On March 3rd in the Peters Auditorium on campus, Dr. George Bournoutian gave a brief, but concise presentation on “The Armenian Church Under Persian Rule: 1600-1800,” analyzing especially the history of the Armenian Catholicosate at Etchmiadzin in their encounters with Persian rule.
Dr. Bournoutian is the Kazan Visiting Professor of Armenian Studies at Fresno State for the Spring 2009 semester.
This was the first in a three-part series of talks on the general topic of “The Armenian Church Under Foreign Rule: Persia, Russia, and South Asia-1600-1800.” This informative lecture raised thought-provoking questions and gave a detailed picture of what the Armenian Church faced during historic times.
Beginning with a brief introduction about Etchmiadzin, Dr. Bournoutian described the Armenian Church as a National Church—one that had developed its own customs and traditions and where only Armenians, for the most part, belonged, in contrast to the Roman Catholic Church, that is multi-national. He outlined how the Church was a spiritual leader, a provider of political leadership, and a secular leader of Armenians. He noted the history of the movement of the Armenian Catholicosate, and its eventual return to Holy Etchmiadzin in 1441.
Dr. Bournoutian shifted in an organized manner towards the problems that arose during the Ottoman Turkish and Safavid Persian wars that were fought for more than one hundred fifty years, primarily in Armenian lands.
Dr. Bournoutian mentioned the constant struggle to maintain economic survival and that one way the Church did survive was through the granting of village properties to the Church, which then provided income to the Church. Holy Etchmiadzin had to constantly protect the people and the churches through petitions to the Persian Shah, who often allowed the Armenians to establish waqfs (an inalienable religious endowment of property), event though the Armenians were Christian. The Armenian Church often had to defend its rights to own the waqfs and interestingly enough, the Church was able to win more than ninety per cent of the cases that were disputed in Persian Sharia courts.
“You think the church now has it tough,” noted Bournoutian humorously. The Armenian Church at Etchmiadzin had periods of prosperity and also poverty under Persian rule, but ultimately emerged from the difficult period with the tools to progress. Dr. Bournoutian gave a passionate presentation regarding the Armenian Church under the Persians. He spoke confidently and concisely and ended his presentation with time for questions and comments.
Dr. Bournoutian will revisit the topic of the Armenian Church under Russian rule and the Armenian Church in South Asia in his next two lectures on March 24th and April 21st, respectively. Both lectures will take place in the University Business Center.