Monday, March 6, 2017

Keghi's Beautiful Khoups Village

By Mihran Tourigian 
Translated by Vahe H. Apelian

"Forgive me when I say that after visiting almost all of Armenia, I encountered few villages that could be compared to Khoups in houses, way of life and culture. There were not many villages in other parts of Armenia that were as beautiful as Khoups.

Most, if not all, of the dwellings of the more than the 300 households in Khoups were two-storey buildings. The interior walls of the houses were plastered at least twice a year with white clay. Most of the houses were well furnished.

The Saint Garabed Church, built in 1845, was an impressive structure made of stone and a dome whose arches are supported by stone columns. It had an exclusive veranda for the women. The whole village adhered to the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The two-storey school building, erected in 1880 through the support of the United Armenian Fraternal Organization, was also in stone. Adjacent to the church was the girls’ school that had previously served as the boys’ school.

Khoups is on the western side of Keghi and on the eastern side of Dersim. It is surrounded by hills, mountains and valleys. On the immediate northern side of the village rises the hill of Ge'ne'gne' (կէնէկնէ). The villagers ascended to its top by a narrow passageway to bid farewell to their children who headed to foreign lands or to welcome them upon their return.
On the northeastern side rises the Seuri (Սիւրի) snow-capped mountain that embraced the village with two arms. The right arms extends at the same elevation to Ge'ne'gne', situated at its northern end. The left arm rises as it extends all the way to Saint Tavit embracing the eastern side of the village. There is a hill on the south of the village called Charrgood (Չարրկուտ) that acts like a guardian of the villagers' lands.

Nothing is known of the origin of Khoups. According to legend, before the massive 1610 earthquake Khoups was an Armenian village a little far from its present location. The village was destroyed during the earthquake. The survivors moved to the Keleghgian (Քելեղղկեան) Monastery whose buildings had withstood the earthquake. Kurdish families, which joined them later, over time grew to 25 families but eventually vanished. The number of Armenians, on the other hand, increased fast with families settling in from Kharpert (Posdoyans); from Palou, (Khoshmatlians and Pashigians); from Dersim (E'le'sigians and Tourigians); and from other villages of Keghi (Hayrabedians) and other Armenian families from Herdif.

The Kurds, some of whom were Turkified, stayed until the middle of the 19th century under the protection of the village’s beg (chief) who owned not only Khoups but also the surrounding villages. The beg was responsible for the building a mosque. By the middle of the 19th century the Armenians had become so well off that they bought the entire possessions of the beg. The beg’s family, now landless, left the village. One branch of the beg’s family settled in the Ho'ghas village and the other in Sho'gher village. Thus the entire village ended up being inhabited by Armenians, save a few Kurdish households which were poor, if not destitute, and made a living by working for Armenians. Over time the unattended mosque was destroyed.

The inhabitants of Khoups barely eked a living because Khoups, much like the entire Keghi region, is mountainous. The rapid rise in the number of the inhabitants necessitated the villagers to send their young to the cities to ease families' financial burden. During the 19th century the Khoupsetsis leaving their settlement mostly went to Istanbul where they worked for pashas. After working for few years they would return to their village bringing with them furniture and other household necessities.

Immigration had a profound impact on the village life. First and foremost the young émigré’s maintained a profound love for Khoups and nothing would sway them from their attachment to their village. Working for the pashas for many years, they established close ties with them and often secured their intervention in matters related to Khoups, often helping Khoups against the encroachments of Kurdish tribes and even against corrupt Turkish officials as well. Living in Istanbul they participated in the Armenian social awakening and thus helped enlighten their village upon their return.

The Khoupsetsis, experiencing Armenian social awakening in Istanbul, founded The Haigazian Co-Educational School Association that greatly helped to improve education in Khoups and throughout Keghi. The Association levied dues in proportion to the income of the Khoupsetsis residing in Istanbul. Part of the income was used to buy textbooks and other scholastic needs in Istanbul and send them to Khoups.

The Haigazian Association allocated 235 Ottoman gold it had raised to build a school in Khoups. However, the inhabitants of Khoups declined the offer and took upon themselves to erect a two-storey stone building. The villagers--rich, poor, merchants, tradesmen and farmers, men and women--took part in the project. The rich donated land, wood or stone, tradesmen and laborers worked for free, while the women and the girls prepared food for the workers. Eyewitnesses and contemporaries would tell that early morning drumbeats signaled the start of the work day and ended with drumbeats in the evening. Within few months they erected the building.

