Interview with H.E. Mr. Armen Yedigaryan
Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the Republic of Bulgaria
1. Armenia has a lot of elements, inscribed on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which are diverse and interesting. What explains the country’s active role in the ICH safeguarding?
There are many Armenian elements in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, including Duduk and its music; Armenian cross-stones art. Symbolism and craftsmanship of Khachkars; Performance of the Armenian epic of ‘Daredevils of Sassoun’ or ‘David of Sassoun’; Lavash, the preparation, meaning and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia; Kochari, traditional group dance; Armenian letter art and its cultural expressions and Pilgrimage to the St. Thaddeus Apostle Monastery.
The safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage is one of the main directions of the state cultural policy of Armenia and is regulated by international conventions and the domestic legislation. In 2006 Armenia ratified the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Many international and regional programs have been organized since then to implement the provisions of the Convention. Considering the immediate needs of protection, the cultural regions and the viability of the ICH element, 3 state lists of intangible cultural heritage have been established and are reviewed periodically.
There are many institutions in Armenia conducting research on the ICH including the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, the Institutes of Art, Literature and Language of the National Academy of Sciences, the State Conservatory and the Research Institute of Ancient Manuscripts named after Mesrop Mashtots.
2. Which is your favorite Bulgarian tradition, no matter if it is inscribed on the UNESCO List?
One of the most beautiful traditions, a holiday celebrated by many peoples of the region is the Martenista, the historical practice of making, presenting and wearing red and white threads. They are worn till the appearance of the first storks and swallows and then are tied to the blossom tree.
Martenitsa is really festive and it symbolizes the beginning of the spring and I was happy to hear that it was inscribed it in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2017.
3. What have Bulgaria and Armenia in common in their cultural context?
Armenia and Bulgaria have strong historical and cultural ties. The relations between the two countries are based on the long traditions of friendship, solidarity and respect. The exchanges between our peoples, as well as the active role of the Armenian community of Bulgaria play a central role in that context.
Starting from the Middle Ages Armenians lived in Bulgaria. The number of Armenians in Bulgaria sharply increased starting from the 1894 – 1896 mass massacres of Armenians organized by Abdul Hamid II, the Ottoman sultan and in the wake of the Armenian Genocide (1915-1922). Armenians had and continue to have strong presence in the social and cultural life of Bulgaria.
As representatives of Christianity, there are a lot of commonalities between Armenia and Bulgaria, including the annual celebrations, traditions and beliefs, as well as the lifestyle and cuisine.
4. What is the element from Armenia, which you would like to see in the UNESCO List?
There is an Armenian holiday called “Trndez” that I would like to see in the UNESCO Representative List. The roots of this celebration go back to the Pre-Christian era of the Armenian history. The purifying qualities of fire were a part of pre-Christian Armenian tradition and it was in the center of the celebrations. Following the Christianization of Armenia (in 301 AD Armenia officially adopted Christianity as a state religion) the Armenian Church adapted the festival. In the tradition of the Church, the celebration is officially named “Tiarnyndaraj” (“Candlemas”) and it symbolizes the presentation of the 40-day-old Christ Child to the Temple in Jerusalem. In the tradition of the Church, Evening Services are conducted on the Eve of the Feast Day.
Modern day celebrations also include the fire. The newlyweds, as well as all the couples jump over the Trndez fire and after that the participants dance around the fire singing traditional songs.
Trndez is a significant element of the Armenian intangible cultural heritage and is actively practiced in Armenia and by many Armenian communities abroad.