Archive for the ‘The Pre Medo-Achaemenid Era’ Category

Professor S. Peter Cowe: Church of Etchmiadzin (Ejmiatsin)

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

The article below by Professor S. Peter Cowe on the Church of Echmiadzin (Ejmiatsin) was first published December 15, 1998 in the Encyclopedia Iranica and last updated on December 9, 2011.

Kindly note that a number of pictures displayed in the article below are from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006 and Farrokh’s textbook  Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایه‌های صحرا-).

Etchmiadzin (Ejmiatsin) is currently designation of three separate but interrelated entities: the cathedral and monastic complex which forms the residence of the supreme patriarch and catholicos of all the Armenians, the city in which this complex is located, and the district of which the latter is the administrative center. Notably, excavations conducted by the Yerevan Institute of art in 1955-56 and 1959 demonstrate that the Etchmiadzin cathedral had been constructed over an Iranian (Zoroastrian or Mithraic) fire temple.

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EJMIATSIN (or Echmiadzin; Arm. Eǰmiacin; Tk. Ūč Kelīsā), currently designation of three separate but interrelated entities: the cathedral and monastic complex which forms the residence of the supreme patriarch and catholicos of all the Armenians, the city in which this complex is located, and the district of which the latter is the administrative center. The name means “The Only-begotten descended” and is associated with a vision vouchsafed to the first primate of Armenia, St. Gregory the Illuminator, soon afer the Christianization of the court in 314 C.E., generally dated to the 460’s. In it Christ appeared to the prelate and indicated with blows of a gold hammer the site where the cathedral church (katʿołikē) should be constructed (Agathangelos, p. 276, tr., p. 277). Since the Middle Ages the term has been used to designate the church and was further applied to the city and the surrounding district in 1945.

Echmiadzin-ChurchThe Etchmiadzin Cathedral is the Church in Armenia and is in fact considered to be the world’s oldest cathedral (Picture Source: Public Domain).

Located in the central sector of the plain of Ararat in what was the Aragacotn district of the Ayrarat region and favored with a mild climate, the area has yielded up a variety of antiquities from the stone, bronze, and iron ages indicating early habitation. From the first through the early fifth centuries it was royal domain of the Arsacid dynasty branch of the Parthian royal house of Persia. It is probable that the city itself was established by King Vałarš I (117-40 C.E.), as its original name Vałaršapat implies. A somewhat embellished description of its foundation is recorded by a later Armenian historian now generally dated to the eighth-ninth centuries (Moses of Khorene, pp. 199-200, tr. Thomson, pp. 210-211). In 163 it was proclaimed capital of Armenia by the Romans under the designation Kainēpolis (New city), by which it is also known in certain early Armenian writings (Koriwn, pp. 98, 118, 140, tr., pp. 280, 288, 297). Latin inscriptions testify to the Romans strengthening its defense works and garrisoning a vexillatio (a cavalry force of 600 horsemen) of the XV Legion Apollinaris there.

The city appears to have been the residence of the Arsacid dynasty during the fourth century, but seems never fully to have recovered from its sack and the deportation of its population under Šāpūr II (after 363), apart from a period under King Vramašpuh (ca. 392-414). After Dvin became a capital in the second half of the fifth century, Ejmiatsin’s status remained primarily religious. In addition to its association with Gregory the Illuminator it gained prestige from being the locus of the martyrdom of Sts. Hṙipʿsimē and Gayanē and a group of virgins who, according to the sources, had accompanied them from Rome at the turn of the fourth century (Agathangelos, pp. 296, 298, tr., p. 297, 299). Soon annual feast days were appointed and martyria constructed in their honor, which became a source of pilgrimage. The existence of three prominent churches in the city prompted its Turkish title of Ūč Kelīsā. In 1694 the melik Ałamal Šoṙotʿecʿi endowed a fourth, the Šołakatʿ. Excavations in 1955-56 and 1959 by the Institute of art in Erevan revealed that the cathedral had been constructed over an Iranian fire temple.

A Persian Zoroastrian or Mithraic Fire Altar discovered Underneath the Etchmiadzin Cathedral, Armenia in the late 1950s. The presenters at the scene note a number of Iranian types themes at the Fire Altar. This discovery at Etchmiadzin provides further substantiation for Professor Whittow’s observation that: “The oldest outside influence in Trans-Caucasia is that of Persia … many of its populations, including Armenians and Georgians, as well as Persians and Kurds, the Transcaucasus had much closer ties with the former Sassanian world [224-651 CE] to its south and east than with the world to the west” (Whittow, M. (1996). The Making of Byzantium: 600-1025. Berkley: University of California Press, pp.203-204).

Its fourth century basilica structure was damaged during Yazdegerd II’s campaign of 449-51 and was rebuilt in the cross-in-square design which it still retains by the sparapet Vahan Mamikonean in 483 (Łazar Pʿarpecʿi, p. 157, tr., p. 217). As the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia was subjected to increased Mamluk pressure at the end of thirteenth century and contemplated various accommodations to Latin faith and order to gain support from the pope and Western powers, a movement of civil and religious leaders in Greater Armenia began to press for the seat of the catholicate (currently in the Cilician capital of Sis) to be transferred to Ejmiatsin. This is embodied in the evocative lament of 1304 by Stepʿannos Ōrbēlean, in which the cathedral is personified as a widowed mother mourning the loss of her children. Finally, through efforts of Yovhannēs Hermonecʿi and Tovama Mecopʿecʿi a council was convened at Ejmiatsin in 1441 which created a new supreme catholicate, the jurisdiction of Sis thereafter being of purely local significance. Catholicos Grigor X Jalalbekeancʿ (1443-65) then purchased the city and surrounding district which remained under ecclesiastical control until the establishment of Soviet orders in 1920.

