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ARMENIANS TO MARK THIS YEAR THE 1,600-TH ANNIVERSARY OF THEIR ALPHABET

YEREVAN, JANUARY 13, ARMENPRESS; The government of Armenia is planning to hold an extensive range of events this year to mark the 1600-th anniversary of invention of Armenian alphabet. A special commission was set up, chaired by prime minister Andranik Margarian, to steer the preparation of events.

The events will include, particulalry, a theater performance showing Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the scripts and his disciples’ return from Syria where they worked to create the first Armenian alphabet.

The origins of the Armenian alphabet were derived after the official adoption of Christianity by King Tiridates III in 301 AD. The difficult task of inventing the alphabet was assigned to Mesrop Mashtots whom the Armenian Church reveres among her saints.

St. Mesrop was born in the year 361 in the village of Hatzekatz in the province of Taron, now in Turkey. In his early years, he learned both Greek and Persian and served in the Armenian Royal Court. Later, he decided to enter the ranks of the clergy and with some other young men, he went to preach in the province of Goghtn around 395 A.D. During this period he felt the great need of the Armenian people for an “Alphabet” of their own so he petitioned the Catholicos Sahak and together they requested the aid of King Vramshapouh.

After receiving the approval of Catholicos Sahak, the saintly head of the Armenian Church and himself a scholar, Mesrop set out on this enormous undertaking at a time when Armenian religious and cultural integrity was threatened by the Persian regime to assimilate the Armenian population.

Mesrop determined a need of 36 characters for the alphabet and decided to write the characters from left to right as in Greek. He retained a number of Greek letters and altered others to fit in with the aesthetic pattern that they had adopted, thereby retaining the order of the Greek alphabet as much as possible. Three letters were added in the 10th-12th cc, for a total of 39 letters.

After much research and many travels, Mesrop was able to come up with the skeleton of an alphabet. However, it did not meet the needs of the Armenian language. According to tradition, while meditating in a cave near the village of Palu, the saint had a vision in which, “the hand of God wrote the alphabet in letters of fire”.

Upon his return to the Catholicos and King, the saint was received with great honors and much joy. Mesrop completed the Armenian alphabet in 405 AD.

The original Armenian alphabet was written in large capital letters of a monumental character and size. Though nowadays written in modern cursive script, the Armenian alphabet has continued in use to the present day with the original set of characters.

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