If you have ever visited Yerevan you have definitely walked along Abovyan Street. But what do you know about Abovyan Street? Have you ever wondered what it looked like just 2-3 decades ago?
Khachatur Abovyan: Something to Know
Having opened in 1863, Abovyan Street is one of the central and major streets of Yerevan. In 1921, the street was named after Khachatur Abovyan, the great Armenian writer, illuminator, and teacher. Not much is known about Khachatur Abovyan’s death.
What we are taught at school is that he went to Mount Ararat on a tour with visitors and never came back and that only one of his shoes was found. According to one of the theories, he was killed by the Turks living in his neighborhood and buried in his yard. According to another, he was exiled to Siberia.
What We Can See On Abovyan Street: Buildings of Great Importance
Khachatur Abovyan’s statue stands on one end of Abovyan Street. Along Abovyan Street, there are many buildings of public importance. Most of the buildings are old, some of which have been preserved thanks to the protests of the residents. There are several new buildings closer to the other end of the street, near the Republic Square.
Now, let us walk down Abovyan Street from Khachatur Abovyan statue. On the right, you will see Hrant Matevosyan cultural center and museum. Hrant Matevosyan was another great Armenian writer. In front of the building, there is a stone monument dedicated to the Hungarian prisoners of war who died in Armenia and to the Armenians who died in Hungary during the Second World War.
On the other side of the street, there is the “Heratsi” Hospital Complex. The building of the Faculty of Economics and Management of Yerevan State University, or “the black building”, comes next. The building is over 100 years old.
At the intersection, with Koryun Street Yerevan State Medical University can be seen. A great number of young people dream of studying here.
On Abovyan Street, there are two underground passages, one of them being very big where there used to be a department store in the past. Recently it was renovated into the Metronome shopping center. Yeritasardakan Metro Station is just a few meters away from here.
The Shops of My Childhood: the Great Bookshop and the Only Bakery
Once you come out of the long underground passage, you will see some shops on the right with big arched windows. These used to be a big bookshop in the past – a bookshop that we desired to visit just for the smell of the books or to have a look at the pictures in the books. It would always be overcrowded, especially in the beginning of September – the whole city would gather there to try their luck in getting the school textbooks first.
Next to it, there’s Café de Paris with all its wonderful smells. Do not forget to hold your breath if you are in a hurry, otherwise, you will have to stop by and get some coffee even if you are not planning to.
And opposite the café, there is another piece of my childhood that has completely changed over the years. There is a small cosmetics shop here which used to be the only bakery in the area. In the 1990s, we would stand in line for hours here to finally get a chance to buy our daily bread. Sometimes people would get tired, go home and send someone else to continue waiting.
Back then all families had bread tickets which we would get for each week. We were not allowed to buy more bread than mentioned on the ticket – half a loaf for each household member. That would make two and a half loaves for my family. Yes, they would cut the loaf in half before giving one to us. Those were the times after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Gem of Abovyan Street: Saint Katoghike Church
At the intersection of Abovyan and Sayat-Nova Streets, a big church can be seen on the right. Once you turn around the corner, a small and much older chapel is revealed. One of the oldest historical monuments in Yerevan, The Saint Astvatsatsin Church (The Holy Mother of God Church) was built in the 12-13th centuries.
It survived the 17th-century grand earthquake in Yerevan and was later enclosed in the Katoghike Church, built in 1693-1695 serving as a sanctuary for the newly built church. In 1936 at the time of Bolsheviks, the Katoghike Church was demolished, and the older and more valuable Saint Astvatsatsin Church within was revealed. It is now known as the Katoghike Saint Astvatsatsin Church.
Saint Katoghike chapel was surrounded by other buildings until the beginning of the 21st century, thus staying unnoticed for the passers-by. Being the only Catholic church in the area, it was constantly being searched for by foreigners. After the demolition of the surrounding buildings, it was finally revealed to the public.
In 2011-2013, The Ecclesiastical Complex of Saint Anna Church and the Pontifical Residence was built through the Hirair and Anna Hovnanian Foundation. The Holy Mother of God Katoghike Church was renovated in 2016.
What Else You Can Find on Abovyan Street
Further down Abovyan Street, there is the Children’s Art Museum, the National Olympic Committee of Armenia, the Russian Drama Theater after Stanislavski on the right, and Charles Aznavour Square on the left. The Square includes Moscow Cinema, the Artists’ Union of Armenia, and Grand Hotel Yerevan.
In the place of Moscow Cinema, there was St Pogos Petros Church (St Paul and Peter) some part of which had survived the grand earthquake of Yerevan but was later completely demolished by the Soviet regime (in November 1930) to make room for Moscow Cinema. In the center of Charles Aznavour Square, there is a big flower-shaped fountain with 12 statues representing the Zodiac signs.
Dalan: the Tiny Souvenir Shop
If you are in search of Armenian souvenirs, you should definitely go to Dalan – a small art gallery a little down the street. The name “dalan” most probably comes from the Persian word دالان (/da-lan/ meaning a corridor). This shop used to be an arched passage through the building. We normally call these passages “dalans”.
The Old and the New: the Two Hotels
Hotel Aviatrans, the darkest hotel in Yerevan, is seen next, and a relatively new hotel, the Alexander, is on the opposite side. The black part of the front wall of the Alexander Hotel is what is left from the previous building. If you turn right at the corner of the Alexander Hotel, you will find yourself in Northern Avenue (450 m), which links Abovyan Street with Freedom Square. Northern Avenue opened to the public on November 16th, 2007.
The End of Abovyan Street: the End of the Journey
Continue your way down Abovyan Street, and you are in the Republic Square where there are government buildings, Armenia Marriott Hotel, and many other important buildings as well as the Republic Square Metro Station. The Republic Square is where Abovyan Street finishes, or, better to say, starts from.
This is not the whole story about the past and present of Abovyan Street but only a small part of it. There is a lot more to research and explore.
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