Imperial Ethiopia’s Unique Symbols, Structures & Role in the Modern World
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Imperial Ethiopia’s Unique Symbols, Structures & Role in the Modern World

August 27, 2019


>>From the Library of
Congress, in Washington D.C.>>Mary-Jane Deeb:
Well, good afternoon. Good afternoon, everybody,
and welcome to the African and Middle East Division. I’m Mary-Jane Deeb,
Chief of the Division. And I’m delighted to
see you all here. We always start the program with
a sort of general introduction about our division and what we do. And why we think we should return to
our division for many more programs. So, this division is
responsible for the collections from 78 different countries,
the entire continent of Africa, the Middle East, Central
Asia, and the Caucasus. And we are divided into three
sections, the African section, the Hebraic Section, and we collect
worldwide for the Hebraic section, and the Near East section. We serve collections in the
languages of the region. And I will explain this in a
minute, but our collections, very custodial collection,
and custodian division, and our materials are in the scripts and the languages of
these countries. So, were you to do
research on Ethiopia, the materials in [foreign name],
in [foreign name], would be here, but if you were interested in
reading what people said in English, in French, in German,
in Italian, and so on, those would be spread
throughout the library, and primarily in the
General Collections. If you’re interested in
law materials on Ethiopia, you’d have to go to the Law Library. If you’re interested in films, you’d
have to go to a Motion Picture. So, what I’m saying is that,
we only have the materials in the vernacular, but
the others for research, are spread throughout the library. And this is why it’s such an
exciting thing to be here, because you can go — you can come
to us and then we’ll send you all over the library as well. We also organize programs. We have symposia. We have workshops. We have displays. We have exhibits. And we have parties sometimes. And we always include everyone to taste our foods
from different regions. This is a way of getting
a feel for the cultures. And through the eyes and
writings of our speakers, our programs are enriched. Our books come to life. And our 78 countries are no longer
just places on a map, but living, breathing entities that are
rich in history and culture, and that are an intrinsic part
of today’s global civilization. Today we have a person who’d
going to enlighten us on — in a field that we are not
always very familiar with. And I will leave it
hanging without saying more, but we have Gregory Copley. He’s the President of the International
Strategic Studies Association, and he will be talking
to us about a unique book that he wrote a few years ago and
I understand is being updated. His lecture today is entitled,
“Imperial Ethiopia’s Unique Symbols, Structures, and Role
in the Modern World.” And I will — he will
be further introduced but before I continue any
further, I want to also to recognize the presidents of — Prince Ermias, the grandson of
the Emperor, Haile Selassie, and some members of his family. We’re delighted to have you here. As usual, Prince Ermias also
gave us a talk a few years ago, and perhaps he’ll come
back and give us another. And now, to introduce our speaker
is our own Fentahun Tiruneh, the Specialist for Ethiopia and
Eritrea, here in the African and Middle Eastern Division
of the Library of Congress. Now, I want you to know, that Fentahun has just been named
Grand Officer of the Imperial Order of the Star of Honor of Ethiopia, by his Imperial Highness,
Prince Ermias. And this great honor was bestowed
upon him for, and I’m quoting, “Great wisdom and dedication in
the preservation and promulgation of documents and archives
of the Ethiopic languages, in the United States in the Library
of Congress of the United States. And it has reflected great
prestige and distinction on the Ethiopian peoples
and their history.” So, I wanted everyone to recognize
also that our Fentahun Tiruneh, has been very much honored for
his work, and for making — for developing those
collections, and those programs, and knowledge about Ethiopia here at
the Library of Congress, and beyond. So, without further ado,
let me introduce Fenta who will introduce
the speaker in turn. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Fentahun Tiruneh:
Thank you, Mary-Jane. Prince Ermias, distinguished
guests and ladies and gentlemen, I’m so happy to see all of you
here for this important program in which a good friend of mine,
Gregory Copley, is going to speak on a very important topic about
imperial symbols, structures, and the role in the modern world. A subject that has been forgotten
or ignored for a long time. But before I begin to
introduce our speaker, I would like to impart
some information to you. There will be a modest
reception in our conference room, right behind me, in which you’ll get
an opportunity to speak to the — to our guest on a personal level. And his Royal Highness,
Prince Ermias, had given us a wonderful lecture in
2010, and that lecture on the Line of Judah, was made into a booklet,
and we have about 20 for you to pick on a first come, first serve
basis, in the conference room. And then before I introduce the — our speaker, I would
like to remind you that this event is being
videotaped for future webcasting on the library’s webpage. By asking questions and/or making
comments, you’re consenting that your voice and image be
recorded and later broadcast as part of the event and the
possibility of production and transmission of your remarks. And thank you for your
understanding. And then I will be reading a few,
just a brief biography, of Gregory. Gregory Copley, President of the International
Strategic Studies Association, abbreviated ISSA, based in
the Washington, D.C. area. He’s the Australian author,
philosopher, and industrialist. He has for almost five
decades, worked as an advisor, a head of government [inaudible], or
head of service levels in the areas of strategic policy, intelligence,
