Unless otherwise indicated, the articles here and in the Archive appeared on www.globalresearch.ca


A Happy Musical New Year for Dilijan Students

DILIJAN, Armenia, JANUARY 4, 2019 — Students at the State Art College of Dilijan are ringing in the New Year with music, and with brand new instruments, thanks to the initiative of the Foundation for Armenian Relief (FAR). FAR, established in 1988 as a relief effort after the earthquake, has continued to raise funds for economic, social and educational programs in Armenia and cooperates with other foundations on specific projects. One of them focuses on music education.

Staff applauds the arrival of new Instruments

The State Art College of Dilijan is a special institution that plays a unique role in the musical education of Armenia, as it is the only one that trains teachers of music. Established in 1997, it is an outgrowth of the Dilijan Musical School, which had been operating since 1945. Over the past two decades, the College has become the cradle of musical education in the entire marz (province)  of Tavush (in the northeastern part of Armenia) and coordinates 15 music schools there.
The college provides two levels of musical education, the first comprising a seven-year curriculum for students attending classes after their regular school, and the second consisting of a four-year vocational curriculum, open to the graduates of the seven-year program and others. It is these students who go on to become teachers themselves and develop careers in music schools throughout the nation.
Both in the first and second levels, the curriculum offers instruction in vocal and instrumental music, winds, piano, string and national instruments. The college has a choir, and ensembles for wind and traditional national instruments. Currently there are 178 pupils in the first level and 63 students in the second level.
How does it sound?

The College students take part in contests, festivals and competitions. The ensembles and the choir are frequently invited to perform at diverse celebrations in Dilijan, the marz and beyond. Since the College functions as the coordinator of the marz music schools, it frequently hosts master classes by prominent musicians from Yerevan and thus ensures continuing education to teachers from all the music schools in the marz. It also hosts concerts at the College for all official, international delegations, guests of Dilijan and/or the marz. Its dedicated and professional staff have earned the respect and gratitude of the entire community.

A Wish List
The building that houses the facility is quite adequate, as it is big and sunny, with lots of light. But, it is old, has not been renovated for over twenty years, and, despite the care given it by its staff, has fallen into disrepair. In hopes of finding support for an overhaul, a team of teachers and their supervisor drafted a wish list, detailing what the school would need to be able to perform at the highest level. The entire building would have to be renovated, including the 300 square meter concert hall; once that were done, the concert hall would need new chairs and the classrooms would have to be equipped with new furniture. Most importantly, the school required new instruments, as well as training manuals.
Lots of light inside the school

Thanks to a donation by a benefactor, FAR was able to purchase and provide the school with the 200 new chairs for the concert hall, but the facility itself still awaits renovation. This is an urgent task, considering the school’s function not only to educate its students but also to provide adequate conditions for visiting musicians who come to give concerts and master classes.
FAR also purchased the quality instruments after matching an initial donation by the Mirak-Weissbach Foundation with a contribution by the Galust Galo fund. Shortly before Christmas, the shipment of instruments arrived, 37 in all, and the students were excited. Margarit Piliposyan, FAR’s Deputy Country Director and Program Director, reported on December 19, “the teachers and students are happy! They called it a gift from heaven.” The new instruments include pianos, string, wind and traditional national instruments, as well as some devices for the sound system in the concert hall. The school expressed appreciation “for the priceless assistance to the younger generation, who love and study music,” and promised to prepare concerts to greet the benefactors in the New Year.
(See www.farusa.org and www.m-w-stiftung.org)

Pasted Graphic
Dogan Akhanlı

The Turks in Germany Who Defeated Denial

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
BERLIN, DECEMBER 20, 2018 (special to the Armenian Mirror Spectator)— Since June 2, 2016, the German Bundestag (Parliament) has been counted among those political institutions worldwide that have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide. The names of the parliamentarians associated with launching the initiative and organizing the political muscle to force it through are known. But if those individuals served as midwives, they were not the ones to conceive the idea. In the beginning was a small group of Turkish citizens living in Germany who came together in an association called Soykırım Karsıtları Dernegi (SKD), the Society against Genocide. At the beginning of December, they observed their 20th anniversary in Frankfurt and they had good reason to celebrate.
The festivities took place in a community center where some members had held birthday parties or wedding receptions. There were Turks, Armenians, Greeks, Arameans, Kurds and Germans, young and old, there was music, sung in all the languages, and dancing, and a buffet with everything from mezze to baklava. Ali Ertem, the founder and chairman of the SKD, told the members and guests that he had decided to throw away his prepared remarks and to speak from the heart. To summarize the experience of his association, he began with the question of why the organization was founded. Many years ago at Bochum university he met the Armenian Mihran Dabag, then also a student, who first told him about the crimes committed by the Young Turk regime against the Armenians. Like many Turks who first learn about the genocide when they come to Germany, he decided to look into it, and his research quickly proved the case. Moved by the moral responsibility to act on this new knowledge, he set up the association with the commitment to get Turkey to recognize the genocide, and the first petitions began to circulate.
Ertem and his associates soon thereafter organized a visit to Armenia, which was to become an annual event every April 24. On his first visit, he was asked by his hosts why he set up the SKD, considering the policy of denial that reigned in Turkey. He answered with an anecdote about an old Shi’ite wise man. The man lived as a farmer with his family, at the foot of a mountain, and his sons had been urging him to move to a region with more sunlight, for the crops. The man refused, and instead he began to dig at the base of the mountain every day. In response to queries, he explained that by digging, he was preparing to move the mountain; if he did not complete the task in his lifetime, his sons would continue it, and after them, their sons. And so on, until the mountain had been relocated. “We have broken the monopoly on the genocide,” Ertem said. “The situation inside Turkey is tough, to be sure,” he said, “but we are moving mountains.”
Dogan Akhanlı was the guest speaker. The German-Turkish author has been jailed and persecuted repeatedly by Turkish authorities, most recently a year ago when he was arrested in Spain on Turkish orders and released only after an international mobilization. As a result of this harassment, his fame as an author has been enhanced and his books are selling well.
His address filled out the story of the SKD and its significance, He recalled that in a speech he was invited to deliver on April 24, 2011 at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt, at the annual genocide commemoration event, he had characterized the SKD as the pioneer in the process of coming to terms with the genocide against the Armenians and Aramaeans. Akhanlı said that “denial of the genocide and expulsion of the Armenians and Aramaeans and Pontus Greeks was not only a social phenomenon inside Turkey.” Outside the country, intellectuals with a Turkish background, even those committed to working through past history, shied away from using the term genocide — until Hrant Dink’s murder in 2007. He cited the usual argument, that one couldn’t use the term genocide for events occurring prior to its having been coined as a juridical term, and reviewed the work done by Raphael Lemkin, which led to the UN Genocide Convention. Since then, he said, there is no question among researchers that this was genocide. So, it is wrong to talk about some “Armenian question.”
Ali Ertem speaking at a Seyfo (Assyrian Genocide) event

