Cultural genocide or cultural cleansing

 Cultural genocide or cultural cleansing is a concept that lawyer Raphael Lemkin distinguished in 1944 as a component of genocide. The Armenian Genocide Museum defines cultural genocide as “acts and measures undertaken to destroy nations’ or ethnic groups’ culture through spiritual, national, and cultural destruction.

The concept of cultural genocide was not included in the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

In 1912-1913 the Armenian Patriarchy of Istanbul presented an account of the churches and monasteries in Western Armenia (Eastern Anatolia) and in the Ottoman Empire. More than 2300 were accounted for including the early unique Christian monuments of IV-V centuries. But most of them were looted, burned and destroyed during the genocide.

In 1974 UNESCO stated that after 1923, out of 913 Armenian historical monuments left in Eastern Turkey, 464 have vanished completely, 252 are in ruins, and 197 are in need of complete repair.

Armenian architectural buildings are consistently being demolished with dynamite explosions and used as targets during Turkish military training exercises; the undamaged stones are also used as construction materials. In some rural places, Armenian monasteries and churches serve as stables, stores, clubs and in once case, even a jail. On many occasions the Turkish government converted Armenian churches into mosques.

On June 18, 1987 the Council of Europe adopted a Decree demanding from the Turkish government to pay attention to and take care of the Armenian language, culture and educational system of the Armenian Diaspora living in Turkey, also demanding an appropriate regard to the Armenian historical monuments that are in modern Turkey’s territory.

Source official web site of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of RA

Horomos Monastery, 10th-11th centuries

The view of the Horomos Monastery before 1965
The view of the Horomos Monastery 1998 (photo S. Karapetian)

Sourb Prkich (Holy Saviour) Church of Ani, 11th century

The view of the monument in 1910s
The view of the monument in 2000 (photo S. Karapetian)

The precious link between all Armenians

France Armenia Magazine, the precious link between all Armenians, is the result of the hard work of a small team of permanent staff, managers and many volunteer editors convinced by the task they have been carrying out for many years, to maintain the Armenian identity in the diaspora and in particular in France. The France Arménie Magazine is a monthly. Since September 2019, France Armenia is also available in digital format on smartphones, tablets or computers via an application.

The magazine has about 10,000 subscribers worldwide.

A correspondent of France Arménie Magazine Nairi Khchadourian visited the ROCHEMP center in the early February of 2020. She was inspired by the aim and activities of the ROCHEMP Center and offered an interview to the director of the Center Ani Avagyan, which was published in the April 2020 edition. We are happy for this opportunity of sharing the initiatives of the ROCHEMP Center with the Armenia diaspora, as in France so in other countries with this well recognized platform. Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to further cooperation.

Video-conference (informal meeting) among EU Ministers of culture on 8 April 

Video-conference organised on the initiative of theCroatian Presidency of the EU and chaired by Nina Obuljen.All 27 EU Member States participated.

European Commission Representatives who joined the meeting were: Věra Jourová (European Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency),  Mariya Gabriel ( European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth) and Thierry Breton(European Commissioner for the Internal Market). 

Ministers and representatives of the European Commision exchanged views on the immediate/ initial measures implemented to mitigate impacts of the crisis and measures that should be taken at the European level.

The Press Conference that followed the video-conference is accessible here, in case you are interested. Here you can read a short press release. 

The key points discussed were:

All EU Member States have undertaken necessary steps to help artists, cultural workers, cultural institutions and companies in the crisis.

Most Member States agreed that cultural and creative sectors are among the first (if not THE first) to be severely hit by the crisis and lockdown of public spaces.

Member States expressed their concerns as of how quickly some parts of the cultural sector will be able to recover once the immediate crisis is over.

The digital consumption of cultural content on various online platforms during the isolation was also addressed and praised.

Member States presented national measures, which are different and context-specific, but can be grouped as follows:

  • Majority of Member States have implemented social measures to protect the most vulnerable workers: freelancers, independent, small enterprises.
  • Operational measures:Extended deadlines and changed criteria of deadlines of national calls to adapt to the situation.
  • Financial measures: a number of countries made available funds for cultural and creative sectors 

The Media and the importance of the professional work of journalists to prevent fake news and disinformation was also addressed. 

Commissioner Mariya Gabriel presented activities already launched by European Commission, both horizontal and sectorial. 

3 horizontal measures that can and should be used for the cultural sector:

  • Coronavirus response investment initiative (37 billion Euro from Structural Funds to alleviate the effects of the pandemic) 
  • New instrument for temporary support to mitigate unemployment risk in emergencies (100 billion Euro)
  • Temporary framework for state aid (culture is specifically listed as one of the sectors that are most severely hit).

Sector-specific actions (under the Creative Europe framework programme of the EU):

  • Maximum flexibility for ongoing and planned actions (including extension of Deadline for application to some calls published under the programme)
  • Special measures to support cinema ( 5 million Euro as part of a supplementary fund)
  • Redirecting the work of the cross-border dimension of performing arts towards virtual mobility and digital culture. In May, a Fund of 2 million Euro for this purpose will be announced.
  • Commissioner Gabriel also proposed to launch 2 platforms: one for Member States to share good practices and another one for the sector itself (to exchange and find solutions to the challenges posed by the crisis)

People are turning to culture in these difficult times. Commissioner Gabriel addressed culture as ‘The Treasure of Europe’. 

In general, Ministries appreciated the measures already taken by the European Commission as well as the ‘quick response’ to address the current crisis. 

