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Cremation Armenia

Armenians are considering cremation, what don’t they like? Columbarium

Armenians Are Considering Cremation: Understanding the Concerns and the Role of the Columbarium

Armenian parliament speaker Galust Sahakyan has been advocating for amendments to the law to allow for cremation, positioning it as part of a modern and evolving Armenia. However, he has also emphasized that no changes will be made that go against Armenian national traditions and interests. This delicate balance between modernization and tradition is at the heart of the debate on cremation in Armenia.

One of the main areas of concern involves the procedures for cremation itself, the burial of cremated ashes, and the allocation of land for these burials. The proposed changes suggest that each family would receive one square meter of land free for the burial of ashes. For those who desire a larger plot, the area could be increased to six square meters for an additional payment. This approach aims to provide flexibility and cater to different preferences and financial capacities within the community.

Another significant aspect of the proposed changes is the introduction of a columbarium, often referred to as a “wall of sorrow”—though this term is not widely recognized. A columbarium is a structure with niches to house cremation urns, providing an organized and respectful place for families to visit and remember their loved ones. However, this particular aspect of the proposal has sparked disquiet among some Members of Parliament (MPs) and the broader community.

The primary concern revolves around the columbarium’s perceived incompatibility with Armenian traditions of burial and memorialization. Traditionally, Armenians have buried their dead in the ground, often marked with memorial stones or elaborate tombstones that celebrate the life of the deceased. These memorials are deeply ingrained in Armenian culture, serving as a tangible connection to past generations and a way to honor and remember them.

For many Armenians, the idea of placing ashes in a columbarium feels impersonal and disconnected from these traditional practices. The columbarium, with its rows of urns, may be seen as a stark, institutional alternative to the personalized and often elaborate gravesites that families have tended for generations. This cultural dissonance is at the core of the opposition to this aspect of the cremation proposal.

Moreover, the process of cremation itself raises questions and concerns. In a society where burial has been the norm, the idea of cremation might feel foreign or uncomfortable to many. The ritual and communal aspects of traditional burials, which include gatherings at the gravesite, shared meals, and collective mourning, are significant components of Armenian funeral practices. Adopting cremation would require adjustments to these rituals, which may be challenging for some to accept.

Addressing these concerns requires a sensitive and inclusive approach. While the introduction of cremation and columbaria offers practical solutions to issues such as land scarcity and urbanization, it is crucial to ensure that these new practices are integrated in a way that respects and preserves Armenian cultural traditions. This might involve creating spaces within cemeteries where cremated remains can be buried and memorialized in a manner consistent with traditional practices, or designing columbaria that incorporate elements of Armenian architecture and cultural symbolism.

Ultimately, the discussion about cremation in Armenia highlights a broader conversation about how societies adapt to modernity while preserving their cultural heritage. Finding a balance that honors the past while accommodating the future is key to ensuring that any changes to burial practices are embraced by the community.

The area could be increased to 6 meters in return for a payment. The changes also envisage a columbarium (a “wall of sorrow”*) for ashes.

Oddly enough it is the final aspect, the columbarium that has caused disquiet as some MPs who believe that columbarium runs counter to Armenian tradition of burial and installation of memorial stones.

*never heard them called that before?!

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