Hidden Passages Under Ancient Ani Explored

Historian Sezai Yazici inside one of the underground passages under the city of Ani


KARS—The underground structures under the ancient Armenian city of Ani were recently explored, reported Cihan newspaper.

While speaking at a recent symposium in Kars, Turkish historian Sezai Yazici said secret water channels, monk cells, meditation rooms, huge corridors, intricate tunnels, unbelievable traps, and corners that make one lose their sense of direction were just some of the unknown underground structures located under the ancient site.

Yazici’s presentation, titled, “Underground Secrets of Ani,” drew a lot of attention since the topic hasn’t been discussed much.

“In 2011 while working on a United Nations project in order to promote Kars and to reveal its historical and cultural heritage, I came across some pretty interesting information,” Yazici said in his presentation.

“One of the most important names of the first half of the 20th century, George Ivanovic Gurdjieff, who spent most of his childhood and youth in Kars, had chosen [to stay in] an isolated place in Ani along with his friend Pogosian where they worked for some time together in the 1880s.

“One day, while digging at one of the underground tunnels in Ani, Gurdjieff and his friend saw that the soil became different. They continued digging and discovered a narrow tunnel. But the end of the tunnel was closed off with stones. They cleaned the stones and found a room. They saw decayed furniture, broken pots and pans in the room. They also found a scrap of parchment in a niche. Although Gurdjieff spoke Armenian very well, he failed to read Armenian writing in the parchment. Apparently, it was very old Armenian. After a while, they learned that the parchments were letters written by a monk to another monk,” Yazici said, speaking about how he became interested in the underground structures.

The ruins of the ancient city of Ani as seen from Armenia

“Finally, [Gurdjieff and his friend] succeeded in understanding the letters. Gurdjieff discovered that there was a famous Mesopotamian esoteric school in the place where they found the letters. The famous school was active between the sixth and seventh centuries A.D. and there was a monastery there,” he added.

Yazici said Gurdjieff was the first person to mention the monastery that was located under the ruins of Ani.

“The tunnels exceed 500 meters in Ani. Most of the underground structures and caves were used as dormitories. The sizes of most of the underground structures have been measured and maps have been made for most of them,” the researcher said, confirming that there were currently 823 underground structures and caves in Ani.

Yazici said among the most important underground structures were the Giden Gelmez Tunnel, Yeralti Anisi (Turkish for “Underground Ani”) and Gizli Kapilar (“Secret Doors”).

“On the other hand, Ani also has four complicated structures. It is very difficult to reach some of them. It is time to mention these underground structures in the promotion of Ani. The Culture and Tourism Ministry should put signs showing the places of underground structures and build walking paths. Underground structures draw great interest in the world,” Yazici said.

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7 Comments

  1. Steve said:

    Maybe it’s all new to Yazici, but these “discoveries” have been known about for over a century. Nikolai Tokarski’s pre-ww1 survey of them was published as “Caves of Ani” (Yerevan, 1972) and more recently Roberto Bixio reassessed Tokarski’s work in “Ani 2004: Surveys on the Underground Settlements”. The Gurdjieff at Ani story is generally considered to be a fiction created by Gurdjieff to be the starting point for an allegorical quest.

    • Loh said:

      Amazing comments Steve, thank you. Noted nowhere in the article is that Gurdjieff was the kind of person who WOULD make up such a story, especially to tie it to some supposed ancient mystery school to justify his nefarious activities with various occultists. You conveyed more information in 5 lines than the whole article. Thanks again.

  2. Janine said:

    And which people are they going to say built and lived in those tunnels? Whose culture will they be promoting? Will it be historical truth or deceptions?

    • dvo said:

      Its is a 5000 year old tunnels and meditation rooms with large corridors it all still contains old armenian writings so they have no choice but to accept. They all readey accepted that it was Armenian

  3. alex said:

    Mr.Yazici Gurdjieff was born in ARMENIA(Leninakan)his native language is ARMENIAN

  4. hidi said:

    **** The Barbaric ( Turks )., will try to claim it., but we Armenians will chase them and shut them up.,
    Why..? because Ani was built by our ancestors., the Turks have no such culture or civilization., they do’t even have there own alphabet.

  5. Anıl Ergün said:

    I live in Kars. I can say that not everybody denies that this area has a very very rich Armenian heritage. In fact most of us are proud of this. But having been born here without our consent, we are helpless. Do not know how we should undo all that happened in these parts and that unjust treatment of Armenians. All we can do to protect the heritage and believe me, it is not easy in a hellishly ignorant country like this. So please do not generalize. Some of us Turks are not as bad as you think. Probably noone will read this but ohh the relief.

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