The Kelegian orphanage in Dörtyol, ca 1913 (Source: Nubarian Library, Paris)

Dörtyol - Schools

Author: Vera Sahakyan, 25/08/15 (Last modified 25/08/15)- Translator: Hrant Gadarigian

Getronagan School (Upper Tagh/District)

Artisans or the clergy were the first to spread education in Dörtyol, teaching local pupils to read and write. Some of these pioneers from the 19th century that we know of are Archpriest Minas Boranian (Keshishian), Hovhannes the Teacher (nicknamed the blind teacher; the eldest of five brothers from the Klundjian family who resettled in Dörtyol from Antioch), Mikayel the Teacher, Manoug Tenkerian, Barsam Roupinian, and others. [1]

The development of education in Dörtyol during the 1880s is partly due to the activities of the Hayots Miatsial Ungeroutiun (United Association of Armenians) [2] and especially the educational-instructional undertakings of the brother and sister team Jirair (Mardiros) and Haiganoush Boyadjian. They collaborated with another Hadjin native, Father Vahan Manougian (1844-1915), who became the principal of the newly opened school in Dörtyol after Jirair left. [3]

Orphans photographed outside the Dörtyol orphanage-school (sometime between 1919 and 1921) (Source: AGBU Nubarian Library, Paris)

The first school in Dörtyol, constructed at the same time as the diocesan building in the courtyard of the Upper District church, was launched at the initiative of the United Association in Istanbul.

For many years, the white building opposite the arch-like doorway of the church served as a school. From an educational standpoint, the institution had a number of inadequacies, including the lack of textbooks and teachers. Two teachers were sent by the United Association who, along with a few local teachers, assumed the responsibility of instructing the pupils. [4]

As a teacher and principal, Hentchak Party member Jirair Boyadjian made a great contribution to the school. With assistance from the Hntchak branch in Constantinople, Jirair obtained the needed amount of books for the school. Naturally, this was a positive development for raising the level of education. But conditions took a turn for the worse. A knife fight between Armenian and Turkish kids in Dörtyol broke out one day. Local Turkish dignitaries described the incident as the start of a revolution. As a result, Jirair was forced to leave for Yozgat. [5]

Dörtyol orphanage band and choir (July 1920) (Source: AGBU Nubarian Library, Paris)

Teaching staff of Kelegian orphanage-school (1913-1914 academic year). Seated, (from left): Levon Adjemian, Khachadour Krouzian (principal), Hrachia Krouzian. Standing: Mihran Ouzounian (Source: AGBU Nubarian Library, Paris)

Here are some of the names of Jirair’s pupils: Karnig Keokoghlanian (later a governor of the Shar District and director of the Dörtyol branch of the Régis company which had the monopoly over tobacco production), Misak Keokoghlanian (later a governor of Odjaklou), Vartkes Karayaghoubian (later a teacher at the Dörtyol National School), Ghougas Sahagian (later a teacher at the Dörtyol National School), Boghos Tghluian (later a teacher at the Dörtyol  National School), Kerovpe Keshishian (later a Turkish language teacher at the Dörtyol National and Getronagan Schools), Iskender Baghian (later the first photographer in Dörtyol), Melidos Kehyayian, Vahram Keshishian, Hadjuh Hovsep Sarkisian, Boghos Karadanian, Meroujan Kehyayian, and others. [6]

Misak Keleshian from Sis, a graduate of the Armash seminary, also taught at the school starting in 1906. Hovhannes Sayilian was the school principal when Keleshian taught there. Agheksantr Akkhacherian and Gardjigian are the names of other teachers we know of. [7]

In 1908, after the restoration of the Ottoman Constitution, many of this school’s graduates came together and launched an initiative to build a more modern two-story school in the area behind the church. [8] The former structure was turned into a pre-school and kindergarten where, due to the efforts of Zarouhie Peshdimaldjian, new teaching methods (singing, games, piano and physical education) were adopted for the youngsters. [9]

Inside the Dörtyol Kelegian orphanage-school during visit of Catholicos Sahag II (Source: AGBU Nubarian Library, Paris)

The education level of the new school corresponded to the curriculum of a secondary school. Educational life intensified after 1910. Armenag Maksoudian, a graduate of Ayntab's Central Turkey College, served as principal from 1911-1912.[10] Teaching at the Dörtyol  Central School were Zakaria Masigian (Armenian language), Zarouhie Peshdimaldjian (later Arshagouni), Dirouhie Azadian (later married Shavarsh Misakian), Madteos Yeretsian and others. [11]

