Armenians and Ukraine – The Armenian Origin of Princess Anna

Armenians and Ukraine – The Armenian Origin of Princess AnnaFamous Ukrainian scientist, philosopher, Armenologist, Candidate of Philosophy Irina Yakovlevna Gayuk answered the questions of

“Irina Yakovlevna, you are the author of the “Encyclopedia of Armenian Culture in Ukraine”. How do you assess the historic role of the Armenian community in Ukraine?”

“You know, it is difficult to answer such questions. Saying “huge” or “insignificant” is useless and quantitative criteria are inappropriate here as well.

For centuries, and maybe for millennia, Armenians were on these lands. They came with different missions, stopped for a short time, settled for a long time, and this is the most important thing.

They were here and will always be. Armenians left a noticeable trace in all spheres of life, and without them, history, culture, and simply the life of other peoples on Ukrainian lands would be different.”

“What historical events, in your opinion, most clearly emphasize the friendship between the two peoples?”

“First of all, the Great Patriotic War. Many Armenians, including Heroes of the Soviet Union, actively participated in the battles for the liberation of Ukraine and the partisan movement on these lands. The Ukrainians, in turn, supported the Armenians during this difficult times.

In 1943, the Gestapo arrested the locum of the Armenian Catholic Church in Lvov vicar Dionisy Kaetanovich. The Metropolitan of the UGCC (Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) Andrey Sheptytsky interceded for him and, thanks to it, as well as the considerable amount of money he contributed, Kaetanovich was released.

If you look into the medieval history, one of the cases is described by famous historian, Armenian Zadok Baronch. When in 1672 the Turks besieged Lviv, a delegation of representatives of the city was sent to them, including Armenians.

For withdrawal, the Turks demanded a ransom of 80,000 ducats and 9 representatives of the most respected Lviv families. Two such voluntary representatives became Lviv Armenians Gabriel Bernatovich and Yakub Yaskevich (for Bernatovich, the stay at the Turks turned out to be fatal and after his return from captivity, he died in 1677).”

In 1856, by the way, after the publication of Baronch’s book “Żywoty sławnych Ormian v Polsce”, a devastating campaign inspired by the rich Armenian family of Kshechunovich began against him. In defense of the talented historian rose well-known scientists and public figures, including Ivan Vagilevich. Thanks to them, Baronch studied not only the history of the Armenians of Galicia but became interested in Ukrainian folklore, which resulted in the creation of the collection “Fables, Anecdotes, Traditions, Sayings, and Songs in Russia” published at his own expense in 1866.

Well, of course, one cannot help recalling Theodor Torosevich, brilliant chemist, physician, and pharmacist, known primarily as the discoverer of the mineral waters of Truskavets and one of the first explorers of the mineral waters of Nemirov and Shklou.”

“What pages of the general Armenian-Ukrainian history would you note? Don’t you think that the fact of the Armenian origin of Princess Anna is unfairly ignored?”

“Partly, I already answered this question. As for Princess Anna, I think the problem is not the concealment but the lack of knowledge of this issue. On the other hand, all the issues related to the poor coverage of Armenian subjects are directly related to the deplorable state of Oriental studies in Ukraine.

It’s not a secret that the level of scientific development and culture in the country depends on state policy in these areas. While during the Soviet era, it was clear why oriental studies were not held in high esteem of the power holders, a completely different history of Ukraine loomed. To answer the question “why the development of oriental studies (and, hence, Armenology)” is now practically not developed by the state” is very difficult.

In addition, I think there is another reason for not mentioning the Armenian origin of Anna. It is purely political: people who occupy high positions in the state, as a rule, express the interests and will of the state above all, not the ethnos or nation to which they belong.

However, it is also impossible to completely exclude the ethnonational factor. In each case, the degree of its manifestation should be studied individually and not mechanically by only the fact of genetic belonging.

The Armenian roots of Princess Anna do not induce doubt. Obviously, considering her figure in the context of the Armenian-Ukrainian relations also makes sense for a number of reasons. Firstly, in the context of the baptism of Rus’ Prince Vladimir, which is directly related to Anna.

