Painting of Sayat Nova by artist Mary Zakarian. Thanks to Gevorg Akhverdian, Sayat Nova’s research and preservation of Armenian folk music came to light fifty years after the troubador’s death.
In 1795 a priest called Der Stepanos was killed in Tiflis during an attack by Persian forces. He was actually Sayat Nova (1722-1795), the greatest Armenian troubadour, who had been forced by King Irakli II of Georgia to become a priest more than three decades before. His name and work remained in total obscurity until another native of Tiflis, Gevorg Akhverdian, would come to his rescue more than a half a century after his death. Akhverdian was born on June 5, 1818, in the family of an officer of the Russian army. He graduated from the Lazarian lyceum of Moscow in 1834 and five years later he finished the medical school of the University of Moscow. He returned to the Caucasus, where he was an army doctor from 1839-1842. After a stint of four years as personal doctor for War Minister Chernishev in St. Petersburg (1842-1846), he came back to Tiflis as employee for the office of the viceroy of the Caucasus. Akhverdian was not a simple doctor, but his intellectual interests were much wider. He discovered the “Letter of Thrones” (Kahnamag/Գահնամակ), a document from the time of the Armenian kingdom, which established the order of hierarchy of the nobility. He participated in a project of gold mining for the Caucasian region and was also the head of the Armenian department of the committee that supervised the production of textbooks for the Caucasus. He also wrote a study on the guilds of Tiflis. However, his major contribution to Armenian literature was the collection of works by Armenian troubadours. He discovered Sayat Nova’s handwritten collection of poems(called Davtar/Դաւթար) in three languages, kept at the library of a colleague, which contained 46 Armenian songs (written in Georgian characters), 114 Turkish songs (written in Armenian characters), and a few Georgian songs. He devoted himself to its deciphering and publication. The collection of Sayat Nova’s songs was first printed in 1852. Akhverdian annotated the songs with explanations about many words that were difficult to understand to the reader. He also included a special study of the Tiflis dialect, which was necessary to understand Sayat Nova’s language and became the foundational pillar of Armenian dialectology. The second volume of his collection of songs by Armenian troubadours was published by his daughter Mane Akhverdian half a century after his death (1903). Gevorg Akhverdian wrote a study on the history of Georgia based on Armenian sources, which remained unpublished. He passed away on November 17, 1861, in Tiflis, at the age of 43.
Meillet was one of the most influential French linguists of the early
twentieth century. He made important contributions to Armenian Studies,
particularly in the linguistic field, but also was well acquainted with
other areas of Armenian culture.
was born in Moulins on November 11, 1866. He studied at the Sorbonne
from 1885-1889, where he was a disciple of Ferdinand de Saussure, the
pioneer of semiotics, and Michel Breal. He was appointed professor of
comparative linguistics of Indo-European languages at the École Pratique
des Hautes Etudes until 1931. One of his students was Hrachia Adjarian,
the foremost name of Armenian linguistics in the twentieth century. He
completed his doctoral dissertation in 1897. In 1905 he was elected to
the Collège de France, where he taught comparative and general
linguistics until his death. He was the mentor of a generation of
linguists and philologists, among them names related to Armenian Studies
like Émile Benveniste and Georges Dumézil.
approach, quite novel for his time, took into account historical
grammar, philological evidence, and facts of cultural history such as
language contacts and sociolinguistic influences. He covered nearly all
branches of the Indo-European family in his enormous output of about two
dozen books, more than 500 articles, and many book reviews. In 1903 he
published his most important work, Introduction à l’étude comparative des langues indo-européennes
(Introduction to the Comparative Study of the Indo-European Languages),
which explained the relationships of Indo-European languages to one
another and to the parent Indo-European tongue.
