Agn - Schools
Author: Khazhak Drampyan
This article analyzes one of the aspects of Armenian life that experienced a period of growth in the late 19th century in the Agn Sub-district – education. In order to understand how the educational system developed in this small sub-district of the Mamuret-ul-Aziz Vilayet, we must first consider the different aspects of the local educational infrastructure, such as education within the family unit, which was considered to be the foundation of all education by the people of Agn; as well as the intellectual renaissance that the region experienced in the late 19th century, and which resulted in the establishment of a series of new schools and educational institutions.
The article presents information and data provided by various sources and pertaining to schools and the state and quality of education in the City of Agn and the surrounding villages. The article also touches on the birth of theater and the publishing industry in Agn, which were byproducts of increased levels of education.
The bulk of the article consists of lists, assembled from a variety of sources, of individuals who were born, were educated, worked, and taught in Agn. Information on each individual is presented under the appropriate section devoted to the village in which he or she studied or taught.
Education in Agn
For each resident of Agn, education began at home, sometimes at a very young age. An adage popular among the locals, “Education begins in the crib,” attests to this fact. Therefore, before delving into the schools operating in Agn, we must examine how children were reared and educated at home, by parents who practiced traditional methods handed down to them from previous generations.
Invariably, the task of educating children was primarily the responsibility of women. From the time children were in their cribs, their mothers would sing lullabies and folk songs to them, through which they came to know their universe, their native land, the natural world that surrounded them, good and evil, truth and delusion, etc. .
Once children reached a certain age, mothers would include them in simple games, and would take them on walks to the orchards where they would wander among the trees and the flowers, run and jump around, swim in ponds, pick fruits from the trees and eat them, etc. .
The rearing of children in Agn was not uniform. Boys and girls were not raised identically. Boys, for example, were sent to the school to receive a formal education, and their parents would supplement what they were taught by their teachers. Girls would receive continuous education from their mothers at home prior to being sent to school, in anticipation of their growing up and becoming housewives. Teenage boys had certain privileges. They formed new friendships at school. Outside of schools hours, they spent their time playing in the orchards, climbing the mountains, and generally spending their time in the lap of nature. Girls, on the other hand, spent most of their time at home, with their mothers. They had to learn how to perform domestic chores, become familiar with cooking and kitchen utensils, learn how to sew, etc. The girls would soon learn the requisite skills, and homes would be filled with various hand-sewn embroideries, socks, table sheets, blankets, and pillow cases, each a testament to the tutelage they had received. Upon reaching this stage in their development, girls would be considered worldly and civilized maidens .
Boys raised in similarly conducive circumstances would soon become brilliant pupils at school, especially if they possessed some natural aptitude. They were to grow up and fill the ranks of the men, the greats, and the intellectuals of the nation, a large number of whom had hailed from Agn .
The Schools of Agn up to 1870 and Beyond
Information on operational schools in Agn up to the year 1870 could only be found in Father Hovhannes Tertsagian’s memoirs, in which he mentions that “Archbishop Hovhannes Agnetsi, known as Baronder, established a seminary in 1610 at the Holy Savior Monastery, where the pupils, who were called acolytes, were recruited from among the best students of the schools in Agn.” But this account does not provide any details on the number of the “acolytes” (students) or the duration of education offered by the “seminaries” (schools). This source also alludes to Father Mardiros, the abbot of the Holy Savior Monastery and a native of Agn, who established a “seminary” with ten students in 1760 at his monastery. Another source pertains to the term of the Prelate Mikayel Asdvadzapan in 1870, when four men from Agn were ordained into the priesthood. Their names were Father Nigoghos and Father Ghazar (Upper Church), and Father Sdepan and Father Hovhannes (Lower Church). In this account, the author, Mikayel Asdvadzapan himself, mentions that he was the grandson of Father Nigoghos .
According to Karekin Srvantsdyants, it is likely that more than one school operated in Agn from 1620 onwards. These schools used the customary methods and pedagogy of the times, until 1850, when modern schooling was introduced into the area .
In 1847, the city had two seminaries, adjacent to the Saint Kevork and Holy Virgin churches . The seminary adjacent to the Saint Kevork Church had an enrollment of 120 pupils and three teachers, one of whom taught reading, the second taught religious music, and the third taught Armenian grammar. The seminary adjacent to the Holy Virgin Church had an enrollment of 110 pupils and two teachers, one of whom taught reading, and the other taught church music .
“In addition to these two, seminaries operated in the four principal neighborhoods of the city, each with its own teacher, who taught reading to the neighborhood boys” .
Djanigian writes that, as he had heard from the elderly, in the 1810s there had been two to three priests in each of the city’s two large neighborhoods who had established schools at their own expense and educated the local children. According to him, the priests taught reading, writing, and some mathematics. Laymen who had worked as teachers in these schools included Tarkhana Garabed, Teacher Zohrab, and others .
