|Ecclesiastical or organizational status||Mosque|
|Location||12 Mashtots Avenue, Yerevan, Armenia|
|Minaret height||24 metres (79 ft)|
The Blue Mosque is an 18th-century Shia mosque in Yerevan, Armenia. It was commissioned by Hoseyn Ali Khan, the khan of the Iranian Erivan Khanate. It is one of the oldest extant structures in central Yerevan and the most significant structure from the city's Iranian period. It was the largest of the eight mosques of Yerevan in the 19th century and is the only active mosque in Armenia today.
The mosque was secularized in the 1920s and housed the History Museum of Yerevan for more than five decades. Following Armenia's independence, the mosque was renovated with support from the Iranian government and again started operating as a mosque, serving the Muslims residing in Armenia.
Western visitors in the Russian period, such as H. F. B. Lynch and Luigi Villari, referred to the mosque as Gök Jami (Gok Djami), which translates from Turkish as 'sky blue mosque'. It is known as Kapuyt mzkit’ 'Blue Mosque' in Armenian, although Gyoy mzkit’ is sometimes used as well. It is known in Persian as Masjid-i Juma 'Friday mosque' or Jami-i Shahr 'city congregational mosque'.
Muslims in Yerevan
Muslims reached a majority in Yerevan after the deportation of the local Armenian population in the 17th century
The mosque was built in 1765–1766 (AH 1179)[a] by Hoseyn Ali Khan, the ruler of the Erivan Khanate under the Afsharid dynasty of Persia, as the city's main Friday mosque. The mosque was the largest of the eight mosques operating in Yerevan when the Russians captured it in 1827. The mosque underwent substantial redecoration with tiles around 1887-88 (AH 1305), under Russian administration. The mosque underwent another reconstruction in 1907–1910.
H. F. B. Lynch, who visited Erivan in 1890s, wrote: "There is nothing very remarkable in the architecture of the mosque; but the floral paintings which adorn the ceiling of a companion and smaller edifice on the north side of the court are of very high merit." Luigi Villari, an Italian diplomat and historian, gave a detailed description of the mosque in his 1906 book titled Fire and Sword in the Caucasus. He wrote that the "great mosque called the Gok Djami [...] is a good deal more than a mosque; it is a long quadrangle containing several places of worship and a number of cells, schools, and offices of the Moslem religious administration. It is not very ancient [...] but it is handsome." The Encyclopædia Britannica (1911) described the mosque as the "finest building in the city." The minaret of the mosque, standing at 24 metres (79 ft) was the tallest structure in 19th century Yerevan.
The mosque was secularized after Soviet rule was established in Armenia. The mosque's entrances and exits were modified significantly. The main gate, on the southern side, to the right of the minaret was blocked. The western gate was "incorporated into a residence complex and became hardly recognizable as an entrance." The entrance on the northern side became the only entrance. It is accessible and visible from Mashtots Avenue. Beginning with Alexander Tamanian's 1924 master plan for Yerevan, the mosque has been situated more than two meters below the street level, which requires visitors to descend a flight of steps.
The mosque ceased to operate as a religious institution in the mid-1920s. Its courtyard became a "creative space for Armenian artists, writers, poets, and intelligentsia, facilitating the production of a new cultural and aesthetic order for socialist Armenia. The courtyard was protected by large elm and plane trees, and in this way provided the hot and dusty city with a shaded refuge." The courtyard housed a teahouse, which became a hub for intellectual gatherings. Yeghishe Charents, Martiros Saryan, Aksel Bakunts were among its regular visitors. Foreign guests included Armenian-American writer William Saroyan, Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, Russian novelist Andrei Bely and others. Local artists used the "courtyard for exhibitions and as a laboratory for new socialist spirituality." Seyed Hossein Tabatabai, Adviser of the Cultural Center of the Iranian Embassy in Armenia, noted that the mosque was "preserved by the efforts of a number of Armenian intellectuals," especially Charents.
In the 1930s, first the Anti-Religious Museum and subsequently the Museum of Antifascism were housed at the mosque. From 1936 until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the mosque housed the Museum of Natural Sciences, which included a planetarium inside the main prayer hall and the Yerevan History Museum.
In February 1991, a preliminary agreement was reached between the city's authorities and an Iranian delegation to restore the mosque. The mosque underwent major renovation between 1994 and 1998. The city's authorities officially transferred the right to use the mosque to Iran on October 13, 1995. The government of Iran allocated some 1 billion Iranian rials (over $1 million) for restoration works. The mosque was re-opened as a religious institution in 1996. Brady Kiesling described the restoration as "structurally necessary but aesthetically ambiguous."
Another reconstruction was done between 2009 and 2011.
