Society 14:45 19/08/2014

Finnish monk, author of 500-page book on Armenia: 'I never encountered such beauty anywhere'

Finnish monk, Professor of Theology Serafim Seppälä has for years been studying the Armenian culture and history and has a number of publications on this topic, among them a 500-page book on Armenian art and culture; he is currently working on another book on the topic of the Armenian Genocide. In the interview with Panorama.am Father Serafim speaks about his works and his unique personal experience with Armenia, which he says is the last corner of the Middle Eastern cultures where the old Christian tradition is still preserved and which he calls the home of his soul.  

- Father Serafim, you have been engaged in Armenian studies for years and you have a number of books written on cultural and religious issues related to Armenia. How did you as a Finnish Orthodox Monk first get interested in Armenia? What topics have you studied in particular?

- I was interested in Armenia before I became Orthodox, but it is a long story. As a young student in the 90’s, I wanted to become a Christian but I did not know what kind of Christian I should be. There were dozens of different denominations in Helsinki and I visited all of them. The Orthodox church was the last one on my list! Before that I already visited an Armenian church in Istanbul.

I was studying Oriental studies and Semitic languages in Helsinki, also reading a lot of books on the history of Christianity. I became convinced that Christianity by its spirit is an eastern religion, and the Oriental Churches are the closest to the original. Then I went to Jerusalem for a year and experienced them all: the Syrian Orthodox, Copts, Ethiopians and Armenians. I lived in the Armenian quarter, in a tiny hut on the roof of an Armenian house.

So it was for me a personal and academic pursuit. I translated spiritual literature from Syriac (Aramaic) into Finnish, but I never had a chance to study Armenian. Then I became Orthodox, and some years after that I went to a monastery. The monastic years were very busy. Each day 14 hours of church and work, and in the nights I was preparing a PhD.
Then by surprise, I got a job from the University and the Church blessed me to go. Only then I was able to fulfill my dream and go deeper with Armenia.

- What interesting discoveries have you made while studying Armenia?

- For me everything Armenian surviving from pre-Genocide times is a revelation of supreme Beauty. Vaspurakan Miniatures, duduk tunes, folk dances, sharakans, Sayat Nova, Artsakh carpets, even reminiscences of tight rope dances! I never encountered such beauty anywhere. Combining this with the history of massacres and bloodshed, the combination is absolutely unique.

These things are the home of my soul. It hurts me every time when I see or hear these precious pearls being replaced by Western rubbish in Yerevan.

Armenia is the last corner of the Middle Eastern cultures where the old Christian tradition is still in the heart of the whole culture from operas to holy caves. This is so precious.

I am not blind for the practical problems of Armenia, but there are practical problems in all countries. An ultimate example: people make much more suicides in well-to-do Finnish villages than in poorest Armenian villages. Why? Could it be that there is still something precious in poor Armenian villages, something that the Finns lack?

- You have actually studied the philosophy of the Armenian Genocide as well as the Armenian art of the post-genocide period, didn’t you? Could you share some of your findings and ideas in this regard?

- Yes I did a study on the cultural aftermath of the genocide: How the Armenian art, paintings, movies, literature and the whole identity has been affected and constructed by the genocide and its denial. It felt like the deeper I dig the more painful it is.

The term genocide is nowadays used very lightly. When a few thousand die in the Middle East conflicts, even politicians immediately label it as genocide. In an actual genocide, even the deaths are a secondary problem, whether thousands or millions.

I see genocide basically as an ontological event, a systematical attack against existence in all levels: past, present, future. The past of Armenians was and still is being destroyed by Turkey. The present was taken away from those 1.5 million. And the future, the whole way of life, this is the true problem of genocide. To sit and chat in a church-yard in LA is not the same as to sit and Chat in Aghtamar. The know-how of thousands of years of traditions in prayers, folk songs, carpet-making etc. went into ashes. This is the essence of genocide.

At the moment I am already writing a third book for the 100 years anniversary. This time my idea is to portray Western Armenian village life, with all of its feasts and so on, and to present an overview of a few martyrdoms based on survivor memoirs.

I never write about politics or diplomats and such. For me, they are marginal. What is important is the actual people and their spirit - in spirituality and in arts.

- Father Serafim, you are also the author of a 500-page book titled “East of Ararat” on Armenian culture, history, art and religion. Could you say in a few words what the book is about and what its message is?

