H. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) Lynch.

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direction along the central park. Thence it is no great distance
to the principal mosque of the city, the Gbk Jami or mosque ofGokjami.
heaven. This edifice is situated in the western half of Erivan,
and is surrounded by dwellings of Tartars in considerable number,
overlapping into
the Armenian
quarters. It is
approached from
the narrow

streets of a bazar
consisting of
booths, and is
entered by a
handsome door-
way at the side
of an imposing
minaretjOf which
the surface is
diversified by
designs in poly-
chrome tiles
(Fig. 43). You
pass through a
vaulted passage
into the great
court (Fig. 44).
It is a vast place,
shady and
serene. Lofty
elms of great
age shadow the
basin of over-
flowing water which bubbles in the centre of the paved spaces.
Upon its margin are gathered figures in long robes and turbans,
or attired in the Persian fashion and wearing the Persian lambskin
hat. These are busy with their ablutions ; while elsewhere, beneath
the shade, mollahs are instructing groups of their younger pupils,
seated on mats spread upon the flags. Beds of single dahlias
refresh and please the eye. Of life and movement there is no

Fig. 43. Entrance to Gok Jami, Erivan.



lack ; people are coming and going ; there in the distance a train
of shapeless forms in deep blue draperies makes its way to the
women's mosque. But the absence of the least suspicion of haste
spreads an atmosphere of delightful repose. It requires no small
fortitude — they would call it diseased curiosity — to pace from side
to side and ascertain that this quadrangle measures 87 paces by 58.
The latter is the dimension of the side on the south, upon which
is built the temple itself (Fig. 45). Beneath the spacious dome
men and women are gathered indiscriminately, the women veiled

Fig. 44, Court with basin of Gok Jami, Erivan.

in Persian fashion. There is nothing very remarkable in the
architecture of the mosque ; but the floral paintings which adorn
the ceiling of a companion and smaller edifice on the north side
of the court are of very high merit. The remainder of the
quadrangle is taken up by rows of low buildings, containing
chambers in which the older scholars pursue their studies. One
wonders what they may be learning. A mollah of importance
informs us that the Gok Jami was built in the time of Nadir
Shah (A.D. 1 7 36- 1 747) by the sirdar, Hoseyn Ali Khan.

With the exception of the mosque in the fortress, the
religious edifices of the Mohammedans are extremely well
maintained, I counted three mosques in the Tartar quarters.

At Erh



That of Haji Nusrallah Bey and the Shehr Jami (town mosque) Haji Nusraiiah
are almost exactly similar in design. The former is evidently a ^^^^^ t^^^j
replica of the latter, which displays a Turkish inscription on the
outer door with a date which we read as 1098 (a.D. 1687). But
it must have been restored since that time. Although much
smaller than Gok Jami, it bears some resemblance to that
building ; and the walled court with its fountain and beds of
long- stalked dahlias is as pleasant a refuge from dusty alleys
as man could desire.

Fig. 45. The Temple, Gok Jami.

But perhaps the most interesting monument is the kiosque Kiosque of the
of the sirdars, in the extreme southern angle of the town. ^"''^'^''^•
We may approach it from the west, and take Surb Sargis on Surb Sargis.
the way. That church and pleasant terrace on the high land
above the Zanga commands an extensive view over the southern
quarters and across the plain to Ararat. The deeply -bedded
river is flowing on an easterly course towards the fortress and
the gardens of the sirdars outside its walls. After skirting
those parapets it will turn abruptly in the reverse direction, and
pursue a more tranquil career to the Araxes. The fortress to
which we proceed is still some distance off, and the walls of mud

