acqcOne of the features endorsing any nation’s existence in certain area is religious shrines. As Islam proliferated in the territory of former Irevan khanate, present-day Armenia since VII century, there were hundreds of mosques and other shrines erected. Each mosque existing in the territory of Irevan khanate as well as Irevan city was a model of architecture. Some of the unique models of Azerbaijani brick architecture was namely created in Irevan city.

Despite existence of tens of mosques in ancient Irevan city where Islamic values became norms of life, due to frequent wars and earthquakes, the majority of them were wiped off the face of the earth. It is possible to obtain sufficient information about the mosques existed in Irevan city from the publications of travelers who visited Irevan in different periods and the authors who wrote about Irevan after the Russian invasion.

When commander Revangulu khan built Irevan Fortress by the order of Shah Ismayil in 1510, he also had erected a mosque there. That mosque which was called Shah Ismayil mosque was erased by the earthquake.

After the Ottoman troops under Farhad Pasha took Irevan in 1583, they built oval-shape interior and exterior walls and also erected a new mosque.

Famous French traveler Jean Chardin was in Irevan in 1673 and he informed about the mosque built of brick opposite the city bazaar which was dilapidated at that time. He wrote that the mosque was called Div Sultan (Div Sultan Rumlu is meant here who was baylarbay of Irevan since 1515) in honor of the person who laid its foundation.  

As a result of his travel to the Caucausus and the Crimea in 1833, French geologist and archeologist, naturalist Frederic Dubois de Montperreux in his six-volume book “Travel around the Caucasus” published in Paris in 1839-1843 described Irevan fortress and Blue Mosque in details. His paintings describing the main entrance of Sardar Mosque and Blue Mosque itself visually display magnificance and perfect architecture of both mosques.

Sardar mosque

The names of “Sardar”, “Abbas Mirza”, “Shah Abbas” mosques in the vicinity of Sardar palace within Irevan fortress were mentioned in the works of travelers and researchers at different times. Analyses show that though presented under different names, in fact, the talk is about one and the same mosque which mentioned in recent researches and official documents as Sardar mosque – a unique architectural monument of that time. It means the mosque bore different names at different times. The name of this mosque was mentioned as Abbas Mirza mosque in some documents of Irevan fortress covering the period of tsarist Russia invasion. It seems the mosque was called so as it was reconstructed by prince Abbas Mirza in early XIX century. German researcher August Haxthausen traveled to Irevan city in August 1843 and he stated that one of the two mosques in the fortress (i.e. Rajab pasha mosque) was converted into Russian-Greek church, the other – Sardar mosque into arsenal.   

Well-known Russian archeologist, countess Praskovya Uvarova was in Irevan city in 1880 and with heavy heart she described destruction of historic-architectural monuments built over the centuries. Armenian author Yervand Shaheziz quoting from P. Uvarova  in his book “Old Yerevan” published in Irevan in 1931 wrote that she compared Sardar mosque near Khan’s palace to a piece of artwork painted by Verashchaghin’s brush. Y. Shaheziz wrote referring to P.Uvarova that the main dome, exterior walls, pillars, interior walls, a number of other domes of Sardar mosque were adorned with coloured glaze coating and beautiful paintings.

Azerbaijani archeologist and epigraphist Isa Azimbayov undertook expedition to Irevan in 1928. I. Azimbayov’s article on the outcomes of the expedition “Muslim Inscriptions of Tiflis, Irevan and Nakhchivan SSR”  stated that the mosque (i.e. Sardar mosque- N.M.) erected in honour of Shah Abbas near Sardar Palace in the fortress was dilapidated and several Armenian refugee families were settled in the courtyard of the mosque.

After employment of  Irevan fortress as military fort by the Russian troops was ceased in 1864, historic-architectural buildings inside it, including Sardar or Abbas Mirza mosque were subject to serious destructions. In early XX century Armenian refugees from Turkey had settled in Sardar mosque.  In the period of Soviet Armenia Sardar mosque was destructed eventually and dwellings were built in its place.

