The Armenian cultural heritage sites that the government of Turkey decided to rehabilitate over the last several years were restored solely by the Turkish side with no formal and systematic engagement of Armenian specialists. Moreover, the restored monuments were mainly presented to the world as “Anatolian medieval architectural monuments” with no mention of their Armenian origin. As a positive development, since recently, there is more mention of the Armenian origins in the information site of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey. To support the positive wave, as part of the ATNP 1, in fall 2014, EPF and Anadolu Kültür supported a group of architects, restoration specialists, historians, ethnographers and art historians from Turkey and Armenia to make an assessment visit to study Armenian cultural heritage in and around the area of Mush.
The experts spent six days in Mush, Varto, Norshen and other locations visiting around twenty Armenian monuments including monasteries, churches (both original and converted to mosques), castles, bridges, fountains, watermills and baths. This was the first bilateral initiative of Armenia- and Turkey-based specialists to carry out such a study. In the joint wrap-up meeting held after the study visit the experts underlined the need to continue such initiatives to prepare more detailed assessment reports for the preservation and possible restoration of some sites. The significant impact of this activity was not only the professional dialogue among the experts but also the dynamic it accelerated after a week of joint group work impacting Armenia-Turkey normalisation on Track Two level.
Given the continued lack of official relations between the two countries, EPF’s and Anadolu Kültür’s contribution could be instrumental in bringing together art/architecture experts and other relevant specialists from Armenia and Turkey to further support the (proper) rehabilitation of the Armenian cultural heritage in Turkey. EPF and Anadolu Kültür will manage the logistics and the programme of the visits, and will make sure that in Turkey the visitors have an opportunity to have meetings and discussions with stakeholders (local and national, state and non-state), as well as site-visits to a number of culturally significant sites. The experts will produce a joint assessment report outlining the risks and rehabilitation prospects of the examined monuments, which will be submitted to the authorities and other stakeholders including foreign embassies and international agencies (EU Delegations, US Embassies, UK Embassies, UNICEF, WHO, etc.)
The activity will further facilitate and deepen formal and informal contacts between art/architecture experts from Turkey and Armenia to create a solid foundation for proper rehabilitation of Armenian cultural heritage in Turkey. The activity will also promote the actual engagement (formal or informal) of the Armenia-based architecture/art experts and/or other relevant specialists in the rehabilitation of Armenian cultural heritage in Turkey.
Ms. Arpine Aleksanyan and Ms. Sona Baloyan from Yerevan, from “Matenadaran” Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, were supported with the travel grant to visit Istanbul, Turkey for meetings with the Armenian Patriarchate, Armenian high schools, foundations and publishing houses to discuss possibilities of further collaboration on preserving the Armenian culture.