Sunday, June 28, 2009

Surp Sarkis vs. Surp Giragos - Diyarbekir

A caveat to my original blog on Diyarbekir (posted on June 11, 2009):

Shortly after our return to the United States, we discovered that the local people who were asked to take us to the Armenian Church in the Old City of Diyarbekir had taken us to the ruins of the Church of Surp Sarkis, not the church of Surp Giragos, as we had earlier believed we were visiting.

Surp Sarkis was a smaller version of the larger cathedral of Surp Giragos, was used after the Genocide as a warehouse, and was in a much worse state of existence than we understood later Sourp Giragos to be.

We have since learned that, indeed, efforts are underway to restore Surp Giragos Church, and that three of its five altars still exist. Hopefully one day I will have the opportunity to visit the city once more, and pay my respects to the memory of the Amirian Family who died in 1915 by visiting Sourp Giragos Church.

Our mother Lucine's father's family - the Kasarjian family of Diyarbekir -- went to Sourp Sarkis Church. They were cousins of the Amirian Family. Our great grandparents (grandfather's mother and father) were married there, and our maternal grandfather John Kebajian and his older brothers were baptized there. In 1897, my grandfather and his brothers traveled with their parents to Egypt to avoid the massacres that had begun in Turkey. His oldest brother was a scholar and studied at the Mekhitarist monastery in Venice, Italy. My grandfather eventually came to the United States and fought as a cavalry officer in the war against Pancho Villa. He met my grandmother Queeny (his cousin) when she came to the United States in or around the early 1920's.

In reading the journal written by my grandfather, quoting writings of his father, we learned that Grandpa John's uncle was the original designer of the tiles used to decorate BOTH Surp Giragos and Surp Sarkis churches. Some of that artistic work is still evident in the Surp Giragos Church.

Although we are disappointed that we did not see the Amirian Family's church of Sourp Giragos, we know that we were in the general area where they lived and worshiped, and we are happy that we went to the church at which our maternal grandfather's family worshiped. The Old City is small, and undoubtedly the many people who come from the town of Diyarbekir walked all of these narrow streets and alleys, and their sacrifice for us was something we felt just by being there.

My mother commented, after we confirmed that we had not been to Surp Giragos, that most likely the bump on my head (described in my blog) and the bird poop deposited on Brian's arm (also described in the blog) were undoubtedly messages from Grandma Queeny -- maybe not the message we originally believed, but certainly still a message. (ALK)

Erzurum and back to Istanbul, and a visit to the Patriarchate

June 14, 2009 was our last day in Western Armenia. We spent the night before at Dedeman Hotel, a ski lodge sitting above the city of Erzurum. The city sits nearly 6000 feet above sea level and is a popular ski resort of Anatolia.

Erzurum province has existed since ancient time, having been ruled by Armenians before the 11th Century AD. Although Armenians occupied Erzurum in more recent history, the massacres of 1894-96 (Hamidian Massacres) and the 1915 Genocide of 1.5 million Armenians throughout Anatolia, wiped out the population of Armenians from Erzurum. Little remains today of the Armenians who lived here for hundreds of years.

At the start of the 19th century approximately 100 Armenian-populated villages existed in the Erzurum plain - by the end of the century that number had been reduced to around 50. The brief Russian occupation of parts of the Ottoman Empire during the 1828-29 Russo-Turkish War resulted in an exodus of some 10,000 Armenian families, an estimated 75,000 people, mostly from Erzurum province, who accompanied the withdrawing Russian forces into Russian territory. There was a further flight of the region's native Armenian population into Russian-controlled territory after the Crimean War of 1853-56, and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, when Russian forces again captured Erzurum. In 1915, the forced exile and deportation of Armenians of Erzurum resulted in the virtual eradication of the Armenian population of this area.

We visited the old fortress of Erzurum, which is now only a museum. Inside the fortress walls is a church, once again attributed by the Turks to the Seluk tribes. But, we knew better. Behind the church stood a tall bell tower, constructed in later years. Brave Lisa and guide Marina walked up to the top, and you can seen them bravely looking down on us in the last photo.

Our visit ended with a short walk through the modern city and lunch. We relaxed back at our hotel - Dedeman Ski Resort - before catching our 10 p.m. flight back to Istanbul.


