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to Erivan. The district is inhabited by well-to-do people, who
can afford the richness of their national dress. Beneath the
foliage of the needle poplars, between the well-maintained mud
walls — over which you look to the vineyards and to the vegetable
gardens, where the tomato and the chili abound — a stream of
wayfarers, some on horseback, fill the pleasant avenue, chatting
and smiling under the expansive influence of ease and shade.
At intervals you pass a house or cluster of houses, where groups
of Armenian women in their holiday attire are gathered before
the open doors. They are clad in their gayest cottons, and wear
their picturesque head-dress and veils of white gauze. Some
among them nurse their babes at the open bosom, the little infant
cleaving to the full breasts. Tartars, with their black lambskin
hats and dark blue or black garments, compose an element which
a cynic would be loth to dispense with in such a scene of piping
peace ; yet it would be difficult to detect a trace on their clean-
shaven faces of passions which have, perhaps, been blunted by
time. Laden waggons pass, and numerous bullock-carts, with
their heavy, creaking wheels. We were amused by the appear-
ance of a curious pair of riders who, to judge from the deference
which was bestowed upon them, were evidently of exalted rank.
The man wore a flowing beard and was dressed in Oriental
apparel ; but he held in his hand a parasol of European pattern,
and his locks were surmounted by an English billycock hat. His

Return to Erivan 203

wife was by his side, astride of her Arab ; but the graceful
animal was almost invisible beneath her, his withers overtowered
by the huge bulk of her stomach, and his back enveloped in the
folds of her robes. It was an Assyrian bishop, journeying from

Kamarlu is perhaps a type of these villages of the campagna,
in which the population is composed of Armenians and Tartars,
of lambs and lions living side by side. It can boast a Russian
schoolhouse, a necessary institution in the case of the Tartars, to
judge by the barbarous and hideous frescos which enliven the
facade of their little mosque. The Armenians have their school,
and there are two Gregorian churches in which they satisfy their
spiritual needs. The houses are built of sun-baked bricks and
mud ; wooden stages rise to some height above the flat roofs, and
provide airy sleeping- places for the inhabitants during the
summer heats. After regaling ourselves with the delicious white
grapes of the district, we turned aside from the road to Erivan.
Crossing the outskirts of the village, we remarked the huge clay
wine jars which were strewn about in the courtyards. Beyond a
few fields, planted with cotton, we again entered the open desert,
and pursued our way over the crumbling mud. A rude and
winding track leads towards the river through patches of dusty
desert shrubs. Ararat fills the landscape, and is rarely seen to
greater advantage than from such tracts of naked land. On our
left hand rose a buttress of the Sevan mountains which had been
a landmark from the slopes of Ararat. It is composed of a
sandy rock of various hues, which has weathered into fanciful
shapes. In the delicate evening lights it is invested with the
appearance of some castle in fairyland.

From time to time we passed strings of three or four large
waggons, drawn by teams of oxen. Whole families of Armenians
were gathered within them, well dressed and well-to-do. They
were returning to their dwellings within the zone of gardens
from a pilgrimage to Khor Virap. The men were emptying their
little glasses, which they would replenish from wine-skins, and
feasting on water melons.

We arrived at the mound which rises from the flats about the
river and can be clearly seen from Ararat. According to Dubois,^
it consists of a mass of dolomite, isolated on the surface of the
plain. The church and cloister have been built on the side of

1 Op. cit. vol. iii. p. 480.

204 Armenia

the eminence ; the monastic dwellings screened the church from
our view. St. Gregory's dungeon is situated within the precincts;
and it would appear that the place was famous in the saint's lifetime
for a much-frequented temple of the fire-worshippers.

