The Suni Project: Music Preservation

Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939)

1723 Wells | Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3601 USA | (734) 996-1949 |

Armenian Language

One of our goals is to help people learn to read Armenian.

Armenian Alphabet

Armenian Alphabet Confusing Letters (PDF)

View Suni Project’s Armenian Alphabet Transliteration System >> It is designed to show how to pronounce the sounds of the Armenian language. [To view a clearer version, download our 1997 CD Booklet in PDF format where you will find the transliteration system on pages 18 and 19]

About transliterations >>

The Suni Project has chosen a transliteration system to help the reader and singer pronounce the sounds of the Armenian language. However, we are providing, also, the Library of Congress 1983 transliteration system as a reference. View the Library of Congress 1983 transliteration system >>

Selected Glossary

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Georgian Alphabet

Georgian Alphabet (PDF) for comparison with Armenian alphabet.


Armenian Rug

Armenian Gendje

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Caucasian Armenian rug made in 1914 in Gendje, in Grikor Mirzaian Suni’s home region. Remarkable for the colors, rhythm, design, and themes. This image can be found on page 25 of the catalogue, “Armenian Rugs: The Gregorian Collection”, The University of Michigan, Rackham Galleries, February 4-18, 1983.

Armenian Rug Replica

Weaver, Dale Johnson of Santa Cruz, California, has woven a replica of the previously pictured Caucasian Armenian Gendje rug. The replica was completed as of November 2003! Dale Johnson is a retired professor of Chinese language and literature.

The Armenian inscription, shown in the below right image, says:

2003 year Armena Ron Siuni

Professor Johnson has woven this rug for Armena Marderosian and Ron Suny as a 2003 replica of the antique (1914) rug.


Armenian Art

Mount Ararat by Martiros Sarian

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Mount Ararat, also called by Armenians “Medz Massis” (Big Peak) and “Pokr Massis” (Little Peak), or “Massis”, as seen from the east.

Painted by Martiros Saryan (born 1880), a contemporary of Grikor Mirzaian Suni.


Illustration by Grikor Suni

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Illustration by Grikor Mirzaian Suni.



Suni chorus, Chicago 1930’s

Grikor Mirzaian Suni in Chicago 1930’s with his Suni Chorus with Orchestra. This photo a gift of Caren Meghreblian whose grandparents, survivors of the Ottoman Turkish WWI genocide of its Armenian subjects, settled in Chicago. They are in the chorus: Her grandmother Louise Kazian Messigian is in the 2nd row, third from left (with a fluffy collar). Her grandfather Messia Messigian is in the shadow above and to her left. Caren Meghreblian’s mother, Dorothy Messigian Meghreblian, then age five, now recalls sitting on Suni’s lap after a concert and singing for Suni his harvest song “Hoontz”. We would like to learn more about this.

Photo with Grikor Suni in the midst of his Chicago Suni chorus with orchestra, 1930’s. Anyone with more information about this or other Suni concerts, please contact us

Photos from the archive of Gourgen (George) Suny and Arax (Kesdekian) Suny. 2006 Broomall, Pennsylvania



Photos from the book: “Grikor M. Suni: Musician and Man”


“Grikor M. Suni: Musician and Man”

Grikor M. Suni: Yerazhshtagetu yev Mardu,1943, Philadelphia hardback red book in Armenian, 409 pages:
“Grikor M. Suni: Musician and Man” by Hagop Kouyoumjian, who was a musicology student of Suni.

Photos, Musical Scores and Documents (PDF, 8MB) from the book (75 images in order).

View a scan of this book from the archive at University of Michigan Dearborn
View a scan of this book from the archive at UCLA



“Renaissance of Van – Vasburagan Golden Age of Culture”

Veradznoont Van – Vasburagani Mshagootyani Vosgetar 1850 – 1950 by Levon Kazanjian
Foreword by Samuel H. Toumaian Printed by Toumaian Brothers Boston 1950

View a scan of this book from the archive at UCLA

Photo of Prapion Kazanjian (featured on the inside cover of the book)

“Achan” Prapion Kazanjian (Shakarian)
(November 1876 – January 1950) Wife of author Levon Kazanjian “From the Lamented One”
(poem by Prapion Kazanjian shared by Levon Kazanjian)

All buildings beautiful, all faces happy and lovely,
There was a sweet unity there, and true peace.
Real peace, when the house is full of love.