Our journey to Western Armenia over, we spent Monday June 15 in Istanbul with a guide who took us to a few of the Armenian sites of Istanbul. Today, approximately 70,000 Armenians live throughout the large area covered by Istanbul. Several operating Armenian churches scatter the area, along with a hospital (Surp Purgitch), two cemetaries, and the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, located in the district of Kumkapii.

Our first stop on our tour was the Patriarchate, where we were greeted by Grand Sacristan Aram Atesyan, who visited with us for about 1 1/2 hours. We saw four incredible paintings by the Russian Armenian painter Ayvasovsky, as well as other relics from the interior of Turkey now protected by the Patriachate. The newly renovated sanctuary, located across the street from the Patriarchate Headquarters, was a welcome relief after all the descrated churches we had seen in the days before.

We then drove around the outside of the old city walls and visited the Armenian cemetery where Hrant Dink is buried. Walking throughout this cemetery, which is the resting place of several famous Armenian writers, archbishops, and dignitaries, we were welcomed by the site of Armenian street names and so many Armenian family plots - some written in English letter and some in Armenian.
Our next stop was the old Armenian Church called Sourp Grigor Lusavoritch. This Armenian church, and its attached school, was once three times its existing size. However, because it is located along the busy roadway leading from the Galatia Bridge, and along which the tramway now runs, the government basically cut more than 1/3 of the original building off, and left the church, which has a basement chapel, to sit among commercial buildings. Ironically, I realized that when I was in Istanbul in 2006, and staying on board our cruise ship, just a few hundred feet from this area, I walked along this roadway at least 4 times, without ever seeing the dome of this Armenian church! Buried in its basement chapel is one of the famous Patriarchs of Istanbul, who died young in the mid-1800's. Patriarch Hovhannes Golod Paghishetsi was considered the greatest and most revered Patriarch of Constantinople. He served from 1714 to February 13,1741.

We ended our tour of this day by driving across the first of the two massive expansion bridges crossing the Bosporus Sea, and driving up to the peak of the hills above the city to enjoy a view of both the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. The vista also enabled us to see the small Princes Island known as "Kunali Aada" -- the summer island populated by Armenians of Istanbul.

On Tuesday, June 16, 2009, we all capped off our long visit to Turkey by taking a lovely cruise up the Bosporus Sea to the mouth of the Black Sea.

We passed the Dolmabace Palace, which we had visited weeks before (built by the Armenian Architect Balyan).
We enjoyed the view of the many summer mansions dotting the coast line on both the Asian and European sides of the Sea. We saw old fortresses, and little villages, and enjoyed the brilliant turquoise water.

At the end of the ferry line, we stopped in town for a fish lunch, wandered the small village and ate Dondurma (ice cream) and waited for the return ferry to take us back to Istanbul. Ending the evening with dinner at Tamara Restaurant, near our hotel (Dersaadet), Lisa, Susan, Harold and Debbie went to bed ready for an early morning flight beginning their journey back to the U.S.
Brian and I stayed one additional day in Istanbul, shopped at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market for gifts for his boys, and relaxed in our room reading ourselves for the journey home, via Versailles. We were ready to go home.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Khachkars Standing 6.4 Meters Tall!

On June 13, 2009 we began our trip to the town of Erzurum, which would be our last stop before our return to Istanbul. We drove along the path of the Yeprad River (historic "Euphrates" River). The Yeprad River and the Kamakh Gorge was the site of the death of thousands of Armenians -- its waters ran RED with the blood of Armenians shot and thrown into its waters as they marched along its banks toward the Deir Zor desert. Film maker J. Michael Hagopian chronicals the story of the survivors of the Genocide in his film "The River Ran Red" about this river, which has its origins in the Kharpert area.

The River is guarded by the high peaks of the mountains which flank its banks -- including tunnels blasted out of stone for roads to pass within. Fortunately, we did not realize how primitive the first of these tunnels was, until after we had passed through. More bizarre was the fact that we passed through several more as we continued our journey toward Erzerum, thankful when we finally got out of that mountainous pass!

As we came out of the long, mountainous pass, we turned onto a highway leading away from Erzerum. Shortly after that, Vartan turned onto a small primitive road, passing through poor villages. We could not imagine where he was taking us. About 30 minutes later, as we drove toward the mountains, we pulled into a parking lot. Leaving the van, we walked up toward the mountains, where we found hundreds of people enjoying the spray of beautiful waterfalls tumbling down onto the ground under our feet. We rested there, had a delicious fish (Red Mullett) lunch, enjoyed CLEAN bathrooms, and then headed on our journey to Erzurum.

