Old And New Vanadzor

“The three-day heroic battle of Gharakilisa saved the Armenians of Ararat and laid the foundation for the Armenian state․” Garegin Nzhdeh

The regional center of Lori is Vanadzor, currently with a population of about 80,000. The city occupies about 2,600 hectares, and is located in the valley of Pambak և Bazum mountains. Vanadzor was formerly called Gharakilisa, then Kirovakan. The rivers Pambak, Tandzut and Vanadzor flow through the city. The distance from Vanadzor to Yerevan is 125 km. Vanadzor is an ancient settlement, which is proved by the discovery of tombs, pottery, metal, bronze, iron, household and cultural and other items excavated in the 3rd millennium B.C. In the Middle Ages, the city was called Gharakilisa, which translates from the Tatar language as “St. Church”. The town was probably given this name as a result of Seljuk-Turkish invasions of the settlement, due to the appearance of a 13th-century stone church on a hill near Vanadzor. The settlement was renamed Kirovakan, in 15 years after the Armenia became a Soviet Republic, in 1935, in honor of communist, statesman Sergey Kirov. In 1992, Kirovakan was renamed Vanadzor. 1801 Lori became part of Russia along with Georgia, and Gharakilisa became a border military base. In the 19th century, the construction of the Dilijan-Gharakilisa-Alexandropol road in 1870, and then in 1899, the construction of the Gharakilisa station of the Alexandropol-Tbilissi railway greatly contributed to the formation and development of the town of Gharakilisa. According to the great Armenian educator and writer Khachatur Abovyan, in the 1920s the small town had 500-600 inhabitants who migrated from Yerevan. Later, several hundred families emigrated from the cities of Kars, Ardahan, Bayazet, Erzurum in Western Armenia. As a result, Vanadzor gradually acquired urban features.

In the 19th century there were two churches here, built in 1831 (on the site of an old church destroyed by the earthquake in 1828) և in 1895 (Russian church). In the pre-Soviet period, there were ecclesiastical parish schools in Gharakilisa (1853), girls’ schools (1879), state two-level Russian schools (1897) and schools for children of Russian officials (1908). From 1924 Gharakilisa was considered an urban settlement. In 1929-1930, the first plan of Gharakilisa was drawn up by architects Karo Halabyan, Mikayel Mazmanyan and Gorg Kochar, which was intended to expand the city. The general plan of 1939 defined the image of the city as an industrial center-summer place. After the establishment of the Soviet regime, Gharakilisa became an industrial center, and a resort at the same time. On the one hand, resorts have been established in the lush forests, on the other hand, light and heavy-chemical industry has developed in the city. Before the devastating earthquake of 1988, there were 27 industrial enterprises operating in Vanadzor. Myasnikyan chemical, chemical fibers, precision machines, “Autogenmash”, “Automatika” factories, knitting, furniture, furcoats and textile factories, “Polymer Adhesive” scientific-production union, “Lori”, etc. After the earthquake, then after the collapse of the Soviet Union, these enterprises mostly stopped operating; today in Vanadzor you can see the remains of abandoned or former industrial buildings turned into metal waste. It is gratifying, however, that the city is restoring its former reputation as a wonderful recreation area.

Now Vanadzor has entered a new stage of development ․ There are 4 state universities, 10 sports schools, 19 cultural institutions, etc. The churches are inseparable from the description of Vanadzor. In 1826, in the area of ​​the present St. Astvatsatsin Church, preserved on the site of the old khachkars, there was the old church of Gharakilisa, built of black stone, due to which, according to the popular opinion, it was called “black church” by the Turkish invaders. According to the legend related to the etymology of the name, the Turkish Pasha left the army near the church to spend the night, and he spent the night at the mullah’s house. In the morning he saw his army massacred and shouted․ “What a black monastery!” From that day on both the church and the surrounding settlement were called Gharakilisa.

The exact date of construction of the church is not known. Archaeological study of ornaments, carvings, decoration, architectural composition allows concluding that it was built in the 13th century during the reign of Zakaryan princes. According to other researchers, it was built in the 5th-7th centuries. In 1826 the monastery was destroyed by an earthquake, the inhabitants restored it to some extent to perform church rites.

The great Armenian writer Khachatur Abovyan wrote about Gharakilisa of those years․ “The city did not have a fortress or a fence. The population was about five or six hundred, mostly Armenians, along with a few permanent Russians, military and civilian officials, and several hundred soldiers. “A dilapidated, half-built, half-timbered church served the Armenians for church ceremonies.” In 1831, Captain Piruman Yuzbash Tairov initiated the construction of a larger, magnificent church in the former neighborhood, using the stones of an old monastery. Piruman left an inscription about this on the wall of the church vestibule. St. Astvatsatsin is a simple, carefree, unadorned structure with an architectural style typical of the area.

There are tombstones of 13-14th, 19th-20th centuries in its territory, including Piruman Yuzbash Tairov. The area around the church is rich with many khachkars. To the right of the entrance of the yard is the family tomb of rich benefactors Abovyan. In 1836, when by the order of the tsarist authorities the schools came under the jurisdiction of the church, St. Astvatsatsin became a center of concern for the believers of Gharakilisa. The church functioned even during the Soviet years. Vanadzor St. Grigor Narekatsi Mother Church was built in 2005 and is dedicated to the 1000th anniversary of Narekatsi. In 2007 the altar of the church was decorated with frescoes of Armenian saints. Since 2012, a Chapel of the relic of St. Grigor Narekatsi has been built inside the church.

Mashtots Hill, Kos Outskirts

The area of ​​Vanadzor is rich in ancient settlements: Mashtots hill, Tagavaranist, Kosi Joter, etc. Mashtots hill was a settlement in the 3rd millennium BC. The “Kirovakan” hotel of Vanadzor was built on this hill, and while digging the foundations of school No. 8 and adjacent buildings, tombs, foundations of houses, working tools and jewelry were found in excavations.

Kos Outskirts (Kosi Joter) is an older settlement, according to archeologists, copper-Stone Age. This castle-dwelling was located on the hill in front of Vanadzor chemical plant. Some of the valuable finds from here are kept in the Lori-Pambak Geological Museum. North of Kosi- Joter, on site of another school in Vanadzor, a Bronze Age tomb was discovered, in 1948, which presumably belonged to a tribal leader. Pottery vessels, gold beads, necklaces, bronze daggers, silver vessels were found here, as well as a 17th century gold cup with engraved images of lions.

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