ԵՐԵՎԱՆԻ ՊԱՏՄՈՒԹՅՈՒՆԸ (1500–1800 ԹԹ.)
THE HISTORY OF YEREVAN (1500-1800)*
From the onset of the 16th century to the time when Eastern Armenia was annexed to Russia, the political history of Yerevan had been recording overwhelmingly an unhappy chronology of plunder, starvation and destruction—the outcome of Turkish and Persian wars.
The prolonged battles bewteen Turkey and Persia ended in the conclusion of a peace treaty in 1639. It was signed for a period of thrity years, yet it secured peace on the whole for over eighty years.
A new phase of Turko-Persian wars started in the first quarter of the 18th century. The campaign was launched by Turkey at the beginning of 1722. Fighting in the war against Ottoman Turkey's invading troops were largely Armenian, Georgian and Azerbaijanian liberation forces of the Transcaucasus that were up in arms to shake off the Turko-Persian yoke. Having quelled the liberation movements of Yerevan, Syunik and Gharabagh and after defeating the Persians, the Turks occupied, in the twenties of the 18th century, the whole of the Transcaucasus and compelled the Persians to conclude an agreement that recognised the river Arax as the boundary between the two countries. However, in the thirties the balance tipped in favour of the Persians. Tahmaz-Ghuli Khan (Nadir Shah) quashed the revolt in his country and re-
* Translated into English by P. Mesrobian.
sumed fighting against the Turks in the Transcaucasus. After a while he took possession of Tiflis, Gandzak and Shirvan.
The occupation of Yerevan marked Tahmaz Ghuli Khan's eventual victory against the Turks. He dealt a deathblow at the numerous Turkish army in a battle in the plain of Yeghvard on July 8, 1735, and put the enemy forces to flight. For some time Tahmaz Ghuli Khan's troops made for the west and lay siege to the fortress of Kars. The Turks, who were in trouble, sent a special mission to Kars to conduct negotiations, and the brief talks that followed resulted in the consent of the Turks to cede Yerevan to the Persians provided the siege of Kars should be lifted and the further onslaught of Persian troops brought to an end. On September 22, 1735, the Persians took over Yerevan from the Turks. The events of 1735 put an end to the Turko-Persian wars.
During those campaigns our people revolted on several occasions to rid itself of foreign yoke.
The inhabitants of Yerevan and the close-lying villages put up resistance against the Ottoman marauders in 1724, in time of the Turko-Persian war that had started in 1722. The liberation movement of the Armenian people had stepped into a new phase at the close of the 17th and the onset of the 18th centuries. In addition to their own manpower, the Armenian progressive thinkers of those days, in their liberation struggle, pinned their hopes for help on the west-European powers. However, the new circumstances made them revise their former attitude and turn their gaze from west-European countries to Russia for their liberation. The trailblazer of this new trend was Israel Ori. He and his successor Archimandrite Minas, Petros di Sarguis of Guilan, clergymen, „melik"s1 and representatives of other ranks approached Russia in various ways for assistance, promising in turn to help the Russian troops in every possible way. In 1722 Peter the First's campaign set in and the Russian armies captured Derbent, Baku and Resht successively. In the same year the Afgans took the Persian capital of Ispahan and political strifes flared up in the country. Persia was in no position to hold the Russian troops
1 Melik—a feudal prince (in Armenian,).
in check. A big excitement was prevailing in four liberation centres of the Transcaucasus: Kartli, Major Gharabagh, Seghnakh and Syunik (Ghapan). They all believed that following the occupation of the Baltic area, Peter the First would come to their aid. But the enthusiasm proved premature. The political ends of Russia were at variance in those days with an occupation of the Transcaucasus; and Peter the First's promised assistance fell short of its target. The liberation forces were left alone to face Persia. But the latter was not the only sovereign power to rule the country. Catching wind of the movement of Russian troops, the Turks made raids in the Transcaucasus, backed by a number of European countries. This meant that the liberation forces, standing on their own in four centres, had to confront the Turkish army all by themselves.
In those circumstances the liberation movement of the Transcaucasian peoples developed into a sanguinary conflict for freedom from Turkey and Persia, the acme of the campaign being the heroic battles waged under David-Bek and his successor Mekhitar, the military leader of Great Ghapan, for a period of eight years (1722—1730).
