National Symbols: Artists again raise questions over Armenian anthem, coat of arms

National Symbols: Artists again raise questions over Armenian anthem, coat of arms


Artists in Armenia again debate on whether the state needs to change its coat of arms and national anthem. Some claim the current national symbols are not consistent with the nation’s spirit and its rich historical past.
The national emblem of the Republic of Armenia
The coat of arms of the Armenian SSR

While musicians say that the national anthem should be a tune that has a history and is loved by the people, some painters and sculptors call the current national emblem of Armenia “a zoo”, implying the large number of animals depicted on it.

The current coat of arms of the Republic of Armenia is a restored version of that used by the short-lived Armenian democratic republic in 1918-1920. Its authors were architect, academician of the Academy of Arts of Russia Alexander Tumanyan and painter Hakob Kojoyan.

By the July 1, 1991 decision of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Armenia, the national anthem of the First Republic was chosen as the national anthem of the Republic of Armenia. The text used in Mer Hayrenik (Our Homeland) is based on one of the lyrics of poet Mikael Nalbandian. The music was composed by Barsegh Kanachyan.

Founder and artistic director of the Karin traditional song and dance group Gagik Ginosyan thinks that Armenia’s current national emblem is only a distorted version of the one created by Tamanyan and Kojoyan.

“This is a trick that was created in 1992 when the country’s president was Levon Ter-Petrosyan. On the real emblem the lion’s mouth is open and it is not in a muzzle, the chain had been cut by a sword as a symbol of the newly gained freedom. A group of professionals who have a reputation of national figures should be set up for changing the national anthem and coat of arms,” says Gionsyan.

Sculptor Ferdinand Arakelyan, for his part, says that during the time of the First Republic the coat of arms was drawn within just one day upon the order of the then ruling Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and despite being meant for use during only one year before the final design had to be approved, it remained as the main emblem.

“I have the impression that it was drawn for a zoo as it depicts up to seven animals. The emblem should reflect the collective power of the nation. I am in favor of changing the current national emblem because it has no national spirit,” he says. “In the current coat of arms I do not see our people who worked hard to build churches, I do not see the power of Armenian women who saved manuscripts, I do not see smoke coming out of a house’s chimney.”

The sculptor suggests using a changed version of Soviet Armenia’s coat of arms that was drawn by prominent Armenian painter Martiros Saryan.

Artists say symbols are of great importance and have great influence on the psychology of a nation. They say it is important to get rid of the elements that they claim have negative impacts.

Painter Haghtanak Shahumyan thinks that for a small country like Armenia national symbols are also important in terms of its representation in the world.

“Our national anthem is distorted. Nalbandian’s text was changed arbitrarily and our national anthem lost its textual integrity. And the music is not Armenian. We have millennia-old culture, we have symbols on which we should lean. Adopting the symbols then was a political decision,” says Shahumyan.

Chairman of the Composers’ Union of Armenia Aram Satyan also notes that the national anthem leaves a sad impression, while the tone of the anthem music should rise and become upbeat in the process.

“In the case of other nations’ anthems we see some grandeur as it rises to the space, and ours on the contrary is directed to the earth… We can restore Aram Khachaturian’s music [used for an anthem in Soviet Armenia] or use the Hayastan song composed by Gabriel Yeranyan in 2012,” he says.

The artists call for the establishment of a special group of professionals to deal with proposals on the matter.

Calls for and even attempts to make changes in the coat of arm and the national anthem of Armenia have also been made in the past. A number of political groups, notably the Dashnaktsutyun party, have opposed the efforts. The traditional Armenian party, in particular, sought a special law in 2006 that would perpetuate the official status of the current national anthem. Many in Armenia also oppose the restoration of some of the symbols used during the Soviet times.

The national anthem of the Republic of Armenia

The anthem of the Armenian SSR