Subjects taught at Dörtyol’s Central School were modern Armenian (textbook-from Roupen Zartarian’s “Meghraked” series), classical Armenian, Turkish, French, English, science, arithmetic, algebra, natural and political geography, physics, anatomy, agriculture, general world history (textbook-from A. Andonian’s “Kings” series), Ottoman history, religion, church history, bookkeeping, penmanship, drawing, singing, and physical ed. [12]

According to the memoirist Boranian, the Dörtyol Central School had two sections – one each for boys and girls. Boys numbered 800 and girls, 600. [13]

Some names of the girl graduates we know of are Azkanoush Balian, Gyulzar Balian, Khanum Balian, Yeranouhie Diarbakirian, Vartouhie Geokoghlanian, Nvart Kiuchiuk Sarkisian and Yeghisapet Barsamian.  Of these, Azkanoush Balian, Yeghisapet Barsamian and Khanum Balian would later teach in Dörtyol. [14]

Scouts of the Dörtyol Kelegian orphanage-school (Dec.1919). At the entrance to the building, standing in front row (from left): French Forces Commander (name unknown), French governor of Dörtyol, Lieutenant Séjournet, Hamazasb Panosian (coach-group leader of Armenian scouts). Photo - Levon Mgrdichian (Mersin) (Source: AGBU Nubarian Library, Paris)

The school also had a collotype student newspaper, an extensive library, and the first floor served a teachers’ meeting room. The school also accepted Armenian, as well as Greek and Turkish pupils, from communities far from Dörtyol. [15]

Arshagouhie Teotig, writing about daily life at the school, says that pupils came to school carrying textbooks and notebooks and always had an orange in their hands (Dörtyol  was famous for its orange orchards). Arshagouhie Teotig visited Dörtyol after the 1909 Armenian massacres in Adana. About the fact that pupils spoke Turkish, she writes: “All had energetic faces, active and intelligent eyes. But tragically they were unfamiliar with the mother tongue. Each boy spoke the crude Turkish of a peasant.” [16]

The first graduates of Getronagan received their diplomas in 1914. Here are some of them: Toros Abousefian (became a teacher), Karanfil Keshishian (became a teacher), Nazaret Abousefian (became a teacher), Armenag Karayaghoubian, Kevork Yapudjian (became a government censor), Dikran Akkhacherian, Boghos Der Minasian, Aris Shakulian (became editor of Aleppo Yeprad newspaper), Zakaria Kuyumdjian (became a telegraph official), and Hampartsoum Barsamian. [17]

Local benefactors assisting the school included Movses Agha Karavartanian and the Madjarian, Barsamian, Kuludjian, and Balian families. [18] With their assistance, almost all the schools operating in Dörtyol closed out the school year without debt. [19]

Orphans in the courtyard of the Dörtyol Kelegian orphanage-school (1921) (Source: AGBU Nubarian Library, Paris)

National School (Lower District)

The Lower District School, known as the Azkayin Varjaran (National School), also operated in Dörtyol. It was a secondary school and its pupils would later go on to study at the Upper District’s Getronagan Varjaran. Minas Khabrig, a memoirist of Dörtyol, studied at the Lower District School. One of the teachers was Karougian. [19] Misak Keleshian taught here in 1905. In his memoirs, Keleshian notes that the Lower District School, in terms of educational quality, trailed the Upper District School. He also writes that pupils at the Lower District School spoke Turkish and that it was during his tenure that he got youngsters speaking Armenian. He also taught Armenian songs. [20]

Dörtyol Kelegian orphanage-school viewed from the north (1921) (Source: AGBU Nubarian Library, Paris)

Dörtyol orphanage-school: Women of the assistance committee. Back row (center): Mikayel Natanian (Source: AGBU Nubarian Library, Paris)

Girls’ School

Dörtyol had two girls’ schools. One, with an enrollment of 80, was located at the far end of the Lower District. Boranian notes the names of two teachers – the sisters Dalita and Prapion (from Adana). [21]

