George Bournoutian (1943-2021)
Prolific and Dedicated Scholar and Friend
NAASR joins with scholars and friends all over the world in mourning the passing of an esteemed colleague, Prof. George Bournoutian. While wishing to honor his stated wishes that no outpourings of sentiment follow his death, out of respect for his enormous contributions we offer this brief appreciation and extend our deepest sympathies to his family.
George Bournoutian was born and raised in Isfahan, Iran. Over the course of a long and productive career he published more than thirty books as author or translator which have been translated into many languages, and he taught at UCLA, Columbia University, Tufts University, New York University, Rutgers, University of Connecticut, and only recently retired after many years at Iona College.
Among his publications are The Khanate of Erevan Under Qajar Rule; A Concise History of the Armenian People; The History of Vardapet Arakel of Tabriz; Two Chronicles on the History of Karabagh; The Travel Accounts of Simeon of Poland; Jambr; The 1823 Russian Survey of the Karabagh Province: A Primary Source on the Demography and Economy of Karabagh in the Early 19th Century; A Brief History of the Aghuank Region; The 1829-1832 Russian Surveys of the Khanate of Nakhichevan; and Armenia and Imperial Decline: The Yerevan Province, 1900-1914.
George Bournoutian with Nancy Kolligian and Marc Mamigonian after a lecture in 2009.
In addition to his writings, George was a prolific lecturer, giving innumerable talks including many for NAASR over the years in Belmont and all over the U.S. and Canada. He was also a world traveler and led NAASR’s first Armenian Heritage Tour in decades in 2006 to the Republic of Armenia and Historic Armenia.
In 2008, he enriched NAASR’s library immeasurably when he transferred his huge scholarly library, the Ani and George Bournoutian Collection, which has become a cornerstone of the Mardigian Library. NAASR, in turn, was proud to support his work through grants for several of his publications.
George Bournoutian with fellow 2006 NAASR Armenian Heritage Tour travelers George Krikorian, Nancy Kolligian, Judy Kolligian, Van Aroian, Mary Aroian, Bob Bejoian.
Former NAASR Chairman Nancy Kolligian recalled that George “was an outstanding scholar who electrified the room when he entered it. I will remember going to Armenia and Historic Armenia with him on our 2006 NAASR trip—we had such a great time.” Current Chairman Yervant Chekijian remembered Bournoutian as “totally committed to the honest exploration of Armenia’s history.”
NAASR Academic Director Marc Mamigonian remarked that “George was warm, opinionated, unfiltered, brilliant, hilarious, and utterly indefatigable. He was always in the middle of a book project and excited about the next one. While it is difficult to accept that there will be no next book, no one can say that George Bournoutian didn’t get the most out of life, and he leaves an incredible legacy.”
Anyone who ever met George Bournoutian or heard one of his lectures could feel his energy and boundless vitality. Those qualities will endure in his huge scholarly output, which will continue to enrich us, and in our memories of him as a friend and a scholar. He will indeed be missed.
Photo: George Bournoutian, unpacking the Ani and George Bournoutian Collection at NAASR in 2009