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The Ruins of Ani: A Photographic Journey from 1881 to the Present

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Zoom-based webinar by Joseph Malikian, Ph.D. and Steven Sim.

This event is hosted by the UCLA Promise Armenian Institute and the Armenian Film Foundation with co-sponsorship by the UCLA Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History, the UCLA Narekatsi Chair in Armenian Studies, the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies, the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), and the Ararat-Eskijian Museum. The new exhibitions “Ruins of Ani” and “Suribaya” will launch on March 10, 2023 on

Tuesday, March 7, 2023
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (Pacific Time)

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Ohannes Kurkdjian is regarded as one of the prominent Armenian photographers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is best known as the first photographer to capture images of the medieval ruins located in the ancient Armenian capital of Ani.  Ani, also called “the City of a 1001 Churches,” is situated in Turkey’s province of Kars and is adjacent to the closed border with the Republic of Armenia. Today, this revered UNESCO World Heritage site is regarded—as Heghnar Watenpaugh writes—as “so symbolic and central for Armenians as a religious and cultural site, as a national heritage symbol, and as a symbol of nationhood.”   

In this Zoom webinar, the Promise Armenian Institute marks the launch of a new digital exhibit at the Armenian Image Archive, which explores Kurkdjian’s stereoscopic images of Ani in 1881, taken over a period of five months after he was a photographer for the Russian Army. Dr. Joseph Malikian, curator of this new exhibit, will tell the story of Kurkdjian’s photographic expedition to Ani, and the opposition he encountered from the Russian authorities, who deemed the photographs of Ani as evidence of Armenian nationalism and thus a challenge to the tsar’s goal of fortifying a highly centralized, Russified state. Malikian will also discuss Kurkdjian’s relocation to Indonesia, where he immersed himself within a community that became a hub for Armenians who had immigrated to the Dutch East Indies. 

In the webinar’s second half, Steven Sim will focus on contemporary Ani. Sim is a Scottish explorer who has taken over 100,000 photos of historic Armenian artifacts and monuments. He will discuss the contemporary challenges facing the Ani site, based on his eyewitness journeys there, and to other parts of Turkey, over a 40-year period. Sim is the creator of Virtual Ani, an online exhibition of Ani photographs. He is featured in the PBS documentary, The Hidden Map, which charts his various journeys to Turkey, starting with his search for Khtzkonk Monastery in eastern Turkey. Along with filmmaker Ani Hovannisian, Sim expresses the hope that by documenting historic Armenian sites, we can encourage the preservation and recognition of Armenian culture and heritage in Turkey.


Joseph Malikian, Ph.D. is the Curator of the new Armenian Image Archive two-part exhibit: “Ohannes Kurkdjian: The Ruins of Ani” and “Ohannes Kurkdjian: Surabaya.” He is the founder of the Malikian Collection, and author of “The Armenians in the Ottoman Empire” (2011). His upcoming book is “The Krikorians on Jaffra Road: Architects of Armenian Photography in Jerusalem.” Dr. Malikian has gathered vintage images from many Armenian photographic studios, dating from the 1860s. Included in his collection are the renowned stereoscopic images of Ani by Kurkdjian. 



Steven Sim is based in Scotland, is an independent researcher with a particular interest in the architecture of historical Armenia and how recent history and politics has impacted its preservation. He has travelled extensively in Eastern Turkey since the mid-1980s, during which he has taken some 150,000 photographs of Armenian monuments and related structures.

In 1999, responding to troubling Turkish and foreign archaeological interventions at the deserted medieval city of Ani, he launched the website He has given presentations about Ani and Armenian architecture in London, Boston, Montreal, Los Angeles, and New York. 

In 2005, on behalf of Research on Armenian Architecture, he visited Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan region to assess the condition of its Armenian monuments. He was a member of the October 2006 delegation that met with Koichiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO, in Paris to protest his organisation’s inaction over the Djugha’s medieval cemetery destruction. In 2007 he contributed to a photographic exhibition in Cambridge MA about Nakhchivan’s destroyed Armenian heritage and took part in a related panel discussion event at NAASR, Belmont.

In the mid-2010s he collaborated with Ani Hovannisian on a documentary using material filmed in Turkey: at the end of 2019 The Hidden Map premiered at various film festivals and has since been broadcast on repeated occasions on PBS in North America.

Sponsor(s): The Promise Armenian Institute, Center for Near Eastern Studies, Armenian Film Foundation, UCLA Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History, UCLA Narekatsi Chair in Armenian Studies, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), Ararat-Eskijian Museum.