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Shirak is one of the provinces (marz) of Armenia. It is in the north-west of the country, bordering Turkey and Georgia. Its capital is Gyumri. Known as the homeland of khash.

Shirak Marz, the Northwest corner of Armenia, is defined by the upper flow of the Akhurian river, the NW corner of Mt. Aragats, the Georgian border, and a series of mountains dominated by the 3000 m Mt. Urasar in the East. In spring the rolling treeless hills and rocky outcrops are quietly beautiful. The capital city of Gyumri/Leninakan, since the 1988 the focus of international humanitarian assistance, has undergone massive post-quakerebuilding, still having further to go, but is rich in archaeological interest for the specialist. There are many architecturally important churches, such as in Artik, Ani-Pemza, Maralik, and Harich. Marmashen, NW of Gyumri, is a particularly interesting monastic complex. The Urartian citadel at Horom is perhaps the most impressive of its kind in Armenia. The hilly grasslands of the northern part of the marz, once dotted with Azeri villages, have their own bleak charm, and important migratory bird life around the Arpi Reservoir.

Shirak was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1804, before the rest of Armenia. Alexandropol/Gyumri was a strategically vital garrison town and rail depot in the Czar's frequent wars against Turkey. The closure of the Turkish border, the terrible condition of the road across the Georgian border, and in particular the earthquake which leveled much of the region, have depressed the region economically and contributed to a major exodus to Yerevan, Moscow, and Glendale.

North to Gyumri - Horom

Taking the main highway from Ashtarak to Gyumri, you enter Shirak Marz on a ridge between Mastara and Lanjik (till 1947 Muslughlu). Just SW of the village is an Early Bronze Age cyclopean fort/cemetery. A road leads W to Dzithankov (till 1966 Bagirhana, 19th c. church) and Karaberd (founded 1829, church, fortress nearby). Shortly before Dzorakap (till 1935 Boghazkyasan, S. Astvatsatsin church of 1783), a side road angles back SE toward Sarnaghbyur. About 1 km on the right is the Hogevank monastery complex, primarily of the 13th c. Beyond a dam and reservoir rises the village of Sarnaghbyur ("Cold Spring", till 1940 Sogutlu or Ghzlkilisa). This venerable village derives its name and antiquity from a cave at the back of the village from which flows an ample spring believed to have mystical healing powers. Now walled up (key in house on right), the cave houses a shrine of Gregory the Illuminator. The cave is reached by proceeding through the village (note ornate carved fireplace in ruined house on left) to the substantial S. Tadevos church of 1883, before which one turns left, then the first paved right turn. There is reportedly also a ruined 5-6th c. church of S. Hakob and a S. Karapet Church of 1205. On a hill 6 km E is S. Ghazar ruined church of the 5-6th c.

The E side of Maralik has caves, 11-12th c. khachkars, and a church of 1903. Continuing N, the villages of Haykasar (till 1947 Sivribash), Hayrenyats (till 1946 Sangyarlu), with 5th c. Karmir Vank church, and Tuffshen ("tuff-built", with 13th c. Tukh Manuk shrine, traces of a cyclopean fort, ruined arch of 6th c.) are E of the road. An unmarked intersection leads W to Gusanagyugh (till 1977 Ghapulu), named after the famous bard ("Gusan") Nakhshikar Sargis born here. There is a ruined church of 11th c. in the village and one remaining wall of a medieval castle. W of the village are two Urartian cyclopean forts, at Ghak and Shvaghtapa. Taking the opposite road E, about 1 km E of the village of Horom (S. Hripsime Church of 1861) is a dam and reservoir. S of the road, opposite the dam, rise two substantial hills wreathed with impressive Bronze Age through Urartian citadel walls. Armenian and American archaeologists led by Ruben Badalian and Philip Kohl began excavations there recently, and have found well-preserved walls and a great depth of cultural materials. This is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Armenia, particularly in the spring when the massive volcanic stones of the fortress are set off by brilliant green grass. Potsherds and obsidian flakes are strewn everywhere.