The determined resistance of Yerevan against the Turkish hordes in 1724 went down as a brilliant page in the annals of liberation wars of the Transcaucasus. For two months on end the Armenians were putting up a stiff resistance all by themselves to the Ottoman army that received several sizeable reinforcements. The Turks were not let into the town. They were armed with modern weapons, notably with a fairly powerful artillery. The heroic defendants counted in their ranks 9500 fighting men in all, brought together from the town and the nearby villages. Marvellous examples of dauntless heroism were set by the leaders Hovhannes Houndibekian, Mr. Perigoul, Mr. Arzoumbek, Mr. Tadevos, Mr. Meghoun, the chiefs of the Armenian Boshas of Kond: Ghazaros Babourian, Mr. Keldouz, Mr. Davit and others, while archimandrite Grigor of St. Sarkis church encouraged with his counsels and rallied all the men fit for fighting. Reinforced by another army, 38 thousand strong, the commander-in-chief of the Turkish troops decided to launch an onslaught on the town from four directions. On
Friday morning, June 7, 1724, the final ferocious battle started. The hand-to-hand fighting continued into the night. Sustaining heavy losses the Turks broke through the defences and entered the town.
During the dismal period of Turko-Persian domination external danger hung like the sword of Damocles over the country and the heads of its citizens. The devastation of vast areas, the campaigns unleashed by conquerors, resulting in large-scale manslaughter and war prisoners, held the people in a state of unabating terror. Shah Abbas the First's forced eviction of Armenians (1604) and the devastation of the country, the appalling starvation ensuing from his invasions, the inroads of the Turks and the uprisings of the 'jalali', had brought the working population to the brink of abject poverty and utter insecurity. The Armenian church enjoyed, nevertheless, a privileged position. Echmiatsin and other monasteries had become the owners of large estates and also of personal and real property. The high-ranking clergy, the abbots, the archimandrites and other religious officials enjoyed those privileges. The Mohammedan clergymen were entitled to even greater privileges; they enjoyed invariably the protection of the state. Most of the mosques possessed vast estates and were big exploiting units.
Despite the resounding victories and administrative reforms Nadir Shah failed to establish a unified and stable state. His kingdom was subject to feudal partition and frought with centrifugal forces. Upon his death, in the second half of the 18th century, a prolonged struggle for sovereignty and feudal independence broke out at various times and with varying alignments between khanates over the Persia-dominated territory of the Transcaucasus and Adrbadan. In those days the enmity between the khanates and the Shah's authority in Persia frequently grew into bloody battles resulting in the devastation of large areas with thousands of inhabitants annihilated, taken prisoner or made into fugitives. To this the recurrent destructive forays of the Lezghians were added. The Khanate of Yerevan was desolated on several occasions by the incursions of Georgian kings, into the bargain. The 1795 invasion
of Aga Mahmed Khan came as a smashing blow to the Transcaucasus.
The regime of the town and the Khanate of Yerevan was rather insecure as a result of the general precarious political condition in the 16th—18th centuries. Wartime conditions frequently called for a reform of the administration of the Khanate and its centre, the reinforcement and increase of the manpower of khan's troops, the extension of the rights of the khan, reforms of the tax system and a corresponding reform in the composition of those engaged in tax adjustment and collection. The frontiers of the Khanate were also remodelled: the division into mahallas, the order of succession of khanates, the measure of their dependence on the shah, the sultan or the Georgian king and so on.
The governorship of Yerevan (vilayet, khanate, pashalik, beylik, sirdarlik) varied in size at different times. Its boundaries were alternately enlarged or reduced to match the political conditions and the administrative policy of one shah and sultan or another.
In the 16th century it comprised most of the land of Ararat, which expanded in the 17th century when it was not an ordinary khanate but a beylerbeylik exercising a military sovereignty over most of the Persia-dominated territory of the Transcaucasus.
The khanates, including that of Yerevan, were split into mahallas (districts); the irrigation system lying at the basis of such division. Every mahalla was watered by some river or stream. The rulers of mahallas were called „melik"s, „mirbolouk"s, „nayib"s1. min-bashi"s2, nominated by the khan from descendants of beks, „melik"s and sultans. In the first half of the 18th century the Khanate of Yerevan was divided into nine mahallas, and further division raised their number to fifteen at the start of the 19th century.