security, and economics. He authored the 1998 book,
“Ethiopia Reaches Her Hand unto God: Imperial Ethiopia’s
Unique Symbols, Structures, and Role in the Modern World.” He has subsequently been actively
engaged in studying issues relating to the Ethiopian monarchy. In 2016, created at ISSA, the
Center for the Study of Monarchy, Traditional Governance
and Sovereignty. He has authored or co-authored 34
books in a strategic philosophy, history, geopolitics, psychological
strategy, and information dominance, energy, aviation, national
planning, and poetry. He has written several thousand
published and classified articles, and studies, and was made a
member of the Order of Australia in the 2017 Queen’s birthday honor, honors for his services
to strategic analysis. As an industrialist, he has owned
shipyards and a ship design firm in the UK, a chemicals company
in France, and was Vice Chairman of Scotland’s national airline,
Highland Express — I’m sorry. National airline, Highland Express. One of his companies
has developed unique, deployable water purification
systems, specifically to meet
Ethiopia’s challenges. His 2012 book, “UnCivilization:
Urban Geopolitics in a Time of Chaos,” and a later
book, “Rise of the RedMed: How the Mediterranean Red Sea
Nexus is Resuming its Strategic Centrality,” published in
2016, deal with current and future strategic issues. He is Editor in Chief and
Founder in 1972, of Defense and Foreign Affairs publications. And the Director of Intelligence
at the Global Information System and an online encrypted access,
Global Intelligence Service, which provides strategic current
intelligence solely to governments. One of his books, “The Art of
Victory,” published in 2006, has been used as a text in a
number of military colleges. He’s Chairman of the Water
Initiative for Africa. He appears regularly on
US and international radio and television programs,
discussing strategic issues. He’s a fellow of the Royal
Canadian Geographical Society, and a member of the Advisory Board for the Canadian Force
College Foundation, where he lectures regularly. Please help me welcome
Gregory Copley. [ Applause ]>>Gregory Copley:
Thank you, Fentahun. We’re going to have
to get a shorter bio. [Inaudible], your Imperial Highness,
Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, President of the Crown Council of
Ethiopia, distinguished guests, my profound thanks to
[inaudible] Dr. Deeb, but also to my greatly admired
friend, Fentahun Tiruneh, for organizing this event
today, at this important center of learning and preservation. And of course, my congratulations
to him for that recent award of Ethiopia’s great imperial
symbol, the Order of Grand Officer of the Star of Honor, of Ethiopia. Well, it’s been two decades
since I wrote the book, “Ethiopia Reaches a Hand unto God:
Imperial Ethiopia’s Unique Symbols, Structures, and Role
in the Modern World.” And that was done with
the profound assistance of his Imperial Highness,
Prince Ermias. It’s remarkable that
interest in the book has grown with the years, rather
than diminished. And the book continues to
sell, much to my astonishment. But part of this is because we
are witnessing a strong resurgence in the unique identity of
Ethiopia and Ethiopians. This is not just because
Ethiopia is finally recovering from the cultural devastation
of the coup of 1974. It’s also related to the fact that the transforming global social
environment is forcing many people around the world, to become
conscious of their core identities. We are globally entering a
period of identity politics, a time when people yearn to understand why they
are, who they are. Why they are special, and what
their special relationship is with their geography. This introspection is neither
accidental nor coincidental. It’s a direct response
to the threat felt by — to their identities by
many peoples in the face of the globalism ideology which stressed the irrelevance
of borders, and nations. Bear in mind, this is quite separate
from the mechanisms of globalization of communications and trade, although these have helped
feed the globalism philosophy, which is essentially an
urban phenomenon in a world which is increasingly urbanizing,
and increasingly materialistic. Identity however, is both
visceral and psychological. It’s the tool which
builds the frame of logic in individuals and in societies. It gives a sense of
self-worth, purpose, legitimacy, as well as a sense of comprehension
of as to how people fit into their particular
geographic surroundings. And this gives them the
understandings of the seasons, and what survival demands
of them individually, as well as in a genetic sense. It gives group cohesion and
therefore, productivity. I’ve described this as
a terroir relationship, to use the French expression,
the linkage between people and their particular geography. Of course, urban societies develop
their own terroir relationship with their concrete geography. And the urban sense of
geopolitics, has driven much of the globalist philosophy
against the classical, or should we say Westphalianist, sense of nationhood
and national identity. Ethiopia still has one of the lower
rates of urbanization in the world. Some 17.3% of the population
was urbanized as of 2015, one of the lowest rates
in the world, and certainly well below the
sub-Saharan African average of 37%. But urbanization is growing
dramatically in the country, possibly at an estimated
5.4% a year. For most Ethiopians, their
sense of identity was rooted in the specialness related to the
conviction that they were chosen by God, favored by God, that
God had a special commitment to their welfare. This belief had more than
three millennia of evolution, based on the union between King
Solomon and Queen Makada of Saba. And the belief system
came into a civilization which in biblical times, was
already well established among the Cushitic people. The union of King Solomon and Queen
Makada, introduced the Second Zion as a Jewish dominated state,
which ultimately became — began transformation to a
Christian dominated state from the 4th Century A.D.