- For 15 years I waited for someone to make a book about Armenian culture in Finnish, and no-one did. So I understood that I need to make it myself. It is a cultural history introducing twelve most important chapters of Armenian history. I tried to make it so that it is not a dry catalogue of empires and rulers and power relations, but rather a historical exposition of Armenian identity. Why and how things like Avarair, Catholicos, alphabet, Narekatsi, Aznavour etc. are constituents of modern Armenian identity.

- Is this book going to be translated into English or Armenian?

- I am afraid not. It is meant for Finnish audience. To my great joy, there are already hundreds of Finns who have travelled to Armenia with this “brick” in their hand. They say that in Armenia they see things and perhaps experience them deeply, then they read and understand.

In fact, it seems that I have contributed to the emergence of a curious sub-culture in Finland: we have dozens of people who love Armenia deeply, with all of its shortcomings, and even can feel the authentic karot. Most of my friends have been to Armenia like 5 times, and more they go, the crazier they turn! At the moment one of them is riding a horse from Jermuk to Sevan!

- It is really great to discover that we have such amazing Finnish friends who love Armenia like this! You have visited Armenia for a number of times; when are you planning to visit again?

- Well, twice a year I bring a group from Finland. In October to Northern Armenia, and then in May we’ll go to Artsakh and Siunik. I hope to spend the Christmas time in Armenia, too. I cannot stand many months outside.

- Thank you very much for this interesting conversation and for all the precious work that you are doing! You are always welcome in Armenia.

By Nvard Chalikyan 

Read also:
Eduardo Ochoa: A new type of EU-Armenia Association Agreement is needed
The case for Recognition and Remembrance
Bernard Coulie: Surrendering any territories to Azerbaijan is nonsense!
Khatchik Der Ghougassian: We must move from Genocide Recognition policy towards struggle for Reparation
Rouben Galichian on how Azerbaijan falsifies history
Dickran Kouymjian: For demanding compensations from Turkey we should coordinate our efforts
Gérard-François Dumont: Neglecting historical facts makes solution of Karabakh conflict even harder



Source Panorama.am
Share |
Տեքստում սխալ կամ վրիպակ նկատելու դեպքում, ուղարկեք խմբագրին հաղորդագրություն` նշելով տվյալ սխալը, այնուհետև սեղմելով Ctrl-Enter:

