Manuk-Bey Mirzoyan Manor located near the city of Hîncești (near Chișinău, Moldova) opened to visitors in December 2015. The restoration of the huge manor built in the 19th century began in 2006. After 9 years of continuous work by famous architects from Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine, the manor acquired its former appearance.
As the chairman of the Association for the Development of Tourism of Moldova Viorel Miron noted, the manor has become one of the most important historical monuments of Moldova.
In 1769, in the Ottoman town of Rusçuk (now Ruse, Bulgaria), Manuk-Bey Mirzoyan was born. He would become one of the richest and most influential nobles of the empire.
Being the manager of finances of the Sultan and one of his close dragomans (the highest official of foreign affairs) during the Russian-Turkish War (1806-1812), Manuk-Bey, as a successful statesman, conducted active negotiations between the chief vizier of the Ottomans Akhmet Pasha and the commander-in-chief of Russian troops Mikhail Kutuzov.
Moreover, he took part in the preparation of the Bucharest Peace Treaty (1812), for which he would be later accused of espionage and treason for Russia.
“The drafting of the agreement with the representatives of the Russian Empire took place in Mirzoyan’s house in Bessarabia (now Chișinău). From this story, it’s worth suggesting that it was because of the venue of the meeting with the Russian representatives that the Turkish sultan suspected him to be a traitor,” said Viorel Miron in an interview.
After the war, Manuk-Bey settled in Bessarabia which under the peace treaty had passed to the Russian Empire. It is said that Manuk-Bey was a monopolist in the trade of wool, cotton, silk, tobacco, and spices in the Middle East and was so rich that he had huge possessions in Constantinople, Bucharest, and Sibiu.
Having selected new land in Bessarabia, Mirzoyan decided to establish the independent Armenian city-state Alexandropol. He settled more than 100 Armenian families in the new place, set up a local distillery, and laid the foundation for the production of Moldovan wines (the modern Vitis Hincesti company).
In addition, for his support and assistance to local residents, Manuk-Bey was to receive the title of Prince of Moldova. However, due to the death of Prince Scarlat Callimachi, he didn’t receive the title.
Beginning the construction of a huge manor, Mirzoyan dreamed of introducing innovative details into its architecture. The manor was built in the style of French classicism, and its construction had taken several years. It is known that the manor’s construction was completed by the son of Manuk-Bey Murat and grandson Gregory.
“The manor looked like a huge fortress with winter gardens, a pond, watchtowers, underground passages, an indoor pool, a stable, a wine cellar, a dungeon, and a hunting lodge. In the 70s, it became a museum of folk crafts storing more than 20,000 artifacts. Restored in 2007, the museum now looks like new,” continued Viorel Miron.
It’s thought that during the restoration of the museum in the Soviet years, treasures that Mirzoyan had allegedly hidden from his enemies were found in the underground corridors of the house.
As mentioned above, it took 9 years to restore the manor of Mirzoyan. The thing is that the manor is so big that it needed support from not only local authorities but also from the local Armenian diaspora. The project has amounted to more than €3 million.
“Moldovan, Romanian, Ukrainian architects, as well as local Armenians took part in this project. We are very glad that the monument has finally been restored. Now, the Manuk-Bey manor is included in one of the national tourist tours of Moldova,” said Viorel Miron.
Recall that the manor was built by one of the best architects of the 19th century Alexander Bernardazzi, while the interior was decorated by Armenian-Russian artist Ivan Aivazovsky. With that said, Manuk-Bey wouldn’t live to see the manor in its final form.
After being declared a traitor, Manuk-Bey has survived several attempts on his life. But in 1817, under strange circumstances, the “Armenian prince” died during a horseback ride. He was buried in the courtyard of the Armenian Church in Chișinău.
Note that the descendants of Manuk-Bey are Italian Princess Elizabeth Shentoni, German Baroness Olga Hotsfeld Trachtenberg, and the latter’s great-grandson Canadian architect Peter von Korff who told about his kinship with the famous merchant in an interview.