2i6 Armc7iia

and rubble which line the cliffs on the left bank of the Zanga
are rapidly falling into total ruin. While they are flanked by
the swirling stream they may once have possessed some power
of resistance ; but after the river has deserted the site beyond
the abrupt bend, the town is exposed immediately to the
plain. The sirdar's palace composes the kernel of the fortified
area, and its windows overlook the river. But the extensive
buildings of his well-stocked harem, the magazines of his garrison
and the abodes of his courtiers have either disappeared altogether
or are rapidly crumbling away. From among a heap of ruins
rises intact a single edifice, which is kept in repair by the Russians.
It is the pavilion in which the sirdar was wont to beguile his
leisure. From the window in the alcove of this elaborate interior
(Fig. 46) he would feast his eyes on the landscape — the river at
his feet, his own shady garden in the plain, the dim spaces backed
by the fabric of Ararat. Here he exercised his skill as a marks-
man upon the donkeys of the unfortunate peasants, sending a
ball through them as they wound along the road on the right
bank of the Zanga towards the bridge with its two pointed arches.^
This bridge is placed just below the pavilion, and is still the only
avenue of communication between Erivan and the country beyond
the river. What consummation of Oriental felicity to sit on
cushions in this glittering apartment and watch the caravans
which fill your coffers defiling below ! From time to time there
may come an embassy to your overlord of Persia, and there will
be a report to dictate upon the size and splendour of the cavalcade.
The beauties of Georgia and Circassia luxuriate in the adjoining
halls, and water flows in abundance everywhere. The governor
of Erivan was quite a little king in the country, and, when he
travelled, the inhabitants of the villages along his route would
immolate an ox in his honour.-

The incrustation which my reader may admire upon the
vaulting of the alcove is composed of pieces of mirror which
shine like the facets of a jewel. An encrusted cornice of the
same material surmounts the walls of the pavilion below a ceiling
profusely adorned with floral designs, conspicuous being the iris
and the rose. Eight paintings on canvas, applied to shallow
recesses, are distributed around the room. I believe they are
copies, made since the Russian occupation, of originals which
had fallen into decay. The two which are comprised by my
1 Morier, Second Journey, p. 320. - Dubois de Montpt-reux, op. cit. vol. iii. p. 452.

At Erivan 217

illustration, one on either side of the alcove, represent on the
left hand the figure of Hoseyn Khan Sirdar, and, on the right,
the Persian hero Feramez. Of the remainder, three are portraits
— Fath Ali, Shah of Persia (i 797-1 834), his son Abbas Mirza
and Hasan Khan, brother to the Sirdar Hoseyn ; while an equal
number are indifferent renderings of heroic personages — the
warriors Sherab and Rustem, and a Persian Amazon. One of
my predecessors has recorded that at the time of his visit in
1834 the panels in the alcove were adorned with four pictures
setting forth subjects which were well conceived to amuse the
fancy of an old debauchee. A Mussulman was receiving wine
from a fair Georgian in the presence of the monks of Edgmiatsin,
whose arguments had been less potent to effect his conversion
than the fleshly charms of the Christian girl. A Persian beauty
in loose trousers and diaphanous upper garment was making her
obeisance to the Shah. Here a prince of the blood royal in
costume of the chase dallied with a maiden while her aged father
lay asleep ; there the beautiful features of Joseph spread havoc
among the assembled ladies at the house of the wife of Potiphar.^
These various incitements to delight no longer grace the forlorn
kiosque, and perhaps their disappearance is no great loss to the
world of art. The original decoration, which is quite intact, upon
the walls and ceiling enables us to judge how great had been the
artistic decadence of Persia since her painters displayed their
skill upon the walls of the Chehel Situn, the noble pavilion on
the banks of the Zenda Rud.

From this kiosque we may make our way to the adjoining
mosque of the fortress, which is now no longer frequented by Mosque of the
the faithful. It stands a little east of the old palace ; the interior ^°''''^2^-
beneath the spacious dome is decorated with much skill by means
of little bricks of many colours. The great court is already ruinous.
An old henna-stained attendant informed us that it was erected in
the reign of Fath Ali Shah and that it was known as the Abbas
Mirza Jami. Walls and palace and mosque are, I conclude, already
doomed. Hard by their crumbling remains are seen the barracks
of the Russian garrison and the metal roof of a Russian church.
The last of the sirdars is already long since dead, he whose portrait
hangs on the wall of the pavilion. He died in a miserable stable,
bereft of everything but the squalid garment which clothed his
aged body. Yet his memory is pleasantly associated with one of

^ Dubois, ibid. pp. 339 sec], and Atlas.