Akhanlı noted, “The response to the so-called ‘Armenian question’ of the last century was annihilation. At present there remains only the Turkish question: Turkish denial of the genocide, Turkish defamation of the diaspora, Turkish arrogance and lack of respect for the victims and their descendants.”
It was thanks to the diaspora, he continued, that the fight for recognition continued and sustained the memory of the victims. “And yet,” he said, “when I came to Germany in the beginning of the 1990s as a refugee, I had only a vague idea of the dimensions of the Young Turks’ violence.” At the time no books on the subject were available in Turkey, and only in that decade did some works appear, those published by Belge in Istanbul, and German books like those by Taner Akçam. It was in that period that he met Ali Ertem and the other founding members of the SKD, who “were the first people in Germany, perhaps worldwide, who named by name the crime against the Armenians and openly pronounced it.” He recalled the series of meetings, exhibitions, round table discussions and readings that the SKD organized, thus bringing together for the first time the successor generations of the perpetrators and the survivors.
Yet it took a good 20 years before the Bundestag would pass its resolution. Akhanlı said it was above all “thanks to the struggle of the SKD” that the resolution passed. In November 1999 the SKD had gathered signatures from more than 10,000 Turkish citizens and sent the petition to the Turkish parliament demanding that it recognize the genocide in accordance with the 1948 UN Convention, but the petition was returned by mail, unopened. So, in April 2000, the SKD together with the Berlin-based Working Group Recognition (AGA), delivered the petition to the German Bundestag, demanding that it recognize the genocide and urge Turkey to follow suit. Of the 16,000 signatures of German residents, 10,000 were Turkish citizens, and support came from prominent individuals worldwide.
In closing, Akhanlı recalled the proposal he had launched in the Paulskirche address in 2011, that Germany expand working through its history, to include other atrocities committed during the colonial period. He had also proposed the creation of an Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (Aktions Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste-ASF) for Turkey. The ASF, founded by the Evangelical Church in 1958, has been active as a peace organization, promoting reconciliation in dealing with the legacy of Nazism, and had a major impact on Akhanlı’s own development. Although there are individuals in Turkey eager to collaborate, the difficulty, the speaker explained, lies in the fact that, without genocide recognition on the part of Turkey, there are no institutional forces ready to act. One organization that has pursued peace work, he said, is Anadolu Kültür, and it has come under assault since the failed coup attempt in 2016. Its founder Osman Kavala sits in jail.
“But nevertheless,” he concluded, “we have a core group, the SKD, which is fighting indefatigably and uncompromisingly against racism and anti-Semitism, against current and historical violence, which has made an admirable contribution to reconciliation and which is celebrating its 20th birthday today.”
On a personal note, Akhanlı said this “association of solidarity work” had had the “magical effect of saving me from the jaws of arbitrary and arrogant power and made it possible for me to be here with you and to celebrate. Heartfelt thanks!”


A Good Time to Come to Berlin

By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach – Special to the Mirror-Spectator
BERLIN — The visit of Armenian President Armen Sarkissian to Germany at the end of November may not have received the same international media attention as the G20 summit meeting and escalating political crises in various parts of the world, but it deserves serious consideration, as it signaled a positive step forward in relations with Germany at a time of momentous developments inside Armenia as well as growing challenges in Europe. Issues of mutual concern were discussed, important past achievements were commemorated, steps were taken to deepen relations and concrete joint projects were officially signed.
“Allow me to explain why Armenia is important today. I will concentrate on three points: precise timing, the right place and the right model.” This is how Sarkissian presented the case in a lecture on November 28 at a leading think-tank. Speaking on “Armenia in 2018 and the Region” at the Bertelsmann Foundation, he said in the current period, when “everything is changing with the speed of light,” technology is going through a rapid process of evolution. And the process does not always unfold in a classical manner; this is true not only in the economy but also in politics, he said, as exemplified by the revolution in Armenia. The country has entered the 21st century, not only technologically but also politically, so “the time is right.”
Moving to the geographical factor, the “right place,” Sarkissian stressed the unique position Armenia occupies; it is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), and it also has an agreement with the European Union. As a result, Armenia can function as a “bridge between West and East.” By the same token, it can serve as an important link between North and South, as it enjoys good relations with Georgia and Russia as well as Iran and other countries of the Persian Gulf.
The third factor he developed involves the role of the diaspora. Although Armenia is a small country with a population of three million, there are Armenian communities throughout the world, “well-organized, advanced and successful,” amounting to 12-15 million Armenians in total. As these communities are also involved with developments in the Republic of Armenia, that makes it “a small country but a global nation, which is significant in the 21st century.” Sarkissian made the important point that Armenians wherever they live “should first be good citizens of the country they reside in” because “one cannot help one’s own country if you live in a ghetto.” Only in this way can one develop relations with one’s historical homeland.
Technologies for the Future
At Bertelsmann and throughout his tour, the Armenian president placed special emphasis on the value of the human resources in his country. A young country, with a young population and a young spirit, Armenia is looking to the future. “Keen on new technologies, education, science, especially mathematics and physics, today the country has the most advanced information technology sector in the region,” he said in his lecture at the think-tank. This is where fruitful collaboration can occur.
At the start of his visit, when he and his wife Nouneh Sarkissian were officially welcomed by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife Elke Büdenbender, the Armenian president praised the economic and technical assistance given by Germany and expressed the desire that cooperation in education, science and culture would be expanded, including exchange programs for students and scientists.
In his meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited Armenia last summer, frontier technologies played a central role. Merkel, who is a physicist by training, said she had been particularly impressed with the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies, adding that Germany was exploring the potential for cooperation here. Sarkissian welcomed the suggestion, again stressing Armenia’s expertise in information technologies. “Our country may become a platform for different startups,” he said.
This became concrete during a visit to the Fraunhofer Institute for Productive Systems and Design Technology, a vanguard institution with over 70 scientific and research centers in several countries. One landmark project involves cooperation between Fraunhofer and the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Advanced Manuscripts – Matenadaran, in a program on digitalization and restoration of ancient and medieval manuscripts. The joint project, which began in 2016, led to the digitalization and restoration of the Narek prayer book from the 13-14th century. (See https://mirrorspectator.com/2018/05/31piecing-together-thewords-of-a-saint/)
Director Eckart Uhlmann guided his guests through the institute, and they discussed future collaboration in the information and high tech sectors, automated systems and robotics. Sarkissian welcomed the expansion of Fraunhofer’s activities in Armenia, announcing that preliminary agreement had been reached on a new form of cooperation, concerning not only Matenadaran but also industrial cooperation.
In Berlin Sarkissian was also received by President of the Bundestag Dr. Wolfgang Schäuble. Honored to represent his country “in this historic building,” Sarkissian expressed interest in Germany’s experience of parliamentary democracy. Referring to recent developments at home, where great changes had come about peacefully, he said the task Armenia faces now is “to translate the existing positive energy into positive results” and expressed optimism in the future. Although this meeting focused on political concerns, including ratification of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) signed by Armenia and the EU, they discussed expanding cooperation in science, culture and education.