Yerevan was also the centre of the khanate bearing its name. The town was an administrative unit on its own, as centre of the khanate, and formed no part of any mahalla
1 Mirbolouk, nayib—provincial administrative officers.
2 Min-bashi—a chief officer of the home guard.
whatever. It was at the same time a citadel, famed in the East as an impregnable fortress for several centuries. During the entire sway of Turks and Persians the citadel of Yerevan was the seat of Persian khans and Turkish pashas. It contained the goods of the khan, the armoury, the barracks, foodstores, mosques, his harem and numerous dwellings. The khans and pashas of Yerevan would periodically restore, repair and fortify the citadel. The khan was usually confirmed (and at times simply nominated) by the shah, but it was ostensibly a formality and the khan was invested with vast prerogatives of home rule and at opportune moments regarded himself as the sovereign ruler.
Since the mid-eighteenth century the khans of Yerevan assumed the status of autonomy following the death of Nadir Shah. The rulers of princedoms and „ulka"s—small hereditary feuds over the terriotry of the Khanate—were subject to the Khan of Yerevan; hence their name—„beylerbey" (the bey of beys). Beylerbey was the supreme ruler of the khanate (governorship) and the commander-in-chief of the army. He exercised his authority over vast estates and wrung big revenues from taxes and dues, the customary bribes and „donations" (called 'peshkesh'). The khans were invested with all the powers of an autocrat. They made a practice of arbitrariness, cruelty, violence, plunder, bribery, battery and punitive measures. The various personal qualities of the khan, whether he was „efficient" or„inert"' „wicked" or„ good-natured", „brave" or „cowardly" and his attitude to the population at large affected in no way the ruthless order of things of the Khanate of Yerevan, a duplicate of Persian tyranny, and the autocratic powers of the khans. All the remaining officials, such as the rulers of mahallas, „alantar"s1, courtiers, „mirab"s2 and others, came under the supreme authority of the khan.
The Khanate of Yerevan was an effective political and administrative unit of Safavid Persia. It was the most profityielding governorship. But neither the vast fertile land nor the huge amount of contributions wrested in various ways by the
1 Kalantar—the equivalent of the 'mayor of the town',
2 Mirab—supervisor of the irrigation network.
khan could be indicative of the economic condition of the country. The states that had come under the tyrannical jackboot of the backward Persian and Turkish feudal systems, including the Khanate of Yerevan and the whole of Armenia, were in the clutches of adverse economic conditions with no outlook for any prosperity. Nevertheless, some economic activation had been registered in the Khanate and the town of Yerevan under separate khans. Such partial promotion was observed during the rules of Amirgouna Khan (1604—1625), Khosrov Khan, Zal Khan and some others.
The trades played a prominent part in the economy of Yerevan. Sources reveal that from the second half of the 17th century to the mid-eighteenth artisanship had marked some progress in Yerevan. During the 16th-18th centuries several dozen trades were in practice in Yerevan: stone-masonry, carpentry, jewelry, braziery, silver smithing, tailoring, hatting, pottery, clock-making, mintage, etc. The artisans of the town were almost exclusively Armenians. Their products were sold largely on the local market, save for wine, spirits and some other items that could not be consumed wholly on the home market and were, in addition, in great demand in neighbouring and distant countries. The artisans were quite skilled in their trades and manufactured goods of comparatively high quality. The same artisan could be skilled in several trades. Division of labour within the trade was negligible. According to their pursuits the artisans joined in guilds that were of great weight in the manufacture and marketing of their goods.
Domestic industries, leather-dressing, dyeing and others were developing during the 16th-18th centuries in Yerevan.
Heavy duties were imposed on the artisans. To specify the tributes assessments were compiled every year. Nearly twenty taxes were exacted from the artisans, either directly or indirectly. Although the population of Yerevan was exempt from gavel, yet tributes in cash were so heavy that the taxes levied on townsmen amounted nearly to the duties demanded from ruralities. The urban population did compulsory work for the sirdar along and on a par with the neighbouring rural inhabitants.
