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

20:35
Emanuel Macron: Karabakh settlement requires ‘strong compromise’
“The Nagorno Karabakh conflict is not frozen and its settlement is of high importance,” President of France Emanuel Macron stated...
20:13
American Javelin anti-armor missiles arrived in Georgia
Georgian Defense Minister Levan Izoria said that the first stage of purchasing the Javelin anti-armor missiles has been completed successfully...
19:30
Lecture hall named after the Emirates was opened at Yerevan State University
Official opening of the lecture hall named after the Emirates was held at Yerevan State University (YSU) Faculty of Oriental Studies today. The...
19:15
Macron to pay state visit to Armenia and attend the Summit of La Francophonie
French President Emanuel Macron has announced an intention to pay a state visit to Armenia in October. The president also looks forward to...
19:03
Speaker Babloyan thanks the people of Lebanon for warm attitude towards the Armenian community throughout many years
Speaker of the Armenian National Assembly (NA) Ara Babloyan received the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Lebanon...
18:11
Official reception ceremony for President Sargsyan held at the Elysee Palace
Moments ago, the official reception ceremony for President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan and his meeting with the President of the French...
17:52
Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s shirt number reveled after transfer to Arsenal
Henrikh Mkhitaryan will wear the No 7 shirt vacated by Alexis Sanchez at Arsenal, The Telegraph reported, referring to the club...
16:49
NGO suggests Garo Paylan’s nomination for Nobel Peace Prize
“Hamshenuhi” (Hamshen-Armenian Woman) International Women's Association has circulated a statement that nominates Turkish...
15:49
Clear ice observed on Vardenyats pass
Armenia’s ministry of transport, communication and information technologies reports that as of 14:30 January 23, clear ice is served on...
15:06
Artsakh president: “I am confident that our army will as always be able to solve efficiently all the set tasks”
Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Republic President Bako Sahakyan on Tuesday took part in Stepanakert in the meeting of the Defense Army's...
14:59
Khachaturian Concert Hall to host “Thank You, Armenian Soldier” charity concert
Aram Khachaturian Concert Hall in Yerevan, Armenia will host a charity concert as a tribute to the Armenian soldiers heroically defending the...
14:07
Mass brawl between Turks, Kurds breaks out at Germany's Hannover airport
Kurdish protesters and Turkish passengers began brawling inside the airport of the German northwestern city of Hannover, with two people...
13:49
New COAF SMART CENTER Promises to Revolutionize Armenian Villages
Yes this is happening! Bringing technology-driven education to the rural regions of Armenia, revitalizing agriculture and economic development,...
13:41
Iranian president careful about making promises, Armenian expert says
President Hassan Rouhani has interacted with Iranian citizens answering their questions through a state TV channel following the mass...
13:01
CoE Secretary General: Budget payments should not be used as a political tool
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland called on the Organisation’s member states to recommit themselves to fulfill...
12:20
Tigran Mansurian’s ‘Requiem’ wins Classical Music Awards
Renowned Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian has won the 2018 International Classical Music Award in the Contemporary music category for his...
11:34
President Sargsyan meets with French Senate leader in Paris
In the framework of his working visit to France, President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan met with President of Senate Gérard Larcher. The...
11:16
“Life goes on” – Mkhitaryan says goodbye to Man United fans
Armenian national football team and Arsenal midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan has said a heartfelt goodbye to the Manchester United fans on...
10:42
Some roads closed, difficult to pass in Armenia
Some roadways are closed or difficult to pass in the territory of Armenia as of 09:00 a.m. January 23, the Ministry of Emergency Situations...
10:29
President Sargsyan: ‘Armenia is overcoming difficulties by strengthening democratic institutions’
Official press statement by the office of President of Armenia At the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron of the French Republic,...
20:26
Tumo school to open in Paris – mayor
Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo met today with President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan in the Paris City Hall, which was followed by a meeting with the...
19:49
Armenian athlete Levon Aghasyan wins Kazakhstan int’l tournament
The international athletics competition for the prizes of Olympic champion Olga Rypakova was held in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan, with an...
18:55
Today marks Armenian composer Arno Babajanyan's 97th birth anniversary
January 22 marks the 97th birth anniversary of Arno Babajanyan, a renowned Armenian composer and pianist of the Soviet era. Babajanyan was...
18:00
Italy’s Michele Nicoletti elected new PACE president
Michele Nicoletti (Italy, SOC) was today elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).  Taking over...
17:45
Levon Aronian to take part in Tradewise Chess Festival
The traditional Tradewise Chess Festival will be held in Gibraltar from 23 January to 1 February in participation of Armenian GM Levon Aronian,...
17:29
President Sargsyan starts working visit to France
President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan arrived in Paris, France on a working visit. The president’s quite eventful visit to Paris and...
16:53
176 girls vaccinated against papillomavirus in Armenia
A total of 176 teenage girls have been vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in Armenia starting from December 11, 2017 as...
16:16
VivaCell-MTS announces volume of internet traffic, number of SMS messages, calls
The volume of internet traffic in VivaCell-MTS mobile network on December 31, the New Year’s Eve before midnight, and on January 1, 2018,...
16:03
RPA presidential candidate Armen Sargsyan to return to Armenia in a few days
Armen Sargsyan, Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom and the candidate of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) for Armenia’s...
15:28
Black ice takes hold on some parts of Vardenyats pass
Black ice has reportedly gripped some sections of Vardenyats pass as of 2:30pm January 22, the Ministry of Transport, Communication and...

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?"}