Cultural Dialogue
On November 29, Sarkissian signed two important agreements for cooperation in the fields of culture and medicine. In Magdeburg, the capital of the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt, the Armenian president and his wife were welcomed by Minister-President Reiner Haseloff, who commended the warm ties with Armenia. This refers in particular to the activities of the Mesrop center at the Martin Luther University in Halle, which recently celebrated its twentieth a n n i v e r s a r y . ( S e e https://mirrorspectator.com/2018/11/08twodecades-of-armenian-studies-in-germany/)
Haseloff announced that a further agreement was being signed by the two that very day, which would further enhance cooperation in culture and science. Sarkissian, who has visited Germany many times, and had been in Magdeburg in the 1980s as a Soviet scientist, said, “Germany has made a major contribution to world culture, and every time you visit here, you take a small piece of this great heritage with you.” Applauding the friendship between Saxony-Anhalt and Armenia, he said, “The source of our friendship and dialogue are history and culture, I hope science as well in the future.” He expressed his deep appreciation for the Mesrop center, as “our small, but very important presence in Germany.” The two political figures were joined by several state ministers to discuss the existing partnership, which includes student exchange programs. Sarkissian proposed expanding these further to include scientific fields, like information technologies, math and physics. A new agreement was signed at the Otto von Guericke University, where Rector Jens Strackeljan welcomed the guests. This agreement involves cooperation between the Yerevan State Medical University (YSMU) and the School of Medicine at the Otto von Guericke University.

Gratitude for Emergency Aid
There were several anniversaries commemorated during Sarkissian’s visit, in addition to the Mesrop center’s twentieth, and one of them was a somber, tragic event — the earthquake that devastated Spitak and outlying areas on December 7, 30 years ago. Some 50,000 persons were stricken, and half that number perished. Among the first to respond was the German Red Cross (DRK), which began the first flight with 14 aid workers, search dogs and blood for transfusions in the night on December 9-10. By the end of January they had sent 29 planes with assistance for survivors. It was the first time the Red Cross had carried out a rescue operation behind the Iron Curtain. For immediate assistance and later reconstruction, the organization spent the equivalent of 61 million Euro.
To express gratitude for the crucial humanitarian intervention, Sarkissian made a visit to the organization’s headquarters in Berlin on November 27, where he honored 10 DRK workers, presenting them awards. Deputy Secretary General of the DRK Johannes Richter received the Mkhitar Heratsi medal and DRK representative Zigrid Hetmannschperger and Carl-Heinz Scheiden were awarded Medals of Gratitude. Gerda Hasselfeldt, President of the German Red Cross, remarked, “Considering the dimensions of the damage, the Soviet government, for the first time since the end of World War II and regardless of the Cold War, called worldwide for humanitarian assistance. For all those involved,” she said, “especially for those who supported this immense Red Cross operation, highly motivated, for weeks in bitter cold and living in tents, this deployment will never be forgotten.”
Speaking to staff members, Sarkissian said the earthquake had been “very sad and tragic. But in these 30 years there have also been very humane, touching stories, stories about human love, care, attention and lack of indifference.” He said his country and its people would never forget what Germany had done to help, specifying that every Armenian literally is grateful. Recently, during a visit to Gyumri, he said he experienced gratitude “not only in elderly people but in young people who didn’t see the earthquake” but had heard about it from their parents. “So I am here to convey the words of gratitude on my personal behalf and on behalf of the entire Armenian nation.” He asked Hasselfeldt to communicate his message to the thousands of Red Cross workers engaged in helping those in need.
At the end of the event, Hasselfeldt presented Mrs. Sarkissian a check for a contribution of 10,000 Euro, for the “Berlin” clinic for mothers and children in Gyumri. The clinic was set up and opened in 1993, thanks to donations by the Berlin population and business community. To date, 17,000 people have benefited from the medical treatment offered there. The funds are earmarked for renovating the clinic. Thanking herforthegift,Sarkissianannouncedhewould match the donation with another 10,000 Euro, for the same purpose.
Celebrating with Music
The Sarkissians concluded the official visit to the German capital with a magnificent concert in celebration of the 115th birthday of Aram Khachaturian. The Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Eduard Topchyan performed Khachaturian’s Suite from the ballet “Spartacus” and the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra with soloist violinist Sergei Khachatryan, followed by the Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Opus 47 by Shostakovich. After enthusiastic applause, they performed a waltz by Khachaturian as an encore.

‘Ex Occidente Lux!’ Armenia and the West

By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
DECEMBER 1, 2018 – Special to the Mirror-Spectator
BOCHUM, Germany — “Since the early Middle Ages, since the invasion of the Seljuk Turks in the 11th century, the Armenians have been fighting for the restoration of their independence in their own land — with unshakeable hope. In this they have traditionally expected aid from the Christian West. Germany has had an important role in this context.”
Thus reads the text of an invitation issued for an event held recently in Bochum, a city in the Ruhr region. The timing could not have been more opportune; since last May, friends of Armenia abroad have been following the developments associated with the Velvet Revolution with keen interest. Where is the country going? What are the models — if any — that the new leadership looks to for inspiration? And for support? What will the response of friendly nations and trade partners be to the new course charted by Armenia?
Hosting the evening were Heide Rieck, author and spokeswoman of the Bochum Literati, and historian Azat Ordukhanyan, director of the Armenian Academic Society 1860, the oldest Armenian organization in Germany. Engaging in a wide-ranging dialogue, they reached back into history to review the relations between Armenia and the West, asking what expectations Armenians had from European powers, and how the latter responded. Thus the title, “Ex Occidente Lux! Armenia’s Visions of Liberty with Regard to Germany.”

