The Armenian Church in Soviet Armenia
The Policies of the Armenian Bolsheviks and the Armenian Church, 1920-1932
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- List of Abbreviations
- 1 The Situation of the Armenian Church during the 19th and early 20th Centuries
- 1.1. Armenian Church in Russian Empire (1828–1918)
- 1.2. Armenian Church in Turkey in the 19th and early 20th century
- 1.3. Armenian Church in the Republic of Armenia290
- 2 Soviet Armenia (1920–1932)
- 2.1. Intervention of the Red Army in Armenia. The Fall of Republic (July–December 1920)
- 2.2. Establishment of Bolshevik Power in Armenia (1920–1922)34
- 2.3. Armenian SSR with in the Structures of TSFSR and USSR (1922–1932)
- 3 Communist Policies toward the Armenian Church
- 3.1. Anti-religious Policy of the Communist Party of Armenia (Bolshevik)1
- 3.2 Anti-church Operational Activity of Soviet Security Services
- 3.3 Anti-religious and Anti-church Propaganda
- 4 Aftermath of Bolshevik Policy against the Armenian Church
- 4.1 Liquidation of Church Structures and Independence of the Armenian Church
- 4.2. Persecution of Clergy
- 4.3. Atheization and Persecution of the Faithful of the Armenian Church
- Summary and Conclusion
- I. Primary Sources
- II. Periodicals
- III. Secondary Sources
- Summary in Armenian
- Notes on the Translators
This book is part of the Peter Lang Humanities list.
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The Armenian Church
in Soviet Armenia
The Policies of the Armenian Bolsheviks
and the Armenian Church,
and Artur Zwolski
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Osiecki, Jakub, author. | Siemianowski, Paweł, translator. |
Zwolski, Artur, translator.
Title: The Armenian church in Soviet Armenia: the policies of the Armenian
Bolsheviks and the Armenian church, 1920–1932/Jakub Osiecki;
translated by Paweł Siemianowski
and Artur Zwokski.
Other titles: Apostolski Kościół Ormiański w Armenii sowieckiej w latach
Description: New York: Peter Lang, 2020.
Originally published by Księgarnia Akademicka, 2016.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
In English, translated from Polish.
Identifiers: LCCN 2019036643 | ISBN 978-1-4331-6969-4 (hardback: alk. paper)
ISBN 978-1-4331-6970-0 (ebook pdf)
ISBN 978-1-4331-6971-7 (epub) | ISBN 978-1-4331-6972-4 (mobi)
Subjects: LCSH: Armenian Church—History—20th century. | Hayastani
Komunistakan Partia—History. | Communism and Christianity—
Armenian Church—History. | Communism and Christianity—
Soviet Union—History. | Catholicoi and catholicate (Armenian Church)—
History. | Religion and state—Soviet Union—History. | Armenia
(Republic)—Church history—20th century.
Classification: LCC BX123.3 .O754 | DDC 281/.6209475609042—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019036643
Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek.
Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche
Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data are available
on the Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de/.
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All rights reserved.
Reprint or reproduction, even partially, in all forms such as microfilm,
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About the author
Jakub Osiecki works for the Research Center for Armenian Culture in Poland - Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a member of the Association Internationale des Etudes Arméniennes (AIEA) and the Society for Armenian Studies. He received an M.A. in Russian studies from Jagiellonian University in Kraków in 2008, and in January 2014 was awarded a Ph.D. in history with the thesis “The Armenian Apostolic Church in Soviet Armenia 1920–1932” (published in Polish in 2017). He is also author of publication on the Catholics of the Armenian rite in Armenia and Georgia.
About the book
“Using extensive archival material, Jakub Osiecki has produced a unique study of a very important and rarely studied subject. The volume is a welcome addition to studies on Armenia and its Church.”
—George Bournoutian, Iona College
“This book presents an original academic achievement and an important milestone in the literature concerning the subject and a lasting contribution to the development of sciences.”
