ANKARA: Best Wishes For ‘Akdamar’

Taha Akyol, Milliyet

Turkish Daily News
March 29 2007

The Directorate General of Press and Information has directed foreign
reporters in Turkey for the coverage of the Akdamar Church’s opening
ceremony to professor Ýlber Ortaylý, world famous historian and the
director of the Topkapý Palace.

An Italian journalist poses a question to Ortaylý, asking whether
Turkey has started to clean its past in order to be a European Union
member. Ortaylý responds: "First you better learn what history is and
then you wouldn’t ask such non-sense questions. Do you pose such a
question to the director of the Louvres Museum? If this is the EU’s
mentality as well, that institution wouldn’t be straightened up
either. We don’t want such an EU!"

To a question about the "genocide" by a German reporter, Ortaylý
answered, "First learn the role of Germans in those incidents, then
come to me and ask about their nature!"

I, on the other hand, asked Ortaylý about the Akdamar Church. With
his endless lore on history, he answered:

"The Akdamar Church is one of the three Armenian masterpieces in
history. It was built in 915-921 by the King Gagik of the Armenian
Vaspuragan dynasty. The structure is quite important in terms of its
history and iconography."

Looking at history:

The conversations above reflect the difference between history
and politics. A journalist acting on political prejudices is after
sensational news pieces; he doesn’t ask about history or architecture,
but voices worn-out prejudices.

In 1997, we visited Hungary together with President Suleyman Demirel
for the opening of the Tomb of Gulbaba, a Bektaþi saint, in Budapest
and the statute of Suleyman the Magnificent built by Hungarians in
Mohacs… We also visited the mosque turned into a museum in the
birthplace of the Turkish historian Pecevi Ýbrahim Efendi in Pec city.

Later on, we saw an epigraph in Hungarian situated at the citadel
of Budapest: "Latest Ottoman Governor of Budin Abdurrahman Abdi Paþa
died here in fight on September 2, 1666. He was a heroic enemy!"

Neither Hungarians nor we had an inferiority complex. None of us
devised to ask questions with prejudice or sarcasm. All of us were
regarding these artifacts as "historic heritage."

These are also the signs of what a great and mature nation the
Hungarians are.

Now, take a look at the mentality in our time, a gift that is a
reminder of the Ottoman-French war was presented to French President
Jacques Chirac. That means, viewing history with worn-out prejudices.

Cultural heritage:

Akdamar (Althamar or Akhtamar in Armenian) of course is one of the most
precious historical artifacts of Armenian history. The church is an
indicator of high-level Armenian culture reached in the 10th century.

In her book titled "The Armenians," historian Anne R. Redgate writes
that the Armenian King Gagik brought architects and masters of palaces
in all neighboring civilizations for the church’s construction and
for that reason the architecture of Akdamar Church reminds those of
Byzantium, Sasani, Abbasid and Turkish architecture.

(Page: 214)

Which civilization or culture is 100 percent pure? There are always
inter-cultural exchanges; that is the means for cultural development.

The Armenian Church Akdamar is also a "cultural heritage" of humanity
as much as it is part of the 1,000-year-old Turkish history.

One of the best performances of Culture and Tourism Minister Attila
Koc is his lead in restoration of this historic Armenian structure and
opening it as a museum today. I was so pleased to hear the following
remarks of Koc during our conversation yesterday:

"Hacý Bayram Veli established his mosque right next to a pagan
temple. Such cultural richness in mentalities is needed in our age."

This opening is also a good answer to the chauvinism of the Armenian

–Boundary_(ID_HOqq1AFnhGbV2Av JWlOtlA)–