Records of Baghaburj started to appear in the early 19th century. Back then, Armenia was part of the Russian empire and the migration of Persian Armenians to Eastern Armenia was organized. However, according to the words of elderly villagers and several historical sources, the history of this village begins much earlier. Some historians believe the name Baghaburj is connected to the name Bekhorot. The latter accounts for the sun worship that existed in the region; it is said that the word bekh means sun in some ancient languages. Every morning, Armenian peasants were worshiping the first rays of the sun shining through the peak of Khustup. During these pantheist times, the deer was also an animal of worship for Armenians, connected to the worship of the moon. It is said that one can still hear the call of the deer and see its shadow moving through the forest.
There is an alternative legend explaining the name of the village. The elderly villagers say the village was once known as Paghaverch, which translates as the “end of cold.” Indeed, the village is a perfect spot when the cold days end, and the sultry days of summer begin.
The village contains many picturesque places. One such site is the Navcha alpine meadow (nav means boat, and chay means river). Interestingly, many name places in the region contain the word “nav.” It is said that this region was once covered with water. One legend holds that Noah’s ark stopped here before continuing its journey to Mount Ararat.
Near the village, on the road leading to Navcha, there is an ancient settlement called Kerategh[BD1], as also known as Girategh. Ghevont Alishan also referred to the village by the name Dirqn. According to legend, during foreign invasions, people gathered all the manuscripts of Kovsakan in this village. When the enemy finally conquered the villahe, a group of Armenian soldiers managed to gain the parchments back. They left Kovsakan and established the village of Girqn on the right shore of the River Kur. To the east of here, traces of a medieval church remain. The villagers call the church Vank.
The village has other historical monuments such as the Kozen Stream, where Armenian military leader Garegin Nzhdeh is buried. Southwest of the village, one can find the famous stone known as Khach, which remains a holy place to this day. Finally, in the center of the village, one can visit the 18th century Saint Hripsime Church.
Mount Khustup is among the most picturesque of Armenian mountains. Today the mountain has become a beloved place for tourists and hikers alike. It also plays a vital role for the people of Kapan – as precious as the air they breathe. The ancient mountain cult still survives in some regions. Since distant times, Khustup has been viewed as one of the holiest mountains in Armenia.
The words associated with ancient rituals and prayers reveal the prominent role of the mountain. The elderly people still bless and curse in the name of Mount Khustup (“Let Khustup guard you,” “Let Khustup carry you away”). The name Khustup stems from the ancient word “hutu,” which means “prayer.” Thus, Khustup translates as “a place of worship.”
When lit with sunlight, the mountain peak was associated with the spirit of the rising sun. Everyone from villagers and priests toprinces all prayed to the rising sun. The winds blowing through the mountain passes were thought to be the deeds of the wind spirits residing there. Midwives climbed to the rooftops with newborn children and prayed to Khustup, asking for the newborns to be blessed with longevity. For centuries, Armenian people have sought protection and blessings at various sacred sites on the mountain. One such place is Matagh Stream. Sacrifices were once made to Mount Khustup and to the gods there. Nowadays, people still make sacrifices near the stream, but the tradition has assimilated with Christian beliefs. Further down Khustup’s slope, in a remote cave, a church has become a place of pilgrimage. The path leading to the church is quite risky. However, the belief in the healing power of the place is so strong that some dare to undertake the path with their sick relatives.
Famous People of Baghaburj
In the center of the village Baghaburj stands a large house, which was built at the end of the 19th century and belonged to the famous Antonyan family. Sargis Antonyan was the most well-known member of the family. He owned the mines of Kapan and maintained close communication with French capitalists. His son, Tigran Antonyan, was a well-known doctor in Kapan, and the first doctor in the region to graduate from the University of Berlin. This story is about Tigran’s time as the personal doctor of Garegin Nzhdeh, during the Battle of Zangezur from 1910-21.
The villagers say that when the political situation in Zangezur changed, Nzhdeh set off to Iran.He took his close companions with him, including Tigran Antonyan. His father, Sargis, was in close association both with the previous and the newly established authorities of the time. When Sargis had been reassured that nothing threatened the safety of his family, he traveled to the village Kaler in Meghri region, where Garegin Nzhdeh stopped with his entourage. Once there, he tried to convince his son to return with him to Baghaburj. However, Nzhdeh commanded to open fire on the father. In secret, Tigran bandaged his wounded father and returned him to Baghaburj. Unfortunately, no other records of the doctor survive.
Locals also tell a story of a French nobleman from Baghaburj, who was a copper mine owner. The villagers do not remember the man’s name but his wife’s was called Clember. When the Soviet government came to power, many mine owners left the country. The Frenchman also left, but because of her sickness his wife could not join him. The fleeing Frenchmen thought their departure was temporary and hoped to return soon. But the reality was different - they left forever. Clember was sheltered in a local home, and dressed in traditional Armenian clothes to hide from the authorities. For many years she lived in disguise and became member of the family. Clember lived a long life and died without seeing her husband or her homeland ever again.
French industrialists have left their impact on the region of Kapan – on villagers’ lives and the history of the place. This could explain why the hearth and home of Kapan shows hints of a European style of living. Progressive European ideas have spread around the region thanks to the inhabitants of Harjis.