Armenian Letters On The Sarcophagus Of Yaroslav The Wise

On the sarcophagus of the Grand Prince of Kiev Yaroslav the Wise are the following Armenian letters – Ա, Մ, Թ, Կ, Բ (a, m, t’, k, b). It’s unknown who has written these Armenian letters on the sarcophagus and why. Their meaning is likewise unknown.

Armenian scholar Zhirayr Ter-Karapetyan believes that these letters symbolize the words “Amenimastun Mets Takavori Kievi Bnakchutyunits”, which translates as “to the all-knowing great king from the inhabitants of Kiev”.

This interpretation is just a hypothesis – in my opinion, a wrong one. The prince may be called a king (tagavor), but the phrase itself is written in the style of the 20th-century Armenian language. There is no convincing answer to this mysterious phenomenon yet.

The pedigree of Yaroslav the Wise

Anna, the wife of the Baptist of Rus’ and Grand Prince Vladimir, was a Byzantine princess, an Armenian by descent. Therefore, her son Yaroslav Vladimirovich (978-1054), even if he was not her biological son, was friendly towards Armenian people. Perhaps here is where the permission to carve Armenian letters on the sarcophagus of the Grand Prince comes from.

It doesn’t matter whether Anna was the mother of Yaroslav. It’s about the letters.

It’s thought that the Armenian letters on the sarcophagus are either wearing down or being erased – they are now almost invisible.

Russian historians call Yaroslav the Wise either a prince or king. Similarly, the Russians call Danilo Galitsky a Russian prince, while Ukrainians a Ukrainian king. These are their problems.

P.S. As inquisitive researchers Artashes Artsruni and Areg Dyushunts noted, the “Egyptian” word “sarcophagus” (“tomb”) is Armenian – Սարք ո փակ (Sark o pak), meaning “ready and closed”.

There are other Armenian interpretations. Dyushunts interprets it as “sark” (սարք), meaning “product” or “closed product”. One does not contradict the other.

Grigor Grigoryan, Doctor of Historical Sciences, on the Armenian letters on the sarcophagus of Yaroslav the Wise

Created from white marble, the sarcophagus of Yaroslav the Wise (11th-12th centuries) is a unique monument of St. Sophia Cathedral. It contains carved plant and geometric images that are found on some monuments of Armenian architecture (Zvartnots, Makenotsats, or Talin).

A careful study of the geometric signs of the sarcophagus shows that some of them are similar to the Armenian letters Ա, Դ, Պ, Կ, Թ, Մ and are probably signs or initials of Armenian masters (1).

Newly found Armenian inscriptions in the Kiev Cathedral of St. Sophia, of course, have great scientific and educational value and testify to the historical ties and friendship of the Ukrainian and Armenian peoples (2).

1) O. Kh. Khalpakhchyan, “Armenian-Russian cultural relations and their reflection in architecture”, Yerevan, 1957, page 10; Վ. Հարությունյան, Մի հայատառ մակագրության մասին (ՀՍՍՌ ԳԱ “Տեղեկագիր”, հաս. գիտ. 1956, No. 5, page 119),

2) L. S. Khachikyan, “New materials on the ancient Armenian colony of Kiev” (“Historical ties and friendship of the Ukrainian and Armenian peoples”, collection of materials from the scientific session, Yerevan, 1961, page 119).

Victor Vaganyan

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