On June 17-23, 2022, a delegation consisting of deputies and members of the Government of Western Armenia, headed by President Armenag Aprahamian, was honored to be in the homeland with a number of missions. From the point of view of time and because of the boundless greatness of our Motherland, it was not possible to visit all settlements, historical and cultural monuments and attractions. Nevertheless, our delegation managed to visit places where very few were lucky enough to visit.
In addition, our delegation held a number of meetings with citizens and deputies of Western Armenia who were born and live in their cradle. During the trip, the first visit of the delegation took place in the capital of Western Armenia, Karin. Historical Karin is a city in the Karno province of the Mets Hayk world, to the left of the Euphrates River, at an altitude of about 2000 m above sea level. To the south of the city, the hills of Mount Havatamq are visible. The Davaboin Ridge stretches to the east, and the Karnot Field stretches to the north and west near the city. There is a cool and healthy climate, abundant and cool drinking water. Winter is long and harsh here, summer is cool and short. From here, the delegation went to the village of Kyzyl Kilis, where the roots of President Armenag Aprahamian came from. Unfortunately, some of Aprahamian’s ancestors also became victims of the genocide committed against Armenians. The village has completely lost its former Armenian appearance, although there were still several Armenian houses and structures. A mosque was built on the site of the church.
The next visit was to the city of Dersim, where a large number of Armenians live, including representatives of the Alevi minority. Here our delegates held a number of meetings with citizens of Western Armenia, deputies, as well as with representatives of the DersimHay platform. Dersim. a settlement in Western Armenia, Dersim county in the Kharberd vilayet. It was located 31 km west of the town of Khoznat, 10-11 km southeast of the town of Chmshkatsag, on the left bank of a small river. It was the center of the province. According to legend, the toponym Dersim comes from the name of the Armenian priest Ter Simon, who during the Turkish invasions allegedly convinced the Armenian population to change their faith, accept independence and thereby avoid a massacre. The territory was mountainous and wooded. It has many water spaces. In ancient times it was an Armenian-populated town. In the second half of the XIX century, it was an ordinary village with an Armenian and Kurdish population.
The current Dersim is one of the few Armenian settlements where it was possible to preserve the Armenian identity at any cost. As part of our news, we have already touched on the history and present of the Dersim and Dersimians.
It should be noted that the Dersim people are attached to their cradle and their identity, although many of their ancestors, in order not to become victims of the Turkish invaders, preferred to disguise themselves under the veil of belief in innocence, thereby preserving their physical existence. In this great geopolitical cycle, Dersim residents are experiencing an awakening, shedding light on their own identity, roots and history that has passed through tragic events. Today it is difficult to convince any Dersim of Armenian origin that he is a Muslim or a Turk by nationality. Our delegates in the province of Khozat Dersim had the opportunity to see an open museum where paintings depicting the 1938 massacre in Dersim are on display.
These pictures clearly show how the indigenous people were persecuted. Today’s generation is well aware of the history of their grandfathers. Warm contacts with Dersim residents continued in various picturesque and historical places of our Homeland.
At the Dersim Hay platform office
Together they visited various villages and towns where Armenian churches, houses, various buildings, and springs have been partially preserved.
Some of the churches have turned into a warehouse, the houses serve as apartments for their new owners. The authenticity lies in the fact that traces of Armenian architecture in general existence and breathing are present throughout the territory of Western Armenia. The delegates, continuing their mission, visited the God Anahit shrine located in Yerznka, which is currently called Altyntepe Hill and is under state control. However, no prohibitions and controls prevented our delegates from fulfilling their mission.
In general, there were many shrines dedicated to Godness Anahit in Western Armenia.
After the adoption of Christianity, the churches built on the site of the mehians dedicated to Anahit were named after the St. Mariam Astvatsatsin There are 18 similar churches on the territory of Dersim in Western Armenia. However, the shrines of Goddess Anahit are not limited to buildings only.
Our delegates visited the shrine, where cool water flows out of the breast of the rock, symbolizing the breast milk of mother Anahit. This natural miracle needs to be seen and felt, all negative feelings disappear here, and the aura of the atmosphere is positive. The only negative feeling that an Armenian feels here is the pain of his own homeland and its loss.
It is impossible to describe in words alone all the feelings that our delegates experienced, the huge positive energy that accompanied them all the time. Among the attractions was also the Girlevik waterfall in Yerznka, which, in addition to being a miracle of nature, is an excellent source of positive energy.
