Oshakan is a small village in Armenia and the burial place of the Armenian saint, Mesrop Mashtots, who is known for inventing (or, according to some sources, reintroducing) the Armenian alphabet, which is what the Armenian language continues to be written in today.
Armenia is one of the oldest nations in the world. There is no place in Armenia which does not have hundreds or thousands of years of history attached to it.
Whether it be the birthplace of a famous Armenian, a historical battlefield, or an ancient church, there is no part of Armenia that does not have the word ‘history’ written all over it.
It is almost guaranteed that you can visit any town, village, or city in Armenia, and that place will have thousands of years of history attached to it.
One such place is the village of Oshakan. Located in the Aragatsotn region, it is not a place that immediately comes to people’s minds when they think of Armenia.
But the village holds a very prominent place in the Republic’s history; Oshakan is the burial place of the Armenian saint, Mesrop Mashtots, who is known for inventing (or, according to some sources, reintroducing) the Armenian alphabet, which is what the Armenian language continues to be written in today.
Surprisingly, this rather remote and tucked-away village is actually one of the most popular tourist attractions in the entire country.
Location of Oshakan
The entire Aragatsotn region is one filled with captivating churches, monuments, nature, and history, so if you one day plan to visit the historical village of Oshakan, be sure to take an entire day or two to explore the entire region.
History and Important Facts about Oshakan
The name of the village, Oshakan, means ‘a miracle in front of the eyes,’ and it was given this name because, when Noah came down from Mount Ararat, there appeared in front of him a village which was entirely free of water. Because of the aftermath of the flood, and considering the miracle in all of this, Noah gave the village this name.
In more ancient history, during the time of the Arshakuni dynasty’s reign of the Kingdom of Armenia, Oshakan was the capital of the Aragatsotn region of the Ayrarat province, where the noble family of Amatuni ruled.
During excavations, palaces and forts have been discovered which date back to approximately the 7th to 5th centuries BC. There were shown to have been five different castle complexes in Oshakan, but only the first part was actually excavated.
This castle was situated on the northern part of the Didi-Kond hill and is dated back to the 7th century BC. It had 40 rooms, halls and temples, and many ornaments and memorials were also found during the excavations. Thousands of graves which date back millennia were also found here.
The village is shown to have first been recorded with the name of ‘Oshakan castle’ by the Armenian historian Pavstos Byuzand in the 4th century.
The town was then controlled by the Armenian Arshakuni prince, Vahan Amatuni, by the Armenian king Khosrov because of his military prowess and valor during the battle in 336.
What the village is most known for today, though, as aforementioned, is being the burial place of the Saint Mesrop Mashtots. Mashtots was born in around 362 AD to a noble family in Mush, which is currently a part of the Republic of Turkey.
He was known for being highly educated and being fluent in the Greek and Persian languages. Since Mashtots was a pious man, he was appointed to be a secretary to Armenian King Khosrov IV, where his job was to write decrees and edicts of the king in Greek and Persian.
Then, Mashtots chose to live a life as a monk, where he went to live in a monastery and live with hunger, thirst, cold, and poverty.
How Mashtots Invented the Armenian Alphabet
According to the story, Mashtots wanted to translate the entire Bible into the Armenian language, since many Armenians, although being Christians, were unable to understand the Bible due to it being written in different languages.
The problem was that there were no corresponding Armenian letters in which he could write the Bible. He was given the task of creating a new alphabet by the Armenian Catholicos at the time, Sahak, and by the Armenian king, Vramshapuh.
Armenian legend states that Mashtots saw a divine dream in which he was told exactly how to create the Armenian alphabet. Every letter is supposed to represent divinity. But despite this popular legend, it is shown that Mashtots studied a lot in order to come up with the alphabet.
He invented 36 of the letters, and the other 3 which conclude the present Armenian alphabet were introduced during the Soviet era. Mashtots is also said to have helped create other alphabets, too, such as the Caucasian Albanian and Georgian alphabets.
The traditional date of the Armenian alphabet’s invention or reintroduction is 405 AD. This also marked the beginning of Armenian literature.
Translation of Bible Into Armenian
Now that there was an Armenian alphabet, Mashtots set out to translate the Bible into Armenian. The very first sentence to ever be written in the Armenian language is the opening sentence of Solomon’s Book of Proverbs: “To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding. Ճանաչել զիմաստություն եւ զխրատ, իմանալ զբանս հանճարոյ։”
The Bible is said to have been translated so perfectly that the Armenian translation of the Bible is considered to be the “Queen of Translations.” Mesrop Mashots also established a school here for his students.
Battles of Oshakan
Two battles also took place in the town of Oshakan, both in the years 336 AD and 1827 AD. The first was between the Arshakuni dynasty of Caucasian Albania and the Arshakuni dynasty of Greater Armenia.
During this battle, the Caucasian Albanian king, Sanesan, wanted to take over the throne of Greater Armenia. He invaded Armenia in the year 335 and took over the capital city of Vagharshapat. In retaliation, the Armenian forces, led by Vache Mamikonyan, met the enemy forces in Oshakan.
It was during this battle that the Armenian forces won and thus secured the Armenian throne. The battle of Oshakan in 1827 was between a coalition of Armenian and Russian troops and Persians. It took place on August 17, 1827 and ended with the victory of the Armenian-Russian forces.
Sites to See in Oshakan
- If you are a lover of history, then make sure to visit the town of Oshakan the next time you go to Armenia, since it is a town packed with history that even predates Mesrop Mashtots.
- Upon entering the town, there is a monument in dedication to Mesrop Mashtots, which is made to look like an opened book and has the Armenian alphabet carved into it.
- The most popular site in the town of Oshakan is the Saint Mesrop Mashtots Cathedral, which is the burial place of St. Mesrop Mashtots. The church itself was built between the years of 1875 and 1879, but it replaces a chapel which was built by the Armenian Prince Vahan Amatuni in 443.
- It was the prince who buried Mesrop Mashtots under this chapel. Mesrop Mashtots died in present-day Ejmiatsin, but Prince Vahan Amatuni demanded that his body be transported to Oshakan.
- There is also the Tukh Manuk Shrine in Oshakan, which has a large khachkar and a cemetery as well.
- There is a bridge which is close to the Mesrop Mashtots church that was built in 1706.
- There are many tombs in the town of Oshakan which even date back to the Iron Age.
- As with most Armenian towns, there are several Armenian churches near Oshakan- St. Thaddeus the Apostle, St. Gregory, St. Sargis, and St. Astvatsatsin. There is also the St. Sion Childs church, which is a small church built in the 7th century.
- There is a public pool nearby the church, so this can be a nice place for you to relax during your visit.
- There is also a monument which dates back to the early part of the Middle Ages. Legend has it that this is the tomb of the Roman imperator Mauritius or his mother.
Things to Do in Oshakan
The town has many delicious fruits, and it is recommended to visit Oshakan around the months of August and September. Also, every year, Armenian first-grade students commemorate learning the first letter of the Armenian alphabet, Ա, by taking a trip to Oshakan and visiting the tomb of St. Mesrop Mashtots.
Also, every year, there is a holiday dedicated to St. Sahak and St. Mesrop called Holy Translators Day, or Targmanchats Ton in Armenian.
This holiday is celebrated on October 8th. International symposiums and seminars are held in the town of Oshakan in honor of this holiday and to honor the saints.
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