Tsitsernakaberd (Armenian Genocide Memorial & Museum)
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Tsitsernakaberd (Armenian Genocide Memorial & Museum) information
Lonely Planet review
Commemorating the agony of the 1915–22 genocide of Armenians during the death throes of the Ottoman Empire, the Museum of the Armenian Genocide and memorial create a moving experience. The museum lies underground in a grey stone bunker. Large photographs (many, but not all, with English explanations) tell the story of the genocide with stone-faced emotion. There’s no effort to demonise the Ottoman authorities; the facts are allowed to speak for themselves. It starts with the massacres of 1896 and 1909 and the lack of an international response, and then moves on to the murder of Armenian labour conscripts in the Ottoman army in late 1914 and early 1915. The arrest and subsequent murder of community leaders and intellectuals on 24 April 1915 marks the beginning of that nightmare summer. All over Anatolia men were arrested, marched out of their towns and murdered in shallow graves.
A permanent exhibition of paintings of half-dead, naked survivors stands in the hall. The final image is an enlarged photograph of an orphanage in Syria after the genocide. Outside there’s a magnificent view of Mt Ararat, the symbol of Armenia now 40km inside modern Turkish territory.
Nearby there is a khatchkar in remembrance of the 1988 Sumqayıt massacre in Azerbaijan, and the graves of early victims of the Karabakh War (1989–94).
There is a row of trees planted by foreign leaders who recognise the genocide, despite the Turkish government’s determination to punish any foreign power that does so.
A broad pathway flanked by a 100m-long wall engraved with the names of massacred communities leads to the memorial , consisting of a 40m-high spire next to a circle of 12 basalt slabs leaning over to guard an eternal flame. The 12 tilted slabs represent the lost provinces of western Armenia, land lost to Turkey in a post-WWI peace deal between Ataturk and Lenin, while the spire has a fine split dividing it into larger and smaller needles, the smaller one representing western Armenia. Set on Tsitsernakaberd Hill (Fortress of Swallows) across the Hrazdan Gorge from central Yerevan, the memorial was built in 1967 after unprecedented demonstrations on 24 April 1965, the 50th anniversary of the genocide. In a rare acknowledgement of public discontent, the Soviets deposed the local Communist Party boss in response and gave permission for the memorial to be built.
A taxi (AMD600 from the city centre) is the easiest way to reach Tsitsernakaberd. Or take marshrutka 70 or 87 from Mesrop Mashtots Poghota; these drop you by the road near the memorial, from where it’s a 600m walk to the museum (after 200m take the road that forks left). From the memorial, continue walking down the steps, which leads back to the road where you can flag down a marshrutka .