Armenian News Network / Groong

The Critical Corner - 02/29/2016

Why We Should Read...

    `The History' by Arakel Tavrizhetsi  
    (592pp, Sovetagan Grogh, 1988, Yerevan)

		`The people were desperately in need of a Moses,
		but none was to be found.'

Armenian News Network / Groong
February 29, 2016


Arakel Tavrizhetsi (c1590-1670) is the last in the cycle of the great
classical Armenian historians. Closing the medieval age his `History'
moves in the same groove as that of his sole significant predecessor
Tomas Medzopetsi (1378-1446). Covering the first six decades of the
17th century, in Tavrizhetsi too, social, demographic and economic
collapse across historical Armenia constitutes a dominant narrative.
Yet Tavrizhetsi is also our first modern historian. Signalling a turn
from a long, 500 year continuum in the steady dismantling of the
infrastructures of Armenian society in occupied historic Armenia, he
signposts an early stage in the emergence of a modern Armenian nation,
one that to this day combines, into a single albeit deeply fractured
whole, the experience of Armenian life in homeland and Diaspora.

The most striking axis in Tavrizhetsi remains however the story of
Shah Abbas's early 1600 mass deportation of Armenians to Iran,
arguably, another crippling blow to Armenian nation-formation in
historic Armenia. Here an endpoint was marked by the relocation to
Iran of the entire population of the city of Jugha. A vital economic
centre in Armenia, one that could have generated a domestic economic
elite essential to any nation formation, was erased. In Iranian New
Jugha, and elsewhere thereafter, Diaspora economic elites though often
sustaining emergent national development, did so ruthlessly limited
and guided by interests remote from the homeland, set and shaped in
foreign lands and reliant on foreign states.

Constituting a second, overarching narrative, the story of the 16th
century Church-led Armenian cultural renaissance also delineates the
arrival of a modern age in which a process of national revival in
historic Armenia, with the Church as core, runs parallel with and in a
significant degree fired by and dependent upon a growing Armenian
Diaspora and its formidable economic elites. Defining a feature of
Armenian modernity, the business of sustaining these 16th century
reformers that battled against corrupt Church hierarchies is taken
over by Diaspora merchants happy to donate generously to priest and
bishop in return for their blessing of business - but always on their
own firm Diaspora terms.

In the post-Tavrizhetsi era, even as the Armenian homeland develops
with its own particular dynamics, Diaspora elites, always subordinated
to foreign State authority, will exercise decisive and distorting
influence on the form and direction of a modern national development
constituted from both the Armenian homeland and its Diaspora.

I. The deportation of a people

Tavrizhetsi's `History' is regional in scope reaching well beyond
Armenian borders. But it is most compelling as `the story of suffering
in Armenia' `brought about by Shah Abbas' (p.17). Bent on restoring an
Iranian state in disarray, retreat and decline, Shah Abbas, the first
occupant of the new Safavid dynasty throne, threw down the gauntlet to
Iran's age-old Ottoman foe now occupying the Caucuses and western

The ravaging and the pillaging, the plundering, the arson and the mass
deportations that ensued in a war to reassert Iranian primacy again
made of Armenia a desert and a bloody burial ground. Terrible social
and economic dislocation compounded by natural disaster created famine
so desperate that it led in turn to widespread cannibalism (p.78-79).
Thus, writes Tavrizhetsi was:

	`Our nation ...dispersed, slaughtered, enchained and bonded to
	poverty by plunderers, slave-drivers and taxmen (p.17).'

Iran this time around may have fired the first shot in a nearly 50 year
military contest between Iranian and Ottoman Empires, but now, as
before, the Armenian people had nothing to choose between the two
barbarisms. Tavrizhetsi finds he is:

	`...incapable of listing all the evils that were brought upon
	the land'... `by the movement of two imperial powers, the one
	from the west, the other from the east.' ...Only he could record
	them who tallies the number of stars in the skies and created so
	many people who became victim to these heartless beasts in
	human form (p.71-72).'

