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


Vigil and Commemoration in Berlin

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
BERLIN, May 16, 2019 — A central feature of the events organized every year by the Armenian community on April 24 is the demand that Turkey acknowledge the genocide. The AGA, a Working Group for Recognition, held a vigil on April 27 in front of the Turkish Embassy in Berlin, precisely to raise this demand. Participants in the vigil held up a banner with the text, “Armenians, Aramaeans, Assyrians, Greeks Speak with One Voice against the Turkish Genocide.” On the following day, the FÖGG, a Society for the Promotion of an Ecumenical Monument for Genocide Victims in the Ottoman Empire, joined with the Armenian Church and Cultural Society held its commemoration at the site of the ecumenical alters of remembrance in the Berlin-Charlottenburg cemetery. Prof. Tessa Hofmann, sociologist and Armenian studies scholar, plays a leading role in both organizations.

At the chapel of the Evangelical Cemetery, Sona Eypper of the FÖGG leadership, welcomed participants, who received greetings from Armenian Ambassador Ashot Smbatyan. Archimandrite Yegishe Avetisyan spoke on “April 24th, 1915 and its Significance for Armenians Today,” in Armenian, with consecutive translation. Amil Gorgis reported on the completion of the ecumenical monuments. “Loss and Legacy” was the title of a series of readings from memoirs of survivors, delivered by Tessa Hofmann, Gohar Baghdasaryan and Anais Gövez.

Interspersed throughout the program were musical interludes by violinist Lilit Rostomyan, including Dele Yaman by Komitas. Following a moment of silent reflection, the participants walked in a procession to the ecumenical monuments and laid wreaths, after which Avetisyan offered prayers.

(For more on the FÖGG and AGA see https://mirrorspectator.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/March-3-2018-1.pdf, http://www.genozid-gedenkstaette.de/fogg-aktiv/index.php) and http://www.aga-online.org/aboutus/index.php?locale=de)


Three Artists Exhibit in Netherlands, Germany

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
WIESBADEN, Germany, May 16, 2019 — Two years ago, a group of six young Armenian artists came to Wiesbaden, Germany to exhibit their works at the Haus der Heimat. (http://www.mirak-weissbach.de/Publications/Archive/files/96e44e6572b1e38f4cf202e09e7e8bb0-135.html) Now, two of the six have returned, this time with a new colleague, for a show in the Netherlands and a brief visit again to Wiesbaden.

The Dutch exhibit took place at the Galleria Unexpected, in Groningen, from April 12 to May 3. Guy Ghazanchyan, 28, and Arman Hambardzumyan, 31, have shown their paintings and sculptures in numerous countries of eastern and western Europe and the United States. Romeo Melikian was here for the first time but has already exhibited in England, Lebanon, Russia and Armenia.

The opportunity to show their works in Groningen came quite by chance. Gallery owner Kors van Bladeren was in Armenia in 2014 and saw some of Hambardzumyan’s works. Impressed, he suggested organizing a solo exhibit in Groningen, but the artist was not quite ready. He did participate in an international symposium there however. In 2018 van Bladeren returned to Armenia and this time they struck an agreement, whereby the Armenian sculptor would travel to the Netherlands, and would take two colleagues with him. The show, which lasted three weeks, was very well received.

While in the Netherlands, the three took advantage of the enormous opportunity offered by a country with such a rich artistic heritage. In Amsterdam and Rotterdam as well as The Hague they spent days visiting the museums and experiencing the works of the great masters in the original.

Before returning to Armenia, they stopped over in Wiesbaden. Guy Ghanzanchyan became acquainted with Germany at a tender age, when his mother (also an artist) took him to visit his grandmother, Nona Gabrielyan, who has been living and working here as an artist for decades, together with her artist husband Van Soghomonyan. Gabrielyan organized a one-day show for the trio in their atelier/gallery V&N in central Wiesbaden. While here, the three again visited museums in the region, including the famous Städel in Frankfurt, which was hosting an exhibit of works by Titian and other masters of the 16th century Venetian renaissance.

In June, the three will return to Europe for an exhibit at the National Art Museum of Belgrade, Serbia.

Cracks in the Little Singers building

Old Yerevan and Young Voices Clash

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
YEREVAN, MAY 9, 2019 — It was a bitter cold evening in January 2019. The noise emanating from the construction site in the center of Yerevan during the day must have been deafening: heavy pounding of steam shovels against the ground, whirring of earth moving machinery, and workers’ voices seeking to make themselves heard above the fray. That evening, without forewarning, came the sound of something massive, crumbling, smashing down onto the earth, while brown-grey clouds of dust and dirt rose up from the ground, obfuscating the view. The wall had come down and by a stroke of fortune none of the people inside were hurt.
The Little Singers
It was not the Berlin wall, but the wall of a building on 23 Arami St., one of the four walls of a historic building that has been the “second home” of the Little Singers of Armenia since its founding in 1992. That is where they had been rehearsing.
No one should have been taken by surprise. Even without particular expertise in construction methods and building safety, one could have predicted that, if most of the old buildings on that city block were demolished, and a large hole were dug in the center of the large plot of land, the ground beneath building Nr. 23 would be affected.
In fact, the process leading to the collapse began earlier, in November 2018. And it certainly had to do with the hole. According to government regulations, the hole was supposed to be 10 meters deep maximum, but the one that was being dug went 15 meters down. It began right next to 23 Arami St. and earth-moving machines moved under tuff rocks of the building. One might have even thought the damage had been done on purpose, and in fact, gradually, the wall separated from the building.
On November 27, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had visited the perilous site, viewed the damage and given instructions for repairing the building. But nothing was done. Then, less than two months later, the wall came tumbling down.
That was on January 11. As a result, the building was transformed from the venue of music rehearsals for the world-renowned children’s choir to a safety hazard. As documented in March 2019, the danger of further catastrophe was imminent; the continuing excavation work on the hole at Teryan Street and the heavy traffic at times involving three-axel vehicles and heavy machinery, add to the threat to the building, which is located at the juncture of Teryan, Byuzand and Arami Streets. There is a serious danger that the façade of the building on Arami Street will also collapse.
The facade of the Little Singers’ building

In April, my husband and I were in Yerevan and visited the site. We were not on hand when the first wall crumbled, but the description of the disaster above is not pure fiction. And we had been apprised of the danger as early as 2017, during our previous visit. My husband had photographed the building at the time, as well as the construction site, the area where the gaping hole would become bigger as time went by. Now, in 2019, we could only shake our heads in dismay.
Tigran Hekekyan, the founder and director of the Little Singers, brought us up to date on developments. In an attempt to save the building, he was circulating a petition that had been signed by numerous artists. The petition, entitled “Children’s Choir in Dire Danger!” is addressed “To the developers of the ‘Old Yerevan’ project, the Yerevan Municipality, the Urban Development Committee of the RA, and the Government of the RA.” It states that the future of the choir is in danger. “The historical monument where the rehearsals of the choir ‘Little Singers of Armenia’ are held is on the verge of collapse. The building’s structural integrity has been compromised as a result of illegal construction that is being carried out under the guise of the ‘Old Yerevan’ project.”
The petition goes on to report that the choir has had to suspend activities as a result, its last performance having been on October 11, in the context of the 17th Francophonie summit held in the Armenian capital. The petitioners demand that the structural integrity of the building be restored “and that a temporary venue be accommodated” until the security of the original building is guaranteed.
Calling on “individuals all over the world” to support their efforts, the petitioners stress that they seek “to prevent not only the collapse of the historic building, but also to protect the Little Singers,” so they “can work and share the light of love and goodness all over the world.” Among the signers of the petition are: Gudz Manoukyan, Tigran Mansuryan, Armen Khandikyan, Yervand Ghazanchyan, Arkadi Ter-Tadevosyan, Vigen Chaldranyan, Armen Elbakyan, Khachatur Martirosyan, Artavazd Peleshyan, Armenouhi Karapetyan, Arthur Utmazyan, Avetis Berberyan, Mkrtich Minasyan, Vagharshak Zakaryan, Hrant Vardanyan, Rouben Barbayan, Gagik Ginosyan, Narine Tukhikyan, Aram Satyan and Svetlana Navasardyan.
Hekekyan told us, in closing, that the Old City Closed Joint Stock Co., which organized the construction work, had refused to realize a reconstruction plan proposed by Italian architects and that the same plan had not yet been confirmed by the Yerevan Municipality. In the meantime, the Little Singers were starting rehearsals in rented office space, with a lease that can be extended only for three-month periods.
The large hole that has destabilized the building

Where is Old Yerevan?