From 1880 to 1895, under the watch of the Unified (likely referencing to The Unified Armenian Association), the Khoups school experienced remarkable scholastic years. The first principal, Semeon Effendi from Terjan, was succeeded by Sarkis Garabedian from Palou, assisted by  Hovhannes Haroutiunian from Kharpert, the famed Telgadentsi. The other noteworthy educators were Markar Shavarsh, Tavit Srabian, Haroutiun Ateyan, a Khoups native who had attained a higher education overseas; Bedros Srabian (Sheroyan) and Stepan Shehrerian (Klapigian) who were from the Keghi city.

Under the watch of the Unified, the Khoups school graduated future noteworthy people who attained prominent positions in their fields and secured for themselves a name recognition such as Dr. Moushegh Vaygouni (chemist), Dr. Haroutiun Tourkigian (physician), Boghos Poladian (chemist), and Megerditch Tovpelian (lawyer) and others. The school also graduated students from Khoups and Keghi who became respected teachers and community leaders, among them were Tateos Kaprielian, Vahan Sarafian, Melkon Delberian, Krikor Podoyan, Mikael Nalbandian, Drtad Posdoyan, Avedis Tosoyan, Yeranos Deroyan, Mesrob Agheyan, Sarkis Baronian, Arshavir Baronian, Arousiag Mouradian and others.

After the 1895 events, the Unified was dissolved. Khoups was ransacked and the village lost everything. For a decade long, Khoups could not recover. The sacking gave rise to immigration to America. By the first decade of the twentieth century every household in Khoups had one or two of its young in America. The principal concern of the Khoupsetsis in Istanbul  also remained the state of the education in their village.

The Khoups Educational Association was founded in Providence, Rhode Island in 1900. Soon other chapters were formed throughout the United States. Through the support of Armenian-Americans the school in Khoups was back in operation until 1909 when the  Armenian Unified Association took over the administration of all the schools in greater Keghi starting with the schools in Khoups and in the city until Sultan Abdul Hamid abolished its  operation.

Until 1908 there were no political organizations in Khoups, although after the 1895 and 1986 events, a large number of Khoupsetsis were exiled from Istanbul for their participation in the Bab El Ali and Bank of Ottoman demonstrations. Right after enactment of the 1908 Constitution a Tashnag committee was organized that took over the leadership of Khoups and eventually led the heroic struggle of Khoups in 1915. There were few Hnchag-leaning individuals in the area; they were unable to organize into a political entity. All the inhabitants of the village adhered to the Armenian Apostolic Church and congregated around the Saint Garabed Church.

Until the 1895 ransack, our village competed with the city (likely referencing Keghi) in trade and in commerce. The city was  not sacked while our village was completely plundered. After the sacking there was no capital left to resume commerce. The Kurds did not pay for what they had purchased before the sacking. Tradesmen had no longer the financial means to purchase tools to start anew. For a decade Khoups could not recover from the 1895 blow, until the Khoupsetsi youth in America, at an immense personal sacrifice, saving ever hard earned dollar they could, lent assistance to their parents and brethren and helped revive trade and commerce.

Before 1895, Khoups had trading ties with Yerzenga, Garin, Kharpert, from where Khoupsetsi merchants brought their goods to sell to Armenian and Kurdish inhabitants of the region. The regional trade was mostly centered in Khoups. But after 1895 ransack Khoups could not attain its former status in commerce.

Before 1895 Khoups also competed with the city of Keghi in trade: ironsmith, shoe-making, textile, painting, goldsmith, carpentry, weaving, tin, tobacco, making spirits. As I mentioned earlier the trades were hit hard as a result of the 1895 ravages.  But by 1915 Khoupetsi tradesmen had risen again to give Khoups the impression of a small city.

The main reason for the prominence of Khoups in trades and in commerce was the fact that it was the seat of the region’s most powerful Kurdish beg who owned the lands. The Kurds were his vassals. The region’s feudal system dictated that Kurds come to Khoups to resolve their issues. This feudal state lingered to certain extent after the Kurdish beg left the village following the great Khoshmalian dynasty's purchase of the lands from him. Consequently the region’s Kurds remained tied to Khoups not only for trade but also for resolving their matters, especially when Khoshmalian Mesrob Agha became the representative of the government (mukhtar) in the region."

Note: The picture of the Khoups Village and the  Khoups School students were secured through Khoups related literature provided to me by George Aghjayan. 

Khoups-native Mehran Tourigian, who used the pen name Tourig, was a prominent community leader in Beirut, Lebanon. He published the below recollections in the "Aztag" daily (March 15 to 17, 1951). He died in 1959.--Ed

Translated and abridged by Vahe H. Apelian, OH, 20 April 2016


No comments:

Post a Comment