The road then passes Saratak (till 1940 Emirkhan, Hellenistic settlement and graveyard), with Lusakert (2nd mill BC tombs, 18th c. Astvatsatsin church), Hovtashen (founded 1830 from Kars, just E), and Beniamin (till 1945 Jlovkhan, renamed in honor of home-town WWII hero, General-Major Beniamin Galstian). On hills near Beniamin, an 80-hectare 8th c. BC through 4th c. AC settlement site was found and excavated in 1989-94, including a 3-2nd c. BC palace, with 5-4th c. BC structures underneath. The excavator believes that this was the seat of the Kamsarakan noble family, which led an insurrection against Arshak II in the mid-4th c. and was almost exterminated in revenge. Azatan (till 1945 Gharakilisa) has a Catholic church of 1890 and Armenian Apostolic church of 1860; it was site of an 1826 battle between Russian and Persian troops. East of Azatan are Arevik (19th c. church) and Aygabats (till 1946 Ilkhiabi). E of the Gyumri road outside Azatan are a cluster of megaliths. On the Ghej hill near Azatan is a 6th c. BC - 1st c. AC settlement.

The town of Gyumri (briefly Kumayri, before than Leninakan, before that Alexandropol) is conspicuous for the large cemeteries, some full of the victims of the 1988 earthquake. Despite many well-intentioned efforts, the economy of the city remains a shambles ten years after the event, but the housing situation for the most part has been remedied. There is still a substantial international presence from various assistance projects. In 1926, League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Fridtjof Nansen, accompanied by his secretary, fellow Norwegian Vidkun Quisling of later dark repute, visited Gyumri and its huge complex of schools and orphanages sheltering 11,000 Armenian orphans under the auspices of the American Near East Relief.

The main square has a pair of churches, one standing, one a distinguished ruin awaiting reconstruction. There are two reputable European-style hotels (Guesthaus Berlin and the Isuz Hotel), a well-reputed regional museum plus a city museum, the Russian Alexandropol fortress of 1834 on the W side of town, and probably more for the curious urban explorer, though Gyumri was battered in 1926 by a previous earthquake as well. Inside the city limits are several important archaeological sites. By the fortress is the Sev Ghul Chalcolithic through Iron Age settlement.

Near the meat factory (by the train tracks) was excavated an Early Iron Age settlement/cemetery. Near the stadium, another Iron Age site had stone molds and a smelter for metal casting. In the NE part of Gyumri, on a hill in the area known as Vardbach, excavations revealed a Roman-period cemetery lying over a Bronze Age settlement. There is a medieval settlement with ruined 7th c. church that has been excavated in the Botanical Gardens. The city was site of a major Russian Army garrison and fortress since its conquest in 1804, a role it continues to play even today. The few thousand Russian troops still based in Armenia serve as a reminder that Russia would intervene militarily were Turkey to invade Armenia. Pending the unlikely event of an invasion, the Russian troops grow potatoes and find other ways to stay alive.

East from Maralik - Artik, Harich

Opposite a huge cotton spinning factory on the edge of Maralik, a decent paved road departs the main Gyumri highway W, bound for Artik. On the W approaches of Pemzashen ("Pumice built") is the 11th c. Arakelots Vank (dirt road to right). Note at the road's closest approach to the church an interesting massive carved tomb shrine. Back on the main road, turning right and right again into the village, there is a decorated 7th c. ruined church built abutting the foundations of a 5th c. basilica. Continuing past this church up the hill in the direction of Lernakert, you pass Makaravank, dating to the 10-13th c, with S. Sion church of 1001. In the gorge below the monastery, reached by a steep, rock-cut path is an 18th c. small church built on earlier foundations, and a hermit's cell cut in the cliff.

The village of Lernakert is remarkable for its traditional stone houses, mostly now in disrepair. Bearing left at the little square and climbing, one eventually reaches a simple 5th c. basilica church with immensely thick walls, now used for storing hay and dried dung. There is a Poghos-Petros Khachkar shrine, and two cyclopean forts S of the village.

Coming into Artik on the road from Maralik/Pemzashen, turn left at the entrance of town, then right on the flyover across the railroad tracks. At the town square (WWII monument), continue straight up Tonakanian St. to where the two adjacent early churches appear on the left: Marine or Astvatsatsin Church, 5th c.; S. Gevorg church, 7th c.. Both are ruined, with restoration interrupted by the collapse of the USSR. There is also an 18th c. church in a cave in a gorge 1 km SE in direction of Harich. Catacomb type tombs of the 14th-9th c. BC have been excavated near Artik as well. The well-preserved Lmbatavank Church church of the 7th c. stands on a hillside just SW of Artik (S. Stepanos church, important wall paintings). Some interesting 18-19th c. houses also survive in Artik.

