Ahead of October 11th concert dedicated to the 25th Anniversary of Armenian Independence and establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Lithuania, Lithuanian online news agency “15min.lt” publishes an extensive interview with Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia in Lithuania Tigran Mkrtchyan.
1. Your Excellency Mr. Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia, this year Armenia celebrates the 25th anniversary of independence and Armenia and Lithuania diplomatic relationships. Could You tell us more what these anniversaries mean to You and Your country?
-The 25th Anniversary of the independence means a lot to us. Indeed many nations are celebrating 25th anniversaries, but each has its own story to tell about those 25 years. In our case it symbolizes the young statehood of quite an ancient nation- the Armenians. Despite the greatest tragedy that befell my nation in 1915, all the suffering coming from the loss of short lasting independence of the First Republic and World War 2, against all odds that accompanied the earlier stages of our independence, we proved that we can overcome them, we can not only endure, but we can also create again and move forward having our own specific input in the development of humanity.
These 25 years have had a special meaning for the Armenian-Lithuanian relations as well. Lithuania is the first country in the world that recognized the independence of Armenia. And it is with Lithuania that Armenia has its first international agreement. The Armenians and the Baltic nations were the earliest initiators of independence movements. The Armenian independence movement grew out of the Karabakh movement since 1988, which united millions of Armenians in Armenia and diaspora in their request for a fair solution to the question of Karabakh, which had been annexed to the Soviet Azerbaijan by Stalin in 1921. A year later on August 23, 1989 in all three Baltic states millions of people started a peaceful demonstration, the Baltic Way, the main requirement of which was the restoration of independence. Exactly one year later, on August 23 in 1990 Armenia adopted its Declaration of Independence. The Armenian National Movement delegation was in Vilnius back in the January of 1991, mediating between the Sajudis leaders and the Soviet forces to prevent further bloodshed.
On the background of the above-mentioned, the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the independent Armenia in the independent Lithuania carries a special meaning.
2. On this special occasion there will be a symphony concert “Armenia and Lithuania – 25” with famous Armenian soloists and special Armenian-Lithuanian programme in Vilnius Congress Concert Hall. Was it easy for You to co-operate with Lithuania State Symphony Orchestra and maestro Gintaras Rinkevičius ahead of this concert?
–Maestro Gintaras Rinkevičius is a leading Lithuanian intellectual with whom the communication is only a privilege and pleasure. I got to know him through another eminent individual, the talented Lithuanian-Armenian opera singer Asmik Grigorian. Although I must emphasize that the Maestro and the Orchestra have already once performed on Armenia-related day in the past. Thus, we have already forged a traditional relationship with this talented orchestra.
I suggested to the Maestro that since this is a Lithuanian-Armenian event, we have mostly works by both Lithuanian and Armenian composers, and that we have both Lithuanian and Armenian musicians. So, as a result, we came to agree that one part of the concert will be conducted by the Maestro, the other part by an Armenian conductor, Konstantin Orbelian, who is also the conductor of Kaunas Orchestra and the director of the National Opera of Armenia.
The Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra will be performing with Armenian soloists. One of our eminent piano players, Armen Babakhanian, will play Arno Babajanian’s Heroic Ballade, a beautiful composition, which gained recognition to one of the greatest Armenian composers of the 20th century. Khachaturyan’s Spartacus is clearly about the individual’s fight against suppression and slavery, for freedom.
Leading Armenian baritone Gevorg Hakobyan, who is also my friend, will perform arias from Armenian and other operas. I am grateful to Gevorg for his wholehearted support to this important event.
In the repertoire one composition is included which has a very symbolic meaning. This is a suite from the «Caucasian Sketches» by Ippolitov Ivanov. It is rather a variation and instrumentalization of a famous Armenian song of «Dance of the Zeytun fighters». Zeytun, which was part of historic Armenia, was well known for its proud people who were unconquerable not only due to its mountaineous geography, but also thanks to their independent spirit. Their song, which sounds like a beautiful and heroic march, very well captures that essence.
3. Lithuania and Armenia have a long-lasting relationships’ history from the 13th century. How does the co-operation between these two countries happening now? How is it going for Armenian community in Lithuania?
-You are right, that our relations date back to centuries. I am very impressed by the level of knowledge of Armenia history of the Lithuanians. They know about the Ancient history of Armenia, they know about the Medieval Armenian literature, about our culture, our shared religion. Lithuanians that met Armenians can in their turn confirm about the Armenians’ sympathy and love towards Lithuanians. This bond is very firm and unshakable.
Armenians in Lithuania have lived since the Middle ages. The modern day Armenian community is mainly formed of people who live in various cities here, in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipeda, Šiauliai, etc. since 1970s-80s. There are around 2000 Armenians here, they are eminent artists, doctors, business-people, intellectuals. Many of them are very well known to the Lithuanian public. They are indeed facilitating my work not only by the fact that since the very first day of my and my family’s arrival here they stood by me and expressed readiness to support by all means, and it is also thanks to local Armenians that we are organizing this concert here. Every professional Armenian in the diaspora is in a way an ambassador for Armenians, because by setting good examples, by contributing the development of life wherever they live, they enhance the image of Armenia and Armenians. I can unwaveringly ascribe this idea to the Lithuanian-Armenians as well, with whom I can only be proud.
The similarities between our two small, yet proud Christian nations, which have struggled a lot for their independence, are many. The cooperation nowadays is going on well, though there is much ground to improve and enhance. Armenia successfully cooperates with Lithuania on both bilateral as well as multilateral formats. On the multilateral front, we are very close to signing the Framework Agreement with the European Union, something Lithuania has supported us all along. Armenia has several times reiterated that it is ready to deepen its relations with the EU as much as the latter can embrace it. On the bilateral level, trade has consistently increased between our countries, something about which I, as Ambassador of Armenia to Lithuania, can only be happy about and encourage, as well as support by all means. We are also enhancing cultural diplomacy, a vivid example of which will be the concert of October 11. Culture is the best means through which nations interact with one another. Being from a family consisting of artists, I do firmly believe in that idea. Everything else, including trade becomes more sustainable, when there is mutual sympathy and trust between peoples, something that can be first and foremost promoted by culture.