We were scarcely beneath the walls when the figure of a
horseman springs forward from some recess into the road. Throw-
ing his white Arab on to his haunches at a {q.\n yards before our
carriage, he challenges and constrains us to pull up dead. This
proceeding on his part, no less than his forbidding countenance,
throws me completely off my guard. On Russian soil one is
obliged to smother the irritation which is always threatening to
burst forth from a British breast. I shout to him to move
aside, or we will whip the horses and drive through him ; to
this he answers by drawing his revolver and threatening to
shoot. I ask him by what right he dared to obstruct the road-
way ; he replies by enquiring by what credentials we presume
to pass. It flashes through me that the game is in the hands
of this ruffian — we had been spoilt by the attentions of the high
officials, and to such an extent that we had forgotten to bring
even our passports, which had gone in our despatch box to Erivan.
It was useless to urge that one could not be obliged to show a
passport in order to be allowed to visit a church. He paid no
heed to any of our arguments, and compelled us to return with
him to Kamarlu. He even added the insult of requiring us to
suit our pace to his, and to follow at a walk or amble by his side.
This we flatly refused to do, and, taking the reins from the
trembling coachman, proceeded at a brisk trot. Simon Ter-
Harutiunoff — such was the name of this ferocious person — is
linked in our memory with the companion picture of Ivan the
Terrible, our stern custodian during the Akhaltsykh days. Both
are Armenians, and either might be taken as a model for the
embodiment of the fighting instincts in man. Tartars and Cossacks
are amenable creatures besides them ; and of the two, we were
inclined to bestow the palm upon Simon. His face was black
with exposure to the sun ; the eyes were yellow round the dark
iris and shot with red veins. His features were large and pro-
nounced, but of singular deformity ; the massive head was placed
upon broad shoulders above a frame of great bulk and iron
strength. He wore two medals, won during the war with Turkey
through personal bravery. His function in time of peace was to
police the Persian frontier in the district of Khor Virap.

Return to Erivan 205

These particulars we learnt in the office of the Pristav, upon
our return under such escort to Kamarlu. We claimed and were
permitted to proceed to Erivan; but the chapars were instructed to
prevent us from diverging, and to hand us over to the Nachalnik
at the provincial capital. In this manner we were foiled in our
antiquarian researches among these ancient sites. At Khor Virap
we saw nothing but some slight convexities in the surface of the
ground, which may be caused by buried remains. Beyond the
mound we observed a natural wall of rock, rising like a gigantic
ruin above the plain.

Evening had approached as we left the village, and proceeded
through the gardens, and crossed to the barren zone bej-ond.
From the rising ground we looked back over the forest of poplars
to the sun setting behind the peaks of the Ararat chain. The
satellite range wore the same tints of deep, opaque opaline which
fretted the horizon during our outward journe)'. It was shadowed
upon the same ground of orange and amber ; and the opal hues
of the land forms extended round the circle and included the
huge, horizontal outline of Alagoz. But the Sevan mountains,
in the opposite segment, were touched with pink and luminous
yellows ; the higher summits were white with fresh snow. In the
south-east the landscape was dim and vaporous ; nor could the
eye distinguish among the gathering shadows the basal slopes of
Ararat. The snow-fields of the dome shone with a cold light in
the sky, above vague banks of cloud. It was after eight o'clock
when we reached the pleasant town garden, and discussed our
adventures with the Xachalnik over a ciear.



Oriental cities — and Erivan is still essentially Oriental — may
perhaps be said to be built upon two planes. There is the plane
of the street, and there is the plane of the flat roofs, all at about
the same level. Where the climate during summer renders the
rooms of the house untenantable after the walls have been heated
through by the sun, the daily life of the inhabitants undergoes a
corresponding division into the life of the street and the life of the
roof About an hour before sunset the entire population mounts
from the lower apartments, or even from the cellars, to the open
platforms, floored with mud and sometimes protected by a low
balustrade, which receive the freshness of the evening breeze. It
is there that the last and first meals of the day are served, and
the quilts spread upon which sleep is enjoyed beneath the stars.
A strange scene it is when the faint light of morning has broken,
and when the recumbent forms commence to stir. The divisions
made by the narrow streets are scarcely perceptible ; your own
roof appears to join the roofs of your neighbours, and these to
compose a single and elevated stage above the landscape of dim
earth and flashing stream. Figures, erect from the waist, are
revealed in every posture ; and it may happen that the cotton
drapery has dropped from a woman's shoulders as she stretches
her arms in the fancied seclusion of some partial screen. Such
scenes are the daily accompaniment of a summer sojourn in the
towns upon the lowlands through which the Euphrates and the
Tigris flow. In Armenia, with a mean level of several thousand
feet above the sea, the practice of .sleeping in the open is confined
to the depression of this plain of the Araxes ; and even here it is
only partially indulged. The bettcr-to-do among the inhabitants
take refuge in the adjacent mountains when their dwellings have

At Erk



become little better than furnaces. The traveller is advised to
swelter within four walls rather than tempt fever from the expanse
of irrigated land by exposing himself to the night air.