A simple hut, but full of happiness, free of evil harm,
See a garden of fragrant flowers, like a cool paradise.
Life is tranquil and secure when the heart is full of love.

About the book: Renaissance of Van – Vasburagan Golden Age of Culture
Veradznoont Van – Vasburagani
  Mshagootyani Vosgetar
    1850 – 1950
  by Levon Kazanjian
Foreword by Samuel H. Toumaian
  Printed by Toumaian Brothers
    Boston 1950
    325 pages paperback with 20 images

The city and region of Van – Vasburagan of Historic Armenia has long cultural history, going back 3000 years. Levon Kazanjian focuses here on two golden ages of culture of his native city of Van, the fifth century, and on 1850-1950.
Levon Kazanjian writes: “The Armenian nation, in the fifth century, had its intellectual Golden Age, thanks to the beloved Catholicos St. Sahag, to the creator of the Armenian alphabet St. Mesrop vartabed, and to the encouraging action of the erudite king Vramshabuh, as well as the scholarly vartabeds of the times, Eznig Goghpatsi, Yeghishe, Khorenatsi, and others. After many centuries we shall pause to bring to light the birth in the 19th century of another Golden Age, which began in 1850 and continued until the tragedy of 1911 (sic) [1915 is the correct date] . . . It was then that those of our literary people who survived, spread out into foreign lands where they continued their magnificent work, and on bequeathing their work to their successors, passed on. Yes, it is the work of these that motivates us to record what we have been able to gather, to blend them together with their predecessors to complete our one-century story to 1950.

About Levon Kazanjian (Van 1868 – Boston 1950), author, teacher, nurse
Levon Kazanjian was active in education in the life of his home city of Van in historic Armenia, and in the life of Armenians through his reach in the Armenian world, including trips from Van to America, and finally moving to Boston with his family. Levon Kazanjian was a writer, and published articles in Armenian language press. * He wrote this book, in Boston, about the cultural history and people of Van – Vasburagan region without including a section about himself. In various places through the book he mentions his own involvement, but modestly refers to himself in own book mostly only as “the writer of these lines” or “this writer”, in Armenian transliteration as “dogherus krogh” [mu lines’ writer].
[*not to be confused with a younger writer for the Armenian press, married to compose Grikor Mirzaian Suni’s daughter Siran,
Levon Kazanjian (1889 Arabkir-1982 Philadelphia].
We wish to add him to his own list of cultural activists who passionately cared about Armenian education, history, affairs, and health. He was in contact with many like himself, and he traveled quite widely. In Van, he was active as a teacher of Armenian history, language and folk songs. In America he also studied medicine, and worked at Massachusetts General Hospital as a nurse. (His second of five living children, Vanouhi, also worked there 1929-1939 as secretary in medical records). To help Armenians further their knowledge of the science of health, he translated into Armenian the important popular science book “Microbe Hunters”, authored by Paul de Kruif in 1926.
Levon Kazanjian was active in the Van – Vasburagan group in the US. Their journal is “Varak” named after Varak Monastery which still exists in Turkey near Van city.I n 1946 in Bronx, New York, Antranig Shahinian filmed Levon Kazanjian dancing with several Vanetsi men at an annual picnic Van – Vasburagan meeting. This 2-minute film is on our website
Levon and Prapion Kazanjian are buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Boston.