In the petition reference is made to the “Old Yerevan Project”: “The developers,” the text reads, “want to take possession of the Little Singers of Armenia choir’s building, to demolish it and use the entire property for their project.” It continues that due to “The authorities’ passivity and the aggressive behavior exhibited by the developers,” the matter will end up in the courts, “most probably in the European courts,” which could “drag on for many years.” To be able to continue their work, the choir would need a new location, which could cost $5,000 a month.
The Old Yerevan Project presents itself as a program of urban development aimed at preserving the historic the old city of Yerevan. Photos on the website www.oldquarter.am document the demolition of those buildings, and the reader is to assume that they will be reconstructed, to conserve the original design and structure. Instead, it appears that a “tourist pedestrian zone” is to come into being, and “comfortable showrooms, cafes, restaurants … exhibition halls and museum-shops, art galleries, small hotels … are expected to be built.” Indeed the name Old Yerevan should not be taken literally; it “is conditional and does not mean the creation of an ethnographic quarter, but the re-creation of the historical and architectural environment. In the architectural interpretation of the project, the harmony of old and new forms is used….”
According to an article in EVN by Lilit Margaryan on April 4, this is not the whole story. (https://www.evnreport.com/raw-unfiltered/chronicles-of-the-old-yerevan-quarter) In the 1970s, architect Levon Vadanyan had the idea of protecting the buildings in the historic area that go back to the pre-Soviet era and are characterized as “black buildings” for the use of black stones, but to no avail. Demolition began in the Soviet period and continued even after independence. By 2005 there was very little left and in that year the Old Yerevan Project was set up. The designated area, enclosed by Arami, Abovyan, Byuzand and Koghbatsi Streets, was divvied up into five lots and auctioned off to three private companies. Years later most of the area was declared to be eminent domain and was taken over by the Old City Company. The plan for restoration was indeed an urban development plan, foreseeing non-residential buildings, cafes, restaurants, galleries, shops, etc. all under a 7,000-square-meter glass dome. The historical monuments originally located on the site had been divided into three categories: those to be restored, those to be rebuilt with what was left of the original stones, and those to be demolished and replaced by new structures.
According to an earlier article by Ani Mshetsyan in ArmInfo, there was an interdepartmental consultation in 2017 in which Vardanyan participated, with Narek Sargsyan, chairman of the State Committee for Urban Development of RA, and employees of the Ministry of Culture and Yerevan City Hall. (https://finport.am/full_news.php?id=31291&lang=3) At that meeting, plans were discussed for implementation, which parts of the area and which buildings were to be restored or reconstructed. Mshetsyan refers in the article to plans by Vardanyan to include a two-story underground parking lot as part of the project.
The home of the Little Singers on 23 Arami Str. fell victim to the construction work. Lilit Margaryan reports that Vardanyan, as author of the project, had slated the building for dismantling and reconstruction at any rate, on grounds that the sidewalks were too narrow and had to be widened to three meters. The building was “on the edge of the street,” he said, and “it would be taken apart and moved back three meters. This means we are keeping the building in the same area,” he is quoted as saying.
Be that as it may. The fact is, construction work on the property where the building stands was carried out, with authorization of the Yerevan Municipality at the time, and in violation of technical requirements related to urban development. Due to the incompetent work, the building suffered massive damage. Reportedly the Ministry of Culture filed a criminal lawsuit with the General Prosecutor’s office. Since then the ministry has been phased out.
An Expert’s Evaluation
Michael L. Sahakian, a technical consultant, examined that matter and issued his findings on March 27, 2019 to the Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, with copies to the Mayor of Yerevan Haik Marutyan and Chairman of Urban Development Vahagen Vermishyan. In introducing his study of the failed excavation, he stated that he himself, “in 50 years of Project Management, Engineering and Construction internationally, … has experienced such a predicament due to natural causes but never seen one with such human incompetence.” He added that a Site Safety Manager, Hamo Hayrapetian, certified by the City of New York, accompanied him in his inspection and shared his conclusions.
Sahakian’s document explains the technical reasons for the disaster deriving from the faulty construction work, which led to accumulation of excessive liquid, aggravated by rainfall, heavy traffic, and other factors. The storm drain catch basin at Arami Street and Byuzand collects surface runoffs, but the water has nowhere to drain except underground. “All four sides may collapse anytime due to various causes,” he writes, and points to the “junction of Arami and Teryan adjacent to the Armenian Little Singers International  Building, a landmark of Armenian architecture.” He forecasts the collapse of the structure, which “may involve loss of human lives and public property not to mention the landmark building.” He specifies that it is not a question of “if” but “when” the disaster would occur, which would necessitate closing the road and entail a huge financial burden for reconstruction.
In his view, this very complex problem requires coordination by the City Building and Safety Department, with the cooperation of experts in foundations soils who have experience in excavation. In addition, “an expert licensed structural engineer is conjunction with the foundations expert jointly need to study and design the remedy” which entails “a complete constructability review.”
The report concludes: “Both the writer and the Safety Manager are American Armenians with Armenian citizenship also. We have supported the Prime Minister from the days of the amazing Campaign and Revolution. We continue to strive for a better Armenia. We think it would be an unfortunate situation if a disaster occurs; it won’t go on the account of the past government but on the watch of the present one in the eyes of the world and the opposition.”

Protecting Architectural History
How should one preserve the architectural heritage of a nation? Since the collapse of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago and the subsequent reunification of Germany, followed by the independence of the former Soviet republics and the regained sovereignty of nations of eastern Europe, enormous efforts have been made to revive the beauty of great urban centers, especially in the capital cities. In Berlin, Warsaw, Budapest or Prague, to name a few, this has come about through careful restoration of architectural wonders that had fallen into decay, or outright reconstruction of those deemed past repair. The results vary in excellence but where the aim has been to recover the past architectural achievements, replicas of the original buildings have come into being that maintain the integrity of the original, to the degree possible.
In the case of the Old Yerevan Project, it appears that the aim of project author Vardanyan was not to restore monuments but to “recreate an environment.” He has compared his vision to the Vernissage open air market in Yerevan, saying that the current one is “in an embarrassing state.” He says one should “imagine a luxurious version of the Vernissage,” where there would be makers and sellers of carpets, or silver jewelry and the like. As for solving the problem of those dismantled buildings, whose stones have disappeared or been severely damaged, he thought the problem was not restoration of monuments but what he calls the recreation of the “environment“ of the old city. “I do not need the sign to say ‘Monument’,” he explained in 2014, “I want my grandchildren to grow up and see that Yerevan looked like this in the 19th century.” (https://www.armenianow.com/society/59183/armenia_old_yerevan_project_presentation)
But did Yerevan look like the drawings of the project? For architect Karen Balyan, the Vardanyan approach is “pseudo-architecture and a theatrical approach to architecture.” One should restore historical structures, in Balyan’s view, as has been done in Tbilisi for example, not build anew. For architect Sashur Kalashyan, a member of the Yerevan City Hall Urban Development Council, Vardanyan’s idea is artificial, and would create not an urban environment, but a public resort zone.
For the Little Singers of Armenia the issue goes beyond aesthetics. On April 15, A. Vardanyan, who is the Head of the Division of the Programs of Special Regulation of Urban Development Activity, responded to the petition issued on behalf of the Little Singers. Welcoming the professional contributions made by the choir, the writer expressed his concern for the situation caused by the construction work associated with the Old Yerevan Project and announced that his office had sent an appropriate letter to the construction companies “Old City” CJSC and “EMC” CJSC, urging them to implement the necessary measures with regard to securing, maintenance and sale of existing property at the designated location.


Young Musicians Prepare for a Better Future

By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach Special to the Mirror-Spectator
YEREVAN — “If music be the food of love, play on!” Shakespeare’s Duke of Orsino, who could not get enough if it to surfeit his appetite, may have been a hopeless romantic, but he had a point. Music is the food of love, and it nourishes not only the heart but also the soul. Nowhere is this more evident that in Armenia, where a rich musical culture pervades the land, in a manner and to an extent that reminds one of Germany. The country is far smaller, covering a land area the size of one German federal state, and its population of 3 million a fraction of Germany’s 80 million. But the role of music in education and daily life is indeed comparable.
During a trip to Armenia in early April, my husband and I were able to witness this once again, as we visited four music schools that our small foundation has been associated with.
Gyumri, the cultural capital of Armenia and its second largest city, has more than one music school, and boasts a long tradition of musicians, composers and graphic artists. At the Octet School, destroyed in the 1988 earthquake and rebuilt in 2013 thanks to the efforts of Ian Gillan and his Deep Purple music ensemble, together with the Mardigian Foundation and the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR), we met Manya Hovhannisian, the new director, who told us there are 224 students receiving instruction there this year. In fact, they were in the last stages of preparation for a concert of instrumental and vocal music.

Days later we visited the music school in Dilijan, about 120 kilometers from the capital. Margarit Piliposyan, regional director of FAR, accompanied us to the school, which is the regional hub for music education in the province (marz) of Tavush. The State Art College of Dilijan provides instruction at two levels for children and youth: a seven-year program offers afterschool lessons for children, and older students who choose to major in music can attend a four-year college, which will prepare them for a teaching career. With 178 pupils in the first level and 63 in the upper level, they are coordinating work in 15 music schools in the region. By equipping young musicians to teach others, they are a motor force in the educational process.
Thanks to the efforts of FAR, the concert hall has been renovated and equipped with 300 new chairs. But, as it was not yet completely ready, the concert we attended was held in an older concert hall. The teachers and students organized the event as a gesture of gratitude to those who had sponsored the purchase of badly needed new instruments, 37 of them, jointly financed by our foundation and FAR’s Galust Galo Fund.
We were treated to an afternoon of wonderful music, performed by youngsters from both levels of instruction. We marveled at an original jazz piano piece performed by the young composer herself, and heard a soprano with an Armenian lullaby, followed by another vocalist singing a Puccini aria. It was amazing to see how early these children begin! A very small lad walked confidently onto the stage and, with a huge voice that defied credulity, treated us to a lively rendition of an Armenian folk song. His classmate, about the same size, had to adjust the piano stool downward to be able to mount it. With concentration, he placed his hands on the keys, fluttering gently through a piece from the classical repertoire. A teenage girl carried on stage one of the new instruments, a majestic kanon, and played with virtuosity and emotion, accompanied on the piano. Concluding the program was a trio of girls on kanons, followed by a brigade of drummers (some with newly acquired instruments) who moved from one rhythmic escapade to the next with the ease of a kaleidoscope. And yes, we were right to recognize one of the drummers as the talented young pianist...

