Togh (Տող, meaning shake, because of earthquakes) is a village located in Hadrut Region. This village, rich in traditional architecture has three old village churches. There is a local winery that produces red dry wine from the local grape variety Khndoghni (Խնդողնի). It is sold chilled at the petrol/benzine station north of the village on the highway turnoff, in 1.5 liter bottles for 1,200 dram (about $3) and is good.
Vardan (Վարտան ♂) has a house in Togh. Tel: 279-099
Vardan is married with two young children, a boy and a girl. His sister also lives with them. He has a twin brother, who is usually over at the house and you are bound to confuse them. The two are known in Togh and the neighbouring villages as the twins, so you can probably ask anyone in Togh to point you toward 'Vardan the twin's' house. They provided us with a good dinner and a bag lunch (bread, cheese, tomato, apple). They speak Armenian, Russian and Turkish.
Artur and Sveta
Artur is an army retired man, he is nice and let me stay in his small house, in front of the palace on the main road, since the twins said they are not letting tourists anymore. The family has a bigger house uphill. His brother Albert lives in Yerevan but came to visit and showed me around.
I’ve stayed with a family in Teghut in a nice, big house with indoor toilet and bathroom (with shower), and big separate rooms. But I would not suggest you to stay there: the husband Surik (his nick name is “khoz Surik”) doesn’t have a very good personality and makes guests feel uncomfortable. This was the case with me also. However his wife is a very nice woman, they have 5 daughters.
He is a very friendly guy, who allowed us to camp in his backyard. Nikolai is living with his sister, her kids and his parents who were all very nice and welcoming.
We had a nice evening with the family and he showed us how they are baking bread in the traditional oven.
The house is just after the river at the beginning of the village on the left hand side.
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History, Sites and nearby attractions
Togh has been mentioned in written sources since the battle of Armenians against Arab invaders. Arakel precepter wrote:
- “Fortified-Town (Togh) in ancient times, according to Persian king’s writings, had 1500 houses. All the inhabitants were quite rich, had numerous jewels, and were tradesmen. They traveled to various countries, towns and villages, and while there, profitably traded. Their houses were decorated with valuable treasures. Here even worked a hippodrome, where army training and races took place. Number of work-shops for baking brick reached 1000….
And the plain was arable, covered with gardens and plantations. Here one could taste delicious harmless wines and sweet fruits, and also buy fine silk…”.
- “The eastern side (of Togh) was secured with a fort-fence, into which were put three large iron doors. The tall mountain like a guard protected the other sides. On the relics of saints were built four basilica churches with arches, built from trimmed stone and also decorated with silver and gold ornamented crosses, in which they put the relics and remainders of miracle-working saints”.
During the height of Togh’s prosperity (XVIIIc) and especially during the rule of prince Yegan and his son Yesayi there were four working churches and one monastery, which have been wholly-preserved up to the present. The serf-walls with front entries, iron doors and towers have disappeared.
St. Stepanos Nahatak (St. Stephan the Martyr) Church is situated in the SW side of Togh, in the large, old cemetery. Makar episcop Barkhutaryants recorded the following inscription on the entry’s square beam: “In the summer 1196 (1747) Prince Yegan and his son Prince Yesayi rebuilt Surb Stepanos church’s cover. Let (this be for) their soul’s memory”. It appears that the church has existed earlier, and prince Yegan with his son only ornamented the cover.
The church is a rectangular hall with vaulted cover (12 x 7.8m) with the altar and vestries on the E. In place of the present church existed a more ancient monument, which was wholly-destroyed, and the stone was used in the new temple. Many of Karabakh’s XVI-XVIII cc monuments were built in the place of buildings destroyed during the XIV-XV cc. The first church built here was very similar to the pagan temple that preceded it. At some point in medieval times a monastery was built and the church at that time was the cathedral of the monastery complex.
The walls of the church have 51 khachkars built into them. Decorated with various bright ornaments, they are an interesting collection showing the chronology of the place.