Well, it’s important to note that Ethiopia also has a
special relationship with Islam. The prophet Muhammad, having sent
his family and followers to safety in Ethiopia from Mecca, bestowed
a special significance on Ethiopia as a place for the coexistence
of peoples of different faiths, but sharing national identity. The transition from a
Jewish dominated society to a Christian dominated society,
did not diminish the power of the Solomonic imagery to help sustain the
Ethiopian sense of uniqueness. If anything, the later introduction
of western education in Ethiopia, compounding during the 20th
Century period of Haile Selassie, and opening still further during the
Republican years, has only served to broaden the Ethiopian
sense of specialness. Given that it now also
embraces much greater study of the pre-Solomonic Cushitic
periods and civilization, and also the origins of modern
mankind in the Rift Valley with the finding of
the skeletal remains of Australopithecus afarensis. In my brief here today,
is to discuss the issues of symbology relating
to the Imperial Period, the Ethiopia symbols and structures
and roles in the modern world. And that essentially
focuses to a large extent on the impact inside Ethiopia,
and on the outside world of what became the
iconic Solomonic crown and its rituals and hierarchies. Certainly, the post-coup period
in Ethiopia, that is since 1974, finds the country and its people in an entirely new
global strategic context. Nothing of course, ever
returns to the way it was, which is why the potency of the
Solomonic imagery is significant in that it continues
to galvanize thought, even though the Ethiopian
society and the global context, have become dramatically
more complex. And he intellectual offerings have
challenged traditional religions and beliefs, particularly
with urban centric and more materialistic logic. But let me reiterate, that
as the world broadens, not just for Ethiopians but for
all of us, there is a tendency to seek a reactive
search among peoples for their identity,
their core identity. It’s a search for horizons,
purpose, and uniqueness. Well, this sense of self-belief
sustained by the presence of an iconic bloodline,
in the case of Ethiopia, the Solomonic bloodline, in the face
of all other adversity in Ethiopia over more than 3 millennia,
was responsible for creating and sustaining a civilizational
model. This civilization, while not
wealthy by world standards, provides a unique perspective
on the entire question of the survival of
a social identity. Ethiopia’s identity and
mission, was committed to writing as the national saga of the
Ethiopic peoples in the form of the Kebra Nagast, the Glory of
Kings, possibly the 6th Century A.D. And this served to elevate the
specialness of the people further, sustaining them through
great hardship. Little wonder, that the periods
when Ethiopians were separated from their iconic sense
of specialness, perhaps during the non-Solomonic
Zagwe Dynasty between the 10th and 13th Centuries, or
during the fractured period of the Zemene Mesafint, the
Era of Princes and Judges, from 1769 through 1855,
they lost some of their sense of special purpose. And little wonder too that when
Emperor Tewodros began the modern Solomonic Period in 1855, the
country regained some consciousness of its historical sense of mission. Emperor Tewodros’ successor,
Yohannes IV, in particular began building on
the iconographic foundation laid by the mystical power
of the Kebra Nagast, and the accompanying
pervasive religious authority of the Orthodox Church. He and particularly Emperor Menelik
II, began building structures of authority around the
Solomonic line, using the symbols of the Crown’s authority to
build that mystical connection between the throne and the various, many varied people, of
the Ethiopian Empire. It’s possible that this began the
most significant use of symbols of authority of the Crown, since the
great totemic constructions of Axum such as the famous Stelae of Axon in the First Millennium
of the Modern Era. The fact that Emperor Menelik so successfully routed the Italian
invasion of Ethiopia at the Battle of Adwa on March the 1st and 2nd in
1896, was itself a rallying point for Ethiopia and Ethiopian prestige. It was this event in which the
emperor’s wife, Empress Taytu, played a role which was
reminiscent of the powerful and unique Queen of
Sheba, Queen Makada. And this started a chain of events
which played out in bringing to an end, the European
Colonial expansion in Africa. It was Emperor Menelik’s enormous
victory, the first such victory by an African state against
a modern European power, which gave Ethiopia the
prestige and leadership to create the Pan-African concepts
to eventually be the beacon of independence for
the African colonies. It’s absolutely clear that Emperor
Menelik’s victory ultimately enabled Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1963,
to create and host the Organization for African Unity, and now the
African Union as the precursor to the post-Colonial Period. Indeed no one, actually
