Armenian in Georgia: Minister Ashotyan says Armenian language school hours restored

Summing up his last week’s visit to Georgia, Armenia’s Education and Science Minister Armen Ashotyan expressed satisfaction with the achieved results. He said the most important achievement was the restoration of the school hours for the Armenian language in Georgia’s Armenian schools.

During last academic year authorities in Georgia reduced such hours meant for studying the Armenian language in local Armenian schools, caused discontent among public and political circles in both countries and giving rise to opinions that the step is aimed at distorting the ethnic identity of the Armenian population of Javakhk (Samtskhe-Javakheti) in the southeast of the country and causing Armenians to abandon their native places in Georgia and move abroad. Activists in Javakhk, which is home to some 120,000 Armenians, were calling on the Georgian authorities to recognize the Armenian language as the second state language in that region.

“Armenian language classes until last year were 7-8 hours a week, last year they were reduced to five hours, this year they will be restored to 7-8 hours,” Ashotyan said at a press conference on Wednesday, adding that hours for Armenian literature and history have also been increased.

Ashotyan also stressed the importance of another agreement he reached with his Georgian counterpart Dmitry Shashkin under which issues related to textbooks and training courses for Armenian teachers in Georgia will be regulated.

“In connection with textbooks we agreed that this year the Georgian side will send us the Armenian translations of texts of Georgian textbooks before printing them so that Armenian specialists could carry out some proofreading and editing work,” said Ashotyan.

Minister Ashotyan said that last year about 100 teachers of Armenian schools in Georgia received training due to the efforts of the Armenian side.

“This year the program will continue, more than 100 Armenian teachers will be trained in Georgia,” he said.

According to the minister, both he and his Georgian counterpart have a specialist approach to educational problems and “have no desire for any political speculation.”

“We agreed that we would get in touch again should any problems emerge in the period before the return visit,” said Ashotyan.

Meanwhile, political analyst Sergey Minasyan thinks the latest arrangements in the relations between the two neighboring countries reflect a calmer atmosphere that exists in the attitude of the government and political elites in Georgia that have overcome the shock and nervousness that emerged in the wake of the 2008 Russo-Georgian war.

“The Georgian authorities have realized that the reduction of school hours for the Armenian language does not promote the knowledge of the Georgian language [by Armenians], because in an environment, where 96-97 percent of the population are ethnic Armenians, teaching children, in an artificial form, a language (Georgian language) which is in fact a foreign language for them is impossible without creating optimal conditions, I mean personnel, psychological conditions, because Armenian children have felt estranged,” says Minasyan.

Shirak Torosyan, a lawmaker representing Armenia’s ruling Republican Party and head of the Javakhk Compatriotic Union in Armenia, also has a positive view of the latest agreements in the education sphere.

But the Armenian of Javakhk extraction who is now a persona non grata in Georgia sees “an ugly subtext” in the move when the Georgian authorities first reduce the number of school hours for Armenian and then restore them, portraying it as a major gesture.

“What a great generosity! Long live Georgian authorities for deciding to restore the class hours,” Torosyan commented tartly in an interview with ArmeniaNow.

“This is not the friendship that has been trumpeted about at various levels. Armenian teachers from around the world come to Armenia for training and Georgia’s Armenian teachers are trained in Georgian territory. This is the reality, judge yourselves,” added Torosyan.