The district remained under Persian rule from 1502 to 1827 as a component of the Khanate of Erevan (q.v.). In order to retain a powerful Armenian presence in Persia in the aftermath of his widespread deportations, Shah ʿAbbās I (996-1038/1588-1629, q.v.) determined to dismantle the cathedral stone by stone and have it reconstructed in New Julfa in the suburb of Isfahan. However, upon reflection he contented himself with its primary elements, the four corner stones, the altar, stone of Christ’s descent, baptismal font, right hand of St. Gregory utilized in consecrating bishops, etc. From the 1630’s until the end of the century a succession of pontiffs supervised the edifice’s repair and extension and the provision of auxiliary buildings, such as a belltower, bakehouse, refectory and enlarged retaining wall as well as irrigation canals and artificial lakes. Expenses for these operations were provided by the Armenian ḵoǰas of New Julfa, who enjoyed great influence in the election of the catholicoi at this period, and čelebīs of Constantinople. The century also witnessed the foundation of a school of higher theological studies at Ejmiatsin where secular subjects were also taught, in part in order to combat Catholic missionaries. The latter seem to have had a special devotion toward St. Hṙipʿsimē, whose relics one of them attempted to purloin from their shrine (Ghougassian, p. 168).

Echmiadzin-Farrokh-1[Click to Enlarge] Portrait of Shah Abbas at the Etchmiadzin Cathedral (Picture Source: Kaveh Farrokh, November, 5, 2013).

Two other councils convoked at Ejmiatsin were directed against Persian rule over the eastern provinces of the Armenian homeland. Since the catholicos was recognized as ethnarch in both civil and religious affairs he has the obligation to take the initiative in such measures. Consequently, Catholicos Stepʿannos Salmastecʿi summoned both clerics and lay representatives to the first in 1547 which planned overtures to Venice and the the Pope to institute the new crusade. Subsequently, the catholicos approached Emperor Charles V and Sigismund II of Poland. However, his death in 1552 brought the episode to a close. The second, which was destined to end in similar fashion, was organized by Catholicos Yakob Jułayecʿi in 1677. Hearing about its purpose, the khan of Erevan attempted to obstruct it, but the catholicos managed to escape to Georgia where he enlisted the support of Giorgi XI, King of Kartli, before continuing to Cosnstantinople. There he entered into correspondence with Jan Sobieski of Poland, but died before much progress was made. One delegation, Israel Ori, son of one of the meliks (secular lords) of Siwnikʿ, attempted single-handedly to pursue negotiations but with no success.

The skillful diplomacy of Catholicos Abraham Kretacʿi (1734-37) kept Ejmiatsin out of the Turko-Persian war and was rewarded by a vistit of Nader Shah to the city in June 1735, during which he granted the catholicate various privileges (Marvī, p. 411). The pontiff’s history of his times was published in 1870 at the monastery press established by Simēon Erevancʿi in 1771. The eighteenth century saw a steady improvement in the complex’s situation maintained by his successors’ political conservatism. Between 1715 and 1799 various members of the renowned Yovnatʿanean family were commissioned to paint different parts of the cathedral in the Persian style. The monastery built a hospice in the 1730s, opened a paper factory in 1776 to supply the press, and invested in a cotton production plant.

Etchmiadzin Cathedral 5th century planThe 5th century floor plan of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral which bears parallels with the Sassanian-era architecture of Iran – for more on Armenian-Iranian-Roman architectural links see “Professors Curatolia and Scaria: Dome Architecture and Europe(Picture Source: Public Domain).

During the first Russo-Persian War (1804-13) Ejmiatsin was threatened by ʿAbbās Mīrzā’s forces, until relieved by General Tsitsianov who transported some of the monastery’s treasures to Tiflis for safe keeping. The city was again taken by Russian troops in September 1806, but was ceded to Persia by the Treaty of Golestān. In the prelude to the second Russo-Persian War (1826-28) both ʿAbbās Mīrzā and Ḥosaynqolī Khan Īravānī tried unsuccessfully to win the support of Nersēs Aštarakecʿi, the pro-Russian candidate for the pontifical office. He responded that he would consider Persian rule only if the church’s large debt repayments were reduced to small installments and Ejmiatsin were solely responsible to ʿAbbās Mīrzā, thus creating a small autonomous Armenian enclave under royal protection. Subsequently, the cleric raised Armenian militias which participated in the Russian advance on Ejmiatsin and fostered plans to encourage Armenians from the north of Persia and the Ottoman empire to immigrate to the Erevan region, many of whom settled around the city.

Surrender of Iranian Garisson to Paskevich-1828Surrender of the 3000-man Iranian Garrison in Yerevan to Russian forces on October, 1, 1828. The ensuing Treaty of Turkmenchai (February 21, 1827) resulted in Iran renouncing all of its Caucasian territories to the Czarist Russian empire. For a full history of the Russo-Iranian wars leading to the Treaty of Turkmenchai, readers are referred to Farrokh’s third text Iran at War: 1500-1988 in pages 187-198 (accompanying footnotes in pages 433-435) (Picture forwarded to Kavehfarrokh.com by Kooshan Mehran). Note the domed mosque on the left side of the street; this appears to be the famous Blue Mosque of Yerevan, which exists intact today in the city’s Mesrop Mashtots avenue.