—Roman Dzwonkowski, Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski/
The Catholic University of Lublin
This book presents the results of a comprehensive study on the history of Soviet Armenia and the Armenian Church in the years 1920–32. Through documents uncovered in the Communist Party Archive in Yerevan and the Georgian Historical Archive, press antireligious propaganda, oral testimonies, and biographical interviews conducted by the author, The Armenian Church in Soviet Armenia expands the discussion on the history of the Armenian Church in the 20th century, especially regarding the relations between the spiritual leaders of the Armenian Church and the Bolsheviks. In accordance with stipulations laid out by the Central Committee in consultation with the GPU, Khoren Muradbekian was elected as the Catholicos of All Armenians. His election was the principal reason behind the schism inside the Church, which—especially in the Armenian diaspora—divided not only clergy, but laymen themselves. These divisions, even after hundred years, are still vivid in Armenian society.
This eBook can be cited
This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.
“Willing to understand mentality and the success of revolutionists, we need to get to the roots of revolution. Psychological features of the mankind, both inherited and acquired under the influence of the society played significant role. The confidence of serving the good idea was much stronger among revolutionists than in the ranks of defenders of Russian old regime.” This statement from Adam Krzyżowski1 can be applied to the situation of the Armenian Church in Soviet Armenia. Old regime for Armenians was undoubtedly connected with the position and the activity of Armenian Church. Church was the guarantor of national identity, consciousness, and religiosity, of course. The Bolsheviks were aware of that. Therefor wanting to create a new society and new communist state they had to fight not only with the Church hierarchy, but also (maybe primarily) with Christian vision of the human and God. Church’s teaching was exactly the opposite of Bolsheviks policy.
This publication concentrates mainly on the events that took place in the period 1920–1932. In 1920 Armenia was Sovietized in the typical manner—it meant implementation of soviet model of social life and soviet law. In that reality there was no place for religion and the Church headed by Gevork V. In 1932, new catholicos was elected by the layman and clergy in Ejmiatsin By the intrigue and under the threat of GPU persecutions, Khoren I Muradbekian was selected ←vii | viii→the Catholicos of All Armenians. Before the elections Khoren agreed to cooperate with the Soviets. This controversial decision was probably founded on the will to preserve the activity of the Armenian Church in the USSR. However, already in 1932, the Church was deprived of the majority of the clergy and only few Armenian churches remained open on the South Caucasus.
Why and how were Armenian Bolsheviks able to almost destroy Christianity in Armenia? To understand that, we need to take a look carefully at the situation of the Armenian Church before 1920. In the 19th and the beginning of 20th century, the ideology of secularism became very popular especially among Armenian intellectuals. It seems necessary to bring closer also the sociopolitical situation of the Church in Ottoman Empire and Tsarist Russia. The Church was gradually losing its position in society. Emancipation of layman and popular slogans of social revolution and secularism itself needs to underline. If we study the political programs of Armenian parties, such as Dashnaktsutyiun or Hnchak, we realize that the division of the Church and the state and capture of the Church educational system (parochial schools) were vivid ideas for Armenian socialists already at the end of the 19th century. In 1894 in the newspaper Droshak Armenian journalists were calling for “fight with conservative clergy” and taking the lands from the Church and giving it to peasants. This ideology of secularism found its reflection in the legal system of First Armenian Republic. Almost the entire net of parochial schools run by the Armenian clergy was seized by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Armenia. It has to be underlined that the first step to secular education in Armenia was made before Sovietization.
For that reason, the Bolsheviks’ struggle with the Church and anti-religious propaganda and persecution has to be elaborated as a longer process. Of course the Bolsheviks’ “storming the heaven” cannot be compared with the policy of Dashnaks toward the Church, but to understand fully the phenomena of anti-church activity in Soviet Armenia and demolishing of the Armenian Church on South Caucasus we have to bear in mind that some major events happened straight after the Armenian Genocide and after the long-lasting conflict with Azerbaijan and Ottoman and Turkish forces. We could presume that the Armenian nation and the Church were too exhausted to fight back communists.
