Glendale’s Berj Bookstore: One Map’s History


By Nelli Shoushi Martirosyan

I buy almost all my gifts and Armenian postcards from Berj Books located in Glendale, California.

Berj, the owner, always welcomes me to the store and listens to my stories related to the liberated Artsakh territories with rapt interest.

When I enter the bookstore, I’m like a small child trying to pick my favourite knick-knacks. There are so many adorned with the Armenian tricolor, the national emblem or the Armenian ABC’s.

But there’s one item in the store that really irritates me. It’s a map of Armenia showing the wrong borders of Artsakh. It taped to the wall for all to see. When I say Armenia, I’m talking about the two Armenian states – the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh.

I get the most satisfaction when I point out the inaccuracy of the map and other customers there agree with my observation. They agree that it’s totally unacceptable to leave out large swaths of liberated regions from the map.

It’s an injustice to forget the thousands who gave their lives for bequeathing us a much larger Armenia than we had a mere twenty years ago. Have we forgotten so much in the course of twenty years?

A few weeks ago I visited the bookstore to make another round of purchases. Upon entering, my eyes automatically went to the wall showing the map I disliked so much. I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Berj had received a batch of ten incorrect maps from Beirut. He took one of them and affixed it to the wall where the old map had been and drew a number of lines in an attempt to connect the liberated territories to Armenia.

Naturally, these lines didn’t point out Aknan, the place where Monte Melkonian fell to his death. Never fear, I’ll add a line showing this.

Suffice it to say I was elated that my two years of complaining had finally broke the ice, People who look and the redesigned map will ponder what these lines actually signify.


I promised Berj that I would present him with a correct map and he said it would be affixed near the window of the store. It would be visible to all, even when the store is closed.

I had the honor to spend all of April, 2011, in the Kashatagh district of the liberated territories. The goal of my visits was to conduct research about the local population for the Hayrenaser organization. I also spent two days in the Shahoumyan (Karvatchar) region.

According to the incorrect maps, only showing the old Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR), I had spent a month in Azerbaijani territory. Kashatagh and Shahoumyan were never part of the NKAR that existed during the Soviet era.

I urge everyone not to tolerate incorrect maps. A nation that dreams about historic Armenia must stand as master over all portions of liberated historic Armenia.

This is the least we can do to honor our fallen heroes and their families and the people now living on those lands and making them flourish.

(The author is the co-founder Hayrenaser organization and the article is part of a public awareness campaign about the liberated territories)