Veneration of Rural Surbs in Armenia: The Transformation of Tradition

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Key words
Armenia, surb, tan surb, “folk” Christianity
Natalia V. Kryukova
About the Author
E-mail: Tel.: +7 (495) 938-18-20
6, build. 2, Miusskaya sq., Moscow, 125047, Russian Federation
MA in Social Anthropology, Lecturer, Teaching Scientific Center of Social Anthropology, Russian State University for Humanities
Date of publication

This study was supported by a grant from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the Committee on Science of the Republic of Armenia, within the framework of scholarly project No. 20–59–05004 Arm_a. Special thanks to Anait Bagdasaryan for her assistance in translation and for her valuable comments.


In rural areas of Armenia, daily religious life takes place in “surbs” — ​local shrines, domestic reliquaries, chapels and oratories. “Surb” means “saint” in Armenian; it is a complex concept that believers use to designate both a saint and the space of his veneration. Surbs can be an active or demolished church or monastery building, books, khachkars (carved stone stelae with the image of a cross), springs, trees, stones. The material form of the surb is not an object associated with the saint, bearing the seal of his holiness, as is customary in the traditional Christian cult of saints, but the saint himself. This is what makes the surb cult unique among similar cults. The arrangement of surbs and pilgrimage to revered local shrines are the most common popular expressions of the spiritual life of local people. The article examines changes in the traditional veneration of rural surbs on the basis of available historical and ethnographic sources as well as field material collected by the author in Armenia in 2016–2021.


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For citation

Kryukova N. V. Veneration of Rural Surbs in Armenia: The Transformation of Tradition. Traditional Culture. 2021. Vol. 22. No. 1. Pp. 120–133. In Russian.