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Sara Petrosyan

Officials Endorse Symphony of Stone Destruction

On October 14, the valley of Garni was relatively calm.  The noise made by the drills used to destroy the Symphony of Stone had temporarily ceased, perhaps because it was a Sunday and it was unnecessary to reveal one's barbaric side to the tourists marveling at the beauty of the cliff.

The media and non-government organizations had been campaigning in the capital for a week against the destruction of the Symphony of Stone, but locals said that the destruction of that marvel of nature continued in the valley throughout that period.  Our trusted sources have informed us that this time the man behind the large-scale destruction is Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Territorial Administration Hovik Abrahamyan.  On his orders, the locals were breaking up the rocks and moving them to a worker's lot in Garni, where they would pile up and then be moved to Artashat.  The same sources stated that the rocks were being used to construct the Surp Hovhannes (St. John) church in Artashat and a house.  Abrahamyan's press secretary, Anahit Hayatyan, said that the Minister was indeed sponsoring the construction of a church in Artashat, but that those rocks had nothing to do with it.

The Deputy Prime Minister is not the only one who is "charmed" by the beauty of the Symphony of Stone, wishing to enjoy it every day.  At this moment,Paravon Mirzoyan, the director of the Armenian National Gallery is using the stones to build his mansion in Garni.  Perhaps the esthetics expert believes that, after some time, tourists will come to Garni too see his mansion, rather than the pagan temple and the Symphony of Stone.

The taste shown by the esthetics expert has also grabbed the attention of others.  The demand for stone is going up and people building mansions are looking for locals to break up the Symphony of Stone.  This is not a bad business, because each stone is being sold for 250-300 drams.  And if the person paying you is the Deputy Prime Minister then you can work at peace, feeling no guilt either before your own conscience, or before the law.

The destruction which began at a rapid pace last year ceased under pressure from the media as well as citizens who appreciate esthetic values and are concerned about preserving them.  But this lucrative business, it appears, has not shut down because "art experts" continue to show a very high level of demand.  Interestingly however, nobody from Garni thought of building a house for themselves using material from the Symphony of Stone in all these years.  Only non-locals who bought land in Garni in recent years have come up with this idea.

We do not believe that the destruction of this cultural monument will cease tomorrow, because both its patrons as well as the ones directly carrying out the destruction remained unpunished last year.  And all this because the Symphony of Stone is not mentioned in the cultural heritage preservation list.  The uproar ended finally with the revelation of the party responsible for the preservation of the Symphony of Stone.  It is part of the Garni community and its preservation is the responsibility of the Garni community head.  Community head Ashot Vardanyan said that the valley was not being destroyed, he was not aware of any destruction.  He then mentioned that there was a police post in the valley and in such cases they were the ones who should inform the law enforcement organs.

See also: Garni - Symphony in Stone

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