This Week in Armenian History

Birth of Aram Safrastyan (July 14, 1888)

Aram Safrastyan was a pioneer in the field of Ottoman Studies in Armenia.  

He was born on July 14, 1888, in the Aygestan neighborhood of Van to the family of a teacher. He studied at the Secondary Central School of Aygestan and later worked as a teacher in Van, the monastery of Aghtamar, Bayazid, and Shabin Karahisar. In 1911 he moved to Constantinople, where he was admitted to the Faculty of Humanities of the Higher Pedagogical Institute, which merged with the homonymous faculty of Istanbul University. He graduated in 1915 with honors and went to work as a teacher at Galatasaray College from 1915 to 1917.  Safrastyan joined the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in his youth and after World War I was the head of the party organization in Constantinople for a short while. 

Safrastyan and his family were forced to flee to Armenia in 1919. He was elected to the parliament of the first Republic of Armenia as a representative from Western Armenia between August 1919 and December 1920. 

After the Sovietization, he moved to Tiflis (Tbilisi) and devoted himself to scholarship. In the 1920s he contributed to the creation of the Latin-based Azerbaijani alphabet. He also contributed to newspapers in the Azerbaijani language published in Tiflis. He taught at the Communist University of Transcaucasia (1924-1935), the Azerbaijani Technicum (1926-1935), and the Armenian and Azerbaijani sections of the State Pedagogical Institute (1937-1947). He also extensively researched in the Ottoman and Turkish field, and defender his first Ph.D. dissertation in 1948, “History of the Construction of Railway Transportation in Turkey.” However, he was a victim of Stalinist repression and was exiled to Siberia from 1949-1955 with his family.  

After returning from exile, he moved to Yerevan and became a senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences (1958-1966), establishing the foundations of Ottoman Studies in Armenia. He translated and compiled four volumes of Ottoman sources about Armenia (1961, 1964, 1967, 1972). He passed away on June 12, 1966. His grandson Ruben Safrastyan, a noted scholar in Turkish Studies and full member of the Academy of Sciences, was the director of the Institute of Oriental Studies from 20062020.