S. Hovhannes Church is situated in the central part of the village and is in good condition. The church was built on a slope, with its N wall halfway stuck in the rock, and the S wall open with the foundations visible. The only entry of the church, from west, opens towards the ramparted yard. On the SW corner of the yard is the rounded tower, with a panoramic view. The cover of the church (21.7x12.9m) leans on four pillars, and it has a gable roof. Built in approx. the XIII cc, the church-yard is the burial place of much of the regions royalty. In the XVII cc Prince Yegan funded the complete repair of the roof. The same prince had a large khachkar in the church wall recording his deeds. Many of the inscriptions here tell the interesting history, including relations with Persia.
The stone cross of the church is gone, but the inscription was recorded and said: “Year 1736 (1185 Armenian calendar). The cover of this Surb Hovhannes Church has been renovated by preceptor Ghukaz, son of Melik Yegann, in the memory of his soul. Who reads this; let him say at least once Lord have mercy”. Literature exists saying that very close to the western wall was situated “a narrow and long chapel, which served as a burial-vault, where there were tombs of all the princes and their relatives”. Another manuscript mentions that in a burial-vault chapel with “wonderful construction” are buried “great military leaders”. Unfortunately from the burial vault and also from Surb Hovhannes church’ vestry nothing was preserved but the foundations.
200m from the church, by the road leading to the trimmed-stone spring in the center of the village, stands a very ancient ornamented khachkar. Absence of a pedestal and the simple style point to the early period of khachkars: IX-X cc. On the stone are pictured three crosses, the central one is largest. The top part has carvings of grape vines with bunches of grapes.
Anapat (Hermitage): On the north-western side of the cemetery, on a slope is situated a simple church, almost half-way underground. Nearby remainders of cells and dwellings are noticeable as are ancient gravestones. One of the tombs belongs to Prince Bakhtum, who was betrayed and killed by Ibrahim Khan. The inscription goes on to say that Ibrahim “started such a tyranny in this land, during the course of which part of Togh’s Armenian population of princely residence was forcibly Islamized, even many representatives of Melik-Yegan’s house. The khachkar built into the front of the church, has "St. Vardan Cross" inscribed on it and was most likely at one time a freestanding khachkar. The church seems to have been called St. Vardan as well.
Princely Palace of Dizak: The plain two-story palace of Dizak’s princes is found in central Togh (38 x 13.24m). The N and SE parts of the palace have noticeable traces of thick walls that stand out from the serf-wall perimeter. The complex was built in parts, with inscriptions showing that the first floor was built in the 20-30’s of the XVIII cc, and the second floor in XIX cc. The second story was done in a style similar to that of the surrounding village homes at the time; windows with wide passages, large balconies with pillars, and tin roofs. Except for several changes, the princely palace is almost wholly-preserved. The oldest building is on the NE; 2 halls with fire places are on the first floor, and an added second floor has a balcony. On the W end of the rectangular yard is a two-story building with a beautiful façade of trimmed stone and a pillared balcony.
The walls of the bottom floor (except on the E), are deaf and function as a continuation of the serf-walls. The pillared balcony had an additional functional significance-with its location above the yard, connected by stony stairs; it served as a stage during various ceremonies.
Over the front door is a guest room with a balcony. The S end has the two story guest room of Prince Yegan, 25m from the walls. It is wall, with a vaulted cover and double-arched front. The first story is a basement and connected by underground passages to the palace and garrison. The second story was added in the XIX cc and surrounded with balconies on 3 sides. The portal to the guestroom has the following inscription:
- “In the year of 1737 (1186 by the Armenian calendar), this guestroom is dedicated (is) by preceptor Ghukas’ son, named Yegan. When the people gathered, I became the leader. After this, when in the country began confusion, I did some favors to the son of Shah Sultan-Khusayn king Taghmasp, and he confirmed my principality (over) them. Then came the Osman (Turkic tribe) and took away from him (the country). I did him some favors too and when he entered Dizak, I didn’t let captives be taken from Armenia. From Arakh (central Iran) the mighty Shah Nadir came with his army and took the country back from the hands of the Osmans. I also did much favors to him, and he made me a khan and beklarbek over 6 Christian provinces -- Talish, Charaberd, Khachen, Varanda, Kotchis, Dizak and received honors. One who later on reads and learns from the written, let him say once; Lord have mercy. The end. Amen”.