They performed with technical skill and confident mastery of their medium, but with no trace of that stiffness that often hampers young musicians when they are on stage. Here was enthusiasm, extreme musicality and the pure joy of producing beautiful works. It was the best thank-you anyone could wish for.
And it was not the only one. The very next day we went to the Alexan Hekimyan music school in Yerevan, on the invitation of Lusine Arakelyan and Director Monika Petrosyan. Arakelyan is an opera singer who has continued her education after graduating from the Yerevan Conservatory, through master classes in Europe, and now teaches singing at the school. In June, she, along with other teachers, plan to accompany a group of students to participate in a competition in Italy.
In this concert we were able to enjoy the fruits of musical training from the youngest to the oldest students, in roughly chronological order. The first to appear on stage were two girls, about 8 years old, who performed Arishka by Doljikov on flutes with piano accompaniment. Other solo instrumentalists followed, the very young pianist Aram Asmangulyan with Berkovich’s Variations and later teenager Garnik Hayrapetyan, who performed a challenging piece by Rachmaninov, Polichinelle, with great skill. Among the vocalists were several pupils of Arakelyan’s, the promising tenor Narek Baldryan and soprano Nare Samvelyan singing a duet by Leoncavallo, and Narek alone, singing Kanche krunk by Komitas.
As this is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Komitas, other works of his also were featured; a female vocal trio presented Swallow and the young Narek Sahakyan sang Krunk.
Traditional Armenian instruments were featured, including the kanon. Alexander Avetisyan displayed his mastery of the saxophone with a rendition of Rapsody by Waignein. And to conclude the concert, a robust brass band played Valse by Tjeknavorian, a Strauss polka and Aznavour’s Je t’attends. As my husband remarked in his words of thanks to the musicians, we never stop marveling at the high level of musical excellence achieved by these young performers, some of whom we have had the pleasure of hearing over the years, thus witnessing their continuing progress.

Only one day later we were treated to yet another concert, this time at the music school in Gegashen, about 30 kilometers from Yerevan. Though the village has only 4,000 inhabitants, it has a flourishing music school, whose director is pianist Mariam Kazaryan. Here the concert opened with choral pieces, performed by a mixed choir of varying ages singing traditional Armenian songs. The entire event was a tribute to Komitas; the emcee was a student who stood at the podium and delivered an impressive overview of Komitas’s life and works. Interspersed in the presentation were then the selected pieces by the great composer. There followed soloists on the piano and kanon. Again, we were amazed to see how young the pupils are, and how seriously they take their music work. One girl, perhaps not 8, was provided with a foot stool so that she could manage to balance her kanon on her knees and play. Some of the instruments had been newly acquired through a donation. The concert concluded with a trio of teachers, featuring Kazaryan on the piano, her brother on the clarinet and a colleague on the kanon.
After the concert, which received lengthy, enthusiastic applause from a very happy audience of family and friends of the pupils, everyone streamed outside to take part in a tree planting ceremony organized by the new mayor of Gegashen. Next to the music school on an empty lot, we could see bulldozers ready to prepare the terrain for a new building. Though Gegashen has a school going up to the 12th grade, it has lacked a kindergarten so far. Now that too is under construction. As the country moves toward the first anniversary of the “velvet revolution,” expectations are great that progress will be made in improving and expanding basic infrastructure, including education. In this process, cultural policy will be crucial, and it is to be hoped that music will continue to fill the lives of children and youth with joy and optimism in the future.

Parliament President Ararat Mirzoyan, left, with President of the Bundestag (Parliament) Wolfgang Schäuble

Armenian-German Relations
Move Forward: Mirzoyan in Berlin

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
BERLIN, MARCH 28, 2019 — Following Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s recent state visit to Germany, the process of intensifying contacts between Yerevan and Berlin continues apace. On the invitation of German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the President of the Armenian Parliament Ararat Mirzoyan began a five-day visit to Germany on March 17. In the capital he was received by the President of the Bundestag (Parliament) Wolfgang Schäuble, and was scheduled to meet with parliamentarians, including Petra Pau, Bundestag Vice-President, and Johannes Kars, head of the German-South Caucasus Friendship Group.
His agenda includes discussions with Ralf Wieland, President of the Berlin parliament, Stephan Toscani, President of the Saarland federal state parliament and Parliamentarian Albert Weiler, President of the German-Armenian Forum. The delegation, comprising parliamentarians Ruben Rubinyan, Lilit Makunts, Ednon Marukyan, Naira Zohrabyan and Tsovinar Vardanyan, was invited to visit the German Parliamentary Association (DPG) the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) and the Saarland University.
Two Peaceful Revolutions
In remarks on March 18 in the Berlin Parliament, Mirzoyan recalled the image still fresh in many Germans’ memories of “the Berlin Wall dividing the people, the country and your beloved city from each other.” He went on to evoke the events of November 9, 1989 when “the people of Germany united” around the idea of an undivided nation, which led to the collapse of the regime in East Germany, and “resulted in the re-unification of Germany on October 3, 1990, which opened a new page in the world history. The world is glad to see again a united and dynamic Germany.” He referred to a picture in the ‘Berlin Wall’ Museum, which shows a woman leaning against the wall, with the caption, “The pressure that in 1987 I made with the palm of my hand produced its result after two years.”
Turning to his own experience, Mirzoyan said, “The struggle of the citizens of the Republic of Armenia through many years for democracy in our country, protection of human rights and the rule of law resulted in the Velvet, non-violent Revolution in April-May, 2018, which unfolded completely in accordance with the Constitution. Now,” he continued, “we should strengthen the democratic model of development and develop its efficiency. In this respect we consider important the deepening of our relations with the EU.”
Working with Europe
“We are resolute to expand and deepen the process of institutional reforms together with our European colleagues. We also highly evaluate the balanced policy being pursued by Germany in the South Caucasus and the support to Armenia in different spheres.” The high-level political dialogue established between Germany and Armenia, characterized by “inter-parliamentary cooperation, the expanding cooperation in bilateral and multilateral formats, and the activation of economic and cultural ties serve as evidence of further deepening of cooperation.” Mirzoyan said that in the process of enhancing relations, he thought the capital cities in the two countries could play a special role. “I hope that Berlin and our 2800-year old capital Yerevan will be able to carry out joint cooperation programs for learning from each other and exchange of experience. The experience of Berlin will certainly be useful for the newly elected authorities of Yerevan in the context of urban management and sustainable development of the city economy.”
In his meeting with the leadership of the German-Armenian Forum, Mirzoyan reiterated that it is Armenia’s intention to seek an even more intensive dialogue with Germany, in which the Forum could play a vital role. Forum President Albert Weiler reported on the aims and activities of the relatively young association. The Forum and its members have followed the political upheavals in Armenia with attention, he said, and welcome the reforms that the new government has announced.
Cooperation with Armenia should be stimulated by the EU-Armenia Partnership Agreement, he said, adding that the Bundestag would vote on the document in April. “With the Partnership Agreement Armenia has a comprehensive and excellent opportunity to develop cooperation with the EU and to carry out reforms in various fields. Our aim,” Weiler continued, “is to intensify the political and economic partnership and cooperation with Armenia on the basis of our common values and close ties,” and this, he added, includes strengthening participation in European Union policies, programs and agencies.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Mirzoyan responded to questions by Forum members. At the event several high-ranking representatives of the city were present, as well as the Primate of the Armenian Church in Germany, Archimandrite Isakhanyan, and the Provost of St. Hedwigs Cathedral, Tobias Przytarski. Forum President Weiler joined Parliament President Mirzoyan in laying a wreath on the memorial stone commemorating the victims of the Armenian genocide.

(Sources: Armenpress, German wires, German-Armenian Forum press release; Mirzoyan speech adapted from “Armedia” Information, Analytical Agency)

