Medieval Heresy Between Armenia and Khurasan: Writing a Connected History of the Tondrakians

A lecture by Mushegh Asatryan. Organized by the Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair for Modern Armenian History [Established by the Armenian Educational Foundation].

The Tondrakians were a heretical movement with antinomian tendencies that emerged in the territory of Armenia early in the ninth century C.E. The nature of this movement and its beliefs are difficult to understand, as the sources on Tondrakian history are few and biased. What little we do know is that followers of this movement rejected the ecclesiastical hierarchy, the main teachings and rituals of the church, and called their leader a Christ.

Mushegh Asatryan’s lecture will explore the history of the emergence of the Tondrakians in the larger context of the history of heretical movements in the Middle East during the eighth and ninth centuries. While the several similarities in religious teachings do not necessarily indicate a direct borrowing, the lecture will argue that the spatial and chronological proximity of the Tondrakians to similar heresies in the Islamicate world of Iraq and Iran ― coupled with Armenia’s historic links with the region where these heresies emerged ― is more than suggestive that the two developments were indeed part of a larger “connected history.” The lecture will examine the connected nature of this history by highlighting the circulation of men and religious ideas across the porous frontiers linking Iraq and Khurasan to Armenia during the period of the Umayyad and ‘Abbāsid caliphates when Armenia was first incorporated into the larger Islamic world and even earlier when the entire region was under Sasanian rule.

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Duration: 42:33

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