Krapar & Kini

Frequently Asked Questions
Հարցք հարցանեալ յոլովակի

What is Krapar?

The word grabar (գրա­բար) means “literary”, from the root words գիր, “letter” or “character”, and բար, “manner” or “custom”. Krapar is the old or Clas­sical form of the Arme­nian language, and was the literary language used from 405 a.d., upon the invention of the Arme­nian alphabet by St. Mes­rop Mash­tots‘ (Մես­րոբ Մաշ­տոց), through the early 19th century. It remains the liturgical language used by the Arme­nian Church today.

The use of Krapar can be divided into two principal periods: Clas­sical Arme­nian (strictly speaking), from the 5th to 12th century, and Middle Arme­nian, from the 12th to 17th century. The Clas­sical Arme­nian period can be further subdivided into the so-called Golden Age of the 5th century, the Post-Clas­sical period of the 6th to 8th century, and the Pre-Middle period of the 8th to 12th century. In the Middle Arme­nian period which followed, Arme­nian authors sought to emulate the style of the Golden Age of Clas­sical Arme­nian. In the 17th century, Middle Arme­nian evolved into Modern Arme­nian and split into its Eastern and Western varieties, although Krapar was still used for literature until the early 19th century.

During the heyday of Krapar, the Bible and a number of works in Syriac1 or Greek were translated into Armenian.2 Many of these works were theological, including those of early Church Fathers such as Euse­bius of Emesa, St. Athan­asius of Alex­andria, St. Eph­rem of Nisibis, St. Evag­rius of Pon­tus, St. Cyril of Alex­and­ria, St. John Chryso­stom, and St. Gregory Nazian­zenus. Secular works were translated as well, including those of Aris­totle, Pseudo-Callis­thenes, Dio­nysius Thrax, Dio­dorus Siculus, and Por­phyry. Some of these Greek and Syriac works became lost over time in their original language, and only survived through the ages in their Arme­nian translations.

A great treasure trove of original theological and secular texts (գիրք) were written in Krapar. Among the theological works are:

Some of the secular works in Krapar include:

What is Kini?

Gini (գինի) is the Arme­nian word for “wine”, which has a probable etymological origin in the Proto-Indo-Euro­pean word *u̯éi̯h1-on-.3 Not only is the word itself ancient, but wine in Armenia is ancient as well—the Caucasus region is considered to be the historical cradle of winemaking. In fact, the world’s oldest archeological evidence of wine production, dated to approx. 6,100 years ago and consisting of a wine press and fermentation vat, was recently discovered in the Areni-1 (Արենի-1) cave complex in the Vayots‘ Dzor (Վայոց Ձոր) region of Armenia. The Bible is replete with references to vineyards or wine, and some form of the word գինի occurs in the Arme­nian Bible more than 250 times, including this cheerful exhortation from the Old Testament: Եւ ա՛րբ սրտիւ զուար­ճաց­ելով զգինի քո, “and drink your wine with a joyful heart” (Eccl. 9:7).

If this is Krapar & Kini, why did you use the words grabar and gini above?

This website typically uses the Library of Congress transliteration system, which is based on the phonetic values of Clas­sical or Eastern Armenian, and is often used in English-language academic texts. On occasion, Western Arme­nian will be used for certain commonly-known words, such as Badarak and sharagan.

What happens during a Krapar & Kini session?

In advance of the session, the Zohrab host will send the Krapar text to the K&K email group, along with any introductory material prepared by the presenter. While there is no set format to the session itself, the presenter will usually begin by providing background information about the text and its author, if known. The session attendees will then read the text in Armenian, translate it into English, and discuss its meaning, with the input and assistance of the presenter and host. The discussions are very informal, and participants are free to interject with questions or comments at any time. After the session, a written translation of the text (if made by the presenter) will be emailed to the K&K group, and posted on the Sessions page.

How long does a session last?

A typical Krapar & Kini session usually lasts about an hour. Some go longer, based on the degree of participation and discussion by the attendees. If you have a time constraint, you can leave the session at any time.

I don’t speak any Armenian, and don’t even know the alphabet. Would I be wasting my time with Krapar & Kini?

It would absolutely not be a waste of time. Even though the texts are read in Armenian, they are translated and discussed in English. And if you don’t know the Arme­nian alphabet, perhaps this could be an opportune time learn it.

Does Krapar & Kini teach Classical Armenian?

The intent of Krapar & Kini is not to teach Clas­sical Armenian, but to expose people the splendid body of texts in written in the language. From time to time, however, brief presentations relating to a particular aspect of grabar are made during a session. In addition, informative language topics can be found on the Resources page.

Are the Zoom sessions recorded?

Yes, the sessions are recorded. The videos are posted on the Zohrab YouTube channel, so that they can be viewed by those who were unable to attend the live session. If you have concerns about privacy, you can always join the Zoom session with you webcam turned off, and use a pseudonym for your display name.

Do people actually drink wine during the session?

Since Krapar & Kini is intended to be informative and social, some participants enjoy a glass of wine, or another beverage of choice, during the sessions.

What if I have more questions?

Just send us an email, and we’ll answer you as soon as we can.

This sounds very interesting. How do I join the next session?

Contact the Zohrab Information Center by email, and they’ll add you to the K&K mailing list for meeting details (Zoom link, ID, password). We look forward to seeing you.

1 Syriac is the literary language that arose from the Aramaic dialect of the region of Edessa (Ուռհա, Uṙha) and Nisibis (Մծբին, Mtsbin), which became the liturgical language of Syrian church.

2 The Arme­nian Bible was originally translated from the Syriac Bible and later re-translated from the Greek Bible The Arme­nian Bible is unique among those based on the Greek, since it contains some elements of the earlier translation from the Syriac.

3 Proto-Indo-European (PEI) is the theorized common ancestor of the Indo-European (IE) language family, of which Arme­nian is an independent branch. PEI is believed to have been spoken from the 4th or 5th to the 3rd millenium b.c., in the Pontic-Caspian steppe (the northern shores of the Black Sea to the northern area around the Caspian Sea). Since there is no historical record of PEI, the linguistic features of the language have been reconstructed from documented IE languages. The reconstructed PEI word *u̯éi̯h1-on- also evolved (in different IE branches) into the Greek word οἶνος (oînos, cf. oenophile, wine-lover) and the Latin word vinum, which itself eventually evolved into the English word wine.