The Prophecy of Nerses
Rieck, who has been active in promoting Armenian-German cultural exchange, is also co-author of a new translation of Paruyr Sevak’s poetry. She posed questions to Ordukhanyan, who illustrated his remarks with examples from various epochs of Armenian history. Tracing the notion back to the fourth century, that the “light” – lux – would arrive from the Occident, he cited an ancient document reporting on a prophecy articulated by Catholicos Nerses the Great, which foretold the future of his people for the subsequent centuries. What was the prophecy, Rieck asked. “The fall of the Arshakouni dynasty is imminent and the end of the house of the Patriarch Partev, also the separation of the Armenian Church from the universal Christian Church as well as the total decay of the country as a consequence of the internal strife among the princes. The successive entry of foreign rule over Armenia was also prophesied and finally salvation through Rome (i.e. through the West) and with it the inauguration of a Golden Age, an age of enduring peace.”
If the idea was that salvation would come from Rome, it is no wonder that there were sympathies among Armenians for the Crusades launched by the Western Christian leaders, military campaigns against Islam and for the liberation of Jerusalem. Friedrich I, Barbarossa, was one example, Ordukhanyan noted; and there are testimonies from the 13th century documenting the expectations Armenians placed in the campaigns of the Frankish kings as well as the “Alamank,” short for “Alamanen,” as the Germans were called.
Though the hoped for liberators from Europe failed to satisfy these there cases nobility who launched initiatives inspired by that perspective. Ordukhanyan reported on examples related to Germany that paved the way, in a certain sense, to what would become known as “the Armenian Question.”

A Savior from Europe?
At the turn of the 18th century, one Israel Ori, a nobleman from southern Armenia, had a plan for mobilizing help from the West. The basic idea, Ordukhanyan explained, was that he would depict the suffering and need of his people, who, because they remained true to their Christian faith, were being persecuted by the Persians and Turks. Ori was confident that once liberated, the Armenians would return to the Roman Catholic Church. Any Western prince who would raise an army and appear on Armenian soil, he argued, would be hailed by the people, and immediately offered the crown. Ori acted as if he had been commissioned by Armenian nobility to seek out such a European savior, and his backers based their expectations on the authority of ancient documents and legends. Ori predicted that this enterprise would bring fame to the House of the Palatinate, above all other royalty in Europe.
The Elector Palatine Johann Wilhelm did in fact receive a request from Armenia, in 1699, to lead an army to the land, free the Armenian Christians and in return receive the crown. At the time, the historical conditions were not ripe for the plan to be set in motion, Ordukhanyan said, but sources from all
concerned parties document the existence of the initiative, and reveal the fascination that such dreams of power exerted on German princes at the time.
Ori did not implement his project, but Hovsep (Joseph) Emin (1726 -1809), a prominent personality in the Armenian national liberation movement, travelled through several European countries from 1751, seeking support for a campaign to free Armenia from the Persians and Ottomans — all reminiscent of the Ori adventure. Odukhanyan related other tales of
fantastic projects entertained by Armenian figures who would become prominent in Germany. Among them is the Aretin family, the name being a common abbreviation for Harutyun. The founder was the son of the Armenian Prince Baghdasar of Sünik in southeastern Armenia. In what reads like a wild adventure story, in 1706 (or 1710) when he was 4 years old, he was sent on a ship from Constantinople to Venice, by the French ambassador, and handed over, along with letters and riches, to Prince Max Emmanuel II of Bavaria from the Wittelsbach family, and his wife, the Polish princess Therese Kunigunde. The Wittelsbachs, living in exile, raised him there until 1714 when they all returned to Munich. Whether or not there were any repercussions on events in Armenia, here were the Armenian roots of the Aretin family, whose members were to occupy prominent positions in political, social and scientific life of the region.
To round out the evening’s presentation of such colorful escapades, Ordukhanyan and Rieck delivered a reading, in Armenian and German, of a poem by Sevak, “I am going crazy.” A lively discussion followed, with questions about the political climate in Armenia at present, and the perspectives for Armenians to shape their own future, according to the needs and desires of a sovereign people, and in harmony with friendly nations, both East and West.

Armenian Artist Hosts Student Exhibition

By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
Nona Gabrielyan

WIESBADEN, Germany december 1, 2018
— Nona Gabrielyan is the proud representative of an Armenian family that has produced four generations of artists (so far). This is not only in Armenia; in Germany, where she has lived with her artist husband Van Soghomonyan for the last quarter of a century, she has also been midwife to a generation of German artists. On November 24, she presided over the vernissage of an exhibition of works by a group of her students. Held at the Haus der Heimat (Homeland House) in Wiesbaden, the show entitled “Exhibition 1 + 9” features the creations of 9 of her students together with some of her own. It is the third such show of works done by several of the 55 aspiring artists who have taken lessons from her over the past twenty years in her Wiesbaden atelier.
As she explained in her welcoming remarks to a large group of guests at the festive inauguration, “Some of the students have become independent, others still come to classes because they think they still have something to learn. The art world is big and multifaceted, larger than our actual world. Everyone can find a place there. One needs only talent, courage and of course basic training. And I have tried to provide this for them.”
For Gabrielyan, there are no language or cultural borders separating one national art form from another. “Art is a universal language, especially painting and music! Everyone can understand it, without translation,” she said.
In her work in Wiesbaden, she has not only functioned as an art teacher, but also as a mediator of cultural dialogue, learning more about Germany through her students, and introducing them to her homeland. “All the young women whose works are exhibited here are not only my students but also my friends, for me and my whole family. Formerly I knew Germany through its literature and art history. Now I love Germany through my students and friends. And they, through me, have been able to know and love my country Armenia. Some of them visited, with their husbands.”
In fact, as she explained, in 2016 they organized a photo and graphics exhibition, which flanked a solo exhibit of hers at the Museum of Modern Art in Yerevan. “And it was very successful, I must say,” she noted. On the second floor of the showroom in Wiesbaden, there were photo montages hanging on the walls, with pictures of the trips made with her students, to Tuscany, France and Armenia.
At the opening ceremony, Vera Maier of the Haus der Heimat welcomed guests, noting that her association is a place where artists from all over the world come to paint. In attendance were local officials, including from the Hesse Ministry for Social Affairs and Integration, and the Hesse Association of German Refugees (after World War II). As Gabrielyan had said, not only art but also music is a universal language. To illustrate this were several offerings by soprano Irina Sokolovsky, former soloist at Odessa opera, now at the Mainz opera. The exhibition will continue until December 19, and at the closing, Gabrielyan, who is also an author, will read from two of her works in German and Russian.
Renate Beil

