- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 October 31, 2003 

Stealing Beauty: Art thieves have base motives in destroying statues

The picture of the stolen statue. (provided by Nor Nork Communal Department.)

The rush for valuable metals continues in Armenia with new acts of vandalism.

On September 29 a statue measuring approximately 2.5 by 2 meters was stolen from a busy part of Yerevan's Nor Nork district. The statue, based on themes from Charent's poem "Demented Crowds" and sculpted in 1967 by the notable sculptor Sergey Baghdasaryan, is made of duralumin and this fragile work of art has probably been dismembered already.

Now where the statue once stood, bits of iron molded into the statue's skeleton stand a little above the pavement, growing black as a protrusive symbol of the loss of society's moral and aesthetic values.

Sergey Baghdasaryan is an Armenian sculptor whose numerous works decorate different cities of the republic. His "We and our Mountains" sculpture has become today a symbol and emblem of Artsakh.

Here was a statue: the traces of vandalism.

The stolen statue weighed 500 kilograms and was taken from a place where kiosks function day and night. It means it was stolen in full view of people and nobody said anything.

Since 2000, the District Communal Departments bear responsibility for the protection and cleaning of monuments.

"For taking away a statue like that they are for sure using a hoisting crane. Of course there were people who saw everything, but there are no witnesses. Those who stole the statue are vandals and bastards, but the indifference of society is the most terrible thing," says Vardan Aghabekyan, head of the Nor Nork Communal Department.

Officials are also indifferent. Asked what steps he was taking to protect other statues from a similar fate, Aghabekyan replied briefly: "No steps. We are not going to carry out any programs and place guards next to monuments."

His office only learned about the theft from police, who themselves were informed by a friend of Sergey Baghdasaryan's son Ashot. Police filed a case, however, no witnesses wished to give testimony.

Sasuntsi David's "patience cup" is already overfilled.

Sculptor Levon Tokmajyan's statue of Tigran the Great is placed not far from the stolen molded statue. Workers of "Shinarar-94" company are building stairs leading to the statue's pedestal. It became clear that they also noticed that the statue had disappeared.

Works supervisor Sargis Vardanyan stated that on Saturday, September 27, he had been working till 7pm and the statue was still in its place. When they returned on Monday morning it had gone.

"We asked everyone what had happened, but nobody talked to us. One of them shrugged his shoulders and said that's not a problem if we lost a statue, we will swallow it," says Vardanyan.

Metal thieves began their 'careers' with metal grave fences and hatch covers and have already progressed to statues. The strangest thing is that neither departments nor officials take up the problem or establish controls over the reception points for scrap metals.

"Hovhannes Ayvazovsky": four months without brush.

The police consider that the thieves, ignorant perhaps of its estimated value of 500,000 drams (about $870), stole the statue not for placing in some collector's yard but simply for the scrap value of the metal.

Others have nibbled at different works without punishment. A cup of patience from the statue of Sasuntsi David sculpted by Kochar has been stolen twice. Water flowed from a cup molded from copper under the hoof of the folk hero's horse and into a pool. That cup symbolized the overflowing patience of the people, but this important symbolic message has been missing from the statue for three years and only rusty rain water fills the pool.

Head of Communal Department of Erebuni Community Makar Sarukhanyan assures that thieves haven't been found. He says: "Not only the people's cup of patience but also the cup of workers of the District Head Office has already been filled up and they are not going to spend money any more to replace the cup."

A statue of David the Invincible shared the same fate, since it is legless today. The statue of Hovhannes Ayvazovsky was deprived of his dear brush four months ago. Statues of both famous and ordinary people are vandalized. Legs are missing from "Woman" and "Curly Haired Boy" statues in Circle Park, and from "Sako of Lori", another work by Sergey Baghdasaryan in the Ajapniak community.

"Sako of Lori" is suffering the loss of the leg.

The sculptor's son says that they have found the stolen leg but have not been able to repair the statue for already a year.

"Almost every day I call to Ajapniak Community Head Office. I offered to find a sculptor myself with my own money and the only thing they have to do is to officially permit the reconstruction work. But they are too busy to think about the statue," says Ashot Baghdasaryan.

The 80th anniversary of Sergey Baghdasaryan's birth was celebrated a few weeks ago. In honor of the jubilee a memorial plate was placed on the wall of the building where the sculptor lived alongside a small bronze bust. The son says he is afraid that everyday passing by the bust he will one day find that his father's last memory has been stolen.

Editor's note: after taking pictures of vandalized statues and monuments the camera of ArmeniaNow staff photographer Arthur Torosyan was stolen. Robbers stole it from the photoreporter's car right in front of our nose. Ironically, the camera that documented the bitter facts of our reality became the victim of it itself. And there's very little hope that police can find it, since the robbers hadn't left a single trace.

According to Agnes
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This week Armenia was commemorating the fourth anniversary of October 27 terroristic act in Armenian parliament and paying tribute to its victims. Among others Stepan Demirchyan visited the cemetery and laid flowers on the grave of his father, late speaker of National Assembly Karen Demirchyan.



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