Stealing Culture: Azeris Launch Campaign Claiming Armenian Carpets As Their Own

Armenian Rugs Society
An Armenian carpet dating back to 1893 was made in Shushi, Artsakh

An Armenian carpet dating back to 1893 was made in Shushi, Artsakh

Azeris Portray Ancient Armenian Textile and Woven Arts Culture as Being an Azerbaijani Turkish Tradition

GLENDALE—The Armenian Rugs Society, a Los Angeles-based organization dedicated to promoting, preserving and advancing Armenia’s ancient rug culture, this week issued an announcement, in which it sounds the alarm on Azerbaijani efforts—campaign—to claim ancient Armenian textiles and woven carpets as their own. Below is the text of the announcement.

Official Azerbaijan, in collusion with members of the private sector close to the Azeri regime, has launched a campaign geared towards appropriating ancient Armenian carpet, rug, and textile weaving traditions and production as their own by generating articles in local and international news outlets, sponsoring exhibits, and publishing art books that portray Armenian woven arts and history, as their own.

Armenian Rugs Society

Armenian Rugs Society

Several Azeri news sources (Sputnik Azerbaijan, World Economics Magazine: Azerbaijan Journal of Economics, Finance and Business), supported and abetted by the Azeri government—a notorious human rights violator–have recently published articles erroneously claiming that what are clearly Armenian carpets and rugs of global renown, from a variety of historic Armenian regions, including the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), respectively, are Azeri cultural artifacts and traditions.

In one such article, “Revival of Azerbaijani Carpet,” the author, Ainur Veliyeva, has actually paraphrased verbiage taken directly from an Armenian Rugs Society publication (Weavers, Merchants, and Kings, 1980) concerning historical accounts of Armenian rugs, and has replaced the words “Armenia” and “Armenian,” wherever they appeared in the text, with the words “Azerbaijan” and “Azerbaijani.”

“The Azerbaijani carpet has an ancient history – so ancient that already ancient historians Herodotus, Claudius Elian and Xenophon wrote about the development of carpet weaving in Azerbaijan. Carpet weaving, the most common kind of folk craft, became a symbol of the Azerbaijani people. Carpets expressing the idea of protection of the home and harmony create coziness in the house, filling the space of the room with a meaning and visually increasing it. Not without reason, experienced housewives in the renovation of the interior primarily care about the quality and beauty of carpets, curtains and lighting fixtures. Today, Azerbaijan revives carpet weaving, which has somewhat reduced the pace of development and production volumes in the country. Currently, the first stage of the revival is under way, involving the construction of 10 carpet-making enterprises, and in the future their number will be brought to 30.”

“Revival of Azerbaijani Carpet”
World Economics Magazine: Azerbaijan Journal Of Economics, Finance And Business
February 26, 2018
(Translated from the Russian via Google Chrome Translate)

These salacious contentions are, of course, diametrically opposed to decades of work produced by countless academics, experts, and specialists from around the world, regarding the provenance of the artifacts and the millennial traditions of Armenian artisans and craftspeople, as well as their vast influence on other cultures.

This unabashed falsification of history and cultural capital is the latest in a long line of smear campaigns and propaganda that not only strike at the heart and soul of Armenian cultural identity, but is a harsh blow to the international arts community and to woven arts scholarship in general, putting in serious danger whole academic disciplines and bodies of work.

Sadly, the Azeri and Turkish states have long engaged in heinous policies and actions targeting Armenians and Armenian culture. The early part of the last century saw the wholesale slaughter and deportation of Armenians from the Armenian Highlands, and, then, the wholesale destruction of Armenian architectural sites, cultural artifacts, archeological treasures, and myriad other cultural properties, across once vibrant historic Armenia, filled-out the rest of the century.

Unfortunately, the early 21st century did not bode well for Armenian cultural preservation either, as atrocities both human and material continue at the hands of the Azeri state in and around historic Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and Nakhichevan, the millennial home of indigenous Armenians.

These myriad and misguided attempts to erase the native origins of a far-reaching Armenian cultural reality, and the woven arts, in particular, are horrific in and of themselves. However, within the context of Azerbaijan’s bloody history of pogroms against its own Armenian population (as well as other minorities), its attempted genocide and current continued aggression against the Armenians of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), and its despicable record of destroying precious World Heritage Sites, such as the once profoundly beautiful Cross Stones of Nakhichevan, this #altnews fiasco, in the age of the internet, begins to take on a wholly different and sinister meaning.

The Turkish and Azeri states have not only engaged in genocide, but continue to attempt to strip the survivors of genocide, and their progeny, of any and all cultural meaning, memory, and motifs that have somehow survived and, indeed, form the fundament of Armenian cultural identity. To leave the victims of genocide bereft of all meaning, tradition, and identity, to which they cling so dearly, is to deny their very existence and is the final and most horrendous stage of genocide.

This concerted effort to usurp, appropriate, and distort Armenian cultural traditions and production, and its dire consequences to international arts scholarship, must be stopped immediately.

The Armenian Rugs Society, a non-profit organization founded in Washington D.C., in 1980, has dedicated itself to the identification, preservation, and documentation of Armenian woven arts, as well as to the dissemination of the cultural contributions made by Armenian weavers and craftspeople to the rich and vibrant history of textile arts.

The Society, with the help of its members, supporters, academicians, and collectors has been at the forefront of preserving and promoting the precious global heritage treasure that is the Armenian woven arts tradition. The Society has also, by the nature of its very mission, been forced to deal with the callous, crass, and seemingly endless acts of aggression by the Azeris and their allies within the realm of art scholarship and culture.

Now, with the help of scholars, textile experts, and organizations, both Armenian and non-Armenian, we can begin to set the record straight and uphold, with dignity, these global cultural traditions that have brought so much joy, meaning, and artistic excellence to not only the Armenian people, but to world culture and history over the span of centuries.

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3 Comments

  1. Raffi said:

    The essence of Azerbaijan and Turkey is stealing what belongs to others, it’s in their DNA.

  2. jda said:

    This bit of cultural Genocide is of very longstanding. Years ago I was interested in a particular rug with a beautiful Armenian inscription. A dealer told me about where it was. He told me that Armenians did not make rugs, and merely bought and sold them. His idiotic comment was belied in this case by the beautiful inscription on the rug we discussed. It was a memorial to a priest of the Armenian Church who had died in 1861. He made many trips to Turkey each year.

    Another example: decades ago, a two volume book about ancient Caucasian rugs in Turkey was produced in Turkey. The inside covers had maps of Anatolia and Armenia and the Caucasus. The word Armenia appeared on the maps. Someone in Turkey had then used a thick black marker and attempted to delete the word “Armenia.” Most versions of these books have the deletion.

    We are grateful to the Armenian Rugs Society, and especially its founders and many stalwarts, for cataloging thousands of Armenian rugs with and without inscriptions to prove Armenian minds designed, Armenian hands dyed and wove, and Armenian hearts cherish the rugs and other textiles, which we continue to see in most Armenian homes today.

  3. Adour said:

    Couple of points I would like to make:
    1. Historically, Azerbaijan did not exist as a country prior to the 19th century. Azeri people were NOMADS not even called Azeri then and the language was a amixture of Persion and Turkish.
    2. As to the history of the Armenian Carpet making I would like to invite the world to reference a book published by BENEDIKT TASCHEN a scholarly print by VOLKMAR GUNTZORN 1991, with publisher’s note “This work is a dissertation for the Faculty Of Cultural Sciences of the Eberhard-Karls-Universitat, Tubingen” TITLED: THE CHRISTIAN ORIENTAL CARPET as first edition, and “The Oriental Carpet” as the subsequent editions.
    The inner flap of the books reads as follows: “IN THIS VOLUME, TWO AND A HALF THOUSAND YEARS ARE PRESENTED AND ANALYSED. THE AUTOR’S RESEARCH HAS RESULTED IN COMPLETELY NEW INSIGHTS AND RELATIONSHIPS – A REVISION OF THE HISTORY OF THE ORIENTAL CARPET. HE HS BEEN ABLE TO TRACE THE PATTERN BACK TO PHRYGIAN AND OTHER TRADITIONS, WHICH WERE CARRIED ON BY THE ARMENIANS UP TO THE BEGINNING OF OUR OWN CENTURY: CARPETS AS SYMBOLS OF POWER, AS DEEPLY RELIGIOUS ABSTRACT TEXTILE ICONS. THE ORIENTAL CARPET IS NEITHER OF NOMADIC ORIGIN, NOR DOES ITS ORIGIN LIE IN CENTRAL ASIA; IT IS A PRODUCT OF ANCIENT ORIENTAL CIVILIZATIONS IN THE ARMENIAN UPLANDS AT THE CROSSROADS OF THE OLDEST TRADE ROUTES BETWEEN WEST, NORTH AND SOUTH. THE AUTHOR’S ASSERTION IS SUPPORTED BY THE VISUAL MATERIAL HE PRESENTS. FOR THE FIRST TIME COLOURED ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE MOST IMPORTANT AND MOST SPLENDID EXAMPLES OF EVERY TYPE OF CARPET HAVE BEEN INCLUDED. THE ILLUSTRATIONS INCLUDE BOOK ILLUMINATION, PAINTINGS, ARTS AND CRAFTS AND DETAILS OF ARCHITECTURE AND CLARIFY DEVELOPMENTS HITHERTO UNRECOGNISED. THIS WORK DOCUMENTS WHAT IS PROBABLY ARMENIA’S MAIN CONTRIBUTION TO WORLD HISTORY. IT IS A MUST FOR ANY CONNOISSEUR OF CARPETS AND FOR ANYONE WHO DOES NOT WISH MERELY TO DREAM OF THE ORIENT. VOLKMAR GANTZHORN HAS SPECIALISED IN CHRISTIAN AND ISLAMIC ART IN RECENT YEARS. HIS CONTINUING RESEARCH IS CONNECTED WITH SURFACE ORNAMENTATION IN BOOK ILLUMINATION, ARCHITECTURE, CERAMICS AND ARTS AND CRAFTS IN GENERAL.
    VOLKMAR GANTZHORN HAS STUDIED THE HISTORY OF ART, PHILOSOPHY, PSYCHOLOGY, PAINTING, GRAPHICS, SCULPTURE, GEOGRAPHY AND JOURNALISM. IN 1961 HE QUALIFIED AS A TEACHER OF ART AND HAS TAUGHT I SCHOOLS. COLLEGES OF EDUCATION AND POLYTECHNICS.
    GANTZHORN IS ACTIVE AS A PAINTER, GRAPHIC DESIGNER, SCULPTOR AND PHOTOGRAPHER AND HAS EARNED HIMSELF A REPUTATION WITH NUMEROUS EXHIBITIONS AT HOME AND ABROAD.
    c

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