Like Medzopetsi, whilst focussing on his Armenian flock Tavrizhetsi
acknowledges that it was not just Armenians who suffered the blight,
but Georgians, Jews, Assyrians, Muslims, Sunni Muslims particularly
and others too (p.41, 43, 84).

Nevertheless defining the 1600-1610 years for Armenians was their
forced mass deportation to Iran. Uprooting and forced migration was
and remained in the future too, a catastrophic result of war these
days euphemistically termed `collateral damage'. This time, however it
was more. It was a planned military and economic move that combined
both a scorched earth policy and a booster to Iranian trading and
economic power.

Following seizure of any province or region Iranian military
commanders issued edicts to empty towns, villages and homes so:

	`When the Ottomans arrive they will find the land deserted,
	with no food or keep either for their men or their animals. As
	a result of the absence of necessities the Ottoman forces will
	find themselves in difficult straits (p.41).'

To be certain that such `difficult straits' would be as debilitating,
as painful and as costly as possible:

	`From wherever the population was driven out, from towns and
	villages, all buildings, and homes were put to flames. Stocks
	of wheat, of grains, of grass and other stores were also
	annihilated by fire (p.43).'

Used in early battles as shields, `forced to the front to face fire
and sword' and `cut down by both sides (p.33)' a triumphant Iranian
military then herded Armenians en masse, driving them to `Yerevan and
from there to Persia'; `not just from one province' but from `many
provinces (p.41).'

Besides casting the Ottomans into dire straits, the erasure by arson
of Armenian homes had a further purpose. It was to hurl the deported
masses into such `hopeless despair' that they would `never consider
returning' to Armenia, for in Iran, relocated Armenian labour was to
serve the Shah's economic ambitions. Shah Abbas intended that in Iran:

	`Deported populations would for eternity be steady taxpayers,
	servants and agricultural workers (p.41).'

The greatest economic prize however was to be the population of Jugha,
that `most opulent' `large and famous' Armenian town for the moment
lying within Ottoman occupied Armenia. Jugha then an economic and
trading centre connecting continents and empires to the east and west
was, was with its Armenian merchants and traders the potential core
for native economic development, a development so essential to any
integral process of nation formation. To snatch Jugha's economic
prowess, then servicing the Ottoman Empire's economic life, Shah Abbas
removed its entire population, lock stock and barrel to more secure
Iranian borders. He revealed his economic ambition when dismissing
Iranian complaints that relocated Armenians were being offered unfair

	`I only just succeeded in bringing them to this country and
	that after great expense, effort and planning. I did not
	however bring them here for their benefit, but so that our
	land can be built up and developed, so that our nation grows

To `develop his nation' the Shah terminated a hub of domestic Armenian
national development! Thereafter, extensive and impressive as it was,
Armenian capital aggregates primarily in the Diaspora, in New Jugha
and then in Tbilisi, in Baku, in Istanbul, in Moscow, in faraway India
and beyond. At home in contrast,

	`Almost at once the full and fecund land of the Armenians ...
	was transformed into ruins, a desert', `emptied and destroyed

II. The Churchman who loved his flock

Tavrizhetsi was a Churchman not a democratic activist. Yet judging by
the unprecedented heart he shows for the common people, one could say
he loved his flock with a democratic passion. His descriptions of
their bitter suffering, their plight and their poverty are fired by a
moving empathy. When he rages against Shah Abbas, which he does
frequently, it is not primarily for this ugly monarch's strikes at
Church or elite, but for savagery against the people.

