Situating the Lost City of Ani

Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO), Leipzig; Free University, Berlin
Fand statt
In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
07.12.2023 - 08.12.2023
Marianna Manasyan, Armenian Studies, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest; Lilit Mnatsakanyan, Entanglement and Globalization, Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO), Leipzig

What is the lost city of Ani? How is it imagined? How is it remembered? A two-day workshop at the Free University in Berlin explored these questions and went beyond. Speakers across four sessions presented their studies that explored the different representations of Ani, the medieval Armenian capital now in ruins, as well as the heritage and affective dimensions generated by Ani as a lost city. The workshop aimed to show how a lost city - in our case Ani in Turkey - can be productively engaged through various theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches.

The opening workshop of the “Lost-but-found: Armenian Capital Ani at the Contested Crossroads” research project launched with opening statements by Elke Hartmann, and Bálint Kovács. The principial investigators introduced the concept of the project around Ani and its significance in Armenian Studies and in the broader framework of Ottoman/Turkish Studies. The 3-year research project financed through the "Lost Cities" Funding Programme of the Gerda Henkel Foundation and hosted by the the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO, Leipzig) and Institute for Ottoman Studies and Turcology, Free University (Berlin). The post-doc fellows of the project, Karen Jallatyan and Konrad Siekierski offered introductory remarks on the project characterized by its interdisciplinary and multidirectional approach spanning medieval, early modern, and contemporary periods, focusing on the heritage and affective dimensions of the culture generated through Ani. They emphasized the significance of members' interconnection, facilitating idea exchange and publication. The overarching project, striving beyond Ani, hopes to encompass broader issues concerning lost Armenian cities, incorporating Jerusalem and lost Armenian Soviet spaces such as Nakhichevan.

The first session chaired by POLINA IVANOVA (Giessen) delved into generations of loss across the cities of Ani and Van, both in Historic Armenia. It provided insights on Ani's diverse identities, its associations with other communities, its various forms of fascinations and its role as a lost Armenian capital. It also explored the enduring legacy of Armenian perceptions of the lost city of Van through the lens of ethnographers, examining constructions of collective memory and changing attitudes over time.

PETER COWE (Los Angeles) delivered the first keynote of the workshop by presenting on Ani’s multiple identities in times of growth and decline, drawing from medieval and early modern manuscript sources, addressing the city's association with other communities. This delved into Ani's link with trade and various ethnicities, particularly its integration into the Mediterranean trade network. The presentation emphasized the need for contextualizing global diasporic Armenian trade in the medieval period, positioning Ani as an integral part of this historical narrative, and demonstrating the interplay between homeland, state, and trade dynamics.

ZHENYA GHAZARYAN (Yerevan/Budapest) delivered a presentation focusing on ethnographers of the city of Van and their lasting impact on Armenian perceptions of this lost city, focusing particularly on the ethnographic works of F. Garegin Srvandztiants (1840–1892) as well as mentioning that of Joseph Orbeli, Yervand Lalayan and of archeologist Ashkharbek Kalantar. The subsequent discussions paved grounds for further developments of the research by including memoirs of individuals born in Van, thus adding additional layers to the historical scholarly narratives generated around this city.

KAREN JALLATYAN (Leipzig) presented a study on the early photographs of Ani, by Ohannes Kurkdjian and Aram and Artashes Vruyrs, examining their impact on photography. Jallatyan explored various forms of fascination that the city of Ani has produced, emphasizing its significance for the diaspora and theorizing different ways of engaging with Ani through photography. The discussion further touched upon the imperial nature of linguist-archeologist Nikolai Mar's excavations of Ani and its lasting impact on the latter's perception.

The second session looked at lost cities from anthropological and digital technological points of view. It provided a new case study on collective memory among Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) Armenians. It also approached Ani by exploring the city's multilayered experiences and digital representations, which connect its heritage to contemporary culture.

HRIPSIME KHACHATRYAN (Yerevan/Budapest) introduced a new case study in the context of lost cities. Khachatryan’s presentation provided insights on understanding the collective memory of Artsakh Armenians, particularly the perceptions of social rights and their protection. Methodologically, oral history interviews were conducted with both genders, with an emphasis on the significance of gender in shaping memories.

KONRAD SIEKIERSKI (Berlin) approached Ani from an anthropological perspective. The presentation delved into the complexity of multilayered experiences, invoking Bakhtin's concept of chronotope as a possible way of analyzing the social life of Ani. Siekierski proposed to look at Ani as a place to be, a place to see, to reconstruct, to show, to study, and as a site of conflict, of competing claims, as well as of cooperation.

AZAD BALABANIAN (San Francisco) followed with a talk on the digital representations of Ani. Balabanian's presentation demonstrated highly detailed 3D digital replicas from Ani and explored the ways photogrammetry contributes to studying, creating 3D puzzles and connecting heritage to contemporary culture. Discussant ANATOLII TOKMANTCEV (Budapest) emphasized the changing concept of lost cities and the privileging of certain losses over others. The subsequent discussions highlighted the importance of developing the concept of testimony, considering the experience of witnesses, and of documenting history from various perspectives.

The third session focused on (post-)Ottoman perceptions of Ani in Turkey. Presentations explored the different directions from which Ani could be looked at and the possible interpretations from non-Armenian perspectives.

ELKE HARTMAN (Berlin) examined the complex layers of historical memory surrounding Ani and Kars, focusing on the aftermath of the Armenian genocide and the deliberate attempts to erase cultural heritage and memory. The talk explored denialism, intergenerational silence, and the contraction of official representations of Ani. Shifting to Kars, the presentation highlighted the centrality of its fortress, its environmental context, and historical fluctuations in population. Hartman also discussed the significance of Kars as a border region, emphasizing its role under Ottoman and Russian rules. Hartman concluded by contemplating the impact of closed borders on historical memory and the importance of preserving the collective memories of these transformative places.