The facts of the inscription are confirmed by Armenian and Persian written sources of this period, and also by numerous other inscriptions remaining in Togh. On the gravestone of Artsakh’s ruler, Prince Yegan himself, we read:
- This is the gravestone of brave prince,
- Great prince named Yegan,
- Son of pious
- Precepter Ghukas.
- He was loved by all,
- And by Shah Nadir.
- He ruled over the region of Artsakh
- Of Aghvank world.
- Was honored by Persians
- More than any other prince of
- Armenian country.
- In the year 1744 (1193 by the Armenian calendar).
These and other inscriptions/sources show that in the XVIII cc there were feudal Armenian rulers here and they had good relations with both the Osmans and the Persians.
Prince Yegan’s successor was his son Aram, who was in power for only one year. After prince Aram came his brother Yesayi, who became one of the famous princes of Khamsayi, about who people created songs and legends. “Even today Dizak’s people” wrote Leo” tell about his great prince, who was the worthy successor of father Yegan, and even excelled him in deeds”. Here is what’s written on the ornamented gravestone of Prince Yesayi, “This is Prince Yesayi’s tomb, son of great Prince Yegan. He was appointed prince by Nadir Shah, for 33 years he ruled over Dizak and had many exploits, many victories over the Godless. He was braver and more pious than his ancestors. He lived 61 years, died in the summer of 1781 (1230 Armenian calendar), October 2, on Tuesday. He who reads, let him say; Lord have mercy. Amen”.
In Togh, especially in its ancient gardens very often you’ll find stone wine-presses and huge clay pitchers. In these parts there existed an interesting custom: on the day a child was born, his parents, dreaming of his wedding day, buried pitchers full of red wine underground (their tonnage is usually from 150 to 300 liters). They opened them on the wedding day. Being under ground for years, the wine became crystal transparent, “aromatic and harmless”. Exactly such wine was served on the wedding table to the dear guests and fighters, who had come back home.
Another ancient custom was when they sent their son to the army they would plant a mulberry tree in his honor. Over time the number of these trees grew and grew, turning villages into mulberry havens.
At that time Togh had a market, two silk factories, numerous workshops for wood processing and production of household utensils, ceramic workshops, oil presses and distilleries. On the banks of village streams remain traces of half-destroyed buildings of six mills, numerous earth-houses, cave dwellings, springs and monuments.
There is a one-span village bridge dating to 1719 which supports car traffic.
Some monuments in the area of Togh worth mentioning:
- Tsiltakhach: a sacred place. In the area known as Teghun-tap, by the road leading to Azokh.
- Kitats Karar (a heap of stones) Fort: Ruins of an ancient, devastated fort which protected Dizapayt from Toghadzor’s side during Arab rule. Its ruins stretch along both sides of the road to Mokhrenes, 2km from Togh. Around the fort are traces of various sized buildings.
- Tahes: remainders of Tahes settlement. It is situated on the right bank of Ishkhanaget, not far from Togh, in the direction to village Mets Taghlar. In the village are noticeable ruins of a church and several gravestones around it. By the bank are noticeable ruins of a mill, on the ravine’s slope several stone springs remain. This settlement is mentioned in Gtchavank’s inscriptions.
- Hatam Bridge: situated on the road to Azokh, by the confluence of the rivers Ishkhanaget and Teghotaget.
- Cemetery: One of the large, ancient cemeteries of Togh. Many of the gravestones are covered with inscriptions and reliefs. Located on NE outskirts of Togh.
A bad dirt side track leading from Togh towards Tsakuri passes close to Ptkatagh Monastery, which is between Tsakuri and Taghot villages, on a slope on the left bank of Mingoltegh River. All that remains today is the one-nave basilica church (7.5x 5.3m), built according to the inscription in 1670 from the local rough stone. Around the church are noticeable traces of various constructions. At the end of the XIX cc., M. Barkhudaryants wrote, “In Ptkatagh lived several Armenian families”, later on transferred to Tsakuri.
The vault which once leaned on two pairs of pylons has collapsed. On both sides of the stage there are khachkars in the walls. On one of the khachkars is written “Tadevos’ cross”, on the other “Halos’ cross”. Near the church-walls are scattered numerous trimmed stones, fragments of khachkars and gravestones.
N of the church, on the opposite bank of the river among bushes and fruit trees are noticeable foundations of ancient buildings, and piles of processed stones.