I was in Armenia a couple of years ago and I’ll never forget it. I know that it might seem strange but I felt that there was a special connection between Ireland and Armenia, a connection that goes back, way back beyond, before… I just can’t say.
I’m thinking especially of Armenia these days because the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide has just come to pass. Before the First World War, the majority of the Armenian population was concentrated in the east of the Ottoman Empire, in an area much larger than present day Armenia. Indeed, the country was even mentioned in the Bible – the land around Mount Ararat where Noah’s ark ended up after the flood – but the First World War brought about many changes and, between 1915 and 1923, the new Nationalist government of Turkey subjected the Armenian people to terror, deportation, torture and starvation. It is estimated that one and a half million Armenians perished in this Genocide. Most of the Armenian population was forcibly removed from Anatolia and the vast majority sent into the deserts of Syria to die of thirst and hunger. By 1923 the entire landmass of Asia Minor and historic West Armenia had been expunged of its Armenian population. And people still argue about the use of the word: Genocide
A few candles, lit in their memory seems so small a gesture… my photo of the candles was taken in a monastery in Armenia when I was there for the Samkura art project a few short years ago. But why is it that I feel this connection with a country at the other end of Europe? Is it that Irish people generally feel an affinity with other oppressed nations, having been oppressed for so long themselves? Is it that we lost a million to starvation and another million to emigration after the Famine in the 1840s? A famine that could have been avoided? Or does it go back much further than that?
And now, another photograph. One that I took in the same monastery. I was amazed at the time to see those fluid stone carvings, so reminiscent of our own “Celtic” high crosses? Even the Christ on the cross was more the joyful ‘Risen’ Christ of the Celts, rather than the ‘Crucified’ Roman Christ. So I think that there must be a link, that somehow we must be kindred spirits, from the same source – before the Romans started roaming all over Europe.
Go gcumhdaí Dia sibh, a dhaoine chóra… Թող Աստված ձեզ խաղաղություն
For more about the Samkura project, visit
And here’s a link to our friends in Armenia