By Edmond Y. Azadian
“If we have captivated other people, that has been done only through our songs,” wrote the late, modern Armenian poet, Paruyr Sevak. Indeed, our music and culture have been our only weapons of self-defense and self-preservation, as well as the means to influence non-Armenians. Although our great revolutionary novelist Raffy had lamented that we could become a great nation had we tempered swords rather than chalices and had we built fortresses instead of churches and cathedrals, the historic truth is that Armenians have survived through their culture, by choice or by default and today no alternative is left for us. We need to know our culture, present it to the world and win appropriate recognition for its richness.
We have been too slow in showcasing our cultural heritage to the world, of course, partly because circumstances have not always been in our favor.
Perhaps our enemies have been more alert to grasp the value of the Armenian culture and that is why they have targeted the creators of that culture. The first task of Talaat Pasha was to exterminate the Armenian intellectuals. And today, Talaat’s successors, the Azeris have been destroying with the same zeal the Armenian khachkars of Julfa, unique expressions and relics of Armenian culture.
Recent international recognitions have come to drive home that our ancestors have created and willed to us cultural and scientific legacy of global significance. A case in point, UNESCO’s decision to award Melina Mercouri International prize for safeguarding and management of cultural landscapes to the “Garni Preserve Museum.” The prize will be shared with the village of Batir in Palestine.
Garni is one of the best-preserved Hellenistic monuments in the world. At one time in history, Armenia was under the influence of Hellenistic culture. Our nation absorbed and preserved the finest traditions of that culture. Even several manuscripts of philosophy, which were lost forever for the world culture, were preserved in Armenian translation and were thus returned to the world.