Yet the twofold division of the city into an upper and a lower
region is nowhere more productive of startling contrast than in
this town of gardens which is Erivan. In the streets, lined as
they are with the rude stone walls of the enclosures, surmounted
b\' a crumbling ridge of clay, the vistas are confined by inexorable
foliage to the space of a stone's throw. The central park, with its

Fig. 40. Ararat from a house-top in Erivan.

wide spaces, enjo}'s no further landscape than that which is
limited by the zones of the adjacent buildings or by its own lofty
forest trees. Where you are not threading the narrow alleys of
the more thickly inhabited quarters, you will be winding by
irregular ways, deep in white dust, by the side of swirling water
or within hearing of its murmur beyond the bulwark which screens
the orchard from the lane. But from the standpoint of the roof
the horizon expands to boundaries which are so remote that they
are scarcely conceivable by a European mind. The foliage or
the hollow of the site eliminates the middle distance ; and the
opposite piles of Great Ararat in the south (Fig. 40) and of



Alagoz in the north (Fig. 41) rise immediately from the soft
foreground of the embowered houses. The landscape from the
high ground on the north, as you approach Erivan by the road
from Tiflis, is difficult to forget (Fig. 42). The whole fabric of
Ararat is exposed from base to summits ; but so tall are the
poplars and luxuriant the countless varieties of fruit trees, that
they almost conceal the domes of the mosques and the cupolas of
the churches, spread over the straggling township at your feet.
All this verdure is mainly due to the river Zanga, the Hrazdan

Fig. 41. Alagoz from a house-top in Erivan.

of the Armenians, which collects the drainage of a section of the
southern slopes of the border range, and which is fed by the
waters of Lake Sevan, called also Gokcheh, from its sky-blue
colour, and by Armenian writers the Lake of Gegham. This
beautiful alpine sea is surrounded by lofty mountains and has an
area 2\ times as large as that of Geneva. It produces salmon
trout of delicious flavour which are seldom absent from the bill of
fare in the provincial capital. It finds an outlet through the
Zanga into the Araxes at a difference in the level of 3600 feet.
The brawling Zanga, already weakened by the canals which
diffuse its waters, pursues a devious course at the foot of high and
rocky banks on the western outskirts of the town. Further east-

At Erivan 209

wards the irrigation is supplied by the Kirk Bulakh, a stream of
which the name signifies forty springs, and which has its sources
at no great distance from Erivan. Such abundance of running
water should secure to this growing city a large measure of
prosperity under settled government. As the centre of the most
populous of the Armenian provinces of the Russian Empire, to
which it gives its name, it is already a place of some pretensions.
But the inhabitants do not at present number more than 15,000,
of whom half are Tartars and half Armenians, This total
also comprises about 300 Russians, whose most conspicuous
units are the drivers of the carriages on hire, belonging, I believe,
exclusively to the Molokan sect.^

Erivan does not possess any monuments of first-rate merit or
of great antiquity. Her origin is obscure. Noah may quite well
have lived here before the Deluge, as one of the earliest of modern
European visitors was informed by his Armenian friends." The
popular derivation of the name is from the Armenian verb
erevel, and it is said to signify appearing. The place would,
indeed, be about the first locality in the plain region to appear to
the eyes of the patriarch of old." Hither may have been directed
his steps and those of his family when the waters had receded
from a world renewed. This may be the site of the original city
of Noah, perhaps preserved beneath the soil upon which is built
the present town. The more learned are inclined to a much later
foundation, but do not yield in point of philological plausibility
to the champions of the identification with Noah's city. They
say that the name has been shortened from Erovantavan, which they
render the place zv/icre Erovant was defeated. Erovant or Ervand
was an Armenian monarch of the first century who was vanquished
in this region by the lawful heir to the throne of the Arsakids at
the head of a Persian army. The event and the survival of the
name Erovantavan are attested by Moses of Khorene."* The

' According to the Jesuit, Pere Monier, who wrote an account of the mission at
Erivan in the eighteenth century, there were only 4000 inhabitants of the town proper
in his day. Of these only one-fourth were Armenians [Lettres Edifiantes, Mdmoires dii
Levant, Paris, 1780, vol. iii. p. 25). In the thirties of last century the usual esti-
mate seems to have been 2500 families or at least 10,000 souls, of whom some 700
to 1000 families were Armenian (Smith and Dwight, Missionary Researches, p. 279 ;
Sijalski, Aufenthalt in Erivan, Das Aiisland, Augsburg, 1839). The Armenians are
rapidly turning the tables upon the Tartars.

