33. The Soviet Union’s Most Decorated Village
During WWII, an unheralded Armenian mountain village, Chardakhlu, sent about 1250 of its residents to fight the Nazis. Out of those who saw action during the conflict, 853 were awarded medals, including seven Heroes of the Soviet Union. Twelve of them ended up as generals. Two from the small mountain community eventually ended up in the highest echelons of the Soviet military: Ivan Bagramyan became a Marshall of the Soviet Union, and Hamazasp Babadzhanian became the Red Army’s Chief Marshall of Armored Forces.
In short, nearly every man sent to war by Chardakhlu returned with a medal on his chest – or did not return at all. Understandably, the village’s heroic contribution was a source of immense pride for its inhabitants after the war, but Chardakhlu eventually came to a bleak ending. Although inhabited by ethnic Armenians, the village lay within the borders of the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. When the Soviet Union began to crumble, Armenia and Azerbaijan fought each other in a nasty conflict marked by ethnic cleansing on both sides. During one bout of fighting, all Armenians were expelled from Chardakhlu, thus severing the village from those who had contributed so much to its history.