Mkrtich Khrimyan (Hayrig), Leader of the Armenian Liberation Movement

Mkrtich Khrimyan (Hayrig), Leader of the Armenian Liberation Movement

“Before all else, place the hope of your liberation upon yourself. Give your mind and arms strength – a person must depend on himself in order to be saved.”

Who he was

Khrimyan Hayrig was an influential figure in modern Armenian history who spoke forcefully against the endemic timidity of the subjugated Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. 

Mkrtich Khrimyan was born in Van. He was known as a skilled orator early in his life and went into priesthood as he came of age. Recognizing the condition of the Armenian communities in Western Armenia - oppression, lack of education, backwardness - he dedicated his skills and his life to its amelioration. He published a newspaper, Artsvi Vaspurakan, which served as a platform through which he would communicate is beliefs. As his voice became more prominent and resonant, his popularity grew. The diminutive “hayrig,” meaning father, was given to him by the people out of respect for his paternal attention.

His popularity did not go unnoticed. Ottoman authorities always kept a watchful eye on him and when he was elected catholicos, they did not allow him to travel through Turkey to arrive in Etchmiadzin. Once there, the tsar of Russia ordered all non-Russian churches to be shut and appropriated; Hayrig defied the tsar until the latter capitulated and rescinded the order. 

It was upon returning from the Congress of Berlin, where he was sent by the Armenian delegation to negotiate on its behalf, that he delivered his most famous speech, that of the “iron ladle.” He argued that Armenians had placed their hopes for salvation in others, rather than themselves. Hayrig used the allegory of a pot of harissa, a traditional Armenian dish, from which other countries were extracting what they wanted with iron ladles while he had been sent to secure concessions for the Armenians with nothing but a paper ladle. He thus implored Armenians to shed their timidity and become masters of their own fate. 

Hayrig’s physical, intellectual and rhetorical presence made him an imposing figure and one whose words, written or spoken, resounded widely through the Armenian world. As catholicos and thus leader of the Armenian Nation at that time, he gave authority and energy to the idea that Armenians should be free, which played no small part in their eventual liberation.

Interesting fact

Although he became catholicos, the highest ranking member of the Armenian Church and one which requires celibacy, Hayrig had a daughter. In fact, he had been married, but it was only upon the death of his wife that he took a vow of celibacy. 

Learn more about him

Mkrtich Khrimyan biography - Armenian House

Iron Ladle speech by Khrimyan Hayrig

Loving Father to All Generations - Armenian House