Reminding us of the deportations that set in motion the 1915 Armenian
Genocide, we read of `heartless soldiers, driving defenceless people
into the river Arax'. The bodies of `those who could not swim, the
weak and infirm, young boys, girls and babies covered the surface of
the river, driven by tides as if dry spring wood.' Many did `get
across, but far greater were the numbers of those who drowned
(p.45-46).' As heart breaking is the suffering and the sorrow of the
population of Jugha. Driven to Iran `weeping for their homes, their
Churches and...for the burial grounds and tombs of their forefathers',
they suffered `Persian horsemen... snatching anything that pleased their
eye be it a woman, a girl, a boy or an item of property (p55-60).'

Many earlier classical Armenian historians have described with force
the awful blight of foreign invasion and conquest. But none compare
with Tavrizhetsi in the space he devotes to the misfortune of the
common people, in the passionate evocation of the condition of the
poor, the weak and the elderly. In raging anger he borrows the
vitriolic language that his predecessors had used when they poured
acid upon the reputation of the brutal Arab imperial invaders of
Armenia. For what he did to the people Tavrizhetsi denounces Shah
Abbas as that `monster from the deep' harbouring a `snakelike'
hostility for Armenians, `full of bile', `envious' for their wealth
and riches that he sought to seize `with lying promises' and
`deceitful proposals'. And this from but a single passage, one among
many more!

To hold fast against warring Iranian and Ottoman war machines, to be
free of degradation and disintegration, the Armenian people, a `flock
without a shepherd', were then:

	`...desperately in need of an ancient Moses...but none was to be
	found (p.45).'

With no Moses in sight, by the time Tavrizhetsi writes, Armenia, in
his own description has become `Armenia proper', reduced to a mere
province, Syunik! Explaining why reforming clergymen targeted their
efforts in Syunik, he writes that:

	`It was more appropriate to build monastic retreats and
	centres there because it is Armenia proper. It is where one
	finds a dense (Armenian) population and many monasteries and
	villages (p.226).'

There may have been no Armenian Moses and Armenia may have been
diminished to `Armenia proper', yet the first half of the 16th century
produced nevertheless a generation of Armenian Church activists that
would successfully battle for the organisation and soul of a Church
that was then moribund. And so in the same breath they would fire a
flame for an era of enlightenment that contributed notably to the
future of the nation.

III. Church again in disarray...

Some two centuries after Tovma Medzopetsi's historic restoration of
Church headquarters to its native home in Etchmiadzin, Tavrizhetsi
shows the institution again in brutal disarray. Rot infests everything
about the Church from village parish to Etchmiadzin headquarters. The
clergy `sunk in the darkness of deep ignorance' let the ordinary folk
live `as if in pagan days.' An `Armenian nation' now `barren through
ignorance' had allowed its ancient books of wisdom to `lie abandoned'
`as if tree trunks...sunk in ash and soil (p.203).' Renowned centres of
education had shut their doors while Church buildings and monasteries
had gone to rack and ruin. With `collapsing domes and walls, with
foundations holed and encircled by mounds of garbage' (p.241), even
Etchmiadzin was deserted by its Catholicos who preferred luxury
residence in Yerevan or any other watering hole among the secular

Though `still calling themselves priests' the clergy had `lost all
title to the name'. Religious devotion, canon, tradition counted for
nothing while securing income a great deal. Priesthood and Church had
become a `rewarding craft' (p.229), a business organisation.

	`Some priests had become landlords others prostituted
	themselves and were bigamous. Others still joined with foreign
	princes acting as satellites of evil. No more than ordinary
	secular men of the world, they are preoccupied with trade and
	agriculture. They had abandoned Church and mass. In fact they
	did not bother to even go to Church for prayer and Church
	bells rarely sounded to call people to prayer (p.229).'