2 Chardin, edit. Paris, 181 1, vol. ii. p. 169.

^ "Erivan, apparens, quia regio ista prima apparuit Noe cum descenderet ex monte
Ararat" (Villotte, Diet. Arm. p. 273, quoted by Langles ap. Chardin, loc. cit.).

■* Moses of Khorene, vol. ii. p. 46.


2IO Aruieiiia

Mohammedan derivation from Revan Kul, a prince of the reign
of Shah Ismail (i 502-1 524)/ who is said to have fortified the
place by his master's order, cannot be reconciled with the fact
that Erivan was already in existence certainly in the eleventh and
probably in the seventh century." But it played no prominent
part whether in ancient or mediaeval history until the advent of
the Ottoman Empire. From the sixteenth century into modern
times it was continually disputed between the Sultans and their
powerful neighbours on the east, the Persian Shahs. The
enumeration of the sieges it sustained at the hands of Turks and
Persians would be a tax upon my reader's patience which I am
not disposed to levy. When the Russians appeared on the scene
it was in Persian possession ; and an unsuccessful attempt on
their part to capture the fortress in 1804 supplied the ground for
the firm belief in its impregnability which was cherished by its
Persian governors. This confidence was rudely shattered by
Paskevich in October 1827. His shells wrought fearful havoc in
the unsubstantial town, and one is said to have pierced the dome
of the mosque in the citadel, whither thousands of the wretched
inhabitants had fled for protection against the hail of the cannon.
The Russian army entered the place without encountering any
serious obstacle, and the Russian flag has waved there ever since.^
One might expect to find some mosques of considerable age
in a city which flourished under its Mohammedan masters. One
must, however, recollect that the Ottoman Turks are Sunnis and

1 Lane Poole, Mohaiinnedan Dynasties, London, 1894, p. 259.

- For the Mohammedan tradition see Travels of Evliya, translated by Von Hammer,
London, 1850, vol. ii. p. 150. "In the year 810 (a.D. 1407) Khoja Khan Lejchani,
a rich merchant of Timur's suite, settled here (at Erivan) with all his family and servants,
cultivating plantations of rice, by which means a great Kent was soon formed. Five
years later Shah Ismail gave to Revan Kul, one of his khans, an order to build a castle
here, which, being finished in seven years, was named after him Revan or Erivan."
'^\\ti. Jive years of Evliya are incomprehensible to me. Erivan is mentioned by John
Katholikos, who wrote in the eleventh century, as having been a considerable place in the
seventh (Saint-Martin's translation, Paris, 1841, p. 80).

■' Dubois de Montpereux, Voyage aiitoiir dti Caiicase, Paris, 1839, vol. iii. pp. 346
seq. When Morier, secretary to the British Embassy to Persia, visited the sirdar or
governor of Erivan in 1814, he was told by his host with great gravity that "if three or
four of the kings of Fireng (Europe) were to unite to take this castle, they might just
take the trouble of going back again, for their labours would be in vain" (Morier, Second
Journey, London, 1818, p. 319). The sirdar's view was not held by British officers,
one of whom, in giving an account of his visit in 1837, says, " I had expected to find
the castle almost impregnable from the honours which were heaped upon the Marshal
Paskevich for its capture, and was quite surprised to find a mere Turkish fort, strong
indeed by nature on one side, but on the other three defended merely by a mud wall,
and commanded from all the adjoining hills " (Wilbraham, Travels in the Trans-
catuasian Provinces, etc., London, 1839).

At Erivait 2 1 1

the Persians Shiahs ; what the one may erect the other loves to
destroy. We are expressly told that when Shah Safi took the
place in A.D. 1635 all the mosques built by the Turks were razed
to the ground.^ About the same time the position of the town,
or perhaps only of the fortress, underwent a change, being removed
some eight hundred paces to its present site on the rocky cliffs at
the foot of which the Zanga i^ows/' The Persians do not appear
to have enriched it at that period with any remarkable buildings ;
and it was recovered by the Turks in 1724.^ Some ten years
later it again fell into the hands of the Persians as one of the
conquests of Nadir Shah. The principal mosque is said to date
from the reign of this monarch. The curious old tower which
was seen by Chardin as well as by Tournefort, and of which
the lineaments have been handed down to us by the former of
these travellers, has long since disappeared.

