Jermuk (in 1967 was granted with the status of a town) is located at a height of 2070 meters above sea level, within the mountains of Vayots Dzor, among thick forests, on a plateau divided into two parts by the gorge of Arpa river, 175 km south-east of Yerevan. Its name itself is derived from this fact, as the word “jermuk” means “geyser” in the Armenian language. The waterfall of Jermuk on Arpa River has a height of 70 meters.
Historian Stepanos Orbelyan in his work “History of the Sisakan Province” first mentioned it during the XIII century. Jermuk was previously the Armenian village with the name Jermuk. Later, it was destroyed by foreigners and replaced with a new village that was later called Istisu.
The total area of the town is 137,37km2. As of the 2017 census, the population of the town is 4 324, which is 24.8% of the total population of the region.
The nearby villages of Herher (population 706), Karmrashen (population 252), and Gndevaz (population 829) are a part of the municipality (community) of Jermuk.
The symbol of the town is a deer. This symbol is not accidental – there is an interesting legend associated with it. A long time ago in the forests of Jermuk, there were different wild animals, and people often went hunting in the woods for prey. One day a hunter wounded a deer with an arrow, and the animal, gathering the last strength, rushed to flee. The hunter followed the deer and suddenly saw him jumping into the lake, filled with mineral water.
A moment later, the deer emerged from the water and there was not a trace of the wound on it. The amazed hunter returned to the village and told everyone about the miraculous properties of Jermuk water. The rumor about its healing properties spread over many cities and villages and the deer became the symbol of Jermuk.
The waterfall of Jermuk forms from tributaries, and plummets over 3 dome-shaped and 70-meter-high cliffs down into the Arpa river. There is an interesting legend regarding this waterfall as well. According to the legend, on the precipitous cliffs of the waterfall was situated the house of an Armenian nobleman who had an extremely beautiful daughter whom men from all over the world asked to marry. However, she refused everyone, because her heart belonged to the handsome son of the shepherd.
Every day after midnight, the she threw a long rope into the gorge so that the son of the shepherd could reach her house. One day, the nobleman found the rope and cursed his daughter, saying – “If you meet him again, I want you to become a mermaid and never be able to get out of water.”
After this, during their next meeting, the woman threw her long hair instead of the rope and right at that moment the curse became a reality and the girl turned into a mermaid and her hair into a waterfall. This is why people refer to this waterfall as “The mermaid’s hair” as well.
Ordinary people as well as Syunik’s ishkhans (princes) have long used Jermuk’s bracing mineral waters to heal various diseases. In the 1860s Gevorg Khanagyan, following a resolution by the Russian government, renovated all of the historic pools of Jermuk built by the Orbelian princes of Syunik. Today, those baths, which are called “Pristav Pools” preserved as historical monuments. In 1870, Jermuk became part of the newly formed Sharur-Daralagyaz Uyezd (canton) within the Erivan Governorate.
Despite the town’s rich history, the foundation of today’s new city was laid only in 1940, after the construction of the first resort. During the Soviet era, Jermuk was under construction; all the facilities for active rest, health rehabilitation and tourism were built. Architect P. Msryan introduced the first urban development plan of Jermuk in 1945. The second plan was composed in 1952 by architect P. Manukyan. The plan was later modified at the beginning of the 1960s.
Between 1918 and 1920, Jermuk was included within the short-lived Republic of Armenia. After the sovietization of Armenia, Jermuk and the surrounding territories became one of the regions that resisted the Soviet rule and formed the unrecognized Republic of Mountainous Armenia under the leadership of Garegin Nzhdeh. However, after falling to the Bolsheviks in July 1921, Jermuk became part of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1961, Jermuk was incorporated into an urban settlement within the Azizbekov rayon (region).
The first sanatorium was opened in 1962, followed by the second one in 1963 and the mineral water spa center in 1966, thus setting for the fertile activity of the Jermuk health resort center, in order to turn Jermuk into a modern resort for all Soviet nationals. In 1967, Jermuk was granted with the status of a town of republican subordination. With the gradual development of the services, the population of Jermuk reached up to 9,000 during the 1980s.
Currently, the main directions of the economy are mineral water bottling industry and fish breeding. The natural water bottling industry has its deep roots in the town of Jermuk. The bottled water branded as Jermuk, is largely exported to several markets around the world.
However, many development plans have been implemented in Jermuk during the recent years, in order to further develop the town as a summer resort and a winter tourism destination, including the nearby village of Kechut and the defunct airfield of Jermuk. Many new hotels and health centers were opened, many sanatoriums were rehabilitated, and the first phase of the cableway of the ski resort was entirely renovated.
Jermuk is also known as a balneological sanatorium, founded in 1935. The mineral springs of Jermuk have almost the same physical and chemical constitution and qualities as the same well-known waters of Karlovy Vary. Here people undertake mineral water treatment. Jermuk was a high-class health-resort of considerable significance on an all-Union scale. Since 1970, Jermuk has received more than 20,000 tourists a year.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, and because of the post-independence economic crisis of Armenia, the number of tourists has drastically declined to less than 6,000 during the first decade of the XXI century.
The resort complexes in Jermuk include internal and external use of mineral water, medical walks, climatic and physiotherapeutic activities. People suffering from gastrointestinal disorders, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, locomotor apparatus, peripheral nervous system, gynecological diseases and metabolic disorders are treated in Jermuk.
Jermuk is one of the major centres for winter sports in Armenia. A 1000-meters long cableway serves the ski area located at the southeast of the town (built is 2007). The works for the second phase of the ski lift are ongoing in order to boost the winter tourism in the region.
Community has 2 pre-school establishments, 3 public schools, 2 art, sport and chess schools, Jermuk branch of HAP, club, library, sport ground. There is situated St. Gayane church built in 2007.
The remains of an ancient cyclopean fortress and the ruins of an VIII century basilica testify that the region around the fountains of Jermuk has been settled long before the XIII century. It also has a remarkable sculpture called “Armenian Fidains” (1988-92, basalt, sculptor – Hovhannes Muradyan).
Translated by Kristina Ghahramanyan