Food Wars: UNESCO recognizes Armenian lavash despite opposition from Azerbaijan

Food Wars: UNESCO recognizes Armenian lavash despite opposition from Azerbaijan

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While Azerbaijan’s latest efforts to prevent a United Nations agency from recognizing Armenian lavash (flat bread) as intangible cultural heritage have failed, experts in Armenia believe further such resistance from the neighboring country can be expected in the future.


The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held its 9th session at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, on November 24-28 and during the session the Committee decided to put Armenia’s nomination ‘Lavash, the preparation, meaning and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia’ on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In the wake of this decision Azerbaijan reportedly used various channels to make UNESCO reconsider the decision, and some media in Azerbaijan even reported that Armenian lavash was finally not included in the list.

“Lavash is an element of our culture, and we defend our culture,” ethnographer and historian Suren Hobosyan said at a press conference in Yerevan on Tuesday. He called on colleagues in Armenia to prepare for an “organized and fierce fight” from Azerbaijan.

According to the specialist, although there is bread like lavash in all neighboring countries and such bread is also prepared in Arab countries and even India, Armenian lavash is “unique in its kind”.

“Perhaps it is Armenians who settled down in Georgia, Turkey, Iran that brought this element into those countries’ culture with them,” said Hobosyan, adding that the popularity of lavash and the presence of tonirs, the places where lavash is traditionally baked, in all regions of the country proves the “Armenianness” of the bread.

“There was no home in Armenia that wouldn’t have a tonir. Only Armenians used to have them and they were 1-1.5 meters deep, because Armenians did not have much fuel. And, for example, Georgian tonirs are above ground level, as they had more fuel to burn,” the ethnographer said.

Hobosyan mentioned with regret that lavash is losing its popularity in Armenia today. “We are losing the battle in our own country. We try to prove to the world that lavash is ours, but it is not interesting to the world, we should use it in our country, but even fast food that is sold in our streets today is introduced from abroad – shaurma, khachapuri, etc.”

TV culinary program host Sonia Tashchyan also believes that more efforts are needed in Armenia to popularize local food and encourage people to become “the bearers” of this food culture.

“We have lavash recipes that have been used for hundreds of years, yet today they are not used,” she said.