1 /
Week of the Christian East at STOU

From November 22 to 30, a Week of the Christian East, organized by the International Friendship Club (International Projects Department) and the Department of Eastern Christian Philology and Eastern Churches of the Faculty of Theology, was held for the first time in STOU’s main building. The events of the week were supported by official partners: the School of Oriental Studies of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, the Armenian Tapan Museum under the Diocese of Russia and New Nakhichevan of the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC), the Moscow Greek Society and the Georgian Club of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

On November 22, a solemn opening ceremony was held, at which speeches were given by the organizers of the event and official partners. The guests were welcomed by Very Rev. Konstantin Polskov (STOU Vice-Rector for Academic and International Affairs), Tiziana Gualtieri (Head of the International Projects Department), and Stella Avanesova (in charge of the STOU International Friendship Club). David Baghdasaryan (Director of the Tapan Museum), Andrei Sitnikov (researcher on Ethiopia, collector, traveler), and Vartan Poghosyan (subdeacon of the Armenian Apostolic Church) spoke about their participation as partners.

This official part was followed by a concert of Armenian sacred music by the Kilikia trio. The soloist of the trio, Palig Kalemkerian (mezzo-soprano), laureate of international competitions and Artist Emeritus of Russia, Konstantin Popov (cello), and Varduhi Muradyan (piano) immersed the guests in the atmosphere of the original culture of Armenia through the works of Komitas (S.G. Soghomonyan), M.G. Yekmalyan, G. Narekatsi and A.A. Babajanyan.

The guests were then invited to familiarize themselves with an exhibition of items of the 17th- to 18th-century Christian East, including handwritten and printed books, church utensils, paraphernalia of the AAC clergy, and items of the material culture of the Ethiopian and Coptic churches. The collection was presented by the Tapan Museum, the collector Andrei Sitnikov, and the religious studies scholar Dr. Maxim Paleologos. Visitors had the opportunity to learn more about the exhibits from the organizers of the exhibition.

November 23 was a celebration of the ancient written culture of in Syriac, Arabic, Georgian, Greek and Armenian. After all, writing is the most important tool for communication and self-expression by peoples. All the master classes drew full audiences. The participants shared their impressions and noted the uniqueness and high level of this event.

Master classes were conducted by students of the School of Oriental Studies of the Higher School of Economics, a teacher of Modern Greek from the Moscow Greek Society, and the Georgian Club of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

On November 24, the Department of Eastern Christian Philology and Eastern Churches of the STOU Faculty of Theology hosted a research seminar “Prayer and Incantation: Borders and Boundaries in the Traditions of the Christian East”. The very announcement of the seminar sparked a lively discussion. Presentations were given by Anna A. Rogozhina (School of Oriental Studies, National Research University Higher School of Economics) and Alexei K. Liavdanskii (Institute of Classical Orientalism and Antiquity, National Research University Higher School of Economics).

The papers dealt with different types of Armenian and Syrian manuscript collections that can be characterized as “magical”, their content, evolution, and interpretation in 20th- and 21st-century scholarship. The manuscripts are dated from the Late Middle Ages. As a rule, such manuscripts were kept in families and handed down from generation to generation. The seminar drew a full audience of visitors who actively asked questions after the presentations.

On November 26, another significant event took place: a master class on ancient mosaics, which was attended by adults, teenagers, and even children. Evgenii Morozov, a teacher at STOU’s School of Mosaics, spoke about the peculiarities of ancient mosaics and showed how to use tools to create a mosaic picture. The atmosphere in the foyer of the university is conducive to creativity thanks to the magnificent mosaic copies of famous works of church art made by students of STOU’s Faculty of Church Arts. Participants in the master class were able to study these works and appreciate their scale.

On November 30, a final Musical and Poetic Evening was held, where students of the Department of Eastern Christian Philology and Eastern Churches of the STOU Faculty of Theology, students of the Moscow Theological Academy, representatives of the Moscow Society of Greeks and the Nur Youth Union under the Diocese of Russia and New Nakhichevan of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian community of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations gave performances in Arabic, Syriac, Georgian, Armenian, and Greek. Poems by Gregory the Theologian, Romanos the Melodist, Theodore the Stoudite, Simeon the New Theologian, Grigor Narekatsi, and Shota Rustaveli were recited. Students of the School of Oriental Studies of the Higher School of Economics gave a mini-performance called “The Iron Candlestick”, based on the story of the same name from Idris Shah’s collection “Tales of the Dervishes”. The musical part of the evening featured a performance of Byzantine chants by Dr. Irina Starikova, a research fellow of the Academic and Artistic Center for Church Music of the Moscow Conservatory, and Yana Tsyganova, a 4th-year student of STOU’s Faculty for History and Philology.

All of the events were a great success. The attendees were particularly impressed by the master classes. Those who came to study writing noted the unusual and original nature of the event:

“We were given very interesting information about the language, allowed to write some words and read and write our name. It was evident that it was something unusual for people, something interesting”.

A participant who was at all the workshops shared her impressions of the five-hour immersion into the world of ancient writing:

“A great day, just delightful. Eastern languages are unique and beautiful. In general, it is necessary to study them not only for knowledge, but also to be a little bit like them: like the Arabs, like the Syrians, like the Greeks! In general, it was a unique opportunity for which I am very grateful.”

Guests who attended the master class on ancient mosaics noted the good organization and unusual format of the event:

“The impressions are actually very pleasant; this format, in my opinion, is not common now. During the master class, they told me interesting things about the history of mosaics, how they can be done.”

Mosaic-making, according to the participants, is “a very interesting, very exciting process”. Even the venue for the meeting, the foyer of the main building of our university, impressed the visitors.

At the end of the master class, Evgenii A. Morozov, a teacher of the School of Mosaics of STOU, summarized the results of the collaboration: “Everyone has achieved very good results, especially the young children who came to us to study. I hope this meeting will not be the last.”