The holy mountain of the Armenian people. In pre-Christian Armenian mythology, it was the home of the gods. Despite lying outside the borders of the modern Republic of Armenia, Ararat has historically been associated with the Armenian nation and was the center of ancient Armenian kingdoms. It is the country's principal national symbol.
"No one can take Mount Ararat from us; we keep it in our hearts. Wherever Armenians live in the world today, you will find a picture of Mount Ararat in their homes. And I feel certain that a time will come when Mount Ararat is no longer a symbol of the separation between our peoples, but an emblem of understanding. But let me make this clear: Never has a representative of Armenia made territorial demands. Turkey alleges this — perhaps out of its own bad conscience?" -Serzh Sargsyan
According to the fourth verse of the eighth chapter of the Book of Genesis (Genesis 8:4), following the flood, Noah's Ark landed on the "mountains of Ararat". Ararat being the Hebrew name for Urartu, the predecessor kingdom of Armenia that existed in the Armenian plateau in the 9th–6th centuries BC. The traditional Armenian name for the mountain is Masis.
Carved from the mountainside, you can see that all of it is one, seamlessly. It was founded on a spring arising in a cave which has been deemed sacred since pre-Christian Armenia, and was known as Ayrivank - the Monastery of the Cave - before it became Geghard Monastery. Geghard means spear, named after the spear that wounded Christ on the Cross, brought there by the Apostle Thaddeus.
A group of girls praying in Sisavan Church in Sisian.
Ojakh means hearth, but is used to mean home, and even family. In ancient times the ojakh, or tonir, was worshipped by Armenians - a symbol of the Sun. Armenians made their ojakhner in resemblance with the setting sun "going into the earth". The underground tonir, made of clay, was one of the first tools in Armenian cuisine, as an oven and as a thermal treatment tool.
Armenians are said to have originated the underground tonir. The preparation, meaning, and appearance of the traditional bread lavash is listed in UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as an expression of culture in Armenia.
Trndez, or Tyarndarach, is pagan in origin and is originally connected with Sun/Fire worship in ancient pre-Christian Armenia, symbolizing the coming of spring and fertility. The holiday was meant to strengthen the heat of the sun, influencing cold with the help of fire. The fire symbolized the birth of Vahagn, and the young women jumping over it were said to have done so in order to bear strong and intelligent children - a dedication to Mihr and Tir, the gods of fire and knowledge. Jumping over the fire was also said to have a purifying power to help fight disease and bad luck. In the church it is now celebrated as a feast of purification celebrated 40 days after Jesus birth.
This was photograph was taken in the courtyard of Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in the center of Yerevan, the largest Armenian cathedral in the world.
A monument to Garegin "Nzhdeh" Ter-Harutyunyan on the slopes of Khustup Mountain, where his right hand is buried.
Garegin was born on January 1st 1886, the youngest of four born to a priest in the village of Kznut, Nakhchivan. His father died when he was only two years old, and was given an education under the patronage of a man who founded the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. He went on to become one of the most revered military commanders and political strategists in Armenian history; an extraordinary fighter, orator, statesman, philosopher, and prolific writer whose collective works helped shape a national ideology.
One of his important accomplishments - the defense of Karakilisa - was crucial for the survival of Armenians in their ancestral lands, allowing for the creation of the First Republic of Armenia. The genocide forced surviving Armenians from 90% of their lands, and after defeats at Yerznka, Kars, and Alexandropol; if any of Sardarabad, Aparan, or Karakilisa were lost to Turkey's three pronged invasion - Armenia would be wiped off the map entirely. The head of the Armenian armies fell into despair telling Nzhdeh, "I have no army; do what you can".
Garegin Nzdeh managed to inspire and mobilize the population of despairing and hopeless locals and refugees - outnumbered and ill-equipped - to hold off the Turkish army for four days, with a speech given in a Dilijan church yard, saying "Straight to the frontline, our salvation is there."
General Wehib Pasha was forced to report to Turkish headquarters, "We do not have the strength to defeat the Armenians. The three day battle in Karakilisa shows that as long as their existence is in danger they will prefer to die fighting... In short, we must come to terms with the Armenians... At Karakilisa, the Armenians proved that they can be the best fighters in the world."
"I spit on your execution. You must understand who you are dealing with. I'm Garegin Nzhdeh, a staunch enemy of the Bolshevism. I dedicated my own life to the struggle for freedom and independence of my people. I defended Zangezur from the Turks and the Turkish Bolsheviks. Is it possible that I will be afraid of your execution?"
"When you find me killed, bury my body at the top of Khustup to let me clearly view Kapan, Gndevaz, Goghtan and Geghvadzor."