But, Vartan was not done with us yet! Once again, he turned off the main highway, taking a small paved road into another valley. Where were we going??

Driving for what seemed forever, he turned onto another dirt road -- truly, this road was nothing more than what we in the US would call a fire road -- dirt, narrow, winding, and undoubtedly not made for a car! Yet, as we drove our 15 passenger MBZ up this road, we all wondered if Vartan had lost his mind!


As we came around the bend, nearly 6000 feet high, there ahead of us stood what I can only describe as a miracle -- up at the top of the peak above us were two khachkars (stone crosses) looking out over the magnificent valley below us, as if to say "gotcha -- you didn't get all of us!".

The Khatchkars were two of four that were erected on on this mountain top near a small chapel, and above a fortress and remains of two churches just below. We drove up to Apranitz Sourp Grigor Monastery (now the shelter for cattle and completely inaccessible because of the smell), and from there the braver of our group hiked up to the top, taking pictures of the khatchkars and churches below -- bravo Brian, Harold, Debbie and Lisa (and Marina!).

Although one of the churches below the khachkars remains intact, along with its Armenian inscriptions, this monastery complex is crumbling, and littered with graffiti, like so many others throughout Western Armenia. For now, few people have the chance to visit this beautiful reminder of what was once a flourishing Armenian monastery.

After toasting this wonderful "find" with the last of our Armenian brandy, and as the sun began to set, we climbed back into our van ("home" for two weeks!), and bumped our way back down the dirt road, finishing our journey into Erzurum. We were weary after a long day, but all of us were very happy that Vartan had treated us to such a beautiful site.

Historic Mush and Kharpert - Vanishing Armenians

Mush - City of Armenians Past

Our drive from Kars & Ani to the City of Mush, southwest of the Armenian border, was long and scenic. The drive took us through mountain roads that followed the river, green valleys, and farmland dotted with herds of goats, cattle, sheep and many beehives. While not as bad as other roads, we continued to encounter roads under construction. These were the mountains that gave rise to the legend of David of Sassoun ("Sassountzi Davit").

About halfway to Mush, Vartan once again stopped at the side of the road and indicated that we should get out and take pictures of the river and remains of a bridge dating back to the 11th century, built by Armenian dynasties. Once again reflecting the typical arches of Armenian style architecture, the Turks attribute the construction of this bridge to 13th century Seljuk Turks.

Lisa and I walked along the bridge toward young teenagers fishing from its center. Most notably, a square access hole glared at us, which, if one of us had lost our footing, would have been our fast trip right down to the water!

As we continued along the long road, I asked Vartan to find me a herd of "gov" in the road -- fat chance of that! Who would have believed that, around the next bend, that is exactly what we found! While typical (the cow wins the road battle), we often saw these herds of domestic animals around dusk, as their owners drove them back to their shelters for the evening. And, the next morning, the trekk to food in the hillsides began again.

We continued our journey to Mush enjoying the spectacular scenery. The town dates back to the 6th century AD, and now it shelters the remains of a couple of citadels and the Aslanhane Caravanserai. It is considered one of the early centers of the Armenian civilization and housed ancient Armenian churches until the 1960s. There are also mosques from the Seljuk period, like the Alaeddin Pasa, Haci Seref and Ulu Mosques. Mus had been under the reign of Urartu, Median, Persian, Armenian, Byzantine, civilizations.

The next morning, Vartan drove us high up into the old roads of Mush to view the Mush Valley, once the home of St. Gregory the Illuminator. The Armenian Monastery of Surb Karapet (the Holy Precursor, St. John the Baptist) in Mush, Turkey, constructed in the tenth century, was at the dawn of the twentieth century one of the three most important sites for Armenian Christian pilgrimage. It was the richest, and most ancient, monastic institutions in Ottoman Armenia. Besides the Church of St. Karapet, the monastery also contained the martyrium of St. John the Baptist, the chapel of St. Georg, the chapel of St. Stepanos and the church of St. Astuacacin. This magnificent example of Armenian architecture has been destroyed to its foundations since the Genocide of 1915.