Casa Armena Welcomes Guests from Yerevan

MILAN, Italy — On November 17, members of the Armenian community in Milan delighted in the music offered them by two young sopranos visiting from Yerevan. Lusine Arakelyan and Amalia Baloyan sang arias from Italian composers Verdi and Bellini, as well as works, by Komitas, B. Kachean, Dolukhanyan, A. Babajanyan. and others. They were accompanied by pianist Marina Vardanyan. In the photo, from left to right: Amalia Baloyan, Marina Mavian, president of the Casa Armena, and Lusine Arakelyan.
–Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

Armenian Artists Come to Austria

Alexan Ter-Minasyan (r.) with Mayor Jürgen Kuster

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
NOVEMBER 15, 2018 – SCHRUNS, Austria — Thirty years ago, Gyumri was almost totally obliterated by an earthquake that devastated nearby Spitak and other cities of the Shirak region. Slowly the city, known as the cultural capital of Armenia, has been rebuilt and its artistic community again flourishes. Not only are the new music schools filled with eager students, but painters and sculptors are continuing to generate works of beauty.

Works by Karen Barseghyan, Artist in Residence. Other artists featured in the exhibition are Hayk Adamyan, Sona Andrasyan, Hakob Hovhannisyan, Ararat Sarkissian, Vahan Topchyan and Albert Vardanyan.

Thanks to the efforts of Alexan Ter-Minasyan, eight artists from Gyumri have been able to present their work in a highly-successful exhibition in Schruns, a city in Montafon Valley, on the westernmost part of Austria. The exhibition, which ran from October 5 to 28, was organized as a joint effort by the MAP Kellergallerie, Caritas and the Schruns Savings Bank, together with Gallery 25 of Gyumri, an artists’ group which organizes activities in Armenia as well as exchange programs abroad. In 2017, Gallery 25 cooperated on a show in Bursa, Turkey.

Ter-Minasyan, the founder of Gallery 25, has been a protagonist of the process of rebuilding Gyumri, both physically and culturally. He worked with the Red Cross to set up the “Berlin” polyclinic there, and established the Berlin Art Hotel, which financially supported it. He has supported local efforts to provide art instruction for pupils, for example in the small village of Gusanagyugh. (http://www.m-w-stiftung.org/English/News/Suns-of-Gusana/Suns-of-Gusana.html) In January of this year, Ter-Minasyan was named Honorary Consul of Germany, largely in recognition of his years-long efforts to promote personal and cultural exchange between the two countries and peoples. (https://mirrorspectator.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/February-3-2018.pdf)

The project in Austria, titled “Armenia as a Guest in Montafon,” opened the exhibition, “Gyumri and Its Artists,” with a vernissage attended by five of the artists and Ter-Minasyan. Schruns Mayor Jürgen Kuster welcomed them with an official reception. The earthquake is a theme of the artworks, and is also documented in images by photographer Yuri Pavlov on display. The program included lectures, eye-witness accounts of the catastrophe, and conversations with the visiting artists. Sculptor Karen Barseghyan, who had been in Schruns for several weeks as artist-in-residence, invited guests to visit his studio, where he has been holding workshops for youngsters and adults.

Schermata 2018-11-11 alle 14.07.48

Two Decades of Armenian Studies in Germany

By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
and Dr. André Höhn Special to the Mirror-Spectator

HALLE-WITTENBERG, Germany — It is a unique institution in the country, the only center specializing in Armenian studies, Armenology. When the Mesrop Arbeitsstelle für Armenische Studien (Mesrop Center for Armenian Studies) at the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg observed its 20th anniversary on October 18-19, it celebrated the special role it has played in bringing knowledge of the Armenian language, literature, culture and history to not only academic circles but also the broader public. Much has been achieved, and the potential for development is even greater. Since the Bundestag (Parliament) passed a resolution in June 2016 recognizing the Armenian genocide, interest in Armenia has expanded immensely. For many Germans that political act opened the door to discovery of a hitherto unknown people and their culture. Several new studies, especially of the history of the genocide, have appeared and been well received. But there is more to Armenia and Armenians than the genocide. Halle is the right place to host the Mesrop center; the city boasts a long tradition of oriental studies, reaching back to 1694, especially studies of the Christian Orient. Another reason is the connection of the university to German reformer Martin Luther. Its director, Prof. Armenuhi Drost-Abarjan, has noted that the center’s namesake “was a counterpart to Martin Luther, ... Luther plays the same role for our national literature as Mesrop Mashtots played for Armenian literature.” Mesrop’s groundbreaking translation of the Bible into Armenian was an inspiration to Luther, who explicitly acknowledged him as his forerunner when he undertook the translation of the Bible into the German vernacular.

Three Causes for Celebration
On October 18, in Halle an der Saale it was not one but three anniversaries that merited a festive toast: the cultural agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany (represented by the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt) and the Republic of Armenia was signed in 1998; the Mesrop Center for Armenian Studies at the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg also reached its 20th birthday; and, the Yerevan State University and the Halle University looked back on a decade of partnership.
The auditorium in the historic Löwengebäude — the lions’ building, so-called for the sculpted reclining kings of the jungle who guard the entrance — in the university square was brightly lit on the evening of October 18 and everything had been prepared for a dignified ceremony. Drost-Abgarjan welcomed the numerous guests warmly, musical strains sounded from members of the Halle University Academic Orchestra and the round of congratulations opened. Prof. Tietje, the university’s rector, stressed the historical significance of Armenia and the need for objective scientific study of the region. He pointed to the socalled small subjects, the university’s responsibility to them and the importance of the Mesrop Center for the Caucasus region in the context of European politics.
Dr. Ude, State Secretary of the Federal State Ministry for Economics, Science and Digitalization, summarized the activities of the Mesrop Center to date as well as its engagement for cultural mediation, and, speaking in the name of the ministry, expressed deep gratitude to Prof. Drost-Abgarjan. He also voiced appreciation for the activity of Prof. Dr. Goltz, the first Director of the institute, whose achievements were to be acknowledged with utmost respect repeatedly throughout the course of the evening. His Excellency Ashot Smbatyan, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia in Germany, called for injecting more vitality into the abstract relations between Armenia and Germany, and emphasized the central role Armenian studies play for Mesrop as well as the elevated status the Center enjoys in research on Armenia as a Christian nation. Dr. Arayik Harutyunyan, Minister of Science and Education, R.A., coined a fitting honorary title for Mesrop – he dubbed it the “second Armenian embassy”— and reported on the institution’s efforts to strengthen Armenian studies in Germany and, with the help of special scholarships, to promote a vigorous student exchange program.
The loudest applause of the evening then came, when Prof. Drost-Abgarjan, visibly moved, received the “Gold Medal” from the Armenian Ministry of Science, an award which stands as a tangible symbol honoring her indefatigable intellectual work, for which she deserves most heartfelt thanks. Dr. Gunnar Schellenberger, State Secretary of the Minister President’s Office and of the Ministry for Culture of Saxony-Anhalt, followed, and spiced his greetings with amusing accounts of his personal experience during his visit to Armenia ten years ago. Dr. Vahan Ter-Ghevondyan, Director of the Mesrop Mashtots Research Institute Matenadaran, Yerevan, spoke in conclusion about the close relations between the Mesrop Center and various Armenian scientific institutions. He noted the project for a Dictionary of Middle Armenian, and recalled the German scholars who made contributions to Armenian culture.

