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CAS Discussion Series “Religion and Culture”: Peripheral Christianity and Peripheral Islam in the South-Eastern Caucasus According to David of Gandzak (ca 1065–1140)

16 June 2023 @ 17:30 - 19:00

The Center for the Study of Religion (Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski) and the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia are pleased to announce the next seminar of the series

Religion and Culture

Topic for the 2022/2023 academic year: “Center and Periphery in Religions and Society”
Moderator: Simeon Evstatiev

You are cordially invited to a lecture by Dr Igor Dorfmann-Lazarev

Peripheral Christianity and Peripheral Islam in the South-Eastern Caucasus According to David of Gandzak (ca 1065–1140)

The lecture will take place on Friday, 16 June 2023 at 5:30 p.m. at the Center for Advanced Study, 7B Stefan Karadzha St., entrance 3, 2nd floor

We shall examine the social and religious conditions in the city of Gandzak/Gandja at the beginning of the 11the century. Gandzak is situated on the Western edges of the Caspian plains, which were largely Islamized by the 8th century. Facing the hardly accessible ravines of the Lesser Caucasus, which from the 14th century were known as Karabagh, Gandzak durably remained a north-western outpost of Islam, hosting successive waves of Arabic, Kurdish, Turkic, and Mongol settlers. The proximity of the Armenian highlands explains how, notwithstanding the ongoing assimilation to the city’s Muslim majority, the Christian population of Gandzak could continuously be sustained and maintain its cultural and religious identity. We shall focus on the activity and writings of the Armenian ecclesiastical author David of Gandzak, which afford a lens through which to observe cultural interaction in these marchlands between the Armenian plateau and the Caspian plains during the first decades of the Turkic colonisation of the lowlands. David’s “Admonitory Exhortations,” which do not easily fit into any known category of historical documents, have but very seldom been used as a source of this crucial moment in the history of the South Caucasus. They contain, in particular, rare information concerning the relationships between the Muslim population of Gandzak and their Christian inhabitants, as well as instances of cultural blending and religious syncretism. Such phenomenacomparable in many respects to those which would later occur in the Balkanshave largely determined the history of the South Caucasus during the subsequent centuries. The analysis of these phenomena allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the reciprocal perceptions of the region’s diverse ethnic and religious groups. Attesting the wide spread of intermarriages and shared veneration of holy places, David’s work sheds light on the process of the Islamization not only of the Caucasus but also of Anatolia.

IGOR DORFMANN-LAZAREV (PhD, Habil.) teaches Oriental languages at Sofia University. He is interested in the interaction of religions across pre-modern Eurasia. In his recent publications he has focused on the role of apocrypha in the shaping of the idea of kingship in mediæval Armenia. He is the author of Christ in Armenian Tradition: Doctrine, Apocrypha, Art (Peeters, 2016) and the editor of: Apocryphal and Esoteric Sources in the Development of Christianity and Judaism (Brill, 2021), Sharing Myths, Texts and Sanctuaries in the South Caucasus (Peeters, 2022) and, in association with Haroutioun Khatchadourian, Monuments and Identities in the Caucasus (Brill, 2023).


16 June 2023
17:30 - 19:00


Centre for Advanced Study Sofia


Centre for Advanced Study Sofia
7B Stefan Karadzha St, entr. 3
Sofia,‎ ‎1000‎ ‎Bulgaria
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