During the nineteenth century more amenities were added to the monastic complex, especially under the catholicate of Gēorg IV Kostaninupolsecʿi (1866-82). In addition to inaugurating Ararat, the first periodical in Armenia, and opening a museum and reading room, the latter founded the only institution of higher learning in the Erevan province, which achieved renown under his name as the Gēorgean Jemaran (academy). It counted a number of celebrated cultural figures among its teaching staff and student body, e.g., Komitas, Y. Yovhannisean and M. Abełean. After the revolution of 1905 it developed social democrat and later Bolshevist cells until its closure in 1917.

During Soviet rule the Ejmiatsin district underwent a marked degree of industrialization and became one of the most densely populated areas of the Armenian Republic. The main plans for the modern city were laid in 1939-46 under architect S. Manukyan. After reaching a nadir with the murder of Catholicos Xorēn Muradbekyan on April 4, 1938 in Ejmiatsin the church experienced a partial easing of its position after the Second World War under the long reign of Vazgēn I Palčyan (1955-94). Since 1988 both city and district have given shelter to numerous refugees from the ethnic conflict in the Republic of Azerbaijan (known as Arran and the Khanates since 1918).

Primary Sources

Aṙak’el Dawrižecʿi (Arkʿel of Tabrīz), Girkʿ pamutʿeancʿ (Book of histories), ed. L. A. Khanlaryan, Erevan, 1990; tr. L. A. Khanlaryan as Kniga istoriĭ, Moscow, 1973.

B. M. Arutjunjan, Ečmiadzin, Erevan, 1969.

Koriwn, Varkʿ Maštocʿi (Life of Maštocʿ), ed. A. Pivazyan; tr. B. Norehad, Erevan, 1981.

A. Kretacʿi, Patmagrutʿiwn ancʿicʿn iwrocʿ ew Natr-Šahin Parsicʿ (Historiography of the events of his own time and that of Nadir Shah of the Persians), 1870.

Moḥammad-Kāẓem Marvī, ʿAlamārā-ye nāderī, ed. M.-A. Rīāḥī, 3 vols., Tehran, 1364 Š./1985.

Łazar Pʿarpecʿi, Patmutʿiwn hayocʿ (Armenian history), ed. G. Tēr-Mkrtčean and S. Malxasean, Tbilisi, 1904; repr. with introduction by D. Kouymjian, New York, 1985; tr. R. W. Thomson as The History of Łazar Pʿarpecʿi, Atlanta, GA, 1991.

Ps. Pʿawstos, The Epic histories, tr. N. G. Garoïan, Harvard Armenian Texts and Studies 8, Cambridge, MA, 1989.

Stepʿannos Ōrbēlean, Ołb i S. Katʿołikēn (Lament on the holy cathedral of Ejmiacin), Tbilisi, 1885. Tovma Mecopʿecʿi, Višatakaran (Colophon), Tbilisi, 1892.

Z. Agulecʿi, Ōragrutʿiwn (Diary), Erevan, 1938. Zakʿria Sarkawag, Patmagrutʿiwn (Historiography), Vałaršapat, 1870.

 

Secondary Sources

Ł. Ališan, Ayrarat, Venice, 1890.

A. Alpoyašean, Patmutʿiwn hay dprocʿi (History of the Armenian school) I, Cairo, 1946.

H. M. Anasyan, XVII dari azatagrakan šaržumnern arewmtyan hayastanum (17th-Century liberation movements in western Armenia), Erevan, 1961.

B. Aṙakʿelyan, Kʿałakʿnerē ew arshestnerē Hayastanum IX-XIII darerum (Cities and trade in Armenia during the 9th-13th centuries) I-II, Erevan, 1958-64.

V. Bastameancʿ, Nkaragrutʿiwn mayr ekełecʿwoyn hayocʿ S. Eǰmiacni (Description of the Armenian mother church of Holy Ejmiacin), Vałaršapat, 1877.

S. Epʿrikean, S. Eǰmiacin 303-1903 (Holy Ejmiacin 303-1903), Venice, 1903.

V. S. Ghougassian, The Emergence of the Armenian Diocese of New Julfa in the Seventeenth Century, Ph.D. thesis, Columbia University, New York, 1995.

H. Hübschmann, Die altarmenischen Ortsnamen, Strassburg, 1904, repr. Amsterdam, 1969.

Ł. Inǰiǰean, Storagrutʿiwn hin hayastaneaycʿ (Description of ancient Armenia), Venice, 1822.

A. Kʿalantʿar, Hin Vałaršapati pełumnerē (The excavations of ancient Vałaršapat), Erevan, 1935.

H. F. B. Lynch, Armenia Travels and Studies I, London, 1901, repr. New York, 1990.

K. Maksoudian, Chosen of God. The Election of the Catholicos of All Armenians, New York, 1995.

A. Mxitʿareancʿ, Vałaršapat kʿałakʿamayr Hayastani (Vałašapat capital of Armenia), Vałaršapat, 1874.

H. Šahxatʿunean, Storagrutʿiwn katʿołikē Eǰmiacni ew hing gawaṙacʿn Araratay (Description of the cathedral of and the five districts of Ararat) I-II, Vałaršapat, 1842.

