Hamazkayin London Presents: A Proven Axiom with Guest Speaker Rouben Galichian

‘History’ and ‘cartography’ are often generalised and seen as synonymous terms. If we define each term on its own, we will see the differences that ‘history’ as text and ‘cartography’ as image represents two conflicting paradigms in the history of Armenia and the south Caucasus. Rouben Galichian, guest speaker and cartographer of Ancient Medieval manuscripts, has presented his “proven axiom” through the outlines and ever shifting borders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

On the 14th of April a packed Navasartian Centre hosted the 30-minute documentary, by filmmakers Marianna Abrahamyan and Angela Frangyan, attracting a curious and engaged audience. Following the film, Galichian’s lecture raised questions regarding geopolitical, and historical assumptions of border issues. The lecture was based upon false Azerbaijani claims that Armenians arrived in the south Caucasus during the 19th century while Azerbaijan, a country born in 1918, has had a history of 5,000 years. Galichian refutes these claims as he attempts to reconstruct and piece together the missing links from what he calls the “third perspective” referring to the scribes who created and copied maps in the medieval period. After a series of Q&A’s, the audience lingered on throughout the night, eager to purchase a copy of his book, Historic Maps of Armenia: The Cartographic Heritage.

An interview with Galichian provided an insight regarding the role of the community as active “historians”. According to Galichian, “it is imperative that we educate ourselves in the outlines of history – one look at a map is a perfect example of the most eloquent way of representing what is historically presented.” Galichian further argues the need to address how images over text serve as a direct source of education and believes that “maps are nearer to the truth than histories” which are constantly re-interpreted. The existence of these images naturally leads to my second inquiry regarding the conservation and preservation efforts of the manuscripts in Armenia. “Philanthropy in Armenia is in its primitive stages but there have been gradual developments towards the encouragement of historians and artists to come up with new ideas and revival of the arts and restoration of these manuscripts.” In this respect, Galichian’s optimistic outlook is contingent upon the active engagement with these histories and cultural artefacts through communities in the Diaspora.

— Liza Kiraz

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