Armenian culture has been a complex and flexible system. Being exposed to different civilizations’ interactions, but meanwhile keeping its originality and uniqueness.
It is remarkable too of the world culture view, because by taking care of preserving and enriching one’s own the Armenian people had its worthy contribution to the world people cultural treasury.
The Armenian culture origin may date back to the time of the Armenian tribes’ unity and to the start of the Armenian governmental entities. Many ancient settlements and cyclopean fortresses have been found in the historical Armenia, rich tombs have been excavated (as Mezamor, Lchashen, Vanadzor, etc.). The weapons, tools, household items, statues and jewelry found in these places testify the old and high cultural development. Van (Araratian kingdom or Urartu) (IX- VI centuries BC) had a unique role in the formation and development of the old Armenian culture.
Armenia has gone through the Hellenistic influence too, especially at the beginning of the second century BC after the establishment of the Artashesian dynasty. In spite of the fact that the Greek and Greek culture spread mainly in the Armenian court, among the nobility and the city council members, however, Hellenism enriched greatly the national culture in Armenia for almost six centuries.
In 301 Christianity was declared the state religion, and in the following centuries a new artistic forms and solutions have been formed for urban development, architecture and painting, which became more specifically local and profound national. In 405. Mesrop Mashtots invented the Armenian alphabet, which became an invaluable tool in the process of preserving the national identity. Strengthening and spreading of Christianity in Armenia, in addition to the creation of the unique Armenian literature. Among the known national papers written in Armenian language are the works of the Armenian historians Moses of Khoren, Pavstos Buzand (Faustus of Byzantium), Ghazar Parpetzi (V c.), Sebeos (VII c.), Ghevond (VIII c.), and many works of other historians.
Famous philosophical works have been created in Armenian language, some of the Greek well known philosophers’ works have been translated within them are the works of Plato and Aristotle. Many early medieval Armenian translations of Greek originals are valuable, because the Greek originals have been extinct, and they are known only through the Armenian translations. On the nother side, some Armenian thinkers’ theories are in the interest focus today such as the theories of Koghbatsi, David Invincible (V- c.), and Shirakatsi (VII c.)
The masterpiece of the medieval Armenian architecture is the Zvartnots Cathedral (VII c.), by its three-story, special carvings and dimensional construction is a distinguished building. Of the unique displays of the Armenian medieval culture are the wall paintings and miniatures. The first one is reflected in the churches and buildings’ walls, and the second is the art of illustrated manuscripts. Spiritual music culture is distinguished by its rapid growth, large numbers of delicate art masterpieces are created, which are recorded in Khaz-s which are the old Armenian notes.
A significant impact on the political status of Armenia in the VII century was the Arab conquests of the eastern provinces of Iran and Byzantium. In this era the Armenian culture began to flourish and the socio-economic status improved remarkably. Thus accepting the Arabs’ sovereignty, Armenia in the tenacious struggle did not only managed to keep the socio-economic and national-cultural identity, but also restored the state’s political independence by the leadership of the Bagratid dynasty.The Armenian throne owners, the Bagratid dynasty survived for more than half a century (885-1045). In this era the architectural monuments of Akhtamar and Ani, the “Book of sorrow” poem by Gregory of Narek (X century), and many great historical achievements are the best witnesses of social, economic and cultural development.
XII-XIII centuries were the disastrous period of the hard struggle against the Byzantine and Seljuk invasions, but during the period of the Zakarian princes’ rule in Armenia, the economic and political rise restarted, which was favorable too for the Armenian culture. This period is known in the history of the Armenian culture, by “Silver Age” name, as a normal continuation of the cultural values created in the Golden Age (V c.), well-known figures of this era are Mkhitar Gosh, Geragos from Gandzak, and Vardan Areveltsi.
In the XI century and in the Western part of Armenia many new Armenian authorities have been declared one of those authorities was the Rubenid dynasty, who succeeded in consolidating their rule and restore Armenian statehood in Cilicia (1080-1375). Armenian Cilicia was in close economic and political relations with the east, as well as with the Crusaders and European countries.