Driving E from Artik along the main road toward the village of Harich, Harichavank is reached by turning right before the prison. The main church has on the N wall the following inscription: "By the grace and mercy of mankind-loving God, I Zakare Mandatorta Amirspasalar of the Armenians and Georgians, son of the great Sargis, made this donation to the famous holy monastery of Haricha, for the benefit of its natural tenants, for the long life of my master the pious Queen Tamar and for my safety and that of my brother Ivane and our children Shahnshah and Avag, and my parents. I built here a castle and cathedral at great expense and decorated it with plate and sacred objects of every kind. And my village Mokoris, which was near the holy monastery, I offered to the Holy Virgin, with all its lands and mountains and waters. And I gave a mill called Divaghats at Getik, a mill at Glidzor of Ani, and a garden at Tsaghkadzor, a garden at Yerevan and a garden at Talin, and I established the rule that the mass at the main altar always be celebrated in my name. Written in the year 750/AD1201." The brothers Zakare and Ivane are figured on the E facade of the church. The St. Gregory church abutting at an angle the gavit of the main church was built perhaps as early as the 7th c. over a rock-cut tomb and may have been originally a martyr's shrine. The site became in 1850 the summer residence of the Katholikos, with substantial 19th c. monastic architecture. One of the modern buildings houses a small museum. Across the gorge from the monastery is a 3rd millennium BC fortress and tomb field.

North of Artik are Nor Kyank (till 1940 Mejitli, with ruined 6-7th c. Grigor Lusavorich church) and Anushavan (till 1969 Bekyand or Parni Sultan, with S. Gevorg church; named after Dr. Anushavan Galoyan, dead WWII hero). In 1988, a hill-top fortress was excavated near Anushavan, dating from the 2nd c. BC to the 2nd c. AC. West of Harich is Saralanj, with a 5th c. ruined basilica. To the S, Nahapetavan (till 1935 Khachakilisa, till 1961 Paros, renamed in honor of its local hero, Nahapet Kurghinian, a participant in the May 1920 Bolshevik uprising) has a 6th c. S. Gevorg church. Mets Mantash (till 1935 Mets Arkhvali, an old settlement with traces of early churches, and center for propagation of the medieval Tondrakian heresy). Pokr Mantash (church of 1864) From Mets Mantash, a road leads WNW to Arevshat (till 1948 Yekanlar). The 14-15th c. church, rebuilt in 1873, had in earlier times a fortress nearby.

Spandarian (till 1946 Gyullija, renamed for the Armenian revolutionary) has a ruined church, an Iron Age fort and, on a nearby cliff, an Urartian cuneiform inscription of King Argishti I. N of Spandarian is Geghanist (till 1948 Chanki Tapa or Ghovlughat, church of 1852). W of Spandarian are Getapi (till 1940 Ghasm-Ali), Panik (till 1924 Kyavtarlu, named in honored of Bolshevik agitator A. Panian) with a 19th c. church; Vardakar (till 1946 Tomartash, Bronze Age and medieval ruins, including khachkar shrine, nearby) and Meghrashen ("Built of Honey", till 1946 Ghazanchi), with church and khachkars.

Up the Akhuryan - Yereruyk

Approaching Shirak via the border highway from Armavir, you enter the Marz just after the village of Tlik. A faded metal pillar commemorating a now-forgotten Party Congress marks the turnoff for the village of Ani-Pemza (till 1938 Kzkule) on the Akhurian river gorge. The village gets its name from the pumice mines nearby, which bury the town in fine dust. Approaching the village, you see on the right the imposing remains of the Yereruyk Basilica of the 5th c.; there is an early Iron Age cemetery in the valley just N of the basilica. Back on the main road, turn left on a narrow paved road just after the little village of Ani Kayaran (Ani Station). The road winds to a military checkpoint manned by Russian border guards, half of them Armenians under contract. With prior permission from the Foreign Ministry (located in Republic Square), or a pleasant smile and good story or (supposedly pending) a policy change on access to the closed zone, you may be allowed to drive to an overlook point W of the settlement of Kharkov, from which the medieval Armenian capital city of Ani is laid out on its promontory a few hundred meters and many centuries away across the Akhurian river gorge in Turkey. The sight is unforgettable, particularly in late afternoon.

