Cover photo for Norik Y. Astvatsaturov's Obituary
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1947 Norik 2023

Norik Y. Astvatsaturov

December 22, 1947 — December 30, 2023

Norik Yegishevich Astvatsaturov passed away peacefully at the age of 76 in Wahpeton, North Dakota on December 30, 2023, at 5:45 am from a long battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his loving family. His last words on this earth were “I’m not afraid.” 

A celebration of Norik’s life will be held at Evergreen United Methodist Church on Tuesday, January 23, 2024, at 10:30 am, at 1120 Evergreen Court Wahpeton, North Dakota with visitation starting at 9:30 am. A funeral service for Norik will be held in Yerevan, Armenia later in the spring.

Everyone who met Norik knew him as he was – soul of the party, jokester, teaser, family toast master, Armenian barbecue aficionado, US and Armenia’s national treasure, jaw-droppingly talented award- winning artist, grandchildren giggle-instigator, and the best advice and hug-giver in the world. He loved sitting outside at the lake, carving wood and creating beauty all around him. Norik was never without candy in his pocket and a newsboy hat on his head. He loved keeping in touch with family spread around the world and maintained a network for decades ensuring that his children had a connection to the family in Armenia. Norik loved a good, loud laugh, good quality tools, and a big dinner party. Above all else he spent his life dedicated to his children and his grandchildren who he was so proud of. He was a strong, simple, yet such a complicated man, and the world is so much dimmer without him. 

Norik was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, former USSR, on December 22, 1947, to his parents Yegishe and Tamara. He was the oldest of three.  From an early age Norik loved visual art and expressed himself carving wood or drawing. After returning from compulsory Soviet military service in 1968, he became an apprentice to a metal repoussé artist in Baku, soon becoming a master himself. The metal art he produced, although based in the traditional and often religious Armenian art history, was mostly based in commercial and Soviet themes, and yet even under the fear of persecution, Norik produced customary and traditional decorative metal items as crosses, family Bible covers, and wedding jewelry boxes with precious and semi-precious metals and stones. 

During his time as a master in Baku, Norik met Irina Adamyan, and they married in 1977. Norik and Irina had two children, Anna, born in 1978, and Mikhail born in 1984.  In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Soviet Union began its collapse and simmering ethnic hatred toward minority Armenians in Azerbaijan resurfaced.  Ethnic violence ensued against Christian Armenians by the predominant Muslim Azerbaijanis that echoed the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and massacres of Armenians of 1918 which his family survived over and over again. Norik and his family fled Baku in 1989, settling in blockaded, cold and hungry Armenia for three years, trying to survive. Norik worked as a machinist in a crystal factory, in extreme conditions and stress. There were no food or electricity during the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan and not many prospects for the future.  The family took a chance at a better life and applied for a refugee status and after 2.5 years were settled in Wahpeton, North Dakota in 1992. While they were forced to leave most of their possessions behind, Norik brought with him his art tools: his hammer and nail punches. He said, “A good artist is one who can carry all the tools he needs in his pocket.” 

To support his family, Norik worked as a machinist in Wahpeton at the Primewood factory for two decades, while also continuing his art, making items cherished by the Armenian Diaspora in the United States. His work is known not only for extraordinary technique with simple tools but for the meaning and feeling he infuses into his art. He once said, “Technique without meaning is lifeless.”

During his life, Norik demonstrated love and deep respect for his adoptive United States and instilled the same in his children toward their ancestral homeland of Armenia. He worked tirelessly to teach and share his Armenian art and its message with Americans and the Armenian diaspora nationally and internationally. He has taught, given workshops, presented at festivals, universities, exhibited, and was a recipient of fellowships from the North Dakota Council on the Arts, the Fund for Folk Culture, the Bush Foundation and the prestigious US National Endowment for the Arts “National Heritage Fellowship.”  In 2017, Norik was awarded an “Arshile Gorky” medal from the President of Armenia that recognizes achievements in the arts within Armenian Diaspora. 

Norik is preceded in death by his parents, Yegishe and Tamara Astvatsaturov. He is survived by his wife, Irina Astvatsaturova; his daughter, Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, her husband John Turcotte and their children Armen and Evangeline of Westbrook, Maine; his son, Mikhail Astvatsaturov, his wife, Cassandra Astvatsaturova and their children Nikolai, Alexander, Artyom, and Ruben of Williston, North Dakota; his sister, Nora, and brother, Novik and his family, both of Boston, Massachusetts. 

In lieu of flowers, please donate to Norik’s favorite charitable organization Anna Astvatsaturian Foundation at www.astvatsaturian.org to support Armenian children - please indicate “for Norik” in your donations. 

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Norik Y. Astvatsaturov, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

9:30 - 10:30 am (Central time)

Evergreen United Methodist Church

1120 Evergreen Ct, Wahpeton, ND 58075

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

10:30 - 11:30 am (Central time)

Evergreen United Methodist Church

1120 Evergreen Ct, Wahpeton, ND 58075

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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