Ca’ Foscari university

Scholars in Venice Conduct a Journey through Armenian Art

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
VENICE, FEBRUARY 28, 2019 — Venice has a long history of relations with Armenia, which most people associate with the Mekhitarist monastery on the island of San Lazzaro, with its imposing church and magnificent library. But Venice also hosts an important center of Armenian studies, at the Ca’ Foscari university, which has a Chair for Medieval Art History and for Armenian Language and Literature. On February 21-22, the university, in collaboration with the Center for Studies and Documentation of Armenian Art and the Association Internationales des Études Arméniennes, hosted an international conference on “Armenian Art: Critical History and New Perspectives.”
Gathering specialists from Armenia, France, Germany, the Czech Republic and Italy, the conference aimed at providing new impetus for Armenian studies, in a venue associated with the names of such renowned past experts as Paolo Cuneo, Adriano Alpago Novello and Gianclaudio Macchiarella. The Ca’ Foscari university, continuing its mission as a center for cultural encounter, seeks to place new emphasis on the study of Armenian art in the Venetian context.
“The relationship between Venice and the Armenians in intense and fruitful,” Aldo Ferrari, professor of Armenian Language and Literature explained. “In the course of centuries Armenians have lived in the city as merchants, pilgrims, monks, printers and artists. It is no coincidence,” he went on, “that the first book printed in Armenian was published in Venice, back in 1512. In 1717, the Venetian Republic, known as La Serenissima, gave permission to the monastic congregation of Abbot MeKhitar to settle on the island of Lazzaro and thus to begin an extraordinary experience which provided the impetus for the cultural renaissance of the Armenian people.” And, he added, “also in Venice, the Moorat Raphael college was established, where a significant part of the Armenian cultural elite studied to the end of the 20th century.”
Ca’ Foscari inaugurated its chair for Armenian Language and Literature in 1976. The study of Armenian art, which is located here, represents an extraordinary patrimony that has ignited the enthusiasm of all those who have come into contact with it. “Already back in 1988,” Medieval Art historian Prof. Stefano Riccioni recalled, “Prof. Levon Zekiyan organized an important international conference on Armenian art. The following year, Prof. Adriano Alpago Novello began his course in Armenian Art and Architecture at Ca’ Foscari. In 1991, Novello transferred the Center for Study and Documentation of Armenian Culture, from Milan to Venice. And still today, this Center, under the direction of Minas Lourian, organizes several events on Armenian art, often in collaboration with Ca’ Foscari and the Biennale of Venice. Among the activities of the center are the Manukian Lectures, organized in collaboration of another important scholar who passed away recently, Prof. Gianclaudio Macchiarella.”
For the past five years, the seminars of Armenian art at Ca’ Foscari have been organized by Stefano Riccioni, Aldo Ferrari and Marco Ruffilli, in the Department of Studies on Asia and Mediterranean Africa (which hosts the Chair for Armenian Language and Literature). The same three scholars organized this year’s conference, which presented advanced research projects in various aspects of Armenian art, from architecture to miniatures, from khachkars to painting.
Following a lecture by Levon Chookaszian on “New Paths for the Exploration of Armenian Art,” Riccioni spoke about “Armenian Art in Venice – Tradition and Research Perspectives.” Attention was dedicated also to the “vishap,” the famous prehistoric stones characteristic of Armenia, which have been the subject of study in the Ca’ Foscari’s Dragon Stones Archaeological Project. Alessandra Gilibert introduced the origins and long history of the visaps and Hamlet Petrosyan spoke on “The Repatriation Movement of Jougha/Julfa annihilated khachkars.”h
The conference addressed several heated issues, like the fate of the Armenian artistic heritage in hostile political environments; Francesca Penoni discussed the current state of research related to the Armenian architectonic patrimony in Turkey. And with regard to literary works, Dikran Kouymjian spoke on “The Canon Tables of the Zeitun Gospels of 1256 by T’oros Roslin at the J.P. Getty Museum; A History of Theft, Profiteering and Public Indifference.”
Gohar Grigoryan presented a paper on “Method and Manuscript,” followed by Rachele Zanone, who presented a historiographical and iconographc study of the miniature art of Vaspurakan.
Patrick Donabedian delivered a lecture on “Armenia-Georgia-Islam: A need to break taboos in the study of Medieval art and architecture.” Marco Ruffilli discussed spoke on “The art of the Yovnat’anean – current status and research proposals.” Ivan Foletti and Pavel Rakitin concluded with a discussion of Armenian art in the Soviet perception.
The new book, Discovering the Art of Medieval Caucasus (1801-1945) was the subject of a round table discussion that completed the conference proceedings. Published in “Venezia Arti”, volume 27 (2018), the study was edited by conference participants Ivan Foletti and Stefano Riccioni.
As Riccioni pointed out, this conference is to be seen as the first in a series of international meetings on the theme of Caucasian art, which is part of an international research project, “Seminarium Caucasicum. Studies in Art on Medieval Caucasus (And Beyond),” directed by Michele Bacci (University of Fribourg), Ivan Foletti (Masaryk University) and Stefano Riccioni (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice). The project promotes regional discussions dedicated to the arts of the region and the conservation and care of their artistic heritage.
Schermata 2019-03-25 alle 18.26.30



Symposium: Life After Babylon

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach

HANNOVER, Germany, MARCH 14, 2019 — People of Jewish or Armenian heritage know that they share a painful history, one that deprived them of statehood and forced them into life in the diaspora over centuries.
In view of this shared, but differentiated experience, the European Center for Jewish Music (EZJM) and the German-Armenian Society (DAG) joined to organized a symposium at the Cultural Center in Hannover, from February 24-27.
Titled “We Will Live After Babylon: Armenian and Jewish Historical Experience between Expulsion, Exile and Destruction,” the three-day conference presented a vast spectrum, highlighting the diversity as well as the similarities in their historical experience. Scholars from all over the world joined in panels to exchange views on diaspora and minority issues, the Genocide and Holocaust as a breach of civilization, their commemoration and reception, and the relationship between the two communities today.
Between Annihilation, Dispersion and Revival
Following welcoming remarks on behalf of the sponsoring organizations by Prof. Sarah Ross (EZJM) and Dr. Raffi Kantian (DAG), historian Dan Diner from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem delivered the keynote on Imperial Remnants: Minority, Nation-State and Genocide, which laid out the conceptual parameters for the proceedings.
The diaspora was at the center of the symposium, and to present the Armenian experience, renowned historian Richard Hovannisian from UCLA had been invited. In his broad overview, he presented the consequences of the Armenian genocide and its effects on life in the diaspora, on the one hand, and the impact on those who lived in Soviet Armenia, on the other. Following irreparable destruction of the Armenian way of life in most of their former territories, the Armenians in the diaspora sought to maintain their collective identities in the community, and nurtured hopes of returning to the homeland one day. They did gradually heal economically and socially, despite the toll taken by assimilation. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the perspective emerged for an independent Armenian state in 1991, which offered the opportunity for an exceptional national revival, if the opportunity was properly utilized and developed.
How the trauma of genocide affected the identity of survivors was the subject of a paper by Harutyun Marutyan. Traumatized survivors often saw themselves as victims, “slaughtered sheep,” an identity which intellectuals sought to overcome. This led to the Knesset’s changing the memorial day into a date that honors heroes as well; in the Armenian case, the reference is still to genocide victims. Yet, the speaker noted, it was the memory of the genocide that instigated the struggle for democratic progress during the 1988-1990 revolution and led to the creation of the Third Republic.
And through the recent Velvet Revolution, the process of reshaping the culture of remembrance has progressed further. This was the subject of research presented by Öndercan Muti from the Humboldt University of Berlin. In a series of interviews with young Armenians (aged 19-35) in Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Germany and France in 2015, the research team asked how family memory had been transmitted and how the genocide affected their daily lives and political attitudes, including the way in which they commemorated the genocide. Muti reflected on the process through which the Velvet Revolution of 2018 has changed the political order and cultural and social norms. This has been reflected in the mode of commemoration and the critique by young Armenians of an identity based on victimhood.
Other aspects of the theme of identity among survivors came to light in talks by Daniel Gerson from the University of Bern, and David Leupold from the Humboldt University in Berlin. Gerson examined the experience of Holocaust survivors in Switzerland, in the context of a travelling exhibition on the subject which had met with controversy, regarding the implications of the appellation, “Swiss Holocaust Survivors.” Leupold discussed the limits of Turkey’s policy of memory regarding the genocide, on the basis of a study of local memory among the Kurdish minority in Southeastern Turkey. He argued that local memory, in the absence of recognition on a state level, may favor the emergence of “mnemonic cells of resistance,” against denialist state narratives.

Learning from the Language of Music 
One most intriguing facet of the proceedings related to the role of music. Philip V. Bohlman, from the University of Chicago and the Hannover College for Music, Drama and Media, turned to music in an effort to grasp the reasons why Jewish and Armenian histories have unfolded as parallel courses. To understand what he calls the “architecture of expulsion, the geography of exile and the flight from destruction,” he listened very closely to the two musical traditions together, examining five historical moments cohabited by the two cultures. He began with biblical texts, the confluence of Jewish and Christian metaphor, then moved to the music of the diaspora and into the modern era, before reaching the post-modern moment in the current century.
A researcher from the same university, Miranda Crowdus spoke on the role of collective memory in recent popular music genres in Israel, drawing on her original research. She focused on pieces dealing with the Jewish experience, with particular stress on the role of collective memory in the construction of group identity and cohesion. Taking examples from contemporary Jewish popular music, she showed how performers draw on and illustrate simultaneous states of dispossession and collective memory.  She applied her term “converging dispossessions” to describe the temporary unification brought about in the process of music-making by the evocation of collective memories and collective experiences of trauma.
Musicologist Dorit Klebe examined the influences of Armenian musical elements on Ottoman-Turkish urban and courtly songs. The subject of her specific investigation was a series of early sound documents in the Aleppo province. These wax cylinder recordings contain songs sung by a 12-year-old Armenian boy in Turkish and were made in Aleppo, which was characterized by a diversity of ethnic and religious minorities, among them Armenian and Greek Christians, and Oriental and Sephardic Jews. Thus these recordings, and others she investigated, provide material to analyze the different cultural components of the music, as to repertoire and compositional method. Klebe demonstrated some aspects of the multi-ethnic cultural environment and possible influences of specific elements of Armenian music, the “tetrachord system” as well as performance parameters such as vocal style and intonation.
As Judith Cohen, a Canadian ethnomusicologist, pointed out, exile takes many forms: it can involves entire communities, families and individuals, and can involve vast dimensions in time and space. Whether associated with expulsion or not, it is always associated with memory, and sometimes, with return. Cohen illustrated this concept through a presentation of Sephardic, specifically Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) songs of exile, expulsion, memory and return. It turns out that there are more songs about specific circumstances than about collective movements, and romantic elements may intervene, but Cohen mooted that “behind every song of personal exile, there is an awareness of collective exile, expulsion, subsequent wanderings and new homes, memory and, sometimes, on various levels, return.” In a workshop, Cohen would later present the basic genres of songs sung in Moroccan and former Ottoman lands.
Jewish musicians in the diaspora faced the question of how to deal with traditional Jewish songs, as a way of seeking and confirming identity, as musicologist Heidy Zimmerman demonstrated in a talk on three compositions, all based on Fritz Mordechai Kaufmann’s small collection, “The Most Beautiful Songs of the Eastern Jews” (Die schönsten Lieder der Ostjuden).
In the music of Armenian survivors, songs have served as means of dealing with the theme of loss of the homeland and exile. Elke Hartmann from the Free University in Berlin, explored the long tradition of the Armenian song poet, stretching back to the 12th century, and the unique symbolic language therein developed. After the 1915 genocide, many songs were updated, while others were detached from their original contexts and reinterpreted; today they are understood as allegories of the genocide experience. Hartmann traced this tradition through the lens of the experience of violence, loss and longing for a home, analyzing songs of survivors, in traditional songs, in wartime songs and in the music that developed in the new colonies of the diaspora.
In 2015 to mark the centenary of the genocide, it was music that played the leading role. It served as an “invitation to mourn with,” as Sylvia Angelique Alajaji, from Franklin & Marshall College, put it. She examined the concerts organized throughout 2015 as meditations, acts of remembrance that served to evoke and construct past traumas. These concerts, which included pieces by Western European composers alongside those by Armenians, engaged in musical discourses that broadened forms of cultural exchange, and posed the question not only of how to commemorate the genocide but who is being invited to join in the mourning; and, what it means to be an Armenian.

