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September 9: This Day in the History of the Armenian Church

On Sept. 9, 1781 Archbishop Hovsep Arghutian consecrated the Armenian Church of the Holy Cross in Moscow. Due to his efforts and leadership, dozens of villages, churches and even entire cities were built in Russia for the immigrant Armenian community. In 1781 alone he consecrated at least three new churches in Russia. Some of the churches, villages and settlements founded by Archbishop Hovsep Arghutian not only exist until today, but are almost entirely populated by Armenians who keep the Armenian heritage, culture and faith alive. One such example is the Armenian Church of Sourp Asdvadsatsin and the community of the Bolshie Sali @ with their Armenian Church, Sunday & Armenian schools, dance group, etc.

Archbishop Arghutian helped to align Russia’s interest to increase their influence in Caucasus with the Armenian dream of freedom, liberation and independence. In 1796 the archbishop joined the Russian army in the fight against Turkey and Persia in Caucasus, proving that his patriotism was not limited to diplomacy only, but that he was also ready to fight and die for free Armenia.

After much struggle and conflict, he was elected as Catholicos of All Armenians but suddenly died in Tbilisi on his way to Etchmiadzin for enthronement. Many have suggested and suspected that Archbishop Arghutian was poisoned by Queen Mariam Tsitsishvili of Georgia who was resisting the increasing Russian influence in the Caucasus. Ironically, her predecessor King George of Georgia supported Archbishop Hovsep Arghutian’s candidacy to the point of writing to the Brotherhood of Etchmiadzin and threatening not to keep the Holy Lance in Georgia  unless Abp. Arghutian is accepted and recognized as a Catholicos. 

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