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  APRIL 24, 1915



Scientists and politicians from many countries took part in the International Symposium on Historical realities and Armenians, held in Igdir from 24 to 26 April 1965. As the project prepared by one the participants from Azerbaijan, Architect Professor Dr. Cafer Gayisi, for commemorating the Turks massacred by Armenians, a need was expressed for the erection of this monument and this opinion was stated as follows in the final declaration of the symposium: “Resolved, that a monument of martyrs should be erected in Igdir and a cemetery for martyrs should be established in Oba Village in order to eternalise the memories of more than one million Turks that fell in Eastern Anatolia and to give a similar answer to those declaring the 24th April as the genocide day and to the monuments erected in many places of the world for the genocide alleged to have been perpetrated against the Armenians. The monument to be erected in Igdir will enable us to remember to the eternity the unpleasant days of the past and the colonialist Powers seeding enmity among us, and shed light for our future on the basis of friendship, good neighbourhood and co-operation.”

The location selected for the genocide monument is at the eastern entrance of the City of Igdir, that is, at the junction of roads from Azerbaijan, Iran and Armenia. The selected triangular area has a surface of 1,3 hectares and the monument will rise on a diminutive Agri Mountain. Its foundation was laid on 1 August 1997. 

The monument is erected at the focal point of the triangle, on a mound rising 7,20 metres above the ground in form of a mound. The tradition had it that the mounds erected for the rulers and army commanders who once lived in the Eurasian steppes, these immense stretches inhabited by the Turks, had the sarcophagus in the centre. The circular hall constructed underneath the mound has the symbolic grave of the Turks massacred by the Armenians and constitutes the main section of the genocide museum. The Armenian bloodthirstiness is shown with the pictures of the mass graves of massacred Turks. Photographs of the massacres perpetrated by Armenians are posted in the room at the right-hand side of the corridor  extending from this circular hall while the opposite room contains the library for the genocide studies.

The main entrance of the museum is designed in form of a crown door after the Selchuk-Turkish architectural traditions. A compositional similarity is also noticed with the Ottoman mosque pulpits in the spatial design, suggesting an entry into a holy location. The claret and black granite slabs used at the entrance door and frames of small-size windows which are relatively few connote the grievous and mournful nature of the genocide.

A 36-metre high sheaf of swords rise from the centre of the mound to commemorate the Turkish Army that saved the innocent Moslem people from the genocide and its martyrs and warriors. The swords, five in number, are placed in a pentagonal plan. Viewed from above, the swords represent the star in the Turkish flag constituting the symbol of the Turkish State.

Soldiers of the ancient Turkish armies had the tradition of honing their swords under wind, rain and lightning before entering the battlefield. Thus, the swords pointed against the sky within sight of the Mount Ararat will depict the might of the Turkish armies before any would-be intruder and the Armenians, whose national goal is to get hold of the Mount Ararat and its vicinity, now see the Turkish swords raising against them.

The curved tips of the five huge swords unite above and take the shape of a dome, reminiscent of the Selchuk shrines. The Turkish-Oghuz funeral architecture tradition was to erect dome-like shrines on the tombs of rulers, heroes, commanders and other dignitaries. The Selchuk shrines consist traditionally of an underground tomb and a surface tower section and so has the Igdir monument two stories. The underground stratum is the museum part while the five swords depict the tower-like structure.

The Igdir monument is thence designed to embody the three major features of the Turkish memorial architecture dating back to Ions in the past: The mound, the Selchuk shrine and the epitaphs and created a composition conformant to the demands of contemporary architectural construction demands.

The sword in a man’s hand is fearsome and those stacked together represent the peace, well-being and strength and show also the defence will of the nation. The sharp edges turned outward suggest readiness against any intrusions from outside.

The circular museum hall (the underground structure representing the tomb) and the tent-like pentagonal glass light shaft is between the swords. The shaft, made of gold-plated frames and coloured glass, epitomises the golden tent, a masterpiece of the Turkish architecture. Flag of the State used to wave on the golden tent, the symbol of the sovereignty. The golden tent, pitched on the centre of the bivouacs of the armies on the go, used to be protected with extraordinary measures of defence. Thus, five swords protect the Turkish flag rising atop the golden tent in the monument.