Rajab Pasha Mosque

After the Ottoman troops reconquered Irevan in 1724, Turkish commander—Rajab Pasha took  a number of actions for the development of the city. A new mosque was built in the fortress by his order in 1725 and named Rajab pasha in his honour. The mosque was a regular parallelepiped shape and had spheric dome, adorned with Oriental style geometric ornaments. A day after the invasion of Irevan fortress by Russian troops  on October 1, 1827, the crescent in the dome of the mosque was taken away and replaced with cross and churchbell and converted into Russian Orthodox church. Subsequently, changes were made in the external view, cylinder pillars were added to its facade, its roof was covered and changed into Christian shrine. The picture of artist Franz Rubo devoted to the invasion of Irevan fortress describes Rajab pasha mosque and its dome in front and Sardar mosque near Khan’s palace in the background. Under the campaign of “Atheists” pursued in 1930-s Russian Orthodox church was also totally destroyed and wiped  off the face of the earth.

In 1906-1911 technicist of Irevan city B. Mehrabov compiled the city plan and the list of architectural monuments of Irevan city. Mehrabov recorded 8 mosques in the city. The mosques were called: Tepebashi, Sheher (Zal khan), Sertib khan, Blue mosque (Hussainali khan), Haji Novruzali bey, Qala mosque (Sardar or Abbas Mirza), Demirbulag and Haji Jafar bey mosque.

Armenian researcher M.Qasparyan states that from the mosques existed in Irevan city in late XIX and early XX centureis, Blue mosque, Haji Hussain and Sheher (Zal khan) mosques were situated in Old city (Shehri), Tepebashi mosque in the area of the same name, Haji Novruzali bey, Haji Jafar bey and Demirbulag mosques in Demirbulag quarter.

During the period of Armenian Dashnak government  established in historic Azerbaijani lands 1918-1920 and early years of Soviet Armenia, Armenian refugees fleeing Turkey were settled in  Sardar, Tepebashi, Sartib khan, Haji Novruzali bey mosques. After approval of the general plan of Irevan city in 1924, first of all, there started demolishing historic Azerbaijani architectural monuments situated in the centre of the city and erecting housing quarters, squares and parks in their places .

Blue Mosque

Archive document dated 1949 kept in the State Archives of the Republic of Azerbaijan informs about 15 architectural buildings recorded in the territory of Armenia SSR. The list stated the dates of construction, their assignment and existence of four mosques in Irevan city. The document noted that Zal khan mosque was built in 1649-1685, Blue mosque in 1776, Sardar mosque – 1807-1817, Haji Jafar bey mosque in the XVIII century. The works of all travelers and researchers describing Irevan city, first of all mentioned Blue mosque as the most grandiose architectural monument due to its scale and magnificence. Construction of Blue mosque which is considered one of the unique models of oriental architecture started in 1760 and completed in Hussainali khan’s reign in 1765.

   Armenian historian Tadevos Hakopyan in his book “The History of Irevan (1500-1800)” writes referring to the bishop of Echmiadzin church Hovhanes Shahkhatunyans: “A part of the minaret and dome of the mosque is coated with blue faience”. The main buildings were to the south and north of the mosque. The ancillary buildings and cells were on the sidelines. A  small pool was built in the courtyard of the mosque paved with raft stones and planted trees around.

Well-known British traveler and geographer Henry Lynch who traveled to Irevan in 1893-1894 and 1898, mentioned Blue mosque, Haji Nasrullah bey mosque (other sources show this mosque as Haji Novruzali bey mosque) and Sheher mosque situated in Tatar (Azerbaijani) quarter in his book about his journey published in 1901 in London. Giving detailed information about Blue mosque, Lynch included the photos of its minarets, a pool in its courtyard and facade in his book.

