A guide to the New East

Armenian dream: the vans of Yerevan, and their devoted drivers

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Their owners nicknamed them yeraz, which is Armenian for “dream”. The car manufacturer ErAZ (Yerevanskiy Avtomobilny Zavod) was started in 1965 and went bankrupt in 2002. However, the company's signature “dream” vans have survived all these years and are still faithfully serving their owners. Built to resist, they can carry up to 3 tonnes of cargo and are mainly used to transport construction material. “I have seen owners of ErAZes pass away, but the vehicles are still up and running and have been handed down to their children,” says Lilia Li-Mi-Yan, who took these photographs. Intrigued by the tender way in which the owners talked about their vans, Li-Mi-Yan photographed them with their vehicles in Yerevan and its suburbs for about a week. After spotting the vehicles in the street and identifying their owners, she asked for permission to photograph them. “Most often the owners agreed on having their picture taken and invited me to their houses, introduced me to their families and were happy to tell me stories about their vans,” says Li-Mi-Yan. 

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