Prof. George Bournoutian

Obituary: George Bournoutian (1943-2021): Prolific and Dedicated Scholar


Prominent Armenian Studies scholar and Society for Armenian Studies member Prof. George Bournoutian died on August 22, 2021 in New Jersey. He was 77.

He was a retired professor of history and the author of more than 30 books, particularly focusing on Armenian history, Iran and the Caucasus. He taught Iranian history at UCLA, and Armenian history at Columbia University, Tufts University, New York University, Rutgers University, the University of Connecticut, Ramapo College, and Glendale Community College and Russian and Soviet history at Iona College. Bournoutian was one of the 40 editors of the Encyclopaedia Iranica.

Bournoutian was born in Isfahan, Iran into an Armenian family. He grew up in Iran, and he received his high school diploma from the Andisheh (Don Bosco) institution in Tehran. He immigrated to the United States in 1964. He received his MA in 1971 and his PhD in history (Armenian and Iranian studies) in 1976 at UCLA.

He was a member of the Middle Eastern Studies Association, Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, Iranian Studies Association, Society for Armenian Studies, and Association Internationale des Etudes Armeniennes.

Bournoutian was also an avid world traveler. He was fluent in Armenian, Persian, Russian, and Polish, and had a reading command of French. He accompanied his senior and graduate students on annual trips to Armenia and Transcaucasia, the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, South and Central America and Antarctica.

Among his publications are The Khanate of Erevan Under Qajar Rule; A Concise History of the Armenian People; The History of Vardapet Arakel of Tabriz; Two Chronicles on the History of Karabagh; The Travel Accounts of Simeon of Poland; Jambr; The 1823 Russian Survey of the Karabagh Province: A Primary Source on the Demography and Economy of Karabagh in the Early 19th Century; A Brief History of the Aghuank Region; The 1829-1832 Russian Surveys of the Khanate of Nakhichevan and Armenia and Imperial Decline: The Yerevan Province, 1900-1914.

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In addition to his writings, Bournoutian was a prolific lecturer, giving innumerable talks including many for the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) over the years. He was also a world traveler and led NAASR’s first Armenian Heritage Tour in decades in 2006 to the Republic of Armenia and Historic Armenia.

In 2008, he enriched NAASR’s library immeasurably when he transferred his huge scholarly library, the Ani and George Bournoutian Collection, which has become a cornerstone of the Mardigian Library. NAASR, in turn, was proud to support his work through grants for several of his publications.

Former NAASR Chairman Nancy Kolligian recalled that George “was an outstanding scholar who electrified the room when he entered it. I will remember going to Armenia and Historic Armenia with him on our 2006 NAASR trip—we had such a great time.” Current Chairman Yervant Chekijian remembered Bournoutian as “totally committed to the honest exploration of Armenia’s history.”

NAASR Academic Director Marc Mamigonian remarked that “George was warm, opinionated, unfiltered, brilliant, hilarious, and utterly indefatigable. He was always in the middle of a book project and excited about the next one. While it is difficult to accept that there will be no next book, no one can say that George Bournoutian didn’t get the most out of life, and he leaves an incredible legacy.”

In May 14, 2021, the Society for Armenian Studies awarded Bournoutian with the SAS Lifetime Achievement Award for his Outstanding Service and Contribution to the field of Armenian Studies.


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