A. A. Sainjan, Nobye Dannye ob arxitekturnom oblike Ečmiadzinskogo sobora , Moscow, 1960. M. Santʿrosyan, Arewelahay dprocʿē XIX d. aṙaǰin kesin (The east Armenian school in the first half of the 19th century), Erevan, 1964.

A. Smbatyan, Eǰmiacni miabanutʿyan grakan-krtʿakan gorcuneutʿyunē ew Mayr atʿoṙi tparanē (The literary and educational activity of the brotherhood of Ejmiacin and the Mother see press).

The Princetonian: Petition challenges Pourdavoud Chair candidate

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

The article below (The Daily Princetonian: “Petition challenges Pourdavoud Chair candidate”, Chitra Marti, January 7, 2014) was sent forward to Kavehfarrokh.com by Professor Dariush Borbor (Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge and Director of the Research Institute and Library of Iranian Studies (RILIS) at Tehran). This pertains to the petition initiated by Professor Ehsan Yarshater which challenges Princeton University’s selection of “Pourdavoud Chair in pre-modern Persia”.

Inexplicably, the petition initiated by Professor Yarshater has been disabled; for further details see article below. Note especially the interview with Professor Borbor in the below article.

Dr. Mohammad Ala (Recipient of Grand Prix Film Italia Award in June 2013) made the following revelation on December 14, 2013

Friends:

 A little research shows that the person behind this agenda is Professor Dimitri Gutas of Yale, who invented the term Greco-Arabian for scholars such as Farabi, Khwarazmi, Ebne Sina etc. to deny their Persianness. Van Bladel happens to have studied with him. The agenda behind this nomination is not known.- – petrodollars, lobby group(s), or self-promotion, but we must prevent not only this nomination, but the very idea of ‘Greco-Arabian’ which is not related to us (Iranians).

Kindly note that the pictures and captions below did not appear in the original Princetonian report.

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A petition organized by Columbia professor Ehsan Yarshater surfaced challenging the University’s current candidate for the position of the Ibrahim Pourdavoud Professorship in Persian Studies.

The petition, which has been taken down, argued that having the name of Pourdavoud, a pioneer in the field of pre-Islamic Iranian studies, meant that the professor who occupies the Pourdavoud Chair should continue his work in the field of pre-Islamic studies. But the current candidate suggested by the search committee, according to the petition, was a Greco-Arabic scholar who has not specialized in pre-Islamic culture and who would thus not exemplify the memory of Pourdavoud.

The petition was taken down the week of Dec. 22 for unknown reasons. Yarshater did not respond to a further request for comment as to why the petition had been taken down.

Professor Ehsan YarshaterProfessor Ehsan Yarshater (Picture Source: NPR.org)

The petition, which was addressed to University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83, copied Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani ’80 and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani ’74, whose $10 million donation to the University in 2012 will help establish a Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies. The Mossavar-Rahmanis did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

However, the Pourdavoud Chair was not established by the Mossavar-Rahmani family. It was separately established by Dr. Anahita Naficy Lovelace ’75 and her husband Jim Lovelace. Dr. Lovelace said they were aware of the petition and declined to comment until after an appointment has been made.

According to Yarshater, the candidate being considered was Kevin van Bladel, a current history professor at Ohio State University. Van Bladel declined to comment for this article and said he had not received any formal offer from Princeton University.

“To allow a chair named after Pourdavoud, who spent all his life teaching and writing about Zoroastrianism and the pre-Islamic culture of Iran,” the petition read, “to be held by someone whose formal academic training has been in Arabic, Syriac, and Greek, and who by and large is unknown in the field, is considered a slap in the face of Iranian Studies, the community at large, and the memory of Pourdavoud.”

Van Bladel has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Yale University and was previously an assistant professor of classics at the University of Southern California. He specializes in the cultural and intellectual history of the Near East in the first millennium CE, focusing on the translation of works between Arabic, Greek, Syriac, Latin, Sanskrit and various Iranian languages such as Middle Persian and Arabic. His teaching also focuses on the ancient Mediterranean and Near East.

“In the perspective of my research, the advent of Islam is not the beginning or end of a period; it can be understood only by reference to what came before as much as to what came after,” van Bladel’s OSU biography states.

van BladelAssociate Professor & Chair Kevin van Bladel of Ohio State University (Picture source: OSU).

Ibrahim Pourdavoud, for whom the chair is named, was a Persian scholar who studied pre-Islamic Iranian history, focusing particularly on Zoroastrianism and Zoroastrian culture. He is perhaps most well known for translating the Avesta, the primary collection of Zoroastrian sacred texts, into Persian and providing explanatory commentary.

Dr. Lovelace said in an email that by naming the chair after Pourdavoud, they intended to “honor him and his life’s work on the occasion of his 125th birthday in 2011, which happened to coincide with [her] mother’s 90th birthday.”

In an interview with The Daily Princetonian, Yarshater acknowledged that although van Bladel has many strengths, they do not lie in the same field Pourdavoud spearheaded.

“The one scholar that Princeton University was thinking to appoint — although they haven’t appointed yet — was not an expert on any of those things that are Persian history, Persian culture or Iranian language. Even though under other standards he is a very good scholar, he would be more appropriate for chairs in Arabic or Greek,” Yarshater said.

Changing the Selection Process

Yarshater also suggested that the selection process be altered so as to better represent the intentions of a chair named for Pourdavoud.

