Those wishing to separate the Armenian people not only from the Armenian Highlands, but even from their own history, have yet to agree that Urartu was an Armenian state. However, some progress has been made over the last half-century. Science does not stand still, so it’s natural that mistakes made in the 19th century are being clarified and corrected in the 21st. It is now officially recognized that the ethnogenesis of Armenians occurred somewhere from the end of the second millennium BC to the middle of the first millennium BC. That is, it coincided with the period of Urartu.
Those historians who find the origins of the Armenian people in much more ancient times are still being labeled as nationalists, just like half a century ago. The strange idea of internationalism, which supposedly obliges one to share even their own history with neighbors, has led to widespread falsifications of history, which are now remembered as jokes.
In Soviet times, since Urartu was the oldest state in the territory of the USSR, history textbooks stated that it was the origin not only of Armenians, but also of many neighbors: Georgians and other Caucasian peoples. Even the Azerbaijanis wanted to associate themselves with it. But the search for Urartian epigraphic monuments, such as those on the Van rock, Karmir Blur, and Erebuni, in Azerbaijan yielded no results, even though it was known that the Urartians penetrated further east of Lake Sevan in their advancement into Transcaucasia. Only some interesting samples from museum collections were found. It turned out that the previously unidentifiable signs on an agate bead (a jewelry element through which a cord was threaded), found in 1895 by the German researcher E.A.Ressler in one of the kurgans of the Khodjaly burial mound, represent cuneiform in which the Soviet orientalist V. V. Struve (1889–1965) and Assyriologist V. K. Shileiko (1891–1930) read the name of the Assyrian king Adad-nirari. Attempts to find analogies ended there, and subsequently they switched to seeking connections between the origin of Turkic tribes and the ancient Medes, which also ended inconclusively.
The Urartian King Menua, at the end of the 9th to the beginning of the 8th century BC, built a 70 km long water canal to provide fresh water and irrigation to the capital, Tushpa. The canal was built to last for centuries and millennia, and it not only still works but even meets modern hydrotechnical standards. Menua was the father of Argishti I – the founder of Erebuni. Several centuries after the disappearance of the name Urartu, when the country was already being called Armenia and the Kingdom of Ararat (Ayrarat), popular rumors began to attribute the construction of the canal and the city itself to the legendary Assyrian queen Semiramis, whom the Armenians call Shamiram, and the name of the real builder, Menua, was long forgotten. Historians believe that the legend arose because Semiramis ruled at the same time as Menua, and her great fame over time turned the “Menua canal” into the “Shamiram canal”, although the real builder was Menua. However, such an explanation actually doesn’t explain much and is simply due to a lack of more detailed information. Shamiram’s role in Armenian history is not at all beneficial and constructive, on the contrary, it is very destructive. Her campaign in Armenia, the battle with the army of Ara the Beautiful, and his death due to her adventure, caused as the legend states, by her passion for the beauty of the Armenian king, are not a serious basis for attributing such useful actions as building canals, cities, etc. to her. However, this same legend is narrated by the father of Armenian historiography, Movses Khorenatsi, from whom everyone actually learned about it. The fact that Khorenatsi does not mention the name Urartu at all is very simply explained by the fact that only some southern neighbors of Armenia mentioned such a country. That is, only they called it that. And the Armenians themselves, as Khorenatsi claimed, from the time of Hayk Nahapet, called their country Hayk, while in the outside world it was called Armenia or Ararat in most countries.
The simplest and most obvious example is the oldest translation of the Old Testament into Greek made in the 3rd century BC. In the story of the Great Flood and Noah’s Ark, the place of salvation is named the country of Ararat, i.e., Armenia. Literally – “on the mountains of Ararat”. In the Latin translation – the Ark came to rest “on the mountains of Armenia”.
In the original Old Testament, written in the period from the 13th to the 2nd century BC in Ancient Hebrew, the word is given with only 3 consonants “rrt”. It was precisely this that in ancient times was translated as Ararat, not Urartu at all. According to the authors of the Jewish Encyclopedia of Brockhaus and Efron, in the story of the Great Flood, it speaks of the mountains “in the land of Ararat”, not of Mount Ararat specifically, also “in all other biblical places where Ararat is mentioned, always refers to the land” of Ararat, not the mountains of it. In particular, it is pointed out that in the books Is. 37:38, 4 Kings 19:37 this word is used together with the word “land”.