“Only a true nationalist is able to love the whole world. This is the Armenian nationalism. An Armenian nationalist does not exalt his nation and does not belittle others. He or she focuses only on his people and homeland, works and creates for the sake of and for the benefit of the nation, but the love of the nation should not lead to hatred towards the rest of humanity.”
"The motherland must be loved regardless of her political regime and our political convictions."
"Self-deception led us to a politics of begging, and because we were also weak, we gave ourselves over to maudlin sentimentality... Today we curse those political patrons, but we forget that beggars are given poorhouses, not independent homelands."
"Every coward is biologically immoral."
"To struggle in defense of what is right is not a calamity but a blessing."
"Forgive me, God, for I sin for the sake of my homeland."
The letters of the Armenian alphabet engraved in stone tablet at the grave of Saint Mesrop Mashtots, an early medieval Armenian linguist, theologian, statesman, and hymnologist who invented the alphabet in 405 AD, a crucial step in strengthening Armenian national identity.
"Armenia, so long the battle-ground of Romans and Persians, lost its independence in 387, and was divided between the Byzantine Empire and Persia, about four-fifths being given to the latter. Western Armenia was governed by Byzantine generals, while an Armenian king ruled, but only as feudatory, over Persian Armenia. The Church was naturally influenced by these violent political changes, although the loss of civil independence and the partition of the land could not destroy its organization or subdue its spirit. Persecution only quickened it into greater activity, and had the effect of bringing the clergy, the nobles, and the common people closer together. The principal events of this period are the invention of the Armenian alphabet, the revision of the liturgy, the creation of an ecclesiastical and national literature, and the readjustment of hierarchical relations."
The first sentence to be written by Mashtots after he invented the letters was said to be the opening line of Solomon’s Book of Proverbs, "ճանաչել զիմաստութիւն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ" - "To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding."
"Armenian literary tradition dates back to times immemorial. Even in Armenian mythology there exist deities and spirits of writing and literature, such as the god of literature Tir and the spirit writer Grogh. Armenia’s writing tradition is also considered one of the major factors behind the survival of the Armenian people... Today the ancient manuscript repository, Matenadaran, holds one of the world’s richest depositories of ancient manuscripts and books which span a broad range of subjects, including history, philosophy, medicine, literature, art history and cosmography in Armenian and many other languages. Although much has been destroyed (e.g., over 10,000 manuscripts burned by Seljuk Turks in 1070 after a 40-year siege of Kapan), over 30.000 have survived and are preserved until today."
Catholicos Karekin II
Built on the site of a pagan temple in Vagharshapat in 301 AD, when Gregory the Illuminator had a vision of Jesus descending from heaven and striking the earth with a golden hammer to show its location. Etchmiadzin meaning, "Descent of the Only Begotten". The mother church of Armenian Apostolicism and the first cathedral to be built in ancient Armenia, is also considered the oldest cathedral in the world.
For many centuries, Etchmiadzin served as the national and political center of the stateless Armenian people. It is sanctified soil, similar to Temple Mount in Judaism or Golden Temple in Sikhism, and a major pilgrimage site for Armenians worldwide.
The first European to study Armenian architecture, Josef Strzygowski, placed Armenia in the center of European architecture suggesting churches and chapels in Western Europe (notably, the Gergimgny-des-Prés in Paris, built by Armenian architect Odo of Metz, the San Satiro in Milan, the Nea Ekklesia Church in Constantinople, and the churches of Mount Athos in Greece) had been influenced by the cathedrals of Etchmiadzin and Bagaran due to the similarities found within their plans.
A woman comes in from the cold and smiles as she lights a candle in Etchmiadzin on January 6th, when Armenians observe Astvats e Haytnutyun, "the appearance of God among men" - a celebration of the nativity and baptism of Christ. Around 340 AD, the Roman Empire's church hierarchy changed the date to December 25th to replace a pagan festival that did not exist in Armenia. Adopting the practice was irrelevant to Armenians and they chose to remain loyal to the ancient custom, celebrating the feast on this day for the last 17 centuries.
The musical fountains of Hanrapetut′yan hraparak, Republic Square, in the heart of Yerevan. Designed by Alexander Tamanian in 1924, the square is surrounded by five major buildings - including the Government House, the History Museum, and the National Gallery - built with pink and yellow tuff in the neoclassical style with extensive use of Armenian motif. It is Yerevan's most important civic space, architecturally and otherwise one of the finest central squares created anywhere in the world during the 20th century.
A storm charges through downtown Yerevan just passing by Yerevan TV tower, the largest structure in the Caucasus and the second largest in all of West Asia.
Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, built between in 1887 by Armenians who emigrated from the Persian Ghazanchi village to Shushi. They were only able to raise funds its construction thanks to their unique talent in making cauldrons (Ghazan in Armenian).
