ARMENIA IN PLACE OF HONOUR
Sept 28 2006
France, September 28, /FranceDiplomatie/. 30 September 2006 marks the
start of Armenia Year in France. Under the title "Armenie mon amie"
[My friend Armenia], it celebrates a longstanding relationship between
the two countries.
A people that has been a standard bearer of civilisation For several
hundred years the Armenians and the French have maintained a special
relationship. At a meeting in Spring 2004, Robert Kotcharian, President
of the Republic of Armenia, and the President of the French Republic,
Jacques Chirac, expressed the joint wish to celebrate the links that
unite the two peoples with an Armenia Year. Cultural events will take
place both in that country and in France from the end of September
2006 to July 2007.
This friendship dates back to the Crusades ten centuries ago, and has
developed over the course of history. "The last Armenian prince was
a Frenchman, Leon V, in the 14th century, and the word "baron" means
"sir" in present day Armenian", explains Nelly Tardivier, the general
organiser of the event. "This Year is an invitation to an old friend,
to a remarkable culture and a people that has been a standard bearer
of civilisation." With its own alphabet and enriched by a unique
Christian culture – several sacred texts now exist only in their
Armenian version – this civilisation is three thousand years old.
A people that has been a standard bearer of civilisation The advisors
to the French kings, Mazarin and Richelieu, studied Armenian,
19th-century intellectuals pondered the "Armenian question" and
trading links between the two nations were already considerable.
It is even said that it was an Armenian who brought coffee to France.
Today there are almost 450,000 French citizens of Armenian origin,
largely the children of refugees who landed in Marseille at the
end of the First World War, fleeing the genocide perpetrated by the
Armenia Year will start with a visit to the country by Jacques Chirac
together with a series of French cultural events in the capital,
Yerevan, and other towns in the Republic, from September to November.
A concert in Yerevan by the most famous French Armenian, Charles
Aznavour, will mark the start of the festivities. Also on the programme
will be readings from works in the French repertoire or related to
Armenia by actors from the Comedie Francaise in Yerevan and Gumri,
a production in Armenian of Les Caprices de Marianne [The Moods of
Marianne] (1833) by Alfred de Musset and the arrival in Yerevan of
one of the Louvre’s major works, Bonaparte au pont D’Arcole (1798)
by Antoine Gros.