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the secular classes accustomed Mohammedan and Christian,
Russian Orthodox and Gregorian Armenian to respect their
classmates and to tolerate each other's faith. The extension of
such a system over the whole of these provinces would be likely
to work incalculable good ; and, side by side with glaring defects
in the methods of secular instruction, it is a real pleasure to be
able to congratulate the State schools upon such a salutary
feature and cordially to wish them success.

The Tartars of Erivan are for the most part of Turkish
descent, and of kindred race to the bulk of the inhabitants of the
neighbouring Persian province of Azerbaijan. But some of the
number included under this name in the statistics may more
properly be designated as Persians. All profess the Shiah tenets.
I had expected to find them extremely fanatical, judging by my
experience of their co-religionists in Persia, and by an account
given of them by a French traveller.^ But not only are Christians
permitted to enter their mosques ; they are even received with
cordiality by the groups assembled in the outer courts. I do not
know whether this altered demeanour may be due to a policy of
no nonsense pursued by the Russian Government. If such be the
case it is a significant fact. How often have I stood before the
door of a mosque in Persia, casting eager glances at the vista of
priceless treasures within ! On each occasion I have in vain
appealed to the Governor, who would urge that he could not be
responsible for my safety, and beg me not to attempt to enter.
At Erivan I was invited to penetrate into every part, and to stand
by the side of the faithful while they prayed. I have already
stated that the Tartar inhabitants include many men of means,
who live on the proceeds of their extensive gardens. But a good

^ Miiller-Simonis {Dii Caiuase an Golfe Persique, Paris, 1892, p. 62), speaking of
the celebration of the ceremonies in honour of Ali and Hoseyn at Erivan, says: "Le
soir les fanatiques qui devront representer les martyres a la giande procession, font une
promenade aux flambeaux, amies de sabres et de gourdins. lis agitent en mesure leurs
flambeaux et leurs armes, criant en meme temps a tue-tete : ' Hussein, Ali, Hussein, Ali.'
Les reflets rouges des torches, ici decoupant les blanches silhouettes des maisons, la
plongeant en lueurs etranges sous la verdure des arbres, puis eclairant en plein les
figures hideuses de ces devots, forment un spectacle sauvage et fantastique. '' The picture
is true to life. I have little doubt that such a procession may still be witnessed at

Ai Erivau 225

proportion of the large shop-keepers belong to this race, and are
well-mannered and fairly well-educated men. I fancy, however,
that they would scarcely be able to compete with the Armenians,
were it not for the support of patrons of their own blood. For
the rest, the small hucksters and the sellers of fruit are in a
very large proportion Tartar. So, almost exclusively, are the
workers in mud after their various kinds : plasterers, embankers,
m.akers of ducts to water the gardens. The gardeners and drivers
of carts largely belong to this nation ; but there is scarcely a
carpenter or a skilled mason who is not an Armenian.

While the Tartars are reputed to hoard, the Armenians are
excessively lavish, and spend large sums in building themselves
fine houses. Many an ornate villa in Italian style may be seen
emerging from the foliage of the gardens. Here and there quite
a little palace faces the street. Yet, with all their comparative
wealth, they have not yet emerged from the material stage, and I
searched in vain for a bookseller. Indeed, in spite of many signs
of progress and of her favourable geographical position, Erivan
can scarcely yet be said to be connected with the pulse of the
great world. Here is a city not so far from Europe, and needing
capital for her development ; yet scarcely any capital has found
its way in. Teheran, although much more distant, has a numerous
European colony ; and there is not an enterprise, from banks to
electric lighting and tramways, which a number of candidates are
not contending with each other to supply. You will not meet a
single foreign industrialist in Erivan, nor be able to purchase any
but Russian newspapers. Even the Armenians are not encouraged
to develop the resources of the country. The following question
which I addressed to a prominent Armenian capitalist may
exhibit, together with the answer, the magnitude of those resources
and the reasons assigned for the fact that they are not exploited.

Q. " Can you explain to me why so little use is made of your
natural advantages — the immense extent of idle soil and the
abundance of water ? In the north you have the vast reservoir
of Lake Sevan ; in the south the Araxes, running in full stream
to the Caspian Sea. Cultivation might surely be increased to
many times its present area without any great expense."