In the villages and towns visited by the delegation, it became possible to communicate to one degree or another with local residents, who unanimously stated that Armenians lived here, and the bravest did not hide their belonging to Armenians, although it is not so easy – in such an anti-democratic country as the Turkish state. In general, the local residents greeted the members of the delegation warmly and affectionately. Strangers were even found who, knowing the purpose of the delegation’s visit, offered to come and live at home, to restore the destroyed Armenian churches, one of which was the church of St. Hakob in one of the villages of Khozat province, completely destroyed.
In the settlements visited by the delegates, there were many churches on the basis of which mosques were built, distorting the true history of the structure. During the few days spent in Dersim, unfortunately, it was impossible to visit all the shrines and historical and cultural monuments, but there was an occasion to see the famous abyss, where a large number of Armenians were thrown from a high cliff in 1915, which is why the locals called this place the abyss of massacre.
Eyewitnesses told generations of horrifying stories about this place, which still remain in the memory of the people. It is said that there were so many corpses, and the floor was so covered with corpses that miraculously escaped among them. It should be added that a few years ago, a ceremony of commemoration of the innocent victims of the Genocide of Armenians was held on this rock, which was attended by representatives of the intellectuals, as well as the deputy of the National Assembly of Western Armenia, writer, publisher Mihran Prkic.
After leaving Dersim, the members of our delegation headed to Tigranakert, stopping on the way at the famous Balu fortress, built in the Urartian period on the right bank of the Aratsani River in the province of Kharberd. According to Vardan the historian, the mountain on which the fortress is located was named after Mesrop Mashtots, since the latter stayed in the fortress for seven weeks and filled in the letters of the Armenian alphabet. The ruins of the citadel, walls, databases and a protocol consisting of 29 lines have been preserved here.
The next point was Tigranakert. The capital Tigranakert was built in the 70s and named after the powerful Armenian king Tigran the Great. The large and luxurious city, built in a short time, was surrounded by walls 25 meters high, which after the Great Chinese walls are one of the longest, widest and strongest walls in the world, had an impregnable citadel.
The oval walls in the North-South direction are approximately 5 km long. Inside the walls there is a historically sharp Armenian quarter, which, unfortunately, due to the aggressive policy of the Turkish state has lost its once Armenian flavor.
In 2015-2016, as a result of armed clashes, about 20 thousand people were forced to migrate from the acute area, after which, by the decision of the government, they began to destroy houses in the area. The largest Armenian church in the Middle East, St. Kirakos, is located on this territory, although it was not damaged as a result of the clashes, it remained closed until recently. After the renovation, the church reopened in May 2022.
The delegates of Western Armenia in Tigranakert met with citizens and other Armenian personalities of Western Armenia who, due to historical injustice, similar to numerous compatriots living in our Homeland, were deprived of the opportunity to speak their own language. It should be noted that millions of Armenians living in occupied Western Armenia do not speak their native language today due to the lack of Armenian schools and Armenian education, which is the result of the discriminatory policy of the Turkish state. As a result of the meeting held in a warm atmosphere, many of our compatriots had a desire to become citizens of Western Armenia in the near future, as well as to learn their native language. In Tigranakert, the delegations also visited the Church of St. Kirakos. The church and the surrounding area are usually in good and well maintained condition.
From Tigranakert our delegates went to Lake Van. One of the most spectacular places of our Homeland is Lake Van, which, in addition to its natural wealth, is also known for its islands and historical churches built on them. The largest and most significant of them is, perhaps, Akhtamar Island with its St. Khach Church. It was here that our delegation went to continue its mission. One of the majestic monuments of Armenian architecture, in ancient times a major spiritual center of Armenia – the St. Khach Church, considered an integral part of the Akhtamar monastery complex, was built in 915-921 by architect Manuel. In 1113 it became the center of the Akhtamar Catholicosate of the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church.
The delegation of Western Armenia also lit candles here and prayed to God, after which they went to Mush. Today, the city of Mush is different from the historical Mush, which was once distinguished by Armenian neighborhoods and structures. Nevertheless, Armenians still live here. Our delegates in Mush also held a meeting with residents of Armenian nationality, during which a number of important issues related to the development and future of the Western Republic of Armenia were discussed. The next day they visited the monastery complex of St. Karapet in Mush, on the road of which they stopped at the Sulukh Bridge, built on the Aratsani River.
