Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ararat: An Addendum

Mount Ararat (Agirî)/ by Sevan Nişanyan

Note: Sevan Nişanyan is a prominent Turkish intellectual, a hotelier, and a writer of several guide books to Turkey. In the following short article, which can be considered an Addendum to my post, The Five-Thousand Meter Fantasy, he fills in some interesting facts about the origin of Ararat's Turkish name, Ağrı Dağı. Above all, he talks about the most irrational thing about Ararat; namely, that its name means "the mountain of pain." Obviously he's correct; it must be a Turkified version of a Kurdish name. For more about Urartu, simply do a Google search.

This article was sent to me by Zerkes, who blogs at zerkesorg.blogspot.com. He also very kindly provided the translation. The original was in the Kurdistan Post. I have altered some of the syntax, as well as adding notes.

How can there be a mountain named Ağrı (Pain) for God's sake? What pain, whose pain? Agir means "fire" in Kurdish. Agirî is the adjective form [of Agir] making it [Mount Ararat] the "mountain of fire." It's obvious the Turkish name came from this word. The most recent volcanic activity [in Mount Ararat] was recorded in 1840, when it emitted smoke. But I couldn't find out when the name [Agirî] was used first.

The mountain's Armenian name is not Ararat, but Masis. Ararat is a common Hebrew name in the Torah for the mountain-country today called "Eastern Anatolia". In Genesis 8:4 it's written that Noah's Ark, landed on the MOUNTAINS of Ararat: "And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat." Notice that it is plural, not singular [MountainS]. Later on, they reasoned and decided that Agri/Masis would be the one [where Noah's Ark landed] and they named the mountain as Ararat. However, Mount Cudi near Sirnak [Sirnex] is more likely [for the Ark to land]. When one looks north from the Middle East, the first mountain of the mountain-country is Cudi. If Euphrates [Ferat] and Tigris [Dicle] flood high up to the sky and you manage to swim, logically, you will find yourself on top of Cudi.

Ararat's Assyrian name is Urart, and with normative suffix -u, it becomes Urartu. The name Urartu is preferred in the scientific community because Henry Layard who deciphered the Assyrian Language and Archibald Sayce who read the Van [Wan] inscriptions used this name. However, using Ararat instead of Cudi is equally correct. Both of them are exonyms; just like us [Turkish speaking individuals] calling Deutsch Alman and Hungarians calling us Német, all "names given by outsiders". At that time, the peoples who lived in Van [Wan] and governed the whole mountain country named themselves as Khald* or Xald and their country as Nairi** or Bianili [beyanî/biyanî in Kurdish means "foreign" or "foreigner"]. Their neighbors in the south, Sami, called
the country Ararat/Urartu. Why they used that name, nobody knows.

Conclusion: A) A lot peoples passed through that country, B) they were not all Turkish, C) they were not all Kurdish or Armenian either. One feels the need to be a little modest when he puts things into the perspective of three thousand years.

[* Khaldi was the name of their principal deity. **Lake Van, to the Urartians, was called the Sea of Nairi. --G.T.]


Blogger emre said...

It's good that we are remembering the past, but this sort of thing happens all over the world. It's just in the nature of things for names to be changed when one civilization displaces another. It's like giving an apartment a fresh coat of paint or new set of furniture when the old tenants move out--or get evicted.

July 8, 2009 at 6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Denial is not as common.
2. It's not that the tenant is out. Their homes were raided --self defence is in effect.
The invader to the apartment couldn't evict people yet. The fight is still on, so to speak.

But it's good that people like you put such words down so in the future your faces can be rubbed into it, if you know what I mean ;-)

July 12, 2009 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger emre said...

Not really, no. One can't invade his own home can he? If the tenants are still in the apartment, they can use whatever name they find agreeable.

July 12, 2009 at 11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yes. One thing you forget is that an invader is not the owner. Just an invader he is. So the fight shall go on. The tenant is fighting for his life while the invader is fighting for a crumbling ideology...

July 15, 2009 at 3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Emre have you ever lived in Kurdistan? Ever?

If the Turkish state saw Kurdistan truly a home, she wouldn't be acting this way since 1923. Turkey wouldn't set Kurdistan's forests on fire day after day and build dams on every possible river to destroy the natural resources and historical artifacts. Why doesn't Turkey set the forests in the Black Sea region? There are guerrillas there too. But no, that's not Kurdistan, right? RIGHT?

Sooner or later the Turkish state will learn the simplest rules of all... "you are not to throw stones at another man's house if your house is made of glass".


July 16, 2009 at 4:21 AM  
Blogger emre said...

I don't think people build dams to impoverish its surrounding inhabitants. The government wrecks things all over the country. You are attributing to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence. IF you want malice, you could mention JITEM, for example.

July 16, 2009 at 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look up Hasankeyf. Turkey exports the electricity and the money is not invested into the region where the power is produced. Simple as that. Worse than a colony really. Read some Beşikçi.

Please check and see why people of Black Sea don't want dams in their region and why government complied with their requests. Also check and see what Attaboy Dam did for people who actually live in the region. Dams are not built to prosper people of Kurdistan. Heck, they don't even benefit from the water. Before you say anything, I have family in the region who are farmers.

So, why don't you say anything about burning down the forests of Kurdistan??

JITEM has been talked about enough but let me add that until recently almost every Turk defended JITEM as being a legitimate government intelligence organization. Just check the comments by Turks all over the Internet, including those at Amazon.com.

Speaking of Malice:

Perhaps the malice is the very fascist nature of the Turkish state?


July 17, 2009 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger emre said...

I am not claiming the dams have benefited the region. I do not know. It does occur to me, though, that big construction projects are a good way for governments to line the pockets of their rich supporters. The same thing happens all over the world.

July 18, 2009 at 10:32 PM  

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