A passage written by Smpad Tavtian, dated September 17, 1921, is an interesting overview of the main educational, cultural, and national/community issues that the people of Agn faced in the late 19th century:
“New phenomena began appearing in Armenian life in Agn after 1870, which would be of interest to any historian. Let us list some of these:
- 1- A new direction for schooling and education replaced the old patriarchal system [involving the figure of the primitive schoolmaster].
- 2- The people’s communal spirit manifested itself in the formation of organizations active in the field of education.
- 3- A theatrical movement began.
- 4- Efforts were made to promote Protestantism.
- 5- Attempts were made in the literary and publishing fields.
- 6- Lecture halls were established and debates were organized.
- 7- In one word, a new spirit of self-awareness spread, and efforts were made to ensure progress.
- 8- Constitutional principles were brought into effect.” 
- A new era of intellectual development and progress began in the area perhaps as early as the 1870s. The schools operating in Agn offered the people of the city and the sub-district a level of education equivalent to, and perhaps slightly higher, than the education offered by the schools of Istanbul .
By the end of the 19th century, several Armenian educational organizations (the Patriotic Union, Scholastic Society, Aramian Society, and Naregian Society) and two co-educational schools (Naregian and Nersesian) operated in Agn. The formation of the aforementioned organizations spurred the establishment of a series of new schools in Agn .
- In the late 19th century, the schools of Agn provided instruction in religion, morality, Armenian language, national history, mathematics and arithmetic, accountancy, geography, calligraphy, singing, physical education (during recess hours), health, principles of natural science, and elementary Turkish and French .
Student Body– Tavtian’s aforementioned passage also offers details on the composition of the schools’ student bodies –
“The youngest students were six years old, and the oldest 15. They usually entered the school around the age of six or seven, and left it around the age of 12 or 13. With few exceptions, the students had 15 days of holidays during the year. Their diet consisted of simple food. The pupils’ attire was half-Anatolian and half-European. The pupils were exclusively Armenian (in 1884, two or three Hay-Horom boys in the Vank Village, and one or two immigrant Greek boys in the Gumushkhanets Village also attended Armenians schools). The sexes were segregated and the parents would not accept their intermingling” .
The National Board – Perhaps half a century before 1895, meetings of the board were convened in Agn, during which all discussions were held, tithes were distributed, and all pending issues related to churches and schools resolved. Soon, a provincial general summit was organized, and meetings were held to discuss religious and political issues, convened sporadically until 1895. An educational and financial council were elected. In 1895, neighborhood councils and boards of trustees of schools operated in the city and the villages. These meetings and groups had their own executive boards and kept regular minutes (there were two prelacies attached to each of the two churches, where the meetings of councils and boards were held) .
Educational Organizations of the City of Agn
The Patriotic Union
The Patriotic Union was founded on May 1, 1862. The organization’s objective was to raise 100 Ottoman pounds and finance the construction of the Central School in Agn. Aside from the Central School, the organization also established another school in 1864-1865. Unfortunately, this school closed one or two years later. Yet another school, the Lousavorchian School, was founded in 1873, but once again, within one or two years, it was closed due to lack of finances. The Patriotic Union operated for five years, and the Central School it founded operated for four years.
The organization had its official bylaws and convened regular meetings.
As of 1895, the organization had 500 Ottoman pounds of short-term loans, 20 stockholders, 30 pounds of debt, etc. According to S. Tavtian, the Patriotic Union was the first organization in Agn to support the local educational system, and administered the Central School in the city for some time. The school’s students were picked from the graduates of two primary schools, the Naregian and Nersesian. Among the graduates of the Patriotic Union’s Central School were Doctor Smpad Kaprielian, A. Nigoghos Toutouayan, and others. Soon, renowned educational expert Khosrov Mouratian was invited to serve as the principal and a teacher at the school, and was offered a full salary package. He taught Armenian, Turkish, French, and English. Another teacher who taught Armenian and French was Azaria Tertsagian, a colleague of Mouratian’s. Tertsagian taught not only in the city, but also in the neighboring villages .
The Scholastic Society
Alongside the Patriotic Union, another public organization, the Scholastic Society, was founded in Agn in August of 1872. The organization’s objective was to make funds available on a weekly basis, and to make other donations, to initiate a series of educational lectures and to establish a lecture hall and community library, alongside a museum. The organization was founded by the faculty of the Central School, including those who had left for Istanbul but had later returned to their homelands, such as Hagop Korian, Zareh Torosian, Haroutyun Reisian, Sdepan Mazmanian, and others. The organization’s original founders were Dr. Kaprielian, Hagop Korian, Zareh Torosian, Haroutyun Reisian, Sdepan (a pharmacist), Kh. Mazmanian, and others.
