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Armenian New Julfa: The Fourth Centennial 1604/05 - 2004
UCLA Armenian Studies - [November 14 - 16, 2003]

Department of History, University of California UCLA
Los Angeles CA 90095-1473 -

Richard Hovannisian

Sayeh Laporte Eftekharian

John Carswell

  • left to right: Artsvi Bakhchinyan, Bert Vaux, Sebouh Aslanian, Anahid Keshishian, Vazken Ghougassian, Hrachik Mirzoyan, Jemma Barnasyan, Consul General Gagik Kirakosyan, Richard Hovannisian, Archbishop Goriun Babian, Shushanik Khachikyan, Ina Baghdiantz McCabe, Amy Landau, Sayeh Laporte Eftekharian, Sylvie Merian, Vartan Matiossian, John Carswell, Richard Elbrecht
  • Not pictured: Very Reverend Shahan Sarkissian, Leonardo Alishan, Armen Hakhnazarian, Raisa Amirbekyan, Murad Hasratyan, Ashot Stepanyan
  • A record number of attendees enjoyed a three-day conference, November 14-16, marking the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Armenian city of New Julfa in central Iran.

  • The conference, organized by Richard Hovannisian, Holder of the Armenian Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Armenian History at UCLA, was the thirteenth in the UCLA international conference series titled "Historic Armenian Cities and Provinces" and was the first to focus on a region outside the bounds of the Ottoman Empire and the present Turkish state.

  • Nearly a thousand persons attended the opening Friday evening session, conducted in Armenian and co-sponsored by the Armenian Society of Los Angeles (Iranahay Miutiun) in the Glendale Presbyterian Church. Professor Hovannisian introduced New Julfa with a resume of the Ottoman-Persian wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that prompted Shah Abbas to implement a scorched-earth policy and deport the Armenian inhabitants of the merchant community of Julfa on the Araxes River and much of the plain of Ararat deep into Iran where in 1605-1606 they founded New Julfa, across the river from the Persian capital city of Isfahan as well as many villages in the adjacent districts of Peria and Charmaghal.

  • Three participants from Armenia, Hrachik Mirzoyan of Yerevan State University, Murad Hasratyan of the Institute of Arts, and Jemma Barnasyan of the Institute of Linguistics, together with the prelate of the Armenian Diocese of Isfahan/New Julfa, the Very Reverend Shahan Sarkissian, then captivated the large audience with their presentations on the unique characteristics, the architecture, and the dialect of New Julfa and on the present state of the community after four centuries.

  • The conference continued on the UCLA campus on Saturday and Sunday, November 15-16, with sessions devoted to the administrative and religious structure, art and architecture, merchants and international commerce, and daily life and folklore of New Julfa. After Richard Hovannisian's historical introduction, John Carswell of Malaga, Spain, who in the 1960s published the first English-language study and illustrations of Armenian New Julfa, began the Saturday session with a visual journey to the churches and public and private edifices, which he recently re-visited after four decades.

  • Ina Baghdiantz McCabe of Tufts University and Vazken Ghugassian of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Church concentrated on the administrative aspects in seventeenth-century Safavid Iran, whereas Amy Landau of Oxford University, Sylvie Merian of the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, and Sayeh Laporte-Eftekharian of the Free University of Brussels gave illustrated talks on the art, illuminated manuscripts, wall paintings, and prints of the New Julfa artists. Raisa Amirbekyan of the Caucasian Center for Iranian Studies in Yerevan discussed New Julfa as an Armenian-Iranian contact zone during the Qajar period in the nineteenth century.

  • New Julfa was famed for its merchants, who reached as far as India, Singapore, Java, and the Philippines in the east, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Stockholm in the north, and Venice, Cadiz, Amsterdam, and London in the west. Papers by Edmund Herzig of the University of Manchester, Shushanik Khachikian of the Mashtots Matenadaran in Yerevan, Sebouh Aslanian of Columbia University, and Vartan Matiossian of Buenos Aires and the New Jersey Hovnanian School examined the role of these merchants as traders, patrons, and cultural intermediaries during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

  • The participants enjoyed an evening of socializing and interacting with members of the Armenian Educational Foundation on Saturday evening at a dinner-reception in Glendale hosted by Mr. Vahe and Dr. Armine Hacopian.

  • On Sunday there were both Armenian and English sessions. From Yerevan, Artsvi Bakhchinyan discussed the archival records and gave lively examples relating to the Scandinavian trade of the New Julfa merchants. Ashot Stepanyan of the Institute of Oriental Studies shifted away from the merchants to consider the largely nameless artisans and craftsmen of New Julfa. Armen Hakhnazarian from Aachen, Germany, offered a visual panorama of the special architecture features of New Julfa, explaining the reasons for the modes of construction, styles, and significance of the local Armenian forms. He also drew attention to the recent destruction of the many hundreds of delicately-designed "khach-kars" or funerary monuments in old Julfa, now located in the Nakhichevan region of Azerbaijan.

  • The final session turned into an ethnographic-cultural happening. Archbishop Goriun Babian, who was the prelate of New Julfa for nearly a quarter of a century, entertained the capacity audience with his reminiscences and discussed the discovery of the printing plates of Hovhannes Jughayetsi that served as models for wall paintings in Holy Savior's Cathedral and Saint Bethlehem Church. Bert Vaux of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee used a native speaker of the New Julfa dialect to point out the characteristics of the local language, and Anahid Keshishian enhanced the session with her analysis and recitation of minstrel lyrics and verse, followed by a live "daoul-zurna" dance performance by the Armenian Cultural Society of Peria. The gathering was concluded with a creative dramatic presentation by Leonardo Alishan of Salt Lake City, who combined his original poetry about New Julfa with a showing of the watercolor paintings of the late New Julfa artist, Smbat (Der-Kiureghian). The audience expressed its appreciation to the participants with a sustained standing ovation.

  • Following the conference, the participants were hosted to a native New Julfa dinner by the Armenian Society of Los Angeles in its Glendale Center, where Richard Hovannisian was honored and received presentations from the Armenian Society, the Peria Cultural Society, and Prelate Shahan Vardapet on behalf of the Diocese of Isfahan/New Julfa.

  • The three-day conference offered a multidimensional overview of New Julfa during its four-hundred-year history. In particular, the large Iranian-Armenian community of Southern California was transported back to familiar territory with deep nostalgia and appreciation. The colorful photographic exhibit mounted by Richard Elbrecht depicting the churches and daily life in New Julfa, Peria, and Charmahal added greatly to the effect..

  • The fourteenth conference in this series will be held in mid-May 2004 and feature the Iranian-Armenian communities of Tabriz, Tehran, Maku, Salmast, Karadagh, and elsewhere from antiquity to the present.

  • Center for Near Eastern Studies at UCLA Page

Peria Ethnographic Dance Group and its president Masis Baghdasaryan with Anahid Keshishian of UCLA

Archbishop Goriun Babian
Présentation : Nil V. Agopoff
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