became engaged in learning the Armenian language and in elucidating its
origin from the beginning of his studies. He studied Modern Armenian
with Auguste Carrière, then the holder of the Armenian chair at the Ecole des Langues Vivantes
(now the Institute Nationale des Langues et Civilisations Orientales,
INALCO). He went to Vienna and studied Classical Armenian at the
Mekhitarist Congregation from 1890-1891. As member of a research group
in the Caucasus, in 1891 he visited Armenia and researched the
manuscripts at the library of the monastery of Holy Etchmiadzin. He went
back in 1903, while he was the holder of the Armenian chair
(1902-1905). He was well acquainted with the ancient literary tradition
of Armenian, as well as with its philological aspects. He dealt with
textual problems of Armenian manuscripts, not least with the problems of
the spelling in several ancient manuscripts of the Armenian Gospels and
with the study of particular passages in works of Armenian authors.
a great number of articles, Meillet treated various problems of
Armenian etymology and historical phonology and morphology. The fact
that he is still considered one of the founders of comparative studies
of the Armenian language is primarily the result of his pioneering work
on Armenian syntax, which had been more or less ignored by all Armenian
linguists before him. The result of all his studies was distilled in two
monographs: his authoritative Esquisse de la grammaire comparée de l’arménien classique
(Outline of a Comparative Grammar of Classical Armenian, 1902), a
fundamental historical phonology and morphology of the language, and a
short introductory description of Armenian in his Altarmenisches Elementarbuch
(Elementary Course of Old Armenian, 1913), with some emphasis on
syntax. Meillet also devoted several minor studies to the influence of
Iranian on Armenian vocabulary.
engaged scholar and citizen, Meillet raised his voice in 1903-1905
against the confiscation of the properties of the Armenian Church in the
Russian Empire and in 1915-1918, in the years of the Armenian Genocide.
In 1919 he founded the Society of Armenian Studies with Frederic Macler
and others, and was instrumental in the launching of the oldest
Armenian Studies journal in Western languages, the Revue des études arméniennes, in 1920. A year later, he founded the Revue des études slaves.
scholarly merits were acknowledged with the French Legion of Honor. He
was appointed member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres
in 1924 and elected as member of more than a dozen foreign academies of
sciences. He received honorary doctorates from the universities of
Berlin, Padua, Dublin, Oxford, and Brussels.
The great French linguist passed away on September 21, 1936, in Châteaumeillant, France.
Alenoush Terian, known as the “mother of contemporary
astronomy in Iran,” broke the glass ceiling many decades before the term “glass
ceiling” was ever used in English.
She was born on November 9, 1920, in Tehran. Her mother had studied in
Switzerland and was a French teacher, while her father, native of Nor Jugha,
the Armenian suburb near Ispahan, was a writer and became the director of the
Sepah Bank for the last twenty years of his life. Alenoush Terian graduated in 1947 from the Faculty of
Science of the University of Tehran and went to work in the physics laboratory
of her alma mater. A year later, she was name head of operations of the
laboratory. She tried to convince her professor, Mahmoud Hesabi, to help
her get a scholarship to pursue studies in France. However, she was rejected
because she was a woman. This did not deter her from going to Paris with her
father’s financial support. She studied at the Faculty of Atmospheric Physics
of the Sorbonne and obtained a master’s degree in 1956. She was offered a
teaching job there, but she rejected it with the aim of bringing her services
to Iran. She returned and became an assistant professor of Thermodynamics at
the Faculty of Physics in Tehran University. The situation had changed by 1959, when Western Germany
offered a scholarship to Tehran University for studies in the observatory of
solar physics for four months. Alenoush Terian was selected for the scholarship
and went to Germany in March 1961. After finishing her stint, she returned to
Iran. In May 1964 she received the grade of full professor, and became the
first female professor of Physics in Iran. In 1966 she became a member of the Geophysics Committee of
Tehran University. Three years later, she was named chairman of the study group
of solar physics at the Geophysics Institute of the university and went to work
at the solar observatory, which she had helped found. She retired in 1979. She did not marry, but devoted her entire life to her
students. As one former student stated, “She always said that she had a
daughter called moon and a son called sun.”