Christian and Mohammedan clergymen squeezed likewise huge means from the population either directly or indirectly. Natural economy prevailed in feudal Persia and its constituent element, the Khanate of Yerevan. No adequate social and economic conditions existed for the promotion of trade, which was hampered by the feudal duty system, the uneven and dangerous roads, the instability and diversity of weights and measures, the low purchasing capacity of the population and notably the wars. The khans of Yerevan carried out a policy of plundering by taxes that reduced the peasantry to a miserable plight. The villager had no surplus farm produce to sell on the market, yet he was compelled to take a small amount of comestibles to the market in order to pay certain taxes in cash and procure a number of indispensable commodities. Those conditions somewhat differed in Yerevan which was the centre of transit commerce. A barter between the East and the West was effected via Yerevan. As a centre of the Khanate a large part of consumers experienced the need for commodities; the group included the sirdar, his courtiers and servants, the harem and the garrison, khans, mirzas, beys, „melik"s, religious men of various ranks and high ranking officials. The sirdar himself participated in big transactions. His example was followed by other khans who, in pursuit of profits, provided the merchants with funds and took them under their protection. On the other hand, he considered the trade of certain goods his own privilege and hindered thereby the steady progress of commerce.
Nevertheless the trade of Yerevan was rather brisk. On sale in the shops and on the markets of the town was farm produce, artisan's makes and imported goods. The domestic trade was largely retail and was centred in the main market place called 'ghantar'. The caravan companies serving the travelling merchants had a large share in the trade. In the years of bad harvest, dearth and in war time, the prices of goods soared up tremendously on the market of Yerevan.
The currencies of different countries were in circulation during the period under discussion. But Yerevan had also its own mint that had been founded in the preceding century. The
mint of Yerevan was put out to contract, until the 17th century by khojas (Armenian tradesmen).
Foreign and transit trades were the most prominent in volume and importance during the period under consideration. They were fostered by the peace treaty signed between Turkey and Persia in 1639. Significant for the foreign trade of Yerevan were the agreements reached between Russia and Persia. Particular mention deserves the treaty of February 13, 1729, which provided for free trade in areas and towns selected by the contracting sides, by paying an ordinary duty.
Several roads branched off from Yerevan to different countries, the most important being the road Tabriz-Julfa-Yerevan-Echmiatsin-Kars-Erzroum, that extended westward from Erzroum to the shores of the Mediterranean, and penetrated from Tabriz into Persia and further on to India and Central Asia.
Artisans, petty traders, wealthy merchants and the sirdar himseli were all engaged in trade. Professional commerce was divided into four groups: „sovdakyar"s, „binakdar"s,1 „bazaz"es2 and „charchi"s3, according to the amount of the capital invested, the volume of the trade and its weight in the country's life. The „sovdakyar"s were the richest merchants who held the highest rank in the country. They effected the wholesale trade and were exempt from any taxes or customs duties. Next in wealth and rights came the „binakdars" who were also in the wholesale trade, the province of retail trade being allotted to the „bazaz"es and „charchi"s. All the important merchants are referred to in the records by one common name—Khoja. Renowned as wealthy khojas in Yerevan were Zakaria Aguletsi's brother Shmavon, who later went bankrupt, Khoja Grigor, who for business affairs remained in Poland for twenty years and accumulated big capital there, and others.
Land ownership in Yerevan was of three types: khan — (sirdar) or state-owned, the estates of the clergy or the mosque and private lands.. The lands of the khan or the state were cultivated by corvee. Echmiatsin and other monasteries
1 sovdakyar, binakdar=wholesale dealers
and churches had their own orchards, vegetable gardens, water—mills, crushes, shops in Yerevan. The monasteries and churches enlarged their estates by raking control of escheats, also through donations and purchases. However, private landownersnip was the commonest type in Yerevan, most of the lands of the town were privately owned by people of different social and economic standing. The private landholders of Yerevan had, in addition, vast estates outside of the town limits, in the villages of the Khanate of Yerevan. The sale and purchase of lands was practised on a large scale.