Bagravan is named for an ancient Armenian religious site on the far side of the river near Yervandashat. A road leads NW from Bagravan Station to Haykadzor (till 1950 Ghzlkilisa, "Red Church," named for Horomos Vank across the Akhurian river), which preserves in the village S. Grigor Lusavorich church of 985, restored in 13th c. Jrapi is near the Akhurian reservoir built jointly with Turkey in late Soviet times. The water is split 50-50. Building of the dam meant the removal of Upper and Lower Jrapi, till 1947 Chirpli and Keghach. A ruined medieval bridge on the Akhurian is now under water, but an 11th c. caravansaray was rebuilt by new Jrapi. There is a church of 1874 and, 1 km S of Jrapi, a 1st millenium BC graveyard. E of the road is Sarakap (till 1935 Bozdoghan), which has a 6-7th c. S. Astvatsatsin church, rebuilt in 1885. 6 km SE is a ruined 7th c. church called Karmir Vank or Ghrichi Vank. Aghin has a S. Hakob church of 1878.

Several km E is Bardzrashen (till 1947 Baburlu), with a 7th c. S. Astvatsatsin church and, nearby, a Poghos-Petros hermitage. Beyond the Bardzrashen turnoff is the new village of Isahakyan (till 1945 Ghazarabad - Ghazar Aga led the village in a successful defense against the Persians in 1826-28; earlier name was Kharum), then Lusaghbyur (till 1945 Sufanverdi). Shirakavan (till 1950 Davshanlan) is the new town built to replace the old, flooded by the reservoir. South is the site of Sevakn on the confluence of the Akhurian river and Sevakn creek. The site was excavated in 1977, and revealed a substantial cult site of the 2nd c BC to 3rd c. AC, showing cultural links with both Rome and Persia. The site is now partly flooded by the reservoir, as is a Stone Age site with mammoth bones, but a cyclopean fort remains on a hill above. There is or was a large church nearby. Bayandur (the original site, ruined in the 1926 earthquake, had Armenian and Greek churches); Erazgavors ("Deer Hunter", till 1945 Aralikh, resuming the name of the medieval site nearby, formerly Bash-Shoragyal) has sparse medieval remains, including of two fortresses, one in the village and one W on the stream bank, and a 9th c. church.

Getk (till 1945 Daharlu) had two churches destroyed in the 1926 earthquake. Gharibjanian (Gharakilisa, then Alexandrovka, renamed in 1935 in honor of Bagrat Gharibjanian, 1890-1920, a Bolshevik revolutionary imprisoned by the Dashnaks after the failed May uprising and later shot in reprisal for the execution of two Dashnaks - house museum in Gyumri) has a ruined modern church. Between Gharibjanian and Akhurik, the Akhurik railroad station has a special facility, completed just before the collapse of the USSR and never used, for lifting train cars off their wheels and changing the undercarriage from Soviet to European gauge, to allow trains on the Gyumri-Kars rail line to make the transition between two incompatible rail systems.

Gyumri East toward Spitak

The main West-East road to Spitak, once and potentially in the future an important transportation route from Kars to Tbilisi or Baku, leaves Gyumri to the NE, passing first through the village of Shirak (till 1940 Ghonaghkran, this earlier name in popular etymology meaning "guest-killer," after a legendary incident when the locals, warned of their guests' evil intentions, massacred a group of Persian soldiers quartered in their houses). There is a S. Hakob church and S. Minas shrine. Jajur has the house-museum of the painter Minas Avetisian (1928-1975). Paleolithic tools have been found on the territory. The road continues over the Jajur Pass (1952 m) to Lori Marz. North of Jajur is what looks to be interesting country: Lernut (new church W, medieval remains 1 km W); Jajur Kayaran (RR station); Krashen (till 1945 Aghkilisa) has a church of 1859; Mets Sariar has a 19th c. S. Nshan church which used to house several early manuscripts. From Mets Sariar, the map shows a bad road winding NE through difficult terrain to Pokr Sariar (19th c. church) on the Chichkan river; thence Kakavasar (till 1978 Kefli) with ruined Karmravor Church of the 7th c. just W, and remains of cyclopean fort; then Sarapat (till 1946 Samrlu), and Dzorashen, which has a rebuilt church of 1863 and ruined S. Stepanos monastery of 12-13th c., and remnants of a 10th c. AC fortress. The road then connects to Saralanj, in Lori Marz.