It was grimier at the pinnacle. To repay vast debts incurred financing
their degenerate secular life style, Church bosses had sold off the
family silver, `squandering wealth, chalices, silverware whatever had
been inherited from the past.' Tainted `with ambition and greed'
bishop and archbishop:

	`When going among the people...are accompanied by royal servants
	and foreign soldiers with whose oppressive force they extract
	what they regard as their due.  And as the Catholicos secures
	his position with money and bribery, so too the bishops and
	the ignorant priests that he ordains. These ignorant, useless
	men, servants of the womb, permanently drunk, wander around
	from morn till night with musical troupes as if secular
	princes, always engaged in lewd banter and persiflage

Bared here of all theological or spiritual pretence, Tavrizhetsi
displays something of the Church social nature, showing a clergy in
collaboration with the foreign oppressors of the common people,
subsisting on the spoils of exploitation, venality and parasitism

As he takes the whip to the Church leadership and that without
compromise, Tavrizhetsi never loses sight of wider roots of crisis in
Armenian life. The blows of `numerous' foreign `bandits and enemies'
produces `chaos and ruination' that causes `virtuous works and good
order to vanish from Armenians lands (p.199).' Yet, and here a lesson
for today, Tavrizhetsi does not exonerate the hierarchy of its own
responsibility. The undermining of the sole organising agency capable
of protecting Armenian communities from total assimilation was the
result of the Church leadership's `own profligacy'. There were
certainly other factors, `demands from the taxman' and `other reasons
too', nevertheless debt and disarray was `as a result of its own
actions (p.20).'

The depiction of this veritable Sodom and Gomorrah in the heart of the
Armenian Church is however but a preface to the story of a magnificent
revival, with images of the aggressive cancer eating away at the
Church serving to measure the extent and effectiveness of the
reformers about whom Tavrizhetsi tells with such enthusiasm.

IV. `An age of enlightenment for the Armenian nation'

Concentrating on footholds in eastern Armenia and Syunik in particular,
`Armenia proper' as Tavrizhetsi put it, across some three decades of
unrelenting endeavour men of the Church such as Sarkis, Ter-Giragos,
Moses, the unusually named Pilibos, the remarkable self-educated
Barsegh and many others, radically restored Church fortunes. In 1615,
Sarkis and Giragos re-established a monastic centre in Syunik devoted
to study and enlightenment. Organised almost like an egalitarian
commune, immensely disciplined and intellectually and culturally
monumentally prolific (p.203-204) it became `mother and parent' to
many others. Bishop Pilibos in turn re-opened the:

	`...Hovanavank academy in Etchmiadzin that went on to produce
	worthy people, priests, bishops and clergy. Long disused
	monasteries were again filled with monks and villages and
	towns served by priests. Half-ruined Churches were restored
	and many new ones built (p.257).'

Though centring on `Armenia proper', Pilibos in particular was
conscious of threats to Church stability from endless factional and
poaching wars raging among bishops and priests in those constantly
fluctuating Ottoman and Iranian state borders across which spread the
wide network of the Armenian Church. Pilibos devoted a great deal of
energy and time in Istanbul and western Armenia negotiating and
demarcating boundaries and prohibiting priests stealing income
yielding parishes and parishioners (p.262-264) from each other. Truly
for all the good work he here did he also established a harmony among
the grubbier grabbing segments of parasitic elites.

Nevertheless, Tavrizhetsi rightly judged the work of the 1600s to have
opened a new era of `enlightenment for the Armenian people (p.201)'.
Having restored something of tradition and good order and through the
work of new cadre of educated priests who went out to rebuild and
revive parishes, to renovate and rebuild Churches, now incidentally,
frequently using stone instead of wood and to open schools (p.251),
the Church as an institution, hitherto vulnerable and tottering, stood
firmer and sturdier. For this triumph, among the reformers, Pilipos is
accorded pride of place.

	`He stood as a sturdy fortress around the Armenian nation...
	(and ) removed opponents and enemies whether churchmen,
	secular, native or foreign...however famed (p270).'

There is truth in this encomium for the work of these reformers proved
of greater historical import than they themselves could have
imagined. In direct proportion to the sturdiness of the Church,
Armenian communities they presided over also stood firmer. Better
organised to protect income yielding Armenian parishes, the Church in
the same measure oversaw, in a core of historic Armenia, a more
enduring Armenian realm critical to future nation-formation.

