The Armenian Highland: Western Armenia and the First Armenian Republic of 1918
By Matthew Karanian
Stone Garden Press; First edition (April 15, 2019)
I first met Matthew Karanian at the Hairenik offices in Watertown, Massachusetts some years back. During our brief but stimulating conversation, he confessed that the only reason he began taking photographs was so that “people would read what he has to say.” But sift through the pages of his latest book and you’ll be left scratching your head at the fact that Karanian is no full-time photojournalist, but in fact, a Pasadena, California-based attorney.
Karanian’s photographs and words have since filled the pages of his several books about Armenia, including the best-selling travel guide Armenia and Karabakh: The Stone Garden Travel Guide, Historic Armenia After 100 Years and Edge of Time: Traveling in Armenia and Karabagh. He is also the co-photographer, with Robert Kurkjian, of Out of Stone: Armenia and Artsakh.
His work as a lawyer and professor of international law has taken him around the world, but it was a friend’s wedding that first took him to historic Armenia back in 1997. Since that first visit, Karanian has returned several times to photograph and document Western Armenia for, according to him, two reasons: to preserve the earthly presence of the Armenian people and to preserve their cultural memory in their historic homeland.
Pietro Shakarian, an Ohio State University history PhD candidate, wasn’t lying when he called The Armenian Highland Karanian’s magnum opus; the meticulously researched and crafted book is truly a masterpiece through and through.
In his latest work, Karanian brings together more than 200 breathtaking color photos and maps—as well as more than 40 antique and never-before published photos—to transport his readers to the ancient homeland of the Armenian people—the Armenian Highland.
The Armenian Highland was born out of inspiration—the survivor story of his grandparents. “The story of their survival is a story that is both unique to their lives and also shared by so many Armenian families—a common thread in the fabric of Armenian history,” Karanian writes in the volume’s emotionally-charged preface. All four of Karanian’s grandparents escaped to the United States from Western Armenia following the Armenian Genocide.
Much ink has been spilled on the importance of The Armenian Highland’s content: from a beautifully illustrated introduction and historical rundown of the First Republic of Armenia (1918-1920) to awe-inspiring views of historic Armenia from Ani to Kharpert and Sebastia, the book is chock-full of significant information, statistics, photographs and maps, all of which should be considered required reading (and viewing!) for anyone interested in who the Armenians are and where they came from.
Little has been said, however, about the sheer magnificence of the printed-and-bound, physical work that is The Armenian Highland. In this digital age, in which non-print media have disrupted industries such as the recording industry and the newspaper business, people still love to hold in their hands and read physical books—especially those as beautiful as Karanian’s latest.
Available only in print hardcover, The Armenian Highland’s high quality, striking images capture the reader in a way that pixels on a screen simply can’t; it’s the sort of book that craves the instinctive act of physically turning a page to see what the author presents next.
Do yourselves a favor and pick up a copy today: your eyes—and your Armenian soul will thank you.
A version of this review appeared on h-pem.com.