During the period in question some of the irrigation canals of Yerevan-Mamri, Abouhayat and Dalman —operated by fits and starts. In addition, the underground waters of the town and the river Guedar were used for irrigation. The wars and the 1679 devastating earthquake had on several occasions blocked the canals of the town to be restored again. The big canals of the town were the property of the khan who had nominated special functionaries to supervise them.
In the 16th-18th centuries Yerevan continued to be, as in the, preceding period, a fruit-growing area. Orchards and vineyards were to be found in large numbers; they covered an area of two thousand hectares. Most of the inhabitants had their own orchards. Fruit-and grape-growing made big advances at the outset of the 17th century, under Amirgouna Khan, and also at the close of the same century in the days of Zal Khan. Apart from the town itself, extensive areas i. e. the neighbouring villages—Dzoragygh, Noraghyugh, Nork, etc.—were likewise allotted to fruit-growing. Those contiguous places were economically so much merged in Yerevan that they had virtually turned into suburbs of the town.
In conformity with the feudal system of the country both rural and urban population was divided into layers with various economic and legal stations: exploiters (khans, beys, aghas, high-ranking clergy, big merchants) and the exploited (villagers in serfdom, artisans, petty traders and hired labourers). Not only did those two broad social divisions differ in their economic and legal statuses but also their sub-groups: artisans, merchants, peasants and so on. At the bottom of the social scale was the most populous class—the peasantry that was in turn also stratified.
The sirdar ranked first on the list of the privileged class of Yerevan and its Khanate. Subject to him were all the other Armenian, Azerbaijanian, Turkish and Persian patricians, the hereditary and nominated tenants, khans, „lemik"s, aghas, landlords and beys.
In the 16th-18th centuries the number of tributes imposed on the chargeable population and the different compulsory labours amounted to thirty-five varieties over the Persia-dominated territory of Eastern Armenia and Azerbaijan. I. P. Petrushevsky divides all those compulsory contributions into five types: viz. land and income taxes (eleven varieties), tributes and gavels for maintaining the armed forces and the administrative offices (fourteen varieties); different „donations" made to the high ranking officials and the feudal lords (three varieties), capitation and family assessment (three varieties), conscription taxes and duties in the interest of the state and the feudal lords (three varieties). Most of those taxes were exacted in the Khanate of Yerevan.
The fiscal functionaries of the khanate compiled from time to time assessments to adjust the tributes. They checked and registered all taxable property and men: houses, orchards, harvested areas, animals and the individuals liable to poll taxation. The scribe deacon Zakaria of Kanaker dwells at length on the adjustment and collection of those heavy taxes under Persian rule. He attests that the Persian assessors resorted to violence, battery, mutilation, threats and terror; and frightened by popular indignation the tax-collectors travelled about the country accompanied by military units. The quitrent, the polltax and the tribute called „jizia" or „jaghia", exacted from the Armenians for their faith, were the heaviest of all the duties.
During the Turko-Persian wars and the contentions of khans and pashas, and also under the reign of autonomous khans and in consequence of recurrent invasions of the Georgian King Herakl, a large part of the native population of Yerevan was led into captivity and evicted to foreign countries—Persia, Turkey, Western Armenia and Georgia. The first large-scale captivity started in 1579 following the Turkish conquest. But captivity and extrusion assumed great proportions
when Shah Abbas I decreed the unsettlement of Armenians in the summer of 1604. The inhabitants of Yerevan faced an exodus. The natives of the town, unhoused and driven to the interior of Persia, were at first settled in the outskirts of Ispahan and re-settled there, in 1655, in the vicinity of New Julfa where they set up the town district of New Yerevan.
The policy of expelling the Armenians from their native land continued in the 18th century under Nadir Shah and the autonomous khans. Hundreds of Armenian families were driven out of the Khanate of Yerevan to Khorassan, upon orders from Nadir Shah. A similar exodus took place also in the reign of Houssein-Ali Khan, in addition to a great number of Armenian prisoners taken to Georgia during the raid of King Herakl. Besides exodus, „voluntary" depopulation was also practised to get rid of heavy foreign domination. Commercial and other motives accounted likewise for the departure of hundreds of natives of Yerevan to other countries.
The exodus was greater than the influx into the town. Howevar, inhabitants in considerable numbers came and settled down in Yerevan on several occasions. Part of them was brought during the raids of Amirgouna and Hassan-Ali into western Armenia, while others migrated and made their home in Yerevan of their own will.
