The Destruction of Armenian Manuscripts During the Genocide

The Destruction of Armenian Manuscripts

The national-cultural genocide of Armenians also encompassed Armenian manuscripts. Over millennia, the Armenian people have created tens of thousands of manuscripts in history, art, natural sciences, as well as works of spiritual and secular nature.

Armenian manuscripts have occasionally been destroyed from time to time by various conquerors. However, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the destruction of the Armenian manuscripts was carried out in a planned manner since the Turkish authorities aimed to destroy not only the Armenian people but also the spiritual values created by them, including manuscripts, so that no evidence of a “disappeared people” would survive.

In 1894-96 and 1915-23, pogrom-makers, razing Armenian monasteries and churches in Western Armenia and many other areas in Turkey, destroyed and burned thousands of manuscripts and old printed books kept in them.

Although some data is available on the number of manuscripts destroyed (for example, at least 3,000 manuscripts were destroyed in Vaspurakan, up to 2,000 manuscripts in Taron, 700 in Caesarea and its environs, and 250 in Armash, Sebastia, and its environs), the exact number of Armenian manuscripts destroyed during the genocide is unknown since at that time, no complete list of Armenian manuscripts kept in various places existed.

Despite this, many Armenian and foreign researchers (G. Srvandztyan, A. Tashchyan, G. Hovsepyan, E. Lalayan, V. Langlois, F. Muller, and others) described thousands of manuscripts in Western Armenia, Cilicia, and other areas of Turkey inhabited by Armenians. Bishop Mesrop Ter-Movsisyan compiled a list of 22,000 Armenian manuscripts.

Prior to the Genocide, a large number of Armenian manuscripts were kept in the churches and monasteries of Sis, Adana, Constantinople, Eudokia, Hizan, Taron, Karin, Sebastia, Malatia, and other areas in Western Armenia and Turkey. Many manuscripts were part of private collections.

During the massacres and deportation, the Armenians often took manuscripts with them instead of necessities in an effort to save these fruits of human thought.

Many manuscripts were hidden in caches, but the rioters searched for them and destroyed them. Some surviving manuscripts were subsequently sold by the Turks in European countries. There also are cases when sheets and pages of manuscripts and books were used in the markets of Mush, Karin, and other places as wrapping paper.

Among the destroyed manuscripts were Bibles, Old and New Testaments, works of Mashtots, booklets, books of hours, psalms, books of sermons, calendars, lives of saints, books of canons, and works of historiographic, philosophical, theological character whose authors were Armenian, Greek, Roman, Syrian, and Jewish scholars from ancient times to the late Middle Ages. Manuscripts containing masterpieces of Armenian miniature have also been destroyed.

Thus, the destruction of Armenian manuscripts was a blow not only to Armenian but also world culture and science, an irreparable loss for humanity. Thanks to the dedication of the Armenian refugees and the efforts of the Armenian intelligentsia, some of the manuscripts that were in Western Armenia were saved.

A significant number of them is now stored in the Yerevan Matenadaran (Armenian for “book repository”), the Etchmiadzin and Cilician Catholicosates, Jerusalem and Constantinople Armenian Patriarchates, the matenadaran of the Mekhitarist Order of Venice and Vienna, and some large libraries and museums around the world.


Սրվանձտյան Գ., Հնոց և Նորոց, ԿՊ, 1874: Աճառյան Հ., Ցուցակ հայերեն ձեռագրաց Սանասարյան վարժարանի ի Կարին, Վիեննա, 1900: Լալայան Ե., Ցուցակ հայերեն ձեռագրաց Վասպուրականի, պրակ 1, Թիֆլիս, 1915: Ոսկյան Հ., ՏարոնՏուրուբերանի վանքերը, Վենետիկ, 1953: Քոլանջյան Ս., Մեր ձեռագրական կորուստները, «Էջմիածին», 1965, № 2-7, 1966, № 8-10, 1967, № 5-6:

Armenian illustrated manuscripts

Former senior scientific editor of the Armenian Encyclopedia Sedrak Krkyasharyan

P.S. I cite a passage from a lengthy article entitled “National Cultural Genocide” (authored by A. Hovhannisyan, M. Asratyan, S. Krkyasharyan) from the encyclopedia “The Armenian Question” (in Armenian, p. 11-15) published in 1996.

A national cultural genocide was also carried out in Azerbaijan, a state created in 1918, a significant part of whose territory was constituted by the regions of Greater Armenia – namely, Artsakh, Utik, and Paytakaran, and some areas of Syunik, Vaspurakan, and Ayrarat.

For more than 70 years, the government of Azerbaijan (with the connivance of the government of the former USSR) has pursued an anti-Armenian policy, as a result of which numerous Armenian schools, the Armenian theater in Baku, and other cultural institutes were shut down in Azerbaijan in Soviet years.

In the Nakhichevan Republic (in Agulis, Jugha, Nakhichevan, Ordubad, Andamej, Trunyats Dzor, and other places), monuments of Armenian culture, numerous churches, khachkars, and tombstones were destroyed by a certain plan and for a specific purpose.

In Azerbaijan (as in Turkey), the destruction of the Armenian culture was carried out in two ways – the destruction of monuments and the appropriation of figures and values of the Armenian culture.

Azerbaijani “experts” declared some Armenian scholars and cultural figures as Aghwank figures and Armenian churches and khachkars unique to Armenian culture as samples of the Aghwank culture. Azerbaijanis call themselves the descendants of Aghwank, and therefore, in their opinion, all of the above is Azerbaijani. In addition, anti-scientific maps are published in Azerbaijan, where the eastern and southeastern regions of the Republic of Armenia are indicated as the “territories” of Azerbaijan.

The process of extermination of the Armenian population and monuments of Armenian culture in Azerbaijan has intensified since 1988 when the Armenian population of Karabakh, making use of the right to self-determination, decided to reunite with the Republic of Armenia.

In Turkey and Azerbaijan, the goal of the national cultural genocide of Armenians is to destroy the Armenians, appropriate the Armenian territories, and at the same time destroy and appropriate the cultural values created by the Armenians – which are material expressions of the existence of the Armenian civilization – so that there are no witnesses of the “disappeared” people.

Until the 20th century, the Jugha cemetery housed several thousand cross-stones (according to various sources, up to 10,000). During the Soviet years, the government of Azerbaijan systematically destroyed khachkars, these priceless pearls of human creative imagination. In December 2005, the armed forces of Azerbaijan with bulldozers and sledgehammers finally destroyed the last cross-stones of Nakhichevan.

Sedrak Krkyasharyan

Destruction of the Armenian cemetary, Jougha, part I

Destruction of the Armenian cemetary, Jougha, part II

Destruction of the Armenian cemetary, Jougha, part III

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