The road leaving Gyumri heading East passes through Akhurian (till 1945 Duzkent, capital of the former Akhurian rayon) and Karnut (till 1946 Diraklar), this latter with Early Bronze Age ruins on a hill nearby and, to the NE, a ruined church probably built on the site of a pagan temple in the 4-5th c and rebuilt in the 10th. About 1 km N are remains of a 8-7th c. BC dam. The road N from Karnut leads to Kamo (till 1935 Haji Nazar, Astvatsatsin church of 1878, named for a romantic but somewhat unsavory revolutionary bank robber). Two km NW is Chataljur medieval settlement and Khacher Hellenistic site.

Near the reservoir S of Karnut are Hovit (with khachkars 2 km E) and Musayelian, (till 1935 Mets Kyapanak, named in honor of Sargis G. Musayelian, a captain who committed his troops and armored train to the May 1920 Bolshevik uprising against the Dashnak government in Alexandropol/Gyumri. Sentenced to death when the May uprising collapsed, Musayelian was reprieved, but then shot by vengeful Dashnaks after the torture and execution of two Dashnak leaders by the Red Army in Zangezur); church rebuilt 1842. Beyond Musayelian, the road looks as if it peters out at Jrarat (till 1945 Chirakhlu). There is a small ruined 6th c. church of S. Minas, and remains of a cyclopean fort.

West of the Akhuryan River

A turn W in Gharibjanian leads to the village of Akhurik (till 1935 Gharakilisa Turki). From there, a muddy track leads to the border fence and what was once a road crossing point into Turkey, now closed. Northeast from Akhurik is Arapi (till 1946 Ojakhghuli), which has on its N side a spot sacred to the Virgin Mary. SW is a site with cyclopean remains and mammoth bones. There is a Hellenistic cemetery 1 km S. The road N from Akhurik goes to Voskehask (till 1947 Musakan, cyclopean fort 1 km NE), Haykavan (formerly Bajoghlu), then Voghji (till 1991 the Azeri village of Oghjoghli), Meghrashat (Lots of Honey, till 1946 Gharamahmet, church of 1868), Gyulibulagh (ruined church 1 km S of village), Kamkhut (formerly Chakhmakh, 7th c. church in village), Gtashen (formerly Magharajugh), and Aregnadem (formerly Azizbekov, till 1939 Gharachanta), joining up with the road to Arpi Reservoir in the far NW corner of Armenia.

The Northwest Corner - Marmashen Vank

Leaving Gyumri on the main N road, turn left at a restaurant just past a set of post-earthquake international housing projects. A bad paved road passes the village of Marmashen (until 1946 Verin Ghanlija). At the far end of Vahramaberd (12-13th c. church in village, (said by locals to have a castle below the village), the next village, turn left, then follow the dirt road back along the gorge and then descend (right fork) to Marmashen Vank. This impressive monastic complex sits on a picturesque shelf with fruit trees above the Akhurian River, beside a stream that ends in a waterfall. The Katoghike church of S. Stepanos was built by Vahram Pahlavuni, whose gravestone sits in the ruined gavit, between 988 and 1029. The gavit itself is 13th c. There is an Astvatsatsin church, and a S. Petros, and archaeologists found remnants of a fourth, nearly circular church, along with foundations of a pre-Christian temple and many service buildings. The complex was ruined by the Seljuks, and rebuilt by Vahram's grandsons. On the hill N is a cemetery with a ruined chapel. There is a bridge probably of the 10-11th c. on the Akhurian nearby. Across the river, near an abandoned medieval settlement, are Bronze Age graves.

Retracing steps up to the rim of the gorge and continuing S on the dirt road skirting the gorge, one sees a basalt knob and scarp WNW of Marmashen village. Descending a few feet into the gorge, one finds about 40 meters NW of the power lines a perfectly preserved Urartian inscription of Argishti I (730-714 BC) carved into the basalt. Above it are sparse ruins of an Urartian stronghold. The main road continues N (in doubt take the right fork) to Kaps and then crosses the Akhurian to reach another road N, with Jradzor ("Water Canyon", rebuilt 19th c. church) on the right hand. 1.5 km SE is a cyclopean fort. A road goes E from Jradzor to Hoghmik, on whose territory, on a plateau on the left bank of the Akhurian river, a Hellenistic settlement was excavated. There are Bronze Age and medieval burials as well.

