Gandzasar Wall Resurfacing Renews: Artsakh and Armenia Officials Ind

Gandzasar Wall Resurfacing Renews: Artsakh and Armenia Officials
Appear Indifferent
Sona Avagyan

23:56, December 11, 2012

Work to resurface the walls of the 13th century Armenian monastery of
Gandzasar in Artsakh has begun anew, again raising the unanswered
question as to who is in charge of supervising the country’s
historical inheritance.

The so-called beautification project is being financed by
Russian-Armenian businessman Levon Hayrapetyan.

In the summer of 2011, concerned citizens and specialist alike raised
an uproar regarding the resurfacing. This led to the RA Ministry of
Culture and the Artsakh Department of Tourism stepping in and halting
the project.

Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan and Artsakh Armenian Church Primate
Parkev Martirosyan even visited the site to see what all the fuss was

But it seems that no one can stop Hayrapetyan from fulfilling his
perceived mission to beautify the historic site.

Manoushak Titanyan, a member of the Association of Architects and
Restorers of Historical Monuments (AARHM) and a member of the RA
Association of Architects, doesn’t mince words when it comes to
describing what is going on at Gandzasar.

`…Such goodwill has no regard for either the government or society.
The benefactor has decided on principle to resurface the monastery in
order to establish his supremacy regarding the two Armenian
governments that agreed to halt the fiasco.’

On December 6, the AARHM wrote to President Sargsyan of Armenia and
President Sahakyan of Artsakh, expressing the hope that they would
intervene and put a stop to the work. The specialist reminded the two
leaders that Gandzasar was a site of international significance and
that the issue should be dealt with accordingly, both on a
professional level and legally.

To find out the opinion of President Sargsyan on the matter, I
telephoned his public affairs office, Meri Haroutyunyan, who heads the
office, said it was a matter for the president’s press secretary to
comment on. So I called President Sargsyan’s Press Secretary Armen
Arzoumanyan. When I called in the morning, I was told that Arzoumanyan
was out. I called another four times throughout the day. Nobody
answered the phone.

I also telephoned the press office of Artsakh President Sahakyan. They
advised me to call the department that deals with the preservation of
historical monuments.

On December 7, 10 and 11, I made several calls to Sergey Shahverdyan,
who heads the Artsakh Department of Tourism and Preservation of
Historical Sites. He never answered my calls to his cell phone. My
three calls to the department itself on December 11 also went

I simply wanted to know if Shahverdyan’s office had granted permission
for the resurfacing work at Gandzasar or it was Levon Hayrapetyan’s
personal initiative.

On December 7, almost two weeks after the work had recommenced, Hetq
got a call from Deacon Samvel Lazarian who coordinates the Religious
Board for the Artsakh Diocese’s Youth Organizations.

Deacon Samvel said that Primate Martirosyan might not be aware of the
work going on at Gandzasar since he had travelled to the United States
and later Yerevan.

Another official, Armen Abroyan, who heads the RA Agency to Preserve
Historical and Cultural Monuments, today told me that he was
personally against the resurfacing. Abroyan added that Deputy Minister
of Culture Arev Samuelyan had taken a personal interest in the matter
but that he was presently out of the country and would return in two

Abroyan confessed that the ministry’s hands were tied regarding a
resolution. `While Artsakh is our country and its problems our
problems, any decision to halt the work falls under the jurisdiction
of Artsakh.’

The Agency also advised me to get in touch with Slava Sargsyan, who
works at the NKR Monuments Preservation Division. But we had already
spoken to Sargsyan, who told me he was sick and hadn’t been able to
visit Gandzasar. Since he hadn’t seen the monastery walls, Sargsyan
said he couldn’t comment.

On July 6, 2011, Levon Hayrapetyan told the `We Will Not Remain
Silent’ youth activist group that the walls of Gandzasar Monastery
were built in the 1980s and not the 13th century, He argued that the
walls were falling down and in need of repair. He stated that the
tiles being used were from the same quarry as the stones used to build
the monastery.

Hayrapetyan’s claim that the walls dated from the 1980s was refuted by
specialists in the field. Samvel Karapetyan, who heads the Research
on Armenian Architecture NGO called the retiling of the walls a
`crime’ and `ignorant patriotism’.

Architect Souren Melik-Karamyan, who serves as the Deputy Secretary of
the AARHM, expressed a similar opinion to Hetq today.

`I’m opposed to it and I condemn it. You can’t do such a thing to a
medieval edifice, to turn it into some holiday showcase with lights
and ornaments. I’ll tell Levon Hayrapetyan the same thing.’

Melik-Karamyan is concerned that after Gandzasar, other monuments will
fall victim to the whims of other rich `benefactors’. Karamyan says
it’s hypocritical for Armenians to complain that others are defiling
our historical monuments when Armenians are quite willing to do the
damage themselves.

Manoushak Titanyan says that the Gandzasar incident merely proves that
Armenians are incapable of preserving and protecting the nation’s
historical and cultural legacy.

`Neither is the government interested in such a mission and, sadly,
neither is the clergy,’ writes Titanyan. `Today we again stand in
front of a broken washtub where faceless and foreign-loving
benefactors wash their dirty laundry,’ Titanyan writes.