The final session focused on the effect of Ani on the Armenian diaspora’s cultural imagination. The presentations explored the ways Ani was used by diaspora Armenians to imagine their identities. The multifunctional impact of Ani and its churches were discussed shedding light on its historical significance.

BÁLINT KOVÁCS (Leipzig/Budapest) examined the medieval Armenian capital Ani, through the 19th-century Mekhitarist Catholic Armenian F. Minas Bzhshkeants' imagination, spotlighting the concept of Ani Armenians as a unified ethnic entity in Eastern Europe. The presentation critiqued real and imagined travel accounts, including F. Bzhshkeants perspective as a tourist, along with critiques from Edmond Schutz and Marc Nichanian. Key questions focused on the nature of mental travel, exploring how Ani is envisioned through real traveling and personal imagination. Kovács also delved into F. Bzhshkeants' philosophy of history, questioning the motivations behind his work and aligning it with historical contexts such as medieval, Enlightenment, pre-positivist and positivist historiographies.

The enormous impact of Ani was also discussed by VAHE TACHJIAN (Berlin) and JOSEPH RUSTOM (Berlin) by presenting on the architectural representations of Armenian churches. The presentation delved into the intriguing resemblance of the church of St. Gregory the Illuminator in Cairo to that of the 11th century Cathedral in Ani, raising questions about the influence of the Ani model on Armenian church architecture in the diaspora. The speakers argued for and explored the construction of the notion of typical Armenian church based on the Cathedral of Ani. The discussion extended to the reconstruction of churches to align with the Ani model, emphasizing the distinctive features that set it apart from other architectural styles. Tachjian and Rustom described the reasons behind the preference for the Ani model, contemplating the purpose and the role that the memory of the lost city plays in shaping these architectural choices.
Last but not least, MARIE-AUDE BARONIAN (Amsterdam) delivered a second keynote on the afterlife of the lost city of Ani, proposing to consider it not just as a "lieu de mémoire" but also as a "nœud [node] de mémoire," to emphasize its enduring significance in the contemporary Armenian context. The focus was on the visual aftermath of Ani and the transformative role of film in reshaping perspectives rather than merely representing it. Baronian navigated the intersections of aesthetics, poetry, and politics in understanding the afterlives of Ani. The discussion unfolded around the concept of ruins and considered loss as extended beyond the physical city to the way Ani is represented, redirecting the exploration from the ruins to the ruin of the image that they mark. Reference was made among others to Francis Alÿs' short film "The Silence of Ani" (2015) as a work of reflective nostalgia. Baronian explored the poetics and critical dimensions of the ruins, questioning what is lost and what visual representations of loss exclude in the process. The intricate dynamics of memory, loss, and representation were skillfully examined in the context of Ani's rich historical and contemporary significance.

The conference marked a significant gathering in the exploration of Armenian Studies within the broader scope of Ottoman/Turkish Studies. The various presentations and discussions delved into the complexities of Ani's history, showcasing the project's interdisciplinary approach. As the conference concluded, participants left with new insights and a shared enthusiasm for future research. The exchange of ideas opened doors to explore additional topics related to the theme, promising exciting developments in the ongoing exploration of Ani's intriguing legacy. Furthermore, extending its reach far beyond the immediate confines of historical abandonment and cultural legacy, the dynamic discussions of the workshop opened ways of interpretation and instrumentalization of Ani, and provided a unique opportunity to contextualize Ani within various cultures and time frames.

Conference overview:

Introduction: Konrad Siekierski (Berlin)

Peter Cowe (Los Angeles): Of Nation and Network: Ani’s Multiple Identities in Weal and Woe

Session I: Generations of Loss Across Cities of Ani and Van

Chair: Polina Ivanova (Giessen)

Zhenya Ghazaryan (Yerevan/Budapest): Guardians of Lost Heritage: Ethnographers of the city of Van and Their Enduring Legacy”

Karen Jallatyan (Leipzig): Photographic Encounters with the Lost City of Ani: A History of Fascination or Modern Historicity as Fascination

Discussant: Vahé Tachjian (Berlin)

Session II: Lost Cities in Anthropological and Digital Technological Perspectives

Chair: András Bácskay (Budapest)

Hripsime Khachatryan (Yerevan/Budapest): Making Sense of Loss: Preliminary Results of Oral History Interviews with the Members of the Administrative and Intellectual Elite of Armenian Artsakh

Konrad Siekierski (Berlin): The Many Social Lives of a Lost City: Preliminary Ideas

Azad Balabanian (San Francisco): Continuing the Legacy of 3D Photography in Ani

Discussant: Anatolii Tokmantcev (Budapest)

Session III: (Post-)Ottoman Perceptions of Ani in Turkey

Chair: Konrad Siekierski (Berlin)

Elke Hartmann (Berlin): Traces of the Lost: Kars, Its Layers of Remembrance, and Ani / Loss or Opportunity? Turkish Perception(s) of the Post-genocidal Armenian Void

Discussant: Polina Ivanova

Session IV: The Effect of Ani on the Armenian Diaspora‘s Cultural Imagination

Chair: Karen Jallatyan

Bálint Kovács (Budapest / Leipzig): The Medieval Armenian Capital Ani in the Imagination of Minas Bzhshkeanc

Joseph Rustom (Berlin) / Vahé Tachjian (Berlin): The Triumph of a Model: The Ani Cathedral and the Churches of the Diaspora

Marie-Aude Baronian (Amsterdam): The Afterlife of the Lost City: On Ruins, Memory, and Images

Discussant: András Bácskay (Budapest) / Marianna Manasyan (Budapest)

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