Scholar Uncovers Letters of Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan in Zohrab Collection

Professor Roberta Ervine peruses the archives of Ms. Srpouhie Essefian in the Zohrab Center.
Professor Roberta Ervine peruses the archives of Ms. Srpouhie Essefian in the Zohrab Center.

One of the many innocuous, white boxes in a back room of the Zohrab Center holds dozens of personal letters from the 1950’s and 1960’s, correspondence between the late Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan and Srpouhie-Anna Essefian. The letters were recently uncovered by Dr. Roberta Ervine, Professor of Armenian Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, who published a volume containing texts and English translations of Nersoyan’s letters that the former Jerusalem Patriarch-elect and Primate of the Eastern Diocese bequeathed to the Seminary upon his death in 1991.

2013-03 TANLetterMs. Essefian, who worked for twenty-two years in the United States Information Agency in Washington, DC, was active not only in St. Mary Armenian Church there, but also in the New York area. She served for a number of years in the Armenian Educational League in Brooklyn and was active in the mid-twentieth century Armenian life of New York City. In later years she took a degree in history at Georgetown University, writing a dissertation, entitled, Medieval Monarchies of Armenia. Her archives, containing several dozen letters, photographs, personal memorabilia, newspaper clippings, research notes and a diary, are housed in the Zohrab Center. The documents include a personal letter from His Holiness Vazken I, the late Catholicos of All Armenians; and a personal telegram from President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The correspondence between Ms. Essefian and Nersoyan, whom she had first met in the 30’s, span a period when the Archbishop was residing in Jerusalem and later in New York City. The congenial letters concern the affairs of the Armenian community in Washington DC and specific issues connected with Ms. Essefian’s ongoing armenological studies and research. Most interesting are allusions in the Archbishop’s letters to the situation of the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem, which gravely concerned him.

Dr. Ervine is continuing her study of these and other letters of the late Archbishop, which she plans to publish in a second volume of his writings.

Dozens of other archival collections in the Zohrab Center await exploration and scholarly study.

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