Understanding well the benefits to it of efficiently led Armenian
communities the Iranian (and Ottoman) state was willing to tolerate
them and to a degree even protect them against the ceaseless
depredation, assimilation and disintegration to which they were
subject to and to which Tavrizhetsi also turns extended attention. In
contrast to a deeply indebted and incompetent Melkiset regime, a
reformed Church would more collect imperial taxes and repay debts in
more business like fashion. This in addition to also being more
reliable as an agent to assure a passive and obedient Armenian flock!

Yet there were other more fundamental reasons for Iranian and Ottoman
toleration of the Armenian Church and its communities. They survived
in these empires neither on account of the Church's inherent virtues
or dogged valour nor because the Church was needed primarily as an
imperial tax collector or disciplinary baton. The Church was permitted
a privileged and even internally autonomous estate because of the
invaluable economic function of Armenian communities, notably in the
Diaspora, for both Empires.

The Church was a civil service and administrator for communities that
harboured a substantial class of merchants and craftsmen without which
the Ottoman and Iranian elites could not do, but who could
nevertheless not be readily accommodated within Ottoman and Iranian
feudal-militarist socio-political-economic structures and relations.
The continued separate existence of Armenian, and other Christian or
non-Muslim communities, was a necessary condition for the economic
prospering and flourishing of these Empires.

Ironically, the better internally organised these communities, the
better for Empire and for Armenian national development too! For even
as they benefited foreign imperial interests, the more solid Armenian
communities that were generated by the 16th century reform movement
contributed decisively to the future of a modern Armenian nation. It
was these communities that were to be the essential bedrock of the
modern nation.

There can of course be no dispute that this modern nation was born of
a symbiosis of homeland and the Diaspora life with economic and
cultural accomplishments in the Diaspora being vast and of the highest
order. Recall only the first Armenian printed book, in Venice, in
1512, the first printed Bible, in Amsterdam in 1668, even
Tavrizhetsi's volume printed in 1669. Recall also the tremendous
subsequent achievements of the Venice and Vienna Mekhitarists whose
founder was born in 1670, the year Tavrizhetsi passed away. And the
sparkling cultural hubs that were to form in Istanbul and Tbilisi!

Yet as magnificent as was this Diaspora cultural flourish, and as
magnificent as was its contribution to the national revival, it would
have come to nought, as would have the Armenian revival generally had
it not had foundations in an `Armenia proper' upon which to rest.
Without this bedrock a modern Armenian nation was inconceivable.

It was however bedrock that was scarred by relations from which it
grew and evolved. Defining modern Armenian history, features of these
relations are evident in Tavrizhetsi's `History'; relations between
Church reformers and Diaspora economic elites, and occupying foreign
states, on which both were dependent and indeed all of often working
in tandem.

V. Priest, merchant and imperial power

With domestic bulwarks sustaining the Church toppled, Tavrizhetsi's
band of battling priests turned to the burgeoning class of Diaspora
Armenian merchants with whom, as he attests, they had established the
closest relations. Replacing priest and prince, now it was priest and
Diaspora merchant who stepped into Church to pray for the greater
glory of god and of business. Contacts and relations extended as far
away as distant Istanbul and Smyrna where Pilibos had met and
befriended Anton Chelebi (p.267), a prominent representative of the
new wealthy Armenian elite serving Ottoman economy and state. Nearer
home in Tavriz, Armenian merchants hearing reformers preach were,
Tavrizhetsi writes, so `assuaged spiritually' (p.211) that besides
`giving blessings to god' for such men, they offered them substantial
financial and economic means for Church reconstruction.