Since restoration, it has become a religious and cultural center for the Iranians residing in Armenia and Iranian tourists visiting Armenia. In 2003 the journalist Thomas de Waal noted that the only regular worshippers at the mosque were "the dozen or so diplomats from the Iranian Embassy." Less than a decade later, in 2009, ArmeniaNow wrote that of the up to 2,000 Iranians residing in Yerevan as many as 500 periodically attend the mosque on Thursdays. The Iranian cultural center inside the mosque complex attracts young Armenians seeking to learn Persian. The Persian library of over 8,000 items, named after the poet Hafez, was opened inside the complex in October 2014.
The mosque is listed by the Armenian government as a monument of national significance. It is "one of the oldest buildings in central Yerevan" and the "only extant building of the Iranian period in Yerevan." The historian of Islamic art Markus Ritter described it as the "main model for the early Qajar mosque architecture of the Iranian period." The mosque complex covers an area of 7,000 square metres (75,000 sq ft). The mosque itself is 97 by 66 metres (318 ft × 217 ft), while the courtyard is 70 by 47 metres (230 ft × 154 ft). The mosque contains the traditional Shia attributes, including a minaret, three mihrabs (prayer halls), holy inscriptions, etc. The mosque includes 24 arched cells that face the pool in the middle of the courtyard, which is surrounded by a rose garden. The minaret, standing at 24 metres (79 ft) tall, has a 7-degree slope, but is considered to be architecturally safe.
Efforts to list as a World Heritage Site
In October 2007 Armenian Foreign Affairs Minister Vartan Oskanian stated during his speech at the 34th session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris that the Blue Mosque and other sites are on the waiting list for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. In January 2013 Armenian Minister of Culture Hasmik Poghosyan stated that Armenia will take all possible steps for inclusion of the mosque in the list. She reaffirmed this position in a meeting with Iranian Culture Minister Mohammad Hosseini in April 2013. Hosseini stated that he hoped Armenian efforts would succeed. Armenia's Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Nalbandyan, in his speech at the 38th session of UNESCO General Conference in November 2015:
...neighboring Iran has made great efforts to preserve and protect the Armenian cultural heritage. The Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran, the oldest of which dates back to the 7th century, were inscribed on the World Heritage List by the Iranian Government. On our part, Armenia reconstructed the Iranian 18th century Blue Mosque in Yerevan, and is going to inscribe it on the World Heritage List.
On October 15, 2015 Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan and First Vice President of Iran Eshaq Jahangiri attended an event dedicated to the 250th anniversary of the mosque. Abrahamyan stated in his speech that both Armenia and Iran "are now making efforts to have it put on the UNESCO World Heritage list."
Multiple Western and Armenian sources describe the mosque as Iranian/Persian.[b] The anthropologist and ethnographer Tsypylma Darieva notes that "in local media and in official discourses, the Blue Mosque has been strongly associated with the new expatriate political body symbolizing the recent Armenian–Iranian friendship. This dominant reading of the place defines the Blue Mosque exclusively as the 'Persian Mosque'." Darieva notes that it served as a Friday mosque for the Muslim population in Yerevan until the mid 1920s.
In Azerbaijan, the mosque is usually referred to as a monument of Azerbaijani heritage of Yerevan. One government official called it "the largest religious center of Azerbaijanis living in Yerevan." A 2007 book titled War against Azerbaijan: Targeting Cultural Heritage, published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, objected to the restoration of the mosque in the 1990s and to its "presentation as a Persian mosque." The independent Armenian scholar Rouben Galichian argues in his 2009 book Invention of History:
It must be said that all mosques built [in Yerevan] between the 1635 and 1820s were erected by the Iranians and bearing in mind that the local Muslim population, as well as the Persians were both Shias, their mosques were identical. Hence, it is very difficult to understand how the Blue Mosque could be an “Azeri” mosque, since such a classification did not exist.
At a 2022 forum, Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan stated: "We have great respect for Islamic civilization and religion, and one of the clearest proofs of this is the Blue Mosque in the center of Yerevan, which, by the way, was restored during the period of Armenia’s independence." At the 2023 Munich Security Conference, Pashinyan, in response to Ilham Aliyev's accusation that Armenia destroyed mosques in Nagorno-Karabakh, stated that Armenia has a "Muslim minority in our country, and we have a functioning mosque."
