The Persian Heritage in Armenia
Iranian-Armenian relations are among the two countries' oldest and most intimate. Iranian culture has left its mark on Armenian history at various points, most recently as Iran continues to support its neighbour Armenia as proof of their long friendship.
Iranian presence in Armenia
Eastern Armenia was part of the Iranian empire from 1502 to 1828. The eastern portion became and was kept part of the Iranian Safavid Empire, Afsharid Empire, and Qajar Empire, until it became part of the Russian Empire in the 19th century, following the Treaty of Turkmenchay of 1828.
The following are some landmarks of Persian architecture in Armenia:
1- The Blue Mosque in Yerevan
The Blue Mosque is a well-preserved Twelver Shia mosque in Yerevan, Armenia. It dates back to the 18th century and was commissioned by Huseyn Ali Khan, the ruler of the Iranian Erivan Khanate, and built in the Persian style.
It is one of the oldest remaining structures in central Yerevan and the most significant from the city’s Iranian period. It was the largest of the eight mosques in Yerevan in the 19th century. Today, it is the only active mosque in Armenia. It is located at 12 Mashtots Avenue, Yerevan, Armenia.
Glimpses of History
In the 1920s, the mosque was secularized and housed the History Museum of Yerevan for more than five decades. Following Armenia’s independence, the mosque was renewed with support from the Iranian government and again started operating as a mosque, serving the Iranians residing in Yerevan.
The Armenian government listed the mosque as a monument of national significance.
It is regarded as one of the oldest buildings in central Yerevan, and the only existing building of the Iranian period in the capital.
It has become a religious and cultural center for the Iranians residing in Armenia and the Iranian tourists visiting Armenia.
The Iranian cultural center inside the mosque complex attracts young Armenians seeking to learn Persian. The Persian library of over 8,000 items, named after the poet Hafez, was opened inside the complex in October 2014.
On December 10, 2015, the government of Armenia leased the mosque complex to the Embassy of Iran in Armenia for 99 years to use it as a cultural center.
The historian of Islamic art Markus Ritter described it as the "main model for the early Qajar mosque architecture of the Iranian period." The mosque complex covers an area of 7,000 square meters.
Armenian efforts in the UNESCO
In October 2007, Armenian Foreign Affairs Minister Vartan Oskanian stated during his speech at the 34th session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris that the Blue Mosque and other sites are on the waiting list for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In January 2013, Armenian Minister of Culture Hasmik Poghosyan stated that Armenia would take all possible steps to include the mosque in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. She reaffirmed this in a meeting with Iranian Culture Minister Mohammad Hosseini in April 2013.
2- Erivan Fortress
The Erivan Fortress (Armenian: Yerevani berd; Persian:قلعه ايروان ; Russian: E'rivanskaya krepost') was a fortress in Yerevan in the 16th century. Serdar Ferhat Pasha built it between 1582 and 1583, during Ottoman rule, on the left bank of the Hrazdan River, near the Ararat Wine Factory.
The fortress was considered to be a small town separate from the city. It was separated from the city by an ample and unwrought space.
It was destroyed by earthquakes in 1679, but, it was rebuilt by the Safavids, as the Safavid governor of Erivan, Zal Khan, asked the Shah to help rebuild Erivan, including the fortress and the Palace of the Sardars.
On July 12, 1679, the Safavid vice-regent of Azerbaijan (historic Azerbaijan, also known as Iranian Azerbaijan, "not the current one"), Mirza Ibrahim, visited Erivan.
He was directed to recover the fortress, which was the seat of the governor of Erivan. Many villagers from Ganja, Agulis, and Dasht (Nakhchivan) were moved to Erivan to rebuild the fortress. In 1853, the fortress was ruined by another earthquake. In 1865, the territory of the fortress was purchased by Nerses Tairyants, the merchant.
Later, in the 1880s, the Tairyants built a brandy factory in the northern part of the fortress. The fortress was completely demolished in the 1930s during Soviet rule, although some parts of the defensive walls remain.
Of course, it doesn’t belong to Azeris, as historical Azerbaijan differs from the recent one. Iranian Azerbaijan is a historical region in northwestern Iran that borders Iraq, Turkey, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, Armenia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Safavid Iran or Safavid Persia, also referred to as the Safavid Empire, was one of the greatest Iranian empires after the 7th-century Muslim conquest of Persia, ruled from 1501 to 1736.
3- Thapha Bashi Mosque
Kond means "long hill" in Armenian, and Tepebashi was one of Yerevan's oldest quarters during the Persian rule. It is situated within the boundaries of the modern-day Kentron District, Yerevan. According to Hovhannes Shahkhatunyants, an Armenian historian, Kond is located at the western and southern hillsides at the foot of a rocky hill with a similar name. Its western border has historically been the Hrazdan River, and its northern border is the Kozern Cemetery.
The Tepebaş (or Thapha Bashi) Mosque was likely built in 1687 during the Safavid dynasty. Today, only the 1.5 meter-thick walls and sections of its outer perimeter roof still stand. The main dome collapsed in the 1960s (1980s, according to residents and neighbours), though a smaller dome still stands. Surp Hovhannes Church (Saint John the Baptist Church) was built in the 15th century at the northern end of Kond. After being damaged by a large earthquake in 1679, it was rebuilt in 1710 by Melik Aghamalyan to serve as his family’s private chapel. "Kond is our history," writes writer and historian Edvard Avagyan, in the 17th century, many of those who founded Old Yerevan lived here.
The famous Aghamalyan dynasty lived in Kond. In 1837, Czar Nikolai I of Russia visited the house of the Balackachov family in Kond. After the Armenian Genocide of 1915, many refugees fleeing their homeland came to make Kond their new home. The mosque served as a place of refuge for seventeen of the families, some of whose descendants (five families) still live there to this day.
4- Abbas Mirza Mosque / Sardar Mosque
The Abbas Mirza Mosque (Persian: مسجد عباس میرزا) was a Shia mosque in Yerevan, Armenia, built in the beginning of the nineteenth century. During the reign of the last khan (governor) of the Erivan Khanate, Huseyn Khan. It was named Abbas Mirza Jami, after the Qajar crown prince Abbas Mirza, the son of Fat′h-Ali Shah. After the capture of Erivan by the Russians, the mosque was used as an arsenal. The mosque was turned into a barracks after it was conquered by Russian troops. During the Soviet era, the mosque, along with Christian buildings, was derelict, and currently, there is only the structure of the mosque.