The Blue Mosque or the Gyoy or Gök-Jami (Turkish: Sky-blue) was the largest and most prestigious among Yerevan’s eight mosques, but also the only one remaining. All others were demolished by the 19th century tsars and the 20th century Soviet forces. The mosque derives its name from the Blue Mosque of Tabriz
in Iran because of the similarities in the enamel tiles as well as the Safavid
architectural style. Originally built by Turkish Emirs in 1179, the mosque was rebuilt in the 18th century by Persians in 1765 in the Khanate of Yerevan during the reign of Hussein Ali (the Khan of Erivan; the Mosque is also referred to as Hussein’s Mosque), adding the current arched courtyard and a “madrasah” (school for students of the Koran). The large building has 28 rooms, a library, a main prayer hall and a courtyard. In 1995 the Armenian authorities decided to renovate the Blue Mosque. Because it was thought that the renovations could properly be completed with the mastery of Iranian builders and tillers, specialists from Iran were assigned the works and eventually the Iranian authorities enthusiastically took over the renovation project (Galichian 66). Stone inscriptions on the walls were brought from Isfahan.
In 1893 the British traveler H.F.B. Lynch visits the Blue Mosque and being aware of Yerevan’s Ottoman past, he observes:
One might expect to find mosques of considerable age in the city, which flourished under the Mohammedan masters. One must, however, recollect that the Ottoman Turks are Sunnis and the Persians Shias; what the one may erect, the other loves to destroy. We are expressly told that when Shah Safi took the place in AD 1635 all the mosques built by the Turks were razed to the ground. 210-11)
To date there is a significant in number population of Muslim worshipers in Yerevan, predominantly Iranian. According to ethnographer Tsypylma Darieva, research reveals that this particular mosque complex is not an isolated worshipping site that underlines the differences between Iranian migrants and Armenian locals, “but a spatial expression of the coming together of groups of different backgrounds and of the vernacular hybridity that existed in Yerevan in the past.” (from the article abstract) In her words, despite the silencing of the Blue Mosque’s past on behalf of government officials, the physical restoration of the mosque is brings about unembodied memories of reconstructions of Yerevan’s multi-religious past.
The site is open to visitors on weekdays, and also boasts a permanent exhibition of old photos of Yerevan.