A. " The waste lands are for the most part in the hands of

the Russian Government, and they are not inclined to sell or lease

them to Armenians. They are believed to be keeping them for

Russians, but the Russians do not come. A successful piece of

VOL. I o

2 26 Armenia

reclamation has been made by General Cheremetieff in the neigh-
bourhood of Ararat. We have made repeated proposals to take
lands and irrigate them, but we have never been able to obtain

Perhaps, if these lines come to the eyes of M. Witte, he will
give the matter the attention which it deserves.

The same exclusive economical policy, as manifested in
protective duties, has deflected commerce from the natural avenue
of the valley of the Araxes, and caused it to pursue more lengthy
and less convenient routes. There is scarcely any transit trade
with Persia. The prosperity of the place is therefore dependent
on native industries, which comprise the cultivation and export of
cotton, wine and rice. Cotton to the value of about iS^4 00,000 is
annually despatched by waggon or camel to the station of Akstafa
on the Tiflis railway, and thence, via Batum and the Black Sea
or Baku and the Caspian, to the manufacturing centres of Russia.
Three large Russian firms are locally represented by offices and
factories, where the cotton is purchased and cleaned and pressed.
The presses, which are of English make, are driven by horse power.
While this industry is in the hands of Russians the trade in wine
is conducted by Armenians ; and very excellent wine have they
succeeded in producing. The value of the yearly export, which
goes exclusively to Russia, is as yet only i^20,ooo. But the
enterprise of M. Karapet Afrikean, who has closely studied his
subject in Germany, has already effected a marked improvement
in the quality of the wine, and is likely to lead to a great increase
in the demand. Rice is also exported and in considerable
quantities to Erzerum and the Turkish provinces. The fruits of
Erivan are almost unrivalled in the world ; but I do not know
that they are preserved and sent away.

Such is the city which, with its vast and populous province,
absorbs all the time and all the energies of its Russian governor,
sitting at his green baize table overlooking the park. General
Frese has a real affection for that table, which he has shaped to
fit his figure. From early morning to late night his erect
and military form is condemned to that inactive but rigid posture.
He never indulges in the relaxation of an arm-chair. While you
puff your cigarette among his hospitable cushions, he will discourse
upon the mighty rivers and forests of Siberia from across the field
of green baize. Dinner is served in a room displaying all the
skill of Persian artists, and overlooking, through a window

At Erivan 227

composed of tiny panes of glass, a miniature garden disposed as
for the stage of a theatre. I need hardly say that this work of
fancy was not created by the order of the present occupant of
Government House. Still the fare at his table is worthy of the
most refined palate ; such excellent trout and tender chickens and
the pick of the native wine ! Immediately after the meal he
resumes his seat in the adjoining room behind the green baize.
He attributes the backwardness of the country to excessive
centralisation at St. Petersburg, a process which has been tending
to assume increasing proportions now that the Caucasus is no
longer administered by a Grand Duke.



At five o'clock in the afternoon of the 4th of October we set out
for Edgmiatsin. It is a drive of about thirteen miles across the
plain. Our luggage was consigned to a waggon of the post, and
we ourselves enjoyed the luxury of a light victoria, drawn by four
horses abreast. They covered the distance in an hour and forty
minutes, although the road is in many places a mere track.

What a drive ! It is so well within reach of Europe that it
ought to be included, like the journey to Italy, in the programme
of a liberal education. The railway will before long arrive at
Erivan, and then the pilgrimage will be still easier to undertake.
Not all the tourists in the world will disturb the harmony of this
landscape ; the screeching trains, the loud hotels, the Babel of
tongues will be lost, like a flight of starlings, in this expanse. It
is here that the spirit of Asia is most intensely present — an inner
sanctuary to those outer courts through which the traveller may
have wandered and never crossed the threshold of this plain.
And it is a spirit and an influence which arouse deep chords
within us and send them sounding through our lives.

