Blue Mosque, Yerevan

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Blue Mosque
Մզկիթ «Կապույտ» (Գյոյ մզկիթ), ArmAg.jpg
RiteTwelver Shia
Ecclesiastical or organizational statusMosque
Location12 Mashtots Avenue, Yerevan, Armenia[1][2]
Geographic coordinates40°10′41″N 44°30′20″E / 40.1781°N 44.5056°E / 40.1781; 44.5056Coordinates: 40°10′41″N 44°30′20″E / 40.1781°N 44.5056°E / 40.1781; 44.5056
Minaret height24 metres (79 ft)[3][4]

The Blue Mosque is an 18th-century Shia mosque in Yerevan, Armenia. It was commissioned by Huseyn Ali Khan, the khan of Erivan. 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 today the only active mosque in Armenia.

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 the support from the Iranian government and again started operating as a mosque, serving the Iranians residing in Yerevan.


Western visitors in the Russian period, such as H. F. B. Lynch and Luigi Villari, referred to the mosque as Gök Jami (Gok Djami, Turkish: Gök Cami),[5][6][3][7] which translates from Turkish as "sky blue mosque".[8] It is known as Կապույտ մզկիթ, Kapuyt mzkit’ "Blue Mosque" in Armenian, although Գյոյ մզկիթ, Gyoy mzkit՛ is sometimes used as well.[1] It is known in Persian as Masjid-i Juma or Jami-i Shahr.[7][3]


Muslims in Yerevan
The Blue Mosque in Yerevan, view from the courtyard towards the prayer hall (photo F. Sarre, 1897)
The Blue Mosque by Panos Terlemezian, 1917

Early history[edit]

The mosque was built in 1765–1766 (AH 1179)[a] by Hussein (Hoseyn) Ali Khan, the ruler of the Erivan Khanate under the Afsharid dynasty of Persia,[3][1] as the city's main Friday mosque.[8] The mosque underwent substantial redecoration with tiles around 1887-88 (AH 1305), under Russian administration.[7] The mosque underwent another reconstruction in 1907–1910.[12]

The mosque was the largest of the eight mosques operating in Yerevan when the Russians captured it in 1827.[8][5][8]

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."[13] 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."[6] The Encyclopædia Britannica (1911) described the mosque as the "finest building in the city."[14] The minaret of the mosque, standing at 24 metres (79 ft) was the tallest structure in 19th century Yerevan.[15]

Soviet period[edit]

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.[15] 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.[16]

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."[15] 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 Jewish poet Osip Mandelstam, Russian novelist Andrei Bely and others. Local artists used the "courtyard for exhibitions and as a laboratory for new socialist spirituality."[17]

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.[16][18]

The main entrance of the mosque from Mashtots Avenue.

Independence period[edit]

In the late 1980s, during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the mosque did not sustain any damages because it was considered to be Persian, not Azerbaijani, and housed the city's history museum.[16]

In February 1991 a preliminary agreement was reached between the city's authorities and an Iranian delegation to restore the mosque.[19] The mosque underwent major renovation between 1994 and 1998.[1] The city's authorities officially transferred the right to use the mosque to Iran on October 13, 1995.[20] The government of Iran allocated some 1 billion Iranian rials (over $1 million) for restoration works.[21][22] The mosque was re-opened as a religious institution in 1996.[16] Brady Kiesling described the restoration as "structurally necessary but aesthetically ambiguous."[8]

Another reconstruction was done between 2009 and 2011.[12]

The courtyard and the dome.


The Blue Mosque is the only active mosque in Armenia,[23][24] which has a small Muslim population (between 812[25] and 1,000 or 0.03% of the total population).[26]

Since restoration, it has become a religious and cultural center for the Iranians residing in Armenia and Iranian tourists visiting Armenia.[23] 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."[27] 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.[28] The Iranian cultural center inside the mosque complex attracts young Armenians seeking to learn Persian.[29] The Persian library of over 8,000 items, named after the poet Hafez, was opened inside the complex in October 2014.[30]

On December 10, 2015 the government of Armenia leased the mosque complex to the embassy of Iran to Armenia for 99 years to use it as a cultural center.[31][32]

Closer view of the dome
The minaret


The mosque is listed by the Armenian government as a monument of national significance.[1] It is "one of the oldest buildings in central Yerevan"[3] and the "only extant building of the Iranian period in Yerevan."[7] The historian of Islamic art Markus Ritter described it as the "main model for the early Qajar mosque architecture of the Iranian period."[15] The mosque complex covers an area of 7,000 square metres (75,000 sq ft).[4] The mosque itself is 97 by 66 metres (318 ft × 217 ft),[12] while the courtyard is 70 by 47 metres (230 ft × 154 ft).[7] The mosque contains the traditional Shia attributes, including a minaret, three mihrabs (prayer halls), holy inscriptions, etc.[33] The mosque includes 24 arched cells that face the pool in the middle of the courtyard, which is surrounded by a rose garden.[3] The minaret, standing at 24 metres (79 ft) tall,[4][3] has a 7-degree slope, but is considered to be architecturally safe.[12]

Efforts to list as a World Heritage Site[edit]

A 2007 Armenian stamp depicting the mosque.

