Traditions, Customs, Colors, Costumes of Shirak Province

The people of Shirak are very conservative, thanks to which they have preserved the language, character traits, color of life, sitting and sitting, customs, family traditions.

Cherkez Gorge

Tradition or realization?

Cherkez gorge is one of the special places of Gyumri, in the territory of which the settlement of Kumayri used to be. Due to security reasons, the residents gradually moved to the hill, which became one of the districts of the future city. Cherkez gorge is a wonderful recreation area for both Gyumri residents and Gyumri guests.

The gorge is located near the historic Red Fortress. It attracts everyone with its pleasant nature, cold springs, small ponds. Two legends have been preserved around the name of the Cherkez gorge. According to one, 1826-1829 ․ The Russian Cherkezian regiment that took part in the Russian-Turkish war was stationed in this place, for which this corner of nature was named Cherkez gorge by the people of Gyumri. The second legend tells that in the 19th century, the leader of the North Caucasus mountaineers, Shamil, lived with this family and relatives in this gorge for several months.

He received permission from Emperor Alexander II to emigrate to Turkey and then to Mecca. As Alexandropol was under the rule of the Russian Empire and bordered on Turkey, Shamil’s route passed through Alexandropol. Due to some imminent illnesses, they were not able to cross the border immediately, and from March to June they lived in tents in the gorge. After they left, the people of Gyumri named this place Cherkez gorge.

Harichavank

The miracle of Harichavank saved the princess from the Seljuks.

An interesting legend has been preserved about Harichavank. According to it, one of the princesses, fleeing from the Seljuks, hid in a chapel built on a rock. When her pursuers tried to enter the chapel, a miracle happened, which saved the girl. The rock was divided into two parts, and the chapel remained on the rock fragment that had separated from the rock. The chapel is still preserved, it continues to amaze visitors with its inaccessibility.

St. Mary the Virgin or St. Seven Wounds

The image of Virgin Mary, according to legend, cures various diseases

According to the legend, the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary pierced with seven swords, which is currently kept in the Church of the Seven Wounds, cures various diseases and saves from drought. In the 19th century, in order to save Etchmiadzin from drought, Catholicos Nerses Ashtaraketsi took the sacred painting there, then returned it to Alexandropol.

Bath Ritual

Taking a bath in Alexandropol was a big ceremony. Everyone went with their families and relatives. The halls for men and women were separate. The women prepared sweets in advance – gata, baklava, sugar, so that they could enjoy them with their relatives after bathing. The “ritual” of bathing turned into a happy pastime, which was spiced with songs and funny stories. The bath was also a part of the traditional wedding ritual, where the bride-groom-bath rituals were performed.

Traditions Bridge

The masters who built the bridge had interesting traditions. They were the first to cross the bridge they had built, under which their family was to stand.

Craft

In Gyumri, crafts were passed from fathers to sons as soon as the latter turned 13 years old. In this way, the masters passed on to their children the secrets of their craft.

Phaeton

The phaeton is an inseparable part of the life and history of Gyumri. It has been and remains one of the symbols of the city. According to the legend, the man from Gyumri rented three phaetons at once to have fun, one for himself, the other for a hat, which was the symbol of his honor, and the third for the musicians. After cars appeared in the city, the phaetons were pushed out of the life of Gyumri residents, but they still remained near and dear to their hearts. Newlyweds now prefer the phaeton to luxury cars on their way to church, as if to restore the good traditions of their ancestors.

Folk costumes

Each Armenian settlement had its own features and costumes. The costumes of Shirak, especially Gyumri, were formed under the influence of the costumes typical of the cities of Karin, Kars, Bayazet in Western Armenia, as many people migrated to Alexandropol from the mentioned settlements after the Russian-Turkish wars. The eloquent ornaments of Armenian miniature painting have found a place in the costumes of Gyumri women.

The headdress was inseparable from the woman’s costume, from which one could guess which social class its mistress belonged to. The women wore  headdresses with gold and silver coins, pearls and embroidered lace. Married women wore aprons. Embroidered ornaments of the woman’s name and surname were embroidered on the perimeters of the apron, symbolizing fertility. Gold, silver and handmade belts were an integral part of the national costume.

They were custom-made. The Armenian symbols of the tree of life and fertility were depicted on each of the custom-made belts. The belt was an integral part of men’s clothing as well. Not only grown men  but also boys tied belts. According to a legend, the Kechakents family was not rich and inherited only one belt from their grandfather.

It is said that whoever woke up early, wore the belt. The belts made by the masters of Alexandropol differed in that their clasps looked like saddles. Bracelets made of gold, silver and copper were part of women’s jewelry. Interestingly, the married woman had to wear wide bracelets on both hands. In general, Armenian costumes, costumes and patterns typical of national clothes still need professional study. Researchers are still interested in the technique of the masters of the Alekpol.

Art of Ashugh (troubadours)

Alexandropol was a city of troubadours. From the middle of the 19th century a national-troubadour school was established here (Shirin, Jamali, Paytsar, Zahri, Khayat, Malul, Haves, Haziri (from Gyumri), Sheram, Igit) headed by the ashugh Jivani.

From the 1870s, the famous cafes of Alekpol were considered to be unique centers of troubadour song, almost each of which had its own troubadour or troubadour group. The ashughs knew not only the nuances of the ashugh art, foreign languages, but also the Armenian and Eastern heroic novels, romances and myths. The people gladly participated in the troubadour competitions organized in the squares.

The Humorists of Gyumri:

Gyumri is a city of entertainers. The stories of famous comedians have spread both orally and in writing in Armenia. They had the courage to tell the truth through jokes. The most famous entertainer from Gyumri is Poloz Mukuch, Mkrtich Melkonyan (he got the nickname “Poloz” because he was tall). He can be considered as one of the symbols of Gyumri. “The nations of the world attribute their sarcasm, jokes, sayings to one person and immortalize him.

That is what Mukuch was for our people. The difference is that others are a myth, there was no real person, the place of the grave is not known, while Poloz Mukuch was a real person, and there is a grave,” Avetik Isahakyan wrote. Poloz Mukuch contributed to the development of humorous stories in Armenia with his entertaining sketches. Being a man of happy character, he attracted everyone’s attention with his witty humor.

The whole of Leninakan participated in Poloz Mukuch’s funeral, and a tombstone was erected on his grave by Avetik Isahakyan. Even before his death, he made a humorous remark: “I afraid that when I die the taste and flavor of Gyumri will go away.”

Among the famous humorists of Gyumri were Tsitro Alek, Naln Karo, Sabi Karo, Tsgher Khachik, Kuzhik.

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