The other school was located a few streets from the one above and had some 50 pupils. [22] From the memoirs of Minas Khabrig we get the impression that this wasn’t a common school but a music school. When Zarouhie Peshdimaldjian and Dirouhie Azadian (two graduates of the Esayan School in Istanbul) settled in Dörtyol, they organized a four part female choir and taught lyrical/love songs of Gomidas. On various occasions, the choir would make the rounds of the town, lifting the spirits of residents with their songs. This school was a temporary institution lacking various conveniences. There were plans to build a more modern school in Dörtyol but they remained on paper. The massacres and exile of Armenians in 1915 put an end to all such plans. [23]

Dörtyol Central School: Graduates of girls’ division and their teacher (1912-1913) (Source: Minas Kojayan, History of Chork-Marzban (Dörtyol, a town in Cilicia) [in Armenian], Los Angeles, 2006)

Summer Teacher Training School

On May 8, 1910, Mikayel Natanian, newly graduated from the Nancy Agricultural College in France, was sent to Cilicia by the Istanbul United Association to open agricultural schools.

The aim of the Association was to organize summer classes regarding agricultural practices to teachers and students alike. Teachers attending these classes would then teach what they learned in their own schools. The first summer school of this type was opened in Mersin, and then in the Dörtyol Kelegian orphanage. Teachers and students from all over Cilicia attended classes. The United Association covered their room and board expenses as well as transportation costs. Mikayel Natanian was the head teacher. [24]

Dörtyol Central School: Graduates of girls’ division and female pupils of higher grades (1912-1913) (Source: Minas Kojayan, History of Chork-Marzban (Dörtyol, a town in Cilicia) [in Armenian], Los Angeles, 2006)

Protestant School

There was also a school in Dörtyol operated by the Protestant community. It originally operated out of the apartment of Ignadios Geokvanesian. One of the teachers we know of is Khodja Arshag, who taught classes using Turkish. [25]

Dörtyol – 1902. National Central School graduates receive diplomas in church courtyard (Source: Minas Kojayan, History of Chork-Marzban (Dört-Yol, a town in Cilicia) [in Armenian], Los Angeles, 2006)

The Kelegian and Sisvan Orphange-Vocational School

After the 1909 Adana massacres, the first orphanage in Dörtyol was established with the aim of taking in and caring for some of the numerous orphaned Armenian children in Cilicia.

At first, Archpriest Khoren Aleksanian of the Krikor Lousavorich (Holy Savior) Church allocated his private apartment in which to operate the orphanage. Archimandrite Paren Melkonian was appointed manager of the orphanage. Around 150 orphans were given refuge. [26] Baghdasar Kalemkerian and Miss Siranoush attended to their care. The orphans then attended Dörtyol’s Upper District National School. [27]

In the beginning, the National Benevolent Union (Azkanuver) covered the costs associated with caring for the orphans. Minas Khabrig was also a ward of this orphanage. When the Benevolent Union was forced to halt its financial assistance, the orphanage management was obliged to discharge the older orphans and those with relatives from its premises. [28]

At that time, the AGBU (Armenian General Benevolent Union) decided to establish an orphanage-school in Dörtyol. Work on the project took off when AGBU member Dikran Khan Kelegian (1868-1951) visited the area and promised to cover the orphanage’s expenses. In memory of his deceased brother Kevork agha Kelegian, Dikran Khan Kelegian allocated 62,500 francs towards constructing the orphanage and vocational school. As a sign of respect, the school was named Kelegian. [29]

Dörtyol Kelegian Orphanage: Theatrical performance (1920-1921) (Source: AGBU Nubarian Library, Paris)

Under the supervision of civil engineer Arshag Tyurabian, construction on the Kelegian Orphanage was completed in 1912. Khachadour Krouzian was appointed director. The orphanage officially opened in October 1912 and cared for 65 orphans.
Boranian describes the locale of the orphanage thusly: “The orphanage is built in a southerly direction from the St. Asdvzdzadzin Mother Church, at a position looking out to the sea. It is a two story wood embellished building where Armenian orphans from various regions receive an education and learn different vocational skills.” [31]

The orphanage was built to accommodate 100 orphans. In 1913 the number of orphans reached 85. That same year, work to construct a vocational school adjacent to the building began. Garo Balian was given the job as architect. [32]

Later, the AGBU handed over the educational responsibilities of the orphanage to the United Association which, at the time, was already conducting active education programs throughout Cilicia. [33]

In 1915, the Ottoman authorities seized the orphanage and removed the orphans. Some were forcibly recruited into the military and others were sent to orphanages in Adana and Haruniye (Kharnuh). The orphanage was turned into a Turkish school.