honed this use of symbols and intricate social hierarchy
more than Emperor Haile Selassie when he came to full
imperial power in 1930. Such was the prestige and authority
of the emperor and Ethiopia by late 1935, when the Italians
again invaded the country, that it was the emperor’s scolding
words to the League of Nations which ended international hypocrisy
over Italy’s blatant misuse of arms. You’ll all recall his parting
words as he left the podium at the League of Nations. He said, “Today it is us. Tomorrow, it will be you.” The League of Nations was in fact
finished because it was so exposed as hollow by the emperor’s globally
recognized address in June 1936. But this was to be followed
by the fact that Ethiopia with British assistance,
achieved the first allied victory of World War II when it
drove the occupying Italians from the country in 1941. Ethiopians recovered, regrouped, and
reasserted their Solomonic identity after that five-year
interregnum in the dynasty. From that point forward, the emperor
believed fervently in the philosophy of collective security,
committing Ethiopian troops, particularly the Imperial
Guard Regiment, to the United Nations
force in the Korean War. The Ethiopians’ heroism and
professionalism was greatly praised, and decorated by the United States. Emperor Haile Selassie’s enormous
international stature had a profound and lasting impact on the world. The emerging Black Nationalists
and Pan-Africanist movements in the Americas, led by
Jamaica’s Marcus Garvey, saw in Emperor Haile Selassie,
a figurehead, an inspiration, which led to the creation
of the Rastafarian Movement. And it was the Rastafarian religion
which was to play an important role in sustaining the unique imagery of the Solomonic line,
after the coup of 1974. But before that, it was
the emperor’s visits to the United States, starting in
1954, which was so inspirational to African Americans, that
they provided an impetus for the U.S. Civil Rights Movement which gathered pace
from that point onwards. This was addressed well in the
2011 book by Theodore Vestal, “The Line of Judah in the New World:
Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and the Shaping of Americans’
Attitudes Towards Africa.” Emperor Haile Selassie
consciously and fervently believed in the mission handed down to him,
and in his responsibility to build, first the dignity, and secondly, the
capability of the Ethiopian people. And to do this, he
stressed the mysticism of the historical authority
of the Solomonic bloodline, which is codified in the
1955 Constitution stipulation on succession to the throne. And in the respect that he gave
to the prestige and authority of the regional and national
hierarchies and officers. And to the importance of Ethiopia’s
unique system of ranks, titles, and honors, which set
it apart from the world. This was not merely to give
authority to the Crown itself, or to the makwanent, the upper
nobility, or the negusawi betasab, the Royal and Imperial
household, but to give everyone, a sense of place within the
hierarchy of the society, to give each person a sense
of purpose and dignity. It’s significant that Emperor Haile
Selassie simultaneously embarked on an ambitious and almost
helter-skelter dash towards the western education of as
many Ethiopians as possible, perhaps without understanding
that this introduced a competitive and less mystical thrust
into Ethiopian society. It introduced materialism,
which challenged the stoicism of the society, and which demanded
the satisfaction of desires, and ambitions, at a pace which no
emerging economy could satisfy. There are many reasons why
this fundamental contradiction which Emperor Haile Selassie
introduced into Ethiopian society, led to the coup of 1974,
and to the wasteland created by the Derg which seized power. Some of this is addressed in Prince
Asfa-Wossen Asserate’s revealing book, “King of Kings,” in 2015, as well as in Professor Gizachew
Tiruneh’s important 2015 book, “The Rise and Fall of the
Solomonic Dynasty of Ethiopia.” But this clash of more than 3
millennia of mysticism, nurtured and strengthened in
isolation and the materialism of the 20th Century external
world, which because unavoidable after World War II, also came to
a head, as the emperor was aging and without the succession base
which he’s spent his life trying to assemble for the transition
to the next generation. It also came as the great
superpowers of the world, the United States and the
USSR, were at a crucial time in their own titanic confrontation. The technologies of
that confrontation between the west the Soviet Block,
also coincided with the exhaustion of the emperor, and the rising
demands of social expectations, which the emperor’s education,
modernization, and emancipation, had set entrain [phonetic]. The US, long a tacit
guardian of Ethiopia in the post-World War II era, had improved its intelligence
collection capabilities to the point where it no longer felt that it needed the
electronic intelligence station at Kagnew Station, Asmara, as
Mara, in what is now Eritrea. So, while the US kept the