Leaving aside the vicissitudes of the Chersonesus war and the marriage union, this event involves a radical turn in the history of Ukraine, which was the change of religion, which meant the restructuring of the entire life of the peoples who inhabited these lands. The official baptism of Rus’ took place under Anna, which means that she had arrived in Rus’ with the representatives of the future religion.

And since Anna was an Armenian Chalcedonian, most likely, it was with her that some number of Armenian Chalcedonians arrived in Rus’. The fact that in Russia, there were both Armenians faithful to their Apostolic Church and Chalcedonians is evidenced by the anti-Armenian controversy in Rus’ in the 11th-12th centuries.

Noting this fact, professor Dashkevich believed that these were the statements of the Kiev Orthodox hierarchy against “its competitors.” But it seems that it is unlikely that the events of the distant past, if they do not directly affect the present, would cause such fierce attacks against the representatives of the traditional Armenian religion.

If the representatives of the Kiev hierarchy were Armenian Chalcedonians, then such speeches become clear. At that time, as it is known, there was a strong Armenian community in Kiev, which had at least one traditional church in Podol. According to Dashkevich, it was the Armenian Chalcedonians who could bring the eastern calendar systems to Russia, which was reflected in Russian chronicles.

And as for the cult of saints Gregory the Illuminator and Hripsime so widespread in Kievan Rus’, although they generally were Orthodox saints, it seems that their wide veneration in Rus’ as well as their iconography in accordance with the canons of the Armenian Apostolic Church, not the Byzantine Church, are also connected with Princess Anna and those priests-Chalcedonians who arrived with her in Kiev.

Syrian historian of the 11th century Yahya Antioch noted that Anna actively participated in the spread of Orthodoxy in Russia, “having built many churches.” In the church statute of Vladimir, it is said that the prince consulted with his wife in the affairs of the church.

Another interesting question is related to the children of Anna and Vladimir. There is no solid opinion on this. It is assumed that Anna’s daughters were presumably Maria Dobroniega, later wife of the Polish prince Casimir I, and perhaps Theophane, the wife of Novgorod’s posadnik Ostromir.

But the idea that Anna was also the mother of princes Boris and Gleb does not seem reasonable, according to many, because in the annals and sources, nothing is said about this.

But I would not be so categorical. First, such famous Russian historians as V. Tatishchev and S. Solovyov wrote that Anna was the mother of Boris and Gleb. Secondly, the fact that sources of that time tell about the pilgrimage of Armenian merchants to the church of Vyshhorod and the tomb of saints Boris and Gleb is worth noting. Thirdly, it was the life story of Saints Boris and Gleb that was translated from Old Russian into Armenian. Finally, “The Life of the Saints Boris and Gleb” entered the Armenian “Chetyi-Minei” in the 30s of the 13th century and remains there to this day.

Such increased attention on the part of Armenians to St. Boris and Gleb can hardly be called accidental, and their Armenian roots would fully explain this fact. But this topic requires separate serious studies.”

“Also, there are only a few works of historians in Russian and Ukrainian languages about the Armenians of Lviv and Galicia.”

“You are right, there are very few works on the Armenians of Lviv and Galicia in Russian and Ukrainian. And the reasons are the same. During the Soviet era, the development of Orientalism in Ukraine was conditional. In general, the Ukrainian Soviet research in this field was represented by Professor Yaroslav Romanovich Dashkevich. Other scientists only occasionally paid attention to Armenian subjects.”

“What do you think about the poor teaching of peoples who have lived for centuries on the territory of Ukraine even in the history schools?”

“How delicately you put it, “poorly”! I think that, unfortunately, we cannot even talk about the “poorness” of the history of national minorities in Ukraine since such an object in the curricula, both school and university, simply does not exist.

The fact that this impoverishes the worldview of people is the first bad thing. The second one is that no real Ukrainian studies are possible without Oriental studies, and therefore, without Armenology, as the most famous Ukrainian orientalist Krymsky wrote back in the 1920s.”

“In your opinion, how can Oriental propaganda contribute to the formation of a national idea in Ukraine?”

“The national idea cannot be formed without a national history, and the national history of Ukraine, the real one, is impossible without studying the East.”


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