Before the 1604 eviction, most of the population was made up of Armenians. Subsequently the amount decreased appreciably, still they outweighed other people in number. The rest of the town comprised Tartars (Azerbaijanians), Ottoman Turks and Persians. Although the Turks and Persians were in the minority yet as rulers they enjoyed certain privileges. The Armenians were in a predicament.; everywhere they were subjected to persecution and violence.
No data has been available on the population of Yerevan during the period in question. The town must have counted some 10,000—12500 inhabitants in those days.
Like other towns of Persia, the Transcaucasus and Eastern Armenia, Yerevan was ignorant of sanitary establishments. The health conditions of its inhabitants were very poor. In the 18th century, when Armenia had to its credit considerable advances in medicine, mention is made of only two Armenian
physicians unknown to fame: Haroutis (Haroutyun) and Tatoul; the latter began to work in Yerevan in 1803. Practical medicine was largely in the hands of quacks. Malaria was widespread in summer, and fatal diseases would flare up at times.
No normal course of development was destined for Yerevan. It was destroyed on countless occasions and passed from hand to hand. After every devastation the town was restored on ruins. Aside from wars Yerevan had suffered a lot from such calamities as earthquakes and the floods of Garni. The earthquake of June 4, 1679, turned Yerevan into a heap of ruins and several decades were needed to wipe out the consequences of this adversity. On the whole in the 16th—18th centuries under Amirgouna Khan, Zal Khan, Khosrov Khan, Houssein Alikhan and several other khans, a number of constructions were undertaken that are worthy of mention. Still Yerevan remained a backward Asian town, without any lay-out, a motley of clay-made houses, an unsightly town of narrow and crazy streets with the towers of the citadel, the cupolas of churches and the minarets of mosques looming against the homely background of the town. Yerevan must have assumed a somewhat pretty appearance in summer when it merged into the green sea of orchards and vegetable gardens. Several of its outlying villages, such as Nork, Dzoragyugh, Noraghyugh gradually came within the town limits of Yerevan forming separate town districts.
The chief governor of the town, i. e. the mayor, was the „kalantar" who exercised sovereign authority over all the other officers of the town: „melik"s, daroughas (the police chiefs) and the rest. In effect, the kalantar and the „melik"s retained the authority of judge and governor, while the other key positions of the town were in the hands of the police chief, the market chief, the chief measurer and other officers of junior position. The police chief performed his duties through the chief officers of the squadron and the unit. In addition to the daily police service of the town a nightly police protection was also in force, with „hassass-bashi" as the chief of night police patrol. On the other hand, the market had
its own „hassass"es1. All those officers of trie police and patrol were maintained at the expense of the people. They indulged in lawless actions and jobbery.
Like most eastern towns, Yerevan had no recreation gardens of its own. The inhabitants usually took walks or relaxed in the shady yards of churches and mosques. Located in the central part of the town was the large square—„meydan", tree—shaded, that served also as a promenade. Next to it was the town market, the centre of trade and all kind of transaction.
The town had a number of deplorable hammams and carvanserais. An exception to this was sirdar's marble-faced bathhouse adjoining the harem, within the fortress.
It has been the concern of the inhabitants of Yerevan to have good drinking water. Khoja Grigor of Yerevan, nicknamed Motsak, in 1652—1653 drinking water brought from the river Guedar to the yard of the church „Katoghike" and its adjacent areas. In 1793 the Ter-Grigorian brothers brought water with earthen tubes from the same Guedar to the church yard of St. John in Kond and from there it was distributed to other parts of the town. But those measures could not provide a radical solution to the problem of drinking water; it was an undertaking calling for substantial expenses, and labour, and the problem was finally solved at the beginning of the 20th century.
The architectural vestiges of Yerevan in the 16th—18th centuries comprise churches, mosques, the bridges over the rivers Hrazdan and Guedar, the fortress and palace of the khan and a tower that remained intact to the year 1679 when an earthquake demolished it.