In the X-XIV centuries, although separate, there were a couple of kingdoms in the historical Armenian’s area as Vaspourakan / Van, Kars, Syunik, Tashir-Dzoraget / Lori, and some governments like the Orbelian, Vahramyan, and the Hassan-Jalalyans. During this period there were favorable conditions for the development of culture. A new stage in history, philosophy, astronomy, theology, literature, law, art, architecture, and other industries had started. There was a two-level education system. High schools were established, of which the most famous were the universities of Sanahin and Haghpat (X-XI centuries), Ani (XI-XIII c.), Gladzor (XIII-XIV century),and Tatev (XIV-XV centuries) University. These educational institutes taught the natural and social sciences, foreign languages, and provided a thorough education.
Medieval Armenian culture holds a special place in world civilization, because it is unique and interesting. Also it is viable because after the XIV century as Armenians lost their centralized state and partially migrated to other countries, the Armenian culture continued to evolve in communities and Diaspora around the world.
For a long time, the bloody wars raised between Safavid Iran and Ottoman Empire took place on the Armenian land. Despite the heavy losses suffered because of those fierce fighting disastrous consequences, Armenia in the XVI-XVIII centuries maintained its national identity spending huge efforts, faith of re-establishing the statehood, a big part of the cultural values and communication in most of the major achievements of world civilization. During this era, Armenian diaspora participated in ensuring the progress of Armenian national development, too. Thus in 1512, in Venice the first printed Armenian books “Ourpatakirk” and “Barzadomar”, etc. have been published. New schools have been established, churches and cathedrals have been constructed, and meanwhile some well-known Armenian figures for the sake of the motherland freedom started to conduct discussions with other governments, and try to regain the independence of the nation and state through armed struggle.
In 1722-1730 during the liberation movements in Artsakh (Karabakh) and Syunik had greatly contributed to strengthening the political and national identity. In 1736, it has been formed the union of the five principalities “Al-Khamsa“ in Artsakh, which has been recognized by the Shah Nader of Iran as the internal autonomy gifted by political power, under the patronage of Melik Yegani.
During the years 1772-1773 many political-journalistic books (“exhortative”, “Trap of Glory”) have been published, initiated a process of national consolidation of healthy forces and the establishment of a democratic constitution was drawn up. In the 1794-1796 the first magazine “Aztarar” was published.
In music field Hampartzoum Limonchian had a remarkable contribution, he created the new Armenian musical notes by which the medieval church rhymes have been registered. In this period the instrumental music was well spread. The works of Sayat Nova, the prolific song writer and poet, had had an indelible mark on the musical life of the peoples of Transcaucasia, his songs and poetical poems are still, till now one of the national culture values.
The Armenian Mekhitarist Order who settled in the 1717 in St. Lazarus Island in Venice had a prolific activity in both historical philology and social spheres.
During the years 1801- 1828 the South Caucasus, including Eastern Armenia passed under the Russian Empire, which had an essential impact on the region’s socio-economic and cultural development. The first half of the XIX century, was marked by the activities of the great Armenian illuminator, Khachatur Abovyan, who got his Fundamental education from the University of Dorpat (Estonia). In his novel “Wounds of Armenia” and in his other works, as well as by being devoted to his nation he becomes the founder of the modern Armenian literature and language.
In the 1878, Berlin’s summit; when the liberation issue of Western Armenia which was under the domination of the Ottoman Empire (the “Armenian question” formulation), was the subject of international diplomacy as a plan for the Armenian provinces reform, the national liberation struggle against the Turkish dictatorship entered a new phase. The Armenian national parties were formed during the 1885-1890, Armenakans, Hnchaks and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation who directed all their goals to solve the Armenian question issue.
Ottoman Sultan Hamid II- haven’t achieved the Armenian reforms that he promised to the European powers, moreover, he organized mass killings of Armenian people in the 1894 – 1896, which became the precedent of the 1915 massacres. Using the pretext of the First World War, the Nationalist government of Ottoman Turkey decided to destroy the Armenian people, and to clear Armenia the cradle of its original Armenian population. More than a million Armenians were massacred or marched to their deaths, hundreds of thousands of refugees have sought refuge in dozens of countries. Armenian Diaspora was formed. Turkey occupied most of the territory of historical Armenia. The mass killings accompanied by destruction of Armenian cultural monuments. Diaspora continues the western Armenia’s literature and art traditions. Because of nostalgia and regret for the lost homeland and by the hope of returning back certain nationwide values were established.