The Iranian TV made a documentary on her life, “Towards the Sun,” in 2003. She
was decorated in 2006 by Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Alenoush Terian passed away on March 4, 2011, after spending
the last years of her life at a nursing home. In her will, she left her home to
the Armenian community of Nor Jugha and to those students who do not have a
proper living place.
I was the founder of the Hetumian dynasty (1226-1342), the second in
the history of the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia. He excelled as a
seasoned diplomat who achieved crucial results both in internal and
Signature of Hetum I, ca. 1243
was born in 1215, the son of Prince Constantine of Baberon, who had a
leading position among the Armenian princes of Cilicia and became regent
in 1219, shortly after the death of King Levon I, due to the minority
of his daughter Zabel (1216-1252), who was three-years-old. In order to
end the rivalry between Cilicia and the principality of Antioch (Syria),
Constantine arranged for the marriage of Zabel to Philip, a son of
Bohemond IV of Antioch, in 1222. However, Philip’s disdain for Armenian
ritual and his favoritism for Latin noblemen alienated the Armenian
nobility. After a revolt headed by Constantine in late 1224, Philip was
imprisoned and deprived of the throne with the agreement of the council
of Armenian princes. He died in prison.
Coin representing Hetum I and Zabel
moved forward and, despite the opposition of ten-year-old Zabel, he
married her to his son Hetum, who was proclaimed king on June 14, 1226.
In this way, the two most powerful families of Cilicia, the Rubinians
(the royal dynasty) and the princes of Lambron, established an alliance. Hetum
I ascended to the throne in a difficult international conjuncture. He
confronted Antioch on one hand, where he established a protectorate of
sorts after the death of Bohemond IV. On the other hand, he had to face
the power of the Sultanate of Rum, ruled by a Seljuq Turkish dynasty,
but was able to come to terms with it. Over the years, Hetum I was able
to overcome the internal dissensions and offer a united front to
external pressure. At the same time, he centralized the monarchy and
strengthened the army, while economic life and culture flourished. In
the 1240s a new and dangerous player appeared in the international
scene, the Mongols. After occupying Persia and Armenia, the Mongols
entered the Middle East and reached the borders of Cilicia by 1243.
Instead of confrontation, Hetum chose to sign a treaty of peace and
mutual cooperation with the Mongols. He first sent his brother, the
Constable Smpad, in a diplomatic mission to Karakorum, the capital of
the Mongol Empire, in 1248. Afterwards, the king himself made the hard
and long journey to Central Asia and visited Karakorum in 1254, signing a
new treaty of alliance with emperor Mangu Khan. This treaty
established, among other conditions, friendship between Christians and
Mongols, who were still pagan at the time; tax exemption for the
Armenian Church; the liberation of Jerusalem; the destruction of the
caliphate of Baghdad; assistance to Cilicia by all Mongol commanders;
devolution to Cilicia of Armenian territories occupied by the Muslims. This
diplomatic success, at a time when the Mongols were confronted by all
forces from China to Eastern Europe, strengthened the position of
Cilicia. Thanks to the Armeno-Mongol alliance, between 1256-1259 Hetum I
was able to stop the attacks of the emirate of Aleppo and the invasions
of the Sultanates of Rum and Egypt. He also liberated several cities,
like Marash and Aintab, and annexed the southern portion of Cappadocia,
as well as part of northern Syria to his kingdom. The
Sultanate of Egypt took advantage of the divisions among the Mongols
and invaded Cilicia in 1266, taking Hetum’s son and heir apparent Levon
as prisoner. The invasion devastated some parts of the country. In June
1268 Hetum signed peace with Egypt by the cession of several border
fortresses and was able to free his son. A year later, he resigned and
Levon II was crowned king. Hetum retired to the monastery of Akner,
where he became a monk with the name of Magar, and passed away on
October 28, 1270.
