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The Importance of Alaverdi Monastery and Its Location

Updated on July 1, 2012
Alaverdi Cathedral in Russian Georgia.
Alaverdi Cathedral in Russian Georgia. | Source

An Interesting Hub Question by One Upset by Misinformation

What Is Georgian, What Is Armenian?

The first small book that I read in Russian classes at age 12 was a story separated form a book. It was called Taman' by Mikail Lermontov, from within the larger book A Hero of Our Time or Герой нашего времени . Writing the title of the story today brings back aural and visual images presented by the text in the story. I recently purchased another copy of the book in a secondhand and collectibles bookstore, I enjoyed the story that much the first time.

Opening the second copy of the book, it was like only yesterday that I had read the passages in the text, especially those of the Cossacks riding away on their missions through the Caucasus Mountains. That little book first led me to discover the famous Don Cossack (донские казаки) Singers on vinyl and CD and it led to me become enchanted with the film Dr. Zhivago . The tones of the balalaika are like an angel's song.

One of my early Russian teachers was a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, originally in Ukraine. Later, a Russian professor at University was a priest in the Serbian Orthodox Church. The services of both branches of the church are lovely and meaningful, as I recall them. Nonetheless, a question has been asked about a misplacement in writing, of an important Georgian Orthodox Monastery in Armenia by some author, I know not who.

I know that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church service may be slightly different from the Serbian and I think that the Georgian services and traditions are somewhat different from those in Armenia, several hundred kilometers away on a winding route (see the attached map below). However, Orthodoxy holds together as believing that their 2,000+ year-old ways are truer than the Catholic Churches 1,000-year-old traditions.

Geography Misunderstood

The Alaverdi Monastery was founded in the 6th Century (the 500s AD), Christians having entered and settled (Russian) Georgia in about 330 AD. In the schools of the West, some confusion has existed between Georgia and Armenia and Georgia and White Russia - particularly in some Cold War Era classrooms in grades K-12.

During the Cold War, we in some American schools were confusing Soviet Georgia and Ukraine with White Russia. We were combining all three provinces or republics and calling the whole region White Russia by mistake. Because of this type of error, it is easier to see that someone has also thrown in Armenia to become part of Russian Georgia, although this is a bigger mistake, because Armenia is so far away from Georgia - south of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, themselves south of the Caucasus. Armenia borders Georgia, yet is far away at the end of a winding route. It is not in Georgia.

Seeing the two lines of Caucasus Mountains on a map, some viewers felt that the lands around them were all one, incorrectly. More incorrectly, some people gathered all the republics of the Soviet Union up and called the result Russia , which it had not been since the October Revolution near the start of the 20th Century. To these readers, there was only Red Russia and White Russia and they did not know the difference, but they were both Red, because they were Communist.

This is material fit for a comic strip - Pearls Before Swine or Pogo . This is perhaps how some writers confused Armenia and Georgia.

Georgia is to the north. Armenia is a different country located just south of that province and the two have never been combined. Turkey (a different country) is south of Georgia and west of Armenia. Azerbaijan, another nation, is south of Georgia and east of Armenia. Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan were all republics within the Soviet Union at one time, but all three are independent today. They were never combined politically into one mega-province or mega-republic.

show route and directions
A markerGreater Caucasus Mountains -
Caucasus Mountains, Georgia
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B markerAlaverdi Georgia -
Alaverdi, Georgia
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C markerLesser Caucasus Mountains -
Lesser Caucasus, Armenia
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D markerArmenia -
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Alaverdi Cathedral in Georgia. This is a shot of the gate built in the 11th Century.
Alaverdi Cathedral in Georgia. This is a shot of the gate built in the 11th Century. | Source

Othrodoxy in European and Asian Russia

Interestingly, the faith of the Don Cossacks has been Pravoslavny, which literally means True of Word(s). This is the Russian Orthodox Church, part of all of the Orthodox Churches that teach that their Christianity is the true way, since the Catholic Church split off from them over 1,000 years ago. Orthodox in Russian is Pravoberno or True-Correct. Having organized themselves from bandits and political escapees into a military system in the 1500s, the Cossacks believed it their duty to protect the faith, all of Orthodoxy throughout the Caucasus region.

Black Raven, a Traditional Don Cossacks Song | Source

6th Century Regions of Georgia

show route and directions
A markerAlaverdi, Georgia -
Alaverdi, Georgia
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The Alaverdi Cathedral is located on the Alazani Valley, near the village Alaverdi

B markerKhevsureti -
Khevsureti Planned National Park, Georgia
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C markerTusheti -
Tusheti National Park, Georgia
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D markerPshaveli -
Pshaveli, Georgia
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E markerKakheti -
Kakheti, Georgia
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Geiorgia and Armenia, Linked by Mountains and Soldiers

Differences in church architecture are visible when comparing images of the Alaverdi Monastery in Georgia and the Odzun Basilica in Armenia. A confusion of geographic knowledge is likely the source of the mistaken notation that Alaverdi Monastery was in Armenia.

The Don Cossacks cavalry units were active from the 1500s to the early 1900s in protecting the Orthodox Church throughout the Caucasus for 400 years, in Georgia as well as Armenia and elsewhere as they guarded the land from advance and attack by outsiders.

The Don Cossacks Choir has fortunately performed from 1921 to 2012 so far (91 years), but the cavalry units were inactivated probably during or after World War II. Some evidence suggests that after the war, thousands were executed by Joseph Stalin. However, the Don Cossacks Choir lives on and the Alaverdi Monastery still stands in Georgia, as it always has stood.

Odzun Basilica in Armenia (see map below).
Odzun Basilica in Armenia (see map below). | Source
A markerOdzun, Armenia -
Odzun, Armenia
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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thank you very, very much. It was a trip back for me as well.

    • profile image

      stessily 5 years ago

      Patty Inglish, In tackling a question asked by someone else, you created an answer which is a nostalgic journey for me to my teen-aged and college years when Orthodox and Eastern European music and thought-provoking novels such as Lermontov's "A Hero of Our Time" provided me with never-ending sources of fascination and of learning and researching fictional characters, historical figures, events, unsung heroes, etc.

      A very enjoyable reminder for me.

      Your research and presentation are appreciated.