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.[34] In January 2013 Armenian Minister of Culture Hasmik Poghosyan stated that Armenia will take all possible steps for inclusion of the mosque in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.[35][36] 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.[37] Armenia's Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Nalbandyan, in his speech at the 38th session of UNESCO General Conference in November 2015:[38]

...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.[39][40] Abrahamyan stated in his speech that both Armenia and Iran "are now making efforts to have it put on the UNESCO World Heritage list."[41]


Some Armenian and Western sources refer to the mosque as Iranian/Persian.[b][42][43][24] 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’."[16]

De Waal argues in his 2003 book Black Garden that writing out Azerbaijanis of Armenia from history was made easier by a linguistic sleight of hand, as the name "Azeri" or "Azerbaijani" was not in common usage before the twentieth century, and these people were referred to as "Tartars", "Turks" or simply "Muslims".[44] De Waal adds that "Yet they were neither Persians nor Turks; they were Turkic-speaking Shiite subjects of the Safavid Dynasty of the Iranian Empire".[44] According to De Waal, when the Blue Mosque is referred to as Persian it "obscures the fact that most of the worshippers there, when it was built in the 1760s, would have been, in effect, Azerbaijanis".[44] Darieva notes that it served as a Friday mosque for "Yerevan’s Muslim (mostly Azeri-speaking) population, until the middle of the 1920s."[15]

In Azerbaijan, the mosque is usually referred to as a monument of Azerbaijani heritage of Yerevan.[45][46] One government official called it "the largest religious center of Azerbaijanis living in Yerevan."[47] 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."[48] The independent Armenian scholar Rouben Galichian argues in his 2009 book Invention of History:[49]

