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The Victory and Tragedy of the Armenian National Church (English Summary of the Turkish Article)

Prof. Dr. Erich FEIGL*
Armenian Studies, Issue 2, June-July-August 2001


In spite of the fact that on the 28th of September 2001 Pope John Paul II will be visiting Edjmiadsin in order to participate at the celebrations of the so called 1700. anniversary of the foundation of the Armenian Gregorian Church, the history of this church has to be examined closely. The celebrators present this anniversary as the ‘foundation of the first Christian Church on earth’. Everybody who deals with the history of Armenia and with the history of Christianity, knows that this is not true. Even pro Armenian historians are not sure about the year of foundation and tend between 286 and 314. One should not forget that it is not easy to change a population’s religion within a short time. Even Emperor Konstantin and Lenin and Stalin failed with this.

The Armenian history is build up of mythologic elements. According to the nationalist mythology they belong to prophet Noah and are called hayks and lords. That is the reason why they use the Ararat mountain as symbol, whereas this mountain is actually within the borders of Turkey. So in September the Armenians will celebrate the 301. anniversary of the ‘first Christian state on earth’ to underline this mythology and the witness of this event shall be Pope John Paul II. Why is it that, Gregorian Armenians and Catholics show up together? The Armenians want to cover up the situation in Nogorno – Karabakh, where about one million people had to flee from their home and are refugees now. The question of national church came up very late, why in the years of 301 one cannot talk of a national church. Although there were quarrels within the church, it still was a unity. The national church idea is quite the opposite of the church’s principle of being universal. Still, in the past, after discussions on some basic dogmas of Christianity, the splitting up started. The Armenians took over the monophizit belief. It is significant to examine the reasons for this decision and focus on the circumstances of that period. Because the Armenians did not choose the way of division consciously but out of some historical circumstances it happened that they became monophizit and split up from the main church. Apart from this it is interesting to view the situation in the Ottoman Empire, where the Gregorian Armenians opposed the Catholic Armenians. Under the Ottoman Empire the Catholic Armenians were completely loyal, whereas the Gregorian Armenians rebelled against the Ottomans. In spite of this circumstance it is even more surprising that today Pope John Paul II will be special guest on the anniversary celebration in Edjmiadsin. Although the negative relation of the past between the two confessions seems to be forgotten, there is still not the possibility of a unification of the confessions. Besides getting closer to the Catholic Church, the Armenian Church also gets closer to the Alban Church of Caucasus – the Armenians

act as the mentors and protectors of the Alban Church, which they are not. The Armenians took the Alban Church under the protection in order to underline their claim of being the first Christian state on earth and in order to have more influence on the region. These developments lead to the fact that now there is a newly designed position of the Armenians, which is the ‘Civil religion’.

* Historian -
- Armenian Studies, Issue 2, June-July-August 2001
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