Ashtarak (Armenian: Աշտարակ, meaning tower in Armenian; also Romanized as Ashtarakats Gyugh) (Persian, Arabic and Urdu: اشتاراک) is an industrial city in Armenia, on the left bank of Kasagh River along the gorge, approximately 20 km north-west of the capital Yerevan, at a height of 1110 meters above sea level. It is the administrative capital of Aragatsotn province. Ashtarak with 21,600 inhabitants, is an important crossroad of routes for the Yerevan–Gyumri–Vanadzor rectangle.
The city plays a great role in the national economy as well as the cultural life of Armenia through several industrial enterprises and cultural institutions. It has developed as a satellite town of Yerevan.
History and monuments:
Ashtarak is one of the oldest cities of Armenia with numerous historical and cultural monuments that allowed the town to retain the flavour of the ancient and beautiful Armenian town. It was founded in the 9th century and reconstructed in the 17th century.
According to a legend, three sisters lived in Ashtarak, all of whom fell in love with the same man, prince Sargis. The elder two sisters decided to commit suicide in favour of the youngest one. One wearing an apricot-orange dress and the other wearing a red dress, they threw themselves into the gorge. When the youngest sister found out, she put on a white dress and also threw herself into the gorge. Sargis then became a hermit and three small churches appeared at the edge of the gorge, named after the sisters' dress colours.
Best preserved among them is Karmravor (meaning reddish for its dome colur) church which dates back to the 7th century, and is dedicated to the Mother of God (Surb Astvatsatsin). It has a small cruciform central-plan, with a reddish/apricot colored dome, and an octagonal drum. Other churches include, Spitakavor (meaning whitish because of its colour) was built between the 5th-6th centuries, and Tsiranavor (meaning apricotish because of its colour) built between the 13th-14th centuries, both are located along the edge of the gorge. (Note: Some confusion has seemed to have occurred due to the misplacement of the Russian markers located inside the two churches. Anyone that lives in the city around the area can tell that Spitakavor is the white church, and Tsiranavor is the apricot coloured church.)The city boasts two more churches, including the church of Surb Sarkis (Saint Sargis), supposedly built in the 19th century on an old foundation. It is situated at an attractive point at a promontory overlooking the gorge and offers a fine view to the previously mentioned three churches. The outer walls of the structure were almost completely restored recently and the interior walls remain the same. Some pieces of the outer walls remain sitting next to the church with carvings on them. The town's largest church Surb Mariné is located in the center of town. It was constructed in the year 1271 and has a rectangular plan from the outside and a cruciform type plan from the inside with an octagonal drum above.Another interesting sight is an unusual bridge that crosses the Kasagh River, located in the gorge just below the church of Surb Sarkis. It was built in 1664, and features three arches that are unequal in size.
The main branches of economy are food and beverage products. The activities are focused on processing of agricultural raw materials and grapes. Ashtarak-Kat company -one of the leading producers of dairy and ice cream products in Armenia- is located near the town of Ashtarak.
Education and culture:
Ashtarak is home to 7 public education schools, 6 kindergartens and 4 art schools. Many museums and public libraries are operating in the city. The house-museum of novelist Pertch Proshian was founded in 1948 in Ashtarak, on the base of his father's house. It was restored in 2008.
Mika Football Club was founded in 1999 on the basis of the merger of Mika F.C. and Kasakh Ashtarak Under the merger, the name of the new club became Mika-Kasakh Ashtarak. However, the merger only lasted for 1 year, and starting year 2000, the two clubs separated. Kasakh Ashtarak kept its name, logo, history and statistics, while Mika settled for being a new club. This began the era of Mika F.C. Ashtarak. In 2007, Mika was relocated from Ashtarak to Yerevan.
The only stadium of the city is Kasakhi Marzik Stadium with a capacity of 3,500 spectators. The town hosts 10 sport schools for children.
Ashtarak is the birthplace of the following prominent fgures of Armenian literature:
- Pertch Proshian (1837–1907), novelist
- Smbat Shahaziz (1840–1908), poet
- Gevorg Emin (1918–1998), poet
- Vardges Petrosyan (1932–1994), playwright and novelist
- Norair Sisakian (1907–1966) Soviet Armenian biochemist, considered to be one of the founders of space biology.