“In order to do justice to the chair, to the donors and to the name of Pourdavoud, the selection committee should include several people of expertise in Iranian studies,” Yarshater said. “Ideally they would advertise the chair, a number of people would apply, and they will then decide who is the best choice for the chair … The committee would compose of people specialized in Iranian studies, not people in Arabic or Greek or Syriac.”

Dean of Faculty David Dobkin, who was also copied on the petition, said in an email that the selection committee for a chair position is typically made of faculty from the relevant department, or of faculty whose departments overlap with the area of the chair. Often, other faculty with broader interests are also included. Then, the search committee will begin placing ads and sending out requests for nominations to leading scholars in the field.

LIVE.NB_DobkinProfessor David Dobkin of Princeton University (Picture Source: Princeton Alumni Weekly)

Once the search committee has found a potential candidate, Dobkin said, he or she is proposed to the Advisory Committee on Appointments and Advancements, which solicits input from leading scholars in the field as to the candidate’s suitability for the position.

According to Dobkin, the donor and the University will come to a consensus on a description for a position, and the search committee will begin the selection process from there. Donors are not involved in the identification nor selection of candidates to occupy the chair.

Dobkin declined to comment on the search committee organized for the Pourdavoud Chair, citing the need to uphold the integrity and confidentiality of the selection process.

Greco-Arabic vs. Pre-Islamic

Dariush Borbor, Director of the Research Institute and Library of Iranian Studies in Tehran, signed the petition, citing his personal and academic belief that the current candidate does not meet the ideals of a Pourdavoud Chair.

“My personal feeling, as many other scholars, most of us agree with what Professor Yarshater has written in his letter that this endowment for the professorship at Princeton was made by two Iranians and they wanted to concentrate on Iranian studies,” Borbor said. “The chair which is named after [Pourdavoud] should be occupied by a person who specialized either in the languages of ancient Iran or the religion or generally the culture of ancient Iran.”

YSU-16-Asatrian-Farrokh-Borbor-3Professor Garnik S. Asatrian (Chair, Iranian Studies Dept., Yerevan State University; Editor, “Iran and the Caucasus”, BRILL, Leiden-Boston), Kaveh Farrokh and Professor Dariush Borbor (Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge and Director of the Research Institute and Library of Iranian Studies (RILIS) at Tehran) at Yerevan State University conference “Shirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” (November, 2013). Professor Borbor has often lectured and written about the misconceptions against Iranian Studies perpetuated by Greek scholarship.

Like Yarshater, Borbor acknowledged that van Bladel has many strengths in other fields, but that he may not be suited for this position.

“He may be a very good scholar as well, of his own right, but if he is a scholar specialized on Arabic, Syriac and Greek, I don’t think it’s a very suitable choice … Especially the Greek side, because with most of the scholars who were specialized in Greek studies and on the history or culture of Greece, their interpretation of Iranian studies was often very one-sided and sometimes quite wrong,” Borbor said. “I have, myself, written and lectured in many universities about the misconceptions that Greek scholarship has given to Iranian studies.”

Hosi Mehta, president of the Zoroastrian Association of Chicago, signed the petition as well, also citing a concern for the potential misrepresentation of Iranian history.

“Persian history is really rich, and I was surprised that they could not find somebody who would be into that than finding someone who has the Arabic background,” Mehta said. “I read his qualifications, that he was an Arabic scholar, and the concern was that sometimes things get misrepresented … the winner usually writes the history, so it could be changed in different ways. There are people who say the Holocaust never happened.”

Azerbaijan Republic acknowledges Historical Legacy of Polo Game

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

One enduring legacy of the former Soviet Union is its school of falsifying history. That same school of historical falsification now continues to endure in one the former Soviet Union’s satellite regions, the modern Republic of Azerbaijan (known as Arran and the Khanates until 1918). Nazrin Mehdiyeva, a historian from the Republic of Azerbaijan, has noted that:

“…the myth [of a North versus South Azerbaijan] was invented under the Soviets for the purpose of breaking Azerbaijan’s historical links with Iran. To make this historical revisionism more acceptable, the Soviet authorities falsified documents and re-wrote history books. As a result, the myth became deeply ingrained in the population [of the Republic of Azerbaijan-known as Arran and the Khanates until 1918] … as part of the rhetoric” (Mehdiyeva, N.,2003, Azerbaijan and its foreign policy dilemma. Asian Affairs, 34, pp. 271-285, cited from p.280).

A post-Soviet era propaganda map produced in Baku. The above map promotes the false notion that a “Greater Azerbaijan” was divided in two by Russia and Iran in 1828 [Click above map to view the official Baku establishment narrative]. Historically false claims such as these were first promoted by the pan-Turkists of the early 20th century which were then propagated by the former Soviet Union and the Communists, notably Joseph Stalin and Mirjaafar Baguirov. Unfortunately the legacy of historical amnesia has continued to persist at the official level in the Caucasian state.

The Baku administration has based its falsification of history by appropriating the historical legacy of its neighbors, especially Iran as well as Armenia. In mid-September 2013 for example, the Baku establishment replaced the Persian-inscribed tiles at Nezami mausoleum – for more on this topic consult: Lornejad, S., & Doostzadeh, A. (2012). On the Modern Politicization of the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi. Yerevan Series for Oriental Studies (Volume I), Edited by Garnik S. Asatrian. Yerevan: Caucasian Center for Iranian Studies. (pdf) – NOTE: This is the Official Digitized Version by Victoria Arakelova; with errata fixed from the print edition. False Statue in RomeBaku Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov at Nizami Ganjavi monument at Rome’s Villa Borghese park in early February 2013. The Aliev Foundation  funded the installation of this statue as part of the initiative of falsifying Iranian historical icons (see Petition to correct the historical identity of the statue in Rome). Ganjavi composed his poetry in Persian and wrote extensively on the Iranian cultural realm.