station going until 1977, three years after the
coup against the emperor, Washington had made it clear
that it was no longer interested in being the strategic
partner of Ethiopia. The USSR on the other
hand, had long invested in radicalizing the newly
educated youth of Ethiopia, the youth who the emperor
had so willingly thrust into the urban mainstream
of international learning. The Soviet [inaudible], the
Communist International — the Center of Soviet Psychological
Operations at that time run by the master psychological warrior, Boris Nikolayevich
Ponamarev [phonetic], created in Moscow a political
propaganda publication, to subvert Ethiopian news. The Soviets named the publication, [foreign name], “The
Rainbow from God.” This was a breathtaking
theft of a highly religious and particularly Ethiopian symbology
about the special relationship which God had with
the Ethiopian people. In Soviet hands, it
became just one more tool to take away Ethiopia’s
sense of specialness. And this whole Soviet campaign
struck a chord at the same time that Washington was
neglecting the emperor. Thus, once again with the
coup of 1974, Ethiopia seemed to have been robbed of
its identity and purpose. The coup masters destroyed or seemed
to have destroyed, in an instant, the 3,500 years of Solomonic
identity, and for the next 43 years, it appeared that Ethiopia
had seen all vestiges of its specialness erased. That it would be just
another poor African country. But it’s now clear,
that this was not to be. There is now an unprecedented
level of interest from Ethiopians inside
Ethiopia, and in the diaspora, as well as among international
scholars as to why Ethiopia was so special and what Emperor Haile
Selassie did to raise its profile, unity, and sense of purpose. There’s now a growing
appetite among Ethiopians, that they must either regain
that identity or revert to very narrow ethnic
and linguistic groupings. It seems that the trend favors
the search for a path back to that Ethiopian-ness, which
has a great sense of personal and group identity, as well as in rediscovering
international prestige, rather than taking the
difficult and isolating task of creating new personae around
ethnic and linguistic subgroups. What’s significant, is
that considerable interest in the Ethiopian identity
is beginning to resurge among the
Ethiopian diaspora, which has become a distinct
grouping, virtually, entirely within the urban
areas of its host countries. We see the yearning for
an ancient identity coming from the diaspora peoples who have
not been able to shake that sense of separateness from their
new host communities. The maturing of ex-patriot
Ethiopians, many of whom had become
associated with western values and education during the
late Haile Selassie period, to the point where they begin
to search for their origins, and it’s now become profound. Unsurprisingly, this example — for example, this has led to the
fostering of important centers of inquiry into Ethiopian
history in western universities, and at such institutions
as Tsehai Publishers at Loyola Marymount
University in Los Angeles. Thus, the flame of the Solomonic
line has been nurtured outside Ethiopia during the
period of the interregnum. In much the same way, the flame of Persia’s Zoroaster has been kept
alive by ex-patriot Zoroastrian and Parsee [assumed spelling]
communities in their diaspora, largely in Canada, while
the sheer Muslim domination of Iran has suppressed the
traditional Persian identities. What’s significant too is that much of Ethiopia’s iconic documentation
has been kept secure outside the country, and including
particularly at such institutions as the US Library of Congress. And for the time being,
the very Solomonic Crown of the Ethiopian peoples itself,
resides with the Crown Council under Prince Ermias, in
exile in the diaspora. Indeed, what has emerged in
the 43 years of the interregnum since the coup against Emperor Haile
Selassie, and it’s important to note that it was in fact a coup
by a small military group, and not a popular revolution. It’s important to note that it’s
the [inaudible] of Ethiopians caused by the coup, which have
become globally visible. Conservatively, there are some 3
million Ethiopians living outside Ethiopia at present. And I’ll venture to say, it’s
considerably more than that, compared with only a handful of
such ex-patriots living abroad, less than a century earlier. And ex-patriots contribute
between 1.5 billion and I hear 4.7 billion a year,
in foreign exchange remittances to the Ethiopian economy. The Ethiopian diaspora represents
a very distinct new profile of the nation, in the
international consciousness. But equally, this group is
now maturing and reflecting on what it means to be
of Ethiopian origin. It’s natural that some of the ethnic
divisions in such a diverse society as Ethiopia, are being
reflected within the diaspora. But what’s been interesting
is the fact that Ethiopia’s 60 or so ethnic groups, appear
to have in the diaspora, largely identified themselves as
Ethiopian, and only secondarily as members of the ethnic
