In my continued search for authenticity, truth and the origins of the world, I revisit my observations from a 2017 trip to the cities, villages and major archaeological sites of historic Armenia.
I was mainly attracted to the high level Armenian aesthetics and technical standards in art, architecture and stone sculpture. I studied most of the museums of the area, and I enriched my knowledge with historical material.
I have drawn the following conclusions from my personal visit and autopsy to historic Armenia.
The Armenians are most probably an ancient Mesopotamian nation, descending from the Urartu and Hur. The stems Ur-Hur-Ar (Ararat) – Ar (Armenia) strongly support this conclusion.
There is historical continuity of the Armenian people in the ancient Armenian plateau/Upper Mesopotamia and environs.
The Lake Van citadel on the Lake Van rock overlying the city of Van, the ancient Urartu acropolis with cuneiform script (as a result of the Urartu/Assyrian interaction) on the slopes surrounding Lake Van and the multiple remaining Armenian monasteries on the slopes and on all four islands of Lake Van (Lim, Gdouts, Aghtamar and Arteri) are all historical imprints of the same civilization in continuity and transformation. They highlight the passage of the ancient world to the Christian world.
The ancient Urartu/Mesopotamian and the modern Christian Armenian monuments of Lake Van are standing across from each other in a dialectic relationship between the ancient and the modern, the past and the present of Armenian civilization, in which Lake Van is the epicenter.
The famous and prosperous Armenian cities were built under Urartu acropolis/fortresses, as is the case in Van, Kharpert, Palu, Kars and Yerevan (Erebuni).
The ancient Armenian cemetery of Urfa on the base of the hill of the Armenian neighborhood of Urfa includes the Armenian mansions and church.
The multiple partitions and genocides of the Armenian nation are impossible to ignore, including in 387 AD and 591 AD between the Greek-Byzantine (Rum) and the Persians and in 1555 AD and 1639 AD between the Ottoman Turks and the Persians. The third partition in 1555 AD led to the mass population movement and forced migration to Persia and the formation of the Persian-Armenian community. It’s also important to mention the forced mass movement of the Armenians to Cilicia by the Greek-Byzantine (Rum) in the 11th century to oppose the Arab invasions, the Hamidian massacres between 1894-1896, the massive genocide of 1915, the population exchange between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1988, the assassination of Hrant Dink in 2007, and the Artsakh War in 2020.
While observantly walking the cities of historic Armenia, I realized that one of the reasons of the Armenian Genocide was the conspicuous discrepancy in socioeconomic levels between the Armenians and neighboring nations, particularly Kurds and Turks.
This is made clear when walking the streets of Bitlis with the magnificent and very well-preserved Armenian houses made of tuff (volcanic stone), the streets of Arapgir with the elaborate multi-story Armenian mansions and the Armenian neighborhood of Anteb with the magnificent Armenian structures made of ashlar stone, now converted to cafes.
The Turks and Kurds, mostly nomadic nations, were introduced to architecture and housing by the Armenians, Greeks and others.
This socioeconomic discrepancy most probably led to an envious desire to confiscate and appropriate Armenian property, as is the case with the Sanassarian College in Erzurum, where Kemal Ataturk proclaimed the resolutions of the Erzurum Congress in 1919.
There are also testimonies that the wealthiest Armenian merchants were summoned to the Turkish authorities before the beginning of the death marches in 1915 and were forced to surrender all their properties.
The Armenians also fell victim to the German-Turkish alliance and interests and to Russian expansionist aspirations, in an effort to control the Black Sea and the Caucasus.
Facing an existential threat, the Armenians continued to suffer in 2020 with the Artsakh War and cultural genocide – eradication of Armenian cultural and historical identity/memory and conscience.
Modern Turkish national conscience and identity have been built on the falsification and destruction of Armenian, Assyrian and Greek national conscience and identity. These dispositions are fostered early on in the Turkish educational system and perpetrated through fanatic and aggressive political ideology.
The resilience of the Armenian nation despite the continuous persecutions, mass deportations and genocides is noteworthy. A characteristic example is the Museum of Modern Art in Yerevan. It’s a symbol of Armenia’s resistance to the central Soviet dogma. Armenia was reluctantly forced to surrender to the Soviet Union in 1920 as a means of survival from Turkish aggression, which resulted in another partition of Armenia, this time between the Soviet Union and Turkey, and the resultant oppression of Armenia by the Soviet authorities, which lasted until 1991.
There’s also emphasis of Armenian culture on education, proven by the multiple Armenian universities in historic Armenia, mainly operated by American and European professors, like the Euphrates College of Kharpert, which was founded in 1852 and destroyed after the Genocide, with most of the professors tortured and executed.
Religion and education are interlinked in the Armenian tradition, similar to the Greek tradition. Theological manuscripts are illustrated in a magnificent artistic way. Schools promoted philosophy, sciences, law, history and humanities. They safeguarded the cultural and historical identity of the Armenian nation. The connection of cultural and historical identity to the Divine serves the psychological need of an amulet – the appeal to the Divine expresses the psychological need for resilience and survival under adverse conditions in the form of prayer or a wish for protection. Similarly, the ancient Greek texts are copied and preserved in the Greek monasteries of Asia Minor.
The Armenian nation has also made significant cultural contributions, especially in the fields of architecture, sculpture and music. Having hewed the volcanic soil of Upper Mesopotamia since ancient times, the Armenians have proven themselves to be among the finest architects in the world. This is exemplified by the cathedral of Ani designed by architect Trdat, who also reconstructed the dome of St. Sophia in Constantinople when it collapsed in 989 AD. Other examples of exquisite Armenian architecture are the magnificent dome of the zhamatun of Horomos Monastery in Ani, the still standing khachkars of Surp David Abrank in Erzincan, the magnificent stone sculpture of the Holy Cross Armenian Cathedral of Akhtamar island, the stunning gothic-like arches of the interiors of Surp Garabed and Surp Asdvadzadzin churches in Chunkush, the elaborate architecture of Dadivank and Gandzasar in Artsakh, among numerous others.
I observed the multiple and different styles of Armenian architecture, both in urban and rural areas, using tuff in Yerevan and Bitlis, ashlar stones in Anteb and black stone in Diyarbakir. I adored the gorgeously illustrated Armenian manuscripts in the Matenadaran Museum of Yerevan, as well as the collection of Armenian folk songs by Soghomon Soghomonian (Komitas).
Armenian culture marks the transition from the ancient to the Christian world. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301 AD and serves as a buffer on the commercial and cultural routes between West and East.
I’d also like to note some historical parallels between the Armenian and Greek nations, such as the destruction of Greek Smyrna in 1922 and the destruction of Armenian Van between 1915 and 1918; the formation of Greek communities in the mountains of Santa (Eptakomi) in Trebizond and of Armenian communities in the mountains of Zeitun, in an effort for protection and resistance; as well as the population exchange in 1988 between Armenia and Azerbaijan; in 1922 between Greece and Turkey and in 1974 between Christian and Muslim Cypriots. The Greek-Rum Constantinopolitan community owes a lot to the Armenian presence, culture and prosperity in the city.
It’s critical to recognize the multiple and continuous genocides against the Armenian nation to appreciate the Armenian historical/cultural memory/conscience; to safeguard the Armenian legacy; to preserve the Armenian monuments and memory/identity; and to acknowledge the significant contribution of the continuous Urartu-Armenian civilization to the birth of Renaissance/Western culture, serving both, as its cradle and as its most Eastern frontier.
I was frequently asked by locals during my trip why I preferred visiting Armenian monuments. My reply was direct and simple: because the Armenian monuments are the most beautiful.