1) Dörtyol (1919): Orphans rescued from Damascus, Homs and Hama who are sent to Dörtyol orphanage. Front row (from left) – Orphanage officials K. Hazarabedian, Khachig Ingilizian, A. Mouradian (Source: AGBU Nubarian Library, Paris)
2) Dörtyol Kelegian orphanage (1913) (Source: AGBU Nubarian Library, Paris)

After the armistice, Dörtyol and all of Cilicia fell under the control of the French military and the resettlement of Armenian survivors in the region was organized. The Kelegian orphanage was in ruins and all the furniture and furnishings had been stolen. The AGBU thus launched a program to renovate the orphanage. A group of artisans under the direction of architect H. Kaldjian was sent to Dörtyol. Dikran Khan Kelegian allocated more money to complete the job. Around 150 Armenian orphans from the Homs and Hama regions who survived the Genocide were resettled in the new orphanage in Dörtyol. [34]

The Kelegian Orphange was reopened in July 1919. Khachik Ingilizian was its first director, followed by Hovhannes Aharonian. The orphanage cared for 200 orphans.

In 1920, the AGBU set about to build a second orphanage in Dörtyol. The new orphanage was called Sisvan and H. Kranian was appointed its director. In early 1921, the two orphanages were united under one management team headed by Hmayag Oughourlian (from Kayseri). The AGBU’s program was to gather all the orphanages it operated in one central location - Dörtyol. This program was never achieved since the French military pulled out of Cilicia. All remaining Armenians followed the French, leaving their homes and native lands behind. [35]

Members of assistance delegation from Constantinople who visited affected areas after 1909 Adana massacre. Zabel Yesayan (seated) and Satenig Ohanchanian (standing) appear in the photo (Source: AGBU Nubarian Library, Paris)

  • [1] Minas Kojayan, History of Chork-Marzban (Dört-Yol, a town in Cilicia) [in Armenian], Los Angeles, 2006, p. 148. (See also Samvel Boranian, Memoirs of Djouk Marzeban, 1965, unpublished, p. 92.
  • [2] On June 1, 1880, the Arevelyan-Tbrotsasirats and Araradian Grtasirats associations unite in Constantinople and form the Hayots Miatsial Ungeroutiun. It dissolved in 1895, during the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. It re-launched in 1909 and operated until 1915.
  • [3] Kojayan, p. 148; Boranian, p. 87.
  • [4] Arshagouhie Teotig, A Month in Cilicia, Sketchy Notes [in Armenian], Constantinople, 1910, p. 170.
  • [5] Boranian, p. 97.
  • [6] Boranian, pp. 98-99.
  • [7] Misak Keleshian, Autobiography [in Armenian], Beirut, 1951, pp. 86-87.
  • [8] Minas Khabrig, If Chork-Marzban Spoke to Me [in Armenian], Beirut, 1983, p. 31.
  • [9] Ibid.
  • [10] Ibid, p. 33.
  • [11] Kojayan, p. 149.
  • [12] Ibid.
  • [13] Boranian, pp. 99-100.
  • [14] Ibid, p. 100.
  • [15] Kojayan, p. 149.
  • [16] Arshagouhie Teotig, p. 170.
  • [17] Boranian, pp. 99, 101.
  • [18] Ibid, p. 105.
  • [19] Ibid, p. 149.
  • [20] Minas Khabrig, pp. 42-43; Kojayan, p. 149.
  • [21] Keleshian, Autobiography, pp. 84-86.
  • [22] Boranian, p. 149.
  • [23] Minas Khabrig, pp. 32-33.
  • [24] Ibid.
  • [25] AGBU Golden Book, 1906-1931, Vol. 1 [in Armenian], Paris, p. 137.
  • [26] Boranian, p. 153.
  • [27] Ibid, p. 147.
  • [28] Minas Khabrig, p. 42.
  • [29] Mioutiun, Official Periodical of the AGBU, Cairo, First Year, 1912, p. 72.
  • [30] Mioutiun, 1912, p. 72.
  • [31] Boranian, p. 20.
  • [32] Mioutiun, 1913, p. 90.
  • [33] The office of the United Association was in Constantinople. It published a series of textbooks prepared by professional teachers.
  • [34] The Armenian General Benevolent Union: One Hundred Years of History, Vol. 1, 1906-1940, Paris, 2006, p. 102.
  • [35] Ibid.