A rare and highly attractive double-sided sheet featuring a map and city guide to Yerevan, the Armenian capital, issued in Russian Cyrillic with original graphics in a mélange of mid-century Soviet-style and traditional Armenian motifs, executed by the prominent geographer and statesman Grigor Avagyan, published in Yerevan by the cultural preservation authority.
This highly attractive original artwork is a double-sided broadside city guide to the Yerevan, then the capital of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic (today’s independent Republic of Armenia). It was devised by Grigor Avagyan, a prominent geographer and later politician and was commissioned by the local historical preservation authority. The work is an attractive synergy of mid-century Soviet-style and traditional Armenian motifs.
Yerevan is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, having been founded in 782 BCE. In 1920, when it became the capital of Soviet Armenia, Yerevan was a small frontier center with barely 50,000 inhabitants. However, the city’s population would soon boom upon the arrival of Armenian refugees from Anatolia and migrants from other parts of the USSR.
To accommodate the growth and to create a showpiece capital worthy of the Armenian people, Alexander Tamanian (1878 – 1936), a Russian-born and trained Armenian architect was in 1924 given the go-ahead to totally redesign the city. He reconfigured the city center into a grid of wide streets within a round periphery, filling it with parks and squares on ‘green city’ principles. Many grand new edifices made of Armenian tufa stone were constructed, best typified by the main plaza, Lenin Square (today’s Republic Square). Over the coming decades, even as the city’s population soared to 1 million in 1979, Tamanian’s ingenious urban plan bore the growth well, as the center of Yerevan remains today a green, pleasant place, in contrast to almost all other big downtowns in Western Asia.
The front side of the guide, featuring the title ‘Ереван’, features all sorts of images of both Yerevan’s ancient and modern wonders, including Lenin (Republic) Square, along with a mini-map of Armenia and lengthy explanatory text
The verso features a map of Yerevan showcasing Tamanian’s excellent urban plan, while throughout are all kinds of iconography, including portraits of Lenin and a view of Mount Ararat, the national symbol of Armenia, often clearly visible from Yerevan. There are also many images of sites and edifices, old and new, ranging from Yerevan’s great modern opera house to ancient churches. All together, Avagyan’s work is a splendid celebration of a proud and wonderful city.
Grigor Yeremovich Avagyan [or Avakian] (1928 - 2005) was a prominent Armenian academic and politician. He served for many years as a professor of geography at the Yerevan’s State University and the Yerevan Institute of National Economy before becoming the Director of the Laboratory of Mountain Research (1976-90). During the 1990s he served as a Member of the Armenian Parliament where he played the role of an elder statesman helping to guide the country through its difficult post-independence years.
Like most such ephemeral works, the present guide has a low survival rate; we can trace only a single institutional example, held by the Library of Congress.