Life in a Minority
Two papers addressed the issue of what it is like to live as a member of a minority and how it affects one’s sense of identity. Laurence Ritter, a sociologist from Paris, presented results of her field study conducted between 2007 and 2010 on converted Armenians living in Turkey. Armenian scholar Arpine Maniero (Armenian State Pedagogical Institute and Academy of Sciences of Armenia) looked into the experiences of Armenian and Jewish students attending German universities at the beginning of the last century.
Ritter’s field study dealt with Armenian Genocide survivors and their descendants who had been forced to convert to Islam. She and her colleagues found that the experience of Hrant Dink and Fetiye Çetin served as catalysts for such “hidden” Armenians to research and rediscover their family histories. In her presentation she explored the distinction between hidden and Islamized Armenians, in light of case studies of families, and reported on changes that have occurred over the past decade, without losing sight of the dangers inherent in the currently tense situation in Turkey, with respect to this tenuous “awakening” of silenced Armenians.
In Maniero’s lecture, what was striking was the extent to which Armenian and Jewish students engaged in study within German and Russian academic institutions and circles had to fight for their national identities, against the pressures to be considered part of the dominant national elites at the time. Not only students but also professors they interacted with displayed prejudices and ignorance regarding Armenians, for example, by stating that most Armenians were engaged in trade, etc. The case of the Russian students entailed prejudices of a political nature, expressed by consular officials in Leipzig, for example, regarding Russian youth studying there. More than a comparison, the study dealt with the socialization of these two groups from the Soviet Union, who complained of discrimination in their homelands, while fighting in Germany against prejudice, or anti-Semitism.
The impact of the Armenian genocide on the perceptions of Zionists during the First World War was the subject addressed by Avital Ginat. She presented partial results of her doctoral research at the School of Jewish Studies and Tel Aviv University.  In her view, the Armenian genocide constituted a turning point in the attitude of the Zionists toward the Ottoman Empire, and shifted the balance in their orientation towards the British, while generating empathy for the Armenians. Although censorship at the time makes documentation difficult, she found that as rumors about the massacres began to arrive, anxiety increased as the Ottomans continued their policy of deporting Zionist activists from Palestine. The mood turned against the Turks and Zionists saw the war as an opportunity to reorganize the region. Ginat touched on the differences within the Zionist movement regarding their cultural orientation to Germany or Britain and the controversies around the reaction to the Armenian genocide.

Genocide in Literature and Cinema
Literary works have played an important role in the culture of remembrance and in the attempts at denial as well. Birgit M. Körner of the University of Basel examined treatment of the Holocaust and the genocide in Ephraim Kishon’s “Israeli satires.” These were humorous texts, bestsellers also in Germany, which were initially seen as contributing to reconciliation between Germans and Jews. Later his stories were accused of having dissolved guilt and shame. In the 1990s, Kishon, himself a survivor, began to integrate his personal experience into his humorous poetry. It is this aspect of his work that Körner was the first to investigate, with the conclusion that Kishon was a political author and a pessimistic “humanist.”
Marc David Baer of the University of Chicago introduced an unusual approach to denialism, in a paper on the way Ottoman Jewish historiography has treated the subject. By portraying Jewish-Turkish relations in an idealized form, characterized by harmony, conviviality and a common purpose, historians have thus painted a rosy picture that excludes contradictory details and silences counternarratives. Baer views this dominant utopian narrative as a reflection of fear and anxiety at what had befallen others, and an attempt to be accepted by Muslims.
In contrast, Hervé Georgelin from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, presented a work that represents a “rare perception of both Jewish and Armenian suffering.” This is an 800-page handwritten autobiographical fragment by Zaven Biberyan (1921-1984) that focuses on his ordeal as a young non-Muslim conscript during World War II in a forced labor battalion. The presentation shed light on the uniqueness of this work, in the author’s awareness of the collective loss suffered by the Armenians as well as the Jewish people.
Cinema is a powerful tool in shaping perceptions, and misperceptions. Lawrence Baron, formerly at the San Diego State University and the author of many books on cinema, spoke about “persistent parallels” in films about the Armenian genocide. He traced the process through which the Turkish campaign of denial enabled Holocaust films to establish the cinematic iconography and tropes employed in subsequent films about the Armenian Genocide. He showed clips from films like “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh” (1982), “Karot” (1990), “Ararat” (2002) and “The Lark Farm” (2007). In his concluding analysis of “Army of Crime” (2009) and “Remember” (2015), which deal with the anti-Nazi struggle, he raised the issue of how historical memory can be sustained and justice attained for the Armenians’ ordeal during World War I.
In the academic world, there is still a gap between historiography of the Holocaust and research into the genocide of the Armenians, as Christin Pschichholz from the University of Potsdam demonstrated. Her comparative study considered the effects of discussion about terminologies (intention, genocide), which are often subjected to political conditions, the influence of the discipline of Genocide Studies, which is still young, the integration of survivors’ accounts and the influence of the Armenian and Jewish diasporas on the respective fields of research.

Teaching the Genocide
If future generations are to maintain and transmit an understanding of these past catastrophes, so as to ensure they not be repeated, education is paramount. Thus the question of how to address these themes in the classroom had to be featured. Roy Knocke, a research assistant at the Lepsiushaus Potsdam, led a workshop on the Armenian genocide, in which he presented materials that the Lepsiushaus has developed for use in upper secondary education, and has been tested in practice. The workshop aimed at teachers and illustrated how the teaching materials allow educators to approach the subject from different perspectives.
Michael Stach, a student trainee at the State Seminar for Didactics and Teacher Training in Heidelberg, conducted a workshop on genocide and human rights as topics in teaching. His approach differed from that of Knocke, in that he located the topics in the context of artistic-creative subjects. This involves the use of texts, pictures or pieces of music as means to point out individual perspectives on moral-ethical questions and shed light on the causes, connections and effects of these topics from various viewpoints. In the workshop he presented teaching materials, especially for artistic-creative subjects, and devoted special attention to the role of the teacher in the process, with regard to competency and the sensitivity required to deal with the theme.
A round table discussion concluded the conference, on the theme, “Culture of Remembrance in the Field of Tension between Empty Promises and Ritualization.” It was a statement made by German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to Yerevan last August that framed the concept. “The suffering of countless Armenians must not and will not be forgotten,” she said. “Germany will make its contribution.” Those who debated the ways and means for Germany to do this included Ulla Jepke, Bundestag member for the Left Party (Die Linke), Micha Brumlik, retired professor in the education department, Goethe University in Frankfurt, Herbert Schmalstieg, former Lord Mayor of Hannover and Raffi Kantian of the German-Armenian Society.

The Role of the Arts
Literature, music and cinema utilize different artistic means to transmit a message, as speakers illustrated in diverse presentations. Conference attendees had the opportunity to experience the power of art, during film showings of “From Ararat to Zion” (2009) and “The Key from Spain: The Songs and Stories of Flory Jagoga” (2000). A special treat was offered in a theatrical production of “Das Märchen vom letzten Gedanken” (The Story of the Last Thought), based on the novel by Edgar Hilsenrath, performed by the ZAKHOR ensemble. Hilsenrath, who died recently, was a Jewish survivor who told the story of the Armenian Genocide in the form of a fable related by the storyteller Meddah to the Armenian Thovma Khatisian.
The final concert was a unique event, which brought together Armenian and Jewish musicians for the first time. Two Jewish and two Armenian ensembles presented songs from home and exile in very different styles. Opera singer and cantor Assaf Levitin, accompanied by pianists Naaman Wagner, performed songs of the Sephardic Jews in the Ottoman Empire, in compositions by Alberto Hemsi, and the Trio Kramim/Zaks presented folk-style music in contrast. The Armenian bard Stepan Gantralyan sang of the homeland and exile with his own chansons and works of other Armenian songwriters, accompanied by guitarist Emil Georgiev. And the ensemble INDIVIDUAL from Yerevan made its German debut with Armenian folk music. The title of the final concert was a statement: “We did not stand lamenting at the rivers of Bablyon.”