The landscape at once combines and accentuates the salient
features of the Asiatic highlands. There is the plain which was
once the bed of an inland sea. It stretches west and east
without visible limits ; and this evening it has all the appearance
of water. In the west it is mirage which produces this effect.
The long north-western slope of the Ararat fabric assumes the
character of a dark and narrow promontory rising on an opposite
shore. From the cast, beyond the train of the Little Ararat, a
cold mist — may it be from the Caspian ? — is slowly wafted over
the steppe, and the illusion is complete. Into those liquid spaces
sweep the basal vaultings of Alagoz — the boulder-strewn declivi-

Edgmiatsin and the Arineuian Church 229

ties which we keep on our right hand, and which seem to embody
on a typical scale that quality of hopeless sterility which is
characteristic of vast portions of the continent. But the same
vague distance receives the Zanga, diffused into many channels,
and lost beneath luxuriant foliage. For over a quarter of an
hour after leaving Erivan we pass at a rapid trot between the
walls of orchards ; and in places the water gushes from the
conduits across the road. Once outside this intricate zone the
track wanders over the idle soil, skirting the stony slopes in the
north. In the opposite direction the plain blooms with fields of
cotton and rice, sustained by a small canal which pursues a
westerly course before it falls into the Araxes, if indeed it flow so

And there are the mountains of Asia — the volcanoes with
their vaulted summits, as well as those long ridges with their
serrated outline which represent the operation of less impetuous
forces through longer spaces of time. To this second category
belongs the fine chain on the west of Ararat which gains in
definition as we proceed. It stands a little back and behind the
fabric of Ararat, and volcanoes too have built themselves up upon
this wall. But its rugged and tumbled appearance is the feature
which predominates, in striking contrast to the symmetry of the
mountain of the Ark. That giant overpowers the lesser Ararat
and appropriates their common base. One stands in wonder at
the force which could have rent that massive pedestal and opened
the yawning chasm which fronts the plain. Night creeps into
those recesses, where the blaze of a Kurdish camp-fire calls
attention to the extraordinary transparence of the air. The
snow-fields, bare and cold above the amber of the sunset, are
already free of their coronal of cloud. One full-puffed vapour
still floats behind the uppermost pinnacle ; another clings to the
bastion on the north-west. While we admire this stately scene,
made more impressive by the heavy silence, a grove of trees rises
from the steppe on our point of course. Two little conical
shapes just emerge above their outline, and are recognised as the
domes of Edgmiatsin.

We pass through the thin plantation, sustained by runnels
derived from Alagoz, and come to a halt before the doorway of a
lofty mud wall with round towers at intervals. It might belong
to a Persian fortress ; but it is the outer wall which surrounds the
cloister with the cathedral of St. Gregory. The massive gate is


A rmenia

closed, and we thump and thump for some time in vain. The
parapet with its crumbling surface betrays no sign of the life
within. But there is just sufficient light to reveal the surround-
ings of the fortified enclosure — a straggling village of above-
ground houses, outlying churches, poplars, dust.^

At last the hinges creak and the porter appears. We are
ushered into a court, like that of a college at Cambridge,
adjoining the great gate which is in the south wall. It is known

Fig. 47. Pilgrims' Court, Edgmiatsin.

as the pilgrims' court (Fig. 47). Low buildings, rudely built,
with a continuous wooden verandah, compose the quadrangle.
The windows are all lit up behind a line of young trees of which
the foliage rustles in the night air. Several figures may be
discerned on the steps of a basin of water in the centre of the
court. The place is all bustle and stir. Every room, so we are
told, in the whole monastery is occupied by as many people as it
will hold. Quarters have been reserved for us in the principal
court ; but we are not expected until to-morrow. Sooner than

^ According to Dubois de Montpereux the fortifications of Edgmiatsin were
restored by the Katiiolikos Simeon between 1763 and 1780 {Voyage aiitoiir dii Caucase,
Paris, 1839-43, vol. iii. p. 360).

Edc^niiatsin and the ArDicnian Church 2-\\


disturb the peace of evening we retire to a room in the village
where we erect our camp beds. It is quite a dormitory. My
immediate neighbour speaks English and is a correspondent of
the Daily Netvs. He is an Armenian gentleman who has come
all the way from Tabriz, partly in the capacity of delegate of his
countrymen in the Persian city, and partly as the representative
of the London newspaper. He talks incessantly ; his companions
do the same. The great event of the coming days will form an
epoch in their lives, and every incident will be indelibly imprinted
upon their memories. A thrilling and detailed narrative will be
despatched to London, where it will filter through the brain of
the sub-editor and issue in the form of a paragraph in small type.

