TODAY.AZ / Politics

Armenia continue claiming for Georgia's cultural heritage

22 May 2008 [11:12] - TODAY.AZ
Tbilisi considers claims on Norashen church to be unfounded.
One of the central topics in Georgia last week was announcement of the eparchy of Armenian Apostle Church in Georgia, which voiced "anxiety and resentment over the infringement on the Norashen church and adjacent areas in Tbilisi".

Armenian clergymen consider that the Norashen church (another name is Akhalsheni) was built as an Armenian church in the mid 15th century. In the 1930s the church, along with other religious establishments, was closed and used as a storage of books. It is especially noted that following restoration of the state independence, the Georgian government did not return the church to its legal, historical owner, to whom Armenian clergymen attribute themselves.

The announcement says that "Georgian confessor Tariel and a group of workers are building an iron fence, including the religious elements, peculiar of the Georgian orthodox church, for the purpose of fencing the building of the Norashen church and adjacent area. Armenian Eparchy considers this act as a violation of an agreement between the Armenian Apostle Church and Georgian Orthodox Church about the civilian resolution of the issue of belonging of the Norashen church and other four churches in Tbilisi". At the same time, Armenian clergymen announced that unilateral actions may lead to "unpredicted actions".

Due to the aforementioned events, Armenian press applies the terms of "religious extremism in Georgia", "georgianization of Armenian church" and so on, not speaking about the mass propaganda campaign, which has been lead for already several years and aims to form an opinion about the purposeful termination of the so-called Armenian heritage in Georgia.

One of the active participants of this campaign is Samwell Karapetyan, Yerevan historical scientist, leader of the Organization for studying Armenian architecture, whose researches, related to Georgia, have repeatedly caused discontent among the Georgian scientific circles.

In order to understand why Karapetyan is unfavored in Tbilisi, it would be enough to mention one of his work, called "Mayors of Georgia". The book contains "proofs" that 45 out of 47 of famous Tbilisi mayors for almost 8 centuries were Armenians!

The activity of the "scientist" in the Georgian direction ended in the appeal of a group of Georgian scientists, sent to Armenian embassy to Georgia in May 2006 and containing the demand to stop infringement on the cultural and historical heritage of Georgia. The scientists also appealed to the Georgian government with a demand to put an end to manipulation of history by Armenian colleagues on the official level.

Nevertheless, this did not have the due effect on Armenian propagandists, who, started to take films about... "genocide" of Armenian cultural monuments in Georgia. This is featured in the film "Stones of Ancestors", shot by Armenian film director Yegishe Gevorkyan. Following the demonstration of the film in Moscow, in summer of 2006 the Blagovest-info agency informed the readers that "the film director, who lived in Georgia for two years, created the film on the basis of documentary evidences about the destruction of Armenian culture in this country. Great attention was paid to destruction and capture of Armenian churches".

According to the film, "within the period of independence, Georgian orthodox parishes were opened in 45 Armenian, 6 catholic and 5 Russian temples". The film features the "rebuilt Armenian churches, where ancient frescoes and traditional Armenian crosses were removed and even architectural details (for example. windows), which are peculiar of the Armenian temple architecture, were replaced, with altar barriers, not initially envisioned, constructed. At the same time, such "reconstructions" were carried out in the most ancient temples, that exist for up to 6 centuries".

Meanwhile, the substantiated answer to Armenian claims, including regarding the Norashen church was given by Georgian historical scientist Bondo Arveladze in his book "Armenian or Georgian churches in Georgia ?!" in 1995. In his work the historical scientist points at the fact that the Norashen church stands in the yard of the Tbilisi Georgian church Dzhvaris-Mama, 10 meters away from it. The scientist payd attention to an interesting regularity of the location of the so-called Armenian churches of Tbilisi.

"Almost all of them are near or not far from the Georgian churches, which is unexpected, considering the differences between the Georgian and Armenian churches (7th century) and acuse fight between them throughout centuries. The Georgian Orthodox church considered Armenians to be Grigorians and its followers to be heretics. It is doubtful that heads of Georgian church would allow Armenian clergymen of Tbilisi build an Armenian Grigorian church ten meters away from the Georgian church. It means that this was a Georgian orthodox church near the Dzhvaris-Mama church, no matter it was small or big, which was a misappropriated by Armenians, who conducted its profound reconstruction, turned into Armenian and called in Akhalsheni-Norashen".

Arveladze analyses the name "Norashen". "From the ethymological point of view Norashen can be decoded as follows "nor" means "new" in Armenia, while "shen" means construction. The stem "shen" is a part of Georgian verb "sheneba", construction. Considering it, Arveladze suggests that Tvilisi Armenian church Norashen is a reconstructed ancient church. "Naturally, a question arises-whom this initial church belonged to-to Orthodox Georgians or Grigorian-Armenians", The historical scientist points at the absence of exact data on this issue in the historical sources and in this connection he refers to the record of one oral legend.

"I have recorded ancient legends about Sayat-Nove and, on the whole, told by Tbilisi long-livers", said Arveladze. "Among these folklore materials, the Sion, Anchiskhat, Norashen, Mognin and other Georgian and Armenian churches are mentioned.

In his book the scientist fixed the text of that very conversation of August 23 of 1962< which is presented below in brief: "I saw two old men on the Leselidze street (where Norashen church locates) in the alley opposite the synagogue. I came up and spoke to them. They turned out to be old Tbilisi residents. I asked who are they and how old are they. One of them was Georgy Zanqurashvili, 93, and the second Vano Quldamashvili, 88). They do not have any complaints about memory. They remember everything well.

-What can you tell about these churches", said I pointing at the churches at the intersection of the Leselidze and Rizhinashvili churches.

-The smaller one, the church of Dzhvaris mama ("Cross Father:), is Georgian. Another, bigger one, is Armenian", and he pointed at the brick wall of Norashen.-When a child, I heard that there was a Georgian church on its place. Armenians took advantage of its being ruined by an enemy and occupied it. Later they reconstructed it and turned it into Armenian", said Zanqurashvili.

-And what will you tell about it?"-turned I to Zanqurashvili.

-I have heard the same. I was born and brought up here. The same was with my father, grandfather and other ancestors... not only this church, but also Sunb-Gevorg, Surb-Nshan and Betlemi were previously Georgian", added Quldamashvili..."

According to Arveladze, this legend can not be considered a proof of initial Georgian belonging of the Norashen church, but this fact should be taken into account. The historical scientist is sure that the first church on the place of the Armenian one was Georgian Orthodox, not Armenian Grigorian.

It is difficult to say anything against the opinion of the Georgian historical scientist, considering the wide activity of the Armenian mechanism of falsification of the history of neighbor peoples. Over 100 years ago, prominent Georgian writer Chavchavadze wrote in his book "Armenian scientists and weeping stones":

"Not being satisfied with defaming our name, depriving us of national dignity, they terminate our whole history and records and historical monuments, all our contributions to christianiry, everything belonging to us, our historical property, by attributing it all to themselves, in order to hound us to death. Though it is impossible to increase one's wealth by taking it from othersm but "the slave of his cravings is deaf but garrulous", as says the Georgian proverb.

Why are these false issues raised? To prove to the world that there is only an Armenian nation in the South Caucasus, to whom belongs the future, as Armenians say they have proven its moral and physical power and the firmness and greatness of their reason".

Unfortunately, one should admit that the words, said by great Georgian intellectual Chavchavadze 100 years ago, are also actual today.


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