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Aims and Challenges
Prof. Theo van Lint, Calouste Gulbenkian Professor of Armenian Studies from Oxford University, delivered the Laudatio. He elaborated on the landmark cultural agreement signed in 1998 between Germany and Armenia and quoted the aims of the center then defined as follows: “strengthening Armenian studies in Germany in research and teaching, establishing an official professorial chair at the Halle University, scientific counseling and coordination of German-Armenian scientific and cultural projects as well as institutional partnerships, providing competent expertise to museums, libraries, archives, as well as to financial support institutions in both countries.”
Over the last two decades, the center has accomplished a great deal, including several international agreements that van Lint praised: in addition to the partnership with the Yerevan State University, he mentioned the cooperation agreement established in 2010 with the Valery Brusov University for Languages and Social Sciences, which has been elevated to a full partnership this year. Also this year the Martin Luther University and the Matenadaran signed an agreement, while de facto cooperation is ongoing between the Evangelical College for Church Music in Halle and the Komitas Conservatory in Yerevan.
Further achievements include the rich contributions made by the center through its scientific publications, its educational trips to Armenia and six outstanding exhibitions it organized, all with accompanying catalogues. Two remarkable publications van Lint singled out were the Middle Armenian Dictionary and a project for translation of Sharakans or hymns.
The list is indeed impressive. Yet, van Lint singled out one of the official aims of the center which has not yet been realized: the establishment of an official professorial chair for Armenian studies. Speaking from his vantage point as current holder of the only chair for Armenian studies in Great Britain, “and as holder of these all-too-few chairs overall,” van Lint said he could sense “the holes in our research, holes which can be filled only by area specialists whose broad knowledge is combined with a rich orientation in the interdisciplinary sphere.” For this, a proper professorial chair is “indispensable.” He said he “would like to go to bat here for a chair dedicated to the Armenian language, philology, history and culture, so that specialists can be educated who will be able to assume the enormous task of making Armenian culture in the broadest sense accessible to those interested,” whether they be diplomats, politicians or the general public. In this connection, van Lint also made the highly relevant point that in an era of “globalization,” where “area studies,” like “Asian studies,” “Caucasus studies,” etc. abound, it is imperative to make sure that “competence in the individual language and cultures not be lost or watered down.”
The revolutionary developments in Armenia have created a new situation in which these and many other challenges can be met. Voskanyan from the American University of Armenia developed this theme in his keynote address, “Armenia in 2018: Realities and Perspectives,“ which provided the transition from the evening’s relaxed and festive mood to the spirit of scientific research that would dominate the following day’s agenda. As the speaker related his eye-witness account of the “Velvet Revolution,“ images of the historic events took shape in the mind of every listener.
Voskanyan described and analyzed single scenes, presented the social mechanisms at work, as well as the political and social structures shaping the revolution, and located them in their historical context, and in this way identified the grounds for such radical change in the country. Voskanyan offered a glimpse of Armenia’s future political course in light of various expectations and hopes, while never losing sight of the possible dangers.

A Scholarship Can Change a Life
How better to portray the hopes for the future than to share the experience of a young student of that generation preparing to contribute to the new Armenia? Gohar Khachatryan-Sargsyan is the first alumna of a special scholarship program for students from Armenia, which is offered in the context of the agreement between Saxony-Anhalt and Armenia. In her moving “thank-you” speech, she recalled the difficulties the country endured after independence and the Karabakh war, particularly the toll taken on education. When she found out she was the recipient of the first scholarship to study in Germany (1999-2000), she considered it nothing short of a miracle. “From the first day in Halle,” she said, “I felt as though I were in wonderland.” Everything she encountered seemed magical, the lectures were lively and her professors were eager to help. “I was finally satisfied with my studies, and I learned how to study, something I consider very important.” In addition to classroom work, she was able to take part in excursions and museum visits. One of them turned out to be decisive. In the Dresden Picture Gallery when she saw Raphael’s “Sistine Madonna,” she “was struck as if by lightening.” Although she had seen reproductions of Raphael’s works as a child, she had never imagined what the impact of the original would be. “Then I understood,” she said, “that I wanted to be an artist, not an art historian, because only an artist can produce something that moving even today.”
The young scholar (who is the daughter of a famous artist) emphasized the value of friendships she made during that year as well. She has begun artistic collaboration with one such new friend, the writer Daniela Danz, and the two are going to work on a literary film project, sponsored by the Goethe Institute in Gyumri, which will deal with the Armenian poet Sajat Nova. As a gesture of gratitude, she concluded by presenting the Martin Luther University with a painting of hers, titled “The Grandmother,” a portrait of “an elderly and wise Armenian woman.”
After the audience had returned to silence, a concert of German-Armenian music filled the air. Participants listened with rapt attention to the performance by singer Anahit Abgarjans (a sister of Drost-Abgarjan), Duduk player Araik Bartikians and organist Helene von Rechenbergs, who, in addition to a work by Johann Sebastian Bach, offered Armenian spiritual songs, hymns and folk songs. The wonderful music captivated the souls of those present, transporting them to distant fields, and filling them with optimism in the future. The evening ended with a reception, with fine cuisine and engaged discussions, all in anticipation of the working sessions planned for the second day.

