Destruction Of Armenian Churches In The Village Of Agulis, Nakhichevan

At the beginning of the 21st century, there were 11 churches in the city of Agulis (now the village of Ashagi Aylis). According to Hovhannes Minasyan, among the local churches destroyed by the Turks are:

  1. Monastery of St. Tovma (Thomas), 1st-4th centuries.
  2. Monastery of St. Christopher, 1st-4th centuries.
  3. Monastery of St. Mother of God, 1st-4th centuries.
  4. Church of St. Minas.
  5. Church of St. Shmavon.
  6. Church of St. Hovhannes.
  7. Church of St. Hakob Hayrapet.
  8. Church of the Holy Trinity.
  9. Amarain (Summer) Church.

Agulis or Upper Agulis was a large medieval Armenian city located in the Agulis River Canyon surrounded from east and west by mountains.

In ancient times, the territory of Agulis was part of the Goghtn Gavar (District). It has also been part of Syunik and Vaspurakan Provinces of Greater Armenia.

5th-century Armenian chronicler and writer Koryun in his travel stories about Mesrop Mashtots mentions the latter’s visit to the capital of Goghtn, implying, most likely, Agulis.

The city has been mentioned as Agulis since the 11th century. In 1010, Catholicos Sarkis called the city “Argulik”, and the same name was used in the 13th century by Stepanos Orbelian. It is thought that the toponym “Agulis” (“Agulik”) was derived from the Armenian phrase “Aygeok-Lik” (Այգեոք-լիք), meaning “full of gardens”.

In the Middle Ages, Agulis was a writing and trade center that had major ties with Russian and Western European merchants. Along with Ani, Kars, and several other major Armenian cities, Agulis reached its peak between the 10th and 13th centuries.

In the 17th century, Zakaria Aguletsi mentioned the city as “Agulis” and “Akulis”. After the destruction of Jugha, Agulis became a large city whose population reached 10 thousand people by the end of the 17th century.

The native population of Agulis has been the Zoki Armenians who have spoken the Zok dialect. They called the city Agulis, Jugalis, Ugyulis, Igalis, and Egalis.

In 1829, the city consisted of 10 districts, of which 8 were Armenian. At that time, Agulis had 122 Armenian houses and 50 Caucasian Tatar houses (in the Russian Empire’s documentary sources of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Azerbaijanis are mentioned as Caucasian Tatars). In 1873, there were 170 Armenian and 54 Caucasian Tatar houses in Agulis.

According to the 1897 census, 649 people lived in Lower Akulis, all Armenians. In Upper Akulis lived 1325 Armenians and 639 Caucasian Tatars. In 1904, there were 256 houses (2205 inhabitants) of Armenians and 68 houses (731 inhabitants) of Caucasian Tatars in the city.

After his visit to Agulis, one Mozalan Bek wrote (printed in “Molla Nasruddin” on June 7, 1909): “Yesterday, I visited the Armenian village of Aylis [the Turkish name of Agulis] located nearby. And what did I see? It seems that even fools would be stupefied.

First of all, I want to say that the village is like a well-groomed district of Tbilisi. Beautiful mansions, clean streets, numerous large, beautiful bridges, schools, libraries, reading rooms, educational buildings, and structures with amazing decoration. I swear by Allah, I was numb.

People here cannot be recognized as if they had just arrived from France – their clothes, behavior, impeccable cleanliness (speaking of cleanliness, I mean the appearance of people, do not think of anything else)… Truly, I was amazed…”

In 1919, Agulis was destroyed, and the Armenian population was slaughtered by Turkish troops.

The Armenian areas would remain uninhabited for some time before being settled by several families of Caucasian Tatars. All local churches and Armenian cemeteries were destroyed in 2006 by the order of the Nakhichevan government.




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