Yerevan is the capital of Armenia and one of the oldest cities in the world.
Yerevan is older than Rome and 2803 years old at present. The birth certificate of the
ancient city is a cuneiform inscription, made in 782 BC by the king Argishti I, son of
Menua. The city was first called Erebuni, built on top of a hill called Arin Berd, which
overlooks the Arax (Aras) valley. The cuneiform inscription was discovered by an
archeological expedition led by Armenian Constantine Hovhannisyan. Later, two other
identical inscriptions were uncovered. Interestingly enough, following these
discoveries, a shield was found in Teishebaini or Karmir Blur fortress with the same
inscription imprinted on it.
Yerevan is not only an ancient city of scenic wonders that combines the ancient
and modern architecture, but it is also home for the Blue Mosque, the gem of Persia in
Situated in the centre of the city on Mashtots Avenue in Yerevan, the Central
Blue Mosque amazes with the complexity of miniature and delicate architectural
solutions. According to the inscriptions on the walls of the Mosque, the holy place was
founded by Hussein Ali Khan, the governor of Yerevan in 1765.
The dome of the Mosque is blue. The latter is supposed to have conditioned the
name of the Mosque – the Central Blue Mosque. The miniature painting design on the
walls is an outstanding sample of Iranian culture. The mosaic of the curving lines and
decorative patterns on the background of the blue, yellow and grey colors complete the
majestic architectural solutions of the Mosque.
In the 1990s both Iranians and Armenians together commenced the
reconstruction of the magnificent Blue Mosque. The Mosque was reconstructed by the
Islamic Republic of Iran between 1996-1999, cooperating with “Mostazafan va
Janbazan” fund. The Mosque reconstruction had been supervised by the Islamic
Republic of Iran Cultural Consultant in Yerevan.
The booklet entitled “The Central Blue Mosque of Yerevan (2004) informs the
readers about the history, architecture of Central Blue Mosque and cultural activities
held here. The Foreword of the booklet is written by Reza Atufi, the cultural consultant
of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Armenia. In the words of R. Atufi, “The Blue Mosque
of Yerevan, situated in the heart of the city like a priceless turquoise, is a long-lasting
history symbol of peaceful coexistence and cooperation of Armenians and Muslims”
R. Atufi also states in the Foreword that “after the reconstruction this magnificent
Islamic and Iranian building is not only a prayer place for Armenia-based Muslims, but
it has also turned into an interesting and picturesque place, visited by a lot of tourists
who are interested in Iranian and Islamic architecture” (p.3). (The translation into
English is ours – G.B.)
According to the booklet “The Central Blue Mosque of Yerevan (2004),
“Yerevan Central mosque is 7000 square-meter (100*70 meter) including 28 cells in
every side 14 cells” (p. 10). The mosque possesses a central pray-hall of 442 sq., main
dome of 20m height and a minaret of 24m height, 26 small rooms and an “Housseineh.”
The Mosque also comprises a library, Conference Hall, Mosque’s photo gallery,
exposition of hand-made products, Shabestan, Mosque’s administration and Imam’s
office, classrooms, etc. Persian language (Farsi) classes are held twice a week in the
The Blue Mosque library houses 8000 books and it is open on working days for
everyone to drop by and absorb in the pages of the books to gain knowledge about
Iranian age-long history, culture, language, etc.
The permanent exhibition of Iranian handicraft works is another amazing place
to see on visiting the Blue Mosque. The beautiful handicrafts complete the Iranian
cultural atmosphere and impart new colors to the picturesque beauty of the mosque.
As the booklet “The Central Blue Mosque of Yerevan (2004) maintains, “This
mosque that named Yerevan’s central mosque (Masjed Jaamee) is one of the biggest
mosques in the Caucasus that had been forgotten in communist’s era and almost 70
years has been hidden under dust like a jewel. Independence of Armenia caused a
relationship between Islamic Republic of Iran and Republic of Armenia and prepared
necessities for committing, reviving and reconstruction of this beautiful building
according to Iranian and Islamic architectural styles […] In communist era this mosque
has been used as the Yerevan’s museum of history and Armenia’s museum of national
history and in that times the yard of mosque was used as a meeting place of Armenian
writers and artists and that is why this mosque has not been completely destroyed.” (p.9)
It is of interest to note that the Blue Mosque was mentioned in the Armenian
authors’ works, namely Romanos Melikyan, Aksel Bakunts, Gourgen Mahari, Mkrtich
Armen and Yeghishe Charents. The latter also translated “Shahnameh” and “Rostam
and Zohrab” by the world-famous Persian poet Ferdowsi.
The Blue Mosque was is also pictured in Armenian Fine Arts works. The oil
painting “Old Yerevan’s Trade Series /Հին Երևանի առևտրաշարքը/ by Sedrak
Arakelyan (1921) depicts a part of Old Yerevan, and the Blue Dome of the Mosque is
seen at a distance in the background:
Source – National Gallery of Armenia site
After visiting the Blue Mosque with the accompaniment of outstanding
Armenian writer Khachatour Abovyan, the German traveler Avgust fon Haksthauzen
wrote a detailed account of the Blue Mosque, also describing it as the most magnificent
building he had seen in Yerevan.
In addition to the Central Blue Mosque of Yerevan, there is also Persian AbbasGhulukhani or Tapabash Mosque in Kond district. As the Mosque is situated in the
Kond district, Armenians also call it Kond Mosque – a semi-preserved mosque that
survived the ages. It is non-operational at present because it needs repairing.