During a liturgy, the priest must receive absolution from another priest, but during its construction the small population of Shushi had only one priest to serve the churches needs. To solve this problem, the architects built an underground room designed to reverberate one's voice directly back to them. Thus, before conducting a liturgy, the priest would receive absolution, hearing his own voice saying, “Let my ears hear what my lips utter”.
Damaged during the March 1920 massacre of Armenians of Shushi by Azerbaijanis and the cathedral experienced a decades-long decline under Soviet rule. During the Artsakh War, Azerbaijan used the cathedral as an armory, where hundreds of missiles were stored. It was restored in the aftermath of the war and reconsecrated in 1998. A landmark of Shushi and Artsakh, it has become an icon for the Artsakhi-Armenian cause. Even today, soldiers often get blessings here before leaving to the front.
Surrounded by angels with horns in their hands that symbolize the last resurrection of Bible. When the judgment day comes angels will blow their trumpets and all dead people will resurrect, alive people will die and resurrect again in a minute. The angels are standing on the bell tower as it symbolizes the world's horn that calls all the people to a service. Angels that you see today are newly made since the older ones were destroyed during the Azerbaijani rule. These angels are considered to be symbols of Shushi.
The Tatev plateau has been in use since pre-Christian times, hosting a pagan temple before this monastery was built. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Tatev Monastery hosted one of the most important Armenian medieval universities, the University of Tatev, which contributed to the advancement of science, religion, and philosophy, reproduction of books, and development of miniature painting. Scholars of the university contributed to the preservation of Armenian culture and creed during one of its most turbulent periods in its history.
The crown of Ararat peers over cloud cover, as seen from Khor Virap Monastery.
The streets of Gyumri
Soghomon Tehlirian, born in 1896, was just 19 years old when he lost a total of 85 family members to the Armenian Genocide. Five years later he joined Operation Nemesis - a covert operation to seek revenge on the architects of the genocide - named after the Greek goddess of Retribution, also known as Adrestia, "The Inescapable". This group of survivors; an engineering student, an accountant, a life insurance salesman, a diplomat, and a newspaper editor, formed what became one of the most effective assassination squads in history.
Soghomon was the one entrusted with killing Talaat Pasha, the Minister of Interior and Prime Minister, and one of "Three Pashas" who were de facto rulers of the Ottoman Empire. His orders were: "You blow up the skull of the Number One nation-murderer and you don't try to flee. You stand there, your foot on the corpse, and surrender to the police who will come and handcuff you." Which he did successfully in broad daylight with a single bullet, in Germany, where Talaat had fled knowing there were no international laws yet in place under which they could be tried.
During the court proceedings, Soghomon explained that when he first saw Talaat he carried on as before until five or six weeks later, when he saw a vision of his mother’s corpse rise before him to say “You saw Talaat and you did not avenge your mother’s, father’s, brothers’, and sisters’ murders? You are no longer my son.” He told himself, “I have to do something. I want to be my mother’s son again. She cannot turn me away when I go to be with her in heaven. I want her to clasp me to her bosom like before.”
It took the jury slightly over an hour to render a verdict of not guilty.
Yepraksia Barseghyan-Gevorgyan, well over 100 years old, tightens her headscarf while she recounts her escape from Laloyi Mavrak in the province of Kars - the village she called home before her father was killed in the genocide of 1915, and the family was forced to flee. She now lives in Armavir, Armenia, and has eight children, 16 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren.
A man from Artsakh holds his daughter and looks out over their farmland. 100 is written on the mountainside behind them, a commemoration on the centennial of the genocide.
One of more than 20,000 Syrian-Armenians who have sought refuge from the tragedies in Syria and repatriated to Armenia says a blessing as she waves goodbye to workers distributing clothing.
Just a century earlier, Syria had been a sanctuary; the heart and natural resting place of the Armenian diaspora. Those who survived the genocide were driven in two directions – to Damascus, or along the Euphrates to Deir ez-Zor. Deportation was just a euphemism for mass murder, as no provisions were made for their journey or exile, and they were forbidden food or water in almost all cases. According to Minority Rights Group, those who survived the long journey south were then herded into vast open-air concentration camps, the worst of which was Der Zor. With a name that sticks like a thorn; “r” “z” “or” — hard, sawing, and knifelike, it has come to have a meaning approximate to Auschwitz for Armenians. A million perished, and in places where so many bodies lay the land itself continues to sink today.
The survivors had the unimaginable task of life afterward. There is the Kurdish tradition of tattooing called deq found in Anatolia, but tattoos have never had a place in Armenian tradition. I didn't ask if these were the traces of the slavery that women and children endured as integral parts of the genocide. A documentary was made about some of these survivors, titled "Grandma’s Tattoos".
The Republic of Armenia & The Republic of Artsakh 2015-2017