The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople went through turbulent
times in the mid-nineteenth century, when there were
heated disputes over the democratization of the Armenian society and the Church. The name of Patriarch Nerses Varjabedian emerged in the 1870s-1880s as a guiding
The future ecclesiastic was born Boghos Varjabedian in the
district of Haskeuy (Constantinople) on January 28, 1837. He studied at the
Nersessian School, in his neighborhood. At the age of fifteen he lost his
father and became, as the eldest son, the main support of the family.
He was sixteen in 1853, when he returned to his alma mater as a
teacher. He moved to Adrianople (now Edirne) two years later. The local
prelate, Bishop Aristakes Raphaelian, took the young teacher under his wings
and in 1858 ordained him as a celibate priest (vartabed)with the
A year later, he returned to Haskeuy as pastor, becoming the
standard bearer of a spiritual and intellectual renaissance in his birthplace.
In 1861, on recommendation from the Patriarchate, he was sent as a preacher
first to Romania and then to Transylvania (presently in Hungary). He was
ordained a bishop in 1862. He participated actively in the struggle that led to
the adoption of the National Constitution (ԱզգայինՍահմանադրութիւն/Azkayin Sahmanatrootyoon) in 1860 and the approval of its modified version by Sultan Abdul Aziz in 1863.In 1866 he participated in the election of Catholicos of All
Armenians Gevorg IV in Holy Etchmiadzin. In 1862 he was elected prelate of
Nicomedia (Ismid). Two years later, he published his first book, The Holy
Church of Christ and Her Opponents.
Patriarch Megerdich Khrimian (Khrimian Hayrig) resigned his
position after a five-year tenure (1869-1874). Despite his youth (he was
thirty-seven at the time), Bishop Nerses Varjabedian, enjoyed general respect
and authority, and was elected Patriarch on April 26, 1874.
In 1875 he published his second book, Teaching of the
Concordance of the Gospel of Our Lord. The latter was a combination of the
four Gospels, with explanations and reflections in both Classical and Modern
Armenian. It was used for a long time as a school textbook.
During his ten-year tenure, the Religious Council normalized its
activities and established a minimum age to confer religious degrees. Patriarch
Nerses participated actively in the activities of the Armenian United Society,
an educational organization that worked towards the education of Armenians in
the interior of Turkey. In the 1880s he would be the driving force behind the
foundation of the Getronagan School in Constantinople (founded after his death,
After the victory of Russia in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878
and the favorable conditions created for the Armenian Question, the Patriarch
presented a petition to Czar Alexander II, asking him to protect the Western
He worked together with the National Council of Constantinople to
enter article 16 in the Treaty of San Stefano, which established the need of
reforms for the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire under the guarantee of Russian
occupation, as well as the cession of Western Armenian territories to Russia.
He also organized and sent an Armenian delegation led by Khrimian to the
Congress of Berlin. In 1879 he unsuccessfully addressed the European
representatives to carry out reforms in Armenia and the British ambassador to
have the Ottoman Empire comply with article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin. His
memoranda to the Sublime Porte (the name of the Ottoman court) also remained
In 1884 Varjabedian was elected Catholicos of All Armenians, but
he resigned due to his poor health. He died on October 26, 1884, in
Constantinople, at the age of 47, victim of diabetes.
As a result of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, the regions of Kars, Ardahan, Artvin, and Batum, at the time in the Ottoman Empire, went to Russia.
The next conflict between Russia and the Ottoman Empire was during World War I. The Caucasian expedition of Enver Pasha in late 1914-1915 was soundly defeated in the battle of Sarikamish. Enver covered his defeat by accusing the Armenians of treason. As a result, the Armenian soldiers in the Ottoman Empire were disarmed and killed en masse, and the subsequent massacres and deportation of Armenians would soon turn into genocide. The Russian forces occupied an important section of Western Armenia (Van, Erzerum, Bitlis and Mush, Trebizond, and Erzinga) in 1915-1916.