The very name “Azerbaijan” had never been applied to the region of the modern-day Republic – this was first proposed by pan-Turkist elements of the Musavat movement on May, 28, 1918 – prior to that date, the only historical reference to Az/a/rbaijan was to the historical province located in northwest Iran. The succeeding Soviets who followed the Musavat regime in Baku retained that incorrect name for the region. As noted by Barthold:

The name “Azerbaijan” for the Republic of Azarbaijan (Soviet Azerbaijan) was selected on the assumption that the stationing of such a republic would lead to that entity and its Iranian counterpart to become one…this is the reason why the name “Az/a/rbaijan” was selected (for Arran)…anytime when it is necessary to select a name that refers to the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan, we should/can select the name Arran …” (Quote from Bartold, Soviet academic, politician and foreign office official. See Bartold, V.V., Sochineniia, Tom II, Chast I, Izdatelstvo Vostochnoi Literary, p.217, 1963).

Ata Yurdu-تبلیغات ضد ایرانی در کتابهای درسی رژیم حاکم بر باکو!-[Anti-Iranian propaganda in school textbooks printed by the current regime of Baku]. History books are being re-written in Baku and exported to major Western libraries and universities in the effort to undermine Iranian history.

Most recently the Baku establishment had contacted UNESCO to consider the game of polo as an “Azerbaiiani” sport. For more see: Fars News (October 28, 2013): Iran urges UNESCO to reject Republic of Azerbaijan’s claim on ancient Polo game. Polo is the one of the world’s oldest known competitive team sports, in which players use mallets on horseback to shoot a ball through the opposing team’s goal post. The game continues to be intensely popular in modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. In fact, as noted by Mehdi Hojjat (Deputy Director ICHHTO) Afghanistan, Pakistan and India who have claims to the legacy of Polo, have also objected against the Republic of Azerbaijan’s application to UNESCO. As noted by Hojjat:

 “We will tell UNESCO that the traditional game is a common element that should be not registered exclusively in the name of a single country.”

Polo_game_from_poem_Guy_u_ChawganA Persian miniature made in 1546, during the reign of the Safavid dynasty of Iran (1501-1722). This artwork is of the Persian poem Guy-o Chawgân (“Ball and Polo-mallet”) depicting Iranian nobles engaged in the game of polo, which has been played in Iran for thousands of years (Picture Source: Public Domain).

The efforts of Mehdi Hojjat have borne success and the truth of history has prevailed – see Tehran Times based report Payvand News Report (December 5, 2013): below:

Azerbaijan concedes chogan is not an Azeri game: Iranian official

Below is the full report provided by Payvand News – readers are encouraged to read further comments further below after the Payvand News report:

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An official of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) has said that Azerbaijan has officially accepted the fact that chogan (polo) is not an Azeri game.

ICHTHO’s Department for Registration of Natural, Historical and Intangible Heritage Director Farhad Nazari made the remarks on Tuesday after UNESCO registered chovqan (the Azeri word for chogan) as a traditional Karabakh horse-riding game for the Republic of Azerbaijan on its List of Intangible Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding during the 8th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The efforts made by the Iranian delegation at the meeting convinced Azerbaijan to officially acknowledge verbally and in writing the fact that chogan is not an Azeri game,” he said.

He added that the efforts also led to the modification of Azerbaijan’s file on chogan in the meeting.

In the file, Iran’s West Azarbaijan Province and East Azarbaijan Province had been referred to as “south Azerbaijan”, but this reference was removed when, during the meeting, it faced opposition from the Iranian delegation.

As a result, Iran also can to apply for registration of the Iranian chogan on the list. In addition, UNESCO experts in the meeting agreed that chogan would be registered as a multinational element on the UNESCO list,” Nazari stated.

ICHTHO Director Mohammad-Ali Najafi asked UNESCO in October to register chogan as a multinational element on its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

ICHTHO Deputy Director Mehdi Hojjat previously said that Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, along with Iran, have a claim on the game.

The 8th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue in Baku until December 7.

The Paach ceremony, a corn-veneration ritual celebrated in San Pedro Sacatepequez in Guatemala was also on the List of Intangible Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.

The Committee is also scheduled to review four other nominations for the list and 30 nominations for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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In summary, this has been a very positive development and shows once again that with reference to proper historical sources combined with an academic and objective approach, the truth of history is safeguarded.

So what about the origins of Polo? There certainly is diversity of opinion, however reputable mainstream academia simply does not place the origin and invention of polo in the southeastern Caucasian territory north of the Araxes River (known as “Azerbaijan” since 1918). There are suggestions that this was invented in Iran and/or by Iranian peoples in antiquity, examples being:

  • Goel and Goel (1988, p. 318) who attribute this to the Persians in 2000 BCE (Goel, R. G. & Goel, V., 1988. Encyclopaedia of Sports and Games. Vikas Publishing House).
  • Craig (2002, p.157) who attributes the origins of polo to the Medes in the 100s CE (Craig, S., 2002. Sports and Games of the Ancients. Greenwood Publishing Group)

Singh (2007, p. 10) however challenges the Iranian origin thesis by highlighting Polo’s possible origins in China and India for example (Singh, J., 2002. Polo in India. London: New Holland).