and linguistic subgroups. Much of this unity in exile, is
due to the overwhelming impact of historical symbols, including
religion, although of course, as I said, not all Ethiopians are
united behind the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, around symbols such as
language, and by the teachings of the Kebra Nagast, and the
Fetha Nagast, the Law of Kings. But also including the iconography
which was so strongly promoted by Emperor Haile Selassie. Well, the time is now right
for these vital elements of Ethiopia’s identity to
be regathered into Ethiopia. We’ve recently seen the
creation in Addis Ababa of the Meles Zenawi Library to honor
the recent and late prime minister. So, it’s fitting that
the diaspora community and the Crown Council are now
interested in the creation of a prestigious new center,
the Haile Selassie I Library and Conference Center, to be
built hopefully in Addis Ababa, in a location where the
great learning and symbols of the Solomonic Era,
can be brought together. With the creation of
such an institution, so much of Ethiopia’s documentary and physical heritage could
be brought home to the country and gathered together from private
collections around the world. The center could be a focus of
research and learning on the lessons of the past, 3,500 years,
contributing to the continuation of what is essentially, an
unbroken chain of Ethiopian history, totally compatible with its
evolution, modernization, and rising role in the new world. Such a library would actually fit
well into the modern state structure of Ethiopia, and has already
received private encouragement from various government officials. There’s good reason
for that support. The 3,500 year Solomonic
history is the unbroken lifeline of the Judeo-Christian
civilizations. Even Abrahamic civilization as
a whole, and it’s the heritage of all Ethiopians,
including the government of the Republic of Ethiopia. But it’s also the historical
bloodline, the lifeline, of the modern world as a whole. And as such, the library
could attract significant international attention. This does not in any
way preclude discussion of pre-Solomonic Ethiopia, or
today’s Republican Ethiopia. It’s about recognizing a totemic
aspect of Ethiopian identity, and its relationship
with modern civilization. What became clear as I began to
explore in that book we published in 1998, “Ethiopia
Reaches a Hand unto God,” is that Ethiopians have
developed a unique cultural, and civilizational
position throughout history. It’s true that this position
lost momentum briefly during the [inaudible] interregnum, but the
sense of identity built around, not only the physical iconography,
but also around the memory of Haile Selassie and
his predecessors, is returning at a significant pace. Clearly, we are just at the
beginning of this renaissance. How the Ethiopian people and
government use this revival of historical identity, could
well be strategically important. And with that, I hope to thank you and [foreign name] turn
to you for questions. Thank you. [ Applause ] Thank you.>>Questions [inaudible]?>>Gregory Copley: Yes, doctor?>>Mary-Jane Deeb: First
of all, thank you very much for this wonderful presentation,
and I very much enjoyed it. So, what are some of the
symbols that were used in the most recent revival?>>Gregory Copley: Well, particularly since
Emperor Tewodros’ Period, we saw that what the traditional
titles and ranks and hierarchies, which were [inaudible]
around Ethiopia, were given greater prominence. They — so the various
historical ranks, some of them from very
distinct regions, were honored by the
Ethiopian Empire as a whole. There were various other titles, the
[foreign name] and [foreign name] and so on, which became — which
had their own special meanings, and they gave a sense of uniqueness
to people’s place in the society. That’s the same way as the European
hierarchical structures evolved, but it was uniquely Ethiopian. And in many respects, it was
compounded by the sense of isolation of the [foreign name], particularly. And this actually was the reason why
the victory of Adwa was so was so — was made possible because this
was a structure and a logic system which applied, not only to society,
but also to military operations, which enabled Emperor
Menelik to conduct a battle against the Ethiopians which the
Italians could not understand. They had based all of their
analysis on going into Ethiopia on other African adventures by
Colonial powers, and on what seemed to be the sweeping success of the
British and the General Napier against Emperor Tewodros. And as such, they actually
misunderstood how Ethiopian society, and the logistics [inaudible] of the
society, the way it fed its society and fed its military
structure, was conducted. So, that was particularly important. And this was about, if you
like non-physical iconography but within — it was definitely
an iconic sense of the country. There were others, of course. The belief that the Star of
David concept itself was created in Ancient Ethiopia. The fact that Ethiopian colors