After the October Revolution, the Russian forces abandoned the front. The Armenian battalions formed in a hurry were insufficient to stop the Ottoman advance and the territories of Western Armenia were lost between February and April 1918. The Treaty of Brest Litovsk (March 3, 1918) between Soviet Russia and the Ottoman Empire recognized the transfer of Kars, Ardahan, and Batum to the latter. After the armistice of Mudros (October 30, 1918), the Republic of Armenia established its sovereignty over most of the region of Kars, and the Treaty of Sevres recognized the region of Kars and most of Western Armenia as part of Armenia (August 1920).
However, as a result of the Armeno-Turkish war of September-November 1920, the region of Kars and Alexandropol (nowadays Gumri) was occupied by the Turkish forces, which threatened once again the existence of Armenia. The invasion of the XI Red Army on November 29 forced the government of the Republic of Armenia to transfer the authority to the Communists on December 2, which turned the country into a Soviet republic.
Meanwhile, the representatives of the Republic signed the Treaty of Alexandropol with the Turks on the night of December 2 to 3. This treaty recognized the occupation of the region of Kars by Turkey. However, its legal validity was dubious, because it had been signed on behalf of a government that was already out of office. The next step was the signature of the Treaty of Moscow between Kemalist Turkey and Soviet Russia on March 16, 1921. Turkey received the region of Kars, and the southern portion of the region of Batum. Probably as a compensation for the north of the region of Batum, the Bolsheviks transferred the Armenian province of Surmalu to the Turks.
At the time, the February rebellion had expelled the Communist government from Armenia, while Georgia was still an independent republic. After Armenia and Georgia were finally occupied by the Red Army, the signature of the Treaty of Kars was meant to confirm the terms of the Treaty of Moscow by the representatives of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
The treaty was signed on October 13, 1921, and ratified in Yerevan on September 11, 1922. Signatories included four Turkish representatives, Russian ambassador Yakov Ganetsky, and two representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Minister of Foreign Affairs Askanaz Mravian and Minister of Interior Poghos Makintsian signed it on behalf of Armenia.
The treaty confirmed the division of the region of Batum, with the north ceded by Turkey to Georgia and the south, with the city of Artvin, annexed by Turkey, which was also guaranteed free transit through the port of Batum.
It also created a new boundary between Turkey and Armenia, defined by the Akhurian and Arax rivers. Turkey annexed most of the region of Kars, including Surmalu, with Mount Ararat and the cities of Igdir and Koghb, the cities of Kars, Ardahan, and Olti, and the ruins of Ani.
The region of Nakhichevan became an autonomous territory under the protection of Azerbaijan, which was turned into the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Nakhichevan in 1924, as an exclave subordinate to Soviet Azerbaijan and sharing a fifteen kilometer boundary with Turkey.
The Soviet Union attempted to annul the Treaty of Kars and regain the lost territories of Kars, Ardahan, and Artvin after World War II on behalf of Armenia and Georgia. However, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill objected to those territorial claims, and in 1947 the Soviet Union gave up its claims from Turkey.
The validity of the Treaty of Kars has been questioned on the basis that the sides that signed it did not have authority. The Turkish Grand National Assembly, which was represented by the Turkish signatories, had no authority to sign international treaties, which still rested with the legal ruler of the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan, as established by its Constitution. The Republic of Turkey was proclaimed in 1923. On the other hand, the Soviet republics were under strict control of Moscow and the Soviet Union was established in December 1922.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Treaty of Kars was accepted by Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. However, the government of Armenia has made no such ratification.
Nansen was a Norwegian scientist and explorer, who later took up the
cause of humanitarianism and had a crucial impact on Armenians in the
was born on October 10, 1861 near Norway’s capital Christiania
(nowadays Oslo). His mother died in 1877, and his father moved to the
capital with his two sons.