Abbas-Ghulukhani or Tapabash Mosque in Kond district of Yerevan is modestsized and it is completely made of bricks. The outer walls were decorated with mosaic
slabs. The foundation year of the mosque is not precisely known, but the Kond Mosque
is supposed to have been built in 1687. The Mosque is in partially-preserved state at
present and the windows of the Mosque have been reconstructed. It is quite probable
that the Mosque restoration project will be laid on table within the Kond district
restoration in the nearest future. Similarly, among 4500 historical monuments in the
Republic of Armenia (churches, monasteries, chapels, khachkars/cross-stones dating
back to the Middle Ages and earlier periods, etc.), some are still waiting for their turn
to be reconstructed in the upcoming years.
The Mosque Abbas-Ghulukhani or Tapabash Mosque was magnificently
portrayed in an oil painting “Old Yerevan. Kond Mosque” by the Armenian painter
Petros Bayburdyan (1961). The painting is stored in the National Gallery of Armenia.
Source – National Gallery of Armenia site
It should be noted that the extensive research, the scholarly article headlined
“The Mosques in Yerevan (Historical Approach)” by L. Petrosyan in the Journal of
Arabic Studies (2018) provides an all-inclusive and thorough research on the mosques
As the research by L. Petrosyan maintains, foreign travelers have also reported
that some mosques in Armenia did not survive the 1679 destructive earthquake in
Armenia. For example, the French traveler Jan Sharden reported about the partially
pulled down Div Sultan Mosque, which had been named so in honour of Turkmen
commander Div Sultan Rumlu (p.178). The mosque is supposed to have been situated
in the place of the present Blue Mosque or near it.
Moreover, in the middle of the 19th century, historian Ivan Chopin, while
enumerating the mosques in Yerevan, mentioned about a few pulled down and
abandoned Islamic pray-rooms. In the work entitled “Old Yerevan” (1931) by
Armenian Yervand Shahaziz, six mosques were mentioned, excluding Tapabash or
L. Petrosyan’s research also revealed that I. Chopin, in his work “Historical
Monument of the State of the Armenian Region in the Era of its Annexation to the
Russian Empire” (1852) states about six non-operational mosques in the city and two
non-operational mosques inside the fortress.
Therefore, in the 19th century, when Armenia was under foreign rule, the
mosques in Armenia had already been abandoned or pulled down as a result of
earthquakes and government transitions.
Lastly, it should be mentioned, all in all, that there have been 9 mosques in
Yerevan, including the Central Blue Mosque and the Kond Mosque – AbbasGhulukhani or Tapabash Mosque. The mosques that did not survive the ages are Abbas
Mirza or Sardari Mosque, Rajab Pasha Mosque, Zal Khan Mosque, Haji Novruz Ali
Bey Mosque, Haji Imam Verdi Mosque, Muhammad Sardip Khan Mosque.
As L. Petrosyan states in his research, Abbas Mirza or Sardari and Rajab Pasha
mosques had been inside Yerevan fortress. When Armenia fell under the rule of the
Russian Empire, the majority of the existing mosques were operational. The nonoperational mosques were either preserved or rebuilt, serving other purposes, or were
left abandoned (Abbas Mirza). The latter mainly refers to the mosques situated inside
Yerevan fortress because the fortress area became Russian garrison allocation site.
Later, the overwhelming majority of the mosques were pulled down or turned into other
buildings during the Soviet Union era.
Similarly, many Armenian churches were submitted to the same fate: St. PoghosPetros church, St. Grigor Lusavorich church, Simeon Tseruni church (in Nork),
Getsemani chapel, St. Nikoghayos Russian Orthodox church (in Shahumyan Square,
Tiramor Hovanu church (inside the fortress) and Kozern cemetery were destroyed to
the ground, and St. Zoravor church was closed and stopped operating. St. Astvatsatsin
Katoghike church (in Sayat-Nova and Abovyan crossroads) was partially destroyed.
The large church was destroyed, but the small one remained, until now the walls bear
the holes of bullets.
On balance, 2 out of 9 mosques in Yerevan survived to date as a result of
historical circumstances (mainly during the Soviet era) and earthquakes. Meanwhile,
Armenians have preserved what had survived the centuries.
Similarly, during the Soviet Communist rule 5 churches, 1 chapel and 1 cemetery
were destroyed to the ground, 1 church was partially destroyed, 1 church stopped
operating in Yerevan.
Other churches and chapels in Armenia were submitted to a similar fate during
the Soviet Era. St. Hovhannes (Ghaltaghchi St. Hovhannes) chapel on top of a
mountain, a pilgrimage Holy place for Armenians until now, was exploded during the
Soviet Era. However, after the Soviet era Armenians rebuilt it.
Moreover, many Armenian churches had been turned into barns and weaponry
storehouses. For instance, St. Astvatsatsin church in Etchmiadzin city was turned into a
barn, St. Astvatsatsin church in Vardablur village in Lori province was turned into a
The mosques in Yerevan have been built from the 17th till the beginning of the
19th century, which was conditioned by the increase of the Muslim population of
Armenia when Armenia fell under the rule of the Persian Empire.
The study of the data comes to prove that Armenians did not destroy mosques.
Armenians have always been peaceful people, living side by side by their Muslim
neighbours when the Armenian land was conquered and fell under foreign rule.
On balance, some mosques and churches in Yerevan did not survive to the 21st
century because of the Bolshevik anti-religious and atheist propaganda during the
Soviet Era, and as a result of earthquakes, as well.
At present, the Central Blue Mosque in the centre of Yerevan, the priceless
turquoise of Persia in Armenia, is one of the biggest mosques in the Caucasus that stands
out with its unique architecture and blue, azure dome
WRITTEN BY: DR. GAYANE BARSEGHYAN YEREVAN, ARMENIA
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