In 450 AD, one year before the famous Battle of Vartanantz, General Vartan Mamigonian led his troops to the region of Kazakh to defend Christian Armenia against the Zoroastrian Persians. After defeating the Persians, Mamigonian led his troops back home and along the way stopped in an area today known as Aknaghbyur, Armenia. Exhausted, hungry, thirsty and tending to their wounded, they amassed by a spring, later known as Vartan’s Spring.
This rare photograph from 1959 shows Armenians in the border village of Aknaghbyur with an Oak Tree planted by General Vartan Mamigonian more than 1,500 years ago
At this moment, Vartan Mamigonian performed a notable act. He planted an acorn to celebrate the recent victory. This deed represented his unwavering commitment to a free and prosperous Armenia. It symbolized the hope that lies within all Armenians who believe in the future of our homeland. Vartan Mamigonian, who was politically savvy, knew that the odds for Armenia were grim, and as a soldier, he must have also known that he would not live long enough to see that acorn turn into an oak tree.
That acorn did turn into a mighty oak and survived for more than 1,500 years before it was struck down by lightning in 1960. Vartan Mamigonian’s Oak Tree is a legend in Armenia and people travel from all over the world to pay respects to what is now an outdoor shrine. For generations, Armenians would travel to what is now the village of Aknaghbyur and drink from Vartan’s Spring and pray next to Vartan’s Tree. They did so for strength in battle, to heal the sick, to pay homage to Vartan Mamigonian and to hope for a better Armenia.
Today, the remnants of Vartan’s Tree remain for all to see. A khachkar and a small church border his tree. Marshal Hovannes Baghramian visited the site in 1976 and planted three new oaks. They now reach for the sky in the same way that Vartan’s Oak did.