages Vardadzor: There are no men to be seen in the rural lanes of Vardzador as mother-of-four Susanna Asatrian makes her way to the fields to thresh barley and wheat.

Her husband has left the country in search of work like so many other men in remote, impoverished Armenian settlements, leaving them almost entirely populated by women to symbolise the country's depopulation problem.

"It's a total matriarchate. We even joke that our village's name should be changed from 'Canyon of Roses' to 'Canyon of Women'," said the 36-year-old

In the midst of the harvest season in Vardadzor, around 130 kilometres from the ex-Soviet state's capital Yerevan, women do the hard agricultural labour, prepare for the long winter ahead and raise their children practically without male assistance.

"The children miss their father, but what can we do?" asked Asatrian.

In villages like this, women traditionally marry young and their husbands often leave after their honeymoon to work as migrant labourers, only returning for a couple of months each year.

The men who remain are largely elderly. More than a million people left Armenia in the years from 1988 to 2007, with around two-thirds of them relocating to Russia, like Asatrian's husband, leaving the small Caucasus republic with a current population of 3.2 million.