When the trilingual Behistun Inscription was read in the 1840s, it turned out that the name Armenia is written in the Old Persian part of the text – Armina (or Arminia), in Elamite – Harminuia (harmunuia) and only in Akkadian – Urashtu (the Babylonian variant of the Assyrian Urartu). (Excerpts from the Behistun Inscription are taken from the book: F.H.Weissbach, Die Keilinschriften der Achämeniden, Leipzig, 1911, 1968.)
In fact, it was already clear then that Urartu is precisely Armenia, and Ararat is actually the Kingdom of Ararat.
Despite this, historians in the 19th century proposed to call the country Urartu, probably in order to somehow separate this period from the history of the Armenians, because the word Ararat is associated with Armenia and Armenians for the whole world. So, in the times of Khorenatsi, there were no such problems. Why the legend attributed the canal to Shamiram, is yet to be discovered by future researchers.
But already at the very beginning of the study of the legacy of the Kingdom of Van, it became clear that it was impossible to read the cuneiform on the Van rock in Assyrian. True, they could not read it in Armenian either. The first to try this was the German orientalist Andreas Mordtmann (1811-1879), and later others. Our well-known historian Artak Movsesyan (1970-2020) explained this by the fact that the first researchers tried to read it in modern Armenian, as they had no knowledge of ancient Armenian Grabar. And that didn’t work either.
There are not so many Urartologists in the world, but without knowing the Armenian language, they still often read incorrectly, or mispronounce words and get some kind of unintelligible language. Therefore, the work of Armenian researchers is especially important. At different times, they translated and published a different number of words.
Thanks to them, the most complete Armenian-Urartian glossary has now been created, it has been found out that there are a huge number of common words, roots, etc. There was no Urartian dictionary in the world, neither full nor partial. Our scientists are dealing with these issues. Among them, Sarkis Ayvazyan can be singled out. He is now working on creating the first and complete Armenian-Urartian dictionary. And he does this big and important work independently, without any help from the state, since he has not been working at the Institute of History of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia for several years. Here are a few examples from his glossary:
The first word on the left is in “Urartian” (9th-7th centuries BC), the second word on the right is in classical Armenian Grabar of the Early Middle Ages (5th-7th centuries AD)
“Sea” : Ts ov (Ur.) – Ts ov (Arm.) “Eagle” : Artsivin (Ur.) – Artsiv (Arm) “On the shore” : Apnini (Ur.) – Apin (Arm) “Father” : Ate (Ur.) – Ata (Arm) “Hill” : Baban (Ur.) – Babai (Arm) “Wall” : Bad (Ur.) – Pat (Arm) “In the fist” : Burn (Ur.) – Bur (Arm) “Age”: Did (Ur) – Tit (Arm) “Border post” : Tut (Ur.) – Tut (Arm.) “Destruction” : Khar-khar (Ur.) – Khar-khar (Arm.) “Tributary” : Khovit (Ur.) – Khovit (Arm) “Foundation” : Khimen (Ur) – Khimn (Arm) “Bridge” : Kavurdzh (Ur) – Kamurdzh (Arm) And so on.
The coincidences are certainly impressive, but the statistics turn out to be even more impressive. 65% of the words of the Urartian language are found in classical Armenian (Grabar), 90% of word-forming suffixes, grammatical rules, prepositions, and conjunctions are also common.
Sargis Ayvazyan has effectively proven that the Urartian language is the oldest form of the Armenian language. He believes that since there are no vowels at the end of the names, the name of the king Argishti will be more correct to read as Argist, and the name Sarduri as Zardur, which was mentioned by other Armenian historians: Armen Davtyan, Armen Petrosyan, and others. Those interested can view the entire publication at the link.
Thus, out of the three most important components: the name of the country, the commonality of the language, and the name of the people, we have the first two facts that directly suggest that they relate to Armenia and the Armenians. The third remains to be clarified, and the picture will become absolutely clear.
by Armen Petrosyan
Translated by Vigen Avetisyan