The Armenians have left a huge legacy in Historical Armenia (now Turkey), not only cultural but also material. Armenian jewelry and gold still excite the minds of both rich and poor residents of the country who are hoping to find immense treasures in the Armenian ruins.
During the Genocide, the governor of one of the vilayets plundered 40 crates of gold and silver, but he then committed suicide because he did not want to give up his wealth to the government and feared punishment.
The search for lost jewels in Turkey is called “definechilik”. It is most often done by local Kurds, especially in the territory of the Mush plain. This is an extremely poor region from an economic point of view where rural youth are forced to seek scanty earnings. At the same time, it is one of the ancient centers of the Armenian people, which means that it contains many treasures.
Officially, the state prohibits excavating cultural heritage, but mechanisms to circumvent the violation have been developed here, and the government itself is turning a blind eye to this.
Definechilik has become the local “shadow economy.” For example, manufacturers of metal detectors make good money on it. A good and high-quality gold detector costs 20,000 euros, but people are willing to fork out for the sake of future wealth.
Several years ago, a scandal occurred in Turkey when one of the producers of metal detectors recommended using his product for digging up Armenian and Greek gold.
At the same time, the search for Armenian gold could not but evoke certain historical motives among the locals. In official statements, the period before the Genocide is considered the heyday of the Ottoman Empire and its power. Kemalists recall this period as the time of the powerful formation of the republic.
In neither period have there been Armenians for the Kemalists. But the Kurds have their own interpretation – they perceive the times of the Armenian people as a time of wealth and abundance.
The Armenians had huge gardens and arable land, vineyards, and wineries. The Armenians made beautiful jewelry and processed metal. Old Kurds say that grape juice and milk flowed through the clay pipes of Armenians into the valley. For the now poor and oppressed Kurds, these times seem like a paradise.
The local gold is clothed with local aura and magic. After all, this is the legacy of the dead and tormented souls that left a silent trace of their existence. Some Kurds, mostly those sympathizing Armenians, talk about how they dream of ghosts at night, though most of the Kurds are calmly digging up Armenian relics.
At the same time, many consider that Armenians possessed magic and cast curses on their gold. This often explains those incidents that occur during treasure hunting – some fall into their pits, some dig under their house and get buried under its ruins, some kill loved ones for the treasure, and some lose everything buying expensive equipment.
These seemingly logical consequences here take the form of Armenian magic. Analogs to “cursed treasures” can be found all over the world, though those are associated with long-gone nations like Indians or ancient Egyptians.
Despite this, as mentioned above, many continue the process of material enrichment. After all, it is very difficult to stop after the first successful digging. And here, sacral properties are ignored.
The statuette of the Virgin Mary will go to the market where it will be sold or melted down. And the Armenian heritage has already been largely destroyed or dispelled. But even this does not put an end to the colossal influence of the Genocide on the psychology of the locals, sometimes making them afraid of the heritage that did not belong to them.
Artur Hakobyan, IAPA Antitopor