Scholars in Dialogue

On October 19, educators and researchers from both countries engaged in a full day of scientific discussion and exchange. The conference panels illustrated the nature, vast range and high quality of the intellectual collaboration that has grown over the past two decades in Halle. Under the direction of DrostAbarjan, the first session heard presentations by Cornelia Horn (Halle) on “Armenian Studies in Germany,” Vahan TerGhevondian (Yerevan) on “Non-Armenian Documents of Matenadaran” and Annegret Plantke-Lüning (Jena) on “The Role of German Scholars in Research on Armenia’s Material Cultural Heritage.”
In the afternoon session, chaired by Professor van Lint, Hacik Gazer (Erlangen-Nürnberg) spoke on “Germany as an Educational Center for Armenian Students in the 19th/20th Century,” Axel Meissner (Halle) on “Dr. Johannes Lepsius and the First Magazine of the German-Armenian Society Mesrop (1914)” and Ashot Galstyan (Yerevan) on “Armenian-German Relations in the First World War and 100 Years of the First Armenian Republic (1918-2018).” Professor Gazer led the final session, which heard papers by Franziska Knoll (Halle) on “The Highlands of Syunik – Petroglyphs and Summer Pastures over Millennia, by Meliné Pehlivanian (Berlin) on “Armenian Press History as Reflected in the State Library in Berlin” and by Thomas Buchholz (Halle) on “Komitas’s Compositional Work from the Perspective of His Music Studies in Germany.”
In her concluding remarks, Drost-Abjarjan cast her gaze to the future and the perspectives for Armenian studies in Germany.
The festivities and scholarly exchange in the historical setting had provided ample food for thought regarding precisely the future perspectives for this unique center of learning. Dr. André Höhn, a lecturer at the university, paused to reflect on a Greek script that decorates the ceiling of the university hall, a saying about life, which is all too brief, and art, which is eternal. Rendering the notion in a brighter light, he expressed his hope that the Mesrop Center would be granted both a long life and lasting impact.
(Muriel Mirak-Weissbach thanks Dr. André Höhn for having made his report on the two-day proceedings available for publication in this article. Höhn is a Lecturer at the seminar on the Christian Orient and Byzantium, of the Department of Oriental Studies, Mesrop Center.)


The Visit of Erdogan

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
BERLIN, OCTOBER 4, 2018 — One might have thought the Queen were coming, what with all the media coverage, the background reports and the talk shows, the editorials and interviews. For well over a week before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan landed in Berlin for a three-day state visit, the event dominated the political debate.
Would he or wouldn’t he? Should we or shouldn’t we? Erdogan had made himself a black sheep in Germany, after having accused Chancellor Angela Merkel of reviving Nazi methods, when his bid to bring his political campaign to Turks in Germany was blocked; or, when he damned Berlin for harboring terrorists, because opposition figures from his country sought and found political asylum here. Would he continue the tirades while on an official visit? Or would he behave, and try to rebuild bridges, perhaps in hopes of organizing support for his ailing national economy?
And how should we respond? The Germans asked themselves and their political leaders. Should we shake hands with this autocratic tyrant who has jailed thousands of political opponents (including German citizens), who in Orwellian news-speak he has qualified as coup plotters, terrorists and traitors? Better perhaps to sacrifice diplomatic niceties and take a principled stand against this would-be dictator than grant him the status of legitimacy?
Such was (in brief and with a touch of exaggeration) the tenor of the debate that unfolded on the German political stage in September. Erdogan was coming for a three-day visit and nobody knew quite what would happen, or what to do.

Dialogue or Diatribe?
High on the agenda were two meetings with Chancellor Angela Merkel, which were supposed to contribute to overcoming the crisis in bilateral relations.
During the joint press conference following their first meeting, Merkel said that between her and Erdogan there remained “far-reaching differences” with respect to the rule of law and to freedom of the press. Specifically she addressed the issue of German citizens who have been jailed for political reasons; although some have been freed, she said she had demanded that “the other cases could be solved as quickly as possible.” Among those who have been released are Peter Steudner, Deniz Yücel and Mesale Tolu, and according to foreign ministry reports, there are five German citizens still in prison.
In addition to those in custody, there is a long list of individuals that Erdogan presented to the Germans, with the demand that they be extradited to Turkey. Prior to his arrival in Berlin, the press spoke of a list of 69 names, and after his visit there were reports of 163 names he had presented. High on the list is Can Dündar, former editor of Cumhuriyet, currently in exile in Germany. Merkel said that as far as this case is concerned, “there are differing opinions between the President and myself.” Erdogan, pointing to an extradition treaty between the two countries, according to which lawfully convicted persons should be handed over. Dündar has been declared guilty of espionage relative to weapons deliveries, and has been sentenced to a lengthy prison term. Erdogan argued that, if Berlin were to request the extradition of such a person who had been lawfully convicted, then Ankara would hand that person over.  Dündar was, in his view, an “agent who published state secrets.”
Dündar, as a journalist, had been accredited to the press conference, but he declined to attend, since he had learned that, if he did, Erdogan would cancel the press conference.

