Prof. Dr. Albert Stepanyan and Prof. Dr. Hamlet Petrosyan are the guests at Anna Sargsyan’s “Third Millennium” TV program discussing the theme of “collective memory”
“The presence of the past is called memory. Memory is semantic effort of overcoming the time. It aims bringing something to the present that happened or formerly used to be in a time and space.
Ciceron – “We are identical to our memories.”
The collective memory is formed from separate remembrances. In order to remember something we are relating with the reality. The reality is heterogeneous. Sometimes it looks like a Brownian motion. Firstly we receive from the reality emotional images and we transform them into imagination, after we start creating from them the memory. According to Aristotle the memory (memena) is predominantly emotional. Then Aristotle proceeds to “anamnesis”, which I translate “I remember.” There is a voluntarily act in this, and something brutal towards the past. When we come to this level we must remember in what episode of the past we are interested. The past has many faces and is multidimensional too. The memory should have its beginning, elaboration and the ending, i.e. its scenario. “Anamnesis” is that scenario. There is also something that I throw from my memory, I forget. The oblivion is the inseparable part of the remembrance. After we proceed to cogitation or katarsis in our mind and create imaginary meanings. Thus, the narrative of the memory and later our history originates. However, history is always about concrete facts, personalities and events. Hence, historical memory is identical with arts. Ancient Greeks used to put history side by side with arts.
Memory is always engaged with the social reality. While remembering we satisfy the demand of our cultural environment. Every reality seeks to connect with the past and has its questions to the past. As much difficult are the questions that we formulate and direct to the past, as much difficult are the answers of the past. We are the same as we hold the past within us. And the past within us is the same as we are. The past is like mirror.
- With Self-organizing rhythm: Mythology is typical to our thinking. For instance, in the Armenian epic of “Daredevils of Sassoun” the history of Arab conquest of Armenia is presented from a mythical perspective. This is the history of the square, people can be like that, and recreate its history through epic poems.
- Besides the organization of the square there is also the organization of memory in the professional environments mnemotekhne (Aristotle), art of memory, i.e. the texts of groups of artists.
- I am sitting at my cabinet and I am writing myself not my memory, but the memory of the society, and I know it.
The culture holds imperatives within. We created the culture denying some things. History is written in different frameworks, and the truth is more visible when looking from far.
The collective memory is fixed in environments like museums, conditionally environments organized by us. Sometimes we give very short time for 500 years, as we evaluate the content of the historical time. The silence, forgetfulness and deny are also present there, but these should be here considering also the framework of our national and universal human values.
There are also obstacles. The silence also can be cultural phenomenon. Post Ottoman Turkey is predominantly constructed on oblivion. Controversially, the Armenian society is constructed on a stout memory. Since the 5th century AD history has been very important to the Armenian national identity. The predominance of historic texts in relation of the other texts, including literature, arts, and culture, is quite typical. So, we are holders of historic-centric culture. The Armenian Genocide has strengthened this move, but we should overcome this also with the help of the internationally society. The internationally society should help also Turkey to reconstruct their memory. Textbooks and university lectures are also conditional environments.
The memory opens three dimensions of time, which are very usual for us – past, present and future. According to Movses Khorenatsi the atomic condition of history are “brave deeds.” And these atomic “brave deeds” are being connected with each other and becoming “worthy to be written.”
“Sad pride” was the expression of William Saroian about the Armenians. It is en esthetical formulation about the Armenians marking the transition from mythology to esthetical approach. And then comes the formulation of Yeghishe Charents’ “My sweet Armenia.” It is about a country that no longer exists as such, and he tries to reconstruct its previous condition using memory and imagination. And he says “I love.” In ancient Greek conciseness love also was an effort to reconstruct something that does not exist anymore. I love a woman because she is imperfect; I love my homeland because there are imperfect things; I love my child because his age supposes imperfection. Our current culture misses this approach. Today we face difficult problems of national identity. Two parameters could be highlighted: first, we have gone from the dimension of the soviet socialist identity, but we haven’t found a new dimension yet; and second, we are a globally spread nation. This means that the Armenian collective memory should comprise also those Armenians, for example, who live in Paris or other civilizational and cultural environments. Therefore, we should firstly know what is being Armenian, in order to be able to construct his collective memory. This is a problem of exceptional difficulty. As the problem of identity is a subject of internal cultural choice”.