The unity of the Armenian culture, which catches the eye even for the first time in contact with it, has always been noted by researchers. It exists on several bases.
The first of these unifying bases is the very nature of Armenia: “Hayastan – karastan” (Armenia is a country of stone). The whole country is in this national definition: both nature, and people, and the creations of their hands.
The country’s landscape has defined the features of its architecture. Powerful crystals, hard, monumental, imposing a sense of the hardness of the stone overcome on the spectator and the landscape itself, monuments of medieval architecture rise all over Armenia. Rocky soil, the teeth of the surrounding mountain ridges and hewn, collected in precise volumes of stone architectural monuments merge into a single image.
Another basis of unity was the historical fate of the country. Armenia, located at the crossroads between East and West, was a constant site of clashes between the great empires of antiquity and the Middle Ages. Rome, Iran, Byzantium, Arabs, Seljuks, Mongols passed through Armenia, permanently, sometimes for centuries, interrupting its cultural development, covering the land with smoking ruins.
Contrary to all, opposing each of the powerful aliens, the people remained faithful to their culture. Along with language, writing and faith, art was one of the pillars, relying on which, it was possible to survive.
“The spiritual life of the Armenian people has undergone great fractures and has been subjected to such surprises that it sometimes completely broke off, losing contact with all the previous ones..,” wrote the historian N. Adonts, “but as soon as political storms subsided, acute periods of adversity passed and life fell into ordinary norms, the interest to the past was awakened, the study of survivors of disturbing monuments began to study in order to comprehend the connection with the past, to connect the present with the past. “
Loyalty to the established models of art was faithfulness to national relics and became the core of the spiritual life of the people.
Undoubtedly, the third reason for the unity of Armenian art for centuries lurked in those emotional-figurative qualities that were laid in the art. Principles gradually forming in the plans and voluminous compositions of the Armenian churches and monastic complexes, with their logical and energetic transitions of forms, beauty and expressiveness of the smooth planes of the walls, resonated in all forms of decorative and visual art.
Sculptural reliefs on buildings, tombstones and khachkars, ceramics, woodcarving, metal – everything shows a kinship with architecture, the works of all arts retain a stylistic unity in external and internal architectural design.
Not only the architecture served as the basis for the synthesis of the leading features of the artistic language, not only the constant appeal to the traditions of formation that have arisen in every art form, to the classical solutions already found in the past, was a kind of school of reading and writing for every new generation of builders, artists and craftsmen.
The tradition was not deprived of the creative principle for one extremely important reason: no matter what desolations occurred on the land of Armenia, no matter how historical fate would develop and the map of the most geographical concept of “Armenia” would change, there was a kind of artistic activity that never disappeared – the art of creation and decoration of household items.
Developing constantly, it passed skills, accumulated by ancestors, from generation to generation. In irrigation ceramics, carpets, embroidery, jewellery made of silver, in simple everyday things, the foundation of the people’s world outlook was embodied. They united the art of Armenia, making it a permanent source of nutrition.
Professional art always took into account the broad background of folk art, it concealed the possibility of reviving the national artistic tradition after decades, and sometimes centuries of interruption. Here you could draw and firmly determined as native forms, and visual richness and colour diversity, see new variants of familiar forms, learn how to incorporate new life experiences into traditional schemes.
Armenia is called a “museum under the open sky”, and this is so: architectural monuments and memorials, associated with them decorative sculptural relief, preserved examples of wall painting make the land of the republic a kind of repository and exposition of masterpieces of culture of the past.
But, in addition, there are collections in Armenia, the totality of which gives a complete picture of the development of plastic arts in different periods of the Middle Ages.
It is the State Museum of the History of Armenia, storing the results of long-term archaeological expeditions, scrupulous collection and study, the Museum-vestry of the Etchmiadzin Cathedral and the new Museum of Etchmiadzin, possessing unique collections of art objects used in divine services; Mesrop Mashtots (Matenadaran), in which, along with the miniatures decorated with manuscripts, their frames, metal and leather, and specimens of ancient nodding fabrics, preserved due to the fact that they were used in the interlacing of manuscripts, are stored. The State Museum of Ethnography of Armenia in Sardarapat can be added to these collections.
Armenian culture lives and goes on with the nation…