became so significant that they came to represent Pan-Africanism
and so on. But what most of the emperors,
particularly Yohannes onwards, started adapting their symbols
of recognition to accord with — to a degree with international
standards, and they created the great
orders like the Star of Ethiopia, like the Order of the Holy Trinity,
the Order of Solomon and Sheba, the Order of Solomon itself,
and then — and so on. These all became items
which reinforced the sense of hierarchy in the country. Of course, the sense of grandeur
was always there from the ruins in Stelae of Axum, and in the
belief, that of course that the — that within St. Mary’s Church in
Axum, lay the Ark of the Covenant, which gave great symbolic
importance to the church. So, the — and the church, the
role of the church in fostering that Ethiopian sense of
identity, can’t be underestimated. Even its impact on
non-Christian elements of Ethiopian society
has been profound because it does give a
sense of timelessness to the whole Ethiopian society. So, it’s perhaps in a
sense, the iconography of Ethiopia has been less
physical, than say the Roman and Hellenic civilizations, or even
the British sense of construction where great cities have tended to
be the iconography which gave power to Rome, London, and so on. But in fact, it may be that the
Ethiopian society’s all the more durable for the fact that
its icons are psychological, more than they are visual. Sir? [ Inaudible audience question ] They’re common– . [ Inaudible audience question ] Enemy. [ Inaudible audience question ] Well, both. Thank you for that. I mean, if I forget to answer a
specific point, just remind me. But firstly, the Jewish nature of Ethiopia before the 4th Century
was — is pretty well-documented. Now, of course the
reporting of the Kebra Nagast and other documents show the
creation of the Second Zion after Menelik I, the son
of Queen Makada of Saba, went back to Jerusalem and met with
Solomon and then returned with a lot of the first born, the noble
families of Israel and Judah at that time, and of
course, under Ethiopian myth, that’s when they brought the Ark
of the Covenant back with them. That’s [inaudible]
been open to debate, but clearly there was a Jewish
society under Menelik I, lasting until the conversion of —
with the kings in the 4th Century. And then you started the
predominantly Christian era. So, yes, it was — and then
by the way, there was — it was not a unique situation
for there to be Jewish kingdoms in the region in Arabia
and so on as well, as well as up into the
areas around the Caspians. I mean, this was a
common phenomenon. You asked about the Solomonic links
with the Era of Princes and Judges, and in fact, yes, there was
clearly a Solomonic thread running through all of that as well, but
because of the dispersed leadership in that period, when there was
a lot of regional infighting, you didn’t have this iconic,
central power of the — of a Solomonic emperor during
that brief period until 1855 when it was re-galvanized
under Tewodros. But you’re right in suggesting that Emperor Haile Selassie not
only was the only viable choice to lead the country
when he was chosen as — first as Region and then
[foreign name] and later as Emperor [foreign
name], I guess in 1930. He was outstandingly visionary
from a global perspective. He was, as you say, progressive
in the best sense of the word in that he wanted excellence
and education, and he did so without a
foundation of great wealth. So, he actually introduced
modern education. He introduced modern infrastructure,
technology, and so on. He was enlightened. And it was no accident that,
and I didn’t mention it in this, but no accident that he was highly
engaged in the [inaudible] Movement because he was looking for
bridges between the world. Here was the irony. He was heavily involved in
creating the [inaudible] Movement and sustaining that, at the same
time as he exhibited a belief in collective security, which
is why he committed so strongly to the United Nations, and the United Nations
mission in Korea, for example. He — in fact, the
revolution against him, or the coup against him rather, and the [inaudible] revolutionary
thought which was introduced later by the Derg, was absolutely
regressive in, to my mind, in the sense that it was an attempt
to stop some of this broad, liberal, democratic ideals,
which the emperor had. I mean, he was clearly a proponent
of a constitutional monarchy and a stable democratically
elected government, and had he been given the time,
I think we’d have seen Ethiopia, not only have stable democratic
institutions to this day, but also, great economic benefits
as a result of that, without compromising Ethiopia’s
sense of its unique identity. So, does that address
that, do you think? [ Inaudible audience question ] Well, I think that the abandonment,
if you like of the imperial imagery, and for a brief period
during the Derg, occurred because it was enforced. You know, the pictures of the
emperor were forcibly removed. People did hide them away. But ultimately, you
know, that was a mistake. I mean the Soviet influence
