The Sisian travelogue
Published: Wednesday May 09, 2012
Heading east from Sisian there is the village of Khnsoresk on the right shortly before entering the Lachin Corridor towards Artsakh (Karabagh). Passing through the village one arrives at a deep gorge with vegetation on its slopes and easy to follow paths leading into the gorge. Along the slopes of the gorge are naturally occurring caves in which Armenians have carved homes, factories, bakeries, and churches. People lived in these homes, I am told, until the 1940s. The cave dwellings had windows carved out of the stone, and entrances were squared off to allow doors. Holes in the roofs served as chimneys. A group of us, guided by superb guides from Avarayr Tours in Armenia, hiked down one side of the gorge and up the opposite side. We encountered a cheese factory with large vats carved from the stone, a spring (the water was cold and delicious), three churches, and a bakery with tonirs (barrel shaped clay pits set in the ground in which bread was baked). During the hike we enjoyed wild ripening blackberries. At the bottom of the gorge was the barely recognizable foundation of an ancient church (perhaps as old as the 4th C) and the Pantheon - a handful of graves with gravestones intact.
Among the graves was that of Mkhitar Sparabed, David Beg's military commander in the 18th C struggle against Persia and the Ottoman Empire in Zangezur (southern Armenia). Upon the death of David Beg, Mkhitar Sparabed assumed the leadership of the armed struggle but was killed by a traitor who presented the Persian shah with Mkhitar Sparabed's severed head. The traitor expected a reward. The Shah responded "If you would do this to your own people, I can only imagine what you would do against me" and had the traitor executed.
I've described a small fraction of the interesting sights to be seen. Sisian is a rich repository of Armenian history and culture with beautiful scenery and welcoming people. Other than Karahunj and the Datev Monastey (which is well worth a visit), relatively few people visit other nearby sites. Sisian is an interesting and rewarding area to explore, with ample documentation available in books and on-line. Sisian, Siunik, and especially its people have won a place in our hearts.
A great resource for exploring Armenia is the book Rediscovering Armenia by Brady Kiesling and Raffi Kojian. This book is freely available on-line, from the National Association of Armenian Studies and Research (N.A.A.S.R.) in Belmont, MA, and in Armenia at the Artbridge Bookstore. The English version of Syunik During the Bronze and Iron Age is available from N.A.A.S.R.