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Armenia/ 1. Historical perspective: cultural policies and instruments  

Author: Yulia Antonyan

During the last two decades, Armenia has survived significant changes in the cultural policy situation. The Soviet Union collapse resulted in the destruction of a centralised, ideologised and state-financed system of cultural development and cultural policies. From the first days of its existence as an independent state, the Republic of Armenia had to develop and adopt new policies and mechanisms of cultural management as the old ones did not work under new conditions. Yerevan Anniversary ChurchThe old Soviet system of cultural management and cultural policies were extremely politicised and ideologised as culture was considered as a tool for ideology and propaganda. Therefore, culture was controlled from the top. It can be characterised as a "paternalistic" model according to Abraham Mole's definition. One of the realities of the Soviet period was various "unions" of professionals in the spheres of art, literature, music, etc, controlled by authorities and responsive to them. Most of the unions have been preserved and display a very weak level of adaptability to the new market economy and cultural development trends. Their current existence is explained by difficulties in the understanding the transition to new forms of marketing the arts. "Unions" of that kind also keep alive the mechanism of centralised distribution of state money aimed at supporting culture and cultural events.

One of the most remarkable tools of cultural policy of the Soviet period was popularisation of cultural activities and accessibility of cultural events to large layers of the population. Thousands of art and music schools were created throughout the country. Theatres, music halls, libraries and exhibitions existed in every small town and were financially available to even low-paid employees. Secondary, professional and higher education was free of charge. The specialised music and art education was also freely accessible. The comprehension of culture as the most effective method of influencing and governing the masses was inherited by the authorities of independent Armenia. At the same time, a significant shift in values, ideological categories, goals and objectives of national development as well as adoption of the principles of the new market economy and democracy made them seek how to unite previous and current approaches to cultural management and policy development. The current model of cultural policy and management includes both approaches and seems to oscillate between them. However, in the last decade cultural policy has become more structured, more defined and overwhelming. It tries to combine centralised methods of supporting culture with encouragement of public and private mechanisms of development of particular spheres of culture, public regulation of cultural demands and offers, and attraction of private investment into the cultural sphere, etc.

Chapter published: 22-05-2015

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