Yearning for the Sea by John Tordai
Saturday 31 March to Sunday 13 May 2001
This year sees the tenth anniversary of Armenian independence. The last time the country enjoyed more than a decade of independence was in the late C14th. Landlocked and mountainous, now the size of Wales, it has, in its history, had coastlines on the Mediterranean, Caspian and Black Seas. Strategically important over the centuries and a subject state of Persian, Ottoman and Russian empires, it has one of the longest recorded histories of any country in the world, but when Milan Kundera wrote, a small nation can disappear and knows it, he could have been writing about Armenia.
With cities older than the pyramids at Giza, in 301 AD, it became the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion. A century later it had devised its own alphabet. A powerful sense of national tradition resonates with the bitter memory of Turkey's campaign of genocide in 1915. (Who now remembers the Armenians? asked Hitler, considering his own genocidal ambitions.) Its seeds in Stalin's notorious nationalities policy, the recent war with neighbouring Azerbaijan over the ethnic Armenian enclave of the Karabagh remains unresolved.
J.C. Tordai has been visiting Armenia regularly since 1993, recording the emergence of the post-Soviet state.