The Legacy of Armenian Dagger-Makers: Geurk Sarkisovich and Joseph Popov

Historic Armenia, with its tumultuous past marked by conflicts and empires, has a rich tradition of swordmaking and weapons crafting. Among the artisans who left an indelible mark on this legacy were two Armenian dagger-makers: Geurk (Gevork) Sarkisovich and Joseph Popov (Hovsep Papoyan).

Geurk Sarkisovich: The Tbilisi-Based Master

Geurk Sarkisovich, based in Tbilisi, was renowned for his craftsmanship. His symmetrically shaped, double-edged blades with central spines were a hallmark of Armenian daggers. These blades, produced in the Armenian Highlands—an ancient center of metallurgy—have been found in archaeological excavations dating back to the Bronze Age.

In the 1860s, Geurk caught the attention of Tsar Nicholas I. The tsar commissioned a custom dagger, a testament to Geurk’s skill. Meanwhile, Alexander II, Nicholas I’s son, recognized Geurk’s talent and purchased five of his objects for 350 rubles. These acquisitions underscored Geurk’s prominence in the Russian empire.

Joseph Popov: The Rival Dagger-Maker

Joseph Popov, Geurk’s rival, was equally esteemed. Popov’s daggers were sought after by military and royal circles. In the 1830s, he earned the title of the best master of arms. His most notable client was Tsar Nicholas I, who acquired one of Popov’s daggers for 150 rubles. Popov’s reputation grew, and in 1861, Alexander II continued the tradition by purchasing five objects from Geurk.

The Legacy Lives On

Despite the Ottoman and Persian empires’ restrictions on Armenian arms production, both Geurk and Popov persevered. Their work flourished within the Russian empire, where Armenians faced no such limitations. Today, traditional Armenian daggers are made of steel, adorned with stylized floral motifs and sometimes inscribed with Armenian text. These exquisite pieces continue to evoke the spirit of Armenian craftsmanship and heritage.

In the intricate world of daggers, Geurk and Popov remain immortal—two masters who shaped history, one blade at a time.



  1. Armenian Daggers – PeopleOfAr
  2. Joseph Popov (Hovsep Papoyan) – Keghart

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