Newsfeed

19:14
Only Armenian school in Jordan about to close
A decision has been taken to shut down the only Armenian school operating in Jordan, a move that can pose a serious threat to the local Armenian...
18:43
Armenia’s defense minister discusses border upgrading issues with top officers
Armenian Minister of Defense Davit Tonoyan on Sunday visited the south-western border of the country to observe the on-duty military service and...
18:20
German prosecutors charge bus attacker with attempted murder
German prosecutors are charging a 34-year-old man who attacked passengers on a crowded city bus with a knife in the northern town of Luebeck on...
18:03
‘War doesn’t end even when peace comes’: Nas Daily releases fresh video from Armenia
Famous vlogger Nuseir Yassin, better known by Nas Daily, who is currently in Armenia to explore the country’s culture and daily life, has...
17:27
Situation relatively calm in Armenia’s bordering Baghanis – village head
Azerbaijani military opened gunfire toward the roadway connecting the towns of Ijevan and Noyemberyan in Armenia’s northeastern region of...
16:35
Azerbaijan makes around 150 ceasefire violations over past week
The Azerbaijani armed forces violated the ceasefire along the Line of Contact between Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and Azerbaijan nearly 150 times...
15:47
Putin’s football gift to Trump given routine security check
The red-and-white football tossed to President Donald Trump by Russia's Vladimir Putin is undergoing a routine security screening, the...
15:39
Armenia in total control of Ordubad district in Nakhichevan section – spox
Armenian Defense Ministry Spokesman Artsrun Hovhannisyan has posted images from the Nakhichevan section of Armenian-Azerbaijani border on his...
15:02
Paylan on Andrew Brunson: ‘Disgrace that Turkey uses a pastor in its dirty deals’
Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish parliament representing the opposition People's Democratic Party (HDP), has slammed the...
13:59
Ambassador: The presence of Japanese tourists in Armenia speaks of the country’s safety
Armenia is safe country in terms of terrorist threats another forms of crimes, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Armenia...
13:26
Turkey and the Netherlands resume full diplomatic ties
Turkey and the Netherlands have agreed to restore relations strained after a diplomatic row last year, Al Jazeera reported. In a joint statement...
12:31
President Sarkissian visits the House-Museum of Minas Avetisyan
Armenian President Armen Sargsyan visited today the house –museum and the workshop of a famous Armenian painter Minas Avetisyan. As the...
11:15
Armenian Church marks the commemoration of St. Gregory the Illuminator’s sons and grandsons
Aristakes was St. Gregory the Illuminator’s youngest son, Qahana.am reports. He led a monastic life from a very early age. He was...
19:02
Artsakh FM: NK settlement should be based on recognition of the Artsakh people right to self-determination
The position of the Artsakh Republic on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict remains unchanged - the settlement of the conflict should be based on the...
18:27
Defense minister: Armenia to continue supporting the Syrian people
Armenia will continue supporting the friendly people of Syria through providing humanitarian assistance, the country’s Defense Minister...
17:53
Yerevan Zoo's male tiger dies suddenly
A 17-year-old Amur tiger named Nobel at the Yerevan Zoo has died unexpectedly, the zoo announced Friday. Born in Kaliningrad Zoo in 2001,...
16:52
PM excludes any solution to the NK conflict that would be unacceptable for people
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan excludes any solution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict that would be unacceptable to the people, the PM...
15:57
Chairman of the France-Artsakh Friendship Circle François Rochebloine granted Armenian citizenship
Speaker of the Artsakh National Assembly, Chairman of the Artsakh-France Friendship Circle Ashot Ghulyan on Friday hosted ex-French MP, former...
14:57
Nine wrestlers to represent Armenia at European junior c'ship
Nine wrestlers will represent Armenia at the European Junior Wrestling Championship to be hosted by Rome, Italy, from July 30 to August 5....
14:33
Five people, including Chechen ex-official’s daughter, detained in Turkey for IS ties
Five people, including the daughter of a former high-ranking Chechen official, have been detained in Turkey on suspicion of ties with the...
14:16
What happened in Armenia is a change of work style, goals, national ambitions, PM says
Armenia is going through an adaptation period, with the current situation developed in the country new for both new and old cadres in the state...
13:13
South Korean ex-leader sentenced to 8 more years in prison
A South Korean court on Friday sentenced former South Korean President Park Geun-hye to an additional eight years for abusing state funds and...
13:01
Yervand Khundkaryan named head of Court of Cassation’s chamber
Armenian President Armen Sarkissian has signed a decree to appoint Yervand Khundkaryan Chairman of the Civil and Administrative Chamber of the...
12:39
Komitas museum to host culture days of Armenian Diaspora communities
Armenia’s Komitas Museum-Institute is hosting the Culture Days of the Armenian Diaspora Communities, the museum said in a Facebook post....
11:53
‘Disgrace’: Trump confronts Turkey’s Erdogan over jailed U.S. pastor
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said it was shameful that a Turkish court rejected an appeal to release an American evangelical pastor...
11:23
Artsakh’s Sahakyan offers congratulations on Foreign Ministry's 25th anniversary
President Bako Sahakyan on Friday issued a congratulatory message on the 25th anniversary of the Artsakh Republic Foreign Ministry. The...
11:03
Armenian delegate to Azerbaijan: ‘Instead of spending millions to bribe European politicians, try to build a genuine democratic state’
“Since I was deprived of the right to reply to some accusations made against Armenia yesterday by the representative of Azerbaijan, I take...
10:22
OSCE ready to assist Armenian government in anti-corruption reforms
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Thursday received Paola Severino, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on...
19:08
National Chamber Orchestra to perform a joint concert of vocal symphonic music premiere with National Chamber Choir of Armenia
National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia headed by artistic director and principal conductor Vahan Mardirossian along with the National Chamber...
19:07
FM Zohrab Mnatsakanyan chaired “Innovation, Impact Investment and the SDGs - Tools for Advancing Reforms” high-level panel
On July 17, at the UN Headquarters Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Foreign Minister of Armenia, chaired "Innovation, Impact Investment and the SDGs -...

Follow us and get updates!

Most popular articles

{"core.blocks.header.spell_message1":"Selected mistake: ","core.blocks.header.spell_message2":"Send a message about the mistake?"}