Associate Professor in art history at Yerevan State Academy of Fine Art. His monograph Art History and Nationalism: Medieval Arts of Armenia and Georgia in 19th century Germany was published in 2012 in Armenian
Conflicting Visions of Liberation
I start with a discussion of an Armenian case of appropriation of 18th-century German Idealist philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder for a political cause. In 1909, seven months after the massacre of Armenians in Adana, an ideologue of Social Democrat Hunchakian Party, Stepanos Sapah-Gyulian addressed a speech in Istanbul. Through his interpretation of Herder as a political philosopher, Sapah-Gyulian made a case for the armed resistance of Armenians against Ottoman Empire. And even though this highly problematic interpretation of Herder was in sharp contrast with the earlier understanding of Herder that existed among the 19th-century Armenian intellectuals – Herder’s philosophy as harboring and legitimizing the idea of nation as culture – both cultural nationalism and political nationalism constitute the two interconnected and fundamental ways in which Armenian intellectuals historically have conceptualized the liberation of Armenians. In conclusion I point to now a rather forgotten Armenian intellectual tradition, a tradition of Armenian Marxism, which generated a critique of both of these contrasting attitudes thus pointing to the possible way of sublating both.