This magnificent bridge is one of the most iconic and beautiful structures in Western Armenia, which has a length of 190 meters and is built on 12 arches. Currently, the monastery of St. Karapet in Mush, located on the territory of the village of Chengilli, used to be mehian, was turned into a monastery during the adoption of Christianity in the IV century. It was not only the most famous monastery in the world Taron, but also the greatest monastery known to all Armenians after Saint Etchmiadzin. The glory and fame of the monastery went beyond national borders, and also became a shrine for local and foreign peoples. Of the once beautiful structure, ruins now remain, the interior of which is used as a storage.
Frescoes of the Church of St. Karapet on the walls of houses in the village of Chengilli
Khachkars and shrines with Armenian carvings that previously belonged to the church can be seen on the walls of nearby houses with the naked eye. The villagers met our delegation with interest and stated that both this settlement and the church were Armenian.
Delegates from Mush went to Kars. Like many medieval cities of Western Armenia, Kars was originally a fortress, in the 9th-13th centuries a city developed around the fortress. During the reign of the Bagrunians (885-1045), Kars experienced an unprecedented rise, and in the sources the former insignificant fortress is referred to as a city. The Armenian king Abbas Bagratuni led the construction of the still preserved Catholic Church of St. Arakelots, which is a masterpiece of Armenian architecture and is now a functioning mosque. After the transformation into a mosque, the architectural structure of the church was not distorted.
In addition to the construction of the church, the Armenian king strengthened the fortress of Kars, which was once considered one of the most fortifications in the Near East. The Armenian breath was also felt in Kars – there were samples of Armenian architecture everywhere, houses built by Armenians. In the Armenian quarter, our delegates had an opportunity to communicate with citizens of Armenian nationality who did not hide their origin and history. The delegation of Western Armenia headed from the city of Kars to the ruins of Ani, where an entire civilization once flourished. In the developed Middle Ages, from 961 to 1045, Ani was the capital of the Bagratuni kingdom. Ani is known as the “city of a thousand and one churches”, the most famous of which was the Cathedral of the Catholicosate. In the Middle Ages, many trade routes passed through here. There were many palaces and public structures in the city. Ani was surrounded by two-layer walls of Ashotashen and Smbatashen, and in the center of the city there was a citadel.
And now Ani has turned into a tourist destination. The cultural and architectural treasures that are in a dilapidated state are now under the control of UNESCO. Our delegates conducted an observation mission to Ani to understand UNESCO’s commitment and the accuracy of the work done.
It should be noted with regret that such facts were recorded here that prove the omissions and incompetence of UNESCO. For example, a herd of cattle were freely grazing on the territory of the city, which polluted the territory, there were inscriptions on the inner walls of several of our churches, there was not a single board on which the buildings were protected by the appropriate structure, some information boards were damaged, there were no garbage cans and in other places there was waste of garbage. On the territory of Ani, the delegates witnessed excavations carried out by Turkish archaeologists. To the question of the President of Western Armenia, Armenag Aprahamian, whether UNESCO is aware of these excavations, they gave an uncertain answer, stressing that they received permission from the Turkish Ministry of Culture, moreover, new excavations are planned in the near future. The Turkish flag was raised on the walls of Ani, which once again testifies to the historical injustice towards Western Armenia and the Armenian people. Such encroachments on the territory of this beautiful city, which is considered a shrine for millions of Armenians, to put it mildly, are unacceptable by the leadership of Western Armenia and the entire Armenian people as a whole. The Cathedral of Ani stood, restoration work was carried out inside, and the dome was missing. At the entrance to the cathedral there was a poster on which the fact of the Armenian existence of the structure was noted. It should be noted with regret that the natural and historical and cultural wealth of not only Ani, but also the entire Western Armenia is still occupied and is under the rule of strangers. Based on the observations in Ani and the recorded facts, the Government of Western Armenia intends to prepare a report for submission to UNESCO in the near future. It should be recalled that the President of the republic of Western Armenia Armenag Aprahamian in 2015 proposed to include the ruins of Ani in the UNESCO permanent list, immediately after which the Turkish government took this initiative into its own hands, and in 2016, at the 40th meeting of the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Committee, the capital of Ani of medieval Armenia was included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List. The delegation consisting of members and deputies of the Government of the Western Republic of Armenia, headed by President of Western Armenia Armenag Aprahamian, thus completed its mission in the homeland, deciding to be long-lasting in the following years.