Just finished reading an amazing article about Armenia in the March 2004 edition of National Geographic….

Does anyone else just get absolutely entranced whenever you see a photograph of Mount Ararat, or when you hear about places in Central Asia like Samarqand? Man I do. I saw a NASA photo a year or so ago taken from the shuttle, I think, showing both Mount Ararat and Little Ararat– I will have to hunt around and find the link to include here. (Here is a link to that NASA photo — and some additional info about Ararat.) Just breathtaking to see from space– I hope someday I can see those mountains in person. There is something about cities which have views of high peaks like this — Mexico City on the rare day that Popo and Ixta are visible, Seattle and Mount Rainer — and this photo of the Ararat mountains from Yerevan, the current capital of Armenia, pictured on pages 30 and 31 of the NG article. Oh my gosh. To behold such breathtaking beauty…. and the bitter irony of the Armenian political situation– where these mountains that are such a part of not only their history and culture, but also the mystique and essence of their present being…. are physically off-limits because of a political boundary line drawn on some map….. wow.

An excerpt from this fantastic NG article on Armenia is available online. Unfortunately the photo from pp. 30-31 is not online.

Discussions of Mount Ararat seem to naturally invite discussions about Noah’s ark. This document from the “Museum of Unnatural History” has some interesting ideas I had not read about before– I have followed Ballard’s excavations of the Black Sea area and read about his hypothesis of a Noah-era flood in the Black Sea region — interesting stuff. A summer 2004 expedition to search again for Noah’s ark on Ararat is being planned for July and August. How cool is this– when searching Google for some additional photos of Yerevan, I found this live webcam page from Yerevan of Mount Ararat. This is so cool I should probably move this blog entry to the “edtech” category– but I won’t, because what I want to reflect on has more to do with history, culture, and politics than about technology. Still, this is so captivating I am including the webcam photo I just viewed. Webcam photo of Yerevan, Armenia May 24, 2004

When I traveled to Turkey in 1984 our group never got further east than Konya… but knowing Ararat lay out to the eastern horizon was a tantalizing fact and something I have often thought about in later years. Until reading this NG article about Armenia, I didn’t realize how Ararat really belongs historically and culturally much more to Armenia than it does to Turkey.

I also had never heard of the Armenian diaspora. Generallly when I think of “the diaspora,” I think of Africans taken away from their continent during the heyday of the international slave trade and scattered across the globe: principally the Americas. I vaguely remember reading something at some point about a Turkish genocide of Armenians in the early 20th century– but this article contains some startling statistics about these events. According to the article (pp 40-41), in 1913 the “empire” of Armenia was estimated to have a population of about 2 million people. By 1920 (following the Ottoman empire massacres of Armenians started in 1915) less than 100,000 Armenians were estimated to still be alive. We hear a great deal about the genocide and holocaust perpetrated against the Jews and others by Nazi Germany during WWII, but precious little about this Armenian tragedy. The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response by Peter Balakian looks like an excellent book on this topic.

When I was accepted into the US Foreign Service as a Political Officer in the mid-1990s (but turned down the appointment to become a public school teacher in Texas), I know I had aspirations of traveling to Central Asia. While my language background is Spanish and my undergraduate international studies focused predominantly on Latin America, for some reason the nations of Central Asia have always held a great deal of mystique and appeal for me. I include Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, Iran, and Armenia in this group as well. Perhaps someday I will travel there in person and blog with my own photos of Ararat.

This historical overview of Yerevan is a worthwhile read. If I had the spare cash, I would order a copy of Armenia: A Historical Atlas to better understand the geographic historical perspective of this region.

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