By Gayane Danielian
A Seljuk Turk mausoleum built near Yerevan in the 15th century reopened its doors to visitors on Friday after a two-month renovation financed by the government of Turkmenistan.
The Muslim monument hosts tombs of several rulers of the Kara-Koyunlu tribes, the forefathers of the Turkmens that had conquered much of modern-day Armenia and northern Iran in 1411. Located in what is now a village just south of Yerevan, the mausoleum was built in 1413 by Armenian craftsmen. Its design combines elements of traditional Armenian and Turkmen architectures.
“This mausoleum symbolizes the links forged by our ancestors and serves as a reminder of a peaceful co-existence of the Muslim and Christian peoples,” Turkmenistan’s ambassador to Armenia, Tolli Kurbanov, said at its official reopening. He unveiled a stone plaque with inscriptions in Armenian and Turkmen languages.
The ceremony was attended by Catholicos Garegin II and senior Armenian government officials.
“I am here today to give my blessing to an event that will strengthen friendship between the Armenian and Turkmen peoples,” the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church said.
Also delivering a speech was Minister of Science and Education Levon Mkrtchian. “This monument is proof that the Armenian people have no racial, religious and any other prejudice,” he declared.
According to Armenian historians, the Kara-Koyunlu Seljuks were less oppressive than other eastern conquerors that swept through Armenia for several consecutive centuries. They are said to have enjoyed the backing of some prominent Armenian nobles and allowed the Armenian Church to move its headquarters back to Echmiadzin.
“Their rule was interesting in that they sought to cooperate with the local population,” said historian Pavel Chobanian of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences.
Work on the mausoleum began last November at the initiative of the Turkmen embassy in Yerevan. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov visited it during an official trip to Armenia in 1996.