Still the buildings which at present exist are well worth a
visit ; and I propose to invite my reader to accompany me in
a leisurely ramble through the alleys of Erivan. The more
populous quarters are divided into a western and an eastern
half, at first by the broad, metalled road which comes from
Tiflis, and, further south, by the central park. Speaking
generally, the eastern half is inhabited by the Tartars and the
western by the Armenians. In the one you will discover the
mosques, in the other the churches. But the churches are either
small and quite insignificant stone structures, or have been
restored beyond recognition in comparatively recent and tasteless
times. I counted no less than six, including the Russian church
at the southern extremity of the town. Of these the oldest
foundation would appear to be that of Surb Katholike, which Surb Katho-
stands in a pleasant walled garden, adjoining the great road,
in the upper or northern quarter. An ancient elm dwarfs the
humble oblong edifice, which is entered from a portal on the
south side, added in 1861. The interior, which is very low,
is disposed in a nave and aisles, an apse and two side apses or
chapels. Chardin attributes a church of this name to the latest

^ " In dieser abermahligen \'eranderung seynd auch alle Tiirkische Moscheen der
Stadt iibern Hauften geworffen . . . also das etliche dergleichen Tempel bis zum
Fundament erniedriget und iibel arger von Persianen verwiistet als jemahl die Kirchen der
Christen von Tiircken zugerichtet worden seynd. So zUchtiget Gott die Mahunietaner
mit Mahumetanern " (Schillinger, Persianische unci Ost-Indianische Reise voin Jahr
l6gg bis IJ02, Niirnberg, 1707).

- Tavernier, edit, of Paris, 1679, vol. i. p. 37 ; Pere Monier, op. cit. vol. iii. p. 24.

^ Von Hammer, Geschichtc dcs Os/ii. Eeickes, vol. vii. p. 321.



kings of Armenia, and the priests assured me that it was indeed
the earliest in date at Erivan. It was here that in Persian times
the katholikos would officiate, while residing in the provincial

Pauios Petros. A little lowcr down the road we pass Paulos Petros (Paul

and Peter), the largest and the least pleasing of the town churches.
But once we have left the wide avenue to become involved in
the network of gardens on the north and north-west, any medio-
crity in the buildings we visit is amply compensated by the
charm of the enclosures in which they stand. Such verdure of

Surb Joannes, every shade and constant hum of flowing water ! To Surb
Joannes we come first — four walls and a metal roof, to which is
attached a wooden belfry, painted green. You see the Zanga
issuing from a cleft in the barren hills, of which the hardness
contrasts with the foliage at their base. The little portal of
Joannes is quite a pretty feature, and I was informed that the
church dates from the latter part of the seventeenth century.

Surb Zoravar. A more ambitious structure is Surb Zoravar, situated some little,
distance in an easterly direction, but still within the zone of these
high slopes on the north. It is surrounded by old gardens and
overshadowed by walnut trees. The body of the church is quite
plain, four walls and a roof of low pitch ; but an elaborate portal,
surmounted by a belfry and supported by four massive piers,
extends the whole length of the west front. Two piers in the
centre are panelled and richly carved by the most delicate of
chisels. There is a very old doorway on the south side with
spiral mouldings, and the frescos over the principal entrance — a
rare feature — are well drawn and show good feeling for colour.
I understand that the present church has supplanted an older
building ; but I will not vouch for the statement that the portal
is due to Moses Katholikos (a.d. 1629- 1363), as I was informed
by the aged and ignorant priest. He came at last, after many
peals from the belfry, his tottering frame supported by a lay
companion. The clergy of Erivan are not more enlightened than
the most backward of their profession in remote districts of the
Turkish provinces.

On the other hand the greater material well-being of the
laity is made manifest by the air of comparative comfort presented
by the interiors of their places of worship. Of course one misses
the pews of our English churches, or the serried lines of chairs
which furnish the temples of the Continent. But the floors are

At Erivan


well carpeted and the bare walls kept in repair. From Surb
Zoravar one may readily regain the Tiflis road and pass in a southerly

Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 49)