  According to Armenian authors, though it was decided to pull down all the mosques in Irevan in 1930s, due to serious efforts of popular Armenian poet Yegishe Charents, Blue mosque which he called “Blue Diamond” was  saved from being erased by turning it into a museum. Irevan city history museum was placed in Blue Mosque from 1936. After beginning of WW II Blue mosque was concurrently used as an arsenal for a while. It was used as the Nature museum after the war and  planetarium from 1952 in its small prayer room for astronomy fans. After Armenia gained independence in 1991 and established diplomatic relations with muslim countries, necessity arose for functioning of Blue mosque as a shrine again. First, Nature museum in 1991 and History museum in 1994 were moved out of the mosque-complex. According to the agreement signed between Iran and Armenia in 1995, Iranian government undertook financing reconstruction expenses of Blue mosque. Nowadays the Armenian officials present Blue mosque to foreign guests as “Persian”.

Zal khan mosque

One of the mosques in the Old city quarter situated between Irevan fortress and Tepebashi area was called Sheher  or Zal khan mosque. Though Sheher mosque was a bit smaller than Blue mosque in size, it was very beautiful. According to Lynch, on the Sheher mosque there was inscribed the date of construction 1098 Hijri with Arabic alphabeth in Turkish language, i.e. 1687 AD. It is understandable that the city mosque was built after the earthquake of 1679.

According to the researchers,  Zal khan or Sheher Mosque was in the centre of Irevan city which is Republican Square at present. The big hall of Sheher Mosque was demolished in 1928 and hotel “Yerevan” was built instead. After reconstruction in 1999 that hotel is called “Golden Tulip Hotel Yerevan” at present.

  An archive document of the year of 1949 kept in Azerbaijan Republic State Archives stated that Zal khan Mosque was used as an exhibition hall. After WW II the assignment of the madrasa of two-storeyed Zal khan mosque with a number of cells was changed. Nowadays, the exhibition hall of the Artists’ House is situated there.

Tepebashi Mosque

The minaret of the mosque situated in Tepebashi quarter collapsed in 1960s. At present, an Armenian family lives in imam’s room inside the mosque which has 1.5 m width walls. There was a teahouse around the mosque where Muslims used to gather for drinking tea. Now that teahouse doesn’t exist either. Armenians built shantytowns in the courtyard and around the mosque. According to some sources, that mosque was built by Abbasgulu khan Irevansky, a member of Irevan city council, who was of khan’s descent. His house was also situated in that quarter. Armenians still call Abbasgulu khan’s house as Khan’s house which is in dilapidated state at present.

Demirbulag Mosque

In early XX century three mosques were recorded in Demirbulag quarter where once only Azerbaijanis lived. The mosques were: Haji Novruzali bey, Haji Jafar bey and Demirbulag. As Demirbulag Mosque situated near the bridge over the river Ghedar, it was also called Korpougoulag (near bridge) Mosque.  The two of them – Haji Novruzali bey and Korpugoulag mosques fell victims to the general plan of Irevan city in the 1930s. The only  mosque that functioned till 1988 was Chatirli mosque or  Damirboulag mosque, the same name as the quarter it placed was built by Haji Jafar Bay.  According  to the inscription on the mosque, it was built in Hijri 1327 – 1909 AD. The mosque didn’t have a minaret. Instead, a small square of 1.5-2 meters high was built on the roof of the mosque in the open air and iron railings were installed on it.

After emergence of Armenian separatism in Nagorny Karabakh in February 1988, continuous meetings were being held in Irevan. On February 23 Armenian vandals set fire to Demirboulag mosque and Azerbaijani secondary school № 9 named after M.F.Akhundov in Irevan city.  But later, in order to demonstrate foreign journalists their goodwill towards Azerbaijanis, they painted the burned walls  of Damirboulag mosque to cover up the traces of the fire.

