History of the Armenians of Kievan Rus’ and Ukraine

A Brief History of the Armenians of Kievan Rus’ and Ukraine. The Grand Duke of Kyiv Vladimir the Great (978-1015), to increase the prestige and strengthen his power, achieved marriage with Anna Porphyrogenita, many Armenian soldiers, scientists, architects, and Chalcedonian clergy accompanied their compatriot Princess Anna to Kievan Rus’ .

Vladimir instructed the Armenian architects who came from Byzantium to build the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Also, Armenian architects, masons, and painters took an active part in decorating and expanding the ancient St. Sophia Cathedral, as evidenced by 22 Armenian inscriptions dating back to this time.

Not only people of peaceful, creative labor but also warriors came to Russia from Armenia. For the first time, Armenian warriors, who gained fame as brave heavy plate cavalry, were invited by the Russian princes to military service and acted as part of their troops at the beginning of the 10th century. Armenian detachments participated in the struggle of the Kyiv princes with the Polish prince Boleslav the Brave in 1009, and later, in 1062, in wars with the specific princes and the Cumans.

Armenian settlers began to appear in the Halych Land (ziemia) around the end of the 10th century, having located their first settlement near the Castle Hill, not far from one of the main trade routes of that time, which by the beginning of the 12th century (according to modern archaeological data) had already formed into an urban formation. Today it is the historical district “Pidzamche – Stary Rynok Square” of modern Lviv.

In the second half of the 11th century, after the fall of Ani, the capital of the Armenian kingdom, captured by the Seljuk Turks in 1064, thousands of refugees rushed to the west and the number of the Armenian population increased significantly.

It was in Lviv that the most significant Armenian colony in Halych Land arose, which played an important role in the development of the economy and culture of the region. Among the many buildings here already stood the Armenian monastery Hachkatar with the church of St. Anna, illuminated, according to some sources, in 1181-1183.

During the reign of Vladimir II Monomakh (1113-1125), the grandson of Yaroslav the Wise and the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos (Armenian), an entire Armenian quarter appeared in Kyiv.

The Armenian community of Kyiv consisted mainly of artisans and merchants. The fame of Armenian doctors in Ancient Russia was so great that one of them, Agapit from Alexandria, was honored to become the court physician of Grand Duke Vladimir Monomakh.

Armenians took an active part not only in the economy but also in the political life of the ancient Russian capital. “Armenian” streets appeared in almost all cities, some of them were the main thoroughfares of the settlements.

Over the next five centuries (XIII-XVII) over 20 Armenian colonies arose in Ukraine with a population of at least 600 thousand people. By the end of the 17th century, there were already 70 Armenian settlements in Ukraine. In addition to Lviv, the most significant Armenian monuments are located:

  • Zamosc – Armenian Catholic Church “St. Stanislav” 1765-1768,
  • Chernivtsi – Armenian Catholic Church “St. Gregory the Illuminator” 1869-1875,
  • Berezhany – Armenian Catholic Church 1764,
  • Horodenka – Armenian Catholic Church 1706,
  • Zhvanets – an Armenian Catholic church of 1740, built on the site of an older, destroyed,
  • Kamenetz-Podolsk – the Armenian church of St. Nikoghayos (from 1495 to 1810 the Church of the Annunciation of the Holy Virgin) 1398
  • Kuty – the Armenian Catholic Church of the “Immaculate Conception” in 1786,
  • Lutsk – Church “St. Stepannos” 1378,
  • Liz – Armenian Catholic Church 1853,
  • Mohyliv-Podilskyi – Armenian Catholic churches “St. Trinity” and “Gregory the Illuminator” 1772-1791,
  • Ryzhkov – Armenian Catholic Church 1786,
  • Snyatyn – Armenian Catholic Church 1801-1805,
  • Tysmenytsia – Armenian Catholic Church “St. Kayetana” 1759-1780,
  • Yazlovets – Church “St. Mother of God, beginning of the 17th century
  • Ivano-Frankivsk (former Stanislav) – Armenian Catholic Church 1743-1762 in place of the wooden one in 1665 (by the way, the miraculous icon of the Armenian Mother of God, dating from the 18th century, was kept in Ivano-Frankivsk.

In 1937, with the participation of many believers, the Primate of Poland and the Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Lviv, the coronation of the image took place.

By Ashot Abrahamyan

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