Yet this support came with unforgiving strings attached. Diaspora
merchants built their fortunes across the entire territory of the
Iranian and Ottoman Empires, often in direct collaboration with these
imperial states and always overwhelmingly outside historic Armenia. As
a result they had little or no social or political interest in the
homeland and no concern to develop there any viable economic
foundations for possible independent nation formation. Thriving in
co-existence with Ottoman and Iranian power the Diaspora elite imposed
strict limits on any support for homeland national development. It was
to hem in not just the Church but all others forces that were to
emerge alongside it to take a part in the process of national

Diaspora economic elites would permit nothing that would disturb the
peace of the imperial states that even as it offered Armenian
merchants in the Diaspora the means to riches brutally exploited and
destroyed the common people of the homeland.  To the limits imposed on
the Church's national role by Diaspora elites, can be added the fact
that with the growth of Diaspora financing of the Church, the clergy
at home became less inclined to modernise economic production on what
were often large estates that if developed could have contributed to
rooting important pre-conditions for nation formation. Indeed, later,
the history of the 19th century Church is pockmarked with examples of
enlightened Churchmen, among them the wonderful Karekin Srvandzyants,
seeking to turn back this tide.

Skewed by the absence of domestic economic fortifications, the
national revival was bent further by a Church that in addition to
dependency on Diaspora wealth also remained locked into a syndrome of
dependency on foreign states, one that had been the format of its
existence since the crumbling of Armenian statehood. To overwhelm the
corrupt Melkiset regime, reformers had to turn to none other than Shah
Abbas (p.16-218) before whom they are depicted in a grovelling
posture, seeming to grasp that without his sanction they could expect
little or no success. The Shah here seized opportunity. Blessing the
reformers would serve Iran well and additionally help placate and ease
relations with Armenian communities forced into Iran. It would also
stem Armenian inclinations to turn to his Ottoman adversaries.

Trimmed by Diaspora elites, the Church also willingly trimmed its own
wings tailoring and narrowing its own social and national ambitions to
suit the privileged relationship it too had established with occupying
powers. As payment for its role in servicing and controlling
communities so commercially profitable to the Empire, the Church had
acquired significant social and economic rights. Fearful of losing
these, like Diaspora merchants, the Church would also limit reforming
ambition fearful of upsetting the giver of its privilege. Thus it
would become even less responsive to the plight, the protest and the
interests of its parishioners. There were of course the exceptions
among the more radical trends within the Church, but it was not these
that determined the national movement's overall direction.

Reliant on Diaspora capital and ensnared by foreign states the 16th
century reformers even as they registered a remarkable cultural
revival and erected powerful organisational fortifications for
Armenian life, they could not and did not go beyond to elaborate any
independent political vision or ambition. In the future, even as the
national movement did produce a political programme of sorts it was
premised on pleas to foreign states to solve Armenian national

Yet for all this, Tavrizhetsi's reformers deserve the praise he heaps
upon them. For besides the bedrock of community they helped preserve,
they did their part in extending the longevity of a Church that from
the standpoint of nation-formation was, more than a spiritual refuge,
a vast store of cultural, artistic, intellectual and linguistic
material that was to be put to use in the course of 18th and 19th
century Armenian nation building.

VI. Evaluations and the sign posting of our future

Arakel Tavrizhetsi has not been dealt a happy hand by posterity.
Devotees of classical Armenian often decry his plain, simple language
that enriched by folk phraseology and terminology verges sometimes on
the speech of the common people. Modernists are often exasperated by
his hagiographic excesses, his flamboyant accounts of miracles,
displays of superstition and the decidedly surreal depictions of
famine and cannibalism that read like a pot boiler horror story.
Literary critics and historians in turn might essay scorn for flawed
structure, chronological and narrative incoherence, and even charge
Tavrizhetsi with producing little more than an unsatisfactory
anthology incorporating much material authored by others. Nationalist
too may be disappointed.