The number of publications on the Armenian Church in the USSR is limited. We cannot forget about the publishing of Mary K. Matossian The Impact of Soviet Policies in Armenia published in Leiden in 1962 and the Armenian work of Stephan Stepaniants “Hay Arrakhelakan Yekeghetsin stalinian brrnapetuthian orok”.2 Worth mentioning is also Rafi Gazer Hacik’s astonishing study „Die Armenische Kirche in Sowjetarmenien zwischen den Weltkriegen. Anatomie einer ←viii | ix→Vernichtung” published in Hamburg in 2001 and last but not least Vaveragrer. Hay Yekeghetsu Patmuthiun (vol. III) edited by Sandro Behbudian and published in Yerevan in 1994.
However, the authors mentioned above did not have an access to recently opened Armenian GPU Archive (Files “Hayastani Yekegheciner”). The author had a unique opportunity to work with the Armenian GPU and KGB documents regarding the Armenian Church. It does not mean that all archival sources now are accessible for researchers. Sadly, some documents concerning the Armenian Church are classified as secret. For example, on the agenda of the session of the Bureau in 1932 only those that concerned the election of catholicos were designated as secret. Moreover, each session of the Bureau of the Central Committee would be supplemented with a folder containing additional materials, such as copies of speeches, lectures, papers, reports, and documents from previous sessions. In many cases, such folders especially after 1928 are missing.
I was able to acquire crucial information not only from the Armenian National Archive, but also from the Georgian Historical Archive. Thanks to the support of Natalia Gladchenko from the Department of Public and International Relations at the National Archives of Georgia the author had a chance to work with the archival documents from the confidential collection – fond no. 60c-607. To make this study more comprehensive, the author conducted his research also in the Vatican Archive (Secretary of the State Archive) and in the Archbishop of Canterbury Archive.
The aim of this research is to answer the question on the legal and socio-political conditions of destroying the Church in Soviet Armenia. Did the Armenian Bolsheviks run independent from Moscow policy toward the Church or they were just implementing the decisions of Russian communist? What was the type of agitation and propaganda used by the Bolsheviks in Armenia, and who was the receiver of this anti-religious content? Also significant is the Church’s answer on the GPU/KGB anti-religious activity. Did the Church (laymen and clergy) attempt to compete against the Bolsheviks’ policy?
In the first chapter, the situation of the Armenian Church in Ottoman and Russian Empire is displayed. The 19th century witnessed two parallel social processes. One of them led to a gradual emancipation of the Armenian nation and the other was growing socialist tendencies and marginalization of the role played by the Church. A significant obstacle in creating an independent and united Armenian Church, which could unify the Armenians, was the division between the faithful not just by state borders but also by submission to different and independent patriarchal administrations. Some faithful followed the Armenian patriarch ←ix | x→of Constantinople as their spiritual leader and others the patriarch of Sis. For Russian Armenians, it was the catholicos in Ejmiatsin. Each of the aforementioned patriarchs was forced to create his own modus vivendi in relations with the given state (Russia and Ottoman Empire) where he had his seat. The results of those agreements were documents: the Ordinations (rus. Polozhenyia) and the Constitution, (arm. Sahmanadrutiun) both formed in the mid-19th century. Additionally, secularization gained ground among the Armenians due to more widespread education and growth of national culture as a result of the Zarthonkh (Awaking) reform program. The clergy found itself in an exceptionally difficult economic and political position after the Tsarist government introduced a law that confiscated the wealth of the Armenian Church (1903). The biggest impact on the Armenian Church in Ottoman Empire brought, of course, the Armenian Genocide. After this tragic event, the Church has not yet been restored. In 1919, the government of the Republic of Armenia not only did not restore the previous role played by the Armenian Church in the society, but it decided to accept a concordate on conditions unfavorable to the Church.
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- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XVI, 272 pp.