Armenian Scholarship Gets Short Shrift

Rev. Dr. Vrej Nerses Nersessian, 28.02.2014

Dear Editor,

I read with surprise the repeated assertion of  Dr. Rouben Galchian’s  that  “Armenia and Iran [Persia] could claim an existence of over 2,000 years… while Georgia became to be known as they are now, only after 2,000 years". The author shows lack of awareness of primary sources. What European cartographers present is not the whole 'truth'.

Rev. Dr. Vrej Nerses Nersessian, 28.02.2014

Dear Editor,

I read with surprise the repeated assertion of  Dr. Rouben Galchian’s  that  “Armenia and Iran [Persia] could claim an existence of over 2,000 years… while Georgia became to be known as they are now, only after 2,000 years". The author shows lack of awareness of primary sources. What European cartographers present is not the whole 'truth'.

For his knowledge of the period in question, he should rely on the Classical Armenian sources  such as Movses Khorenatsi,  Goryoun,  Pavstos Puzant, Movses Dskhurantsi, the Ashkharhatsoyts, and the countless colophons and chronicles of  Armenian manuscripts. In Classical Armenian sources the name for Georgia is  Վիրք [ Virk'], the name of the country from which derives the modern Armenian name Վրաստան [Vrastan]. The English name Georgia is used in modern cartography to refer to the geographical territory K’art’li and for united country, Sak’art’velo, the Armenian of which is Virk’. None of the maps the author is referring to have the name Hayastan or  for that matter Iran. Do we then conclude that Hayastan  and Iran did not exist? Of course they  existed. They were called Armenia and Persia respectively.

Khorenatsi says,  "For whilst he assembled his legions of Atrpatakan, he summoned the powerful mountain peoples of the Caucasus and the armies of Albania and Georgia [Աղուանից եւ Վրաց]  and descended into Mesopotamia",  or ‘The Albania and part of Georgia [Ալանք…մասն ինչ ի Վրաց] joined forces with all the mountain peoples and invaded the land of Armenia in great force".

Movses Dskhurantsi in his History of the Caucasian Albanians (English translation by Prof.C.J.F.Dowsett,1961) chapter 14 is headed by  ‘A short account of St. Gregory, the Illuminator of Armenia…as catholicos of Albania and Georgia [ի կաթողիկոսութիւն Աղուանից եւ Վրաց], his arrival in Albania’(p.19). In chapter 47, the historian gives an account of the separation of the Georgian Church from the Armenian Church in 608/609  AD 

"ի ժամանակս Աբրահամու՝ հայոց կաթողիկոսի, բաժանեցան Վիրք ի Հայոց միաբանութենէ" [in the days of Abraham, Catholicos of Armenia, the Georgians separated from the Armenians].

Goryoun, the biographer of Mesrob Mashtots, makes St. Gregory the Illuminator’s grandson St. Grigoris bishop of ‘Virk’ [Vrastan] and Aluank’ [Albania]. When referring to the missionary work of St. Mesrob in  chapter 21 Goryoun informs “And thus all over Armenia, Georgia, and Albania, throughout his lifetime, in summer and winter" he witnessed "the name of Jesus the Saviour" [Եւ այնպէս յամենայն կողմանս Հայոց,Վրաց եւ Աղուանից զամենայն ժամանակս…].

S.T. Eremyan in his magnificent introduction to the ‘Armenia According to the [Ashkharhatsoyts] while commenting on Ptolemy’s Asiae tabula tertia, writes “in his map of Sassanian Iran he represents the political divisions, which existed in his time, which included also the Transcaucasian countries, i.e. marzpanide Armenia (Arm[which stands for  Hayk’], Virk’[ Varjan which is Virk’ and Aluank’ (p.26). Eremyan provides an exhausting commentary on the name Virk’. I will only present here the first few lines: "The territory of Վիրք–also known as  Վրկան; in Persian Gurgan; in Syriac Gurzan; in Arabic Jurzan; in Greek Ibiria; in Latin Hiberia; in Georgian K’art’li" (pp.83-84).There is no difference here to the name used for our country. We, Armenians, call ourselves Hay, the country Hayastan, and the entire Western world knows us as Armenians, the country Armenia and the language as Armenian.

It is not desirable to ignore or deliberately falsify Classical Armenian sources, which are significant primary sources for the study of the peoples and countries neighboring Armenia. It is also not desirable to be disrespectful regarding the achievement of Armenian Armenologists [Adontz, Manadyan, Eremyan, Hovsepiants, Khatchikyan] in order to score cheap points. The author can make a rapid survey of the colophons of  thousands of Armenian manuscripts to realize how damaging his type of declarations are to the reputation of Armenian scholarship.

Yours,

Rev. Dr. Vrej Nerses Nersessian

1 comment
  1. Misrepresentation by Dr. Vrej Nercessian

    I feel that Dr Nersessian's comments on my claims that Georgia, as it stands today, came into being almost 2,000 years after Armenia and Iran (Persia), needs an explanatory reply. I confirm that my claim is a valid one, for which I have the following reasoning.

    When reading the texts of my book, Dr Nersessian has not paid enough attention to the details of my comments, where I always state that "Georgia as a conglomeration of the countries of Colchis, Iberia, Mengrelia, Iimeretia and Kakhetia appeared on the maps only during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries". I have said this and stand by it.

    This is proven even by the sample map offered as evidence by Dr. Nersessian. This map shows Colchis (Abkhazia) as a separate country from Iberia (Virq-Վիրք), from which the Armenian name Vrastan-Վրաստան derives. However, the Georgia-Վրաստան of today includes all the territories of Colchis, Imeretia, Mengrelia, Kakhetia and Iberia and the name is not applied to the historic Iberia only.

    When referring to the maps of Ptolemy, Dr. Nersessian conveniently forgets to mention that in all of these maps depicting the South Caucasus, presented as Asiae tabula tertia (The third map of Asia), Ptolemy, in addition to Iberia and Albania, always includes the name of the country of Colchis as one separate from Iberia.

    Early medieval maps do show Iberia as a country, but this refers to only a small part of present-day Georgia. The first maps where the name Georgia is given to the territory of the modern country is after Queen Tamar's reign, when she managed to unify the different regional kingdoms under the name of Georgia. First European maps that show this name date from the thirteenth and fourteen centuries only. That is, almost 2,000 years after Armenia and Persia.

    Yours,
    Rouben Galichian

    Addendum by Keghart.com

    The map appearing in the article was provided as an illustration by Keghart.com editors and not Rev. Doc. Nersessian, unbeknownst to both parties to this discussion.- Edit.

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