Next steps: 

EU Ministers in charge of Culture will continue to be in close contact and cooperation in the coming weeks, as to prepare a Ministerial meeting on this topic in May 2020. In this Ministerial meeting, EU Ministers in charge of Culture should make a solid assessment of the crisis, propose Joint action for the post-crisis period as well as options for recovery of the cultural and creative sectors.

Quality principles: from the first drawings to the bulding site

On December 17th, at ROCHEMP office, it has been organized the first public event in the frame of Action C. It consisted in a round table on QUALITY PRINCIPLES: FROM THE FIRST DRAWINGS TO THE BUILDING SITE to which took part all the stakeholders of the Cultural heritage preservation process.  The aim of the meeting was twofold: 1- to present ROCHEMP centre to the Armenian experts working in the field of monuments preservation and 2- to start a discussion/collaboration with them with a focus on the quality principles for the process of monuments preservation and on the price list for preservation works.
The meeting started with a warm welcome speech by the representative of the Embassy of Italy in Armenia, prof. Anna Maria Seca and with a clear presentation of ROCHEMP center structure, main missions and goals by the ROCHEMP director, Ani Avagyan. Then Gaianè Casnati (CSDCA, Europa Nostra, ROCHEMP) introduced the topics for discussion by mentioning the outcomes of the international debate on quality interventions in the field of Cultural Heritage and the difficulties to which the Armenian experts are confronted. The debate was very heated and got much wider than the two proposed topics, touching also the problem of licensing preservation project designers and implementers (constructors and restorers), improving tendering processes, making available materials and technologies, overcoming the obstacles to intergenerational exchange, increasing the offer for technical education (VET) and creating more possibilities for projects implementation and, last but not least, the need of improving and updating the regulation of the sector with an increased consistency between urban and architectural planning.
Mrs. Nune Petrosyan (Deputy director of the Urban Development Committee), Stepan Nalbandyan (Armenian Association of Historical Monument Restoration Architects), Sarhat Petrosyan (Urban Lab), Grigor Nalbandyan (Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, NUACA), Nanar Kalantaryan (Scientific-Research Center of Historical and Cultural Heritage of Armenia), Garegin Knyazyan (head of the Monuments Preservation Department of the Agency for Historical and Cultural Monuments Preservation and Fruition), Ara Vardanyan(Chief architect at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin), Gagik Gyurjyan (head of ICOMOS Armenia), Marina Buniatyan (NUACA), Ara Avetisyan (architect restorer) actively participated to the discussion. It was clear that all the experts of the field share the opinion that the situation of Cultural Heritage Preservation in Armenia is very problematic. They also share the feeling that in Armenia some reforms are need in the sector, they are urgent and apply to different fields like education, intergenerational exchange, laws and regulations, identification of quality standards for design and implementation of the interventions on CH, pricing, safety, etc.
The two objectives set in ROCHEMP Action C have been considered as having crucial importance. All the experts agreed to work together, through further well focused professional discussions, eventually with the coordination of ROCHEMP, to come up with common, concerted proposals to implement systematic reforms. It was agreed that, with the collaboration of local Government and Institutions, ROCHEMP can have a role in bridging at least some of the gaps and boosting the processes of development by setting a platform for discussion and by promoting and coordinating international support (technical and financial).

Gaiane Casnati

Promotion of Armenian Cultural Heritage Knowledge in Europe and the Role of ROCHEMP Project

The first public conference was organized on 17th December of 2019, by Armenian Centre ROCHEMP in the spectacular Frescoes Room of the National Gallery of Armenia. The invited participant thirty people of representative people, teachers, students and some of Armenian principal Institutions in relation with culture and education. The aim of the conference was to explain the purposes and necessities of ROCHEMP Centre and opening a dialogue about the experiences and the ideas, in order to create the international networks among the specialists who are interested in cooperation in Enhancement of Armenian Cultural Heritage.
After greetings and the presentation of the Center about the director, Ani Avakyan, the others made their speeches: Gaianè Casnati (CSCDA – ROCHEMP Centre), Anna Sirinian (University of Bologna, Department of History and Cultures – ROCHEMP Centre), Levon Chookaszian (History and Theory of Armenian Art – Yerevan State University), Erna Manea Shirinyan (Matenadaran – Department of Theology, Yerevan State University), Aram Isabekyan (Dean of Academy of Fine Arts of Yerevan), Sona Baloyan (Matenadaran – International Relations), Khachik Harutyunyan (Senior Researcher, Matenadaran) and Anoush Sargsyan (PhD Student, Matenadaran). The creation of the center received a lot of compliments from the audiences and during the conference, everyone proposed suggestions about diffusion of knowledge of Armenian Cultural Heritage in Europe involving the ROCHEMP Centre. Lenov Chookaszian proposed the participation of the Center in the organization of VII International Symposium of Armenian Art in Armenia on October 2020. The Dr. Khachik Harutyunyan proposed to submit a dossier to obtaining European Heritage Label at Matenadaran for the studying centers of production of Armenian manuscript in Europe, through ROCHEMP. The PhD student of ROCHEMP Center Anush Sargsyan, proposed a collaboration with Europeana project and Google to increase the digitalization of Armenian manuscript. During the discussion, most of the people said that it is important to promote exchanges between teachers, researchers and students of Armenian and European Institutions because of their  experiences, projects and collaborations, like Erasmus programs realized with University of Bologna in the last few years.     

Anna Sirinian