Nicholas Adontz

Nicholas Adontz (Armenian: Նիկողայոս Ադոնց, Nikołayos Adonc’, also spelled Adonts; Russian: Николай Адонц; January 10, 1871 – January 27, 1942) was an Armenian historian, specialist of Byzantine and Armenian studies, and philologist.[1] Adontz was the author of Armenia in the Period of Justinian, a highly influential work and landmark study on the social and political structures of early Medieval Armenia.

Nicholas Adontz
Nicholas Adontz.jpg
Born(1871-01-10)January 10, 1871
DiedJanuary 27, 1942(1942-01-27) (aged 71)
Brussels, Belgium
Alma materSaint Petersburg State University
Known for-Histoire d'Arménie (1946)
-Armenia in the Period of Justinian: the Political
Conditions based on the Naxarar System
Scientific career
FieldsByzantine studies, Armenian studies
InstitutionsRussian Academy of Sciences
InfluencesNicholas Marr
InfluencedCyril Toumanoff, Peter Charanis


Early lifeEdit

Adontz was born Nikoghayos Ter-Avetikyan (Armenian: Նիկողայոս Տեր-Ավետիքյան) in the village of Brnakot in Sisian, which was then part of the Zangezur uezd of the Elisabethpol Governorate (modern Syunik). His family traced its roots to an eighteenth-century Armenian military figure and close ally of David Bek named Ter-Avetik.[2] He graduated from a parochial school in Tatev and later studied at the Gevorkian Theological Seminary in Echmiadzin and the Russian gymnasium in Tbilisi (1892–1894).[1]

Adontz was accepted to the University of St. Petersburg and studied at the Departments of Oriental languages and History and Philology under the general direction of the renowned historian and linguist, Nicholas Marr. He learned Latin and Greek and graduated with honors in 1899. Following this, Adontz went along with Marr to Europe (Munich, Paris, London and Vienna) and the two worked together in the area of Byzantine studies until 1901.[1] In 1903, Adontz returned to the Caucasus, learning Georgian and later working at the manuscript repository in Echmiadzin.[1]

Graduate studiesEdit

Adontz wrote and defended his thesis on "Armenia in the Period of Justinian" in 1908. Adontz was appointed as the private-assistant professor at the University of St. Petersburg in 1909. He received his Ph.D and the title of professor after defending his dissertation, which was entitled "Dionysius of Thrace and his Armenian Commentaries," in 1916. In that same year, with archaeologist Ashkharbek Kalantar, he participated in the second Van archaeological expedition organized by Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences. One year later, he was appointed honorary trustee and professor at the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages in Moscow.[1]

Later lifeEdit

In 1920, Adontz left Russia and moved to London and then Paris. Adontz was invited to deliver lectures at the University of Brussels in 1930 and was appointed to the position of the head of the newly organized Department of Armenian Studies. During the Second World War, Belgium was occupied by Nazi Germany and after Adontz and the other professors refused their orders to work at another institute, the University of Brussels was shut down. Left with no salary, Adontz willed his work to Belgium's small Armenian community and died shortly thereafter in Brussels on January 27, 1942.[2]

Academic workEdit

Adontz left more than 80 monographs on the history and literature of Medieval Armenia, Armenian-Byzantine relations, Armenian-Greek philology, mythology, religion, linguistics in the Armenian, Russian and French languages.[1][2] He published his first scholarly article in the journal Handes Amsorya in 1901. Some of his other notable works include The Peasantry of Ancient Armenia, The Art of Dionysius Grammarian and his Armenian Interpretations, and Political Parties in Ancient Armenia. His Armenia in the Period of Justinian (under the full Russian title of Армения в эпоху Юстиниана: Политическое состояние на основе Нахарского строя), based on his dissertation, however, is considered to be one of the "most important achievements in Armenian studies of the 20th century."[1] In 1970, his work was published in English by Byzantine historian Nina G. Garsoïan. In another notable work, Mashtots and his Students According to Foreign Sources, Adontz placed the date of the creation of the Armenian alphabet by its founder, Mesrob Mashtots, to the years 382–392 A.D., approximately 20 years prior to the traditional given date (405).[1]

In a stark departure from his studies on ancient and medieval Armenian history, Adontz took a vested interest in the history of the Armenian Question in the immediate years following the end of the First World War and published a number of works.[3] These included two books published in English in 1918, Historical Basis of the Armenian Question and the Fall of Turkey and The Dismemberment of Turkey; two works published in Russian in the same year, Turkey's Note and Western Armenia and The Armenian Question and German Plans; and The Armenian Question at Sèvres, which was published in English in 1920.[3] He charged Western Europe for taking advantage of the Armenians' plight in the Ottoman Empire in order to increase their own influence in the region. Adontz also condemned Soviet Russia for signing the Treaty of Brest Litovsk, which effectively left Western Armenia within the borders of the Ottoman Empire.[3]

Selected publicationsEdit

  • (in French) Samuel l'Armenien, Roi des Bulgares. Bruxelles, Palais des academies, 1938, 63 p. Published also in: Etudes Armeno-Byzantines. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Distributor: Livraria Bertrand. Lisbonne, 1965.
  • Histoire d'Arménie, les origines du X-e siècle au vie (av. J.C.). Préf. de René Grousset. Paris, 1946.
  • Armenia in the Period of Justinian: the Political Conditions Based on the Naxarar System. Translated with partial revisions, a bibliographical note, and appendices by Nina G. Garsoïan. Lisbon, 1970.
  • (in French) Denys de Thrace et les commentateurs arméniens. Lisbon, 1970.
  • Mashtots and his Students According to Foreign Sources. 1925.
  • Towards the Solution to the Armenian Question. London, 1920.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h (in Armenian) Yuzbashyan, Karen. Ադոնց, Նիկողայոս Գևորգի (Adonts, Nikoghayos Gevorki). Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia. Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1974, vol. 1, p. 77.
  2. ^ a b c (in Armenian) Yuzbashyan, Karen. "Նիկողայոս Ադոնցի գիտական ժառանգությունը" ("The Intellectual Legacy of Nikoghayos Adonts"). Patma-Banasirakan Handes, № 4 (19), 1962, pp. 115-128.
  3. ^ a b c (in Armenian) Diloyan, Valter. «Ադոնց, Նիկողայոս» (Adontz, Nikoghayos). Encyclopedia of the Armenian Question. Yerevan: Yerevan State University Press, 1996, p. 10.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit