Where have you been in armenia

Aghet - genocide of the Armenians

Manuel Gogos

Dr. phil, born 1970 in Gummersbach, is a freelance author and exhibition organizer. His "Agency for Spiritual Guest Work" operates in Bonn. www.geistige-gastarbeit.de

Searching for traces in Anatolia

Something mighty fate happened in the past of Armenian families with "Aghet", which still has an impact today. For those working in culture from a younger generation of grandchildren, genocide becomes a condition as well as the goal of their own attempts at cultural articulation. Stories of children watching their parents murdered and other traumatic scenes have been burned into them. Each survivor had his own confused story, everyone talked about something different, everyone kept silent about something else. A search for clues.

A flock of birds flies over the coast of Lake Van in Eastern Anatolia, where most of the Armenians have lived for centuries. (& copy Kathryn Cook)

Armenian family novels

The paths of all transmissions are twisted, and those who cross the line between past and future at night are like "smugglers". Armenian family novels, as they are told all over the world today, are about something deeply enigmatic that reaches down into that preconscious realm that psychology has tried unsuccessfully to fathom since Sigmund Freud: it is about tradition. Just as the necessity of tradition was inscribed in Judaism at the time of its existence: "Remember that you were a servant in Egypt" - so the whole lifeworld context in the Armenian diaspora is nothing more than a serial novel. Whether a word in the Turkish or Armenian mother tongue is the bearer of this memory, a scent from childhood, a lullaby or an heirloom. All areas of life in the Armenian diaspora are interwoven with fragments that refer to "then" and "there"; and the next generation of Armenians in the diaspora, driven by homesickness for a mysterious past from which they were forcibly cut off by the Aghet, are now asking for stories about what life was like in Anatolia back then.

Searching for traces in Anatolia

If you ask the population in the eastern Anatolian cities of Kars or Van today, they say: "Armenians? Never were there ...!" If you want to discover Anatolian Armenia today, it doesn't get far to follow the state-bearing memory trail, the tourist signs, nor the expressways that have recently brought progress to Eastern Anatolia. Instead, drive off the path, see where the beaten path leads, turn the stones over. Even if the Turkish state in Ani, the old Armenian capital in Eastern Anatolia, directly on the Arpa Çayi, the border river to Armenia, still puts up signs that deny the Armenian history of the place: Eastern Turkey is also Western Armenia, Anatolia is the home country of the Armenians . A thousand years ago, around 100,000 people lived in Ani and prayed in countless synagogues, mosques and churches. When the Berlin actress Sesede Terziyan walks in the setting evening sun through the huge red-black stone sea, from which only buildings protrude here and there that seem to have fallen from the sky in their weight and monumentality, she suddenly faces a huge canyon that separates the landscape Turkey and Armenia cut up - and the German Armenian from Anatolia sees Armenia for the first time: "It is the home of my ancestors. And it is exactly the same for me: I arrive here and am completely overwhelmed."
Sesede Terziyan, Eastern Anatolia, 2014. (& copy Markus Rindt)

The Berlin actress Sesede Terziyan has traveled to Anatolia and talks about her family history. (© 2016 Federal Agency for Civic Education)

Armenian church ruins over Lake Van. (& copy Markus Rindt)
The Berlin guitarist and composer Marc Sinan is also of Turkish-Armenian origin. His Armenian grandmother Vahide lived north of Ani, in Trabzon on the Black Sea. Sinan has been doing his own biographical and historical "excavations" here in Anatolia for a number of years: "It's much less bad than last time. The church has been cleaned up. But digging holes like this is also a kind of weekend sport here in Eastern Anatolia. Because since the genocide one always suspects gold in the Armenian churches. "

The ruined monastery of Varagavank. (& copy Markus Rindt)
Most of the 2200 Armenian monasteries and churches registered in Eastern Turkey in 1912/13 have been destroyed or misused since 1915. The Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator in Kayseri is used today as a sports hall, the Church of Our Lady in Talas as a mosque. Churches on the roof of which cattle are kept; where a flap opens in the evening and the peasant woman empties her dirty water into the church: Marc Sinan considers this a scandal, a sacrilege: "Such a place, that's a sign. People have lived here, they no longer live here, but Then you have to deal with it respectfully. The excuse is: they deal with these churches just as respectfully as they deal with their people who also live here today. Actually, this is not just a metaphor for dealing with history. It is also a metaphor for dealing with the present. "

The German-Turkish musician Marc Sinan on the desecration of Armenian churches.

Marc Sinan and Sesede Terziyan on the "search for traces" in Eastern Anatolia 2014. (& copy Markus Rindt)

A Kurdish family as "deacons" of the former Varagavank monastery. (& copy Markus Rindt)
Kurds were later settled in the thousands of places where Armenians were expelled in 1915. On the one hand, it made it impossible for the Armenians to return. On the other hand, the perpetrators could be passed on to the Kurds, which has been hammered into the heads of Turkish school children for decades: Kurds would have "slaughtered" the Armenians. But today there are also examples of Kurdish-Armenian coexistence. Like the former Varagavank monastery, which is looked after by a Kurdish family.

Today, Armenian services are again permitted on the monastery island of Akdamar in Lake Van. More and more tourists are entering the ruins of the Armenian churches in Eastern Anatolia, Americans who, in conversations, turn out to be Armenians from the diaspora. With these typical life stories of the escape: Grandparents from Anatolia, born in Cairo themselves and emigrated to the USA at a young age, now living in L.A. In their hiking boots they happily pour themselves into the churches, point to stones with Armenian inscriptions, take photos. There are now thousands from France, Germany and the USA who are making pilgrimages to historic Armenia. One of their pillar saints is the composer Komitas Vardapet, the key witness of the "genocide" who, along with other leading Armenian intellectuals of the Ottoman Empire, was arrested in Istanbul on April 24, 1915, on the first day of the deportations, and deported to Çankırı, east of Ankara. It is the same Komitas that the composer Marc Sinan followed in his footsteps in order to answer him with his compositions.
Marc Sinan (right) with the cameraman Hape. (& copy Markus Rindt)

Sinan also travels to Anatolia to film on the original locations. For example, the staging of a flower-wreathed shrine in one of the ruined Armenian monastery ruins - in such a shrine Komitas is said to have venerated a portrait of the Mona Lisa - a motif in which the piety of the Virgin Mary and madness of the composer are combined. At the premiere of his documentary music theater "Komitas" in the Irsee Monastery in the spring of 2015, the film recordings from Anatolia Sinan serve as a large-scale video projection. "Komitas" was created in coproduction with the Gorki Theater in Berlin, where - under the directorship of Shermin Langhoff - in a series of events consisting of theater and music performances, lecture performances, exhibitions, readings and narrative cafés in an impressive complexity and diversity of the centenary the genocide of the Armenians was commemorated. "Musa Dagh - Days of Resistance" was also on the program, a theater production for which the director Hans-Werner Kroesinger brought Franz Werfel's famous novel "The 40 Days of Musa Dagh" to the stage; as well as a film screening of Fatih Akin's "The Cut", the most expensive and ambitious project that the Turkish-born hamburger has ever tackled, to tell the story of a young Armenian family man who struggled with voicelessness in front of a large, epic backdrop in Jordan from Aleppo to the USA in search of his two missing daughters.
The German-Turkish film director Fatih Akin at a reception during the 36th Cairo International Film Festival 2014, which opened with his film "The Cut". (& copy picture-alliance)

Creative artists are looking for expression

With "Ageht" something powerful happened in the past of Armenian families, which to a certain extent the substance, the "lifeblood" of their present. For members of the next generation, regardless of whether they are in Armenia or Los Angeles, Marseille or Berlin, "Aghet" remains an unconditional point of departure and at the same time point of no return [1]. Sesede Terzyan, who belongs to the permanent ensemble of the Gorki Theater and also played in "The Cut", played as a child in the grandfather's house in Boaslien. After his death she found a prayer chain in a drawer that Grandfather had made himself, the girl was allowed to keep it. Years later - the grandfather's house no longer existed - the chain broke, and since then the actress has tried to reconnect the chain to the past of her Armenian family. When Sesede Terziyan started to "rummage around" in the family history, as she says, the family resisted her urge to research: "My parents are still part of this generation: They didn't talk about it! They didn't ask any questions. There are Such strong traumatizations have been buried like this. Silence can also be cultivated. And it has been cultivated so strongly that I or my generation are only just beginning to question it or to seek conversation. "
Sesede Terziyan on the poster of the Gorky Theater to announce the series of events on the genocide of the Armenians. (& copy Gorki Theater, Berlin)

"Aghet" becomes a condition as well as the goal of cultural articulation attempts among cultural workers of a younger generation of grandchildren. Stories of children who watch their parents being murdered, traumatic scenes in which one was "abandoned" by relatives or even "abandoned" relatives: each of the survivors has his or her confused story, everyone talked about something different, everyone was silent about something else. Sesede Terziyan: "And my mother has just told me that her grandfather has just gone mad too, so totally paranoid. Always locked the windows, always locked the doors, and his greatest fear was always that his granddaughter would marry a Turk This is how this trauma was passed on. "

Sesede Terzyan talks about the story of her great-grandparents. (© 2016 Federal Agency for Civic Education)

Marc Sinan also considers Turkish historiography to be a story that evades reality. Everywhere you come across the same blind spot. The surviving Armenians founded families. But for a long time parents avoided their children when it came to discussing the trauma. "So it was definitely not talked about. My mother was always someone who whispered on political issues in Turkey. Always scared. 81 was the last military coup, so that was really a time when the system could tip over quickly. That's why things like that weren't discussed in that way. "

Marc Sinan tells about his family history. (© 2016 Federal Agency for Civic Education)

Violence broke into a seemingly ideal world of the Ottoman Empire. In Turkey, in particular, there was often a struggle to adapt to normality and the development of a material existence, with the development of a double identity. But the peace of everyday routine was deceptive, and the ground on which the survivors stood remained fragile as ice. The families formed a kind of "fortress of vulnerability". In addition, the survivors' children and grandchildren often began to share their persecution dreams, which they fantasized from snatched conversation and vague premonitions. The survivors could not be proud of their survival. Couldn't break free from the fear of their ancestors. It was like after the Holocaust, and for Marc Sinan it is still like this today: "I think about it then, on the plane, you ask yourself if the Turkish claim, so to speak, that there had been no genocide, if there was a spark of truth Then people wouldn't have this fear. The problem is that it always sounds esoteric. But if you are part of this story yourself, then you know that the trauma of being the grandson of an Armenian woman is a whole is actual, physical. It is just not that you could say: It was a hundred years ago, that does not affect us. Rather, it is something that has a profound impact on our families. "

"Don't talk about it, it's a sin," the Armenian grandmother Vahide Akman commanded composer Marc Sinan when he was a child. In 2015, on the occasion of the centenary of the genocide, Sinan dedicated the concert project "Aghet" to his grandmother, which he initiated together with the Dresden Symphony Orchestra in memory of the Armenian genocide. The core of this musical remembrance project are compositions and commissioned works from Turkey (Zeynep Gedizlioğlu), Armenia (Vache Sharafian) and Germany (Helmut Oehring), after its premiere in Berlin it will go on tour: to Belgrade, to the Armenian capital Yerevan, and to Istanbul. With the politically highly explosive guest performance in the cultural capital of Turkey, the concert project "Aghet" returns to the point of departure of the first genocide in history.

Outlook: We are all Armenians

On January 19, 2007, the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan condemned the attack on Hrant Dink as a "heinous crime"; but he did not attend the funeral, a motorway tunnel had to be opened. Thousands of Turks protested against the murder at spontaneous rallies in Istanbul and Ankara that evening, repeatedly chanting chants like: "We are all Hrant Dink, we are all Armenians." But it remains a difficult undertaking to pacify a country that is still a multiethnic state as long as Erdogan is raging war on the Kurdish southeast of Anatolia and on various occasions speaks of "Armenians and other abominations". Marc Sinan: "But it's exactly the same on the perpetrator side. The offspring of the perpetrators also have symptoms. And in Turkey it's pretty obvious, omnipresent. That we have a system here where you can't trust the truth. It is very clear to the people that they are not being poured the pure wine. Turkey is a country where you don't assume you will be presented with the truth, but where you always have to try to understand the hidden message behind it. "

In April 2015, on the occasion of the centenary of the commemoration, the crimes against the Armenians 1914-1918 were described by Federal President Joachim Gauck and Bundestag President Norbert Lammert (CDU) as "genocide" and the German government agreed on a resolution. However, since Turkey has been seen as an indispensable partner for resolving the refugee crisis in the wake of the refugee crisis, the adoption of the genocide resolution has been postponed until further notice or possibly put on hold. Because Turkey is considered the key to stop hundreds of thousands of refugees from entering Europe. In return, Turkey is even given the prospect of resuming accession negotiations to the European Union. The recognition of one's own multicultural history and especially the genocide of the Armenians would perhaps be the most important condition to finally banish the ghosts of the past and to pacify the repeatedly tense situation in Turkey today.