Despite claims to the contrary, Tavrizhetsi shows no signs of being
animated by any grand patriotic ambition. His `History' has no thread
linking his `Armenia proper' to an ancient past of independent
statehood with noble and estates houses such as those of the
Mamikonians or Bagratounis. His conception of Armenian nationality
moreover is narrowed to and defined in major part by affiliation to
the Armenian Church. Armenia as a distinct socio-political entity has
only the haziest presence. When describing reforming churchmen being
urged to take leadership within Armenian communities, it is striking
that he names these to be situated in Kurdistan, in Turkey, in Georgia
and Iran but never in an Armenia (p.234, 243, 247).

Still, none of Arakel Tavrizhetsi's purported or real sins condemn him
to damnation! A precious metal remains precious even when only visible
through layers of mere ordinary, even corrupted matter. As always,
that which we inherit from the past requires still varied forms
of intellectual and imaginative effort to properly appropriate it.

Tavrizhetsi's `History' is an artistically and intellectually
impressive account of the catastrophe of Shah Abbas's deportations,
all the more so for being fired by a humanist passion. Based on
personal recollections and on numerous witness accounts it also stands
as cogent polemic against both pro-Shah Abbas and pro-Ottoman
falsifiers of history. His heartrending record of the suffering of the
Armenian people at the hands of both is a necessary riposte to those
who claim that Armenians benefited from one or the other tyrannical
state. Tearing apart obnoxious attempts to humanise Shah Abbas on the
occasion of the 400th anniversary of the founding of his dynasty,
Tavrizhetsi reminds us of that barbarism against the common people, of
all subjugated nationalities, that was the foundation for the
monarchical Iranian renaissance!

Furthermore, Tavrizhetsi's text offers a first view from a historical
cusp. Reflecting backwards it completes an account of the
disintegration of classical, ancient Armenian life in historic
Armenia. Looking forward it signposts significant features of modern
Armenian national development - the revival of an `Armenia proper'
coinciding with a non-territorial, Diaspora social, economic, and even
demographic national development that will leave its heavy imprint on
Armenian life. Though by no stretch comprehensive Tavrizhets is here
the first significant historian to consider Armenian history in the
homeland and the Diaspora as different aspects of a single national
experience. Hereafter no Armenian historian could write an adequate
history of the Armenian people without treating of its experience both
in homeland and Diaspora

Tavrizhetsi does nevertheless recount in some detail aspects of
Armenian life in Iran, in Istanbul and indeed Poland. It is worth
noting here a whole chapter, some suggest written by another, devoted
to Armenians in Poland battling against attempts to assimilate them.
European efforts to stall and eliminate independent Armenian existence
were evidently as fierce as those of the Shah! In relation to Poland,
Tavrizhetsi clearly hit the nail on the head. Incensed Polish
authorities banned his `History'! Ironically while Christian Europe
succeeded in assimilating its Armenian communities, the Diaspora in
the east survived great oppression to expand and become centres of
Armenian life and culture.

Besides and we must not forget that `History' in its regional scope,
judged by some an invaluable primary source for the 17th century
Iranian-Ottoman wars and the Iranian Court. He offers important
information on the Ottoman Empire and its fractious principalities and
much on the Georgian people also subjected to slaughter and deportation.
Demonstrating knowledge of the 17th century war, architecture, art and
painters, our insights into life, civilisation and culture of the time
are enhanced by accounts of natural calamities that afflicted the land,
of great fires and earthquakes, of famines and of cannibalism. All
these will help modern historians develop a more rounded picture of
the times.

			      * * * * *

Arakel Tavrizhetsi was a modest man, confessing in his epilogue that
he was academically ill equipped, and by virtue of old age lacking the
heart and energy, to write this `History', compelled to do only on the
insistence of his superiors. For all his modesty this honourable
priest has produced a volume, that grasping essentials of both
ancient-medieval and modern-contemporary Armenian life stands as
telling testimony of the times.

Eddie Arnavoudian holds degrees in history and politics from
Manchester, England, and is Groong's commentator-in-residence on
Armenian literature. His works on literary and political issues have
also appeared in Harach in Paris, Nairi in Beirut and Open Letter in
Los Angeles.

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