The road forks in Amasia district capital, NW is "Chatin Dara" ruined fortress. A road E leads to Bandivan (ancient fort remains E of village on plateau) and, N from Bandivan, Hovtun (till recently Baitar, before Alakilisa, originally Azeris, then Greeks, now Armenians). The road from Amasia to the NW passes through low, rolling pasture lands to reach near the villages of Berdashen ("Built of Fortress", till recently Tapakoy, ruins of old church, cyclopean fort) and Paghakn (once Shurabad), the Arpi Reservoir, created by a dam at the source of the Akhurian river. This reservoir is a major way station for migrating birds in season. All the little villages around it used to be occupied by Azeris until 1988. Zorakert (formerly Balikhli, ruined fort a little NE) Tsaghkut (once Gyullija, with medieval fortress 2 km E); Yernajur (Chivinli); Garnarich (Kuzeykend); Shaghik (till 1991 Karabulagh); Zarishat (Konjali); Yerizak (formerly Ibish, before that Aychinkil). Opposite the turnoff for Yerizak, a road leads NE to Alvar (till recently Duzkend, ruins of church); Aravet (formerly Chaibasar); Pokr Sepasar (cyclopean fort, 17-18th c. church); and Mets Sepasar (10th c. church in village). A dirt road N of the Akhurian leads E from Berdashen to Ardenis (formerly Gyollu) and Aghvorik (till recently Yeni Yol "New Road", till 1935 Gharanamaz), then joins the main road N to the border near Tavshut. About 1.5 km from Aghvorik toward Tavshut is an obsidian outcropping with an assortment of stone tools.

North Toward Akhalkalakh

The main road N from Gyumri toward the Georgian border passes through Mayisyan (till 1946 Ortakilisa), named for the failed May 1920 Bolshevik attempt to seize power. In the village is a 7th c. S. Astvatsatsin church of red and black tuff, with inscriptions. Off to the E is Hatsik (till 1949 Taparlu) with old church, cemetery and, 1 km NE, unspecified holy place. N of Hatsik is Karmrakar (till 1946, Gharaband) with two ruined churches and pre-Christian fort remains nearby. Beside the road entering the village is a 2-4th c AC graveyard. A spur road N of Mayisyan leads to Hovuni (till 1945 Yasaghul). Keti has Bronze Age settlements, one by the stream at the NE of the village, the other SE. There is a shrine and church. Some 2 km NW in a fold of the hills is another Bronze Age site. The road then passes Pokrashen, after which a turnoff right leads to Arpeni (till 1978 Palutlu, 19th c. church). Next turnoff left goes to Goghovit (till 1978 Taknalu, church of 1860) and Hoghmik.

The road next reaches Torosgyugh (once Gyurjiyol, Astvatsatsin church of 1865), Tsoghamarg (medieval church and cyclopean fort nearby), and Vardaghbyur (once Gyullibulagh "Rose spring"). At Vardaghbyur, the road forks, the right branch leading to Musayelyan (till 1946 Boz gyugh) with S. Trdat church of 1896. The road then switchbacks over the mountain (not passable until May) some 35 km to Tashir, through a beautiful, stark, treeless landscape. The first road right after Vardaghbyur leads S to Salut (once Skut) and Bashgyugh (church). NNW of Musayelian is Hartashen (till 1946 Dyuzkharaba, church).

The main road N from Vardaghbyur leads to (on left) Karmravan (till 1935 Ghzlkilisa, church) and (on right) Zuygaghbyur (till 1946 Chiftali, ruined 19th c. church). Beyond is the capital of the former Ghukasian Rayon, Ashotsk (till 1938 Ghzlghoch, church). Ashotsk, renamed recently for the medieval name of the area, had been named in honor of young militant Ghukas Ghukasian, a Spartacist firebrand, head of the Kars Revkom in the May 1920 Bolshevik uprising, killed by "Mauserists" while attempting to flee the collapsed revolt). Krasar (till 1946 Kurdbulagh) is off to the SW.

Ghazanchi has an two old settlement sites, Urmi gerezmanner and Karvasara, with remains of a 10-11th c. church, etc. Left of the road is Tavshut (till 1967 Tazakend), and Sizavet (till 1946 Korbulagh, then till 1967 Tasghkashen) is on the right. East of Sizavet is an obsidian outcropping with early stone tools, beside a Bronze Age settlement. Bavra (once Titoy Kharaba, ruined in a 1958 earthquake) has a cemetery SW; has old Arabic tombstones. The main road continues N into the poor, remote, largely Armenian-inhabited Georgian districts of Akhalkalaki and Akhaltsikhe, over a terrible road. A spur NE from Bavra leads to Saragyugh (till 1946 Darakoy).