From President to President
On Friday, September 28, Erdogan was the guest of honor at a state banquet at the residence of President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Schloss Bellevue in Berlin. It was red-carpet treatment, as prescribed by protocol for visits by heads of state. Some commentators suggested the tactic was to flatter Erdogan, perhaps stroking his ego, as a way of preparing the terrain to address the uncomfortable issues openly.
Steinmeier did just that in his speech. “We hope that two years after the trauma of the coup attempt, Turkey finds its way back to equilibrium,” he stated. “We have the wish that reconciliation between the sharp social conflicts will succeed on the basis of human rights and the principles of the rule of law.”  In rather blunt terms, Steinmeier said, “I am concerned, as President of this country, about German citizens who are imprisoned in Turkey on political grounds, and I am concerned also about Turkish journalists, trade unionists, jurists, intellectuals and politicians who are still in custody.” Steinmeier spoke of a “disturbing number of people from Turkey who are seeking refuge from growing pressure on civil society.” There are in fact large numbers of Turkish citizens, including diplomats and military personnel, who have sought asylum in Germany. In closing, he said, “I hope, Mr. President, that you understand that we cannot just carry on as usual.”
Erdogan opened his remarks with positive words, praising the partnership and alliance with Germany. The guests at the gala banquet reportedly tried to follow his speech word for word, with the aid of a written translation provided to each. Erdogan recalled Germany’s “valuable contributions” to his country’s development, for example, the first telephone lines laid in 1881, and he was full of praise for Germany’s treatment of Syrian refugees as well as economic cooperation. “There is no problem,” he stated, “that could stand in the way of the German-Turkish friendship or our common interests.” He called for German investments in the Turkish economy, which he characterized as a “stable market economy.”
He also called for overcoming “differences of opinion in reciprocal respect.” He was not going to let Steinmeier’s criticism pass without comment. According to an account in FOCUS online, towards the end of his speech, he suddenly accelerated his tempo, which presented a challenge for the interpreter at Steinmeier’s table. Departing from his prepared remarks, Erdogan said he hadn’t thought that this would come up at such a friendly dinner party; he “actually would have preferred not to talk about this on this occasion,” but he was “forced to talk about it” after Steinmeier had brought up the issue.
He demanded respect for the Turkish juridical system, which he declared was independent, and for their extradition demands. For him, those journalists and intellectuals in prison were terrorists. In the case of Can Dündar, Erdogan said he was “being introduced everywhere here on a silver platter.” Germany, he charged, was protecting terrorists; “and they simply run around here, in the thousands, undisturbed.” So, “shouldn’t we talk about it?” In conclusion, he returned to his prepared text, with warm words for the German-Turkish friendship, etc.
According to FOCUS, “some guests were irritated, while others concentrated on the tomato salad which was served them on gold rimmed white porcelain plates.” Steinmeier was not flustered; in his words of greeting to his guest of honor he had in fact said, “It is good to talk to each other. And, yes, it is even good to argue.”
On the last day of his visit, Erdogan had a working breakfast with Merkel, during which they discussed bilateral relations, the internal Turkish situation and the common fight against terrorism. At the center of attention was the situation in Syria and cooperation on refugee policy.

Religious Dialogue in Silence
Erdogan then travelled to Cologne, where he presided over the official opening of a new mosque, the largest in Germany. It is a mosque of DITIB (Turkish-Islamic Institution for Religion), the largest Muslim organization in Europe and one that is tightly controlled by Ankara. It presides over 900 mosques in Germany and is under the direction of the state religion authority, Diyanet. This event was politically sensitive for many reasons. There had been a plan for a large demonstration in front of the mosque, with thousands of Erdogan supporters, but it had to be cancelled due to security concerns.
For the inauguration of the mosque, Erdogan spoke in front of 1000 invited guests, congratulating those who built the mosque for having “made such a beautiful gift to Germany.”  “Here there is no discrimination, no division,” he said. Then, shifting tone, he again raised accusations against Germany, that terrorists were being tolerated; he named the Kurdish PKK, which is classified and treated as a terrorist organization, but also the Gülen movement, which is not.
There were others reasons for controversy in Cologne. DITIB is known to be the long arm of the Turkish establishment. Law enforcement officials in Germany conducted investigations into systematic spying conducted by mosque members on persons associated with the Gülen movement. The idea was that information on the identity of such persons would be communicated to Turkey, where juridical steps could be taken. Recently there have been proposals that DITIB be subjected to official observation on the part of the Verfassungsschutz, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
Prior to the visit, there was debate in talk shows and the press regarding the most appropriate manner to inaugurate such a new mosque. One question that was repeatedly raised: which president should inaugurate a mosque in Germany? Steinmeier or Erdogan? It was certainly expected that some high level German political representatives would be invited to attend and also to speak at the event, but that was not the case. Curiously, DITIB had issued a press release officially announcing that the State Prime Minister Armin Laschet would accompany Erdogan for the ceremony. This was however patently false and was duly denied by Laschet’s office. The mayor of the city Henriette Reker was kept in the dark as to her role, and when it became clear that she was not invited to speak, she announced she would stay away. Thus it ended up as a Turkish event, with Turkish participants and all in the Turkish language.
In the original plans, and in the architect Paul Böhm’s design, the new mosque was to be a meeting place for Christians and Muslims, and inter-religious dialogue.
Erdogan’s Mission
No one should have been surprised by the turn of events in Berlin or in Cologne. Erdogan had in fact made clear what his mission was and how he planned to carry it out. In an OpEd that appeared on September 27, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a paper of record, the Turkish President outlined his “Expectations from Germany.” Stressing the need to turn a page and set aside misunderstandings, frictions etc., in bilateral relations, he underlined “common interests” in fighting terrorism, dealing with the refugee issue, maintaining free markets, etc. The leading challenge he identified is how to deal with the refugee flows; Turkey has taken in 3.9 million persons fleeing from various war zones, and has recently worked out a deal with Russia to prevent a new crisis around Idlib in Syria. His expectation is that Europeans take more responsibility. In the fight against terrorism, for Erdogan this boils down to identifying not only IS, the PKK and others as such, but also the Gülen organization, the so-called Fetö, which he has identified as behind the failed coup attempt. Erdogan spelled out quite explicitly in this OpEd what he later would bring up in his meetings with Merkel and Steinmeier.
No one should have been caught off guard by the demands he made publicly during the visit. Probably no one among the top politicians he met was surprised. The problem was how to deal with it. Criticism has been loud, not only of his performance but also of the fact that he was granted such a high-profile appearance. Responsible commentators have asserted that no matter how problematic relations with Erdogan may be, Realpolitik is probably the only viable approach. As Rainer Hermann, a regional expert with years of experience in Turkey, wrote about the visit from this standpoint: Turkey needs Germany now more than ever as an economic partner and Germany needs a stable Turkey in a war-torn region as well as a partner in dealing with the demands of refuge flows. “Whoever wants to stabilize Turkey has to talk to Erdogan,” he concludes. “Boycotting him leads nowhere.” Thus the visit and the friendly reception served as the prelude to open talks, in which highly controversial, conflictual matters are not avoided, but frankly debated. Hermann’s view is that no matter how difficult it may be to alter Turkish policy, it may not be impossible.
All well and good, one might say, at least as long as one remains within the conceptual confines of Realpolitik. From an utterly different standpoint, the drama of Turkish-German relations might be cast in another light. Should they be evaluated solely in terms of bilateral realities? Is the case of the “difficult guest” Erdogan an exception? Or is he a type, a leading example of a more general phenomenon? One does not have to look far on the map of Europe to find other capitals with similar personalities at the helm, whether Warsaw or Budapest, or Rome. (Not to mention Washington, D.C.) Is it not the case that what is presented as the “Erdogan problem” is merely the local, Turkish expression of a broader problem, where political leadership has degenerated to an abysmal level, in tandem with the degradation of the overall political culture? Perhaps that is the issue that we need to address.
(Sources: combined German press and online, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, FOCUS online, Spiegel online)