Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Rediscovering Armenian Bardizag
Please check the proceeding of the lecture delivered by Ara Melkonian at Armenian House in London on 27 Jan. 2008. I would like, of course, to congratulate the author for the excellent work and admit I was moved while reading.
One might find strange the article is missing references to famous bardizagtsis like: Hadji Artin, Dr. Garabed Hatcherian, Kurken Alemshah, Bedros Dourian, and Zabel Essayan.
I should also add a few comments as concerning some bardizag particularities also:
- The so-called port of Seymen or Iskeleh was the last stop of a ferry-boat line starting from Istanbul. A picturesque description of the trip can be found in Chambers' In an Anatolian Valley , Bouregy & Curl, Inc. (New York), 1955.
- The nickname was a stong tradition - to refer to individuals - not only in Bardizag but in all the Ottoman Empire. It originated most likely from a muslim, rather than Armenian, tradition. Nicknames are very used in the nowadays independant Republic of Armenia, though. Some French Armenian might rememenber the story of 'Cheval Vartan' - named so as he owned a horse. Today nicknames are a very popular feature not only in Turkey but also in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan.
- According to the Soviet Armenian Encyclopaedia, the Bythinian village of Bardizag was always administratively dependant from the vilayet of Sivas (Sebastia) during the ruling of the Ottoman. I always wondered if this was another confusion with the original Bardizag village in Sebastia as mentioned by the author.
- It is interesting to mention than in nowadays' Turkey there are several villages bearing the name of Bahcecik in different provinces. It is likely, or at least plausible, that all these villages are former Armenian Bardizags. This could be explain by the fact that, either original Sebastia's Bardizagtsis have founded several Bardizag villages in the western territory of Asia Minor, or that Small Garden (i.e. 'Bardizag') was a a common name for green areas at the outskirts of main cities.
- Historical fact is that the Bythinian Bardizag by its fame has erased the trace of other Bardizags.
- The move of Armenian populations towards the West of Asia Minor described by the author has probably started even earlier than the 16th century. Unfortunately, the period beginning near the end of the fifteenth century may rightly be called the darkest age of Armenian cultural life. While Europe was being flooded with the light of the Renaissance, Armenia was being bathed in bloodshed, as a result of the invasion of the Turks, Tatars and Mongols.
- I believe that refugees came - not only from Agn - but from all Anatolia. Agntsis were probably the first. It is common knowledge that the last refugees came from Hadjin.
- It is commonly agreed among Istanbul scholars that the language spoke in Bardizag was amongst the purest grammatical form of Western Armenian. It might even have influenced the classical Western Armenian spoken in Bolis. The contribution of Bedros Tourian and Zabel Essayan, both descendants of Bardizagtsis, in the shaping of the wrttten form of modern western Armenian is well-known. The opposite is also true like in most cross-fertilization phenomenom (Bardizag was a famous summer resort less than 100km from the eastern suburbs of the capital).
- Indeed it did not prevent Bardizagtsis from being perfectly bilingual.
- I think the importance of the Armash monastery in the life of Bythinia Armenians is understated in the expose. The pilgrimage to Armash was an essential event in the year as important as Christmas or Easter.
- As concerning surrounding villages, one important fact to mention about the 'Laz Armenians' is that they eventually converted to Islam and were protected during the 1915 events and not deported. The most ancient families established in the outskirts of modern Bahcecik are probably so-called Laz Armenians.
- As mentionned by the author, the 'Ishkhans' did not play a prominent role in the life and administration of the village after the second half of the 19th century.
- Although non-armenian population lived around Bardizag - the 5 villages detailed by the author - it is worthy to mention that the heart of Bardizag was exclusively Armenian - a very rare situation in Ottoman Turkey. With 10,000 inhabitants, Bardizag was a large village then.
- Ancestral life was harsh but the proximity of the sea allowed men to go fishing in the morning and work in the fields in the afternoon. The extreme fertiltity of the soil allowed various culture. Bardizag was famous for its grapes and Serkefirs harvest.
- Another custom worth mentioning in Bardizag - that is specific to a few other Armenian villages also - was for young men to go outlaw to escape military service (after 1907 constitution), avoid tax collections perceived by by the bey or any vendetta organised by the agha. The outlaws were organised in small groups living in the surrounding forests of mount Minas and coming back regularly to their families in the village when deserted by Turkish gendarmerie. Eventually, after payement of a bribe, amnesty was reached with the bey or agha and outlaws could come back to their families. Chambers, in his book In An Anatolian Valley, describing the murder of an outlaw by Turkish gendarme, gives a moving description of this event.
- As I mentionned Mount Minas, I might as well say that Bardizagtsis pretend that, on a clear weather day, one can see both the Black Sea and Marmara from the top.
- Typical Bardizagtsis male would be name: Vartan, Hagop, Sahag, Sarkiss, Taniel or Mardig, while women would classicaly be named Serpouhie, Macrouhie, Azniv or Manouchag.
- It is always a strong pride and dignity for Bardizagtis to recall that, in the village, all children were schooled and educated according to European standards. This is a unique case for a Christian village in Ottoman Turkey. After the genocide and during exile, Bardizagtsis, always proud and cultured, eventually gained reputation as pretentious and arrogant personnalities.
- Bardizagtsis were also popularly characterized as Tsoug-oudor [fish-eater] and Khoumardjis [gamblers]. They were also reputed for their dry wit sense of humour.