Ardanuç, Turkey, July 2006
In 2006 Cultural Caucasus sponsored another successful project. This year the international group of participants gathered in city of Ardanuc , Turkey , located in the Artvin Province of eastern Turkey . Building upon the experience gained from the two previous projects in Gyumri , Armenia and Uplistsikhe , Georgia , the group undertook cleaning and beautification projects at historical sites in several small villages near Ardanuc.
A unified and dedicated team of participants is vital to the successful completion of any initiative. Many of the participants at this year's event had worked on the two previous projects. This “core” group is made up of volunteers from each of the countries in the region, Armenia , Azerbaijan , Georgia , Iran and Turkey . This year several newcomers joined this group of experienced participants. Two American volunteers who have been involved in projects in Armenia over the past several years also participated. These new members added to the energy and good will of the group and contributed greatly to the success of the project.
As our mini-bus wound through the mountainous terrain of the Turkish countryside, our friendly group of volunteers had one main goal in mind – to bring a message of peace and cultural understanding to the local villagers. We were amazed to see the many ancient religious structures and fortifications scattered throughout the region. They seemed to “spring” out of the most unbelievable and inaccessible places. The historical monuments that we came upon seemed to have been sleeping for centuries, but they came alive for us as we walked along their walls and through their beautiful buildings. Our group was filled with gratitude and respect toward the local people every time we saw how well they had maintained these historical monuments and the surrounding environment.
The local villagers quickly understood and greatly appreciated the mission of our project, and they were eager to become involved in our work. Their welcoming attitude not only supported our work but also proved how worthwhile our mission was. The warmth, hospitality and good will extended by the villagers filled us with joy, and the many tasty meals of ethnic dishes prepared by both the project participants and the local people made the experience unforgettable.
Each day, after completing our work, we returned to our accommodations in Ardanuc, a typical small Turkish city. This quickly began to seem like home to our group. We felt that we had truly become a part of the community when we were invited to participate in a wedding ceremony. The locals were glad to welcome us into their wedding dance circle and make us their friends. It is probably the first wedding to take place in the entire Caucasus region to include such a diverse group of participants, nations, cultures and religions. Although every participant was performing his or her own national dance, the wedding circle was indivisible and incredibly friendly.
The local government of Shavshat organized a large festival devoted to environmental protection. Our group was welcomed to join in the festivities and enjoy the music, food, dance and exhibits. This interesting cultural experience further added to our understanding and appreciation of the people and culture of the region.
As we traveled through the mountains of Artvin Province and spread our ideas and vision of peace, tolerance and understanding for the South Caucasus region, we believe that we cleaned more than just the monuments and historical sites of the region. We believe that we have helped “clean” the minds of both the group participants and the local villagers of the misunderstandings that have long plagued this area. We hope that this project will lead to many more initiatives that will continue to further the message that we have brought with us.
The text is developed by the participants
of the Forum: Mariya Arushanyan and others