1881 Nansen entered the Royal Frederick University of the capital to
study zoology. After a five-month sea voyage to study Arctic zoology in
1882, he did not resume formal studies, but accepted a post as curator
in the zoological department of the Bergen Museum. In 1888 he defended
his dissertation on the central nervous system of certain lower
vertebrates. In 1889 he accepted the position of curator of the
university’s zoology collection and got married to Eva Sars, the
daughter of a late zoology professor. They had five children. His wife
died in 1907 and Nansen remarried in 1919.
scientific interests led him to famous expeditions, such as one across
the Greenland icecap in 1888 and another to reach the Northern Pole in
1894-1896 (he got closer than anyone else at the time) with the ship
Fram. During the twenty years following his return, Nansen devoted most
of his energies to scientific work. He accepted a professorship in
zoology at the university (1897) and in 1900 became director of the
Christiania-based International Laboratory for North Sea Research.
was involved in the process that led to the separation of Norway from
Sweden in 1905 and appointed Norway’s first minister in London
(1906-1908). He retired from the diplomatic service in 1908, and at the
same time his university professorship was changed from zoology to
oceanography. Between 1910 and 1914 Nansen participated in several
the creation of the League of Nations following the end of World War I,
he became president of the Norwegian League of Nations Society. His
advocacy helped ensure Norway’s full membership of the League in 1920
and he became one of its three delegates to the League's General
the League’s request, Nansen organized the repatriation of around half a
million prisoners of war, stranded in various parts of the world
between 1920 and 1922. In September 1921 he accepted the post of High
Commissioner for Refugees. His main task was the resettlement of around
two million refugees displaced by the upheavals of the Russian
Revolution, and the urgent problem of famine in Russia. The lack of
documentary proof of identity or nationality for many refugees prompted
him to devise the Nansen Passport, a form of identity for stateless
persons that allowed refugees to cross borders legally. He devised the
scheme of population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1922-1923. He
was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1922.
Nansen eats soup with orphans in Leninakan (nowadays Gyumri) during his visit to Armenia in 1925
1925 onwards, Nansen spent much time trying to help Armenian refugees
who were survivors of the genocide. His goal was the establishment of a
national home for them within the borders of Soviet Armenia. His main
assistant in this task was Vidkun Quisling, the future Nazi collaborator
and head of a Norwegian puppet government during World War II. After
visiting the region, Nansen presented the Assembly with a modest plan
for the irrigation of 36,000 hectares (139 square miles), where 15,000
refugees could be settled. The plan ultimately failed, because the money
to finance the scheme was not forthcoming. After his visit to Armenia,
Nansen wrote the book Gjennem Armenia (“Across Armenia”), published in
1927, and translated into English in 1928 as Armenia and the Near East
1926 Nansen was elected Rector of the University of St. Andrews, in
Scotland, the first foreigner to hold this largely honorary position. He
died of a heart attack on May 13, 1930, and was buried at his home in
Nansen Passport of French Armenian writer Arshag Tchobanian
after his death the League of Nations set up the Nansen International
Office for Refugees to continue his work. The Nansen Office secured the
agreement of 14 countries to the Refugee Convention of 1933. It also
helped to repatriate 10,000 Armenians to Armenia and to find homes for a
further 40,000 in Syria and Lebanon. The Office was awarded the Nobel
Peace Prize in 1938. In 1954 the League's successor body, the United
Nations, established the Nansen Medal, now called the Nansen Refugee
Award, which the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees annually bestows
upon an individual, group, or organization “for outstanding work on
behalf of the forcibly displaced.” In 1968 Soviet Armenian filmmaker
Sergei Mikaelyan directed a film on Nansen’s life, Bare et liv –
Historien om Fridtjof Nansen. A street in Yerevan bears the name of the
great Norwegian explorer and humanist.