By Sona Hamalian
What is wrong with us?
We Armenians love to talk about how deep the roots of our nation go, yet we often display a glaring lack of farsightedness, as an inextricable attribute of the wisdom of an ancient people. We pride ourselves on what we consider the inherent nobility of our nation, as expressed through values such as hospitality, inclusiveness, and generosity of spirit, yet we often act in utter disregard of these values, driven by greed and the petty exigencies of the ego. And we love screaming at the top of our lungs that nothing can suppress our creative spirit, even in times of extreme collective hardship, yet far too often we ignore, ostracize, or downright destroy our most accomplished, most visionary artists.
Case in point: in the past few weeks, a nasty smear campaign was unleashed in Yerevan, accompanied by threats both obvious and implied, with the express purpose of ruining just such an artist.
The story might sound banal, even boring: a certain government official is seeking to have the director of a major cultural institution removed from his post, and has come up with a bunch of fabrications to get the ball rolling – with no due process whatsoever, and relying strictly on innuendo and threats.
This is the type of clique intrigue that can take place on any given day, anywhere in the world, whether in governance, public institutions, or commerce. In fact, it’s so prevalent that we might have become rather desensitized to it. What’s unique to the case I refer to is that the government official in question is Lilit Makunts, the Minister of Culture of the Republic of Armenia — yes, the same republic which pulled off a bloodless revolution only months ago, and whose new government has inspired not just our homeland, but the entire Armenian community of the world, with an exhilarating prospect for genuine pluralism, transparency, accountability, and, above all, fairness. What’s equally unique to this case is that the artist whom the Minister is targeting happens to be one of the most accomplished and dedicated Armenian artists alive, and one who almost single-handedly has brought about the rebirth of a cherished national treasure. That artist is Constantine Orbelian, the artistic and general director of the Yerevan Opera House.