2 1 8 A rvienia

the favourite episodes of Persian romance. It is related that a
young Georgian travelled to this fortress above the Zanga to catch
a glimpse of his betrothed in the sirdar's harem. The girl, espying
her lover, precipitated herself towards him from the window, and
was saved from certain death by a willow which broke her fall.
The pair were captured ; but the incident touched the heart of
her jealous owner, who pardoned them both and let them go.
His generous speech has been preserved : " Hearts so closely united
let no man endeavour to part." ^

Perhaps the best introduction to the population of a city con-
sists in a visit to the schools. Erivan is better supplied in respect
both of elementary and secondary education than any other town
in the Armenian provinces of the Russian Empire. But, before
recording my personal impressions of what I saw during a brief
inspection, I should like to review the conditions which govern
the schools. When Russia became mistress of a large portion of
Armenia, her rulers found that their Armenian subjects were
already in possession of a school system of which, with their
customary tenacity, they were extremely jealous, and which prob-
ably dated from the invention of the Armenian alphabet as early
as the fifth century. The Church has been for long ages the
pillar of Armenian nationality ; and the schools were affiliated to
the Church. There were not therefore wanting all the elements
of a bitter quarrel ; and if any question more than another has
envenomed the relations between the Armenians and their Russian
rulers it is this question of the schools.

When the constitution of the Armenian Church and its rela-
tions to the Government were embodied in a State document, a
chapter was inserted by virtue of which the Tsar of Russia
formally recognised the Church schools.^ They were stated to
have as their object the religious and moral education of the children,
and to be under the guidance and supervision of the bishops. It
was provided that their rules and curricula should be submitted to
the synod at Edgmiatsin, and that this body should in turn
transmit them for acceptance to the Minister of the Interior. A
rider was added to the effect that it was a matter of importance
that the clergy should become acquainted with the Russian
language, and with the history and geography of the Russian

1 Dubois, ihid. \i. 346, and Morier, Hajji Baba.
^ Chapter viii. of the Polojcnye of 1836.

At Erivan 219

It is only fair to the Government to remark, by way of par-
enthesis, that although a period of over half a century has elapsed
since the promulgation of this document, few teachers and still
fewer pupils have yet displayed even moderate proficiency in the
speaking and writing of Russian. With the growth of material
prosperity, which was the outcome of the Russian occupation, the
Armenian schools prospered and their standards rose. The
teachers, who were laymen, were taken from good families ; and
one may safely assert that at the present day the Armenian youth
are instructed by the best educated and best informed among
their countrymen. Many of them have studied in Europe,
principally in Germany, and are men of far higher attainments in
the field of knowledge than such as might be required by the
teaching which they are permitted to dispense. The first step taken
by Government to cut the wings of the national schools was the
limitation of the standard of instruction. The class is in Russia
the measure of this standard, the first class standing at the bottom
of the scale. Schools of five classes were frequently attached to
the churches ; and the scholars who desired to pursue their studies
still further passed to the so-called seminary of the diocese in
which they lived. In this manner it was possible for a youth to
receive all but the highest university education in his native
language and through his native institutions. It is true that the
Minister of the Interior had a right of censorship ; but in view of
the gravity of the fancied danger this safeguard was only partial.
So the Government drew the pen through the third, fourth, and
fifth classes and left the Armenians nothing more than the
elementary course. Such action was thought to be arbitrary in
view of the fact that these schools are supported by purely
voluntary contributions.

Empire ! what insidious wickedness, surpassing the horrors of
war, is committed in the name of empire ! Surely it is a right as
elementary as that of security for life and property to supervise
the education of your children. One might sympathise with the
Russian Government had they merely required that the standard
of instruction should not fall below the standard of schools in
Russia. Nor should we be inclined to withhold our sympathy if
they had only renewed their insistence upon the necessity of a
knowledge of Russian. That was the wise as well as the humane
policy. The ukase of 1884 was conceived in a very different
spirit, and may be branded as an infamous document. It pro-

2 20 Armenia

vided that Church schools with more than two classes should be
placed upon the same basis as private schools in Russia, that is to
say that the whole of the instruction should be conducted in the
Russian language. This was tantamount to closing such schools.
The supreme control of the elementary schools was transferred
from the Ministry of the Interior to the Department of Education.
The seminaries were suffered to exist upon the basis of the decree
of 1836, but their object was defined to be the preparation of
clergymen to meet the requirements of the Armenian Church.

