Old Quarters of Yerevan

Old Quarters of Yerevan

Before the reunification of Eastern Armenia with Russia, the territory of Yerevan was approximately thirty square kilometers, most of which were gardens and other green areas. At that time, Yerevan was divided into three main parts – Shahar (main city), Demir-Bulagh (Karhanq), and Kond. Cut off from the city, Nork spread on an eastern hill.

These three main quarters had internal divisions with their own names which were often associated with the people who lived there. The names, which may now seem strange and sound incomprehensible, reflected the distant and not so distant times of the old city, being a chain connecting separate stages of the historical past and the memory of the city…

Old names and toponyms are usually preserved for the longest time even when the appearance of the city, the country and the world, and the activities of people change radically. These words excite the imagination with their mysteriousness.

The central part of ancient Yerevan is Shahar, which in Persian means “city”. The central historical part of any large settlement is usually called in the same fashion (e.g. the City of London). There were shops, caravanserai, and stalls in this district. Shahar stretched to a market called Ghantar.

The most famous area of the city was Kond, which means “hill”. Kond from the times of Persian tyranny has preserved to this day another name – Tapabashi, meaning “the top of the hill”.

It was a small city in the city, with its population comprised of mainly Muslims in the 17th-18th centuries. Armenians had shops in the fortress – trade went on all day, and in the evening, before the closing of the fortress’ gates, they left.

Dzoragyugh – where mainly Armenians lived – as the name itself indicates (“dzor” and “gyugh” in Armenian mean “gorge” and “village” respectively), was located in the gorge of Hrazdan. The houses here were molded one to another – the flat earthen roof of one house was the courtyard for the other, and so, gradually, stepwise, the dwellings rose up.

To the northwest of Kond was the old cemetery of Yerevan – Kozern. The famous people of the city were buried here. In the center of the cemetery, there is a chapel and a grave in which, according to a legend, the ashes of famous medieval scholar and chronicler Hovhannes Vardapet nicknamed Kozern – “camel” – were buried.

Another quarter, Karhanq or Demir-Bulagh (“iron source” in Turkish) was rich with quarries. It also housed a source whose water contained iron (hence the name).

Standing at the junction of the caravan routes of Yerevan, there were several caravanserais. And the most famous among them were Gurdji and Zarbabi. In the former lived traders from Tiflis.

For horses and camels in the suburbs, camps and stables (modern Sari Tagh district) were set up. These were called Dawa-Yataga (“overnight for camels”).

Among the well-known quarters, one could also point out Shilachi-mayla (or Silachi, “shilach” meaning red). Here, canvases were painted red. Now, approximately on the spot of the old quarter stand the Silachi Hotel and the Tashir building.

And in another district, on the Hrazdan hill, clothes were painted blue. This quarter was called Boyakhchi and the dying facilities were called Boyakhana. In huge jugs, canvases were painted blue.

In place of the present-day Children’s Park, there was a large covered market called Ghantar.

One of the cool country house districts was the old Nork immersed in the greenery of orchards and vegetable gardens where the rich men’s country houses were located.

In addition, Nork was also famous for its artisans. Here, pottery was the main activity – various types of jugs, pots, bowls, and other items have been crafted here. Craftsmen were called chomlakchi (“potter”), and the quarter too was Chomlakchi.

Of the old quarters, only Kond now remains, retaining its historical name…

By decision of the authorities, although a delayed one, Kond is to remain a kind of protected area of the capital. Alas, many old houses and monuments had been destroyed by an indifferent hand. But what has been preserved must be taken care of, be it an old house or a narrow street near the church of Svyat.

Hmayak Vacheyan

Yerevan 1899 Astafyan street (Abovyan str.)

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