We visited the remains of one small Armenian church which formed the foundation for what is now a makeshift residence for the Kurds living the village high above the valley. Below, you can see Vartan walking to the edge of the "roof" and looking over the valley toward the Armenian graveyard, where one of the famous Armenian heroes of the early 1900's - Kevork Chavush. The grave of Kevork, who was a legendary "fedayee" of the Ottoman empire, was hidden by his supporters shortly after his death in 1907 to protect his remains from the Ottomans. It has never again been located. Kevork, born in Sasun (Sasoon) and educated in the now obliterated Arekelotz Monastary in Mush, was killed in battle and his remains found two days later under the historic bridge of Sulukh, crossing the Aradzani River, shown in the photo below.

The thousands of Armenians living in Mush before 1915 were targeted for deportation and assassination. Although the Armenians fought bravely to save their homes, today Mush is occupied by Kurds, and evidence of Armenian life of the early 20th Century is gone. Some of those living in Mush, as in neighboring northeastern villages, may have successfully made their way East, to what is now Armenia, and Georgia. However, the vast majority were herded south, like the cattle we saw on the roads, following the river toward the Der Zor desert (south of Mardin). Given the terrain, it would have been virtually impossible for any of those dear people to survive their death march.

Kharpert (Elazig) and Arapkir - Ancestral Homes of Lisa and Debbie's Husband Hagop

The Murad River wandered gently along the road as we made our way to Elazig (Kharpert). The Murad River originates north of Lake Van near Mount Ararat and flows west for nearly 500 miles ending in the Malatya area near Elazig. The river is blocked by Turkey's largest dam, not far from Elazig, which provide power to much of the area.

Before settling in for the night in Elazig, we drove about 35 miles to the town of Arapkir, south west of Elazig. Arapkir is a small village where Debbie's husband Hagop's father was born, and where Lisa's Kalustian grandfather was born. The village of Arapkir was one of the most modern small villages we observed -- the old dilapidated homes that we had seen in most Armenian towns had been replaced by more "modern" masonry buildings (probably no less safe from earthquakes with their simple construction of popular and masonry). Not far from here was the historic Armenian town of Chungush, the home of Lisa's grandmothers. Although we were unable to stop here because of time constraints, we passed in the general vicinity.

We stopped for lunch in Arapkir, after parking in front of the local police station. The restaurant served tanabour, vegetable stew (bamya), grilled lamb and bread. The people were friendly, but distinctly less so than the people we had encountered further west and south of this area. We wondered how many people were hidden behind their doors that were of Armenian ancestry, living as Kurds. So many Armenian children in this general area were taken in by locals during the 1915 deportations that, when you looked in the eyes of these modern day residents, you just knew that some of them were Armenian by blood.

Shortly before we left Arapkir, Vartan struck up a conversation with the police, answering yet again the question "why are you here?" He told them that Lisa's grandparents were from this town. The police offered to call one of the old (80) Armenian residents of the town - "Sarkis" - who might know something about Lisa's grandfather. But, as was unfortunately the case in most towns, our time was so limited that we decided not to wait the hour or so that it might take.

After a short rainstorm, returned to Elazig where we stayed in a very modern hotel for the night. Other than the remains of the old fortress, little remains of historic Harput, located a few miles from our 5 star fancy hotel with a modern day mall attached. Historic Harput - a town inhabited by Armenians before 1915 that served historically as a crossroads between Syria and the Eastern countries, was gone. As in other villages in this areas, evidence of Armenians has been largely obliterated, just as our ancestors were in 1915.

Footnote: As I mentioned earlier, some Armenians from Eastern Anatolya escaped to Georgia and what is today the independent nation of Armenia. In Yerevan, one can find new villages within the city named after the historic towns of Western Armenia, including Nor Kharpert, and Arapkir. These "kughs" honor those who died in historic Western Armenia, and rise anew with life that hopefully will give the future Armenians a sense of pride knowing that those who died before in their historic towns did not die completely in vain.

Tomorrow -- the HIGHLIGHT of our visit to Western Armenia -- two standing 18 foot khachkars, untouched and standing at the top of a 6000 foot peak as a beacon of light over historic Armenia!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ani - City of 1001 Churches

A Visit to Ani -- A Footprint to the Once Flourishing Armenian Cultural Center

One of the great highlights of our trip to Western Armenia was a visit to the city of Ani, located about 30 minutes from Kars in northeastern Turkey. Ani is now nothing but a shell of the magnificent city it once was -- the victim of transition in power of this historic Armenian site to Turkey in the early 20th century.