The synod at Edgmiatsin, although already placed in leading
strings by Government, did not see their way to accept this decree.
They urged that, since it had been issued during a vacancy of the
Chair, its consideration should be postponed until the election of a
new katholikos. Government retaliated by closing the schools.
Nor were they again opened until in 1886 the pontiff Makar
signified his consent to the provisions of the ukase, subject to some
small concession as to the scope of the curricula in schools of two
classes. The higher classes remained closed. Such was the
situation at the time of my visit. It had, however, been further
enacted that after the lapse of a prescribed period every teacher
in an Armenian school should be required to possess a certificate
from the Russian Department of Education. In order to obtain
this certificate the candidate must pass an examination conducted
in the Russian language. The term of grace was coming to an
end in a few months, and I gathered that few teachers had acquired
the necessary linguistic proficiency.^

Education is not a department of human activity which can
be properly conducted upon military principles. The only disci-
pline healthy for the mind is that which is derived from the
unfettered exercise of the faculties with which it has been endowed.
In Erivan I had occasion to remark the contrast in intellectual
atmosphere between the Russian and the Armenian school. Here
were offered two typical examples of these diverse species, still
existing side by side. As the capital of a diocese, the Church
has still the right to possess a seminary in the town of Erivan.
The seminary embraces the standards which we may call secondary
education, and has no less than six classes. It has contrived to
evade the restrictions which are in the spirit of the ukase of 1884

1 I was informed by a competent authority that, inchiding Tiflis and the whole of
Russian Transcaucasia, there were not less than 400 Armenian schools in existence at
the time of my visit. About one-third of the number would be schools for girls.

At Erivan 221

in respect of the character of its pupils. It was quite obvious
that very few were destined to take orders, although perhaps the
majority of the 360 scholars were included in the elementary
classes. There was no trace of any clerical bias in the choice of
treatises ; and the teachers in secular subjects were, I believe, all
laymen. One at least was a young man of exceptional ability,
trained in Europe at his own expense. It would be difficult to
find among the staff of our secondary schools a master better
equipped for his task. The pupils, whose age extended from ten
to twenty years, did not appear to acquire knowledge by rote.
The Principal spoke the German language fluently and was in
touch with the thought of the West. Yet even this privileged
institution has been clipped of much of its usefulness by being
placed at an unfair advantage as compared to the Russian school.
It is interdicted the seventh and eighth classes, although there
can be no doubt in respect of the competency of its staff. It is
perhaps for this reason that it is not as a rule attended by sons
of the richest citizens. Its income of ;^i8oo a year is principally
subscribed by Armenians of means. Only about a sixth of the
sum comes from the pupils. The majority receive their education
free of charge.

The subjects taught in the highest class are theology and
psychology, mathematics, physics, logic, modern history and
modern languages. In the latter category they are restricted by
order to Russian and French. The instruction is conducted in
Armenian except in the case of Russian language and literature,
when the Russian tongue is used. Their text-book in psychology
was a Russian translation of Alexander Bain and in logic of W. S.
Jevons. Besides this seminary, which is attached to the church
of Surb Sargis, there is a school for girls with 200 pupils.

The Russian school is mainly supported by the State out of
revenues derived from taxation. It has the rank and is known
by the name of a gyinnasiiiui in the German acceptation of that
term. Its subvention produces a yearly income of ^4500, which
is supplemented by the fees paid by nine-tenths of the scholars,
amounting to about ^4 a head. Out of 260 boys and youths some
26 were boarders and the rest day pupils. The boarders sleep in
a long dormitory, kept scrupulously clean and neat. The majority
pay for their maintenance £2 5 a year ; the poorer can only afford
£\^. The school is housed in a commodious building in the
centre of the town and exhibits every sign of prosperity. It has

2 22 Armenia

large and well-furnished reception rooms for days of fete. The
class rooms, with their rows of forms and large black-boards,
inspire a salutary awe. The library is well stocked and does the
Russian Director great credit, as does the general organisation of
the institution.