But the newspaper will be to blame ; for it is an event, this
consecration of the latest pontiff of the Armenian Church. It is
an event both by reason of the personality of the new katholikos
and because within recent years the fact has slowly dawned
upon Europe that the politics of Western Asia must react upon
the Western peoples, and that in those politics the Armenians
are destined to play a part. The Church is at the present day
the only native institution which has been preserved to that
people. All their aspirations as human beings desirous to live as
human beings are focussed by that single organisation. The
broad democratic basis upon which reposes the election of the
patriarch invests him with a representative character. Moreover
he .is not chosen by a section of his countrymen but by the
nation as a whole. The Armenians of Turkey and of Persia as
well as those within Russian territory contribute their suffrages.
It is therefore only natural that, in the absence of secular
institutions, the head of the Church should be much more than a
merely spiritual ruler, and should reflect and in no small measure
be expected to instruct the temporal hopes and fears of his flock.

The Russian Government have not been slow in recognising
this fact ; nor does the anxiety with which it is regarded in
official circles date from the contemporary prominence of the
Armenian Question. In the heyday of their relations with this
Christian nation which hailed them as liberators, and which was
placed in the very centre of the Mussulman peoples over which
they were slowly establishing their sway, the Russians lavished
favours upon Edgmiatsin ; ^ and rightly or wrongly they are now

^ The true inwardness of this policy did not escape the notice of the French traveller
Bore, who, writing in 1838, says: "En s'avancant vers I'Asie Centrale la Russie

232 Armenia

accused by their Armenian allies, become their subjects, of
having excited hopes which, when they had served the ends
of Russian policy, were rudely and almost brutally suppressed.
It is certain that the Armenian inhabitants of the provinces
which now belong to Russia favoured the Russians in their
campaigns against Persia and Turkey at the risk of reprisals on
the part of their Mussulman masters. They smoothed the way
for the extension of the Russian Empire from the valley of the
Kur to that of the Araxes. The first great step in this direction
was effected at the commencement of the present century, when
the kingdom of Georgia was organised into a Russian province.
The acquisition of Georgia afforded the Russians a foothold
upon the tableland, and brought them into direct contact with
the Persians and with the Turks. Their first battle against the
Persians was fought on the 20th of June 1804, and resulted in
the repulse of the Shah's forces, which were led by his son, the
famous Abbas Mirza. This action took place in the immediate
neighbourhood of Edgmiatsin, and on the same day upon which
was celebrated the annual festival of St. Ripsime, one of the
saints who are the special glory of the cloister. The Armenians
did not disguise the direction of their sympathies, and attributed,
the Russian victory to the intervention of their Saint. ^ Ten
years later, when the monastery was visited by Morier, the
patriarch was wearing a high Russian order, of which the star
glittered on his purple robe.-

cherchait a realiser une pensee politique habilement concue, qui lui promet pour I'avenir
des lesultats avantageux. Comme puissance chretienne, elle se declare la piotectrice de
tous les Chretiens assujetis a la double puissance Mahometane qu'elle combattait. . . .
A oila pourquoi Ton tenait beaucoup encore a enclaver dans I'empire le monastere
d'Echemiazin ; attendu qu'etant le siege du chef principal de la communion armenienne,
on devait tenir dans les liens de son pouvoir spirituel la majeure partie des Armeniens
repandus dans les royaumes limitrophes " {CorTespo)idance et Memoires, Paris, 1840,
vol. ii. pp. 36, 37).

^ jMonteith, Kars and Erzerin/i, London, 1856, p. 38. During the campaigns
against Persia the convent of Edgmiatsin obtained declarations from both belligerents
that their territory should be considered neutral ground. The Russians, however,
appear to have made use of it as a base (ibid. p. 133). While at Edgmiatsin I was
told that in 1804 the Persians erected a battery upon the roof, which naturally suffered,
although I am not aware that the Russians came to any harm from the battery.