US researcher Robert Gullen in his article in “The New York” on April 15, 1991 dealing with his visit to Irevan wrote about the only funcioning Azerbaijani mosque- Demirboulag mosque in the city. R. Cullen wrote that one night his friend in Irevan took him to the rubbles behind house 22 Qnuni Street. His friend whispered R.Cullen that there had been an ordinary mosque of Azerbaijanis when they lived in Armenia. R.Cullen write that his friend told him that during massacre and  displacemnet of Azerbaijanis in Irevan, Armenians pulled the mosque down with iron bars, then leveled with  bulldozer. [270]

In 2000 British researcher Thomas de Waal went to the site which Robert Cullen had described. Thomas de Waal writes: “ Yerevan has many secrets. One of them, I believed, lay among a jumble of garages, outhouses, and vegetable plots behind a tall apartment block at No.22 Vardanants Street, not far from the city centre. At the top of a narrow flight of steps was a small open space, surrounded by rusty green garages and piled with bricks and sand.  In 2000  British researcher Here, I was pretty sure, had been amosque, used by Yerevan’s Azerbaijanis, that had had the misfortune not to be classified as “Persian” and demolished.(here is meant Blue Mosque restored under the name of “Persian mosque”).

In order to demolish the only Azerbaijani mosque functioning in Irevan, Armenians spread a rumor in one of the meetings about destruction of Armenian church by Azerbaijanis in Baku. The hearsay about demolishment of Armenian church in Baku was spread deliberately in order to Armenian-like justify razing  of the Azerbaijani heritage left in the territory of Armenia. More than two decades after Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan, the only Armenian church existing in Baku has  not only been destroyed but on the contrary it is also protected as historic-architectural monument by the state.

According to the residents who fled Irevan in 1988, there was a Muslim sanctuary near the present French school in Nar-Dos street which natives called “Hazrat Abbas Ojaghi (hearth)”. In the  enclosed sanctuary  there was a black stone. Not only Azerbaijanis but also Armenians who had troubles used to visit that sanctuary, make wishes and give their alms there. The city authorities decided to demolish that sanctuary during construction of the Nar-Dos school. After the death of the excavator driver with stone  falling on his head accidentally while pulling down the building,  demolishment was stopped and the building was enclosed later. Now there is no sign of that sacred place either.

One of the Azerbaijani historical monuments in Irevan city was madrasa located in Tumanyan street behind former  Azizbayev,  present Sakharov square. It seems, nowadays  madrasa of the mosque is being used like  dwelling house although the mosque existed there had been torn down. But for some reason or another that madrasa has not been included in the list of historic monuments of Irevan city.

Massacre of historic monuments, material cultural heritage of Azerbaijanis was carried out not only in Irevan city but also in the territory of the whole country called Armenia who attempts to present herself as a civil country to the international community.

In 2007 Government of Armenia submitted the list of the shrines and historic monuments of ethnic and religious minorities in the country protected by the government to the Council of Europe. The list includes Blue mosque situated in 12 Mesrop Mashtos Street and a mosque in 40 Khorhrdarani Street. The Blue mosque has been presented as Persion in the list, the protection of the cage (skeleton) of Abbas Mirza mosque stated. Nevertheless, as the picture shows only a small part of the walls of Sardar mosque-complex with 2-3 meter width and 3-4 meter height survived. An 18 block 14-storey house has been built in that area by “Qlendale Hills” construction company.

The fact that only rubbles left from Sardar mosque-complex of the Irevan fortress which was called remarkable and unique architectural monument by XIX century European and Russian travelers and researchers is an obvious sample of Armenian vandalism and hostile attitude of “cultured” Armenians toward cultural heritage of Azerbaijanis who are original inhabitants of that territory.
The government of Armenia should be held accountable for wiping off mosques and other places of worship of Azerbaijanis the face of the earth in the territory of Armenia.

Source: “The  City of Iravan”, Nazim  Mustafa, Baku – 2013


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