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Posted 23 March 2015 - 11:30 AM
National Symbols: Artists again raise questions over Armenian anthem, coat of arms
Symbols of Debate: Initiative underway to restore historic Coat of Arms and anthem
By Gayane Abrahamyan
A group of intellectuals have come up with an initiative to change Armenias state symbols and have become a target of sharp criticism.
Eminent Armenian actor Sos Sargsyan, writer Levon Ananyan and publicist Zori Balayan have sent an open letter with 2,208 signatures to the President, petitioning for the recovery of [Armenian painter] Martiros Saryans creation of a Coat of Arms and renowned composer Aram Khachaturyans National Anthem. The group is also lobbying for a cross to be added to the Armenia flag.
Critics object not only to bringing back Soviet-era symbols but also stress that other issues the country is challenged with have to be solved before changing symbols issues that the nations intellectual dont often get involved in. Head of the Writers Union Levon Ananayan counters that the intellectuals are active, but do not trumpet it. And this is an issue thats always important and has to always be raised, its the face of our country, our symbols that have to be representative and impressive, Ananyan told ArmeniaNow. Despite the fact that over the past decade the issue of changing the anthem has been repeatedly raised, it has never gone beyond talks and discussions. This time the suggestion is that all three state symbols be changed, the most important edit being the addition of a cross both to the Coat of Arms and the flag. The intellectuals are advocating the recovery of Soviet Armenias Coat of Arms authored by Saryan, which has Republic of Eastern Armenia written on it, stressing that the return of Western Armenia is one of our legitimate demands. The presence of a cross on the flag is highly important, not only because Armenians are the first nation to have adopted Christianity as state religion, but because we are a country surrounded by Muslims and because of being next to powerful Muslim countries foreigners think we are Muslim, too, historian and ethnographer Lilit Minasyan told ArmeniaNow. But, if many share the idea of adding a cross-image to the flag, the one on changing the Coat of Arms is unanimously rejected. The three symbols were used in 1988, during the Karabakh Movement, in Liberty Square during mass demonstrations, Our Fatherland anthem was played, and the tricolor was fluttering in the air. The Coat of Arms of the First Republic (1918) was presented as the symbol of the sovereign state. Months after the declaration of independence in April the Supreme Soviet unanimously approved the Coat of Arms Hakob Kojoyan and Alexander Tamanyan created in 1920, later restored by painter Seyran Khatlamajyan. However, years later it became a target of criticism. This issue has been discussed repeatedly and everybody has to be concerned over its imagery. Armenia is a weak, broken country, thats not presenting even the symbols of its mighty historic kingdoms, painter Karen Aghamyan told ArmeniaNow, however, stressing that restoring Soviet Armenias Coat of Arms is not the right solution either. Many resent the idea of bringing back the symbols of totalitarian Soviet past. While todays Coat of Arms depicts the four royal Armenian dynasties, which are the golden pages in the history of the Armenian nation, also biblical Mount Ararat and the Noahs Ark, the Soviet emblem had only Ararat. Political historian Shushan Khatlamajyan stresses that from the point of view of political studies if historical conditions have changed, then the symbol standing for a completely different social regime cannot be adjusted to a new state which has taken a different course of development. The fact that the Soviet Coat of Arms was created by Saryan should not be used as a factor here. There was an order from the Kremlin to create a Coat of Arms, and if at the time it was an act of heroism to put the image of Mount Ararat on a Soviet state emblem, now the reality is completely different, Khatlamajyan, the widow of the painter who restored Armenias current Coat of Arms, told ArmeniaNow. People are trying to return some attributes, symbols of a period when they had a good life, created and thrived. Often its a subconscious desire, and this initiative reveals the fact that people are nostalgic [of those times], she says, reminding that: Russia has recovered its Soviet-time anthem, because it has pro-empire aspirations and wants to return the power it used to have, while in our case, what do we want to achieve by trying to bring back fragments from our past? Meanwhile, Martiros Saryans granddaughter, director of Saryan house-museum Ruzan Saryan is convinced that by her prominent grandfathers creation we will show the world once again that Armenia and Ararat are concepts of one inseparable unity, and that viewing the masterpieces by Saryan and Khachaturyan [the anthem] through the prism of totalitarian past is medieval prejudice. Painter, publicist Ruben Mnatsakanyan sees dangerous and far-stretching political purposes behind this initiative. General symbols change only in case of a certain system, social regime changes. If Armenia changes any of its symbols itd mean giving up its sovereignty, he told ArmeniaNow, his reference being to the recently activated discussions of joining Russias Putin-initiated Eurasian Union.
Edited by Arpa, 23 March 2015 - 11:32 AM.
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