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Shirak is on the north-east of Armenia, on the right bank of the Akhuryan river. The climate is cold and continental. Its capital is Gyumri. This once-prosperous city was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1988. On the left bank of the Akhuryan river there’s Marmareshn monastery complex (988-1025). To the left of the Akhuryan gorge there can be seen ruins of Ani (10th century). This was one of the largest walled cities and a former capital of Armenia. The region has huge deposits of tufa, which has about 40 shades and is widely used in the Armenian architecture.

The city of Gymri

Gyumri (Leninakan) occupies the central position. It’s a city set on the site of ancient settlements of the Bronze Age. The ancient Greek historian Xenophon in his Anabasis referred to Gtumnias, a big, rich and populous city. Researches came to the conclusion that this transcription of the ancient name of the city – Gyumri. In later centuries, the heyday period was changed by the times of decline, during the Arab conquests of the 7th century the Armenian historian Ghevond mentioned it as Kumairi settlement. In 1804 Shirak was released from the Persians by Russian troops. In Kumairi there were built fortifying buildings and the garrison was left. After the visit by Russian Emperor Nicholas I in 1837, the city was renamed after the Empress – Alexandropol. In 1194 the city was renamed to Leninakan after Lenin’s death.

Many Armenian families that fled from Western and Eastern Armenia in the first third of the 19th century, settled in Alexandropol. The city grew rapidly by playing an increasingly prominent role in trade and crafts of the region. The past century transformed this city into industrial Leninakan that happily saved its traditional features. Probably it was due to practical minds and ineradicable sense of humor of the people that had a reputation of apt jokes masters in Armenia.

Modern Gyumri is located on the left bank of the broad plain of the Akhuryan river. Two rows of hills separating the city from the river, form a picturesque valley of a small unnamed stream. The urban park is designed here, it’s a popular place of recreation for residents. Nearby, on a hill preserved fortress, built in the XIX century is the outpost of Russian troops on the border with Turkey.

Urban planning is developed around well-designed areas, modern buildings stand side by side with small but sturdy houses made of black tuff. They still keep the hand of skillful stone cavers, who carved frames of doors and windows, decorated with various ornaments. These parts of the city, each of which has its own unique flavor, remind rapid travelers of leisurely times of regimental bands, phaetons and gas lamps.

One of these parts of old in new remained Amenaprkich cathedral (Savior), built in the late 19th century. Its exterior and interior are rich in décor and artful frescoes.

Many interesting archaeological findings made in Gyumri and the surrounding area, are gathered in the town museum. It exhibits the objects of Bronze and Iron ages - an elegant ceramics and jewelry, tools of ancient craftsmen, weapons and other items of material culture of those eras. Interesting exhibits showing life of Shirak people are gathered in the museum of folk architecture and urbanism. The museum building itself, a two-story building with a decorated facade and exquisite wrought metal of its elements, a combination of red and black tuff is a wonderful sightseeing object.

Alexandroupol-Leninakan-Gyumri is a birthplace of many prominent representatives of the national culture. Here was born one of the classics of Armenian literature, a poet Avetik Isahakyan, a composer Armen Tigranyan, a talented sculptor Sergei Mercury. House-museums are devoted to the memory of some of them.

Old houses and blocks, churches and museums, monuments and parks makes sightseeing tour of this ancient city extremely interesting.


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