Preserving the cultural heritage of our ancestors

  • 2020-09-27
  • A.Duda

The event aimed at preserving the cultural heritage of the Armenian people was held in Latvia with the support of the Armenian government

Anything but smooth and simple is a historical fate of the small Transcaucasian state of independent Armenia. For centuries, the state had been oppressed by its powerful neighbors: the Persian Empire, the Ottoman Turks, the Russian Empire and finally the Soviet Union. The fierce fight of the people of Armenia for independence, which claimed hundreds of thousands of human lives, ended in victory on September 23, 1991, when the Supreme Council of Armenia, following the results of the referendum on secession from the USSR and the establishment of an independent statehood, adopted a corresponding constitutional law.

Modern Armenia sticks to the values of the civilized world. According to Freedom House, a reputable human rights watchdog, human rights in Armenia are observed more fully than in other former Soviet republics.  Getting such a high assessment would be impossible without a systematic and sincere adherence to the values of freedom and democracy. Armenia takes good care of the observance of human rights not only on its own territory: Armenian peacekeepers take part in operations in Kosovo and Syria and participate in the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

This desire for freedom and democracy is natural and understandable as Armenia has always maintained close ties with the cultural life of the entire world. The Armenians, fleeing the persecution of invaders or for the sake of education, traveled and settled in North America and Europe. Upon coming back to the motherland, they contributed to the development of its science and art, building a high level of culture of their nation.

Ovik Mkrtchyan, a businessman, says: “The Armenians have really turned into "citizens of the world". Just compare the statistics: nowadays the number of Armenians living elsewhere in the world accounts to 12-14 million people while Armenia itself is home to only about 3 million.” 

Being hard-working and artistically inclined by nature, having an ability for a quick adaptation to any new culture, the Armenian people succeed in finding ways to apply their talents all over the world. Quite large Armenian diasporas can be found in France, Italy, Greece, Poland and Australia. "Just imagine,” Ovik Mkrtchyan says, "the Armenian diaspora in the United States numbers about 1.5 million people, this is half of Armenia's population."

In new places which become their second home, the Armenians make careers of businessmen, musicians, artists, and what's more important, they become good and responsible citizens. However, such successful integration has its downside. There is a risk that the younger generation, leaving home, will break away from their roots and lose their unique cultural pattern. Preservation of ancestral heritage plays a particularly important role in the modern world. The importance and urgency of this task is perceived by the Government of Armenia and numerous “citizens of the world”, as well as by ethnic Armenians permanently residing outside their home country.

The Ministry of Culture, Science, Education and Sports of Armenia, relying on the sponsorship of the business community, holds many events outside of Armenia, dedicated to the popularization of the unique Armenian culture. The presentation of the translation into the Latvian language of the "Book of lamentations" by Grigor Narekatsi, a distinguished patriarch of Armenian spiritual literature, has become one of such events. It was dedicated to the 1000th anniversary of the writing of this book. The publication was followed by a scientific conference held at the theological faculty of the University of Latvia, lectures at the Latvian Armenian Cultural Center and a splendid concert at the Riga Dome Cathedral.

Grigor Narekatsi was a poet, philosopher and theologian and the Catholic Church declared him to be one of 36 "Doctors of the Church", along with John Chrysostom, Augustine the Blessed, Thomas Aquinas and other great Christian theologians and preachers.  "The Book of lamentations" is a confidential conversation between the soul and God, imbued with repentance and strive for purity. Fragments from the book were first published in Venice in 1513, the first complete edition of the book is dated 1673.

Archbishop Zbignev Stankevich, head of the Catholic Church of Latvia, considers this book to be a true masterpiece and says, “The book of Grigor Narekatsi represents a dialogue with God. 1000 years ago, such a dialogue was conducted by the Armenian monk. And now, any of us living in the XXI century can do it."

Ovik Mkrtchyan, one of the organizers of this event said, “This event is significant not only in the context of the preservation of the national heritage of Armenia. This book is a revelation and it can serve as a guide for any person looking for his way to God. Its popularization is a contribution to the treasury of world culture."