During the years of its existence, the Scholastic Society founded a lecture hall, a library, and a museum. The organization also published the Dzaghig [flower] weekly periodical.
The organization functioned for five or six years, and was dismantled due to political pressure .
The Aramian Society
After the dissolution of the Patriotic Union and Scholastic Society, many of their founders left for Istanbul. However, some stayed behind in Agn, including Hagop Korian, Haroutyun Reisian, Zareh Torosian, S. Tavtian, Pilibos Kechian, Sdepan Parounagian, Ghougas Prigian, Haroutyun Apkarian, K. Panosian, and others. These men began a powerful new movement in Agn, and organized rallies that gave voice to the concerns of the people regarding the political and economic issues they faced. Their movement soon caught the attention of Agn natives who had migrated to Istanbul. This culminated in the establishment of the Aramian Society in 1878-1879 by these emigrants living in the capital. The organization’s purpose was to contribute to the building of new Armenian schools in Agn.
To achieve this purpose, the organization first aimed to secure the appointment of a fully authorized prelate for the churches of Agn. The founders appealed to Father Karekin Srvandtsdyants to intercede on their behalf, and the latter was able to persuade the Patriarchate to dispatch Father Karekin as a prelate to Agn. He had also been sent to the area as an inspector/delegate after the 1877 Russo-Turkish War, which had devastated Agn .
The Educational Union
After the failure of the Aramian Society, former members of the Patriotic and Scholastic unions living in Istanbul founded the Educational Union in 1882. According to Djanigian, the Educational Union was founded in the reading hall of the Scholastic Society and in the presence of members of the Aramian Society. According to Kechian, the organization operated for one year, and was then dissolved and merged into the Naregian Society, which by the time of Kechian’s account had already ceased to function. The two organizations were not able to achieve their objectives due to internal discord.
The total budget of the Educational Union was 200 Ottoman pounds, most of which was borrowed .
The Naregian Society
The Naregian Society was founded in 1882, with the Educational Union merging into it. It functioned for only a short time .
Schools of the City of Agn
The Central School
The Central School was established with the goal of bringing under one roof the graduates of the Naregian and Nersesian schools of Agn and the parochial schools of the sub-district’s villages.
The school’s principal was Khosrov Mouratian, who had received his education in Istanbul. He was a scholar of the Armenian language and a linguist, and he also taught at the Aramian School in Gamaragab .
Under the leadership of co-principals Khosrov Mouratian and Azarian Tertsagian, and during the tenure of teacher Karekin Bleokhanian, approximately ten students graduated from the Central School. Here, we present a few of them –
Kisag Papazian (1897, Gamaragab). He received his primary education at the Aramian School of Gamaragab and the primary school of Abouchekh before enrolling at the Central School. In 1926, with several compatriots, he founded the Agn Compatriotic Union in Paris, which provided support to the reconstruction of the New Agn neighborhood in Noubarashen (Soviet Armenia).
Yeremia Partoghian (1862, Gamaragab). He received his primary education at the Aramian School of Gamaragab, and was one of its brightest graduates. He would later become a future scholar of the Armenian and French languages. He worked for decades as a teacher and principal, and led the village school, preparing future teachers who played an important role in the educational field in the countryside of Agn and in Istanbul. Some of the most notable among them were Vahram Ardzrouni, Armenag Shepigian, the three Deovletian brothers, Maghakia Papazian, Ghazar Haladjian, and others. He was devoted to the field of education and pedagogy. He was killed during the massacres of 1895.
Yervant Timourian (Ashod Yergat) (September 27, 1854, Agn). He received his primary education at Naregian and Nersesian, then moved on to the Central School. He later participated in the work of establishing lecture halls and theaters. He also oversaw the publication of collotype newspapers.
Nigoghos Totouyan (1856, Agn). He received his primary education at the Nersesian School of Agn, and was then admitted to Central School, then newly founded by the Patriotic Union. He successfully graduated from the Central School. He was one of the proponents of the intellectual renaissance in Agn.
Other alumni: Smpad Kaprielian (doctor), Sdepan Kantarjian, Avedis Jamgochian, Smpad Tavtian, Andon Kulusdian, Arakel Khanazad, Hayg Hopigian, Margos Narlian, Sdepan Narlian, Haroutyun Begian, Arshavir Soukiasian, Yeghishe Vartanian .
Azaria Tertsagian (1851, Agn). He received his primary education at the Naregian School. He later became a scholar of the Armenian, Greek, and French languages. After working for some time for the Ottoman customs agency in Istanbul, he returned to Agn in 1885. He worked for 36 years at the Naregian, Nersesian, and village schools as a principal, but always retained his connection with the Naregian School, where he taught. He also taught at the Central School. He was killed during the Hamidian massacres in 1895.
