Abram Yelov

The Armenians in general are called salted Armenians and the Aïsors khachagokhs. Khachagokh means literally ‘stealer of crosses’. It seems that this nickname originated as follows:
The Aïsors are known to be cunning rogues. In Transcaucasia there even exists the following definition of them: ‘Boil together seven Russians, you get one Jew; boil seven Jews, you get one Armenian; but only by boiling seven Armenians can you get one Aïsor.’

Among the Aïsors, scattered everywhere, were many priests, the majority of whom, moreover, were self-ordained—which was then easily done. Living in the environs of Mount Ararat, which marked the boundary of three countries, Russia, Turkey and Persia, and having an almost free right of passage across all the frontiers, they gave themselves out in Russia as Turkish Aïsors, in Persia as Russian Aïsors and so on.

They not only performed the church ceremonies, but traded with great success among the religious and ignorant people in all kinds of so­ called holy relics. In the depths of Russia, for instance, giving themselves out as Greek priests, in whom the Russians had great faith, they did a good business by selling things purporting to have been brought from Jerusalem, from Holy Athos, and from other holy places.

Among these relics were fragments of the true cross on which Christ was crucified, hair of the Virgin Mary, finger­nails of St. Nicholas of Myra, the tooth of Judas, which brings good luck, a piece of the horseshoe of the horse of St. George, and even the rib or skull of some great saint.

These things were bought with great reverence by naïve Christians, especially those of the Russian merchant class, and many were the relics of Aïsor priest-manufacture in the houses and innumerable churches of Holy Russia. Because of this, the Armenians, well knowing this brotherhood, nicknamed them and still now call them stealers of crosses.

As for the Armenians, on the other hand, they are called salted because they have the custom of salting a child at his birth.