HAYASART

a source on Armenian Art

Press Conference on the upkeep of historic monuments in Armenia


This interesting news item just appeared on the culturally alert Hetq.am site.
Reporting on the press conference held by Stepan Nalbandian, co-director of the ‘Association of Armenian Historical Monuments Architects’, the article goes on to describe in Nalbandian’s words the terrible condition of most of the historic monuments in Armenia. The issue of regular up-keep of these sites presents constant problems, as unlike Europe or even Middle-East, most of these monuments are very far from urban centers (such as the churches and monasteries) are often extremely difficult to access (try getting to Tatev monastery or Khndzoresk village in winter) and are more often than not, impossible to “use”.
The issue is not unique to Armenia of course, as most countries with a rich heritage face an ever-growing challenge to maintain and preserve it. But the fact that enormously significant monuments such as Sanahin, which is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, is almost totally left to the folly of natural elements and the ignorant vandals… this fact is simply beyond comprehension.
Sanahin is not nearly as isolated as Tatev or most of the other churches. It’s about two hours drive from Yerevan, is right next to a very large village, is a significant tourist attraction with thousands of visitors every year… thus the cruel neglect inflicted upon this truly breathtaking complex speaks to me of a much bigger, insidious problem. And this problem is the general indifference of the Armenian people towards the material remnants of their history and the cultural heritage of their ancestors. The utter lack of respect by today’s generation of Armenians is reflected everywhere – in the detached cultural potpourri of Yerevan’s bazaar-like ‘New’ architecture, the presence of enormous rubbish heaps in churches, graveyards and archaeological sites such as Shengavit and Armavir, the idiotic ‘mementoes’ carved or painted on ancient stones by ‘appreciative’ tourists and the ironic rust that eats away the metal plaques that read ‘Protected by the Government’ put up during the 60s and 70s…
For a country relying so much on its ancient culture as a cornerstone of its international fa├žade, this situation is clearly beyond ludicrous. Solutions that are realistic, achievable (even in the economically challenged Armenia) and sustainable do exist. Implementing them is an entirely different matter. First and foremost Armenia lacks the nexus of passionate individuals (with the exception of the few lone renagades such as Samvel Karapetian of RAA) who can come together and help educate the masses at large about their responsibility not only to their past but also their future.
In a future series of articles we will look at a number of historical sites in Armenia and broadly analyse the various avenues of their maintenance and development. The first of these will be a look at the incredible cultural strata of the northern city of Talin. Meanwhile, if you can read Armenian, take a look at the article here...

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