Memoirs of an Armenian in Germany

By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach – Special to the Mirror-Spectator
WIESBADEN, Germany. FEBRUARY 21, 2019 — Lisa Berkian-Abrahamian has always lived with books; she has worked as a librarian, a newspaper editor, translator and author. Born in Armenia, she came to Germany in 1992 to live with her husband, Ara J. Berkian, and after his untimely death in 1994, remained here, carrying on his work and her own. In September 2014 she published a book in Armenian on her husband, which is not only a complete appreciation of Berkian as doctor, engineer, architect and writer, but also contains important material and letters from his archives, pertaining to German-Armenian relations.
In October 2016, she published her Armenian translation of the book in German by her husband, Between the Rhine and the Arax: 900 Years of German-Armenian Relations (Coauthor Enno Meyer) https://mirrorspectator.com/2016/10/20/friendship-between-the-rhine-and-the-arax/.
That year, the presentation of the book was a sensation, and well-known Armenian personalities, scientists, writers, journalists, as well as the Armenian Minister of Culture and the German Ambassador were in attendance.
Now a new book of hers has appeared, in Armenian, titled Verhuschi masunqner (What Remains from Recollections), which is a reflection on her activities over the past quarter century in Germany. It is a personal story, an autobiography, but also the story of an extended family whose history goes back centuries.
“Memories, recollections,” she told me, “are like a quiet shadow, that accompanies each of us, we engage in a dialogue with them, often out of the silence comes a cry, we see ‘voices‘ from them and experience how they ‘smell and taste.’ The vision of these voices, childhood flavors and images are enduring and well preserved. Now I would like to experience them again and tell the tale from this book of life.”


An Ancient Past
Accordingly, the first part of her book presents her birthplace and the people who lived there. She evokes the tastes, smells and voices from her childhood, and then reaches back in time to present her ancestors, parents, her siblings and her husband, before coming to herself.
She was born in 1949 in Gegharot, a small village northwest of Yerevan, just 18 kilometers from Spitak. The ancestral home was in a vast area which archeologists have been digging over the past years, unearthing remains of a civilization that dates back to the 3rd-2nd millennia B.C. In that era, these were holy sites, and the gravestones and ceramics brought to life date from the Bronze age. In 1998 a group of archaeologists in an Armenian-American team, under the direction of archaeologist Dr. Ruben Badalyan and the US scientist Adam Smith, supervised the diggings there for three months. In 1828 after the Russian-Persian war, her ancestors moved to there, to Keshishkend and together with other families founded a new village there, known as Gegharot since 1936. Others later joined these families and the village grew.
The place where she was born was small and the local school, which went up only to the 8th grade, was limited in what it could offer. She remembers with fondness her literature teacher Mr. Vardanyan, who encouraged her to pursue study in this area. To attend 9th grade she had to go to Vanadzor, and 10th grade was in Alagyaz. There were no teachers or courses in foreign languages, so instead of literature she nourished her fascination with books by training to become a librarian. She studied at the Pedagogical Institute in Yerevan and the Baku party college, in Azerbaijan. Upon completing her education, she worked as the director of the Gegharot library, and entered journalism. She became the department head of the Aragadz newspaper, then editor in chief, as well as department head of the propaganda department of the Armenian Communist Party District Committee in Aragadz.

Encounters with Personalities
The second part of her book contains accounts of meetings she had along the way, encounters with famous personalities, among them writers and artists, like William Saroyan and Maryam Aslamazyan. Among the many other personalities she met and who appear in her book are the poet Hovaness Shiraz, Sarkissian Karekin I, who was then the Catholicos of all Armenians, actor Sos Sargsyan, writer Hrachya Matewosyan, academician Varazdat Haroutunyan and world class violinist Sergey Khachatryan.
“There were famous personalities in my recollections,” she recalls. “The encounters with them were not only like holidays, but they gave me spiritual inspiration. It seems as if they occurred only yesterday, not a year or decade ago. They are not only pages in a diary but deeply rooted images, fond memories that I wanted to look through.”

In her book she relates the stories of how she met these figures. William Saroyan for example. It was in 1978, during celebrations to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the end of the Russian-Persian war, which freed Armenia. There was a festive atmosphere at the central event organized in Yerevan, which the famous Armenian writer from America was attending. By pure chance, Lisa Berkian found herself seated next to him and without thinking twice, she asked him for an autograph. “Are you Armenian?“ he asked in amazement, incredulous because she had such light blond hair. When she said she was, he wanted to know her name, where she came from, where Gegharot was, and what kind of work she did there. When he learned that she was the editor in chief of Aragadz, he was quite surprised.
One day she received a phone call from a local party representative who told her that the artist Maryam Aslamazyan was planning a visit to Aragadz to do some portraits, and needed someone to show her around. She readily agreed to accompany the painter on various meetings and invited her to visit her family, who were known for their hospitality. In turn, she later visited Aslamazyan in Moscow and in both places had the opportunity to see some of the portraits she had done depicting individuals from different ethnic communities, among them, Armenians and Yezidis. Lisa herself became the subject of one portrait.
The most decisive encounter was with the man who would become her husband. This came about thanks to the family tradition of an open house, offering warm hospitality to visitors. One day in 1989, a year after the devastating earthquake, she received a call from a friend of hers, Valentin, who was a committee chairman in the party and worked as a guide. He was accompanying a group of people who had come from abroad to provide humanitarian aid to the earthquake victims, in Gyumri, Vanadzor and Spitak. They were looking for a cafe or restaurant, somewhere to stop for a coffee break, but in those days, in that area there was nothing to be found. Valentin asked if they might stop by Lisa’s home. She at the time was chairing a support committee for Karabakh. Of course her friend Valentin could bring the foreign visitors to her home. One of the members of the group that arrived was Ara J. Berkian, and it was love at first sight. Berkian returned the following year for a visit, they corresponded for years, and in 1991 she accepted an invitation to visit him in Germany, traveling there together with Valentin’s wife. Berkian had studied at the American University of Beirut and gone to Germany to complete his graduate work at Darmstadt. In 1992 they married and she has lived in Wiesbaden ever since.
How could she know that her destiny would take her to Germany? To Wiesbaden? Her father and some colleagues have said that her punctuality and discipline were typically German, so it must have been God or destiny that led her to this country. In her book she recounts the main episodes of her years here, how she managed, after the death of her husband, her “only anchor“ in Germany, to remain standing on her own in this foreign land, and to keep on going, learning German, working at a job again, and making it possible to help her siblings and needy people in Gegharot. From 1997 to 2015 she was employed at the Wiesbaden city library, also as a specialist for media and information technology, until her retirement.
The book includes some of her own articles as well as an interview and articles about her. In recent years she has turned to writing, and has published these three volumes. Throughout these twenty-seven years of her life, “with springtime and summer,“ she said, “fall and winter, sadness, loneliness, there have been shining days“ as well as longing for return to the homeland. She always thought about returning, and her husband had promised her that they would return after three years. But he passed away before that and her return has been delayed ever since.
And yet, with her newest book, Lisa Berkian-Abrahamian has in a certain sense returned; she has brought back the memories of her own life, and reconstructed the history of her ancestors, thus providing the background for her own literary achievements.
A brief comment appears on the book cover flap, written by the person who first inspired her love for literature. It reads: “Lisa Abrahamian is a good storyteller. A talent that not everyone possesses. A great merit. Her tale rejoices in the tender appreciation of nature. The book is furnished with an epic poem, and the reader will read it with interest.

The people and things in the book are as interesting as they are in real life. Some pages I read (actually very many) were alluring, like those love stories I used to read in my youth. The language of such pages, especially those dealing with Lisa‘s ideas, is sparkling and rich. I am happy that I had such a pupil in my teaching days,” writes Prof. Xatchatur Vardanyan.