But the spirit of the place is that of the camp ; the methods
are purely military, and one almost expects the sound of a bugle
to announce which lesson shall be rehearsed. Since human
memory is of brief span and the recollection of facts is of no great
value, it is not so much this faculty that requires cultivation as
the habit of study and the power to collate facts. The education
dispensed by this school will not produce scholars or thinkers ;
indeed the pen is here the servant of the sword. But at least it
serves to sharpen the wits, and to induce a nimbleness of mind
which can scarcely fail to be of use to its Mohammedan members.

All who can afford to buy a uniform appear in trousers and
tunic of blue cloth, enlivened with brass buttons. A dress of
similar material is worn by the ushers. The pupils are drilled
and put through simple military exercises ; they may be seen
marching with music at their head. Yet this is a civil institution.
It is the only gyuinashun or High School in the Russian provinces
of the Armenian plateau. At the time of my visit the school list
contained the names of 159 Armenians, Gj Russians, 9 Georgians,
7 Poles and i 8 Tartars. Only the last belonged to the Moham-
medan religion.

When it is remembered that the Tartars compose one-half of
the inhabitants and are numerous in the districts about Erivan, the
poor show which they make among the inmates of this important
school is a very significant fact. As a body, they shut themselves
off from Western education ; and for this reason they appear
destined to be edged out by the Armenians, as a species unable to
adapt itself to the new environment. They are still in possession
of some of the richest land in the province, and many among
them are wealthy men of leisure. These khans occasionally send
a son to the school. But the Director informed me that youths
of this class were rarely successful ; they were indolent and left
at an early age. Those who belonged to the middle class stayed
longer and were much more hopeful. Although I passed through
every room while the students were pursuing their tasks, I only
counted six Tartars, all told. The method of procedure was
extremely entertaining. Accompanied by the amiable Director,

At Erivan 223

I was introduced to the presiding usher, who would descend from
his dais and extend his hand. Some fifty to a hundred bright
black eyes were focussed upon us ; all were standing, not a
muscle moved and not a sound was heard. Then some such
little comedy as this would be gone through : —

TJie Director (addressing myself in German). " This is the
Latin class. Permit me to present you to M. — off. (In Russian)
Pupils, you may sit down (a single clap and shuffle — perfect
silence). You, Sir, will please address the Professor in the Latin

Myself (after a long and embarrassed pause). " Gratias ago ;
clementiam, benigne rector, reposco. Consuetudinem linguae
Latins parum conservo. Verum versus video in nigra ista tabula
inscriptos, mihi valde familiares : ' O utinam tunc quum Lacedae-
mona classe petebat, obrutus insanis esset adulter aquis.' Vellem
interrogare discipulos quisnam ille fuerit adulter."

TJie Usher (a forlorn and crushed individual. At first listless ;
but he encounters the flashing eyes of the little Director, and
stammers). " Sv . . . svit . . . niet, niet . . ." (and he proceeds
in Russian).

The Director. " My colleague desires me to state that he
quite understands what you said. You wished to express admira-
tion of our new blackboards. I thank you in his and my name.
Is there any question you would like to put?"

Myself. " There appear to be about thirty boys in this class.
I wonder what proportion Tartars bear to Armenians among

The Director. " Russians, stand up ! " (some four or five fair-
haired and closely -cropped youths rise in their places. Their
faces show intelligence, and one likes them) — " Armenians, stand
up ! " (the first batch sit down ; practically the whole class springs
to its feet) — " Tartars, stand up ! " (one little boy at the extreme
end of the class confronts his seated schoolmates).

One feature of this institution seemed specially well conceived ;
it was the manner in which the religious difficulty was solved.
Two different religions — the Mohammedan and the Christian —
and three distinct professions of the latter — the Gregorian
Armenian, Roman Catholic (Poles), and so-called Russian Orthodox
— were represented among the pupils and were expounded to
their several votaries by as many diverse types of the holders of
sacerdotal office. Separate rooms were set aside in which the

2 24 Armenia

mollah taught Islam, and the papa or padre or vardapet explained
the New Testament. In this manner each youth received instruc-
tion in the faith of his fathers at the hands of one of its ofificial
exponents ; while the rub and wear of continual intercourse in

Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 49)