Khosrov Mouratian. He served as the principal of the Central School of Agn, where he also taught .
The Nersesian School
In 1855, the lower neighborhood’s Nersesian School, which also served many students from the upper neighborhood, underwent renovations sponsored by a board of trustees consisting of prominent locals. The school’s furniture was also renovated. The composition of the board of trustees soon changed, but the renovations continued uninterrupted. New teachers came to teach at the school, adding to the number of subjects offered to students. According to Djanigian, these new subjects were geography, accountancy, Turkish, French, etc. Catechism, national history and the history of the Holy Books, Armenian grammar, and mathematics were already being taught.
The school had an enrollment of 200 boys and 80 girls. The school’s yearly costs were 17,700 kurus .
Adom Yardjanian (Siamanto) (1878, Agn). He received his primary education at the Nersesian School, where he was taught by pundit and rhetorician Karekin Srvantsdyants, who gave the moniker “Siamanto” to the teenage Adom.
Yervant Timourian (Ashod Yergat) (September 27, 1854, Agn). (See the “Alumni” sub-section of the section on the Central School).
Levon Der-Maridorosian (1885, Agn). He received his primary education at the Nersesian School of Agn and graduated from it in 1903. He then worked at the school for two years.
Madteos Der-Madteosian (1895, Agn). He received his primary education at the Nersesian School of Agn. During the period of the Genocide, Der-Madteosian was in the Agn area, and from 1915 to 1918 he was compelled to work as a servant for a Turkish bey. After the Armistice, in 1919, he began teaching at the reopened primary school of Agn. At the same time, he served as the executive secretary of the Agn Compatriotic Union in Aleppo, contributing to relief efforts in the City of Agn and helping Armenian refugees native to Agn.
Melkon Kebabdjian (1884, Agn). He received his primary education first at the Naregian, and then at the Nersesian schools. He had his own workshop in Agn, where he produced hand-made, original work, engraving floral motifs on various manousas (type of cloth). He later became a master craftsman and artist.
Hovsep Djanigian (1840 or 1841, Agn). He received his primary education at the Nersesian School. He then devoted himself to the profession of teaching outside of Agn. He is well-known for his book Hnoutyunk Agna (Antiquities of Agn), published in 1880.
Nigoghos Totouayan (1856, Agn). (See the “Alumni” sub-section of the section on the Central School).
Vahan Kouyoumdjian (1880, Agn). He received his primary education at the Nersesian School. Later, he served as a teacher and principal of the Nersesian and Naregian schools of Agn.
Other alumni – Vahan Yardjanian (1887, Agn, Siamanto’s brother), Kevork Shishmanian (1838, Agn, future Protestant clergyman), Krikor Vosganian (1884, Agn, future doctor), Garabed Manavian (1866, Agn, future Protestant clergyman), Mardiros Iknadiosian (1842, Agn, future Protestant clergyman), Hovsep Lousinian (1894, Agn), Movses Lousinian (1880, Gamaragab), Krikor Kalsdian .
Vahan Kouyoumdjian (1880, Agn). (See the “Alumni” sub-section of the section on the Central School).
The Naregian School
The Naregian School of the upper neighborhood, like the Nersesian School, was sometimes in a state of disrepair, and at other times was renovated by the board of trustees entrusted with its management. It had an enrollment of 184 boys and 54 girls. The school’s yearly costs were 10,800 kurus.
The first theatrical production in Agn, which was a performance of “Saint Nerses the Great,” was performed in 1873 at the Naregian School. The roles were assigned by A. Tertsagian, and he himself played the role of Saint Nerses. The other roles were played by Hagop Korian, Zareh Torosian, Yervant Timourian (as Father Ashod Yergat), the pharmacist Sdepan Berberian, Haroutyun Reisian, Melkon Mazmanian, and others.
Tickets for the play were sold to the public, and the proceeds were donated to the Scholastic Society and earmarked for the establishment of a library in Agn .
Azaria Tertsagian (1851, Agn). (See the “Alumni” sub-section of the section on the Central School).
Yervant Timourian (Ashod Yergat) (September 27, 1854, Agn). (See the “Alumni” sub-section of the section on the Central School).
Toros Azadian (1898, Abouchekh). He received his primary education at the Varak School of Abouchekh and the Naregian School of Agn. He is known for his two works – Agn yev Agntsik [Agn and the People of Agn], published in Istanbul in 1943; and Agn. Nuter ir Mshagouyti ou Badmoutyan hamar [Agn. Topics for its Culture and History], published in 1955.