Pashinyan Visits Germany

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
COLOGNE, Germany – Februar 9, 2019 — When Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his wife Annas Hakobyan paid an official visit to Germany last week, their first stop was not the capital city but Cologne. This may have come as a surprise to some, but there were good reasons for it. As Pashinyan explained to a gathering of members of the Armenian community on January 31, “Cologne is the capital of the Armenians of Germany, and it was not accidental that we started the official visit here.” The meeting took place at the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is the seat of the church in Germany.
In his address that evening, in Armenian, Pashinyan touched on themes he was to see develop in greater depth in other meetings. First was the new role Armenia has come to play since the revolution; it has become “more visible and more audible for the civilized world,” he said. Sometimes the new situation creates embarrassment, he said, “when representatives of different powerful civilized countries ... tell us straight away ... that they have much to learn from us.” One should take due note of such statements, when they are repeated again and again, he said. “Yes, we have problems in many areas, but there is a sphere in which we are truly considered a leader in the world today. I mean the building of a society free of violence without resorting to violence. For this very reason,” he added, “we can say yes, we are a country of great importance in the world.” Citing poet Paruyr Sevak, he said Armenians do not put themselves above anyone else. However, “we should understand what we have, what we say and do in the modern world. These tasks are positive, they are endowed with universal logic, and they are interesting to the world and civilization.”
The revolution that took place, he said, was the result of a collective effort, an example of nationwide cooperation. Now that free and fair elections have been held, and acknowledged at home and abroad, these “political transformations need to be translated into economic changes.” This, the central message of his visit, means moving from a political to an economic revolution, to improve living standards for all, and eliminate poverty. To achieve this requires the contribution of all, citizens and compatriots abroad. He stressed the role of the single individual: “Who can change the world? Who can change reality? Individuals are the ones to do that. The 21st century belongs to those who believe in their strength. The time has come for us and our people to believe in our own strength.”
In dialogue with the community, Pashinyan addressed a question related to the elimination of the Diaspora Ministry, explaining that his staff would have an ambassador tasked with special responsibilities for the diaspora. The ministry itself should be reorganized, he said, with redistribution of functions, and “only one agency should be involved in each function.” He cited the example in education, where one ministry would provide textbooks to Armenian schools abroad, while another would provide teacher training. Now, he said, “the Ministry of Education and Science should take care of education,” and the aim should be to bring educational policies and culture within Armenia and among the Diaspora into harmony.
Khachkars and Computers in Cologne
Earlier in the day, Cologne’s Mayor Henriette Reker had received the prime minister at City Hall, with words of admiration and praise for the accomplishments of the peaceful Armenian revolution. “You are raising hopes in all those who stand for the promotion of democracy in the world,” she said. Thanking her, Pashinyan voiced his commitment to following up the political evolution with economic improvements, and hoped that Germany investments would contribute to the process. Pashinyan also expressed his appreciation for the German Bundestag’s recognition of the genocide in 2016. As Reker emphasized, the city of Cologne had contributed to the commemoration of the victims with a khachkar, an important step in the “process of recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide,” which must be continued, “in a bid to develop a global memory policy.” In response, Pashinyan said recognition was “crucial in terms of preventing future genocides,” and that this constituted a key aspect of Armenian foreign policy.
In addition to economic cooperation, especially in the IT sector, Pashinyan proposed establishing collaboration between Cologne and Gyumri, the earthquake-stricken city which shares with Cologne a rich cultural heritage. Reker responded positively to the suggestion and was ready to discuss details.
Prior to his talks with the mayor, Pashinyan had witnessed the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the Technical University of Cologne and Armenia’s National Polytechnic University. The Rector of the university Stefan Herzig and Armenian Ambassador to Germany Ashot Smbatyan signed the document, which provides for cooperation in the field of information and high technologies.
“Internationalism is one of the fundamental values for us at the Cologne Technological University,” said Herzig, in welcoming the Armenian prime minister. “We want to encourage our students to acquire intercultural competencies, which are increasingly important in the global world of work.” Scientific networks have always extended beyond national borders, he added, and his institution is eager to contribute to this further with international partners. In this regard, he considered it “an extraordinary honor” that the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia should be a guest of the university during his state visit. Pashinyan then delivered a lecture, entitled “Armenia after the Velvet Revolution: Fulfilling the Promise of the Digital and Technological Age.” Speaking in English, he focused on the role of the ongoing technological revolution, which is transforming “everything we do, say and produce.” Not only has the digital revolution introduced new forms of communication, it has “empowered citizens to amplify their voices and hold governments responsible,” as was manifest in Armenia’s revolution. Among the positive transformation made possible by the information technology (IT) age, are “transparency, accountability and better protection of human rights,” as achieved in Armenia. If, after snap parliamentary elections, this political process has been completed, new challenges face the country. “Now we have a task,” he said, “not less important. We desperately need an economic revolution. To this end, we are going to widely utilize all the opportunities that digital age promises.” Armenia has prioritized the IT sector, also because it provides opportunities for all players, large and small. Armenia’s special expertise in the sector is of particular value; Pashinyan explained that in the Soviet Union, Armenia was considered its equivalent of Silicon Valley, because that is “where Nairi-2, the Soviet-era first semiconductor computer and one of the first in the world, was manufactured.” Armenia is also the place where most “computing systems and electronics for submarines and spacecraft of the USSR” were invented and produced. Armenia hosted the most advanced facilities for research, design, production and testing of antennas and semiconductors.
Pashinyan gave an impressive overview of the five-fold growth of the IT sector in Armenia over the past seven years, and the increasing number of multinational companies that have set up facilities there for research and development. Furthermore, he mentioned “exciting startup projects to create ecosystems, incubators, including sustainable development laboratories. Artificial intelligence, cyber security, block-chain and semiconductor technologies are among our priorities,” he told the students of technology. He described the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies and its educational program, as well as the ARMAT laboratories, where schoolchildren are given access to robotics. Finally, he noted the National Academy of Sciences and the National Polytechnic University of Armenia, which latter had just signed the cooperation memorandum with Cologne.
“And, last, but not least,” he concluded, “Armenia’s main asset is its bright-minded and talented people with cutting-edge education.” Pashinyan said that the fact that the World Congress on Information Technologies will hold its congress in Armenia this year signals recognition of the country’s potential. He ended by extending an open invitation to all the students to attend the congress, which is expected to draw over 2000 delegates from 60 countries, and to see for themselves, not only what Armenia offers in IT, but also to “enjoy our ancient culture, hospitality, art and food.”Rounding out his visit to Cologne, Pashinyan had also met with Olaf Zimelka, who is the Eastern Europe Regional Director of the German Development Bank (KfW). This development institution is already a partner of Armenia, having signed a grant agreement for more than 23 million euros in November 2018 under the Armenia Biodiversity and Sustainable Local Development Program. During their talks, the two discussed perspectives for new initiatives.


Lunch with the Chancellor in Berlin
In the state capital, the Prime Minister and his wife were received by Chancellor Angela Merkel, Federal President FrankWalter Steinmeier and Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble.
He delivered a speech at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and met with representatives of the Germany-South Caucasus Parliamentary Friendship Group.
After an official welcoming ceremony, Pashinyan joined Chancellor Merkel for a working lunch at the Chancellery. Later, in an exchange with the press the two reported on the substance of their discussions. Merkel referred to her official visit to Armenia last summer, saying she was “glad to visit” and to “see the dominant mood in the country.” She expressed her confidence in the new leadership that has been confirmed by elections. She had discussed with her guest the ways that Germany may contribute especially to economic development in Armenia, and mentioned in this context the contacts with leading research institutions. Trade between the two increased last year by 40 percent, she reported, adding that this could increase. She thought rapid economic progress would be crucial for Pashinyan’s government, to halt the economic downturn. The two had also discussed geostrategic issues, including the Karabakh conflict; expressing support for Pashinyan’s repeated contacts with Azerbaijan, she stressed that to find a solution, both sides must demonstrate willingness to compromise.
In expressing his gratitude for the official invitation, enjoy productive relations with the EU at the same time. Indeed, it has a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the EU. They had discussed bilateral and multilateral cooperation, especially economic projects, and Pashinyan encouraged German companies to invest. Joint programs in IT, environmental protection and other areas were on the agenda. In response to questions about the Karabakh conflict, Merkel remarked that Pashinyan had “taken courageous steps, but it still remains to be seen if the other side will take such brave steps as well.” She urged Pashinyan to continue; at the same time, she repeated that actions have to follow, and on both sides. Pashinyan said he was waiting for a response from Azerbaijan, which is a precondition for any progress. Referencing a statement he had made in Parliament, he said any settlement would have to be acceptable to the peoples of Armenia, Karabakh and Azerbaijan. To date he has not heard a comparable viewpoint from Azerbaijan. Committed to a peaceful settlement, he pointed out that he can negotiate only in the name of the Republic of Armenia, and not on behalf of the people of Karabakh. “They have their own president, their parliament and government, who are supposed to negotiate on their behalf as the authorized representatives of the people of Karabakh.” As for a possible mediating role of the EU in this process, Pashinyan drew attention to the Minsk Group in the OSCE Co-Chairs, who have provided the necessary platform for negotiations. But “it is up to the three sides involved in the conflict to solve it,” he said. “The international community cannot solve the conflict for the three sides to
the conflict; it can just provide a platform.” Touching on the issue of visa liberalization with the EU,
Pashinyan ended on an optimistic note. He announced that in 2018, for the first time in decades, the number of Armenians returning to the country had increased. “We need to carry out institutional reforms in our country,” he said, “so that Armenia is not considered a country producing refugees.”
(Sources for this article include the official website, www.primeminister.am, the Cologne university press office, German wires)

From left, Tessa Hofmann, Miran P. Gültekin and Asa Tetik (translator),

Rediscovering Armenian Heritage in Turkey after Hrant Dink

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
BERLIN, JANUARY 24, 2019 —  “The question of whether after such a complete elimination, after the almost total expulsion and forced expatriation of survivors in the successor state, the Republic of Turkey, an existence as an Armenian, subjectively and objectively, is at all possible, has been my concern as a human rights activist for decades.” This is how Tessa Hofmann, genocide researcher and chairwoman of the Arbeitsgruppe Anerkennung e.V (AGA: Working Group for Recognition; Against Genocide, for Understanding among Peoples), opened a commemorative event in Berlin on January 19, the 12th anniversary of the murder of Hrant Dink. This question was the theme addressed by the keynote speaker, Miran Gültekin, originally from Dersim and now living in Istanbul.
The event took place in the Democracy and Human Rights House in Berlin, and was attended by Armenians and Germans, members of the Dersim Cultural Community, the Berlin Armenian community, and representatives from the Armenian Embassy, among others.

