While getting ready to leave for a meeting with Hranush Hakopyan, of the Diaspora Ministry, our Russian-based friend called from Ohanavan and said he had just one more day in Armenia before returning, so he was coming over to say goodbye. Arriving with his brother, we said hello and sat at the table for a dinner of dolma and our guest’s favorite, tuti arak from Khundzoresk. “I have friends there,” he said, “so this arak is special.”
While in Armenia, our friend had been all over the country, from Byurakan to Zangezur, and from Gyumri to Shamshadin. “One of the things I miss the most living in Russia, besides my friends and the land and water of Armenia, is the dialect people in each region still use. My favorites are the Shamshadin and Zangezur dialects, but I love them all. In Russia, Armenians speak good Armenian, sometimes perfect Armenian, but they don’t use dialect. And even when they do, their children don’t. People lose so much not living here, and they don’t understand it. Speaking perfect Armenian, Western or Eastern, is wonderful, but they don’t have the feel of the nature, the people, of a certain area. It’s too bad, but all the dialects of the Western Armenians are gone, the dialects of Moush, Van, and all the others. I hope Eastern Armenians continue using dialect, and, I think they will.”
Giving a toast, he said, “I wish that the situation in Armenia, financial and moral, improves to the level that Armenians will move back here, without having to think of all the negative things going on now. And, to our next meeting, which I hope is soon…be it in Russia, or in Yerevan.”
As our friend’s brother had only eaten mulberries, not drunk any, he served as the designated driver and took us to the Diaspora Ministry for our meeting, which went quite well, as our collaboration in producing a CD of Armenian lullabies and another for children’s songs is becoming at least somewhat certain.
From there, a ministry official drove us to Kino Moskva, for the premiere of Geghama Ashkharhu, or, “The World of the Geghama,” the mountain range in the region of Lake Sevan. Arriving, and opening the door to the theater where the film was being shown, we met Shavarsh Vardanyan, the film’s cameraman, and for whom I had translated the film into English. Apologizing, Vardanyan said that there was no place to sit, and that we’d have to stand alongside the walls.
We watched in amazement as the story of the land and dynasties between Artashat and the Geghama Mountains was told, centering on the temple of Garni and its importance in Armenian history over the ages. Amazing was seeing the large number of monasteries and fortresses in the area around Garni, possibly the most classic the fortress of Keghvaberd, located high on a rocky mountaintop, and which was used until just before the time of the Mongol invasions. Ancient carvings of rams, the Soldier’s Church, and other churches carved into rocky mountains, much like Geghard, were of special interest.
Something that surprised the audience was the fact that the Russians were making arrangements, in early Soviet times, to move the stones of Garni to Tbilisi, where they planned on reconstructing the temple. Fortunately, we found out, the Russians declared the task too difficult, the stones too heavy, and the project too expensive.
The quite well done film, got rave reviews from all who attended, young and old, and partly, as one said, “due to the nice, relaxed music, both classical and the sound of the blul and an occasional voice of a villager singing a folk song in the background, without the sound of the synthesizer drowning everything out, agitating everybody.”