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Armenians pray during their last pilgrimage to Dadivank Monastery in the Karvachar region of Artsakh, November 2020.
Armenians pray during their last pilgrimage to Dadivank Monastery in the Karvachar region of Artsakh, November 2020. Photo Credit / Hayk Baghdasaryan/Photolure

The Great Reawakening

The revival of Armenian Christian identity in the post-Soviet era


For millennia, Armenian Christianity has been a cornerstone of the Armenian identity, surviving turbulent periods and forging a deep-rooted bond between the people and their Church.  Yet in the early 20th century, when Armenia was under the yoke of the Soviet state with its anti-religious ideology, the active study, practice, and worship of the faith was repressed and denied—but not forgotten.

This 70-year indoctrination of state supremacy across two generations stood in stark contrast to the presence of numerous ancient Christian holy sites and symbols appearing all across Armenia’s landscape, reminders of the religious legacy that is every Armenian’s birthright.

In 1991, when Armenia regained its sovereignty as an independent state, like a sleeping giant waking up from years of spiritual drift, the Armenian Church began its journey back to prominence, reconnecting national identity with religious identity. In the last 30 years, under the leadership of His Holiness Karekin II, a new generation of clergy has emerged. They are highly educated, well-traveled, with more real-world exposure and training. This allows them to better meet the needs of their parishioners whose renewed faith has been severely tested by war, socio-economic chaos, periods of great scarcity and the constant spector of destruction by historical enemies. These crises and hardships only seemed to intensify the spiritual dimension of their daily lives, and revive the practice of active worship in the tradition of Armenia’s national Church.

Today, churches and monasteries are again centers of spiritual and cultural rebirth, drawing both locals and visitors seeking to explore this rich heritage. During and after the 44-day war in Artsakh in 2020, intense military and emotional turmoil drew people even closer to their religion as a source of strength and solace in the face of death. Holy sites became sanctuaries to which thousands flocked to pray for peace, protection, and mercy—anchors promising redemption and salvation.

Lighting candles and offering prayers for the safety of loved ones and the restoration of peace abounded. Clergy offered blessings, encouragement, support, and spiritual guidance to congregants grappling with the senseless inhumanity and indignities suffered by Armenian soldiers and civilians alike. These acts of collective devotion also served as a uniting force among communities both in Armenia and Artsakh, a triumph of solidarity.

In 2023, when the Artsakh Armen-ians were expelled en masse from their ancestral homes, the accounts of their ordeal had a similar thread—many claimed they were saved by Divine intervention, owing to their unshakeable faith and fervent prayers.

Originally published in the June 2024 ​issue of AGBU Magazine. end character

About the AGBU Magazine

AGBU Magazine is one of the most widely circulated English language Armenian magazines in the world, available in print and digital format. Each issue delivers insights and perspective on subjects and themes relating to the Armenian world, accompanied by original photography, exclusive high-profile interviews, fun facts and more.