Historian, archaeologist, culturologist, and Doctor of Historical Sciences Professor Hamlet Petrosyan reports that in recent months, the destruction of historical, cultural – especially architectural – archaeological, landscape monuments, their replacement with trifles and unscientific restorations, as well as the distortion of monuments could lead to the loss of their originality.
“It has been almost two years since the revolution, and I am of the opinion that this period has been simply wasted specifically in terms of cultural policy,” Professor Hamlet Petrosyan said in an interview with Panorama.am.
According to him, over this period, a new concept of cultural policy should have been developed, discussions should have been held, and relevant legislative acts should have been adopted.
“Everything is in a state of neglect. A firmer state hand is required to quickly strengthen this control and in parallel with expert circles develop a policy that will enable the government to exercise protection, involving the public in this process,” he said.
“For the past 20 years, I’ve been trying to in some way prevent the destruction of the Khachkar Field in Arinj, which hasn’t been managed to be done – the result is zero. The problem has been presented, it has been announced, but it is enough to visit the khachkar field in Arinj to see the new burial grounds.
It is forbidden at the state level to carry out any actions in this territory, but every year – several times a year – old tombstones are moved from their places and new graves appear. I am assured that a large corruption scheme operates here – the territories are actively being sold.
This is purposeful destruction rather than a consequence of inaction. Today in Armenia, there are no more beautiful, accessible, or beautiful fields of cross-stones from the point of view of art.
We have lost the khachkar field in Jugha, and now, right under our nose, we are losing another khachkar field. The competent authorities must urgently take steps – everything will be lost otherwise,” Petrosyan said.
According to him, recently, experts have become witnesses of numerous cases of distortion of monuments and their historical and cultural landscapes. Gazebos are being built around medieval monastery complexes.
“I am not claiming that the Soviet system was good, but the Soviet state could at least fulfill its obligations. After the revolution, the situation became worse. The main reason for this is the unification of the Ministry of Culture,” Petrosyan noted.
He cited some examples, noting that the government performs functions without taking into account the cultural heritage. This is not done intentionally but rather is a consequence of a failure to fulfill professional opportunities.
“I recently returned from Dvin. The community wants a water line. It is noteworthy that the government approved all this documentation without taking into account that this water supply line has to pass under the Dvin fences.
We persuaded these people, invited them to Yerevan, again sent a letter to the ministry, received official permission, and I said that it is possible to draw a water supply line only through the farmland,” the professor explained.
He stressed that if such a policy continues, many monuments will soon be lost. “I visited Yeghegis where there also are many beautiful monuments. It turned out that some things are simply neglected.
Everyone builds whatever they want, and all this is presented as the tourist concept of Armenia. The whole world knows that tourism brings income but also knows that tourism is opposed to cultural heritage.
In conditions of tourist fever, it is necessary to ensure that this situation does not imply the involvement of monuments, or tomorrow, we will have nothing to show,” Petrosyan noted.
Professor Petrosyan agrees that the unification of the Ministry of Culture with other ministries has damaged the cultural sphere.
“Before the unification, at least, it was possible to present problems to the minister of this sphere. Now, everything is concentrated in one ministry. I don’t want to criticize the administration, I am worried about the real facts,” he added.
According to the archaeologist, cultural heritage can be preserved if law is abided by. He proposes to create an independent body under the government which at the state level will lead, manage, and control in the field of preservation of cultural heritage.
“No matter how we try to preserve the legacy by state means, this cannot be done. It should become part of a policy that involves the participation of the community, public organizations, and representatives of the scientific community,” Petrosyan said.