Knowing the neighbors: Armenia to raise the level of Caucasus studies

The Yerevan State University (YSU) says in the next academic year Caucasus studies will become available for undergraduate students. In launching the course the Caucasus Studies Department of the Faculty of History at YSU considers the importance of studying the language, history and culture of Armenia’s neighboring countries, including Azerbaijan.

Dean of the Faculty of History Edik Minasyan told media on Tuesday that in 2011 the faculty admitted eight students for the new specialty. Beginning next September 50 seats will be allocated for bachelors degree studies, with five students to attend the courses without a fee and an additional place to become available for a demobilized army conscript.

“Today, in conditions of independence, it is very important not only to prepare researchers, but also diplomats who could work in the countries of the Caucasus region and withstand competition. This is particularly important given that our neighbors, particularly Georgia and Azerbaijan, keep committing large-scale falsifications of history,” said Minasyan.

Doctor of historical sciences, Professor Hayrapet Margaryan thinks that although great efforts have been made in Armenia to set up a Caucasus studies school, the Armenian side is still far behind its neighbors in this field. According to the scholar, it is very difficult to find professionals in Armenia who could also give lectures in this field of study. Therefore, he said, “the need for specialists in Caucasus studies is obvious.”

“The multitude of political problems that exist in the region makes it a necessity to pay more attention to the study of the language and culture of neighbors. Today there is a problem in Armenia in terms of preparing specialists in Georgian studies, as the average age of existing specialists today is above 60,” said Margaryan, adding that the study of the Armenian language at the Tbilisi State University has always been at a very high level and the establishment also has the Armenian studies chair.

Margaryan said that Azerbaijan has had more resources for organizing Armenian studies as a lot of ethnic Azeris who moved to Azerbaijan from Armenia during the years of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict had an excellent command of the Armenian language. Meanwhile, those who moved to Armenia from Azerbaijan in the 1990s could only speak the basic Azeri and, therefore, could not teach the language.

Although it is already four years that the Azeri language has been taught at YSU’s Department of Oriental Studies as a separate subject for third and fourth year students at the Turkish Studies Chair, specialists give assurances that more attention will be paid to it as part of the Caucasus Studies Department. For their general annual fee of 300,000 drams (about $770) undergraduate students will also study the Azeri language during all seven semesters.

The Azeri language will be taught with the aid of a textbook that was recently published by the Turkish Studies Chair of YSU’s Department of Oriental Studies. The author of the textbook Lilit Movsisyan, who teaches at the same chair, said at the presentation of the textbook last week that they avoided political issues in drawing up the texts, while otherwise the material is comprehensive in terms of studying the language.