Meydan Naghshe Jahan-Isfahan-Iran[Click to Enlarge] The Safavid era Meydan e Nagshe Jahan in modern-day isfahan which was a major venue for the game of polo in Iran (Picture Source: Public Domain).

Polo is indeed an international sport, whose origins overlap several modern nations in Western and Central Asia. The Republic of Azerbaijan is one of the heirs to this tradition, especially given its long-standing cultural and historical ties to Iran until 1828.  The south Caucasus region such as Armenia and modern-day Azerbaijan Republic (known as Arran and the Khanates until 1918) were introduced to Polo and equestrian sports by  thousands of years of cultural interaction with the Iranian realms.

Polo is referred to as “Chovgun” in the Republic of Azarbaijan – this term is actually derived from the Persian word “Chowgan” which means polo stick. It is possible that the term “Chowgan“, may have entered Western lore as “Chicane” (French), “Choca” (Spanish and Portuguese), “Schaggun” (German) or “Chekan” (Russian). On the other hand, the name of “Polo” is believed to have been derived from the Tibetan word “Puulu” which means ball (Crego, 2003, p.23 – Crego, R., 2003, Sports and Games of the 18th and 19th centuries, Greenwood Publishing Group). Etymology however is  insufficient at academically “proving” a Tibetan, Iranian or other (Indian, Chinese, etc.) origin for Polo – but it certainly is suggestive of an east-west cultural dynamic.

Ardashir1[Click to Enlarge] The founder of the Sassanian dynasty (224-651 CE) Ardashir I (180-242 CE) depicted in a lance-joust scene at Firuzabad. Ardashir and the Sassanians in general, were greatly fond of Polo (Picture source: Photo taken by Farrokh in August 2001 and shown in Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at The University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006).

While the questions of origins remained debated, it is generally agreed that Polo has been an integral aspect of the culture and history of Iran since pre-Islamic times. Below are some excerpts from the Encyclopedia Brittanica:

A game of Central Asian origin, polo was first played in Persia (Iran) at dates given from the 6th century bc to the 1st century ad. Polo was at first a training game for cavalry units, usually the king’s guard or other elite troops. To the warlike tribesmen, who played it with as many as 100 to a side, it was a miniature battle. In time polo became a Persian national sport played extensively by the nobility. Women as well as men played the game, as indicated by references to the queen and her ladies engaging King Khosrow II Parvīz and his courtiers in the 6th century ad. From Persia the game spread to Arabia, then to Tibet (the English word polo is the Balti word meaning “ball”), to China, and to Japan. In China (910) the death of a favoured relative in a game prompted Emperor A-pao-chi to order the beheading of all surviving players. Polo was introduced into India by the Muslim conquerors in the 13th century…

Polo-Tang Dynasty[Click to Enlarge] Chinese Polo players of the 8th century CE during the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE) (Picture Source: AsiaSociety.org).

Despite the aforementioned official efforts with UNESCO and negotiations with the Republic of Azerbaijan by Iranian authorities, Dr. Mohammad Reza Said-Abadi (دکترمحمدرضا سعیدآبادی), the chair of Iran’s commission to UNESCO ( دبیرکل کمیسیون ملی یونسکو ) has contradicted his Iranian colleagues by stating:

مهم این نیست که قدمت و ریشه چوگان در کجای این منطقه است و توسط کجا به ثبت رسیده است بلکه مهم این نکته است که این بازی و مهارت در کجا فعال و به خطر افتاده است ،بنابراین اگر بخواهیم در چارچوب حقوقی صحبت کنیم با وجود اینکه قدمت چوگان در ایران است اما این اشتباه است که بگوییم آذربایجان نباید آن را به ثبت برساند و چوگان مال ماست! درباره اینکه ما زودتر باید این را به ثبت می‌رساندیم سؤال دیگری است

Dr Said-AbadiTranslation: It is not important which region of this locale is identified with the antiquity and roots of Chowgan [Polo] or who has registered this [with UNESCO] - what is important is where this game and its skills/expertise have been endangered, therefore if we wish to speak in legal terms even-though the antiquity of Chowgan [Polo] is in Iran, it is wrong to say that [Republic of Azerbaijan] should not register Chowgan [Polo], because Chowgan [Polo] belongs to us! As to whether we should have registered this sooner is another question…(Picture Source: UT.ac.ir)

First, as noted previously by Mehdi Hojjat (Deputy Director ICHHTO, Iran’s official position is not that Polo is exclusively Iranian. Instead Hojjat’s argument is that Polo is a shared heritage not exclusive to just one country. Second, Mr. Said-Reza appears to be stating that “it’s ok” to distort history and register this with UNESCO.   Perhaps it may be conjectured that Dr. Mohammad Reza Said-Abadi is speaking from an ideological standpoint  consistent with pan-Islamism which downplays the history and legacy of Iran in favor of the wider pan-Muslim dynamic. Much like the former “pan-internationalist” Communists of the Soviet Union, all forms of “national” history are dismissed as “bourgeois”.

Farrokh Lecture on Iran-Caucasus Links at University of Southern California

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Kaveh Farrokh will be providing a two-part lecture at the University of Southern California (USC) (topic: Iran and the Caucasus: A Long-Lasting Legacy of Historical & Cultural Ties) on April 22, 2013.

The USC lecture has been made possible by the organizational and coordination efforts of the Persian Academic and Cultural Student Association (PACSA – see Facebook) and support of the Persian American Society (PAS).