absolutely did a disservice to itself by not trying to co-opt
[phonetic] Ethiopia’s history to a greater degree. They had succeeded as I
mentioned with the creation of that magazine called, you know,
the Rainbow of God, basically trying to initially co-opt
an Ethiopian symbol. Then they abandoned it, and maybe
because it was [foreign name] that he wanted to show
[inaudible] to Moscow that he basically introduced
entirely foreign iconography, which doesn’t work. And one of the things that we’re
seeing around the world today, is this cry from most societies, “We want our country
back,” whatever that means. And I don’t think most people know
what it means, or they know — they want to know that their whole
purpose, their ancestry and so on, has some meaning, not to
just start fresh again. We saw with the collapse — well, the collapse of the Soviet
Union 70 years after the decree that it a new Soviet
man would be created. Seventy years later with the
collapse of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, we
saw an absolute revival of things absolutely
suppressed for 70 years. The church. The iconic, Russian
construction styles. The reverence for the
monarchy of the past. Certainly, the past always
carries with it a lot of baggage, but it also, as does
our individual history, we have the good and
the bad within us. And, but it’s ours. And that’s the most important thing. So, I think that we — you know, we’ve seen a 43-year interregnum
thus far, but that doesn’t mean that Ethiopians have forgotten
or will forget there’s a — I know there’s concern that
young Ethiopians in the diaspora and in the country,
will have no experience or understanding of their history. The same applied to Iran,
since the coup of ’78-’79. The reality there is that today, in
Iran, we see a flourishing of the — the main form of protest is the
printing of the most elaborate books of poetry by [foreign
name] and the like. The most lavish — the tributes
being paid to the Persian-ness of the history, and the
only way they can do it is to make books printed with
gold ink and the like. I mean, it’s anything they can
do to show this reverence though for their past, because they
can’t express it in an opposition to the current [inaudible]
leadership there. And it gets the point of — [inaudible] made the point about the
enemy of the emperor, enemies were, [foreign name] and [foreign name]. And to a degree, that’s
true, but they — it was — it’s like saying that
atheism is a disbelief in God. But it in fact, Atheism becomes its
own religion, and the opposition to the emperor, became
its own religion, almost validating the emperor
if you like, because they set — their standards were set up as
to being opposed to the emperor, which meant that the society
itself would ultimately come to compare the two. And what we’re seeing today, in
— with the Ethiopian government, is for the first time,
we’re seeing this opening up to Ethiopia’s history,
and the government is seeing that this has some healing benefits. So, this is why when we raised
the issue of creating a — the Haile Selassie I Library
and Conference Center, several government officials
have commented favorably. And one said, “Oh, I think we can
find land to donate for that.” Well, this is a profound
transformation of attitudes because we have to bear in mind
that the present government which was opposed [inaudible] being
as an opposition force to the Derg, was itself Marxist in origin. And so, it’s been gradually coming
back to a sense of nationalism in the best sense, in the sense
of creating an Ethiopia based on Ethiopians rather than on unnecessarily
important political models. I think this, as with any society,
it’s always got a long way to go. When you look at the United
States, how difficult it was to progress the idea of a
truly United States nation, and it really started to occur with
the war with the British in 1812, some you know, considerable
period after the 1776 Revolution. So, we may get impatient for
Ethiopia to rebuild its glory, and the Ethiopians are
justifiably impatient by, we can see it happening
and we can see that the diaspora played
a critical role in that, the Caribbean particularly and the
creation of the [inaudible] religion which I know is a source of some
bewilderment and embarrassment to, the to the emperor whose
a devout Christian and one of his great successes of course
is that Bob Marley in his love for the emperor, converted to
Christianity on his death bed. So, and now we see the [foreign
name] religion also coming through an accommodation
with the Orthodox Church. So, it’s becoming an
interesting evolution, but the — without the [foreign name],
I think a lot of the history and iconography, the actual books
and symbols of the Imperial Period, might well have been lost.>>Fentahun Tiruneh: Thank you. I know there are several questions,
but I think you can talk to Gregory at the reception, and
we’ll stop right here. [ Applause ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at Loc.gov.

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