Memory and Identity in the Syriac Cave of Treasures: Rewriting the Bible in Sasanian Iran
In Memory and Identity in the Syriac Cave of Treasures: Rewriting the Bible in Sasanian Iran Sergey Minov examines literary and socio-cultural aspects of the Syriac pseudepigraphic composition known as the Cave of Treasures, which offers a peculiar version of the Christian history of salvation. The book fills a lacuna in the history of Syriac Christian literary creativity by contextualising this unique work within the cultural and religious situation of Sasanian Mesopotamia towards the end of Late Antiquity. The author analyses the Cave’s content and message from the perspective of identity theory and memory studies, while discussing its author’s emphatically polemical stand vis-à-vis Judaism, the ambivalent way in which he deals with Iranian culture, and the promotion in this work of a distinctively Syriac-oriented vision of the biblical past.
Current cultures of collective memory are rather different from those of the first half of the twentieth century when they primarily reflected national memories; representations of those pasts served to unite nations and consolidate national identities. In national memories, difficult pasts used to be suppressed. It is only since the end of the 1990s that difficult pasts have become part of national memory repertoires. Stories of perpetrators and victims became universal tropes, coinciding with the development of a human rights regime and the cosmopolitanization of memories. Though the scope of these changes is considerable, they certainly do not occur everywhere. Some countries are still reluctant to address tragedies in their history. It does not mean that these events are completely forgotten; rather, it presents a complex situation where difficult pasts ‘haunt’ societies. Alexander Etkind's book is dedicated to such an ‘undead’ and ‘unburied’ past of Soviet terror that comes back in different forms.
The article demonstrates how over the past two decades Russian television has changed its interpretation of the Soviet Past and used myths of the Soviet period in order to shape a new collective identity. The author analyses popular Russian television programs (i.e. those that are broadcast by Russian state channels and have high rating). She argues that the consequences of a cultural trauma (the collapse of the USSR) have not been overcome and that Russian television offers its viewers models of everyday life that do not promote modernization or successful nation building.
Thematic volume of the Gosudarstvo, religija, cerkov' v Rossii i za rubezhom (2/33, 2015) entitled “Hristianskij Vostok: gosudarstva i mezhkonfessional'nye svjazi” [Christian Orient: The States and Interconfessional Relations]; edited by Dr. N. Seleznyov.
Memory narratives commonly include characters such as heroes (triumphant or fallen), martyrs, perpetrators, and victims. In recent years, the victim has become the central character in the dominant, western-centric, and globalized memory culture. A victim’s definition is problematic: few existing memory narratives include “ideal,” or innocent victims who suffered meaninglessly. The lines between victims and other characters in memory narratives are blurry in many cases, for instance, between a victim and a perpetrator. Using the case of Russian museums dedicated to the Soviet repressions, I study the problematic relation between victims and heroes, adding to the discussion of the victim character’s complexity. Often, victims of Soviet repressions are presented as both victims of political persecution and heroes who did not just suffer through their imprisonment but continued to live productive and creative lives. The resulting victim-hero character indicates that the category of a victim is too limiting and adds to calls for the theorization of victim taxonomy.
The acme of the Arabic science and philosophy that is usually associated with the Abbasid times and Bet al-hikmah in Bagdad actually began long before, in the 6th c. with the great achievement of the Syriac science. The protagonist of that philosophical and medical movement was the chief medic of the city of Resh-‘ayna in Syria Sergius. Not only he translated a great deal of Greek medical and philosophical literature, but also he was adapting a sublime Neoplatonic theology to the Syriac language and culture. Theological profile of Sergius is of particular importance as he analyzed asceticism in his treatise ‘On spiritual Life’ under medical angle. In the article Sergius’medical approach is compared with his ascetical teaching. In making ascetical teaching closer to the medical care and medical science.