NEW YORK — The Ruins of Ani published in 1910 in Constantinople has been published for the first time in an English edition — the translation by Peter Balakian and Aram Arkun, with an introduction by Balakian. The edition includes the 33 original black and white photographs taken by Balakian in 1909 and a dozen color images take by Peter Balakian in the past decade.
The Ruins of Ani is the only monograph on the history and legacy of Ani in print today. A unique combination of history, art criticism, and travel memoir, Balakian’s book charts the historic pilgrimage made there in 1909 with a clerical retinue led by Catholicos Matteos II. Balakian documents carefully the Armenian founding, building and decline of Ani.
From the 10th to the 13th centuries, the city of Ani was the capital of the Armenian Bagratuni kingdom, and a leading city of trade on the silk road and renowned for its architecture and arts and crafts. Balakian argues the cathedral at Ani is the forerunner of the European Gothic style, and that the dozens of other Armenian churches and buildings there were landmarks in Armenian and world civilization. From the eleventh century on Ani was conquered by Seljuks, Mongols, Georgians and Kurds and by the 15th century Ani had been ruined by pillage and earthquakes and abandoned until the excavations of the archaeologist Wilhelm Marr in the 1890s. Its ruins have remained a symbol of cultural accomplishment that looms large in the Armenian imagination.
Today, Ani is a popular tourist site in Turkey with many of the Armenian churches partially restored and supported by the World Monument Fund, but the city has been falsified in its presentation by the Turkish government in order to erase Armenian history in the wake of the Armenian Genocide. This timely publication raises questions about the preservation of major historic monuments in the face of post atrocity campaigns of cultural erasure, and about the ethical ownership of Ani in the post Armenian Genocide impasse. The book has already received critical praise from major scholars: “A remarkable and invaluable study,” Robert Jay Lifton; “breathes new life into a crucial yet neglected source,” Christina Maranci, “ “His eye on the ancient capital is mournful and creates new depth post genocide, Donna-Lee Frieze, “underscores forcefully how central cultural destruction was and is in the unfolding of that crime against humanity,” Jay Winter.
The young vartabed Krikor Balakian published his first book just a few years before his arrest on April 24 in Constantinople at the outset of the Armenian genocide, after which he wrote his epic survivor memoir Armenian Golgotha. This new translation by Aram Arkun and the author’s great-nephew, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Peter Balakian, eloquently renders the book’s vivid descriptions and lyrical prose into English. Peter Balakian’s new introduction explores Ani’s continued relevance in the twenty-first century.