Mount Ararat, Masis in Armenian, is a two-peaked mountain located in present-day Turkey. Great Ararat, at 17,000 ft and Little Ararat, at 12,800 ft, can be seen from the Armenian capital of Yerevan, some 30 miles away (Bryce, 175). Although the mountain is today located in Turkey, it was historically part of Armenian lands and is both a
Armenian national myths surrounding Ararat seem to have begun with Moses Khorenatsi’s 5th century account of the birth of Armenia. According to his History of Armenia, Haik, the founding father of Armenia, fought a battle with the Babylonian leader Bel at the foot of the Mount Ararat to save his people from “tyranny and oppression” (Panossian, 51). This narrative not only associates the mountain symbolically with the national identity of Armenians, but also claims the physical mountain and its surrounding area as “the Armenian homeland from time immemorial” (Panossian, 51).
After the Christianization of Armenia, Mount Ararat took on a secondary significance. In
the Biblical account of Noah’s flood, the ark is said to have come to rest on “the mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4). There are claims that this refers to several different locations, but the two most widely accepted possibilities by biblical and Koran scholars are Mount
Ararat and Mount Judi, both in modern Turkey (“Mountains of Ararat”). There have been many expeditions up Mount Ararat in search of archeological evidence of Noah’s ark, primarily by Western explorers (Montgomery).
Following the Armenian Genocide and the re-drawing of borders after World War I, Ararat officially ceased to be a part of Armenian territory (“Mount Ararat”). Since then, Mount Ararat has featured more prominently in the Armenian national consciousness as a nationalist symbol. During the Soviet period, poetry was written advocating the reclamation of Mount Ararat as part of the Armenian homeland:
I am willing you Masis, that you keep it forever,
As the language of us Armenians , as the pillar of your father’s home (Panossian, 335).
The reclamation of Ararat would also be an act of anti-Turkism, another fundamental element of the Armenian nationalist movement (“Mount Ararat”). In addition to these more overt land claims, Mount Ararat is used as a symbol in many areas of Armenian culture. In 1967, when a statue of Stalin was torn down in Yerevan, a statue of Mother Armenia was erected in its place, her eyes looking towards Ararat. The mountain itself is depicted on the coat of arms of the Republic of Armenia (“Mount Ararat”), and the Yerevan-based football club, established in 1935, is called FC Ararat Yerevan (Football Club).
- James Bryce, “On Armenia and Mount Ararat,” Proceedings of the Royal Geography Society of London, 22, no. 3 (1877-1878): 169-186.
- Razmik Panossian, The Armenians: From Kings and Priests to Merchants and Commissars (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006).
- Wikipedia, “Mountains of Ararat,” 3 May 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountains_of_Ararat
- John Warwick Montgomery, The Quest for Noah’s Ark (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1972).
- Wikipedia, “Mount Ararat,” 3 May 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Ararat
- Football Club Ararat Yerevan, 3 May 2012, http://www.fcararat.com