Visit of Azerbaijani MPs
In February 2022 two Azerbaijani pro-government MPs, Tahir Mirkişili and Soltan Məmmədov, attending a Euronest Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Yerevan, visited the mosque. Mirkişili wrote that "Although there are inscriptions related to another state on its walls, its architecture, walls, and spirit as a whole are affiliated with Azerbaijan. We believe that its true owners will soon be able to offer their prayers in the mosque." The Iranian embassy in Armenia responded by calling the mosque a "symbol of Iranian art" and noting that "centuries-old Persian epigraphy has been preserved" on its walls. Mahmoud Movahedifar, an Iranian clergyman serving at the mosque, stated that it has distinctive features of Iran's traditional Islamic architecture and that all inscriptions are in Persian. Movahedifar added, "Even if there was a single tile here with an Azerbaijani inscription we would recognize that fact."
- Government of the Republic of Armenia (2 November 2004). "Հայաստանի Հանրապետության Երևան քաղաքի պատմության և մշակույթի անշարժ հուշարձանների պետակական ցուցակ [List of historical and cultural monuments of Yerevan]". arlis.am (in Armenian). Armneian Legal Information System. Archived from the original on 5 August 2016.
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- Darieva 2016, p. 296.
- Markossian 2002, p. 44.
- Lynch 1901, p. 213.
- Villari 1906, p. 224.
- Ritter, Markus (2009). "The Lost Mosque(s) in the Citadel of Qajar Yerevan: Architecture and Identity, Iranian and Local Traditions in the Early 19th Century" (PDF). Iran and the Caucasus. Brill Publishers. 13 (2): 252–253. doi:10.1163/157338410X12625876281109. JSTOR 25703805.
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- George Bournoutian «Eastern Armenia from the Seventeenth Century to the Russian Annexation» from The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times, Volume II (New York, 1997; editor: Richard G. Hovannisian), page 96:
By the end of the eighteenth century, the Armenian population of the territory had shrunk considerably. Centuries of warfare and invasions combined with the tyranny of local khans had forced the emigration of the Armenians. It is probable that until the seventeenth century, the Armenians still maintained a majority in Eastern Armenia, but the forced relocation of some 250,000 Armenians by Shah Abbas and the numerous exoduses described in this chapter had reduced the Armenian population considerably.
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Աղուսակից երևում է, որ թաթարները /նկատի առնված մահմեդական բնակչությունը/ գերակշռել են` 7331 մարդ, իսկ հայերի թիվը փոքր էր /բոշաների հետ միասին` 4132/,
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- Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911. .
- Darieva 2016, p. 297.
- Darieva 2016, p. 299.
- Darieva 2016, p. 298.
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In 1936 it was moved to the Blue Mosque (Gyoy Djami) where it functioned for about 56 years.
- "Armenian Premier Receives Iranian Delegation". Daily Report: Soviet Union. Foreign Broadcast Information Service (35–39): 103–104. 22 February 1991.
The guests had a businesslike meeting at Yerevan city soviet executive committee where an agreement was drafted to repair the capital's 17th century Persian architectural edifice, the Blue Mosque. In keeping with the agreement, Iran will send renovation specialists to Yerevan and will provide the necessary amount of construction material. Plans are to complete the renovation work before 1995.
- Darieva 2016, p. 294.
- Markossian 2002, p. 45.
- "Visiting Iranian Minister Comments on Relations". Daily Report: Central Eurasia. Foreign Broadcast Information Service: 87–88. 16 October 1995.
"Blue Mosque is the only large Iranian memorial which was preserved even under conditions of mass termination of churches in the 30s" Hakob Movsesi said. Iranian Government allocates some 1 billion Iranian rials for capital restoration of the mosque. Restored mosque will become the center of Iranian culture in Yerevan.online (archived)
- Aghajanian, Liana (16 May 2016). "An insider's guide to Yerevan: the city where Kanye likes to swim in Swan Lake". The Guardian.
As the only active mosque left in Armenia, it now serves as a hub for a growing number of Iranian residents and tourists.
- Brooke, James (12 March 2013). "Iran, Armenia Find Solidarity in Isolation". Voice of America.
In all of Christian Armenia, there is only one mosque: "The Iranian Mosque," restored 15 years ago by Iran.
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Հայաստանում բնակվում է 812 մուսուլման...
- Miller, Tracy, ed. (October 2009), Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population (PDF), Pew Research Center, p. 28, archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-10-10, retrieved 2009-10-08
- de Waal 2003, p. 74.
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- Darieva 2016, p. 302.
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- Elliott, Mabel Evelyn (1924). Beginning Again at Ararat. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company. p. 316.
...the Persian Blue Mosque...
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The Blue Mosque [...] is the only Persian mosque in Yerevan still preserved.
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...only one large Persian mosque, the eighteenth-century Blue Mosque, is still open, now renovated as a cultural center.
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Halbuki, onun fikrincə, bu, Azərbaycan mədəniyyətinin bir abidəsidir.
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The Goy mosque was turned into the Museum of History of Yerevan in the Soviet period, and then 'restored' and presented as a Persian mosque after 1991.
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