Miran P. Gültekin

What Is an Armenian?
But before Gültekin developed the theme, drawing on his personal experience as a Turkish citizen of Armenian descent, Hofmann suggested it would be important first to ask what an Armenian identity really is. It is not an easy question to answer, since longstanding discrimination and persecution often lead to cultural, linguistic and religious assimilation, “what we sociologists call multiple or fluid identities,” she said.
To illustrate the concept, Hofmann drew on the book by Avedis Hadjian, Secret Nation: the Hidden Armenians in Turkey, which appeared last year. The lengthy study is based on interviews the author conducted with people who had at least one Armenian ancestor, who related their experiences in the period between 2011 and 2014.
First, the number of such people, “hidden” or “crypto-Armenians,” is not really known. If Jakob Künzler spoke of 132,000 Cristian orphans in 1919 and Johannes Lepsius estimated the Islamized Armenians that year amounted to 200,000, American archive records refer to 95,000 in 1921 throughout Anatolia. Author Hadjian reckons there were hundreds of thousands of Armenians forced to convert from 1915 on, with the aim of “de-Armenianizing” them. For generations they bore the stigma of being “converts,” “heathens” or “the uncircumcised.” For generations, they preserved the memory of the wrongdoings perpetrated, confiscation, theft, plundering and worse. Attempts later to regain stolen land and property were unsuccessful, defeating hopes of reorganizing as a community.
The interviews document a process of accommodation to the local majority populations, whether Arab or Kurd, Turkish or Zaza-Sunnite. And the resulting multiple identity could appear in one extended family, with ethnic Armenians alongside Syrian orthodox, or Sunni Muslims, some speaking Turkish, others speaking an Iranian dialect, and so forth.
The question of religion is key, given the role it has played in Armenian history, blending with ethnicity to constitute identity. Most Islamized Armenians, Hofmann reported, in Diyabakir and elsewhere, do not seek a return to Christianity, and the obstacles placed in the path of those who do are immense. The population of “hidden” Armenians is also politically diverse. Hofmann’s own view is that under such conditions “the descendants of Armenian genocide survivors in Turkey are far from constituting a nation or a reserve that can be retrieved to re-Armenianize Western Armenia, as some nationalists speculate.” Instead, they provide the “sad proof” of Raphael Lemkin’s definition of genocide, whereby the survivors are robbed of the possibility of belonging to the group that has been eliminated.
To Be an Armenian
Gültekin’s presentation was aptly titled, “Can One Be an Armenian in Turkey Today?” He estimates that there are 60,000 Armenians living in Turkey, mainly in the capital. From its founding, Turkey has denied and persecuted ethnic and religious diversity, targeting in particular non-Muslims. And even if there are no concrete attacks, “one cannot say that we are free to develop.”
In a historical review, he detailed what Armenian life looked like before 1915, with large communities, 20,000 in Dersim for example, who often constituted the majority population, as in his native Mazgirt; and they had their own schools and churches. In the genocide, Armenians could perhaps survive if they converted or went into hiding, especially concealing their identity. He gave his own family history as an example: “In Dersim everyone knew that we were Armenian, but none of us went to church. We had Turkish names and were Muslims…Alevites. This is a confession of Islam but not really accepted as such in Turkey and is mistrusted.” His father had given the children Turkish names and after his parents migrated to Germany, the rest of the family moved to Istanbul and took up residence in an Armenian neighborhood; but they still did not go to church or attend an Armenian school.
“Armenian identity is very closely associated with religion,” he confirmed, and “the idea that someone who is not a Christian cannot be an Armenian is very widespread.” Thus, there was no real access to the community, “it was impossible for Islamized Armenians to speak up with a loud voice and say they were Armenians.”

From Assassination to Rediscovery
All that changed dramatically with Hrant Dink’s murder, which ushered in a new era. “The 19th of January is the day on which, for me and other Armenians who had been forced to live as Muslims for years, this new era began.” He said they felt as though a family member had been killed; “the bullet hit precisely that place that we had been trying to hide and cover up in silence.” The habit of not talking about events was broken. “I went to the funeral and took part in the demonstrations,” he said. “Then I decided to change my name and went to the court. I changed my religion and became a Christian. I went to the Patriarchate of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Istanbul and was baptized.” The fact that his family stood by him was crucial, and wife, son, brother and even a 70-year-old uncle also were baptized.
The process was anything but easy. Many told him he had made a mistake, he became the target of threats and insults. Most shocking was the fact that he didn’t feel accepted in the Armenian — with the exception of the editorial board at Agos newspaper. Gültekin studied Armenian, travelled to Armenia and took language courses there, and over the years gradually has gradually become accepted as an Armenian, but still has never been able to assume leading positions in Armenian institutions.
Gültekin was convinced that it was not only a matter of identity but also a political question of his basic democratic rights. In fighting for one’s identity, it is not merely a matter of deciding to be an Armenian rather than a Kurd. Rather, it is cultural values that are fundamental. “We did not feel we belonged to Muslim culture,” he said; “there was a sense of emptiness.” In his attempt to reawaken an identity that had lain dormant, he started to talk about it.  “I began to talk about what no one wanted to discuss. I told everyone. Journalists came from all over the world. Directors came. I told them all my life story.”
Out of this effort, he and his family and friends set up an association, which became a source of inspiration. Others followed their example, they had themselves baptized, went to church, celebrated Easter and so on. In Dersim they started Armenian language courses. In this process, many residents discovered their Armenian heritage, and it was often a traumatic experience.
“Imagine,” he said, “a child who has grown up in an environment where ‘Armenian’ is an insult, and then learns that his parents are Armenian. That is hard to accept. There are still people who cannot accept this. Their parents have become Armenians again, and go to church and the son goes to the mosque. Imagine such a situation, not only with respect to the religion but to the culture.”
The most important development was that their stories became known to a broader public, as books and documentaries appeared, the result of the work of hundreds of journalists who visited Dersim. This all happened, he said, at a time when Turkey “was still relatively democratic.”
Associations were formed, people began to commemorate the genocide, in Diyarbakir a church was reopened, Armenians let their identities be known. But in Dersim the situation is different. “Everyone there knows by now that we are Armenians,” he said, “But it is impossible to live there as an Armenian. There are neither churches nor can one speak Armenian in public.” Although they can purchase land, and attend Armenian schools that already exist, they cannot build new ones. So Istanbul remains the center of active Armenian life.
Gültekin stressed the subjective problems experienced by the community; in the current political climate, Armenians are under extreme emotional stress and often fear that persecutions could begin again at any time. Younger people want to emigrate and many researchers have abandoned their work due to the hostile atmosphere. Nonetheless Gültekin expressed his confidence in a better future and the hope that the next generations will have a happier life.
One crucial problem he described concerns the church. He said that many Armenians who have started to search for their relatives and their lost identities, have experienced difficulties when they try to get baptized. They are not always welcomed by the church representatives. As he put it, “anyone who has at least officially lived as a Muslim for many years cannot in their view enter the church.” For this reason often Armenians travel to Armenia or to Europe to be baptized.
In an exchange following the presentation, one Armenian asked what must have been on the minds of many others: “If even after a hundred years, repression and persecution continue, in an attempt to eliminate the Armenians, why don’t they simply leave Turkey?” Fundamentally, Gültekin replied, it is a fact that the Armenians, whether “hidden” or not, have their homeland there; that is where their ancestors lived and where their dead are buried. And they don’t want to give it up.
(Full texts of both speeches can be found at: http://www.aga-online.org/event/detail.php?locale=de&eventId=170.)

 Justice for 1.5 Million plus 1

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
FRANKFURT, JANUARY 24, 2019 — On January 19, Germans, Turks, Armenians, Kurds, Greeks and others gathered in several German cities to render homage to the memory of Hrant Dink, on the 12th anniversary of his death. In Frankfurt, a demonstration took place at a central location near the historic St. Catherine’s Church. Members of the Soykırım Karsıtları Dernegi (SKD), the Society against Genocide, organized the vigil which gathered a hundred people. Under the slogan, “Justice for 1.5 million victims of genocide, justice for Hrant Dink,“ the demonstrators carried photos of the murdered AGOS journalist as well as other activists currently jailed in Turkey. Candles and flowers lay on the ground among the photos and texts.
After greetings by SKD founder Ali Ertem, members of the group read out statements in German and in Turkish, explaining why they had gathered and what they were protesting. The group has held such demonstrations every year since his murder, alongside thousands of activists, in Istanbul, and worldwide. They were commemorating a very special person.

Demonstrators in Frankfurt

Why Hrant Dink Was Killed
The Armenian citizen of Turkey, father of three children, was an intellectual, the SKD representative said, who was “a voice for the voiceless” whose life was extinguished in accordance with the genocidal tradition of Turkey. His murder “is the continuation of the 1915 genocide,” and thus the slogan, “1.5 million + 1.” The reason he was assassinated, she continued, lies in the fact that he named the genocide by name, breaking a taboo in Turkey.
At the same time Hrant Dink fought for an honest dialogue and reconciliation, in the context of a democratic society he hoped would come into being, and guarantee equal rights for minorities, for people of different religions and nationalities. Although he received death threats repeatedly, he was denied protection by the Turkish state, which led the European Court of Human Rights to rule in 2010 that Turkey was thus co-responsible for his death.
The SKD has been following the legal proceedings these 12 years, in which proxies have been put on trial while those responsible for the order to kill have remained concealed. The conclusion drawn is that Turkish intelligence services, gendarmerie and police are among the complicit. The consequences of such actions, said the SKD representative, are that Kurds and other minorities today are being victimized, and anti-Semitism is also on the rise.

What Is to Be Done
In closing, the speaker read out the concrete demands the SKD has been making and will continue to make. First, a full investigation must be conducted to shed light on the background leading to Hrant Dink’s murder and who was responsible. This is the demand for justice for Hrant Dink and the 1.5 million genocide victims. Secondly, the immediate recognition of the genocide against the Armenians, Assyrian-Aramaeans, Ponto-Greeks and Yezidis – as well as the Dersim genocide. Thirdly, Erdogan must halt all massacres and human rights violations against Kurds and other groups, and free their imprisoned representatives. Finally, while the SKD welcomes the June 2016 resolution of the German Bundestag (Parliament) which recognized the Armenian genocide, it demands that the German federal government implement the conclusions of that act, by including study of the genocide in school curricula and introducing a national holiday in commemoration.
The demonstration in Frankfurt may have been modest in size, but appearances are deceptive. It is ideas that matter, and the people committed to translating them into reality. The SKD was the group that initiated the political campaign that eventually led to the historic resolution passed in the German parliament. (See Armenian Mirror-Spectator, December 20, 2018, The Turks in Germany Who Defeated Denial, www.mirrorspectator.com/2018/12/20/the-turks-in-germany-who-defeated-denial/)


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