By Armen Der Kiureghian
YEREVAN — On August 2, 2020, Armenia lost one of its most distinguished scholars. Dr. Gregory Areshian, Professor of History and Archaeology at the American University of Armenia (AUA), succumbed to the COVID-19 virus in spite of all efforts by his doctors to save him. I had the privilege of knowing him and hiring him as a faculty member when I served as the President of AUA. I feel a deep sense of loss and sorrow upon his passing.
He was 71.
My first encounter with Dr. Areshian was in the summer of 1991, when Dr. Mihran Agbabian and I were in Yerevan working to start the AUA. The Government of Armenia had offered us rent-free use of a massive building, which previously served as the Congress Hall of the Communist Party. To formalize the transfer, we had to get the approval of the Deputy Prime Minister, who happened to be Dr. Gregory Areshian. I remember being extremely impressed by his impeccable English and by his enthusiasm for our project. He quickly signed all the necessary documents, but we stayed in his office longer and talked about the importance of bringing Western-style education to Armenia.
I met Dr. Areshian for the second time around 2004, when Professor David Stronach of the University of California, Berkeley, invited him for a seminar. At the time, Dr. Areshian was a visiting professor and researcher at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles. A renowned archeologist of ancient Iran and Iraq, Stronach had extremely high opinion of Areshian’s scholarship. Areshian visited Berkeley again around 2010 for another seminar, this time upon the invitation of Prof. Stephan Astourian and as the guest of the Armenian Studies Program. The presence of archaeology scholars from Berkeley at the seminar again was a testament of the high regard he enjoyed in that field.
Areshian received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Yerevan State University and his doctorate from the Saint Petersburg State University under Boris Piotrovsky, the renowned scholar of Urartian civilization and long-time director of the Hermitage Museum. Professor Areshian was proficient in nine languages, including Urartian cuneiform.