Journey to Ararat

Journey to Ararat

Translated by William Desborough Cooley
With a new critical introduction by Pietro A. Shakarian
London: Gomidas Institute, 2016,
xxx + 312 pages,
maps and woodcuts,
ISBN 978-1-909382-24-4, paperback,
Price: UK£22.00 / US$30.00

Free large format map of Circassia Georgia and Armenia for regular orders sent directly to

"Journey to Ararat is a gripping survey of the Russian Empire in the first half of the 19th century. This extraordinary account chronicles the conquest of Mount Ararat – the most important mountain of the Christian world – in the autumn of 1829 by Friedrich Parrot and Khachatur Abovian.” 
   –Dr. Erki Tammiksaar, Senior Research Fellow in the History of Geography at the University of Tartu and Director of the Centre for Science Studies of the Estonian University of Life Sciences, Tartu, Estonia

"Parrot’s Journey to Ararat is a very significant text not only because it documents the author’s ascent of Mount Ararat with Khachatur Abovian, but also because it includes valuable geological-scientific information of the mountain and its vicinity.”
       –Vahram Kosakyan, Director of the Khachatur Abovian House-Museum, Yerevan, Armenia

"Friedrich Parrot’s expedition to Mount Ararat still has an important place in the cultural history of Estonia. However, it is even more significant for Armenians, whose son Khachatur Abovian became an enlightener of his own people through the accidental meeting with Parrot.”
     –Riho Västrik, filmmaker and director of the documentary Journey to Ararat (2011)

In February 1828, the Russian Empire annexed the historical Armenian province of Erivan (Yerevan) from Persia. The province included Mount Ararat, a symbol of Armenian national and spiritual identity, said to be the resting place of Noah’s Ark. The mountain had never before been scaled in recorded history. Explorer Friedrich Parrot of the University of Dorpat (now Tartu, Estonia) decided to take on the challenge of climbing Ararat. In 1829, he traveled to the Caucasus with an expeditionary team. Accompanied by Armenian writer Khachatur Abovian, he eventually reached the summit of the mountain. His memoir of the expedition, Journey to Ararat, was later published in German in 1834 and translated into English by William Desborough Cooley and printed in the United States in 1846.

The content of Parrot’s account is not just limited to Armenia and Mount Ararat.  It also contains plenty of fascinating insights on the broader region in the late 1820s.  These include impressions of Georgia, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Kalmykia, eastern Ukraine, central Russia, and the German colonies of Transcaucasia.

This new edition of the Cooley translation includes a critical introduction by Pietro A. Shakarian, new maps, and historical documents from Estonia and Armenia related to Parrot’s expedition.  It also includes illustrations from the original English translation of Parrot's book, reproduced with the assistance of the Cleveland Public Library’s John G. White Special Collection of Folklore, Orientalia and Chess and Digital Public Library. All of these new and restored elements provide a fresh look and understanding of Parrot’s 1829 expedition to the Holy Mountain.  The text itself is an engaging and often informative travel memoir of 19th century Russian Armenia and Transcaucasia.


Friedrich Parrot (1792-1841) was a Baltic German naturalist and explorer.  An avid mountain climber, he is considered to be the father of Russian and Estonian mountaineering.  His most famous ascent was in 1829, when he climbed Mount Ararat with the future Armenian writer, Khachatur Abovian.  Parrot was the son of Georg Friedrich Parrot, a reform-minded educator, friend of Tsar Alexander I, and the first rector of the University of Dorpat (now Tartu, Estonia).

William Desborough Cooley (1795?-1883) was an Irish geographer born in Dublin, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), and a specialist in African geography.  Along with several other scholars, Cooley co-founded the Hakluyt Society in London, dedicated to publishing primary accounts of voyages and expeditions as well as other historical and geographic materials.

Pietro A. Shakarian is a PhD Candidate in Russian History at The Ohio State University in Columbus.  He earned his MA in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His primary interest is the history of Russia and the former USSR, with a specific academic focus on the Caucasus, particularly Armenia and Georgia.  He has written analyses on developments in Russia and the former Soviet space for The Nation, Russia Direct, and Hetq Online.

« Back to books listing