Ani's origin dates back to the 5th Century AD. At one time, its population was between 100,000 and 200,000. It was once the seat of the Armenian Catholicos, and the capital of the Armenian Bagratuni Dynasty.

Geographically, today Ani sits on the Turkish side of the border of Armenia and Turkey, with the Akhurian River ( a branch of the Arax River) forming the border. It sits above a deep ravine above the Tzaghgadzor Valley. Historically, Ani stood on various trade routes. Its many churches, palaces, and fortresses were among the most technically and artistically advanced structures in the world. Under control of Armenians until 1064, Ani was captured and its population slaughtered by Seljuk Turks in 1064 AD. From that time until the early 20th Century, Ani's governance changed hands numerous times, until 1921, when the signing of the Treaty of Kars between the Turks and Russians handed over Ani to Turkey.

Today, the once flourishing city has been left by the Turks to become a crumbling shell of what was once considered a flourishing center of trade and culture. The link in the preceding sentence will take you to an interesting virtual website from where you can read more about the excavation of Ani in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Once under Turkish rule, excavation and any hope of renovation of Ani has ended.

Until recently, tourists were not permitted to photograph inside the fortress walls of Ani. Indeed, one could not even visit Ani without permission from the government of the City of Kars. However, we were lucky to visit at a time when we were left free to roam the large triangular landscape dotted with the remains of once beautiful structures -- and to take photographs to our hearts' content! We did just that.

We spent three hours at Ani, walking the uneven ground dotted with wildflowers, and less pleasant smelling droppings, and making a circle around the inside, visiting each of the ruins. As we headed toward the eastern side of the city, we approached a barbed wire fence -- a few feet from us -- on the edge of the slope leading to the ravine created by the Akhurian River. We were at the border of Turkey and Armenia -- looking across to the land just west of the City of Gumri. I became so angry at the thought that our historic land had been given to the Turks in 1921 who, like with almost every other historic Armenian monument, had allowed a magnificent piece of history to just crumble to the ground.

Our pathway led us to several churches, some which had only one wall standing, and some -- like the cathedral of of Ani -- were largely intact. Also known as Surp Asdvadzadzin (church of the Holy Mother of God), its construction was started in the year 989, under King Smbat II. Work was halted after his death, and was only finished in 1001 (or in 1010 under another reading of its building inscription). The design of the cathedral was the work of Trdat, the most celebrated architect of medieval Armenia. The cathedral is a domed basilica (the dome collapsed in 1319). The interior contains several progressive features (such as the use of pointed arches and clustered piers) that give to it the appearance of Gothic architecture (a style which the Ani cathedral predates by several centuries). On the outside, Armenian inscriptions remain, with the symbol of the cross scattered througout. Inside, the height of the cathedral is overwhelming, with tall toufa columns reaching high to support the church's arches and high dome. We once again lit candles and said Hayr Mer (the Lord's Prayer) before moving on.

On the far eastern end, one of the churches, the Church of St. Gregory of Abughamrents, which sits on the edge of the ravine, was under construction. Our experience with these types of renovations, rare as they were, led us to believe that much of the historic Armenian lettering and decorations would eventually be obliterated by more typical Islamic designs -- and eventually this church's history would be attributed to the Seljuk Turks, not the Armenians who actually designed and built it.

Across from us, on the Armenian side, we saw working quarries of the famous red tufa stone -- I wondered why the Armenians could not create a magnificent viewing point in that area for those in Armenia to see their historic Ani -- most likely, its proximity to the border would prohibit that from ever happening.

We continued our walk, passing a mosque built around the 11th century, and visiting remains of other churches. We were fortunate that during most of our visit, we had Ani largely to ourselves. About midway through our walk (which lasted 3 hours), we ran into a small group of Australian tourists, who did not visit all of the ruins, but only the major ones.

We stopped at the remains of Gagikashen (King Gaghik's Church) -- one of 4 churches built by Armenians with a round base. Zvartnots Cathedral -- the largest -- was built in Armenia and today one can visit what is left of that magnificent church not far from the Zvartnots airport in Armenia. In Ani, the next largest is Gagikashen. Today, it sits in ruins, but one can see its footprint created in 1001-1005 AD, designed by Trdat the Architect with the intent of recreating Zvartnots in Ani. Gagikashen, like Zvartnots, was discovered and excavated in the beginning of the 20th Century. Gagikashen fell into ruins not long after it was built, and a city was built on top of it. Its remains were found under a mound of dirt, and excavated in 1905 and 1906.