- Morier's Second Journey, London, 1818, pp. 323 seq. According to Von Ha.x-
thausen Russian influence had already become preponderant in the election of a
katholikos as early as 1768, when the Katholikos Lukas sought and obtained the
sanction of Russia upon his elevation (Transcaucasia, English edition, London, 1854,
P- 307)- We learn from another source that the Katholikos Ephraim (1809-31) was
accorded the special protection of the Tsar, and that he did not assume his functions
before receiving the imperial assurance at St. Petersburg that the pontificate of Armenia
would ever receive such protection. This same Tsar, Alexander L, loaded the bishops

Edguiiatsin and the A^'iuenian Church 233

In 1828 Edgmiatsin was annexed to Russia after the
capture of Erivan from the Persians and as a result of the Treaty
of Turkomanchai. Throughout the wars which ensued with
Turkey the Armenians espoused the Russian cause ; and one
cannot doubt that their assistance was of considerable benefit
both to Paskevich during the campaigns of 1828-29, and to Eoris
Melikoff, himself of Armenian origin, in that of 1877/ Little
by little a certain bitterness becomes appreciable in these
honeymoon relations. The origin or perhaps the reflection of
this new feeling may be found in the provisions of the important
statute which defines the status of the Armenian Church in
Russia and regulates the constitution of Edgmiatsin. This
statute, which is generally known as the Polojenye, is headed by
the signature of the Tsar Nicholas and bears the date of March
1836. It was translated for me by one of the monks. In some
respects it deals most liberally with the national Church. Her
congregations are accorded full liberty of worship, and her clergy
are relieved from all civil burdens. The principle of the election
of the katholikos by the whole Armenian people professing the
national religion is expressly recognised. The method of his
election is minutely prescribed. The national delegates assemble
in the church of St. Gregory, and submit two names to the
Emperor, who makes the appointment.' On the other hand, in

and priests who accompanied Ephraim with honours and presents {AvdalPs contiiiualioii
of Chamcheaii's History, Calcutta, 1827, pp. 519-20).

1 MelikofF is said to have had under his command a body of 2000 Armenian
voUinteers as well as some 400 officers of the same nationality. See the Rciuiniscences
of a Delegate to the Congress of Berlin in the newspaper L'Armenie for 15th August
1892 (published in London).

^ Nine articles of the Polojenye deal with the election of a katholikos. Upon a
vacancy of the Chair it is the duty of the synod to issue invitations to all Armenian
dioceses, whether in Russia or elsewhere, calling upon them each to name two deputies,
one clerical and one lay, who shall repair to Edgmiatsin after the lapse of a year.
These deputies, should they be unable to attend in person, may signify their vote by
letter. In addition to the deputies the members of the synod and seven of the oldest
bishops of Eldgmiatsin have votes ex offi-cio. The election takes place in the church of
the Illuminator. Four candidates are chosen by vote in the first place. A second
ballot narrows the selection to two. The assembly then appoints three delegates who
repair to the Governor-General of the Caucasus and officially communicate the result.
The Governor-General transmits the two names to the Emperor through the Minister of
the Interior. The Emperor confirms the katholikos and gives him the ukase. After
he has taken the oath of allegiance to the Russian throne he is consecrated according to
the rite of the Armenian Church.

In Russia there are at present only six dioceses of the Armenian Church ; they are
specified in the Polojenye. They are : — i. New Nakhichevan and Bessarabia ; 2.
Astrakhan ; 3. Erivan ; 4. Tiflis ; 5. Karabagh ; 6. Shirvan. Kars is at present a
vicarate, dependent upon Erivan. In Turkey there are, I am informed, usually no less
than fifty-two dioceses : but there are not always bishops to every diocese. In Persia

234 Armenia

true Russian fashion, what is given with one hand is taken
away with the other. The synod of Edgmiatsin is an ancient
institution which, according to Armenian traditions, advises the
kathohkos, and may even resist him should he desire to effect
changes in matters intimately affecting the national faith.^ The
Polojenye emphasises and develops the constitutional importance
of this body, and places it under the titular presidency of the
Emperor. The decrees of the synod are headed " By order of
the Emperor of Russia " ; and they are submitted to a Russian
procurator, resident at Edgmiatsin, who examines into their
validity. In matters of a purely spiritual nature the katholikos
takes counsel with the synod, but need not necessarily accept its
recommendations. But in all the general business of the Church,
as well as of the cloister, it is the synod which has jurisdiction
subject to the approval of the Minister of the Interior. In the
synod, which consists of eight priests resident at Edgmiatsin,

Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 24 of 49)