More Books


Boston Concert – May 18, 1924, Jordan Hall

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Armenia and the Caucasus

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This map shows the location of Mount Aragats (Alagyaz, Alakyaz) northwest of the city of Yerevan, the title of a Suni song. It shows Mount Ararat, southwest of the city of Yerevan, also called Medz Massis (Big Peak) and Pokr Massis (Little Peak), or just Massis. “L” stands for Ler which means mountain, e.g. Ararat L., Aragats L. The Black Sea is at left. The Caspian Sea is at right. Lake Sevan is lower center. Lake Van is lower left. Lake Urmia is lower right.

The map can be found on page 6 of Haikakan SSR Atlas (Armenian SSR Atlas). Yerevan – Moscow, 1961.

Armenian map (1917-1921)

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This map shows Armenia in the period of the Russian Revolution, the independent Armenian republic, and the establishment of Soviet power (1917-1921). The Black Sea is upper left. Lake Sevan is on the right. Lake Van is lower middle. Lake Urmia is lower right.

The map can be found on page 108 of Haikakan SSR Atlas (Armenian SSR Atlas). Yerevan – Moscow, 1961.

Mountains of Bingyol and Sipan

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This English language map is an excerpt of map # 193 (The Villayets of Bitlis), on page 204 of Robert H. Hewsen’s “Armenia: A Historical Atlas.” University of Chicago Press. Chicago, 2001.

It shows the location of Bingyol Mountain (south of the city of Erzurum) and Mount Sipan (north of Lake Van), among the mountains mentioned in Suni’s songs.

Armenia and the Middle East (1878-1914)

Many Armenian Americans have heard of the villages and towns their ancestors came from but don’t know where they are. The immigrants would identify themselves by their place of origin. Societies were formed and still exist, such as the Armenians from Istanbul and from Van, even with their own journals. The Van journal is called Varak after the monastery near the city of Van and Lake Van.

In Armenian:

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In English:

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News Articles

The Biography of Grikor Suni

Printed in The Armenian Reporter International, Fresh Meadows, New York, November 28, 1998, pages 12-13.

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Dancing Vanetsi’s Video and Explanation

Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939) collected Armenian folk songs and legends of many regions including the Van region which inspired his orchestral suite “Sketches of Van” and his choral/orchestral work “Zinch oo Zinch”. These works can be heard on the Suni Project CD “Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939): Archival Concert recordings (1935?, 1940, 1971)”.

Dancing Vanetsi’s [a 2-minute video]

Armenian dancers from the city of Van, Armenia filmed in 1946 in New York by Antranig Shahinian. Among the 8 dancers are Andy’s dad Vagharshag and, the eldest, Levon Kazanjian.

If you know any of these people or can identify #7 and #8, as explained below, we’d be grateful if you contact us!

Dancing Vanetsis

Viewing tip: You may need to download the free Quicktime player to view the video.

Explanation of the above Dancing Vanetsis video

Written by Armena Marderosian, The Suni Project: Music Preservation, 1723 Wells St., Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104-3601 T: 734-996-1949

Written on October 30, 2003

“Dancing Vanetsi’s”

2-minute 1946 documentary film by Antranig (Andy) Shahinian (age 28) of exuberant folk dancing of immigrant Armenian men from the Armenian city of Van, at the annual meeting of their organization of Armenians form Van, made on a nice spring day, in his backyard at 2017 Muliner Ave, Bronx, New York, with a 16 mm box-type movie camera (bought for $15).

The dancers are:

  1. Levon Kazanjian (curly hair, unbuttoned suit jacket, thin, short, the eldest-age 75) dancing with friends from Van, generally has the lead as they gave a lot of respect to him, for his age,
  2. Vagharshag Shahinian (Andy’s dad, wearing suspenders and on the observers’ right of Levon Kazanjian in the first dance),
  3. Aram Arsenian (full of fun, first seen lying down, white shirt, spotted tie, white shoes, great dancer, Andy’s maternal cousin, whose (great?) grandfather in the Armenian city of Van, built in 1790 Soorp Boghos Bedros Church-St. Peter & Paul- which was destroyed in 1915 as part of the Ottoman Turkish Genocide of its Armenian subjects, along with the entire city of Van),
  4. Hrahad Haroutunian (dark unbuttoned vest and tie on white shirt, no jacket, very smily),
  5. Levon Khatchaturian (dark neat buttoned suit, bald. Great dancer. Son is called Levon Dickran),
  6. Haig Tokmakian (dark vest, tie, short, white hair, glasses, seen at end right. Andy’s cousin, lived to be 107)
  7. Man from Boston striped tie, light colored jacket, balding Who is he?
  8. Man in dark suit with tie or shirt showing at his waist danced near beginning, not at end. Who?