We stopped on the western edge of Ani and looked into the ravine where we saw caves built into the hillsides. Historically, the wealthy and royalty lived in the City of Ani, and the peasants and workers lived outside of the fortress walls, along the river, using the caves as shelter. We could see children playing in the creeks formed by the river nearby, far below us.

As we completed our visit to Ani I looked back at what was once a treasure trove of Armenian architecture, and at the country of Armenia only a few miles away, across the ravine. Once again I became angry. The land that is now called "Turkey" is historically part of the cradle of civilization - rich in the history of many cultures and dynasties that shaped its development until after WWI, when the Ottoman Empire crumbled and the current Turkish government created a country called "Turkey". I simply could not believe that such rich history could be allowed by any government to crumble into ruins, essentially wiping out the evidence of existence of Armenians and others, who played such an important role in the history of this area. But, this visit to Turkey gave me no choice but to believe the Turkish government is, and has been, doing just that.

On the road a few kilomenters away from Ani, which began our long journey to Mush and away from Kars, Vartan stopped at a roadside monument and insisted that we get out and take a picture. The monument was a memorial to the victims of "genocide" caused by Armenians of the Turkish villagers of Kars on April 24, 1918. Does this date sound oddly familiar?? While we did not doubt that bands of Armenian rebels in 1915-1918 may have retaliated against Turks for the heinous acts of genocide by the Ottoman Turks against our innocent ancestors, the spin with which this plaque was written was typical of what we saw, and heard, as we travelled through Turkey. Quite coincidentally, as I walked away from this monument back toward the van, sitting on the ground before me was a symbol that accurately reflected my sentiments at that moment. I have shared it with you as the last picture in the group below!

Post Script -- The City of Kars
The City of Kars dates back to 500 BC. At some point in the 10th century, it became part of the Armenian Bagratid Dynasty, and later fell to conquering tribes of Seljuk and Ottoman Turks. Its more recent history at the turn of the 20th century found Kars the center of conflict and transition between Russian and the Ottoman Empire. Strategically located, in the mid 1900's, Russia renewed its efforts to regain control of Kars by nullifying the 1921 Kars Treaty. However, it was not successful in doing so. In 1993, Turkey closed the border crossing between Kars and now independent Armenia. Although supported by neighboring Azerbajian following the Karabagh conflict of 1992 and thereafter, the closure of the border crossing has recently become a subject of renewed discussion -- the government of Turkey is campaigning to become of member of the EEU, and its closure of the border with Armenia, effectively creating a blockade, is a politically sensitive issue that is now on the forefront. The railroad between Turkey and Armenia passes through Kars -- the border closure has resulted in the closure of this important means of transport of goods to Armenia, creating a blockade.

While richly populated by Armenians in and before 1915, today the only evidence in Kars of that population is the remnants of homes with traditional Armenian designs in the city center, and an Armenian Church now converted (big surprise) to a Mosque.

Kars Fortress, also dating back to the Bagratid Dynasty, sits above the old city -- most likely having a magnificent view of the distant Ani when it was in its ultimate splendor.

Below the castle is an Armenian church known as St. Arakelotz, the Church of the Apostles. Built in the 930s under the Bagratid Dynast, it has a tetraconch plan (a square with four semicircular apses) surmounted by a spherical dome. On the exterior, the drum of the dome contains "Bas-relief" depictions of twelve figures, usually interpreted as representing the Twelve Apostles. The dome itself has a conical roof. The church was converted to a mosque in 1579, and then converted into a Russian Orthodox church in the 1880s. The Russians constructed porches in front of the church's 3 entrances, and an elaborate bell tower (now demolished) next to the church. The church was used briefly by Armenians as a church in 1918 after Turkey lost control of Kars. However, once Turkey regained control of Kars in 1921, the church was used as a warehouse from the 1930s, housed a small museum from 1963 until the late 1970s, then stood derelict for about two decades until its conversion into a mosque in 1998. Once again, an Armenian Church has seen its history and architecture bastardized by the Turks claiming that this building was commissioned and built by the Seljuk Turks. You decide who designed and built this edifice, the entry to which we were refused "because it is a mosque."