The sword’s sanctity is reflected also in its aesthetic design. The butt of the Turkish sword, quite an efficient instrument, used to be inlaid with precious stones and metals. So are the butts of the Igdir monument’s swords, embellished with bronze relieves and ornaments within granite frames. The grey wolf, horse and twin-headed eagle patterns are repeated on all the five swords.

The grey wolf is the main totem of ancient Turkish tribes and became the national symbol from Hun to Ottoman Empire. Before the adoption of Islam by the Turks, a grey wolf’s head was used to be put on the tips of flagpoles, replaced later by the crescent and star.

The admiration for the grey wolf as a strong, freedom-loving and intelligent animal exists among all Turks from the Altai Mountains to Anatolia. During the presidency of Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the grey wolf was depicted on the banknotes, postage stamps and many other official documents. The existence of the grey wolf relief on the sword’s butt is an indication of the respect for national set of values and obedience to the Atatürk’s ideals.

The sword era in the history was at the same time the horse era. According to the Turkish historians, the great conquests of the Turks were due to their great mastery of two arts: Horse training and mining, and especially the smith-craft. The latter was important for manufacturing and shaping swords while the horse training was essential for covering great distances in the wars that never ended. The Turkish soldier always departed with his sword, horse and tent for military expeditions.

The horse another one of the main totems of the Turks and inseparable friend and helper of the soldier. You may not imagine the sword without horse and the Turk without a horse and a sword. For this reason, all sword butts have a rearing horse figure in relief. It was the symbol of heroism, happiness and sun. The are at both sides of the butt.

The inner sides have twin-headed eagle figures. The Altaic figures carved into rocks suggest that the eagle also was totemised as a sign of grandeur and magnificence among the Turks. The double-headed eagle symbolised first the Hittite Empire and the Byzance Emperors had later adopted it for themselves. Used finally by the Selchuk Empire as its coat-of-arms, it stands at the apogee of this centuries-long tradition as the Byzance Empire finally crumbled before the Turkish might.

The outer sides of the butts have soldier reliefs together with grey wolves, horses and eagles as the products of the ancient Turkish symbology. The soldier figures are different in each of the swords on the monument and each butt depicts a soldier of Hun, Göktürk, Selchuk, Ottoman and modern Turkish soldier. 

Having created magnificent empires in various periods of the history, the Turkish soldier deserves the greatest of all monuments. Epitomised in bronze in the sword butts of the monument, symbolise all the soldierlike generations throughout the history as the staunch defenders of the nation, peace and order.

Monument’s foundation was laid on 1 August 1997 by Igdir’s Governor Semsettin Uzun. The circumferential walls of the complex were masoned with stones from Ahlat quarries and their cones were ornamented with wrought iron grills. Museum door, windows and drawers are of chestnut wood, the swords were coated with grey Bianco Maris granite imported from Italy use was made of African red granite for some architectural details. Marbles from various parts of Turkey, including the Taurus black from Kayseri, Theos green and Ægean grey from Izmir, Hazar pink from Diyarbakir, Ægean claret from Mugla, travertines from Denizli and Kütahya, Kayran slabs from Bodrum, Bergama granite cobblestones and Imyra stone from Antalya, went into the monument’s construction. Great care was exercised for ensuring the harmony of all these materials with each other and with the details in which they were applied.

The monument and museum was sponsored by the Foundation for Developing Igdir and its counties. It constitutes as such a magnificent shrine of all who were mass-murdered and whose graves are unknown. Those visiting this shrine will remember our martyrs whom we sometimes forget and strive to understand the true authors of the scourge that attained the proportions of a genocide.

GIYASI, Prof. Dr. Cafer A., The Igdir Genocide Monument and Museum, Atatürk Research Centre Publication, Ankara 2000, pp.5-9.

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