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Armenia: Could a Goddess Influence an Election Campaign?

Armenian banknotes, commemorative coins, and stamps carry images of the bust in the possession of the British Museum. (Illustration)

To the British Museum, she is “probably Aphrodite,” the Greek goddess of love and beauty. To most Armenians, she is Anahit, an ancient Armenian goddess of fertility. Whoever is on the 1st century BC female bronze head with wavy hair and aquiline nose, it may serve as a political prop in Armenia’s looming parliamentary election campaign.

The bust, housed in the British Museum, is featured on Armenian beauty parlor logos, coins, banknotes and stamps alike. It is better known in Armenia than even the country’s state emblem, a recent TV opinion poll indicated. If asked, many Armenians most likely assume that the head, and a companion hand, are in Armenia itself.

And, now, Education Minister Armen Ashotian, a leader of the governing Republican Party of Armenia, along with the party’s Armenian Youth Foundation (AYF), want to make sure that, one day, they will be. In February, Ashotian and the AYF launched an online campaign to gather petition signatures aimed at having the British Museum turn over to Yerevan ownership of the 1st century BC hand and head.

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Armenia: Could a Goddess Influence an Election Campaign?

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