At first glance it seems that Yerevan in those ages could boast no cultural merit. The continuous and devastating wars, the recurring calamities, the unbearable yoke of backward Turkey and Persia, the unbridled arbitrariness of khans and pashas alike, all of these hindered the cultural life of the town. During those centuries the age-old architectural vestiges of the town were severely damaged time and time again: churches, bridges, irrigation ditches; scores of manuscripts were
1 hassass—the chief of police patrol.
looted, the schools adjoining the churches were closed and thousands of men were taken prisoner or put to death. Nevertheless, cultural life in Yerevan did not come to a standstill in the 16th—18th centuries. Even in those hard times cultural specimens deserving particular mention could be produced and men, prominent in the sciences and culture, could achieve distinction. Echmiatsin had a favourable effect on the cultural life of Yerevan. The St. Anania desert school founded in the twenties of the 17th century by Movses of Syunik (or Tatev) greatly fostered the cultural life of the town. In composition and structure the school was modelled after the Great Desert School in Syunik.
Several religious schools functioned in Yerevan under the auspices of churches and mosques of the town. Prominent among the religious schools was the St. Anania desert school, while the Gyoi—jami school was the one that functioned more or less normally and permanently among the mosque schools. In those days most of the pupils of St. Anania desert schools, such as archimandrite Melikset, Voskan of Yerevan and others won distinction as men of culture.
In the 16th—18th centuries scores of manuscripts were available in the churches of Yerevan and the neighbouring villages. Numerous scribes had compiled those handwritten books some of which have reached our own days. The number of scribes, who were natives of Yerevan or had come to the town to continue their activities from other areas, exceeded fifteen, excluding 19th century scribes (most of whose manuscripts are preserved but are of lesser value) and also the unknown authors. Hakop of Yerevan (16th c.) Poghos, Zakaria deacon Yessayl, scribe Minas, Mkrtich, the priest Avetis and many more are all scribes of the period under consideration.
The art of writing and letters of that period is not confined to scribing alone. A distinguished figure of Armenian mediaeval culture was Naghash Hovnatan, a prominent descendant of the famous Hovnatanian lineage. Reference should also be made to the folk-singer Safar Ogli; verses were made and memoirs, the life of martyrs, sagas and other forms of literary productions were written that characterize the literary writings of those days in Yerevan. The attestations of
our historians and European travellers Indicate that periodical sreet performances of momes and clowns were staged in the 16th—18th centuries in Yerevan. Their presentations, together with the appearances of bards and rope walkers, were the favourite public entertainments of those days. They constituted the original forms of opera, elocution and circus and were practised in our town for a long time.
Painting was a distinctive art in Yerevan; Naghash Hovnatan was a conspicuous representative of this branch. Experts believe that he must have decorated the interior of the churches of Yerevan: Poghos-Petros, Katoghike and others. It is certain that local miniaturists also existed in Yerevan; they had illuminated dozens of copies of manuscripts. We are especially familiar with one of them—Khachatour Tsaghkogh who has adorned with brilliant colours one of the surviving manuscripts.
The 16th—18th centuries produced also a number of noted figures in history, the sciences, culture and several supreme patriarchs of renown, who were either natives of Yerevan or lived in the town. Markar Zakaria Khochents (second half of the 18th century) was a denizen of Yerevan; he is the author of one talestory (headlined „The Rose and the Nightingale") and the text of a will. Mention should also be made of Stepanos Rabouni (of the Proshian dynasty who was killed during the 1679 earthquake of Yerevan, Voskan of Yerevan— the pioneer of Armenian printing, archimandrite Melikset—an expert in the system of chronology, grammar and philosophy who lived in Yerevan for long (hence his nickname), Abraham of Yerevan—a historian, who chronicled in detail the heroic defence of Yerevan against Turkish invaders (1724), the famed catholicos Simeon of Yerevan, who is author of a number of writings (including 'Jambr') and catholicos Yeprem. Movses of Syuni (or Tatev) an outstanding teacher, founder of St. Anania desert high school, lived lor many years in Yerevan.
Those inhabitants of Yerevan who were driven to Persia by force in 1604 also created in their new settlement—New Yerevan, notable specimens of culture, contributing in this way to the general progress of Armenian culture.
Հակոբյան Թ., Երևանի պատմությունը (1500—1800 թթ.). – Եր., Երևանի
համալսարանի հրատարակչություն, 1971։