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National Heritage: Initiative group forms in Armenia to protect non-material cultural values

?Appropriate Armenian cultural values? prompted the formation of the group

Published on 5 April 2012

Author(s): ArmeniaNow/Gohar Abrahamyan

Type:  News

Two Armenian NGOs along with a number of experts have formed a working group for the purpose of enhancing the profile of Armenian cultural heritage, carrying out research and raising public awareness of large masses in order to resist neighboring countries’ attempts at appropriation.

The authors of the initiative – Development and Preservation of Armenian Culinary Traditions and Generation for Armenian Identity Preservation Union NGOs – told the media on Wednesday that the neighboring countries’ multiple attempts of recent years to “appropriate Armenian cultural values” have prompted the formation of such a group.

“National cuisine is one of important factors of national identity, and our neighbor states, well aware of that, are infringing on our non-material cultural values, claiming them as theirs for the purpose of national identification and international recognition. Namely, it is about Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan which attribute a number of Armenian dishes to their nations. An organized and systematic approach should be shown to be able to prevent such processes,” said Sedrak Mamulyan, head of the Development and Preservation of Armenian Culinary Traditions (DPACT) NGO.

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Not so long ago one of most popular national Armenian dishes – harisa – was put on UNSECO’s world heritage list in the category of non-material heritage as the Turkish dish keshkesh (a variety of harisa), which has outraged ethnographers and culinary experts in Armenia. The initiative group members say Georgians have applied to UNESCO to recognize pottery as their national craft, while only a few years ago the world’s oldest winery was discovered in Armenia. Moreover, a Georgian MP has made a statement that Georgia should be declared the motherland of honey.

“We are going to meet and define duties and responsibilities, make assignments and start working, proceeding stage by stage. We are planning on publishing articles and shooting a film,” said DPACT Secretary Vahe Antanesyan, calling on all those individuals, non-governmental organizations and state bodies who are interested in the preservation of Armenian cultural heritage to join the group.

Initiators say with regret that until now no traditional Armenian dish has been documented as such, while in Georgia it is a state policy.

According to historian and analyst Ruben Nahatakyan, “we are in the middle of the war of civilizations”, hence “our not so friendly neighbors are trying to rob the entire Armenian highland, both the territories that are part of the Armenian Republic and those that aren’t”. Consequently, the historian believes, the Armenian civilization is endangered.

“A neighbor will always take what’s yours if you don’t protect it; and today we are dealing with neighbors who are acting upon a well-thought strategy, and we keep failing to resist their plots,” says Nahatakyan, adding that a solution to the issue requires state care and systematic measures.

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