PACSA

[Click to Enlarge] The lecture will focus on the overview of the cultural and historical links between Iran and the Caucasus from antiquity to the signing of the Golestan and Turkmenchai treaties in the early 19th century. Examples of topics include influences in linguistics, arts, architecture and culture over the centuries in the regions of ancient Albania (modern Republic of Azerbaijan), Armenia and Georgia (ancient Iberia and Colchis). In addition to influences from Iran proper, the role of North-Iranian speakers in Eastern Europe and their impact on the Caucasus is also examined. The lecture will conclude with the Iranian legacy in the Caucasus after the Russian conquests of 1828.

The lecture at the University of Southern California on Iran and the Caucasus: A Long-Lasting Legacy of Historical & Cultural Ties will be held at:

Location: USC-Waite Phillips Hall (Room WPH B27) – 3470 Trousdale Parkway Los Angeles, CA 90089

Time: 6:30 pm

 

Shimon D. Cohen: The Father of the Iranian Nation visits the United States

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

An interesting article by Shimon D. Cohen on the London-based CAIS website discusses the history of Cyrus the Great and his legacy to the present day. Cohen’s article was written in the context of the Exhibition of ‘The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia’ which opened on Saturday 9th March, 2013. The exhibition displays carvings, plaques,  architectural works and luxury objects. The exhibition opened in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery on March 9 and will continue through until April 28. After the display at the Sackler gallery, the Cyrus Cylinder will be bought over to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. The Cylinder will then conclude its North American trek at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles in October 2013.

The Cyrus Cylinder now housed in The British Museum. The policies advocated by Cyrus in this Cylinder are corroborated by independent Greek and Biblical sources as well as by a number of other archaeological findings in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), Egypt and western Anatolia (in Modern Turkey).

The Exhibition is being supported by the British museum and sponsored by members of the Iranian diaspora — especially the Iran Heritage Foundation.

Cohen’s article also discusses political lobbies opposed to the legacy of the Cyrus Cylinder, especially Eurocentrists and Pan-Islamists:

Outside Iran, the regime has also hired a number of foreigners to attack Cyrus the Great’ historical figure – some of which claim Cyrus was not even a Persian. It is alleged, that a well known among them is a pseudo-historian who calls himself Jona Lendering, and runs a blog that provides the most biased and inaccurate information about pre-Islamic Iran. It is believed that the majority of the Wikipedia articles concerning the Achaemenid history, particularly those referenced to Cyrus the Great, has been edited by Lendering. To back his propaganda, he references all the entries – majority back to his blog ‘Livius.org’, or other likeminded blogs and websites. It was also alleged a few years ago that the Islamic republic has opened an office for him in Central Tehran and put him on their pay list for his supererogatory services. To promote himself as a ‘historian’, one of his friends even created a page in Wikipedia. He also began a hate campaign against those Iranian academics not favoured by the Islamic Republic, who are living outside Iran and are expert in Pre-Islamic Iranian history, in particular Dr Kaveh Farrokh. Lendering also succeeded to influence two prominent European newspapers; Der Spiegel and the Daily Telegraph which have fallen for his propaganda and began a hate campaign against Cyrus the Great and ancient Persia.

A Persian Rabbi in 2008 accused Der Spiegel of inciting anti-Semitism and called for a legal action against the editor. Rabbi Yohanna Hamadani described the article as a “dark coalition of anti-Semitic-Neo-Nazis, [Muslim] fundamentalists and Eurocentrics embodied in an article.”

Cohen has aptly summarized how historical icons can become politicized.

Before attacking Kaveh Farrokh, Jona Lendering first sold his pictures for Farrokh’s text Shadows in the Desert (2007) to Osprey Publishing. Mr. Lendering received money for his pictures published in pages 23, 53, 54, 89, 116, 128, 179, 180, 181, 183, 189, 195, 225, and 288 – After receiving payment Mr. Lendering launched ad hominem attacks against Kaveh Farrokh on Wikipedia, the internet (in Dutch and English) with the support of Dr. Wouter Henkelman, Dr. Amelie Kuhrt, Dr. Pierre Briant and Dr. Matt Stolper and their backers in the internet and Wikipedia (many based in Iran, Bosnia and Russia and posing as westerners).  NOTE: Farrokh had never written against any of these individuals or Mr. Lendering (or Livius.org).

Cohen’s article has identified the reason for these attacks: Farrokh was being “punished” for daring to contradict the post-1979 (revisionist) narratives against Cyrus the Great.

 

Jona “Tehran” Lendering (left) and one of his defamatory-attack victims, Iranian historian Shapour Suren-Pahlav (right) who is also host of the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS) in London which provides resources for learning about ancient Iran. Lendering used his Wikipedia supporters and administrators to forcefully eject CAIS postings regarding Cyrus the Great out of the Wikipedia in 2007-2009. The reason:  Mr. Lendering’s perspective that the Human Rights legacy of Cyrus the Great  is “Shah propaganda”Even more bizarre are Lendering’s attacks against Shapour-Suren Pahlav for raising alarm bells regarding the destruction of historical sites (including UNESCO sites) in Iran. Lendering has even attempted to whitewash reports that the Sivand Dam is harmful to Cyrus’ tomb at Pasargad by labelling this as ”anti-Iranian propaganda“! Dr. Wouter Henkelman (who now bears a strong influence on Iranian Studies programs inside Iran) and Dr. Matt Stolper support Jona Lendering’s narratives.