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alternatively given as 1767-1768 (AH 1181) by Markus Ritter "as evidenced by the inscriptions of the main mihrab.[7]
  2. ^ For instance, Armenpress, the state news agency, calls it the "Iranian Blue Mosque of Yerevan" in a 2013 article.[35]
  1. ^ a b c d e 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]". (in Armenian). Armneian Legal Information System. Archived from the original on 5 August 2016.
  2. ^ Noble, John; Kohn, Michael; Systermans, Danielle (2008). Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan. Lonely Planet. p. 154. ISBN 9781741044775.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Darieva 2016, p. 296.
  4. ^ a b c Markossian 2002, p. 44.
  5. ^ a b Lynch 1901, p. 213.
  6. ^ a b Villari 1906, p. 224.
  7. ^ a b c d e f 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.
  8. ^ a b c d e Kiesling, Brady (2000). Rediscovering Armenia: An Archaeological/Touristic Gazetteer and Map Set for the Historical Monuments of Armenia (PDF). Yerevan/Washington DC: Embassy of the United States of America to Armenia. p. 9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-05-03.
  9. ^ "Երևանի բնակչության շարժընթացը 1824-1914 թթ". (in Armenian). Yerevan History Museum. 9 September 2011. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020. Աղուսակից երևում է, որ թաթարները /նկատի առնված մահմեդական բնակչությունը/ գերակշռել են` 7331 մարդ, իսկ հայերի թիվը փոքր էր /բոշաների հետ միասին` 4132/,
  10. ^ Based on native language. The total include those who spoke Caucasian Tatar (Azeri), Persian, Kurdish, and Turkish. "Распределение населения по родному языку и уездам". (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2 May 2019.
  11. ^ Turkics and Kurds. "ССР АРМЕНИЯ (1926 г.)" (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2 May 2019.
  12. ^ a b c d "Yerevan Great Blue Mosque". Cultural Council of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran-Armenia. 18 November 2013. Archived from the original on 25 February 2017.
  13. ^ Lynch 1901, p. 214.
  14. ^ "Erivan (town)" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.
  15. ^ a b c d e Darieva 2016, p. 297.
  16. ^ a b c d e Darieva 2016, p. 299.
  17. ^ Darieva 2016, p. 298.
  18. ^ "Historical Overview". Yerevan History Museum. Archived from the original on 7 September 2019. In 1936 it was moved to the Blue Mosque (Gyoy Djami) where it functioned for about 56 years.
  19. ^ "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.
  20. ^ Darieva 2016, p. 294.
  21. ^ Markossian 2002, p. 45.
  22. ^ "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)
  23. ^ a b 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.
  24. ^ a b 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.
  25. ^ "Կրոնական կազմը Հայաստանում [Armenia's religious makeup]". (in Armenian). 27 December 2017. Archived from the original on 7 September 2019. Հայաստանում բնակվում է 812 մուսուլման...
  26. ^ 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
  27. ^ de Waal 2003, p. 74.
  28. ^ Ionesyan, Karine (17 July 2009). "Mourning rite at Blue Mosque: Iranians in Yerevan pay tribute to their compatriots". ArmeniaNow. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020.
  29. ^ Darieva 2016, p. 303.
  30. ^ Darieva 2016, p. 302.
  31. ^ "Իրանի դեսպանատունը 99 տարով անհատույց կօգտագործի Կապույտ մզկիթն ու հարակից հողամասը". Hetq (in Armenian). 10 December 2015. Archived from the original on 8 September 2019.
  32. ^ "ՀՀ Կառավարության որոշում որպես նվիրատվություն հողամաս ընդունելու և "Կապույտ" մզկիթ» հուշարձանն անհատույց օգտագործման իրավունքով հանձնելու մասին որոշում". (in Armenian). Archived from the original on 8 September 2019.
  33. ^ Darieva 2016, p. 300.
  34. ^ "Vartan Oskanian's Speech to UNESCO General Conference". Asbarez. via Armradio. 19 October 2007. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020.
  35. ^ a b "Involvement of Blue Mosque in UNESCO list of cultural heritage is highly significant". Armenpress. 14 January 2013. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020.
  36. ^ "Armenia applies to place Blue Mosque on UNESCO's World Heritage List". Today's Zaman. 22 January 2013. Archived from the original on 21 December 2015.
  37. ^ "Armenia will apply to include Yerevan's Blue Mosque in UNESCO World Heritage Site". 19 April 2013. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020.
  38. ^ "Statement by Edward Nalbandian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, at the 38th session of UNESCO General Conference". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia. 6 November 2015. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020.
  39. ^ Ghazanchyan, Siranush (15 October 2015). "Iran's First Vice-President visits Blue Mosque in Yerevan". Public Radio of Armenia. Archived from the original on 19 February 2017.
  40. ^ "Iran's high-ranking delegation attends 250th anniversary celebration of Yerevan Blue Mosque foundation". Armenpress. 15 October 2015. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020.
  41. ^ "PM Attends Blue Mosque Foundation 250th Anniversary Celebration in Yerevan". Government of the Republic of Armenia. 15 October 2015. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020.
  42. ^ Kaeter, Margaret (2004). The Caucasian Republics. Facts on File. p. 12. ISBN 9780816052684. The Blue Mosque [...] is the only Persian mosque in Yerevan still preserved.
  43. ^ Carpenter, C. (2006). "Yerevan". World and Its Peoples, Volume 1. Marshall Cavendish. p. 775. ISBN 9780761475712. ...only one large Persian mosque, the eighteenth-century Blue Mosque, is still open, now renovated as a cultural center.
  44. ^ a b c de Waal 2003, p. 80.
  45. ^ "Blue Mosque, historical Azerbaijani monument in Yerevan - PHOTOS". 17 January 2011. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020.
  46. ^ Zeynalov, Natiq (5 May 2010). "Yerevanda Göy məscid hər gün İran vətəndaşları ilə dolu olur". (in Azerbaijani). Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Archived from the original on 1 August 2020. Halbuki, onun fikrincə, bu, Azərbaycan mədəniyyətinin bir abidəsidir.
  47. ^ Sayyad Salahli, First Deputy Chairman of the Azerbaijani State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations. Dadaşov, Valeh (15 December 2015). "State Committee official: 'Lease of Blue Mosque to Iran has preconceived purpose'".
  48. ^ Imranly, Kamala, ed. (2007). War against Azerbaijan: Targeting Cultural Heritage. Baku: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan and Heydar Aliyev Foundation. p. 313. ISBN 978-9952-8091-4-5. 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.
  49. ^ Galichian, Rouben (2010) [2009]. The Invention of History: Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Showcasing of Imagination (PDF) (2nd ed.). London: Gomidas Institute. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-903656-88-4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-02-17.