Address of Edward Nalbandian,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia,
President of the Armenian National Commission for UNESCO on the occasion of the 34th World Congress of the International Theatre Institute
Armenia feels honored to host the 34th World Congress of the International Theater cInstitute under the patronage of the UNESCO in its capital Yerevan.
Being the first Christian state in the world Armenia which is situated on the cross-roads of cultures and religions for centuries has had a unique opportunity of interaction with various civilizations. This inter-civilizational interaction has enriched our own culture and contributed to the others. One of the main benefits of such a millennium long civilizational inter-connection probably is the tradition of respect towards other cultures, religions and traditions which the Armenian nation has cherished.
All peoples strive to develop to an extent when performing arts and their artists thrive and flourish. This mission of the International Theater Institute is also one of the goals of every nation promoting performing arts.
Culture expressions become more rooted when they serve also to promoting mutual understanding, peace and universal values. Theater and other arts by educating citizens make them better equipped in the contemporary world of conflict of ideas and societies. Weaponized “culture” becomes part of a short-term, self-defeating propaganda and disappears with those who is feeding it.
Theaters are promoting both traditional as well as innovative approaches to the challenges of our societies, they are educating and passing on messages both to local as well as international audiences.
The development of the Armenian theater throughout history very well captures this dual nature of the theater. There are written ancient sources witnessing that back in the 1st century BC the Armenian King together with his Persian counterpart was watching a Greek play performed in the Armenian capital. Of what we learn from that period is still valid today about the appeal of theater. First of all, we could see that theater was and has remained as one of the best means of inter-cultural dialogue and exchange, it was and continues to be a bearer and transmitter of ideas and messages. In our globalized world theater could be one of the forms of cultural diplomacy capable of breaking the barriers of distance and time.
On the other hand, theater is one of the best means of preserving language, culture, values, and identity. Today two-thirds of Armenian people live outside of their homeland. The survivors of the Armenian genocide are spread all over the world and today they inhabit more than a hundred countries – from France to Brazil, from Russia to Singapore, from the United States to Egypt, from Argentina to Canada, from Lebanon to India, from Iran to Australia. The Armenians created well-established, fully integrated communities, at the same time, with well-preserved national identity in four corners of the world. They leave a strong trace of Armenian culture on all those places they inhabit, as well as bear the cultures and traditions of those countries and civilizations. They act as a unique civilizational bridge between Armenia and the rest of the world. Along with churches and schools, culture centers and theaters or drama clubs have been key tools of our identity preservation in those countries where we live.
The missions and goals of the International Theater Institute are reflected throughout our history of several millenniums and are present in every corner of the world where there is an Armenian, as well as in nowadays Armenia’s cultural policy.
During the six days of the deliberations of the 34th World Congress of the International Theater Institute, I hope, its participants, among other topics, will propose new ideas related to the modern theater’s role in the promotion of peace, prosperity and security.