The dance scene starts with Aram on the ground. (The earlier shots are from another event)

Andy (or his mother Shoushanig -Arsenian- Tuhafjian Shahinian) was singing folk songs of Van (“Vanetsi” songs) to which the men were dancing. The first dance is a Shoorj Bar (round dance)”. The second dance (slow) is “Dal Dalla” in 5/8 time. The last (fast) dance is “Papori” .

We made a tape in 2002 of Andy singing and explaining these songs, to be put on this website later.

This video was received by a grandchild (one of four granddaughters and two grandsons) of Levon Kazanjian (1870, Van-1950 Boston): Armena Marderosian, in May 2002 from Antranig (Andy) Shahinian. Andy’s family was also from Van, Armenia and they were friends with Van immigrants Levon and Prapion Shakarian Kazanjian (1880-1950).

Levon Kazanjian was born in Van, Armenia in 1868, and died in Boston in 1951. His wife, Prapion Shakarian, was born in Van in 1876, and died in Boston in 1950. Levon first came to Boston in 1891, before the 1894-96 massacres of Armenians ordered by the Ottoman Turkish ruler Abdul Hamid II. Levon went back and forth to Van, finally moved to Boston with his family, ca. 1905. Levon Kazanjian had medical training and was employed as a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was called “Doctor Kazanjian” by the Armenians for his medical knowledge and for helping the community. He was also a writer. Levon Kazanjian wrote in Armenian a book about the cultural life of the city of Van, Armenia, “Renaissance: Van-Vaspooragan (1850-1950) Cultural Golden Age”, published in Boston in 1950, called “Veratsnoond: Van Vaspooragan (1850-1950) Mshakootayeen Voskedar”. It includes cultural history of the Van region of Historic Armenia (eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus mostly,(areas now in Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, and Iran) short essays about various notable cultural figures and their patriotic activities. In 2003, Arra Avakian has translated this book into English. We plan to add it to this website.

Levon Kazanjian also made an Armenian translation of “Microbe Hunters”, a very popular 1926 science book about microbiology and medicine (germ theory) written by scientist Paul de Kruif (Harcourt and Brace). We wonder who might have a copy of Levon’s translation of this book which we don’t have. Levon Kazanjian, living in Boston, wrote regularly for Armenian newspapers, including for Lraper (of the Harachdemagan Armenian political party, pro-Soviet Armenia), and probably for Baikar newspaper (also pro-Armenia). (Another Levon Kazanjian, unrelated, younger, also wrote for these periodicals from Philadelphia. He was the husband of Siran Suni Kazanjian, who was Grikor Mirzaian Suni’s eldest daughter.) Our Boston Levon Kazanjian also wrote for Varak, a Vanetsi periodical named after the monastery Varakavank on the island of Akhtamar in Lake Van. The famous Armenian priest/leader Khrimian Hairig had his headquarters at that monastery in the late 1800’s when Armenians were starting to resist the Ottoman oppression.

Levon and Prapion had five children: Van, Vanouhi, Vartan, Vahe, and Vartouhi, all “V” names, named after their ancestral city of Van. They had six grandchildren: two girls and a boy each from Vanouhi and from Vartan.

Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939) collected Armenian folk songs and legends of many regions including the Van region which inspired his orchestral suite “Sketches of Van” and his choral/orchestral work “Zinch oo Zinch”. These works can be heard on the Suni Project CD “Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939): Archival Concert recordings (1935?, 1940, 1971)”.