12, 2011

Speech by President Serzh Sargsyan at the official dinner at the Correr Museum in Venice

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Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am visiting Italy once again this year with great pleasure and it is nice that my two visits signify important events. On June 2, at the invitation of President Napolitano, I was honored to participate with many other foreign leaders at the celebrations dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification, while a primary objective of this visit is the commencement of the official events dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the Armenian book-printing which originated here, in glorious Venice.

Along with being a friendly state, Italy – and very soon we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of our diplomatic relations – had left many historical marks in the chronicles of the Armenian nation.

Dear Friends,

I am happy to be here and happy to announce the commencement of the commemorative events dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the Armenian book-printing. It is no accident that the most important for our country and our people series of events in the 2012 kick off in Venice. It is no accident because Venice is the cradle of the Armenian book-printing where the first Armenian printed book – Urbatagirq of Hakob Meghapart, was published.

Today, the “Armenia: Impressions of a Civilization” exhibition has been opened here. Over two hundred precious and rare manuscripts, ancient books, miniatures, cross-stones, miniscule replicas of monuments, carpets, maps and other artifacts of our rich heritage have been brought here from different museums and libraries of Armenia and Europe. With regard to this exhibition, on behalf of the people of Armenia and my own behalf I express heartfelt gratitude to the authorities of our good friend Italy, for supporting Armenia’s initiative and bringing practical participation to its implementation. I would like to recognize Levon Zekian, Gabriela Ulougojian and Vartan Karapetian. I am very grateful that you have put your hearts into the great task of organizing this exhibition.

Dear Friends,

Since long ago, centuries ago Armenians were familiar folks in this ancient and splendid city. Here, when you say that you’re Armenian, nobody will ask you who are you, where are you coming from, or what are you known for? In Venice, answers to these questions are known very well. The Armenian nation, our rich culture and spiritual heritage are recognized in this city.

The greatest “responsible” for the dissemination of the Armenian people’s fame is the “Small Armenia” situated at the St. Lazarus Island of Venice. However, the role of this center is equally important for the studies of the Armenian language, culture and history.

In my student years, old and new issues of the Bazmavep Armenian magazine published in Venice, were cherished as, so to speak, relics. The magazine was publishing works of almost every prominent specialist of the Armenian studies, and they in their turn were honored to publish their discoveries and ideas in Bazmavep journal.

Armenia and Italy are young states of ancient peoples. Quite recently, Italy celebrated the 150th anniversary of unification, and we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our independence. Of course, there is a significant difference between these two figures, however they both wane in face of our millennia-long history.

Today, Armenia and Italy can take pride in their common history, spiritual roots and values, rich common heritage.

Dear Friends,

This significant jubilee – celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Armenian book-printing, commences in Venice and will be continued in Armenia and other centers of the Armenian book-printing such as Amsterdam, Paris, Sofia, Bucharest, and other cities.

Book-printing - a new means for dissemination and broadcasting of learning, which made knowledge accessible to more people, is a purely European phenomenon. However, from Europe it spread all over the world, advancing the enlightenment of the human kind.

The roots of the Armenian book-printing and ensuing enlightenment activities are also European. It’s the best justification and proof for our European aspirations if there is any need for such justification and proof, but I believe it is absolutely unnecessary.

After Johannes Gutenberg had invented the printing press, it didn’t take long before we, Armenians started to use it. Armenians were the first nation in our region which started to print books. We often yielded to our close and distant neighbors in numbers, territory and natural resources, however we have been second to none in our advancement and literacy.

The Armenian people are spread all over the world. Everywhere Armenians settled, they established a school, a church, and a cultural center. Every nation which socialized with the Armenians have always had the opportunity to profit from that socializing.

Today, we have to measure up to that high standards, which were set for the Armenian nation by printers Hakob Meghapart and Voskan Erevantsi. We may not deviate from that high mission. Just as Hakob Meghapart had utilized for the benefit of the Armenian people the best and most progressive invention of his time, we too have to utilize whatever is best and most progressive in our time, thus rendering a service to the entire humankind.

Our history shows that a good example is contagious. As book-printing and many other examples prove, the Armenian people have been the road-pavers and locomotive for everything which is progressive and enlightening.

We will not diverge from that route.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
We take pride in our historical associations with Italy and with the success achieved in bilateral relations during 20 years of our independence. At the same time we want the Armenian-Italian cooperation to have many more glorious pages.

I once again thank my Italian colleague, President Napolitano, for assuming co-patronage of the “Armenia: Impressions of a Civilization” exhibition which is on display at the Correr Museum of Venice, National Archeological Museum and St. Marco National Library. I also thank the City Hall of Venice and all those responsible in the sphere of culture in Italy, who have brought their participation to the success of this exhibition.

The twelfth capital of Armenia – Yerevan, was declared by UNECO the 12th World Book Capital for 2012. It is my great pleasure to invite Venice, other cities of Italy, regions of Italy, all those present here to participate at the celebrations dedicated to this event. Please be assured that in Armenia we will be celebrating that festive event proudly and venerably.

Thank you.

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