The History and Culture of the Armenian People – Alla Ter-Sarkisyants

The History and Culture of the Armenian People“I open the enormous volume and read: ‘Even if the parents of the maiden agreed to marry off their daughter, etiquette didn’t allow them to accept the marriage offer right away. They usually responded that they needed time to consult their relatives, think about it, thereby trying to as if raise the value of the bride. Because of that, matchmakers would have to meet the parents several times.

After the father of the bride gave his agreement, the bride’s family set the table and drank the vodka brought by the matchmaker. In fact, the father would deliver his agreement allegorically, saying things like ‘let the headscarf be yours’ or ‘let’s not argue, I’ll put the headscarf on your hand.’ Previously, it hadn’t been accepted to treat the matchmaker since it had been believed that ‘if you give the matchmaker bread, you should give him the daughter as well’.”

This is an excerpt from the monograph “History and culture of the Armenian nation” by Alla Ter-Sarkisyants. This book written in a conversational tone is a grandiose work covering the Armenian culture and history since the times of its ethnogenesis until the early 19th century.

“The recent continuous discussions of the ancient period of the Armenian history motivated me to conduct a more in-depth study of such problems as the Armenian ethnogenesis and the ethnic history of the Armenian nation.

Aside from that, this decision was influenced by the fact that among the Russian Armenians – whose numbers have for some reason increased significantly in the recent times – exists an urgent need of acquaintance with the centuries-old culture and history of their people.

I assume that this would also be useful for the representatives of other ethnic groups living in multinational Russia who also began to demonstrate a noticeable interest in their own historical past and national culture.”

Unfortunately, there still aren’t enough Russian works about the history and culture of Armenians that would allow Russian Armenians to learn more about themselves. However, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, Armenian studies in Russia developed rapidly. In particular, in 1815, the renowned Lazarev Institute of oriental languages was founded. Aside from that, faculties of Armenian literature were established in the universities of Kazan and Saint Petersburg in 1844.

However, maybe the most vivid representations of the developing Armenian studies were the translations of medieval Armenian literary works and the publication of Russian-Armenian and Armenian-Russian vocabularies. However, in the Soviet years, the development of Armenian studies was put to a stop, and Russian Armenians were deprived of the opportunity to learn more about their national culture.

In the last decades of the 20th century, the social life of Russian Armenians became much more active. Cultural-enlightening societies, Sunday schools and classes of Armenian studies were established. Numerous Armenian churches were built and renovated.

Being a member of the Russian Academy of natural sciences and a leading scientific employee of the department of the Caucasian Studies at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Alla Ter-Sarkisyants strongly contributed to the development of the Armenian studies in Russia. She authored hundreds of scientific publications, books, and brochures about the ethnic culture of Armenia.

Based on archaeological, historical, linguistic, ethnographical, and anthropological literature, “History and culture of the Armenian nation” is her most significant work. The author’s mission was to prepare a generalizing work that would concentrate on the main stages of the ethnic, political, social-economic, and cultural history of the Armenian people from times immemorial to the early 19th century.

Among the chapters of the book are “Antiquity: the origins of the Armenian people”, “Middle Ages – adoption of Christianity and the political condition of Armenia”, “The scientific-educational and artistic culture between 9th and 18th centuries”, as well as “The traditional-everyday culture of Armenia”, which contained the excerpt presented at the beginning of the article.

The book is beautifully illustrated with reconstructions of images from ancient manuscripts from Matenadaran and relatively modern photographs. The book also features an expansive bibliography and a variety of historical maps.

Alla Ter-Sarkisyants

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