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, remains
depressingly unrebuilt, but is rich in archaeological interest
for the specialist,
among which are important the catacomb type tombs of the
14th-9th c. BC near Artik, Bronze
Age settlements in Keti, Karnut,
of an Urartian stronghold with perfectly preserved Urartian
inscription of Argishti I (786-764 BC) carved into the basalt
wall in Vahramaberd, 8th
c. BC through 4th c. AD settlement site in Beniamin,
substantial cult site
of 2nd c. BC to 3rd c. AD near Shirakavan,
in Hoghmik. The Urartian citadel at Horom
is perhaps the most impressive of its kind in Armenia. There are many architecturally important churches, such
as in Sarnaghbyur,
(mostly of the 5-7th
centuries) and monastic complexes
such as in Harich.
Marmashen, NW of
Gyumri, near the village of Vahramaberd, is
a particularly interesting monastic complex.
c. caravansaray near Jrapi and the Armenias medieval
capital Ani overlook from the border by the village of Kharkov
are also recomended for visit.
The hilly grasslands of the Northern part of the marz
have their own bleak charm, and important migratory bird life
around the Arpilich 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.