On May 28, 1918 the Armenian people restored its statehood: in 1920, the Soviet political and ideological changes influenced highly the 1920-1930’s culture. The ideologies rooted at the beginning of the era and the religious barriers over the years have been overcome, and cultural life was back on track. Many cultural centers and higher education institutions had been established. M. Saryan, Sedrak Arakelyan, Jacob Kojoyan, Yervand Kochar and many other talented artists in their colorful palettes shaped the new school of fine arts.
The newly created theaters of Drama, opera and Ballet, ensembles and soloists awakened an unprecedented spree of cultural life. Many Famous Armenian artists, composers, group directors and singers spread all over the world came around to live and create in Armenia. The modern music of different characters have been composed based on the national traditional works. State theaters have been opened in Yerevan, in addition to other cities in Armenia, in which play-lists many works of Russian, Western European, and of course, classical and contemporary Armenian authors’ works had a specific place. The Period was notable for the construction of residential houses and public buildings (Republic Square in Yerevan, Opera and Ballet Theater, the National Library, and a number of higher education institutions).
After the end of the Second World War the repatriation of the Diaspora began, thanks to that the population of the Soviet Armenia has increased. Even during the dictatorship of Stalin, economic and cultural conditions in Armenia recorded a significant rise. In 1924 the documentary film “Soviet Armenia” was screened, and in the 1925 the Armenian cinematography was established, by the movie shot by H. Beknazaryan. In 1943 the Academy of Sciences of Armenia was established, which greatly contributed to the development of traditional and modern sectors.
Аrmenian composers Aram Khachatryan, Arno Babajanyan. Singers Gohar Gasparyan, Lusine Zakaryan. Violinists Ruben Aharonian, Jean Ter-Merkeryann by their works of skill and performance became laureates of international competitions, winning recognition. The theater has reached the peak of his fame in the 1960s. The talented actors Vahram Papazyan, Hrachya Nersisyan, Avet Avetisyan and others were recognized not only in Armenia but also outside its borders. In the standards of the world cinema Sergei Parajanov’s art and Artavazd Peleshyan’s documentary movies are commemorative values. The rapid rise of architecture is obvious in Hrazdan stadium in Yerevan, Zvartnots airport, in the establishment of the Chamber Music Hall and Sports Complex ”Hamalir”.
The devastating earthquake of Dec 7, 1988 was a heavy blow to Armenia’s cultural values. Before this disaster Artsakh’s liberation movement began in February, 1988.
Independence referendum was held on 21 September, 1991, which validated the existence of the Republic of Armenia. In 1991 Nagorno Karabakh Republic was proclaimed on September 2. In 1992. On March 2, the Republic of Armenia became a member of the United Nations. In 1990, after gaining independence, the spirit of liberal economy was obvious in the field of culture, too.
Armenian dance art
Armenian TV movies
Republic of Armenia
The Artsakh Republic (Nagorno Karabagh)
ARMENIA IN THE UNESCO – WORLD HERITAGE SITE LIST
In the UNESCO- World Heritage Site list, Armenia is represented by Sanahin and Haghpat cathedrals, the Mother church of Holey Echmiadzin, churches of st. Hripsime, st. Gayane, and Zvartnotz, the upper stream of the Azad river basin and “Geghard” (spear) monastery.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran’s area the UNESCO- World Heritage List of Armenian cultural monuments are three Armenian Monasteries; St. Tadei , St. Tsortsor, St. Mary, and Stephanos the First Martyr monasteries.
The masterpieces of the UNESCO- world’s intangible cultural heritage are the known Armenian duduk’s music, Armenian Khachkars ( cross-stones) and the mastery of creating epics as the “David of Sasun” epic, as well as the Armenian lavash and the art of its preparation.